Thank you G.I.G for this response yesterday to our blog post.
It points out what the previous article forgot to mention: there are material reasons women and mothers are leading the housing struggle. Women take responsibility for the home and for children and so are the antagonists of public service cuts. Workers struggle, defeated, is giving way to a new class struggle in the sphere of reproduction. Women are the new central subjects of these movements all over the place.
If also points out that it forgot to mention that communities (if we must use that word) are not just representations: they are made through struggle. Actions like squatting are everyday resistances which involve our whole life and every dimension of who we are. They can make communities of nasty subtle exclusions and power dynamics. But they are also an opportunity to transform identities like those of gender.
Acknowledging these things does not mean embracing the category mother or even the category woman. Why couldn’t this upturning of class struggle be an opportunity to leave these figures, with those of the working unionised male, way behind? Why couldn’t our methods be those which allow us to transform who we are?
There is no lack of generosity among activists. And the question “what about those of us who are not mothers?” was not intended to discourage it. The question was a reference to the already existing diversity of those of us already involved in housing struggle. It is by recognising our diversity and looking at how we came to be involved in struggle that we can understand how to keep expanding. Expanding generosity.
We now know it is possible to build struggles around public housing where people live close together and all face a threat at once. These situations are like layoffs at the mass factories of the workers movement. They kick off nicely. But how do we initiate struggles beyond these cases? How do we support struggles in areas where there is no need for mass estates to lie visibly empty and be spectacularly levelled? How do we escalate struggles where people live in a mix of private, public and owned housing and where social cleansing relentlessly picks-off individuals over time?
So to question the use of mother-family-community as symbolic weapons is not “moralising about right and wrong” against some radical left communist standard. It is elaborating the very practical imperative of how resistance grows amidst people of disparate and racialised gendered identities, different political and religious affiliations and divided material circumstances. Some people may have come to Aylesbury “to ‘better’ themselves, to reproduce themselves through family, work and property” as you say. But we have met others who have come fleeing political repression and who want to continue to fight.
Perhaps it was not quite right to say in the previous article that we need to forge a “different” representation of who we are. Perhaps it would be better to say that we need to go beyond struggles in the symbolic domain completely. Perhaps what we really need is to leave behind mediated representations and experiment with the ways different people can talk to each other directly and cooperate together. As you say, “the more corporations and money markets seem indifferent to identity and togetherness, the more the appeal to a lost identity or community is available for mobilisation or exploitation in some form”. But the solution is not to add fuel to the fire. Our strength in London – where so many different people continually pass each other by – lies in our continued indifference to nationalism. And it can be fought by continuing to ignore it and, rather than starting to appeal to anything, fighting together around our immediate needs and experimenting with the different kinds of selves and togethernesses these fights allow.