Excerpts from “Sex, Class and Socialism” by: Lindsey German
Back page: “Women’s lives today would be virtually unrecognizable to previous generations. Women have greater freedom to control their lives and their sexuality than ever before. Ideas about equality are accepted on a mass scale.
Yet daily we are bombarded with images of women as sex objects, housewives and mothers. As we approach the 21st century women face a backlash against the gains they have made. The political right, backed by a new generation of post-feminists, stress women’s role in the home”
Part III: Decline of the Women’s Movement
Page 192 P.1
“Reproduction and family relations are placed at the heart of social and economic theory and strategy. It is at this point that the gap between radical feminism is at its narrowest. What distinguishes the two is that socialist feminists’ politics entail neither a rejection of men nor a withdrawal from them, but an urgent necessity to fight both in and against male-dominated power relations”
Part I: The Family Under Capitalism
Page 40 P.1
“The final material reason for the maintenance and strengthening of the working-class family lay in the needs of the working class itself. The family exists for the reproduction of labour power for the capitalist class, which consequently has a great stake in the family even though the reproduction of labour is privatised. But there were also reasons for the working class to protect and maintain the family. It was (and is) the main area of life where those members who the family who are not working could be cared for and protected. In the 19th century, when the workhouse with all its horrors was the only real alternative to the family, this became a particularly pertinent reason. The family remained the best option for caring for the old, the sick and those too young to work. In any case, it was the only one to offer.”
Page 41. P. 4
“The dominant ideas in society continued to stress the sanctity of the family. But the capitalist system itself was increasingly unable to deliver a stable society in which the family could flourish. The family was never free of economic, social and pyschological tensions:
the glorification of private life and the family represented the other side of the bourgeois perception of society as something alien, impersonal, remote and abstract–a world in which pity and tenderness had fled in horror. Deprivations experienced in the public world had to be compensated in the realm of privacy. Yet the very conditions that gave rise to the need privacy and family as a refuge from the larger world made it more and more difficult for the family to serve in that capacity.
This statement remains true for the family today. The means by which the family was shored up–the ideological stress on it, the increased intervention of the state, the myth of the woman as a passive ornament in the home–have left their imprint on the family form. Today it has to cope with even more: the destruction of old industries, the wiping out of communities, the increased pressure on each individual to deliver, all have left huge marks on the family.”
Page 44 , P.1
“One of the most surprising features of the family today is the astonishing tenacity with which workers cling to it. This again is despite many appearances to the contrary. Adolescents may rebel against their families and with higher education prolonging adolescence often into the mid-twenties, adolescence can be quite a lengthy process. But marriage and childbirth are still seen as the ideal for most working-class women and as an inevitability for most working-class men. This is despite the experience of individuals’ own families, where reality rarely approaches the ideal. Daughters of unhappy homes often see marriage as their main source of escape from the family.
Capitalism operates at one level to break down the family, especially by creating and demanding greater mobility of labour power.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Lindsey German was born in London in 1951 and educated in Hillingdon. She studied law at the London School of Economics, where she first became an active socialist. In 1970 she attended the “Stop the ’70 Tour” demonstration organised by Peter Hain against the tour of the all-white South African cricket team. She had planned to attend a march against the Vietnam War in 1968, but did not. She was part of the original National Abortion Campaign in 1975 and was involved in struggles to achieve equal pay for women.
German joined the International Socialists, forerunner of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in the early 1970s, later becoming part of its elected central committee and therefore a full timer for the group by 1977. She was employed by the organisation continuously until the January 2009 SWP party conference. At that conference the proposed slate did not include John Rees a long standing member of the CC. German proposed an alternate slate which did include Rees. When it became clear that this would be overwhelmingly defeated, Lindsey German and Chris Nineham withdraw their names from the election and were not selected. As the Central Committee slate was the only proposed slate that went to the vote at conference she was not re-elected to the SWP’s Central Committee in 2009. In 2010 German resigned from the SWP. She was editor of the SWP’s monthly magazine, Socialist Review, from September 1984 until May 2004.
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the US, German helped to found the Stop the War Coalition, which was established to oppose what later became known as the War on Terrorism. German became convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, speaking at meetings and demonstrations.
In January 2004, German supported the move to form Respect – The Unity Coalition, which included the SWP and other opponents of the war in Iraq, including fundamentalist Muslim groups, and which stood as a left alternative to the Labour Party in elections. At the SWP’s Marxism 2003 event she commented: “I’m in favour of defending gay rights, […] but I am not prepared to have it as a shibboleth, [created by] people who . . . regard the state of Israel as somehow a viable presence.”
She was Respect’s candidate for Mayor of London in 2004, in addition to standing in the election for a seat in the London Assembly. She came 5th in the mayoral election and was within 0.43% of winning a seat on the assembly. In 2005 she stood for the West Ham, London, constituency in the general election, coming second with 19.5% of the vote.
On 18 April 2007 she was selected as Respect’s candidate for the 2008 London Mayoral election. However, a subsequent split within the organisation meant that German was not able to use the party’s name in the election. Instead German stood as the candidate of the Left List, finishing in eighth place.
German currently lives in London with John Rees, her partnerand another former member of the SWP.
- Material girls: Women, men and work ISBN 1905192177
- Sex, class and socialism ISBN 0-906224-54-3
- The Balkans: Nationalism and Imperialism (editor), ISBN 1-898876-50-9
- Why We Need A Revolutionary Party
- Socialists and Class , ISBN 1-898876-05-3
- Stop the War: The story of Britain’s biggest mass movement, (editor with Andrew Murray), ISBN 1-905192-00-2