Two new anarchist feminist projects in Scotland

Two white and purple unicorns locking horns on a black background

A quick blog in which I’m very optimistic about the Edinburgh Anarchist Feminist Bookfair, and a new class struggle self-education project in Edinburgh

It’s an exciting time to be a feminist. There’s a renewed interest in feminism in popular culture, and movements like #MeToo have given a voice and confidence to women, propelling conversations about power and oppression into the mainstream. There is an explosion of young people exploring and discussing how race, gender, sexuality and (occasionally) class affect their lives. The recent victory of activists in Ireland in securing access to abortion is an inspiring and concrete example of how grassroots feminist organising can force real changes to improve our lives.

However, anyone familiar with the state of “the movement” will know that all is not rosy in the current atmosphere of radical politics. The resurgent discussions around race, gender, and sexuality have been met with many criticisms1, and frequently lack a robust analysis of capitalism and class. When approaches to feminism that pose no real challenge to capitalism are increasingly popular 2, we need to find ways to make class struggle politics relevant and welcoming to people who are developing their understanding of feminism. Within our own movement there is an active backlash against our trans comrades, and too many off-hand dismissals of feminist politics, illustrating how far we have still to go to establish a shared understanding of class composition and solidarity. So how to develop and promote class struggle, materialist feminism to both liberal feminists and amongst our own movement? The theory exists, but how can we embed it into our everyday organising and practice?

A bookfair, of course!
Anarchist bookfairs have long been a crucial part of our movement, and with both the London Anarchist Bookfair and the Glasgow Radical Independent Bookfair both sadly packing their stalls up for the last time, a group of us in Edinburgh decided to roll up our sleeves and organise the first ever Edinburgh Anarchist Feminist Bookfair. A one-day event to be held on 21st July 2018, we hope to create a welcoming space for people to learn more about both anarchism and feminism, with space for people organising on the ground to discuss their work, develop their ideas and make connections with other comrades. As well as the actual books, we will have stalls from active local groups and talks and workshops on a variety of topics. So far confirmed we have discussions and workshops on a range of topics including housing struggles; abortion rights; disability activism; mutual aid; race and decolonisation; gender; sex work; and of course the essential “Introduction to Anarchism”. I’ll be running a session on parenting and social reproduction theory, if I can organise my thoughts in time!

Aware of the issues that have arisen for recent radical events, we are doing our best to ensure the bookfair is as inclusive as possible. We take solidarity with our trans comrades seriously, and the venue who are hosting us are also actively trans inclusive. This means that groups who seek to undermine trans people’s basic right of self-identification will not be welcome at the bookfair, in the same way that other groups who wish to promote strands of bigotry such as homophobia, anti-Semitism, or racism have traditionally been unwelcome at anarchist bookfairs. Some of our organisers are members of an autistic mutual aid group who have been invaluable in helping us improve our accessibility, and we have the main event and the afterparty in a wheelchair-accessible venue3. We are also really grateful to everyone who helped us raise funds to ensure we have a free, professionally run creche4 throughout the day, as this really is crucial for meaningful feminist organising.

Don’t skip class!
Elsewhere in Edinburgh, the Anarchist Federation and friends are launching a self-education project, “Don’t skip class!”, with the aim of increasing our knowledge and use of materialist theory to help us understand class composition. While it’s always a good idea to read about radical politics, the impetus for this group has come out of recent conversations within the Anarchist Federation around how to develop our collective understanding of issues relating to gender, sexuality, disability and race, and how to translate this understanding into meaningful and workable strategy. As an organisation based around the principle of theoretical and tactical unity, its important that we have a common framework to work from, so we’re going to be reading and discussing a variety of key texts, starting with The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community, a classic feminist autonomist text from Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Selma James. The next two texts will be From Resistance to Rebellion: Asian and Afro-Caribbean struggles in Britain by Sivanandan and Eclipse and Re-emergence of the Communist Movement by Dauvé and Martin.

The first group will be held on Tuesday 26th June at 19.30 at the Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh, and all are welcome, not just AF members.

Obviously, a bookfair and a reading group alone aren’t enough to catapult anarchist feminism into the mainstream and heal the wounds festering away in our movement, but I am hopeful that these and other initiatives can contribute productively to discussions around gender, sexism, and class struggle politics and help the movement grow.

  • 1. some more valid than others
  • 2. although Teen Vogue is doing its bit to rep Karl Marx:
  • 3. harder than you might think in Edinburgh, the city of ancient winding steps and basements
  • 4. thanks in particular to the London Anarchist Bookfair collective for their support making this happen

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Jun 10 2018 22:48


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Jun 11 2018 10:17

Not sure why the second AF project is listed here as specifically 'anarchist feminist' but it looks like a positive initiative with an interesting and useful cross-selection of texts. Considering the last of those it would be worthwhile adding a bit of compare and contrast by including some of Dauve's specific criticism of Frederici's analysis that is similar to Dalla Costa and James. Hope it goes well and would be interested to see some of the outcome in the future.

Jun 11 2018 10:51

Yeah not all the texts are going to be specifically about feminism but the first one is, and we will be trying to use a feminist analysis when looking at the other texts we cover too. Not everything at the bookfair will be explicitly feminist or anarchist either (tho it has to be at least one of those!).

Have you got any particular recommendations about Dauve critiquing Federici? Would be up for reading them.

Red Marriott
Jun 11 2018 11:28
Jun 11 2018 13:55

Ramona, There is a large Dauve library on libcom but these come to mind as relevant: and
Not popular with some feminists as you will see but always worth a read.

Mike Harman
Jun 11 2018 14:59

@SpikeyMike I've left a comment on the Dauve Federici review:

Jun 11 2018 20:39

Might some take issue with the fact that on one hand you've seeked to distance yourself from the london anarchist bookfair over the terf incident and then got your creches organised by them?

Jun 12 2018 10:41

Not really. The London Bookfair collective handled the issue of transphobia differently than we plan to (maybe we won't have to! Maybe no transphobes will come, wouldn't that be great), but we're not seeking to "distance ourselves" from them, we are a different bookfair in a different country, and we hope to learn from what happened in London.

We also haven't had our creches organised by them - we have one creche which is being provided by a local social enterprise which uses profits from their childcare business to fund casework with BME women in Edinburgh. We ran a crowdfunding campaign to pay for this (we needed £650), and the London bookfair collective donated a fair bit of that because they wanted to help. They didn't organise anything for us, and there's no animosity between the two bookfairs.

(Edit: though yeah there's probably lots of things people might "take issue" with but I think that's par for the course in organising events like this, and if there's a genuine issue then we will do our best to work it out).

Jun 12 2018 13:41

@Ramona Why wouldn't you shun the TERFs? They are reactionaries and should not be welcome in any radical space.

Jun 12 2018 14:55

I entirely agree, re-read my posts, that is the exact position we are taking

Jun 12 2018 15:03

We're not distancing ourselves from the London bookfair, we are distancing ourselves from terfs.

Jun 13 2018 22:06

The inclusion statement for the bookfair clearly states terfs are not welcome, fyi. If they turn up, they'll be asked to leave.

Jun 13 2018 21:23

Transphobic nonsense unpublished, poster banned.

Jun 14 2018 01:38