The amazing women’s rights and anti-capitalist activist Selma James spoke at the Anarchist Bookfair in Dublin this weekend. Bualadh bos to the WSM for getting her over. She gave inspiring talks on a range of issues, and during her contribution on Care, Social Reproduction and Austerity the conversation flowed towards the reality of activism that women’s issues are often side-lined by the left and seen as not important enough to pay attention to or campaign on.
Selma’s comment that “Men of the left think they’re different because they’re of the left, but they’re not” was met with a lot of women nodding their heads in agreement in the audience, and a couple of men shifting in their seats looking a little uncomfortable. Presumably some of them were thinking the usual “Not all men are like that though!” that women on the left are compelled to listen to whenever any kind of discussion emerges on sexism on the left and what to do about it. The women activists gave each other knowing looks. It’s ridiculous that this is still something women on the left have to deal with, but we do, and the results of that mind-set range from the irritating to the absolute enraging.
One such example of more enraging is the emergence that the Socialist Party front group Anti-Austerity Alliance’s election candidate in Tullamore, Mr. Thomas Carty is completely and absolutely anti-choice on the issue of abortion. It’s unclear how forcing a woman to bring to term a pregnancy against her will is in line with an anti-austerity agenda so the AAA have some questions to answer.
Of course, this isn’t a new thing. The Socialist Party have in the past courted a candidate in Omagh, Johnny McLaughlin, who turned out to be anti-choice in a most hysterical manner, so they should be aware of the ramifications of this.
There are a few potential scenarios at play here:
a) The AAA sat down and asked Mr. Carty what his position was on abortion, and he lied and said he was pro-choice ( which is unlikely considering his anti-choice views are plastered all over facebook).
b) The AAA sat down and asked Mr. Carty what his position was on abortion and he said he was anti-choice and they viewed it as not being all that important because electoral opportunism requires bums on seats.
c) Nobody in the AAA asked what his view was on it because the idea that 4,500 women spending up to £2,000 each every year travelling for a medical procedure overseas never entered their heads as being relevant to an anti-austerity programme.
It’s more likely that this is incompetence rather than conspiracy, and option C would probably be the bookie’s favourite.
And if that is the case it’s more than fair to ask why did nobody in the AAA think that this was a relevant question? There are more anti-choice candidates than Thomas Carty in the AAA ranks, so now that it’s been raised what will they do about it? It would be difficult to see them retaining a candidate who had been vocally racist in the past so why is supporting an anti-woman policy being treated differently? And Mr. Carty’s belief that a position as a ‘Boob Adjuster’ would be the best job ever (what? And not an AAA councillor leading the r-r-r-revolution? Shock indeed.) which is probably quite telling of his views on women hasn’t even been touched upon.
This kind of attitude is something that you would expect from political organisations of the right. It is not unreasonable to expect more from those who not only style themselves as the vanguard of the left, but as advocates for women.
Two fairly prominent members of the Socialist Party in Dublin were asked what the story with this was earlier on today in a facebook thread. At the time of writing, this legitimate question has been met with silence.
When Peter Hadden of the Socialist Party was questioned on the Johnny McLaughlin debacle twelve years ago he replied;
“Abortion, while an important issue, is not a make or break question for our party.”
This attitude hasn’t changed and for many on the left, something that affects more than 50% of the population’s right to do what they want with their own bodies isn’t a make or break issue. You could be forgiven for asking what impact a policy has to have before it becomes a make or break issue. Perhaps something that affected a few more men?
Selma was right, men on the left think they are different, but they’re really not.
Edit to update at 20.46: A member of the SP who may or may not be a party spokesperson commented on the facebook thread mentioned above to state that Thomas Carty was never ratified as an AAA candidate saying that,”The fact stands that at the national meeting on Sunday in which his candidacy was being decided upon, that the national AAA meeting did not endorse his candidature for the reasons outlined. So no, he was never officially ratified as an AAA candidate. Incidentally, I am not an activist within the AAA myself. It’s an entity that’s broader than the Socialist Party, with two of the seven members of its steering committee, I think, being Socialist Party activists.”
Thomas Carty was listed as an AAA candidate on the official AAA website up to this afternoon but has since been removed. No official statement from the AAA has been issued as yet.
Edit to update 15th April: The AAA issued a statement late last night saying :
STATEMENT FROM THE STEERING GROUP OF THE ANTI-AUSTERITY ALLIANCE RE. THOMAS CARTY
14 April 2014
The national Steering Group of the Anti-Austerity Alliance would like to clarify that Thomas Carty, Tullamore, is not endorsed as an AAA candidate.
The Steering Group unanimously agreed today that Thomas has attitudes which wouldn’t be compatible with being a candidate for the AAA. The AAA is a progressive organisation which fights for the rights of both women and men; rejects divisions based on gender; and takes equal treatment of women seriously.
Thomas was put forward as a candidate by a grouping in Tullamore very recently and had not previously attended national AAA meetings. When issues were brought to the attention of the national AAA meeting yesterday, they were investigated by the steering group who unanimously agree that Thomas should not be endorsed as a candidate.
From the seven members of the steering group, Anti Austerity Alliance.
Still doesn’t explain how he ended up on their official website before that and with lovely funky AAA graphics all over his social media accounts with his face on them. Oh well.