Jade Baker - a socialist feminist for NUS Women's Officer

Submitted by AWL on 26 January, 2011 - 12:03

At this year's National Union of Students Women's Conference (15-17 March, venue tbc), Workers' Liberty member Jade Baker will be standing for NUS Women's Officer. To see her first manifesto, download the attachment below (the text of which is printed below the picture).

If you would like to support her campaign; if you have any questions; or if you want this manifesto in alternative formats - email jade4womensofficer@gmail.com

Campaign website: jade4womensofficer.wordpress.com

Jade on the 10 November NUS demonstrationJADE BAKER – socialist feminist for NUS National Women’s Officer

I’m standing for Women’s Officer as an anti-cuts activist and an unashamed revolutionary socialist feminist. I am a militant opponent of the current NUS leaders, because I want to see NUS lead the student revolt against cuts and fees, not continue to sell it out. The Women’s Campaign should be at the forefront of the fight to make that happen.

Your choice in this election

I am sabbatical VP Education at Westminster University — a post-92 uni with a mainly working-class, very diverse study body, at which political activism has revived only in the last two years. I became an activist at the end of 2009, as a co founder of Fight Cuts at Westminster and then a leader of our 2010 occupation — sixth months before the wave of struggles last winter. After that our “Fight cuts! Shake up your union!” slate swept the elections to UWSU. I am a proud supporter of the National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts.

I'm from a working-class background, the daughter of a single mother. I spent quite a bit of my childhood growing up in women’s refuges. When I talk about cuts to domestic violence provision, or the scrapping of EMA, or how hard it is for working-class kids to get to university, I am speaking in part from personal experience. I think my upbringing is why feminism was my ‘way in’ to socialism, and why for me socialism and women’s liberation are inseparable.

So — do you want another year with another Labour Student, who will talk left but continue to back up the NUS leadership and run the Women’s Campaign as a bureaucratic shell? Or a grassroots anti-cuts activist committed to socialist feminism and building a militant, campaigning student women's movement?

Rebuild the Women’s Campaign!

In the 90s, Women’s Conference was attended by hundreds of delegates. The Campaign organised mass action including marches of thousands of women for socialist feminist demands. Now it has withered and does — well, to be honest, not much. Instead of being a centre of organising and discussion for thousands of women students, the Women’s Campaign is largely an irrelevance.

In the same period, the Black Students and LGBT Campaigns have grown. What's happened to the Women’s Campaign is a result of control by Labour Students. We need to:

● Become part of the growing movement against cuts and fees, which involves tens of thousands of women students who currently know nothing about the Campaign.
● Consistently organise mass action, including an annual March for Women’s Liberation. We should be aiming for thousands on the streets.
● Launch a real, hard-hitting campaign for a women’s officer in every union, a sabbatical women’s officer in every HE union, and most importantly an active women’s group at every institution.
● Produce and campaign around a serious, radical Women’s Campaign Charter of demands — from an equal, living wage and free trade unions to abortion rights, from defending the welfare state to international solidarity.
● Reach out to young women in FE and schools who have played such an inspiring role in the recent protests — and are far more diverse than those who staff most NUS campaigns. I support the right of school students to form unions and affiliate to NUS.

Women against the cuts

It’s now common to note the cuts will hit women hardest — and that’s good. The question is how we can stop these cuts and defeat the government. We won’t do it by watering down our demands, trying to make deals with the Tories and condemning students who have the nerve to fight back.

I am proud to be a supporter of direct action, an occupier and a Millbank protester! A Women’s Campaign led by me will:

● Demand what students need, not what won’t embarrass the Labour Party leaders. We need free education and living grants for all — and women, discriminated against at work and taking longer to pay back debt, need this most of all. No to a graduate tax.
● Say no cuts! Demand an attack on the wealth of the rich and the banks to pay for education, jobs and services, and fight poverty and inequality. Link up every student women’s group with their uni anti-cuts group and local anti-cuts campaign, as well as organisations like Women Against the Cuts and Feminist Fightback.
● Fight (actually fight, not just occasionally mention) cuts to funding for domestic violence services.
● Organise to stop police violence.
● Unite with workers in struggle. Unity needs to mean more than the occasional joint press release. In the anti-cuts movement we've built grassroots solidarity between students and striking workers. We need the biggest possible student turnout on
the 26 March TUC protest — but that should be just the start.
● Fight poverty pay — for a living, equal wage. Campaigns to unionise students will only be effective if exploited young workers believe they can fight and win. Our natural allies should be low-paid women workers in struggle, not New Labour shadow ministers.

Internationalism – women’s rights are universal

Internationalism is central to my socialism and my feminism. Last year I helped organise and took part in a ten-day delegation of students and trade unionists to Palestine and Israel, visiting Palestinian resistance organisations, the Israeli anti-occupation movement and workers’, youth and women’s groups in both countries. I am very proud of this, and of the solidarity work we are following it up with. (Invite me to your campus to speak about it!) Over Christmas I helped organise the campaign to support Iranian student Habibollah Latifi, who is on death row.

We should support battles against oppression and exploitation wherever they take place, and whoever they're against. Democratic rights, including women’s rights, are universal or they are nothing. Whether our comrades and sisters are fighting oppression in the US or China, Iran or Israel, Britain or Tunisia, they deserve and demand solidarity

Fight the right-wing backlash!

There is a right-wing backlash going on in British society, and women are among its key targets — from Tory MPs saying men are now oppressed, to reactionaries of all religions infiltrating education and threatening abortion rights, to the growth of the racist, sexist far right. The economic crisis and the cuts mean this backlash will grow — unless we stop it.
● Defend and extend reproductive rights. Oppose attacks on abortion rights; fight for abortion on demand, and funding to make it equally available across the country.
● For secular, comprehensive schools. Demand decent sex education and anti-sexist, anti-racist and anti-homophobic education, linking up with teachers’ unions and school students.
● Fight racism and fascism. For mass action to drive the EDL off our streets! Solidarity with migrants’ struggles — no one is illegal, open borders and equal rights for all.
● Solidarity with sex workers’ organisations.
● Consistent opposition to all forms of oppression, including anti-semitism and Islamophobia. Not a hierarchy of oppressions, but liberation for all

An activist and socialist

I am a co-founder of the National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts. For more about the campaign visit www.anticuts.com or email againstfeesandcuts@gmail.com

I am a member of the socialist organisation Workers’ Liberty. We stand for working-class revolution to create a socialist world without class, gender, racial, national or any other oppression. For more information see our website www.workersliberty.org or email students@workersliberty.org

For more, including more policies and a supporters list: jade4womensofficer.wordpress.com

If you would like to support my campaign, have any questions, or want this manifesto in alternative formats, email: jade4womensofficer@gmail.com

Attachment Size
jademanifesto.pdf(609.03 KB) 609.03 KB

Comments

Submitted by AWL on Tue, 01/02/2011 - 18:59

Dear Estelle,

Last year the National Women's Officer election was uncontested! I'm sure you agree with me when I say that a contested election is good news for the Women's Campaign and for the student movement as whole. A lively discussion - about the kind of Women's Campaign we need right now in the face of the Tory/Lib Dem cuts, how cuts and attacks on education affect the lives of women, and how to mobilise to stop them - is essential.

I want to invite you to enter into this discussion with me publicly and openly.

I'm certain that, as feminists, we have many common reference points, but most important for debating how we build a democratic, fighting Women's Campaign are our points of difference. The issues that we disagree on reflect the kind of movement we think is needed and want to build.

You support a graduate tax; I demand free education for all, and think this demand is particularly important for women. You think the conduct of the NUS leadership over the recent protests was broadly correct; I think it was a disgrace. You think the Women's Campaign is in relatively good shape; I think it needs renewing and renovating from top to bottom. We have different attitudes to everything from NUS democracy to sex workers' unions. The point is that we should debate these things, and much more, in public forums, with the involvement of the greatest possible number of women activists.

I'd therefore like to invite you to take part in a series of public debates, hosted by university and college women's groups, over the next two months. I'm sure sisters will be eager to host us! I look forward to hearing from you or someone from your campaign.

Yours for socialist feminism,

Jade Baker

Submitted by AWL on Thu, 03/02/2011 - 09:29

My supporters include:

Women of Hull Against the Cuts
Fatima Hagi, University of Westminster SU Student Trustee
Tasha McGechan, UWSU VP Activities
Robyn Minogue, SU Arts Education Officer
Claire Locke, London Metropolitan University SU Campaigns and Communications Officer and occupier
Jo Pinto, National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts press officer and candidate for NUS VP Union Development
Clare Solomon, University of London Union President and SOAS occupier
Claudio Wilopo, Royal Holloway University SU Campaigns Officer and occupier
Flaminia Giambovolo, Goldsmith's University occupier
Katherine McMahon, Edinburgh University Feminist Society and occupier
Houzan Mahmoud, SOAS student and Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq UK representative
Sofie Buckland, NUS NEC 2006-8, UCL occupier
Sky Yarlett, NUS LGBT Committee Open Place rep
Wanda Canton, Queen Mary SU Women's Officer
Rowan Rheingans, Newcastle University Feminist Society president and occupier
Alice Marshall, Hull University Union VP Welfare 2009-10 and occupier
Rebecca Galbraith, Institute of Education, Feminist Fightback and ESOL activist
Tali Janner-Klausner, NCAFC
Afua Kokayi, University of Nottingham People & Planet and occupier
Ellie May, London Metropolitan University Feminist Society and occupier
Nicole Lucas, 'Defend LSBU! Defend Our Education!' activist at London South Bank uni, occupier
Sam Mallender, University of Brighton University President
Claire Locke, Campaign and Communication Sabbatical Officer, London Metropolitan University, occupier
Jen Jones, London School of Economics, former Goldsmiths SU Campaigns and Communications Officer

More soon. If you would like to support and get involved in my campaign, email jade4womensofficer@gmail.com

Submitted by AWL on Sat, 19/03/2011 - 02:15

At this year's NUS Women's Conference, AWL and National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts supporter Jade Baker received just under a third of the vote for National Women's Officer (32 votes to Estelle Hart's 60, with 7 reopen nominations) and was elected to Women's Committee. The left has also won policies including 100 percent support for UCU; free education for all, opposing a graduate tax; solidarity with the new independent unions in Egypt; solidarity with sex workers' unions; and opposition to immigration controls. The struggle is now to make sure these policies are carried out. Meanwhile, the left has re-established itself as a force in the Women's Campaign. A full report soon.
Below is Jade's speech for the National Women's Officer election.

***

Jade Baker, University of Westminster, standing for National Women's Officer as a socialist feminist, an anti-cuts activist and a militant opponent of the NUS leadership. Standing as the left candidate in this election.
I'm a new face in NUS: part of the new generation of activists the fight against cuts and fees has created. But I've been a feminist for many years. I'm from a working-class background, the daughter of a single mother; I spent quite a bit of my childhood in women's refuges. When I talk about cuts to domestic violence provision, or how hard it is for working-class kids to get to university, or the scrapping of EMA, I'm speaking in part from personal experience. That upbringing set me on the road to socialist feminism.
I got active in 2009 through a fight against job cuts at my university. From nothing, and with no help from the student union, we built a strong anti-cuts campaign which held meetings of hundreds of students and staff, stormed a court of governors' meeting, launched a three-day occupation, and began to turn our union round. We've built a women's group at Westminster from scratch. This is the first time for years we've been represented at Women's Conference.
But sisters, I said it yesterday and I'll say it again: I'm not impressed by the state the Women's Campaign is in, and I don't think you should be either. Any progress has been far too little, far too late. We should aim higher.
If I'd been National Women's Officer, Women Against Education Cuts would have been launched months ago - not two weeks ago. If I'd been Women's Officer, the Campaign would have put out a statement condemning police violence on the 10th of November - not three months later. If I'd been Women's Officer, I wouldn't have been at some ridiculous candle-lit vigil on the 9th of December. I would have led hundreds of Women's Campaign activists to Parliament Square, facing police violence and kettling with our sisters and brothers in the anti-cuts movement.
We need to expand our activist base - and no, that doesn't just mean increasing the number of delegates each union gets, but radically increasing the number of women involved. The tens of thousands of university, college and school students who led the fight in November and December are our natural constituency. If we can't make thousands of them into new Women's Campaign activists, then we're failing.
So: let's be very clear about the choice in this election. Do you want a Women's Officer who supported Aaron Porter, and would support him again if he hadn't turned and fled? Who has consistently backed a graduate tax? Who is part of the Labour Students hierarchy, and trims her radicalism to the wishes of the Labour leadership? Who votes against supporting UCU and then claims she didn't know the issues? Who has gimmicky cakes and flashy t-shirts and a big machine behind her, but whose campaigns as Women's Officer will remain largely exercises on paper? If so, vote for Estelle.
Or do you want a National Women's Officer who has been committed to free education from the start, who has never stopped fighting the NUS leadership, who thinks supporting strikes is not just a priority, but the number one priority? Do you want a grassroots activist with experience of building campaigns in the most difficult circumstances, who will make the Women's Campaign live and fight in our colleges, our workplaces and communities? If so, I am your only choice.
Let me finish by reminding you of an important anniversary this week. Friday is 140 years since the beginning of the Paris Commune. In 1871 workers took control of Paris - and working class women were at the forefront. Ordinary, poor, downtrodden women organised, wrote articles, made speeches, took decisions and staffed the barricades. After two wonderful months of society being run in a radically different way, the ruling class crushed the Commune. But these working-class fighters, and the women especially, left behind ideas, experience and inspiration for socialist feminists the world over. I stand in that tradition.
I stand in the tradition of the millions of women who for a century now have marched and struck for dignity and better lives on International Women's Day.
Sisters, their spirit is alive today in the millions of women in the Middle East who are rising up against misogyny, religious reaction, poverty and dictatorship. I want activists in the Women's Campaign to take up this legacy of struggle and solidarity and make it our own; and, whatever the result of this election, I hope you will be fighting alongside me.

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