London, April 11 — 3,000 women were drawn from all parts of the United Kingdom for the tenth National Women’s Liberation Conference held in London’s City University on the weekend of April 1-3.
The conference voted overwhelmingly to “condemn the continuing violation of human rights in Chile and Argentina” and to demand “the release of all political prisoners and official recognition of all those political prisoners held in secret.”
Women’s right to safe legal abortion (in opposition to the Benyon antiabortion bill now in Parliament) and “material support and solidarity to our sisters in Nambia” also met with enthusiastic support.
Two delegates from the “Women and Socialism” group called upon the conference to “recognize that the struggle of women against the oppression they experience within capitalism cannot take place outside of a socialist and feminist perspective.” Whereupon a woman “Marxist”(!) strenuously objected because the resolution “imposes socialist lines on the women’s movement.” She called on all socialist feminists to vote against the motion “on principle” and fight for the right of the autonomous women’s movement to define its own direction.
Speakers who addressed this issue were called upon from the floor to identify their allegiances to radical groups, but this red-baiting measure was voted down. The conference decided not to vote on the main motion at that time, but to continue discussion of it within the movement.
The “Working Class Women’s Liberation Group” called on middleclass feminists to recognize the existence of working class women in the movement and stop “perpetuating the male structure that oppresses us all.” This group displays a type of “classist separatism” peculiar to the London women’s movement. Its politics bypass a Marxist class-analysis, defining middle-class women as the main oppressor. The group expresses, however, the uneasiness of working class women who confront the intellectual aloofness of many movement women.
The delegates resolved unanimously to “confront our own racism” after two Black women introduced a resolution on racism — for the first time at any women’s conference in England.
The conference seriously dealt with the reasons for the movement’s failure to attract minority and working class women. Socialist feminist influence was evident in the turn away from the usual absorption with single issues and the evident desire to build a broader, multi-issue movement to fight for women on all fronts — including class, race and sexuality.
The planning group for the conference included socialist feminists, radical feminists, women aligned with various left parties, and independents all working harmoniously with no “overkill” exerted by any tendency.