"Women’s Liberation’s emphasis on experiential subjectivity was not just a matter of asserting ‘I feel’. It was also affected by a longer term search within the left for an understanding of how to connect material life and an inner consciousness of being."
On the occasion of the new edition of Woman’s Consciousness, Man’s World, Sheila Rowbotham looks back at the world of its initial birth in the Women's Liberation movement, as she sought to situate her feminist politics in relation to the changing shape of capitalism to forge a new way to describe the interaction between inner perceptions and external material life.
Writers often say they walk for inspiration and Finnish friends assure me the sauna is the place for original thoughts, but Woman’s Consciousness, Man’s World was incubated on the 38 Routemaster bus, which used to take me from Hackney me to the British Library (then on Great Russell Street).
I wrote it between 1969 and 1971 when the Women’s Liberation Movement was just beginning to take off in Britain and the book springs out of the very beginnings of the movement in Britain. I have always tended to assume that if I had an idea everyone else must already know of it. But participating in a movement gave me an impetus to believe that my perceptions could contribute to a wider challenge to prevailing cultural assumptions. Remarkably Woman’s Consciousness, Man’s World would reach many countries, including Iran.
"The political movement of ‘women’s liberation’ from the 1960s, after a “backlash”, has diversified into all the elements of feminism’s “fourth wave”; but its success has been enormous. It was another beginning, not an end.
"I think that all movements could gain in different ways from the implementation that we initiated in the making the personal, political. This is their legacy, our heritage."
On the occasion of the new edition of Woman’s Estate, Juliet Mitchell looks back at how the joy and practical experience afforded by Women's Liberation—and its tensions with other protest movements of the time—inflected its writing, making the personal political.
Rosa Luxemburg was tortured and executed on this day 96 years ago, on January 15 1919.
The last letter contained in The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg is dated January 11 1919, following the crushed Spartacist Uprising, and is reproduced in full below. In her last known piece of writing, 'Order prevails in Berlin', Luxemburg writes about the reasons contributing to the failure of the rebellion and the future of the movement:
A new leadership can and must be created by the masses and from the masses. The masses are the crucial factor. They are the rock on which the ultimate victory of the revolution will be built. The masses were up to the challenge, and out of this “defeat” they have forged a link in the chain of historic defeats, which is the pride and strength of international socialism. That is why future victories will spring from this “defeat.”
Why do most “official” feminists and women’s organizations in India keep a safe distance between themselves and organizations like say the ninety-thousand-member Krantikari Adivasi Mahila Sanghatan (Revolutionary Adivasi Women’s Association) that is fighting patriarchy in its own communities and displacement by mining corporations in the Dandakaranya forest? Why is it that the dispossession and eviction of millions of women from land that they owned and worked is not seen as a feminist problem?
I started writing Women, Resistance and Revolution in the summer of 1969 when I was 26. It was my first book , though I had produced articles in the left wing paper Black Dwarf edited by Tariq Ali, a pamphlet, Women’s Liberation and the New Politics and a thesis on an adult education movement in the late nineteenth century which was three times too long. I abandoned the thesis partly because it was not yielding clear revolutionary implications and partly because it was mainly about men.