Equalities policy commission draft statement

 

This version of our draft statement has been put together by Merry Cross and Terry Conway following commission meetings and comments from commission members. We think we need to discuss and develop it much further both in the commission and more broadly in Left Unity. We, rather than the commission  as a whole take responsibility for its shortcomings at this stage.

Name of commission: Equalities Commission – fighting discrimination

Principles

In Left Unity we believe that absolutely every human being is of equal value. In particular their value does NOT lie in their ability to work or the type of work they do, what they look like, how their mind/body functions or any aspect of their background or experience (LU needs to be aware of prejudice towards people with criminal records for example)

This means that we reject every kind of oppression and discrimination.

We define oppression as the systemic, one-way mistreatment of one group of people by another, as agents of society.

Discrimination, whether direct or indirect, involves treating some people less favourably than others and can be done by individuals, institutions and social systems, with consequences ranging from devastating to simply uncomfortable.

In Left Unity we aim to work continuously to rid ourselves and society of all oppression and discrimination, to fight for equality and for rights.  This includes positive encouragement and help for those who are often less able to make their voices heard. .This is sometimes called positive discrimination but we prefer to express it this way. The Equalities policy commission will make proposals to deal with these and other issues through the general structures of Left Unity.

Approach:

We note that different forms of oppression including ageism, anti-Semitism, biphobia, disablement, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, racism and sexism have different origins and manifestations both historically and today.

However we also note that each of these oppressions compound each other in a complex way which does not amount to a simple mathematical equation i.e. a black disabled lesbian is not just ‘more’ oppressed than a white, able bodied heterosexual woman but experiences her oppression in ways that are often very different and therefore may prioritise different ways of organising and/or fighting around different issues. We also note that these realities also intersect with other issues including age, class, education and income.

From this point of view we will suggest that Left Unity adopt a form of approach to liberation politics based on intersectionality, that is the approach we describe above. We don’t however in doing this take this approach on the basis of agreement with those who reduce the question of class  to the question of an identity – but indeed none of the other issues we deal with directly are solely questions of identity but are based on material realities.  Nor are we suggesting that at this stage we use, and ask people to support a theoretical approach which uses these terms, but rather one that explains some of the practical ways that this should impact on Left Unity’s campaigning and the material we produce at a national and local level.

We note that at this point as well as our commission, there is also a separate Anti-racist commission which was created as a result of a stand-alone resolution from Islington LU at the Doncaster National Co-ordinating group with which we will work as closely as possibleWe also note that within both the draft safe spaces policy and the draft constitution under discussion in the run up to Left Unity’s founding conference, proposals are being made for the existence of caucuses of the liberation strands of Black people, Disabled people, LGBTQ people and Women and that there are some proposals for the organisation of young people. We support the development of such caucuses as part of the ongoing fight against and understanding of different forms of oppression which we think Left Unity needs to commit itself to. In so far as these develop in the run up to the November conference we will collaborate with them as closely as possible.

LU also needs to actively encourage cross working of any/all caucuses to ensure members are represented in each caucus they identify with & to ensure proposal/recommendations from caucuses are not prejudicial towards any other or LU as a whole

What now?

a)    We are running a workshop session at the Policy conference in Manchester on September 28 around these issues that we are working on. together with the anti-racism commission. We will present this document there and hope that we can then incorporate the comments of people there as well as those on the discussion forum into a further draft.

a)    This is work which will continue through to the Policy conference in spring 2014 for which we will produce a policy statement as all commissions are being asked to do of around 1500 words. We expect that in order to prepare such a composite statement we will need to have more detailed discussions on the operation of different forms of oppression and discrimination and how Left Unity can build strong relationships with the movements working to challenge the same.

a)    We note that the agenda of the November conference will not have a focused discussion on questions of oppression and liberation, because it has been agreed to have a more limited agenda at our founding event. However there will be senses in which the issues we are dealing with will be very pertinent – in particular

i)              That the general policy statements discussed, debated and agreed need to take into account these issues

i)              That the discussions on campaigning against austerity needs to relate to the particular situation of oppressed groups – and that this is something we may want to put forward a resolution(s) on.

i)              That the discussion on elections needs to take into account how the interests, needs and voices of oppressed groups are heard in any election campaigning Left Unity does and that this may also have implications for candidate selection.  This is something we may want to put forward a resolution(s) on.

i)              That whatever structures Left Unity adopts  must take into account the representation of oppressed groups.


2 comments

2 responses to “Equalities policy commission draft statement”

  1. Ian Townson says:

    One danger I think we must avoid is separating off the question of oppression from class politics. This is the danger of simply fighting along the lines of identity politics where primacy is given to a particular oppression over all others and the question of class is never entered into. This leads to a specificity that avoids or even abandons altogether the broader question of exploitation.

    In the past we have been plagued by separatism that has pitted black against white, women against men, straight against gay, young against old, and so on. Clearly this is not the case now and we have a much more sophisticated approach to attacking patriarchal/capitalism than these crude binary polarisations. However I still feel that class politics is very much hovering in the background when it should be centre stage.

    Islamophobia and xenophobia are also two obnoxious ‘oppressions’ and feed into the absolute necessity to attack ‘patriotism’ and nationalism. This should probably be dealt with another section though I think there is some overlap.

    Clearly the ConDem government, New Labour, UKIP, the BNP and EDL will be competing with each other for a racist and foreigner-bashing race to the gutter in the run up to the election. They are clear whose side they are on. So must we be.

    I recently attended a Unite Union officers course and met some workers from Bus garages and depots that have been infiltrated by ‘Workers for England’ an extreme right wing/fascist group. They emphasised obedience to bosses (who pay our wages) and attacked other left wing union reps. Could not be a better illustration of the need for class politics and attacks on nationalism.

  2. Ian Townson says:

    A corrective to my comments above. I am not trying to establish a hierarchy of issues or interests as in class politics trumps everything else. What I am trying to say is that the fight against exploitation and oppression are inseperable and class politics should not marginalise those of oppressed groups.


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