A Political Strategy for the Liberation of Women: Socialist Feminist Political Practice

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Amirault, Jenna




This dissertation examines socialist feminism as it developed as a political force in English-speaking parts of Canada, especially Toronto, from the 1960s - 1980s. This project contributes to documenting, summarizing, and analyzing socialist feminist activity, with particular attention devoted to organizational forms and methods. The legacy of socialist feminism is remembered as a disinclination towards parties, leadership, and organization. In reviewing the history of socialist feminism, I show that this is not an accurate portrayal of the movement. Instead, there were heated debates about the best strategies for achieving the goals of the movement. Drawing on archival research, interviews and secondary sources, I look at what practices emerged from the development of socialist feminism that can inform contemporary projects for women's liberation. Socialist feminists rooted their analysis of women's oppression in relation to capitalist production and economic structures. Their political work on reproductive rights, childcare, housework, equal pay, anti-free trade, labour, and anti-war were all rooted in an understanding of how capital structured the lives of people. Throughout this dissertation, I'll show how this analysis helped strengthen the political work of the women's movement and political organizations on the Left. I also examine socialist feminism's relationship to communist and socialist organizing by women and around the woman question historically, alongside the developments in class struggle in Canada and the ideological and political divisions in the socialist Left. Reflecting on socialist feminism from our vantage-point today, I argue that a reconsideration of the role of the socialist political party is needed. A modern socialist left must be conscious of what tools cannot be discarded, or are indeed most critical, if it hopes to organize people in the thousands and millions required to bring about transformative, revolutionary change.






Carleton University

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