We are a women and transfolk only anarchafeminist kolektiv based in London.

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Anarchist responses to sexual violence

 Our article for Freedom (Volume 71 no.16)

Anarchist responses to sexual violence

 Calling yourself a “feminist” is great, but doesn’t tell us what you’re doing to dismantle patriarchy (and white supremacy/ other hierarchies) at the same time as capitalism.

 The Women’s Liberation Movement taught us that “the personal is political”. Consciousness-raising led to many making radical changes in their personal lives. We can all individually change: we can question our own assumptions, alter our expectations and the ways we relate to each other, and maybe even rid our most intimate relationships of oppressive behaviour.

But in terms of collective action, what are we as anarchists doing about “feminist issues” (for example the prevalence of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment and abusive relationships, both within our scenes and within society at large)? There are other feminists whose reaction is to campaign for more policing and increased sentences, but how can we trust the cops and the prison system to end violence when they perpetrate so much of it?

When you talk to people about an anarchist utopia, without a Government, without police, without prisons, their first question is often “what about the rapists and murderers?” These are a very small minority of the prison population, but let’s have an answer ready. Rape is way more common than murder, and if prison isn’t a solution then what is?

We can only convince ourselves, never mind anyone else, that anarchism works, if we see that it does. Alongside simply imagining alternative ways of doing things, some of us need to acquire practical skills and create sustainable models, so we have knowledge worth sharing when the inevitable revolution/ economic crash/ apocalypse/ ecological crisis/ smooth transition [depending on your beliefs] occurs.

The problem of sexual violence isn’t restricted to mainstream society, our “communities” are not immune, and so many of us will actually have to deal with this kind of situation at some point. What happens when you know the people involved – maybe you’re all involved in the same radical group? (and please don’t tell us that anarchists/ activists wouldn’t do that sort of thing, cos we know damn well that they do). Do we leave it to the State to arbitrate? Or do a much better job ourselves than the criminal justice system ever could?

There are groups who have written about their experiences of doing this, sharing their ideas and strategies for some kind of community-based process.

These tend to involve working with both parties – providing support for both the survivor – as they heal and recover – and the other person – as they take responsibility for their actions. This “transformative support” is most effective when it’s done by those the offender respects (If all your mates tell you that your behaviour is truly fucked up, you’re more likely to listen and do something about it than if it comes from people you don’t care about).

These methods only “work” when there is a real community of people prepared to collectively go through what may well be an arduous, long, emotionally exhausting, and possibly-divisive process. It really helps if folk are already “on the same page” in terms of basic information about sexual assault and abuse (not just the crappy stereotypes and myths fed us by mainstream media) and how to support survivors.

Let’s commit ourselves to working towards a society free of rape, sexual assault and oppression, and start having conversations about these issues now. Let’s create spaces where open, honest communication can take place.

Once we’ve learnt how patriarchy functions as a system of oppression, we can figure out how to dismantle it. We’re excited to hear of new groups – both men’s and mixed – starting up in other cities (like Bristol and Nottingham) with a specific focus of “confronting patriarchy”, and hope to report more on these in the future.

Also, check out some of the resources being published by the Radical Practical Feminist Self Defence group in London. These include practical leaflets such as ‘How to help your friend’; ‘What is Safer Sex?’ and ‘Creating Safer Spaces’; as well as reprints of texts on ‘Thoughts about Community Support around Intimate Violence’; ‘Taking Risks: Implementing Grass-roots Community Accountability Strategies’; ‘Taking the First Step: suggestions to people called out for abusive behaviour’; ‘Going to Places that Scare Me:reflections on challenging male supremacy’; ‘Consent is sexy’ and more. Contact them for copies. Currently writing a longer pamphlet on the subject of ‘Community Responses to Intimate Violence’. If you have a story (“success” or otherwise) to share, practical advice, tactics or tips for anyone in a similar situation, or anything else to contribute, please get in touch – in confidence – with feministselfdefence@yahoo.co.uk

More links and news on our site: https://lafk.wordpress.com/



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Fundamentalism, feminism and anti-fascism

Freedom, Vol 71 No. 15

Fundamentalism, feminism and anti-fascism.

Some more reflections on that Sunday in Whitechapel.


June saw the fascist and undeniably opportunistic English Defence League (EDL) announce plans to march through Whitechapel in apparent protest at a planned United Kingdom – Islamic Conference (UK-IC) at the Troxy Centre, a conference which would see extreme Islamic fundamentalist speakers espousing their hate of Jews, women and homosexuals. Past years have witnessed the growth of Saudi-funded political Islam in Tower Hamlets, oppressing local Muslim communities and destroying Asian cultures, promoting repression of women, and beginning to dominate the local authority.

The rise in religious fundamentalism, whatever the religion may be, poses a serious and very real threat to women, who are seen as crucial in representing and transmitting the supposedly unchanging morals and traditions of the whole community. Women who fail to conform to so-called traditional family values are portrayed as placing the honour, well-being and future of the whole society or community at risk. The control of women’s minds and bodies is, therefore, at the heart of fundamentalist agendas everywhere and is something that must be challenged.

In the run up to that Sunday in Whitechapel, women’s bodies became a battleground on which both sides fought. “They (Muslims) want all women in burqhas” proclaimed the EDL and “we’re not fascist, we’ve got a LGBT division, we just care about the wimmin”. Anti-EDL groups and individuals also used women in their ideological battle; rumours were circulated that local Muslim women had been attacked and raped by the EDL, resulting in a large angry turn-out when the EDL youth division came for a “quiet” drink in Whitechapel.

A group called Women Against Fascism in their call-out on Indymedia for the mobilisation against the EDL, recognised how women are used in this battle without challenging these pervasive paternalistic attitudes to women. “The women who are against fascism are the friends, girlfriends, wives, sisters, aunties, grandmothers and mothers of young men who feel that they are being provoked into violence by the EDL. Boys of school age feel that they have to defend their mothers and sisters etc from the EDL who want to demonstrate in Whitechapel.” Their call-out made no mention of the UK- IC speakers.

Unite Against Fascism also concentrated solely on the EDL in their mobilisations against the far-right, ignoring the woman-hating, homophobic ideology of the right-wing Islamists and calling all those who pointed out the bigotry of the UK-IC speakers, and the need to oppose both sides equally, including anarchists, as islamaphobic and racist.

The UK-IC conference was thankfully cancelled and the EDL called off their planned demonstration in the area. The UAF still marched, unsurprisingly refusing to critique or even acknowledge the fundamentalism of the UK-IC or the right-wing islamist ideology of some of those who marched with them.

The EDL are a serious threat. Fascism must be challenged and stopped, but we cannot do this at the expense of challenging those with fundamentalist agendas. Fundamentalism and fascism both deserve our contempt, and this is the position that anarchists must take.

Class struggle, community cohesion and militant physical opposition are the only effective means to repel fascism and the conditions in which it flourishes and this may mean making political alliances with those who we consider to be religious moderates or even conservative secularists. But how do we as feminists/ anarchists navigate the awkward space between our secular views and those of even moderate religious persuasion? Paternalistic, misogynistic attitudes to women and homophobia are not just confined to realm of religious fundamentalism, it is unfortunately prevalent across all sections of society, including among those who consider themselves moderates, progressives or secular. Can we really, as anarchist women, work with and ally ourselves with those who have anti-woman, anti-queer attitudes, traditions and practices even if it is with the purpose of coming together as working class people to fight fascism?

Perhaps we need to use these times when we do connect with our neighbours over a common enemy despite religious, cultural or political differences, to raise our concerns about and contempt of misogyny, racism and homophobia, as well as pushing an anti-capitalist class-based critique of the state. In this battle against fascism, we must take care that we do not reinforce or accommodate patriarchal attitudes and so must confidently encourage dialogue that confronts and challenges the sometimes anti-women, anti-queer attitudes of even moderate people of faith and secularists.


Now is the time for discussion on fundamentalism and fascism and how we can organise and oppose both in an anti-sexist, inclusive way. Feminists must, while fighting all forms of religious fundamentalism, develop targeted feminist campaigns to take on the growth of political Islam and its misogyny, authoritarianism and distortion of the genuine variety of Muslim cultures. We must provide young people with alternatives–feminist, anarchist, secular and participatory–to the great big reactionary mosques and synagogues and churches. In our fight against fascism, we’ve got to be prepared to take on all forms of religious fundamentalism and manifestations of misogyny in everyday life.

London anarcha feminist kolektiv


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Stonewall Was a Riot

We wrote this article for Freedom, Vol 71 no 14.

Stonewall was a riot!

On Saturday 3rd July, approximately a million people came to central London for Pride. Although it was billed as an opportunity to celebrate the events of 40 years ago – the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion, followed by the formation of the Gay Liberation Front – it seems that much of that radical history has been forgotten.

Many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people – and anarchists – have heard of the “Stonewall Riots”, but are a bit hazy about what actually happened.

At the end of the ’60s, New York City gave LGBT people the chance to find community, or at least escape small-town homophobia. Gays used public spaces, and a number of bars. These were small and dingy, owned by Mafia men who routinely sold watered-down liquor. They charged a cover on the door, and high prices for the booze. The police received regular pay-offs, and in return would usually warn the owners before they staged their raids.

The police had many laws at their disposal, including the New York State Penal Code. Bars which openly served homosexuals, or permitted them to dance with each other, could be labelled “disorderly houses”. Plain-clothes police officers were used to entrap gay men for “soliciting men for the purpose of committing a crime against nature”, while “sumptuary laws” were used against anyone not wearing “gender appropriate clothing”.

The Stonewall Inn was raided in the early hours of Saturday 28th June 1969. Many of those present – especially the street youth, the butches and the drag queens – had been harassed, beaten, arrested and invasively searched by cops. They felt like they had nothing to lose, and every reason to fight back this time. Enough was enough. Stilettos, bottles, coins, and bricks were thrown. The cops found themselves trapped inside the bar, while a crowd of angry queers outside tried to set fire to it. The riots continued for days and nights, with over a thousand people out in the streets on the Wednesday.

The Stonewall Rebellion sparked the Gay Liberation Front, which then organised the first Gay Pride march exactly one year later, on “Christopher Street Liberation Day”. The GLF was explicitly revolutionary, and aligned itself with other radical social movements, for example anti-war protesters and the Black Panther party. The GLF were against patriarchy, against capitalism,against colonialism, against exploitative gay bars, and they organised without a formal, hierarchical structure. These ideas spread quickly, and a GLF group formed in London. Its members established communes, often in squatted houses, and were active on a broad range of issues, seeing the struggle for sexual liberation as part of a wider struggle for all kinds of liberation.

Pride events now happen around the world every year. In some places, it is still a struggle to create this level of public visibility, and fascist groups threaten violence against marchers.

However here, Pride has been de-politicised and increasingly commercialised. From 1999 to 2003, the whole event was re-branded as “Mardi Gras” (copying Sydney, Australia), and the free post-march festival was replaced with a ticketed event, with corporate sponsors. Pride London, a charity, has now taken over the organisation, but followed the same route: a themed parade (not a march, or a protest), with lavishly-decorated floats representing the LGBT “community”, and the latest assimilationist campaigns, for example the “rights” of gay people to get married, get a mortgage, join the military etc. The police, armed forces, and prison service march proudly; this year the Home Office float has one of the loudest sound-systems. Pride is used to sell London as a destination for gay tourists.

The GLF used to urge people to come out, and join in. But each year, participation in the parade is more strictly controlled, the sides are sealed off, and stewards are instructed not to let spectators in. So yes, there are more people coming along to the West End to celebrate Pride, but for them the march is pure spectacle, something to watch go by, not something to be part of. The “gay lifestyle” has been packaged up and sold to us, capitalism continues to see LGBT folk as yet another category of consumer to exploit.

Queer resistance has come in many forms. New York activists questioned the whole notion of “Pride” and created “Gay Shame awards” instead. Here in London, anarch@-queers have set up alternatives to the gay mainstream, and to Pride itself, occupying space both on the march and afterwards. A spoof newspaper, the ‘Pink Pauper’, has appeared twice. Last year’s flyers questioned the need for hate-crime legislation, and criticised police and prison service LGBT recruitment drives. Placards and banners like “Queers Bash Back against Homophobia” “Fuck the Pink Pound”, “Queers against Capitalism” attract the unwelcome attention of the Met, and Pride organisers; both of whom seem to find radical politics much more offensive than, for example, the presence of a float-full of LGBT Shell employees!

Radical queers are active in a range of struggles, and seem to be especially well-represented in No Borders and anti-prison groups. Bent Bars was established last year to link up LGBT prisoners with pen-pals on the outside, and now need more pen-pals. More info at: http://www.co-re.org/joomla/index.php/bent-bars

London anarcha feminist kolektiv: lafk@riseup.net

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Dressed to kill

So it’s summertime again and it’s hot in the city, but what do I wear for the weather? As a woman it isn’t all about colours, accessories and styles – sometimes its basic safety I’m thinking about. Will I have to walk home later in that skirt? Will my armpit hair attract unwelcome attention wearing a vest? Can I run in flip-flops if I need to?

Maybe its paranoia, because it isn’t modesty – frankly I don’t care who sees what, but some men seem to regard my summer attire as a display just for them. Obviously a female body is packaged up with them in mind, just hoping to please their senses in passing. As if I wore that just to titillate or revile someone I don’t know who just happened to be somewhere I didn’t know I was going!

Uninvited commentary on womens bodies is considered innocuous by some men, especially if they perceive it to be complimentary. The thought that it could be unwelcome, offensive or even intimidating and add to the hassle of getting around simply hasn’t occurred to them. Running a gauntlet of judgements on your physical traits isn’t pleasant – I didn’t join a beauty pageant, I was just popping out to the shops.

And if your body doesn’t conform to the plasticised, sanitised, homogenised standards of the make-believe image of modern womanhood what then? There are those people, of all genders, willing to tell you that you are letting the side down, failing to meet their expectations – or worse not even prepared to try! You didn’t shave, you didn’t wash and set your hair, you didn’t think about that outfit, you wore something unflattering, you showed the wrong bulge… direct and overheard criticisms abound.

Meanwhile we have men wandering around in nothing but a pair of shorts; arms, legs and torsos of whatever shape, size and consistency bared to the sun soaking up rays. Can I do that? Not if I want to get home without incident; it’s a male privilege. So I cover my breasts and hide my thighs to feel safer (and hotter), but why should I have to dress defensively because your attitude is offensive?

My body isn’t public property. I don’t package it for anyone elses excitement. I also don’t want to sweat under layers of clothing when the temperature’s up. So that little skirt and strappy top aren’t there to amuse you, they happen to be practical right now, just like your shorts. Objectifying and judging women is dehumanising which is the first step towards violence and violation, lets recognise and address it for what it is.

Addressing it is exactly where other men are needed to help, discriminatory behaviour can only continue where it is participatory, tolerated or ignored amongst a peer group. Letting it slide because its low-level crappy attitude rather than direct threat might seem like an easy option but for the many sisters/daughters/mothers/lovers/friends in your life please consider challenging it where you see it.

This article apperared in Freedom Vol 71 no 13.

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Huge cuts to child-care in Hackney

 An edited version of this article appears in Freedom (Vol 71 No 12).

On Sunday 30th of May 2010 Friends of Hackney Nurseries (FHN) organised a fun family event in London Fields, Hackney. There was face-painting, a raffle, story telling, banner-making, lots of cake and much general merriment. Although a good time had by all, especially the children, the reason behind the funday was serious and the event was intended to inform and bring people together around the very real threats to childcare provison in Hackney.

Community nurseries across the London Borough of Hackney are facing serious funding cuts, which will result in some of the poorest working families in the borough losing their nursery places. In April at least eight community nurseries received letters from the local education authority, The Learning Trust, saying that with immediate effect there would be funding cuts of up to 50 per cent at the nurseries, equivalent to 200 children losing their subsidised nursery places, leading to the serious threat of nursery closures, and hardship and distress for parents, workers and children.

The Friends of Hackney Nurseries group (FHN), which successfully organised against huge cuts to nursery provision in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, re-formed to fight these cuts and to fight for decent, affordable childcare for all in Hackney. The group is comprised of parents, nursery workers, local residents and community activists, with many feminists and anarchists responding to the call to join this struggle.

The Learning Trust has denied that there will be any funding cuts to nurseries, prefering to call it a “reallocation of funds”. Hackney council representatives and Mayor Jules Pipe publicly denied any knowledge of the planned cuts, admitting that the council has very little knowledge of what the Learning Trust does. The Learning Trust responded to these denials by saying it had fully consulted with the council in the “reallocation of funds” and with nurseries too. The nurseries affected have not been consulted at all, nor have the parents who use the nurseries. “Where exactly have the funds been reallocated to?” ask FHN, “We don’t know” say the council.

 Hackney council was stripped of its right to provide education services in 2001 following widespread criticism that the then bankrupt council was the worst education authority in the country and financially incapable of providing education services to some of the most deprived children in the UK. At the direction of the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, education services in Hackney were handed over to The Learning Trust, a non-profit-making, independent education trust set up by the government, and the first body of its kind in the UK.

While it was the funding cuts to community nurseries (and the resulting impact on the working parents who use the nurseries, their children and the staff of the community nurseries) that initially caused the FHN to remobilise, FHN aims to be a much broader campaign, hoping to improve childcare provision locally as well as improve terms and conditions for nursery workers across the borough. It has since come to light that in a sector that is female-dominated and traditionally under-valued and under-paid there are workers in Learning Trust-run crèches that have not received holiday pay or sick pay for up to ten years. These women workers have been treated as sessional workers despite working regularly and to set rotas for years on end. Thanks to FHN publicly raising the issues around childcare provision in the borough and its effect on workers, these women have now got union representation and should receive the working terms and conditions they are entitled too and at least some of the significant amounts of money they are owed. It is certain that there are lots more women working in education across Hackney who are in a similar situation.

It is clear that with the change of government and massive cuts to public services imminent, the struggle for decent, free or affordable childcare provision is just heating up and not just in Hackney, but across the UK. It is important that anarchists recognise the significant impact these cuts will have on the working-class women who are primarily affected by nursery cuts, and respond to these attacks accordingly. The withdrawal of public funds will affect all nurseries, and consequently our children’s opportunities will be diminished. We must organise and resist not only against these cuts, but against the sexist notion of childcare as women’s work and the resulting under-valuing of this work under capitalism. Laura Schwartz of FHN and Feminist Fightback, in a call out entitled Girls (and boys?) Come Out to Play, or Why the Fight Against Nursery Cuts Must Involve People of All Genders, calls “on the male-dominated Left to take this campaign seriously, and to join us today and in the future – not just to defend existing and unsatisfactory public services but to fight for a better way to organise our society and our lives”. London Anarcha Feminist Kolektiv would like to echo this sentiment. Childcare, who does it and how it’s organised, affects us all and as anarchists we would like to work towards the collectivisation of child rearing, with everyone taking responsibility for the next generation.

The Friends of Hackney Nurseries meet regularly and are gearing up for a long fight. All are welcome to get involved.

For more information visit www.friendsofhackneynurseries.wordpress.com

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Squatters, sexism and football

An article we wrote for Freedom Anarchist Newspaper 

A squatters’ football tournament was held on Hackney Marshes in London on Saturday 22nd May. We were disappointed to hear about what happened on the day.

It appears that one of the teams (who we’d quite like to name and shame although our sources aren’t sure of the exact miss-spelling used: the “Semi-Sicotix”?) couldn’t handle the idea of women playing footie. Their first match was against “Gore Core FC”, a mixed team which included three female players, and they made it clear pretty early on that they didn’t believe women could or should play. As the Gore Core team took the lead by scoring two goals against them, they then moved on to aiming disparaging, derogatory comments at the individual women who were daring to prove them wrong.

Despite a near-constant stream of sexist shit, and an offer by the referee to end the game (and declare it in their favour) at half-time, the Gore Core women decided they’d rather carry on playing, and beating the misogynists. However, the macho posturing escalated into actual violence during the second half. After one of the Gore Core players was hit in the back of the head, the ref acted decisively and ended the match.

Why should anyone else have to put up with their behaviour? It’s bad enough that most women we know suffer this sort of sexual harassment when they walk down the street, without it happening at an event that’s organised and attended by people who are supposed to be politically aware. What we’re left wondering is why they didn’t just kick the offenders out there and then?

Those who had suffered, or just witnessed, the violence and ridiculous levels of sexism were understandably horrified. More so when no real support was forthcoming from the organisers of the event. Most of the other teams were made aware of what had happened, and asked not to play against the “Sicotix”. However, only one other team decided that they too would leave the scene. It seems as though far too many of the assembled squatters were happy to ignore the situation, look the other way and keep on drinking. We expect better from our “comrades”. We know that not all squatters/ punks would describe themselves as “anarchists” or “anti-fascist”, but that a fair few of those who were at the football tournament do.

One excuse given for inaction was that the trouble-making team were not entirely unknown. They’ve already made a name for themselves by attacking other squatted parties and events, and ripping people off. They’ve used violence in the past to get their way, their kicks, or just to make money.

We wish that our “community” was better at defending itself against this kind of behaviour. Concepts like “solidarity” and “anti-oppression” start sounding a little hollow when this kind of situation goes unchallenged.

In the mainstream world, women’s sports are often side-lined. Despite all the media attention given to games like football, we often don’t hear much about women’s achievements. For example, the women’s England football team made it into last September’s UEFA Euro Final (coming second overall in the competition) and is on course to do extremely well in the FIFA Women’s World Cup next year (having won all their qualifying matches so far).

When women do well, and prove themselves to be strong and fast and powerful, male-dominated organisations – like the International Olympic Committee – start casting aspersions on their gender. The case of South African athlete Caster Semenya is an example of this.

There’s an excellent article on the subject in the latest issue of ‘Slingshot’ (an anarchist paper from the Bay Area that isn’t afraid to cover subjects we don’t talk about enough over here, personal relationships, mental health etc) – you can find it at: http: slingshot.tao.ca/ displaybi.php?0103010

Another new publication that we’re finding interesting right now is ‘Dysophia – the many worlds of green anarchism’. The latest issue is about anarchism and polyamory, and can be downloaded from: http://dysophia.wordpress.com/ – more themes to follow in the future include ‘poverty, privilege and immigration’ and ‘climate justice’.

Anyway, we have started putting these articles on our website too, and would love to hear your feedback, so please do visit if you’d like to leave a comment, or suggest topics we should cover in future; we’re hoping this will continue as a regular column in ‘Freedom’. https://lafk.wordpress.com/

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Reclaiming Birth, and the Albany Midwives

London anarcha feminist kolektiv has started contributing comment and articles to Freedom Newspaper.  Below is our article on the closure of the Albany Midwifery Practice.

Welcome to the first of what will hopefully become a regular feature in ‘Freedom’: news and views from an anarcha-feminist perspective. We’re aware that many of the issues we spend our time and energy discussing (and taking action about) don’t make it into the anarchist mainstream, and that unless we make the effort to share this information, our struggles may remain invisible. We welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Reclaiming Birth, and the Albany Midwives

The Albany Midwifery Practice provided a free service – as part of the NHS – for women around Peckham for over twelve years. As an independent group, based in the community and sub-contracted by Kings Healthcare Trust, the Albany midwives provided individual, continuous maternity care for all kinds of women, including those who are often denied proper choices by the Health Service: working-class women, women from ethnic minorities, those with mental and physical disabilities or with medical risks.

The Albany midwives aimed to provide choice, continuity and control for women, with a philosophy that pregnancy and birth are a normal part of women’s lives, not a medical problem. They would provide information and let women make their own decisions, about their maternity care and the birth itself. They believed that women deserved continuity, so guaranteed access to the same pair of midwives throughout pregnancy, giving them a chance to develop a mutually-respectful, trusting, relationship with each woman before she gave birth.

This type of care is understandably popular with women, and has been proven to result in lower rates of infant mortality, lower rates of caesarian section (less than half the national average), and also much higher rates of home-birth and breastfeeding. 74% of the women using the Albany decided they didn’t need pain relief during labour.

This quality of care is rarely available on the NHS. Although there are some other group practices which operate in a similar way to the Albany midwives, in many areas women have to pay privately if they want this kind of maternity care, which puts it beyond the means of most.

In December 2009, Kings Healthcare Trust abruptly terminated its contract with the Albany midwives, without any consultation ( either with the midwives themselves or those who used their services) or warning (even for those women about to give birth in the next few weeks).

Kings claimed that the issue was one of patient safety, as earlier on in the year a baby had died one week after being delivered by the Albany. Kings  commissioned a report from the Centre for Maternal and Child Enquiries (CMACE). They claimed that babies delivered by the Albany Practice at this time had higher rates of “Hypoxic Ischaemic Encephalopathy” ( brain damage caused by lack of oxygen), than those delivered by midwives directly employed by the Trust. These figures have been contested since the outset, with various organisations, including the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), criticising the CMACE reports. Despite requests, the full reports have still not been made public. Although Kings terminated the Albany contract on the grounds of patient safety, they then offered the same midwives jobs within the Trust’s own midwifery service. All of them declined the offer.

The closure of the Albany Midwifery Practice prompted a range of protests, including a large, very vocal, very colourful march and rally in central London on Sunday 7th March. The ‘Reclaiming Birth’ march was called by the Albany Mums Group, both to protest the closure and to push for better, more women-centred approaches to childbirth. It was supported by the NCT, the Royal College of Midwives, the Association of Radical Midwives, Independent Midwives UK, the Alliance for Improvement in Maternity Services (AIMS) and many feminist groups.

If Kings succeed in damaging the reputation of the Albany midwives, this could have serious repercussions on a wider scale. Their model of care has long been recognised as a way of improving outcomes for mothers and babies. Most women in the UK don’t get offered this level of choice, or continuity. Instead, they are only offered an obstetric-based model of care, institutionalised, with high levels of medical intervention and operative deliveries. The choice to birth at home is dependent on the availability of midwives, and unfortunately there is a shortage of midwives. Those already working in the NHS are under-paid and over-worked, and there are not enough staff to provide the quality of care women deserve, let alone set up loads of small group practices like the Albany.

Centralised, industrial-scale obstetric care may be expedient for bureaucrats, but does not allow true choice, and does not equate with a satisfying, safe and empowering birth experience. As public services suffer more cuts, our already over-stretched and under-resourced maternity services are in crisis, and ultimately this is bad news for us all.

For more information on the Albany Midwifery Practice, the CMACE report,and the ‘Reclaiming Birth’ march, visit: www.savethealbany.org.uk.

Another article worth reading: “Industrial Birth”, by Shonagh of Dublin’s Revolutionary Anarchafeminist Group (RAG). www.adbusters.org/magazine/80/industrial_childbirth.html.

Birth – Everyone’s Business

Are you alive? Then you were born.

The way in which you were born affected your immediate chances of survival, the kind of nourishment you would come to receive and your potential for intelligence, growth, health, emotional development and social adjustment. It helped set the relationships you would have with your parents, by either encouraging or preventing their ability to positively bond with you. It was monumentally important in your life – but you probably won’t remember it.

 Your mother will. Her experience is likely to have had a profound effect on her. Was it good? Did she feel free, empowered and in control amongst people she loved and trusted? If she did, she was fortunate and more likely to be able to love, care for and breastfeed you thus setting you up for a lifetime of good health and well-being outcomes – providing resilience to the physical, emotional and social challenges of life.

 Was your father there? Did he welcome you into the world? Did he feel involved and know his child from the outset? Did he accept you into his heart as his own to love and protect regardless of how life and relationships would progress? Were other parents, family members, friends and communities supported and supportive? Were you all as a family welcomed, provided and cared for in the world? Were you as a baby given the chance to thrive? Because it affected you for life.

 Perhaps you have or want children of your own? Perhaps it will happen unexpectedly. Or maybe you hope for a different, better society, or a revolution? For the human race to continue in any form, from utopian to post-apocalyptic, babies will need to be born, parents will need to care for them and communities will need to raise them. How it’s done isn’t just important; it’s integral, and its effects are infinitely wide ranging. It matters, to you, to me, to everyone.

None of us can afford to forget about childbirth, but that’s easily done when we don’t remember it happening to us, and the event itself is hidden away in special secret places, which often provide difficult, negative and traumatic experiences. Lets stop sidelining this as a women’s issue, a health issue or identity politics. It’s huge, it’s vital and we should all be taking an interest and a responsibility for the coming generations.

London Anarcha Feminist Kolektiv



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