RADICAL WOMEN

Compañera Philippa Sandford: a rebel woman who will be deeply missed

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Philippa Sanford addresses the Melbourne reception for representatives of the Federation of Cuban Women, July 2000. Photo by Ian Storey.

On February 15, Philippa Sandford died of cancer. At 46, she was a rebel seasoned by her lifelong instinct and passion for justice. Radical Women knew Philippa in her last years. She defied her cancer as hard as she fought for a better world. She was an optimist, a socialist, a feminist, an internationalist, a mother, a student and a very adept organiser. She dedicated herself to the freedom struggles of El Salvador, of women and the downtrodden everywhere. She knew these struggles are both interdependent and irrepressible, and that freedom will be won through revolution.

RW first met Philippa in the mid ’90s. She was a leader in the Committee in Solidarity with the FMLN in El Salvador (or LINKS). Our organisations were active in the Cuba Solidarity Coalition that worked toward building solidarity with the Cuban revolution and breaking the U.S. blockade. When RW initiated a national tour for the Federation of Cuban Women last year, LINKS was the first group to co-sponsor this historic project.

Our shared multi-issue politics guaranteed that we’d often collaborate with Philippa, or at least bump into her — at rallies for East Timor or the rights of asylum seekers, outworkers, Indigenous nations, students and unionists; on International Women’s Day, May Day or International Human Rights Day; at fundraisers or forums.

Philippa was not one to leave her politics at the door, and this included the classroom. Disdainful of bourgeois “objectivity,” she let it be known which side she was on. At Victoria University of Technology, she was part of the self-proclaimed “Mature-Age Mafia” — a group of tenacious student unionists who made sure women’s needs were taken up. With their well-organised car pool, the MAM set out for some proletarian feminist education on the other side of Melbourne and joined in Radical Women’s study groups. Philippa said she was arming herself with Marxist theory so she could argue against the postmodernist poison being pumped out at university. Because of the regard in which she was held by her fellow students and teachers, she was posthumously awarded her Bachelor of Arts.

By the time global anti-capitalist rebellion hit Australia, Philippa couldn’t join the huge S11 protests. But she’ll be remembered for putting in years of helping to lay their foundations.

When Radical Women and the Freedom Socialist Party publicly launched our new Solidarity Salon on International Women’s Day, LINKS joined the celebration and paid a warm tribute to RW and FSP in Philippa’s memory. ¡Compañera Philippa Presente! ¡Venceremos!

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