The current attack on the welfare state in the UK by the ConDem government through its draconian budget cuts is unprecedented. No area of the public sector, be it Higher Education, the Health Service, be it local government services, will remain unaffected. And yet, resistance to these cuts has been mooted to date. Yes, there are various local alliances, forthcoming strikes and a large, trade union organised demonstration in London on 26 March. Wider support for these events is, however, not ensured. How can this be explained? Sara Motta in her latest blog entry ‘Beautiful Transgressions: A radical feminism for our times’ looks at this issue from a feminist perspective. She provides new insights as well as possible ways forward.
Radical feminism, Sara Motta argues, does not understand resistance only as activities manifested in direct action around theoretical knowledge against state power. ‘Rather a radical feminism suggests that the violence of (neoliberal) capitalism is intensely subjective, affective, embodied, intellectual, physical knowledge as motivator of resistance and direct action as the manifestation of that resistance.’ Considering the subjective nature of neoliberalism and how it has worked through the different aspects of our humanity, we should not be surprised that people feel disconnected, isolated and uninspired by calls for demonstrations and strikes. At the same time, this allows us to find resistance in different places against precisely the commodification of our everyday life experiences. ‘We can find it when we listen and speak to each other in the corridor at work, when we offer support when a colleague has problems with childcare or money. We find it when we create spaces of otherness such as when we cook and eat together and share our histories and desires over a bottle of wine.’ And it is this kind of activities, which will allow us to re-build communities of resistance. Trade unions in their current attempts to mobilise against government cut-backs in the UK, Europe and across the world may do well taking on board these insights of radical feminism.
Nevertheless, resistance must not be reduced to activities such as sharing some thoughts over a bottle of wine. Activities of this type can establish a sense of community, but they will not be able to challenge neo-liberal restructuring. In short, both will be necessary, the building of communities of resistance, which will then, however, have to result in concrete, large-scale actions such as the demonstration on 26 March in London. State power must be confronted. We cannot simply wish it away or pretend that it doesn’t exist. Trade unions have an important role to play in these struggles.
Prof. Andreas Bieler
Professor of Political Economy
University of Nottingham/UK
Personal website: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/~ldzab
13 March 2011