The Golden Barley School

an anarchist, a communist & a feminist walk into a bar…

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Casting Spells: Women, Austerity and Revolt

The following is a guest post from Annette Blanka. ‘Women, Austerity and Revolt’ was the opening paper from the ‘Casting Spells’ panel presented by the Feminist Discussion Circle at the 2014 Sydney Anarchist Bookfair. See also the previous post by Princess Mob here for another of these papers.

This piece argues passionately for a ‘reversal of perspective’ among radicals on the question of work. It argues that those of us who desire social change need to come to terms with the vast expanse of invisible and unwaged labour that women perform non-stop within capitalism, including in social movements. It outlines the context of austerity which makes this re-think all the more urgent, in light of the current demolition of welfare, and affirms possibilities for struggle.

Women, Austerity and Revolt
The other day when I was talking with a friend about doing this presentation, he noted how the assumption is often that you’re there to present “the Answer.” Well I hate to disappoint anyone but I’m not going to do that. What I want is to prompt us all to ask better questions.

My aim in this talk is to show how austerity makes it all the more urgent for those of us who desire social change to engage in what I’d call a “reversal of perspective” on the question of work. That is, to come to terms with the vast expanse of invisible and unwaged labour that women perform non-stop. I’ll outline the context for the current demolition of welfare, and affirm the prospects for struggle and emancipation.
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Casting Spells: on structural sexism in ‘the movement’

This is a speech from a panel discussion by by the Feminist Discussion Circle at the Sydney Anarchist Bookfair. The panel was called “Casting Spells: a feminist discussion of contemporary forms of exploitation” and had four presentations: austerity, women and revolt; current attacks on women’s services; the dangerous journey of a Middle Eastern feminist; and this one. An audio recording of the panel will be uploaded somewhere soon. [Trigger warning for mention of sexual violence.]

Ok, so my part of the panel is on structural sexism in “the movement”. As the opening speaker said, I’m not here to give The Answer but to ask some question, and maybe reframe some of the questions we already ask.

I don’t normally get too worried about public speaking, but I have to admit: this one has made me nervous. But I didn’t want for us to have a panel discussion that saw sexism only as abstract and political, as something that only comes from bad capitalists or, you know, college boys – as something that only happens outside this room.

One of the key tenets of feminism is that the personal is political. The political is personal. The nexus between our lives and broader politics is crucial, I think – but it’s also very difficult. We have an analysis of sexism as a broad social force, but it’s also something that happens in our lives: and, for those of us for whom political work is part of our lives, it’s an issue there too.

So, over and over, when I’m in anarcha-feminist meetings or feminist reading groups, or just with friends, we have these same conversations about specific incidents, about specific individuals, and about the patterns. Continue reading

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This post contains letters that 2 comrades wrote reflecting on the Journal LIES.

Princess Mob reviewed LIES here


Nancy was reading LIES #1 and thought of her friend Nick’s thinking about love and the family, so she asked him what he thought of the journal. Here’s their letters to each other in turn.

Hi Nancy,

I have been reading the Lies journal intermittently since you said you’d be interested in my thoughts about it. While you will see that I’ve concentrated on my criticisms of the Journal articles, I hope you appreciate my intention is to be constructive, to respond to your request in an attempt to develop our understanding and commonality – to help produce love. As you say, the Journal is “a provocative and important engagement within Marxist thought.” While I appreciated much of it, my main concerns are the use value of some of the provocations and the potential reinforcement of problematic areas of Marxist/militant thought.

As a provocation it clearly works and at times I wondered how much of the contents was in fact satire. For a number of the articles my general criticism would be that, as with much Marxist work, there is too much concentration on subsumption, the power of patriarchy/capital, and the resulting despair. Much of my own writing aims to counter/challenge this tendency. So here are a few thoughts about some of the articles.

Undoing Sex: Against Sexual Optimism Continue reading

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Film Screening – United in Anger: A History of ACT UP

United in Anger: A History of ACT UP is an inspiring documentary about the birth and life of the AIDS activist movement from the perspective of the people in the trenches fighting the epidemic. Utilizing oral histories of members of ACT UP, as well as rare archival footage, the film depicts the efforts of ACT UP as it battles corporate greed, social indifference, and government neglect.

Saturday February 22, 8pm for 8.30 start. Free screening.

Junior Gazette, 91 Railway Parade, Marrickville NSW 2204 (just near Sydnenham Station)

A note on (in)accessibility: Junior Gazette is up a split level stair case and has no lift.


Fail again. Fail better. Notes in the interests of continuing conversations and some unfinished thoughts on withdrawing from the Historical Materialism Australasia Conference 2013

The original intention for writing this was to clarify my reasons for withdrawing from the HM conference in Sydney this year. However, what has actually been written has grown broader than the original intention, and the following may not clarify things as much as I would have liked. My sense is that this is the case due to the nature of the question at hand. Nonetheless, given that I have been struggling to find the time to get any of these thoughts down, and that writing about this could feasibly go on for a long time, these incomplete ideas are put here as they are, to be put aside for now, and so that conversations may continue more openly.

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Stranded in an ocean of individuals, or rescuing collective practice from liberal multiculturalism. Part 2

Part 2 of a very long article i put together about race, religion and liberalism…  Also to be found at my own blog And thanks to the other editors of this blog who all at some point helped with this…

The collective pulls

I began with religion, and despite the distance between that simple anecdote to where I am at now, religion is the base to which this argument must return. It is important to spell out now why it is the crux of the problem I am getting at. In the face of the institutionalised racism I have described, as well as the displaced sense of identity that migrants face, religion is a cultural marker, an affirmation of being within a community that can be clung too. Additionally, as a traditional cultural form that migrants might cling too, it only works in the collective form – its importance clearly being much more than simple faith, but as a site to meet in commonality with others, a site of practical and emotional support – and therefore in some opposition to the alienated individualism of liberal capitalism. Lets call on Zizek again to sum up how religion as a traditional cultural form is treated within liberalism:

“If the subject wants it, he or she can opt into the parochial tradition into which they were born, but they have first to be presented with alternatives and make a free choice amongst them” (Zizek, p.123).

At this point I am going to take a detour through Hanif Kureishi’s novel The Black Album, which although set in early 90’s London, precisely deals with this conflict between the need for collective safety in the form of traditional cultural practices and the allure of the liberal idea of ‘free choice’ and individuality. Continue reading


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