In 2014 the first Connecting European Struggles conference was held in Lund, Sweden and gathered participants from multiple European countries in order to discuss, connect and mobilize around crisis politics. Now we are calling for the 2015 conference, this time in Malmö, which we hope will build on the previous one and be bigger, better and broader.
For the 2015 conference we have decided to highlight gender issues and feminism in crisis, a perspective that has mostly been lacking in many radical analysis and perspectives on our current situation.
In 2014 we focused a great deal of attention to the issues of austerity in Greece and the development of fascist movements around Europe. The latter point was dramatically underscored with a demonstration during our conference against a Neo-nazi party in the neighboring town of Malmö. During the demonstration the police ran into and over our comrades with horses and armored cars.
During the conference several themes became apparent that we hope to discuss in greater detail this year. This includes the level of authoritarian politics from the “center” of politics, Greece is a clear example of where this development has gone the furthest with repression of people living “on the margins”: the homeless, migrants, poor women. Authoritarian politics go beyond just managing demonstrations or suppressing social unrest but also serve to attack and divide within the social body through media spectacles, police brutality and state repression particularly in fields of migration and social work.
The CES conference takes as its starting point austerity politics within Europe but is not in any way confined to that vague geographical area. For us, crisis in Europe is just a common denominator that shapes European struggles in a fundamental way, but the cross-continental nature of the crisis movements means that we are naturally connected as much to New York as to Paris, as much to Cairo as London, as much to Hong Kong as to Helsinki.
Gender and crisis
The crisis has particular gendered effects that differ in scope and kind across Europe. During the 2014 conference the local presentation focused on healthcare work in the region of the conference. That presentation made it clear that there are Swedish austerity measures. The hospital has had over 20 deaths the last few years, being indicted by government reports as being clearly related to lack of funding that makes proper care impossible. Furthermore, staff at the hospital report never taking breaks, being forced into double shifts, literally running from patient to patient and breaking down into tears daily. This staff is overwhelmingly female and there is a clear connection between their gender and these forms of super exploitation. We’re inviting care workers and activists from around Europe to attend, present and discuss their experiences and strategies of care work!
In many countries fascist and conservative mobilizations have directed themselves away from clearly economical issues (“they’re taking our jobs!”) but instead focused on abortion, gay marriage and to defend the ‘holy family.’ We do not view these developments as incidental but rather part of the nature of fascism: control of women’s bodies through laws, social norms and obligatory heterosexuality. This development has been acute in nations such as Spain, Greece and Poland but is present in various forms all around Europe. Violence in forms of murder, beating and psychological terror against women (and others such as gays) who defy these constrictions are part of the same political movement who demands the cross, the flag and the family. Antifascists, at least in Sweden, has focused a great deal on issues of class and anticapitalist analysis which is of course crucial but misses out on important analysis on the nature of fascism. We’re thus inviting antifascist/antiracist feminists who work with questions concerning struggles for the right to abortion, for LGBTQ-rights and who work against conservatism, nationalism and fascism.
In Sweden the state drugs migrants before putting them in deportation-bound airplanes and deports children, a state program connected to Frontex aligns a specific police task force with finding and deporting migrants. A wave of romani EU-migrants, who’s livelihoods have been destroyed by the crisis in their home country Romania, can be found everywhere begging on the streets and face arson attacks, assault and even murder on a weekly basis. Gender issues are closely entwined with migration, which is another theme we hope to raise. Women migrants and LGBTQ individuals have specific situations that require specific strategies. How can we attempt to intervene on a trans-European level? We began such a discussion on the previous CES conference and we hope that feminist migration activists will present their work in order for us to collectively confront the situation.
We also want to focus on the proactive propaganda of our movements. In Sweden a popular form of agitprop has been feminist comics which are circulated in fanzines, online and in large newspapers. This is one form of using a popular medium to reach a greater amount of people. It’s important for us to focus on the concrete ways in which we spread propaganda. If you’re involved in similar projects we’d love to have you present your work at CES.
These are of course only the tip of the iceberg of feminist autonomous politics across Europe. We’re looking to create our conference together with the participants. Are you or your group involved in a radical project and want to connect and discuss? Please don’t hesitate to email us and let us know what you’re about.
We view gender as practice, as something that is practically performed day to day and which lies within every social relation. Gender is related to the body and the material in complex ways and combines sexuality, work (paid and unpaid), desire, power and politics. Feminism is politics of liberation that promises us new ways of life. Feminism is not an incidental thing, or a politics of luxury to be performed only when there is nothing better to do. It is a necessary part of any revolutionary politics.
A focus on feminist issues means to look at the crisis in another way, to subtly change our perception to bring out new perspectives. Without a gendered analysis it is impossible to understand social relations as a whole, they permeate bodies, theories, movements and resistance. Crisis politics usually focus on what we want to have in common: being a class or a movement. However, we know from experience that it is never so easy. Structural inequalities divide men and women to different tasks and give these different statuses. Women are to a greater deal employed within the public sector which is often the hardest hit in the crisis, women are tasked with managing both housework and stressful and badly paid jobs and they are overall poorer and have less control of their labor than men.
We’re happy to say that there is a very vibrant Swedish feminist movement which is active in all parts of society and which is seeing some very promising developments. We’re hoping to also develop more radical, autonomous practice and analysis within this movement with our conference. Feminism has a deep critique of representational politics, the nation state and work which is occasionally forgotten in the state-friendly feminism that many parties in Sweden, and indeed the Swedish state itself in some occasions, promote.
The conference will be held in Malmö, Sweden the 18th to 20th of September. The specific place will be announced later. Accommodations for free will be available. We hope to be able to pay a majority of trips for organizers of talks, film screenings and similar.
The conference is organized by the autonomous organization Första Linjen which exists in Malmö and Lund. FL is active in questions concerning antiracism/antifascism, mass action, feminism, unemployment, care work and much more.