Published in Brighton by Justice? - Brighton's Direct Action collectiveIssue 250, Friday 3rd March, 2000
SchNEWS still beeds YOUR help!
"She meets March 8th with her face erased and her name hidden. With her
come thousands of women. More and more arrive. Dozens, hundreds, thousands,
millions of women who remember all over the world that there is much to be done
and remember that there is still much to fight for. It appears that that thing
called dignity is contagious".
Women and girls do two thirds of the world's work, for only 5% of the world's income, women's average full time weekly earnings are 72% of men's (Office of National Stats 1998), and a report in Red magazine (Jan 2000) stated that two thirds of women working full time do most of the housework.
March 8th is International Women's Day and women all over the world are hanging up their pinnies, turning off their disk drives and taking to the streets. Since March 8th 1907, when the women garment makers of New York went on strike for a living wage and a 10-hour day, the date has been earmarked to inspire women worldwide in their fight for their rights.
The National Women's Council of Ireland have called this year's strike, and it's gone global. Anne Neale from Crossroads Women's Centre reckons that the strike "could be very disruptive. When a similar action took place in Iceland in 1975, factories would not function and everything shut down". Cynthia Enloe in her book "Bananas, Beaches and Bases" argues that "if secretaries went out on strike, foreign affairs might grind to a standstill". Without women's work the world economy would fall to its knees. Kingston Raging Grannies ask "Can you imagine what would happen if all the women stopped work.at Wal-Mart or McDonalds?".
WHAT DO WOMEN WANT?
Women are striking to demand a change in the priorities of the global economy. According to the United Nations $9billion of the world's budget goes on health and nutrition, $6bn on water and sanitation, $4bn on education and $538bn on military budgets. This spending reflects the attitudes of the people who pull the purse strings, attitudes that consider arms to be more important than welfare. As the floodgates open for multinational corporations to enter developing countries women are forced into low paid work with poor conditions.
And for the boys... Men are supporting the women's strike. Payday Men's Network said, "Like women, we want to work less and have more money. We too want our unwaged work recognised and paid with money, time, resources, land, peace and rights. And we know that as long as women work too much, even more than men, their pay and conditions are the standard for men". The network have men ready to strike on the day, other are making donations to the strike fund, or committing themselves to do all the domestic chores and childcare for the day.
"At the beginning was the deed."
Women have a strong tradition of resistance; from taking up arms in the Zapatista struggle, to the Chipko women in India hugging trees, from the Greenham Common women, to the mum who asks for childcare provision in her workplace, from the suffragettes on hunger strike, to the 1917 Russian women factory worker's strike that started the revolution. In the UK women have made their presence felt actively enough to worry Detective Chief Inspector Kieron Sharp, the copper leading the inquiry into City of London protests on June 18, who panicked that "women are playing a greater role in this kind of subversive activity than you would normally find in criminal activity".
Black women, mothers, lesbians, asylum seekers, sex workers, pensioners, students, women with disabilities, waged and non-waged women, and loads more are holding actions from demos to a day's strike around the globe. So if you fancy making a stand why not make a partner take over household or childcare duties for the day, walkout with your colleagues at work or at college. Undercurrents are keen to film yer fun, contact them on 01865 203662 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Here's what women are up to in over 30 countries from Albania to Rwanda...
For painting a bus pink! 10 members of the Lesbian Avengers were nicked for hijacking a Stagecoach bus and painting it pink. Stagecoach were targetted because of the Chairman's funding of the Keep Clause 28 campaign.
Over the past year, two dates stand out as defining moments of global resistance against global capitalism: June 18th and November 30th. Events which the world's press could not ignore; events which showed that not everyone was happy with the neo-liberal* agenda being forced down our throats.
The press like to talk about this 'globalisation of protest' as if it's something new, but what about the international movement against America's war in Vietnam? The mass solidarity against South African apartheid? Hey, some people are even using the Internet to co-ordinate protests across the globe (This reminds SchNEWS of when the cops were getting all hot under the collar because 'new age travellers' were using mobile phones to organise free parties!).
But where did this new movement come from? Where is its inspiration? A good starting point is the Zapatista uprising which came to the world's attention on January 1st, 1994. On the same day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed, four towns in the Chiapas region of Mexico were taken over by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), and the news was quickly broadcast around the world via the Internet.
SchNEWS recently spoke to someone just returned from Chiapas
Q: CAN YOU GIVE US A BRIEF HISTORY?
A: The Zapitista's chose 1st January 1994 to occupy four major towns in the state of Chiapas to coincide with the introduction of NAFTA. They only held them for two or three days before the Mexican army chased them back into the jungle, but they'd made their point by then! The Zapatista resistance has been going on ever since.
Q: SO 1994 WAS THE ZAPATISTAS' ANNOUNCEMENT TO THE WORLD THAT THEY MEAN'T BUSINESS AS WELL AS TWO FINGERS TO THE NAFTA AGREEMENT?
A: Yeah. I think there had been fights with the army the year before, but the army had decided to not pursue them because the government was trying to negotiate this NAFTA deal. The government we're really keen not to show there was a guerrilla war in any part of Mexico so they kept it quiet.
Q: SO IT'S A SORT OF LOW INTENSITY WAR?
A: Oh yeah, it's definitely a war but not one where many people are getting killed at the moment; and even though we don't hear much about the Zapatistas at the moment, the movement is as strong as ever, even in the face of 70,000 Mexican troops constantly surrounding them.
Q: HOW DO THE ZAPATISTAS ORGANISE?
A: The Zapatista's control 35 autonomous municipalities, and each municipality covers a huge area with thousands of people in it. The scale of the area is something people don't appreciate. Each municipality is named after an important revolutionary event or person. So you have the 1st January, or April 10th when Zapata was assassinated. Or Flores Magon, who was a Mexican anarchist, and Pancho Villa, who was once an ally of Zapata. What is important is that the Zapatista's have broken away from the old guerrilla style of organising where the central committee tells you what to do. Instead each village in the municipalities has it's own assembly to run it's own affairs. For example, some communities have decided on completely communal ownership of the land, while others have a mixed system with common and individual land. Each village sends a delegate to the Clandestine Indigenous Revolutionary Committee, where important military decisions can only be made after all the communities have been consulted. For example during the San Andres Peace Accords, when the Zapatistas talked to the gov't, every single community was consulted, and these debates can go on for days - they talk it out, till everyone who wants to say something has said it, and then some kind of consensus is made. We were in one community where they had called a congress to decide the education structure for the whole of the municipality and the meeting lasted two days!
Q: TELL US ABOUT THE LAND OCCUPATIONS
A: I think the mainland takeovers started around 1995. Just three landlords used to control the municipality we were in. The landowners had passed land to each other for generations, until they were kicked out, and the area put under Zapatista control. Before, in many places instead of being paid wages, the Indians were given credit for the landowners shop where everything was priced really high so reinforcing their poverty. Many communities have debated what to do with the old landowners houses because no Zapatistas will live in them. Some have been used as warehouses, some have been demolished. In one community they took down a house brick by brick when they heard the landlord and his heavies we're coming back. They sent him a Christmas card with a picture of where the house once stood and said don't bother - there's nothing to come back to!
Q: WHAT IS THE STANDARD OF LIVING?
A: They are dirt poor, they haven't got any money, but they haven't got anyone to tell them what to do now. They always come out with "we have dignity". Their standard of living probably hasn't changed that much since the uprising, but at least now they are farming the land for themselves.
Q: WHAT'S THE ATMOSPHERE THERE LIKE?
A: Schizophrenic! You get the feeling from some that they can take on the whole world, but at the same time army planes are flying really low every day, there's troop carriers and police helicopters, military bases next to some municipalities - it all causes a certain desperation. What the army and police do, is come into some communities on the pretext of looking for someone. It's always the women who are there, with these big sticks and little babies on their backs, fighting them off. A Mexican general recently complained that he didn't join the army to fight women and children!
Q: TELL US ABOUT THE ROLE OF WOMEN
A: My experience was that the women are tough as hell. They take part in the command structures of EZLN, for example the occupation of San Cristobal was directed by women. One third of the army are women. When I was in San Cristobal there was this huge women's march against militarisation in Chiapas. Women insisted on alcohol being banned in the whole of the Zapatista controlled region. Landowners used to make sure the Indians got addicted to alcohol, which got them into so much debt until they were basically slaves. If they tried to leave they would be shot or punished, so this alcohol thing was a really useful form of control and it had an effect on the women as there was a lot more domestic violence then. Now, each community has got a little jail big enough for one or two people and if any of the men turn up pissed they just stick them in the jail for the night. And it works, people don't drink. Another example of the influence of women is the story of one guy who organises clean water projects for the communities. He put a proposal to the men in one village and said for the water project to work, it would take a lot of hard work; three weeks of solid digging a four mile trench from the mountain to the village. The men decided not to bother, and let the women continue to go down to the river and bring water back in buckets. However, when he went back to the village a week later, he was approached and told by one of the elders, that the women had had a meeting and told the men in no uncertain terms that they were gonna dig the pipeline! However, in the assemblies there is still a hierarchy and it is still often the men who do the talking; the women's revolution has happened, but it's not all the way there yet by any means.
Q: DO YOU THINK THE UNITED STATES SEES THE ZAPATISTAS AS A THREAT?
A: Yeah, definitely. The US use the excuse of the war on drugs to arm the Mexican army and most of that weaponry is being used against the Zapatistas. And of course the US is worried because the Zapatistas are setting an example in not accepting poverty and injustice. The Americans spent millions destroying guerrilla movements in El Salvador, Guatemala and of course Nicaragua. And now a whole new rebellion has happened in Mexico, a country the US has always had a high level of control over. The region is also rich in oil. The Mexican government wants to get its hands on it, but this revolutionary movement is in its way, so at some point there is gonna be a conflict . There is also huge bio-diversity in the forests, and the American bio-tech companies want to get into the jungle and start copywriting the genetic codes.
Q: HOW IMPORTANT DO YOU THINK THE INTERNET HAS BEEN TO THE STRUGGLE?
A: I had this vision of them all tapping away on their computers in the jungle and that was rubbish - most communities don't even have electricity. It is Zapatista supporters in Mexico City and America who have been invaluable in terms of getting the message out and creating a public mood where the Mexican government feels it can't intervene because it would be too controversial.
Q: HOW IMPORTANT DO YOU THINK IT IS THAT PEOPLE LIKE YOURSELVES GO ABROAD AND VISIT AND SHOW SOLIDARITY WITH THE ZAPATISTAS?
A: To be honest in terms of material support, the most useful thing that could happen, is some solidarity movement in America to try and stop the weaponry getting to the Mexican army. In the absence of that, it's a morale booster. We went over as a football team, and every community we visited we had to get up on stage and introduce ourselves, say where we are from - they're all like 'where's Europe?' However, if their grasp of geography isn't very good, they are politicised and they understand why we are there.
Q: HOW IMPORTANT DO YOU THINK THE ZAPITISTA STRUGGLE IS FOR INSPIRING PEOPLE?
A: With the collapse of 'communism' there was glaoting about the triumph of capitalism. If you want to get rid of the way the world is now being run, you've got to have some kind of idea about what the new world will be like, and the Zapatista's are vital because they are not only saying it, they've actually done it. They're running the municipalities communally, they're organising their own education projects, their own water projects, have their own army, they're reaching out to the other indigenous people of Mexico - it's inspirational.
NEO-LIBERAL: Initially associated with that romantic duo, Reagan and Thatcher, neo-liberalism has been the dominant economic theory for the past two decades.
Supporters of neo-liberalism talk of 'free market' policies that encourage private enterprise, consumer choice and personal initiative, and use these arguments to justify everything from lowering taxes on the wealthy, to dismantling education and social welfare programmes and scrapping environmental regulations.
These well thought out conscientious, economic policies, have resulted in ...a massive increase in social and economic inequality, a marked increase in severe deprivation for the poorest nations, a disastrous global environment and unstable global economy - but, and here's the key to it's popularity with its supporters, an unprecedented bonanza for the wealthy.
When these pioneers of righteousness, are presented with some of the rather large downside, they claim that the spoils of the good life will invariably spread to the broad mass of the population - as long as the neo-liberal policies that exacerbated these problems in the first place are not interfered with! Or as Robert McChesney put it "at their most eloquent, proponents of neo-liberalism sound as if they are doing poor people, the environment and everybody else a tremendous service as they enact policies on behalf of the wealthy few."
Worse still, the neo-liberal zealots loudest message is that humanity has hit the jackpot and there is no alternative to the status quo.
New 25 minutes video about last November's successful demonstrations against the World Trade Organisation. £6 + SAE with 80p worth of stamps from the SchNEWS office
March 2000 marks one year since NATO began it's bombardment of Serbia in response to the ethnic 'cleansing' of Albanians in Kosovo. Far from abating the crisis, Nato's campaign not only subjected civilians to the violence, it perpetuated the forced evacuation of thousands of Kosovans. In June, after an agreement of sorts was reached, NATO withdrew and its peacekeeping forces K-For and the United Nations Administraion were introduced to the ravaged province.
So what's changed one year on?...evidence of human rights abuses is still rife, with Albanians and Serbs engaged in a vicious circle of endless retaliation attacks. Among the countless organisations that are at working to instill some sense of security into the humanitarian disaster, are those that are specific to women's needs. As well as enduring the systematic torture meted out indiscriminately to the ethnic Albanians, women have had to endure the added trauma of rape and other sexual abuses.
Medica is an organisation born out of the conflict in Bosnia, who now run the successful Medica Women's Therapy Centre in central Bosnia which has so far helped over 20,000 women since 1993. Bosnian women are now involved in an emergency initiative in Kosovo, undertaking the training of Alabanian and Kosovan female psychologists, nurses and doctors in what they term "appropriate, gender-sensitive, medical and psycho-social responses to rape and other forms of war trauma."
Among Medica's aims are: the documentation of women's rights violations to bring about prosecutions; the establishment of a mobile clinic to reach those refugees scattered across rural areas; the establishment of six tent-clinics in Albanian refugee camps. Medica's principles have a clear woman-to woman focus: "Women who have been systematically abused need care in the first instant from women; they may be respected and their stories believed." Medica, P.O. Box 9560, London NW5 2WF. 0171 482 5670. email@example.com
Need information? Interested in getting active? Want to get help of any sort? Here's your quick run down of what to do and where to go...
In case you didn't know, the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) now has a women's network. It was set up in September 1999 and raises awareness of the specific traumas encountered by women during conflict. "Women and children make up the majority of the world's refugees, struggling to survive when families, homes and livelihoods have been lost.
There's a free Women's Information Pack available. And an action planned in London for International Women's Day. Contact June at CAAT, 11 Goodwin Street, Finsbury Park, London N4 3HQ 0171 281 1297
If you fancy some revolutionary feminist activity, join the HAGs! Don't be scared by the name, HAG stands for Hell Raising Anarchist Girls, a Brighton based 'loose collective of anarcha-feminists'.The group originated in February of last year from women attending the Rebel Alliance direct action meetings and the women's nights at the Anarchist Teapot. It combines Feminism and Anarchism to create an alliance better equipped to fight against the forces of capitalism and patriarchy which go hand in hand.
HAG are keen to point out that they are not anti-male, but simply pro-women, a big difference. "Within HAG we can share confidences, humour and experiences. It helps us see things from a different perspective and gives us increased confidence and skills", said a spokeswoman.In their first year, the HAGs have tackled a wide range of issues. Their first action, to coincide with International Women's Day 99 involved a procession round Brighton bringing to the public's attention the large and colourful history of female activists in the town. Since then, they have produced a radio programme (wimminz hour) for pirate Radio 4A, attended the J18 Carnival Against Capitalism in London, took part in International No Diet day with the message 'Riot Not Diet', organised self-defence lessons...and much, much more!
Feeling inspired yet? Here's a quick run-down of what the HAGs have in store for the future...more self defence lessons, anti-GMO actions, climbing training days, making links with other 'anarch-fem' groups, and of course... more fun on this year's International Women's Day.
HAG meet every two weeks, at 6pm on Sundays at The Hag House, 14-16 Newmarket Road (off Lewes Road gyratory). They always need more people to get involved, so get along and get active!
Women in Black is a worldwide organisation that aims to address 'the whole continuum of violence, from male violence against women, to militarism and war.' It was formed in 1998 in Israel out of the women's protests against Israel's occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza, and now has bases in Yugoslavia, Belgium, the United States, Spain, Italy and many other countries. Women in Black Belgrade have been particularly active of late, highlighting the ongoing troubles caused by the Kosovo conflict, raising awareness, and addressing those in power.
Women in Black (London) c/o The Maypole Fund, PO Box 14072 London N16 5WB. www.chorley2.demon.co.uk/wib.html 0171 482 5670.
Sussex Women Magazine needs you now! This is a forthcoming publication that
hopes to be up and running in the Summer. It will focus on women's experience
in the Sussex area with an emphasis on the positive aspects. "News and information
on positive, constructive things women are doing, rather than focusing on the
ways in which women are downtrodden." Contributions are urgently needed, and
also people to get involved with the running of the magazine So, if you're a
Sussex woman with something to say, get writing.
SchNEWS warns all readers that we'll be on strike next week, but will be back the week after with a new agenda. Honest.
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Last updated 3rd March 2000