By Iida Käyhkö
During the Women’s Strike event This Is a Social Crisis the urgency of intervening and protesting austerity measures was underlined.
Jess Potter from Docs Not Cops described a national health service at breaking point, chronically underfunded and overstretched, with doctors and nurses forced to restrict access to necessary care for immigrants.
Kelsey M from North London Sisters Uncut outlined the connections between cuts to domestic violence and mental health services and the growth of the prison-industrial complex, resulting in a “conveyor belt” where communities that need health and social care services are increasingly targeted by police and the justice system.
Lydia Harris from Feminist Fightback detailed the rise in anti-abortion groups seeking to restrict access to reproductive services, and the links between austerity and increased social conservatism.
Jasmin Stone from Focus E15 described the inhumanity of Universal Credit and the devastation of communities and families that it has caused, increasing homelessness and child poverty all across the country.
Paula Peters from DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) also spoke on Universal Credit, and paid tribute to all the disabled people who are no longer with us due to the erosion of the welfare state.
The impossibility of the Women’s Strike has been established. The traditional strike takes place within the workplace and the union, but the social strike goes to the places ignored by the workplace struggle: the home, the kitchen, the bedroom, the street. It is at once deeply intimate and truly public and inclusive. It involves those who are not in waged work, who are in precarious work, who work at or from home. It involves those who do not belong to a union. It is a strike from emotional labour and care labour. This is the challenge but also the possibility of the women’s strike.
There is work we cannot strike from: care work nobody else can perform, waged work that we have to perform for whatever reason, the bodily work of pregnancy or contraception, and the emotional labour of feeling responsible for the happiness of everyone around us. There is labour we do not want to strike from, such as caring for our loved ones.
In workshops at the event, alternative strategies were proposed to widen the scope and increase the visibility of the strike in these non-traditional spheres. As well as attending strike actions on the day, smaller-scale local actions have been suggested: going to job centres to support those attending appointments; organising community meals on the day to collectivise some forms of reproductive labour; bringing children along to work; taking a long lunch break to join a local strike meal or action. In the health and social services, the strike could be an opportunity to demonstrate how these chronically overstretched services could operate if adequately funded, by bringing in extra workers and community members to help out.
The importance of social media for taking part in the strike was emphasised: those who cannot take part in visible strike actions can share their strike online. Wearing red or some other symbol of the strike was suggested as a way of showing solidarity. Finally, the importance of making visible all the things we cannot strike from was discussed. It was proposed that people write lists of the things that they can’t strike from, and either post these online or make them visible on the day.
#westrike to make visible all the work that is normally invisible. #westrike even if we cannot strike from work that is practically, financially or emotionally necessary. #westrike, whatever form our strike takes.