Motion for the AWL AGM 2004
Proposed by Mark Sandell
1. The hijab, veil and burkha are public expressions of the ownership of women by men, fathers, husbands, brothers, laid down in muslim teaching, socialists should oppose it.
2. We do not support state bans on adults self abuse but to confuse that with the case of schools is wrong.
3. Most of the left and many liberals in Britain have focused on opposition to the French ban on the veil in school while ignoring the issue of girls in British schools being withdrawn from sex education and sport and a regime of 'multi culturalism' in many schools that stops teachers from challenging the anti women and feudal ideas imposed on children by their parents.
4. While socialists are highly critical of capitalist education and it's institutions we support compulsory education for children, within that we fight for the best education, the best syllabus and the best facilities. Support for compulsory education has to include methods of enforcement, preventing children from doing full time work or just not turning up to school. We support using the law to enforce compulsory education, this is the biggest 'oppression' of children's freedom, we would not accept this form of compulsion for adults.
5. Even back in the ninetieth century when child labour was the general rule and few people supported compulsory education Marx wrote "The right of children and juvenile persons must be vindicated. They are unable to act for themselves. It is, therefore, the duty of society to act on their behalf The working man is no free agent. In too many cases, he is even too ignorant to understand the true interest of his child, or the normal conditions of human development. However, the more enlightened part of the working class fully understands that the future of its class, and, therefore, of mankind, altogether depends upon the formation of the rising working generation. They know that, before everything else, the children and juvenile workers must be saved from the crushing effects of the present system. This can only be effected by converting social reason into social force and given circumstances, there exist no other method of doing so, than through general laws, enforced by the power of the state. In enforcing such laws, the working class do not fortify governmental power. On the contrary, they transform that power, now used against them, into their own agency. They effect by a general act what they would vainly attempt by a multitude of isolated individual efforts." Marx went on to explain that this compulsory education must include, mental education, bodily education and technological training.
6. Given this approach to compulsory education it is right that we argue against religious and private schools on the basis of equality, and decent education for all. We argue too about what is to be taught in schools. It's not just being at school that matters, but what children learn, including things parents don't want them to be taught like sex education, questioning the society they live in and science rather than medieval rubbish like religion. We demand secular education, parents have plenty of time to teach their children rubbish, we oppose the 'parents right' to restrict their children's education at school. The hijab, veil or burka are religious symbols of women's oppression, girls should be given space to learn they do not need to wear them, that they can take part in sports like swimming. If these girls 'choose' to robe up out of school or after they leave then so be it.
7. The issue of the veil has been hyped up by Islamic reactionaries, and most of the left and their cultural relativist allies have jumped on the bandwagon. In fact a far more important issue is the fact that reactionary parents, can 'withdraw' 'their' children from sex education and that the education system is capitulating on many issues like sport and even science to parents' 'cultural or religious objections', also Blair is supporting yet more religious schools. This is the real issue, a victory on the veil in school is one more step in the wrong direction, but all the left can go on about is the veil. We must cut sharply against this stupidity.
8. The selective ban on the veil in French schools with left wing teachers or where a school or teacher understands that a veil interferes with a girls education is not an acceptable middle way but a formula for unfair treatment. We support equal treatment in all schools.
9. Socialist should not oppose secular education in French schools but demand an end to all religious schools.
10. The French right are using the law but so to are the Islamists. A victory for the Islamists against the law would be a victory for the enemies women and the working class. We cannot support the French governments use of the issue to 'unite republican France' while keeping religious schools, we should expose their racism and nationalism. Neither should we give an inch to those opposing the law.
11. Compulsory secular state education for all children. Stop the wearing of the veil or burkha in schools; for a full education for all children.