Feminism stands for, and fights / campaigns for, equal rights for women as for men, the full realisation of female potential, women's financial independence, women's right to education and fulfilling work; in short, the self-realisation of women. Feminism resists all stereotypes: woman as sex object, man as rational; woman as virgin or whore, man as macho; woman as sweet and passive, man as active and strong; compulsory heterosexuality. Women discover they can be strong and self-assertive and fulfill their own dreams. They find other women like themselves, questioning value and discovering their true nature, and unite with them in a bonding of understanding, called sisterhood. As women become aware of their oppression, they also think about other oppressions, such as class, race, age and sexual orientation. Most make the connections and look to a future in which everyone is equal, i.e. Socialism. However, they disagree (as men do too) on how to get there. Until they realise that authority is, by its very nature, unequal they will not become anarcha-feminists.

Women are so disillusioned with male power structures, however, that radical women's groups have adopted anarchist methods of organisation - rejecting hierarchies and centralised control. The right for control of their own bodies (the reproductive rights campaign, lesbian freedom) is a call for autonomy and anti-state, which prepares women for an understanding of anarchism . A woman is not simply a child-producing machine or a commodity (as advertising would have it) but she demands her participation in a man's world (sic) and hopes to change it to a people's world. ANARCHISM offers such an opportunity. Feminism is the collective fightback against limited and / or degrading roles for women, by women and is their defence against male violence, e.g. rape, wife-battering etc., (including the police, male-dominated, who make rape victims feel guilty and refuse protection to battered wives in a 'domestic matter'). Women can turn to women for help in Rape Crisis Centres and Womens Aid refuges (where they exist which is mainly in the affluent West). In opposing degradation, from violent porn to advertising, they demand the respect that goes with opportunities for achievement, recognition of their abilities and the respect due every human being, human dignity.

Some feminists only oppose male chauvinism and support capitalism, others think they will approach socialism through the Labour Party or even 'revolutonary' parties. The first do not realise that capitalism needs to keep women servile to maintain profit, parliamentarians are kidding themselves that the system will let itself be overthrown and anyway women will be sold out for votes. The Trotskyites understand both the above but their elitism goes right against the call for equality, sacrificed to the Party.


All anarchists in theory should automatically support anarcha-feminism, male or female (though certainly not all anarchists do). Maybe not all anarchist women see anarcha-feminism as vital to their anarchism. They may prefer other areas of activism - or indeed, even today, some still see feminism as a secondary struggle to the 'main' struggle. So, although anarchism and feminism are synonymous to an anarcha-feminist, that unfortunately is not the whole story.

In theory, anarchism is the liberation of all humanity, which necessarily includes the liberation of women, ie feminism. Yet, unless it is commonly agreed by anarchists of both sexes that these two great struggles are really one, anarchist women can expect women's liberation to be seen by many anarchists (especially men) as a 'side issue'.


Though true anarchists are necessarily anarcha-feminists, it cannot be said that feminists are necessarily anarchists. Although the organisation of the women's liberation movement has generally been anarchistic in nature, some feminists pursue reformist demands which are contrary to anarchism, e.g. tough laws and longer sentences for rapists; women's pressure groups to influence the Labour Party.(Thus, anarcha-feminists sometimes can only give limited support to certain campaigns, whilst trying to encourage changes in aims, methods and overall direction which are are more revolutionary.)

Feminism embraces many political views although Radical Feminism* has anarchistic tendencies implicit in most of its beliefs: under patriarchy, freedom from male control requires freedom from the state (which embodies male values). However, because anarchism has had such a bad press, many of these women do not know on how much the two agree. Women have had such bad experiences of male control and leadership that they have instinctively learned to organise with controls against autocracy - rotation of tasks, decentralisation etc.

Anarchism can offer feminism a view of the ideal society we should be working to achieve and methods of how to get there: the need to end all forms of authoritarianism. The Women's Liberation Movement can offer anarchism the political method of consciousness-raising to form theory. Contrary to what it sounds like, this is not group therapy where women get rid of the patriarchal value in their own heads, it is a way of re-examining the evidence on which theory is built. His-story is written by male members of the ruling class and reflects their values. If we are to make sense of what has happened and where to go next, we need to find out what less-privileged people think, want and are. This is achieved by believing what they say about themselves rather than what is written about them by 'experts'. Thus women talk about what they have experienced on an issue and find common threads which show them what is really going on. Blacks, workers , gays and the disabled can and should do the same, to debunk what the sociologists have written and said about them. Hence the expression: the personal is political. (It is, of course, a pleasant side-effect of consciousness-raising that women discover that what they thought was an individual problem is shared by the majority of their friends and is something to blame society and not themselves for but if this realisation does not then becomes the basis for collective action it is merely reformist.)


Anarchist women have a personal reason to think about sexism but it is a problem for them if anarchist men do not do the same. Admittedly, they will not see things from a woman's point of view but it is vital to the work of liberation that men stop and think about their own behaviour and assumptions Anarchist men would be well-advised to consider forming anti-sexist men's groups and/or reading anarcha-feminist books, to think about the ways in which their conditioning oppresses women and gays and limits their own choice of behaviour.

There is room for women only, men-only and mixed groups to consider sexism within the anarchist movement. In the separate sex groups, there is likely to be a greater degree of honesty and shared views, whereas in the mixed groups there is the opportunity for each sex to learn more about each others' opinions. There needs to be space to consider where the language and cartoons used in our publications alienate women and also whether whole areas of life are being ignored because of the 'male as norm' view of society - e.g. state control of reproduction, state values in enforcing the family norm on benefits.

There can be no valid anarchism where anyone expects to dominate to take precedence over another, limit someone else's potential or assume privilege because of their gender. Unfortunately most of the time this is done unconsciously and is accepted unnoticed. Women and men need to watch for sexist behaviour in themselves and others. Even then the problem will not go away because when two free individuals are engaged in the same activity, one of each sex, the man in the street (see what I mean!) will assume the superiority of the male. Anarchy, where women are not as free as men, is rank hypocrisy and any supposed anarchist, who does not wholeheartedly support the freedom of women and' fight for it, is a hypocrite and not an anarchist. It is only when women and men can work together in a spirit of solidarity that we can hope to build or participate in a real revolution. There is no true change created solely by men. If those men had no wish to exclude women, if they were non-sexist, they would actively seek to include women. It is not rea1 revolution that excludes the majority of the population - 'revolution' made by men on behalf of women - acting as 'vanguard of the proletariat' no doubt!

Equally, there can be no real revolution made entirely by women either, even though women have realised that revolution can no longer mean the seizure of power or the domination of one group by another. Domination itself must be abolished, and anarchist men should understand this too.


We need to spread these ideas to all: male and female anarchist, feminists, anti-sexist men, other socialists, the working class and society at large. When we support actions, such as in trade-unions, and explain our political differences, the need to respect women’s rights is one of the issues that could be raised. We can initiate mixed meetings on sexism in the media, reproductive rights etc., and show ourselves different to the Labour Party by pursuing these issues for their own sake, and not to gain converts for the ‘party’.

As anarcha-feminists we do have an easy method of explaining anarchism to other feminists: they may well be familiar with anarchistic methods of organising. Feminism 1s non-hierarchical - a starting point. As Peggy Kornegger says in Quiet Rumours: “The women’s groups or projects which have been the most successful are those which experimented with various fluid structures: the rotation of tasks and chairpersons, sharing of all skills, equal access to information and resources, non-monopolised decision making and time slots for discussion of group dynamics, this (last) structural element is important because it involves a continued effort on the part of group members to watch for "creeping power politics.".”

Anarcha-feminists cannot support the rise of bourgeois feminists to positions of privilege and / or power but then nor do radical feminists who do not want to get to the top of a man's world but to change the system entirely. Similarly it is only Socialist Feminists* who seek political power or set themselves up as leaders of the women's movement - we would oppose this. In DAM, as anarcho-syndicalists, we cannot support the rise of women in the trade union bureaucracy beyond the position of shop steward (which is DAM policy) but we long to see more women active at rank-and-file level or better still, forming anarcho-syndicalist free unions, which represent those outside paid work too. We do not support entryism of political parties nor will we be put on one side - as DAM's Women's Section - like the Trotskyite women, who are shunted neatly aside by their parties: we participate fully in the DAM. There is no disparity or unbridgeable gap between feminism and anarcho-syndicalism, quoting Peggy Kornegger, 'The structure of women's groups bore a striking resemblance to that of anarchist affinity groups within anarcho-syndicalists' unions in Spain, France and many other countries.

As anarcha-feminists and anarcho-syndicalists, we support the struggles of women who are low-paid workers in industry and those seeking to unionise in catering, domestic service or home work; the struggle to recognise the monetary value of housework and child-rearing, though not to be paid by the state if that means the state controlling the ‘quality' of work produced. Women are part of the industrial struggle and will not stand idly by watching their wages cut and their jobs given to men (as the powerful trade unions do). The whole working class suffers when women or are sold out by male trade-unionists. We particularly support women’s strikes and women's support groups for male strrkers (where they are not there to make tea).

Although we can and do show solidarity with struggles for better laws (e.g. on abortion and sexual harassment at work), we leaflet such demonstrations pointing out how futile and servile it is to appeal to the state or expect social change through legislation. We create our own social changes as far as is possible under oppression until we are free of government, which means direct action. Laws are not just, immutable expressions of what is right but are tools to uphold the status quo, protect private property and the ruling class. Any woman who has appealed for police help when being battered by her husband knows the limits of law. As Carol Ehrlich writes, “Developing alternative forms of organisation means building self-help clinics instead of fighting to get one radical on a hospital's board of directors; it means women's video groups and newspapers; living collectives, instead of isolated nuclear families; rape crisis centres; food co-ops; parent-controlled day-care centres; free schools; printing co-ops; alternative radio groups and so on.”

Thus, on pornography we do not plead for government censorship (and play into their hands as they censor gay films and sex education which is free of the nuclear family), instead we do it ourselves by destroying pornographic material and campaigning against the attitudes it expresses. We do not campaign for tough sentences for rapists (knowing that judges will then be less likely to prosecute) but get together late-night transport for women, learn self-defence, take reprisals against known rapists and encourage women to watch for each other's safety.


Anarchism and feminism have always had the basics in common, such as taking control of one's own life. However, some women only seem to want to be independent of their husbands, whilst others seek to be independent all the way, free of-the State. We can support the formation of women workers' co-operatives but not the setting up of a women's corporation. To quote Quiet Rumours again, 'Feminist capitalism is a contradiction in terms. When we establish women's credit unions, restaurants, bookstores etc., we must be clear that we are doing so for our own survival, for the purpose of creating a counter-system whose processes contradict and challenge competition, profit-making and all forms of economic oppression. We must be committed to "living on the boundaries, to anti-capitalist, non-consumptive values.'

In advocating direct action, we are advocating tactics / strategy that goes further towards the goal of anarchy, i.e. towards a goal that is more radical than any other 'socialism', to. guarantee, or try to, autonomy both to the individual and to the collective, i.e. the anarchist federation on a ‘human scale’; that practice community more – removing all authoritarian institutions, all centralisation, bureaucracy, militarism and false divisions (by class, race, sex, age, and sexual orientation). It is only when we of own lives that we are free free of government, armies, police, prisons, officialdom, elitism, privilege, prejudice. In the abolition of the nation-state, we sh all also abolish war - but only if the revolutionaries are non-sexist, non-racist and include a fair proportion of all groups.


As internationalists, we support the struggles of black women against racism and imperialism. Also their struggles against the sexist practices of their own cultures, whether as members of multi-racial societies like Britain/West Europe or in their own states.

We also support lesbians and gay men in their struggles against heterosexism. Although its direct relevance to the industrial struggle may only be apparent to heterosexuals where they (gays) are sacked because they work with children, their oppression is part of the State's enforcement of a heterosexual, family norm which is a restriction on all our freedoms. Heterosexuals only appear to be in the vast majority in our society because many gays prefer to remain in the closet and we assume people are heterosexual until we are sure that they are not. The hetero-sexual norm is a violation of human rights and contributes to the moralistic way laws are drawn up and enforced in our society.

There is no practical anarchy without mutual aid; what sort of mutual aid can there be, while dominance-submission games continue and what is mutual aid without equality? Equality of sexes and races, not of classes since there will only be one. If sexism is allowed to continue, anarchy would be a joke, authority would be enshrined in possession of a penis!

Anarchy works best with strong people who need no leaders: this implies strong, self-assertive women, who have rid themselves forever of negative roles and undermining self-images, with all their incumbent limitations and repressions, i.e. feminists.

As anarcho-syndicalists, we are aware that the economic system oppresses but, as women realise, oppression extends into every aspect of life - leisure, culture, relationships - all our lives. We also know that liberation cannot be done for people, not by a party, a union or any organisation. People must create their own groups. Women's oppression is part of the overall oppression of people by a capitalist economy but it is also caused by male supremacy, a double oppression. As Carol Ehrlich says, “Women, even more than most men, have very little power over their own lives. Gaining such autonomy and insisting that everyone have it is the major goal of anarchist feminists.”

The need for anarcha-feminism was shown in Spain in the 1930~ where 'anarchist' men proved little better than men everywhere in their treatment of women, whose role did NOT change. I contend that any anarchism in future would breakdown if it continued to oppress women - it would have a feminist rebellion on its hands! Anarchism needs anarcha-feminists to ensure that it is a daily reality, reaching all human inter-relationships in everyday life , as it should do, for that is an area where more women in anti-politics now have more experience than most of the men (unless men learn, in the meantime, for women might need them to).

While feminists, if anarcha-feminists can encourage them to re-examine feminism and discover its close connections with anarchism, might forsake reformism or Trotskyism and become true women's liberationists we have to work - for a revolutionary feminism, ie an anti-authoritarian feminism. In short, to spread anarchist feminist ideas.


We aim for three ends in our own ways and our own groups: (1) to spread ~ anarchism amongst feminists; (2) to spread feminism amongst anarchis1:s and (3) to spread both anarchism and feminism amongst our own society and around the world.

I am not advocating that in spreading our ideas we adopt a sort of evangelism, so much as live by them and let them be part of our writing, speaking and organising as well as how we socialise. Within DAM this means writing to Direct Action and the Internal Bulletin and raising issues at conferences. In feminism it means writing to Spare Rib, Outwrite and propaganda during demonstrations and actions. Beyond this, we can write to national newspapers, 'women's' magazines and talk to friend and relatives. However, I do feel that the longer we think about the issues around sexism, the more they become part of ourselves and do not need conscious thought in finding ways to promote the ideas.

Finally I would recommend that you read the anarcha-feminist anthology, Quiet Rumours. If the treatment of women in Spain in the 1930s seems far away, this quote from the introduction should surprise you: 'The first English anarcha-feminist groups appeared in 1977 and soon grew to a national network with its own bulletins and newspaper, with two national and several regional conferences. But by 1980 the anarcha-feminist movement had to all intents and purposes ceased to function. It seems, looking back rather short-lived. For one thing it faced opposition not only from Marxist and reformist feminists but also from the traditional and male-dominated anarchist movement, which regarded anarcha-feminists as some kind of threat to its position. Partly because of all this, anarcha-feminists moved away into other areas of activity, particularly the growing anti-nuclear movement.”

Anarcha-feminists in the 1980s must work to prevent the same fate befalling anarcha-feminism in Britain again (both inside and outside the DAM).


WOMEN'S LIBERATION MOVEMENT – Movement of women committed to overthrowing male supremacy, which has dominated all cultures for many centuries.

FEMINISM - softer term than WLM, encompasses women who believe that change in women's status can occur within the present structures of society. It is interesting that the more radical term is used less often nowadays.

LESBIAN SEPARATISTS - Identify men and heterosexuality as the cause of women's oppression and therefore have nothing to do with either men or heterosexual/bisexual women. Radical Feminists are not the same as Lesbian Separatists - see below.

POLITICAL LESB1ANS - Are women who are not necessan1y "practising' lesbians but who prioritize women in all aspects of their lives including relationships.

RADICAL FEMINISTS - Identify male supremacy as the root cause of women's oppression and work towards its overthrow (see WLM). They see the system not individuals as the problem so they are not Lesbian Separatists; in fact they o{:Jject to women being put in ghettos and only support separate women's organisations as short-term expedients to gaining equal place in mixed groups. They object to compulsory heterosexuality and are from all sexual orientations themselves.

SOCIALIST FEMINISTS - are not as you might support committed to socialism as we understand it. They are women who continue to put themselves as secondary to other struggles - usually the Labour Party - and are often careerists lsee Feminism above).



Those words, by a woman shop steward in NUPE, sum up what many people feel about union membership - that it can safeguard jobs and working conditions and preserve, or even improve, workers’ standards of living through action on wages and other benefits. It is argued that women, whose jobs are so often the first to go when redundancies are called for and whose wages and conditions (despite Equal Pay legislation) are among the poorest, are in special need of the protection Trade Union membership is supposed to offer and should be encouraged to be active in their unions.

In fact, compared to men, women are less likely to be union members and very much less likely to take an active part in union affairs. Women, it seems, have special problems which combine to prevent their participation. Because of this they lack the influence within unions to do something about their problems and thus a vicious circle is formed, with both sides growing apathetic if not actually hostile. The question usually asked is, how can come overcome the obstacles excluding them from playing a full role in TUs. A more relevant one might be, is it in fact worth their while.


Out of a workforce of 20 million people, the TUC has a membership of approximately 1? million. This seems like a position of immense strength but what have the unions achieved by it? Every year wage rises lag behind price increases. Every year the intolerable level of unemployment rises further. At present the government and the bosses are carrying out a savage assault on working-class living standards: as wage increases diminish and the threat of the dole queue looms nearer, spending on services that many people find vital is remorselessly axed. Yet many firms make record profits while the government certainly isn’t short of cash when it comes to spending on weaponry or giving tax reductions to big business. What has the 11 million strong TUC done about that?

They have said, wait for an election and work for a Labour victory and they have used considerable sums of their members' money to that end (Unions are the biggest source of Labour Party finance) and yet when the Labour Party is in power, where does it get us? We see exactly the same attack on living standards, the same growing unemployment and cuts in services, for the simple reason that (as Labour politicians would be the first to admit, if they were honest enough) putting the Labour Party into parliament makes no difference at all to what really happens in the real world, where the bosses continue to make the biggest possible profit out of other people's labour.

The union leaders know that there's only one way to put a stop to this situation and that is to eliminate the bosses and their foul system altogether but this can only come about through united action by working people themselves and there is no room in that kind of struggle for the greedy bureaucrat seeking advancement of her/his own career. Hence the union leadership carry on, alternately bolstering up the present system (whoever plays host to them in No 10) or, when pressure from below grows too great, reluctantly giving half-hearted support to workplace struggles.


If we take a closer look, from a woman's point of view, at the unions, we see evidence of a mass of sexist practice. At TUC level, there is the TUC Charter, a 10-point document aimed at giving women an equal voice in their unions. This seems very praiseworthy but much of it reads like bureaucratic waffle. Where practical matters are mentioned (eg paid time off for branch meetings, good childcare arrangements) the Charter contains good common-sense but what a pity that so often only lip-service is paid to these recommendations. The same applies to point 10, which emphasises that union publications should avoid sexist presentation - while the NUM uses pin-up girls to advertise its papers.

Lower down the union hierarchy evidence that some form of sexism operates lies in the figures for female membership of union executives. For example, APEX has 51% female membership but only 7% of the executive are women; in USBAW - 65% women members - only 19% of the executive are female. Of course it is possible to argue that women simply don't want to be union careerists but more realistic to assume that they don't get the chance, since they participate far less at branch level.

The policies of unions towards women on even such purely TU issues as wages leaves a lot to be desired. Did you know, for instance, that between 1970 and '75, when the Equal Pay Act was being phased in, one survey reported that in 60% of all cases unions were actually helping managements devise job evaluation schemes to prevent equal pay? What about union pressure to make part-time workers redundant before full-timers? Everyone knows the vast majority of part timers is female. If TUs are as anti-sexist as they'd have us believe, why do they negotiate pay rises on a percentage basis, maintaining or increasing differentials so as to leave low-paid (mostly female) workers stuck at the bottom of the ladder? Why do we still hear talk of the “family wage” and suggestions that when jobs are scarce the married women should be sacked first?

All this reflects women's lack of influence in unions. One survey found that at branch level fewer women attend meetings, men are twice as likely to vote in union elections or go on strike, 5 times as likely to make a proposal at a meeting or become a local official, 4 times as likely to serve as a shop steward or stand on a picket line.

Reasons for this aren't hard to find. When asked, women union members in Hull gave 5 main types of problem as reasons for lack of participation: to start with their domestic responsibilities - the heavy unpaid workload many women return horn to when men are putting their feet up - often make it impossible to attend meetings outside working hours, sometimes inconvenient places and usually without childcare facilities.

Secondly, was a feeling that the way unions are run, with their remote and complex power structures, is difficult to understand; not enough information about unions is available. They can be hard to identify with, especially for women isolated in small workplaces.

Finally, and perhaps most crucially, many women feel excluded from union affairs by the male members and don’t have the confidence to challenge this. Men in unions can be patronising or hostile to women, especially newcomers. Sometimes meetings or the important discussions after them are held in pubs and bars, places where women can be made to feel awkward and unwelcome. It’s often harder for a woman to get up and have her say in front of others simply because of the way women are brought up, the way we are expected to behave. It doesn’t seem feminine to be militant and femininity is something we are taught from the cradle to value.

All these factors can be alleviated by action within the unions, such as baby-sitting rotas, educational courses and special women’s committees. But this sort of action cannot solve the problem encountered by women because it doesn’t aim at the root of it all – the fact that the society we live in is ruthlessly divisive: to protect capitalism from a united onslaught by exploited workers it will always present them with a false conflict of interest - whether between black and white, skilled and unskilled or men and women. If the unions are ultimately committed to maintaining this system, surely it is expecting too much to ask them to do such a revolutionary thing as to challenge their own sexism and that of their members.


All this sounds so far as if women workers are merely victims of special problems - ’’women’s issues”. In some ways this is true - low pay, poor job security, the 2nd ”40 hours” are definitely problems. But another way of looking at this is to see women as people with certain differences which in fact give them a clearer view of problems, which are not theirs alone but everyone’s. For example, women bear the main burden of responsibility for childcare; it generally means long hours of unpaid, unrecognised work. This is everyone’s problem not just women’s, because children are the most precious resource held by society - its present and future members. Similarly, the care of the old which increasingly falls on the shoulders of unpaid women at home - after all we will all grow old eventually. These aspects of women’s role affect both their careers and their pattern of union membership because they often mean women are not in paid employment while they undertake them. Thus they are neglected by TUs as not being workers.

Not only does this attitude ignore the needs both of women and other workers, it also ignores the huge contribution they could make and leaves their experience and skills undiscovered. An example of this is the idea that many women in jobs involving the care of others (a traditionally female sphere) lack militancy because they are reluctant to strike when this might affect the well-being of patients, clients etc. Yet these people can, given the chance, devise other, equally effective, forms of industrial action (eg. offering free treatment or drugs, which hurts the employer not the patient) which we could all learn from.


For everyone’s sake, women need recognition of these concerns by organisations which have the industrial power available to strongly organised workers. The strength of organised labour as a whole class, whether in the workplace or the community outside, can best be expressed by a single movement embracing everyone’s interests – not just people with one particular job or skill in competition with other workers (as do present-day unions). At the same time it is vital to avoid elaborate power structures and monolithic bureacracy - decisions must be taken directly by those affected by them; everyone should have a voice. Only an organisation with a revolutionary perspective can combat the oppression encountered (particularly by women) outside the workplace as well as the exploitation within it. Only this kind of movement can link problems like dangerous or unavailable contraception, low wages, poor safety standards at work, unemployment etc and unite workers to bring down the entire system and replace it with something better. A rather different aim from that of the TUC perhaps but the only one that can remedy our oppression as women and as workers, along with all other forms of oppression.

This kind of unionism, aiming not to take over the power of the bosses and the state but to abolish them totally and employing direct action (eg strikes, work-ins, refusals to collect fares, are only a few of the forms this can take) rather than handing over power to any political party (however ’’revolutionary”) is called anarcho-syndicalism. It seeks to establish a classless society, with no need of a repressive state apparatus (eg government, police, armed forces) but organised instead without leaders, through self-management in the workplace and the community. In such a society production would fulfill human need instead of the demand of capital for endless profit. The true value of work would be recognised and we would have freedom – real economic freedom - to choose how we run our own lives.

Over the last 60 years anarcho-syndicalist movements have organised internationally in the International Workers Association. The British section of the IWA is the Direct Action Movement. You will find our aims and principles on the back of this pamphlet. We welcome enquiries from any women or men interested in finding out more about the DAM and our local branch can be contacted via the address below.

Medway DAM, 107 King Street, Gillingham, Kent