British suffragettes and World War I


This video from Britain is called Mark Steel on Sylvia Pankhurst.

By Claire Eustance in Britain:

WWI didn’t end fight for women’s equality

Saturday 19th July 2014

Not all Suffragettes gave up the struggle for votes in 1914, says CLAIRE EUSTANCE

It is still all too easy to dismiss the scope and radicalism of the early 20th century British women’s movement. A case in point is the standard response to the question — what happened to the movement after outbreak of war in August 1914?

You are likely to hear comments along the lines of “Didn’t it all just stop?” or “The Suffragettes stopped attacking buildings and pillar boxes and instead started handing out white feathers to men who didn’t rush to join the military.”

If you are lucky you might find someone who knows something of the women suffragists who embraced the peace movement. Perhaps they might mention the International Congress of Women meeting at The Hague in the Netherlands in April 1915.

Surely the history of the women’s movement has more to it than this? What about the thousands of other women who had joined the myriad of women’s suffrage societies to campaign for an end to the exclusively — albeit partial — male parliamentary franchise?

My talk at the Tolpuddle festival, Keeping the Suffrage Flag Flying, focuses on one of these societies, The Women’s Freedom League (WFL), and considers the ways some of its 5,000-plus members responded to the outbreak of war and the impact the conflict had on them.

“Patriotism before politics” was the position adopted by the British Establishment in August 1914. The message to the suffrage societies was clear — it was selfish for women to continue to demand political rights when the country was at war.

And yet, while Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst and other suffrage campaigners were won over by such sentiments, others were less convinced.

Among them was Charlotte Despard, the revered president of the Women’s Freedom League, who declared that war “was the decisive damnation of a corrupt society.”

Although many of her comrades found it impossible to follow her into the peace movement, a significant number agreed that it was vital to keep attention focused on women’s demands for an equal voice in the politics of the nation.

The Women’s Freedom League’s long-standing commitment to the principle of resistance to government without representation remained broadly intact through the years of war.

An example was the decision of one member, Florence Underwood, to continue to refuse to pay income tax on her earnings. The league also moved swiftly to accommodate the wishes of their members who wanted to offer service to their country by channelling some of their considerable organisational skills into supporting working women, mothers and children who had been affected by the war.

The Women’s Freedom League’s commitment to the principles of equality produced what might seem a rather incongruous stance on alcohol — viewed by many as a national scourge in wartime.

However, in Hartlepool in 1917, the entire branch membership rose en masse to protest at the exclusion of women from licenced premises at certain times of the day. It was they claimed “not only an injustice but an insult to women!”

The Hartlepool campaign was just one of many forays taken by the league into debates around civil liberties.

Other campaigns highlighted equal pay, prostitution, sexual abuse and the treatment of women by law courts — topics that are largely still relevant to feminists and radicals today.

Yes, war meant that the women’s movement in Britain was probably organisationally weaker. There was less accord, less publicity and less wealth.

And yet over the same period some important principles relating to women’s rights to work, equality with men, rights of mothers as well as meanings of national identity and citizenship, were tested by women and found wanting.

It was feminism as much, if not more, than suffrage that flourished after 1914. There are some lessons for us there today, surely.

Claire Eustance is senior lecturer in history at the University of Greenwich. She will be giving a talk at the Tolpuddle radical history school.

Japanese government whitewashes World War II ‘comfort women’ forced prostitution


This video says about itself:

Wianbu – Comfort Woman

A short film about a Korean seventeen-year-old girl, brought to a Japanese military camp during War World II, where a catastrophic future awaits her. Can she escape her fate?

By Ben McGrath:

Official Japanese report whitewashes wartime sexual slavery

28 June 2014

The Japanese government of Shinzo Abe released a report on June 20 throwing into doubt a 1993 apology for the army’s World War II exploitation of women as sex slaves. In the process, Japan has angered its neighbors South Korea and China, from where many of the victims were taken.

The 1993 Kono Statement, released by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, was a formal but limited apology for the use of “comfort women” during the war. Approximately 200,000 women and girls, mainly from Korea, but also China and other countries, were forced into military brothels.

Written by a government-appointed panel of five “experts,” the review called into question whether the victims were forced into prostitution. Referring to investigations at the time of the Kono Statement, the report asserts: “The recognition obtained through these series of studies was that it was not possible to confirm that women were ‘forcefully recruited.’”

The report also claimed that the South Korean government was involved in writing the Kono Statement, with Seoul demanding that Japan’s apology should refer to the coercion of the comfort women.

The report even declared that among the 16 victims interviewed before the release of the Kono Statement, “there were some who spoke indifferently and others whose memories had become confused.”

Interviews with former comfort women paint a different picture. Kim Bok-dong recounted the Japanese military’s coercive measures in a 2012 interview published on Amnesty International’s blog, Livewire:

“I was 14 years old when I was forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese government. They said they would hire me as a factory worker, but instead they dragged many of us to Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Malaysia and Indonesia. I was with the army headquarters so I went almost everywhere with them. There are no words to describe what the soldiers did to me.”

The South Korean government predictably reacted with anger to last week’s report, summoning Japanese ambassador Koro Bessho on Monday to lodge a complaint over the revision. Foreign Affairs Vice Minister Cho Tae-yong chastised Bessho saying: “The coercion of comfort women is an historical fact that the international community recognizes. The more the Abe government attempts to undermine the Kono statement, the more its credibility and international reputation will be damaged.”

China reacted similarly. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying demanded that Japan “face up to history and uphold the spirit of the Kono Statement,” saying: “The forced recruitment of comfort women by the Japanese military is a serious crime against humanity.”

In an attempt at damage control, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stated on Friday: “Nothing has changed about the Japanese government’s position that it will not revise the Kono Statement.” In reality, the official report is an attempt by the Japanese government to whitewash the past crimes of Japanese imperialism.

By undermining the Kono Statement, the Abe administration is taking another step in its wider agenda of remilitarizing Japan. Abe is preparing a new generation to be dragooned into fighting wars of imperialist aggression, by justifying the Japanese Imperial Army’s role during World War II.

Since coming to power in December 2012, the Abe government has raised military spending for the first time in over a decade while seeking to end the constitutional constraints on Japan’s ability to wage war. Last December, signaling the start of an ideological offensive, Abe visited the infamous Yasukuni Shrine where 14 class-A war criminals are interred and which stands as a symbol of Japanese militarism.

Right-wing officials, appointed by Abe, have also sought to cover up the crimes of the past. Katsuto Momii, placed on public broadcaster NHK’s board of governors, tried to excuse the use of comfort women by saying the practice “was everywhere in Europe … In the current moral climate, the use of comfort women would be wrong. But it was a reality of those times.”

Another Abe-appointee NHK governor, Naoki Hyatuka, denied in February that the 1937 Rape of Nanjing took place. The week-long atrocity carried out by Japanese soldiers left up to 300,000 Chinese civilians and soldiers dead.

Japan is being remilitarized with the Obama administration’s encouragement, as part of its “pivot to Asia,” aimed at undermining Chinese influence and encircling it militarily. Japan has taken an increasingly confrontational stance toward China, particularly over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. Last month, Japan sent two military reconnaissance planes to spy on Chinese and Russian joint naval drills, leading to confrontations with Chinese fighter jets and highlighting the danger of war.

However, Washington’s support for Tokyo has come at the price of upsetting Washington’s other ally in North East Asia, South Korea. The United States has attempted to draw the two neighbors closer together, but to little avail. The ruling elites in both countries are whipping up nationalism to divert rising domestic social tensions. Seoul regularly incites anti-Japanese sentiment in order to distract the population from worsening unemployment and social inequality.

In its response to the Kono Statement review, Washington lightly chided Tokyo. US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki stated: “We’ve consistently encouraged Japan to approach this and other issues arising from the past in a manner that is conducive to building stronger relations with its neighbors.” Psaki continued: “Because South Korea and Japan have so many common interests, it’s important that they find a way to resolve the past in the most productive manner and look to the future.”

Abe’s government is facing mounting opposition at home to its remilitarization campaign. A recent Kyodo News poll found that 55.4 percent of people oppose Abe’s plans to reinterpret or revise the constitution to end limitations on the Japanese military, up from 48.1 percent the previous month. An even greater number of people—74.1 percent—said Abe should not set a deadline for ending discussion on the issue.

Reaction from the Netherlands about this: here.

Women’s rights activist murdered, then witness murdered in brave new Libya


Salwa Bugaighis, AFP photo

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Witness of murder of activist in Libya is dead

Saturday 28 May 2014, 15:04 (Update: 28-06-14, 15:29)

The only witness to the murder of the Libyan human rights activist Salwa Bughaighis was also murdered probably. His body, covered with torture marks, was left by unknown people at a hospital in the eastern city of Benghazi, local media say.

The witness was the bodyguard of Bughaighis. He saw how she was killed, Wednesday night at her home in Benghazi with a shot through the head. Her husband has since been missing. The guard was shot in the leg. After the murder, he was taken away by police for questioning.

The situation in Benghazi is very tense. Radical Islamist militias are fighting a power struggle with a [retired] general of the Libyan army.

London solidarity with Spanish women


This video from Belgium is called Thousands protest in Brussels on planned anti-abortion law in Spain.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Human rights group targets Spanish embassy over abortion Bill

Saturday 28th June 2014

HUMAN rights activists descended on the Spanish embassy yesterday in protest at the right-wing Madrid government’s plan to roll back abortion rights.

Dozens of campaigners from My Belly is Mine have taken action against Spain’s anti-abortion draft Bill discussed in the country’s parliament on Friday.

This video from London, England says about itself:

British Spanish Society Reception at Spanish Embassy, London Wednesday 25th of July

On Wednesday the 25th of June, 2014, the Spanish Ambassador in London, Federico Trillo, hosted a reception for the British Spanish Society. We turned up uninvited alongside direct action feminist group Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A and the Spanish Women’s Assembly from the 15M movement in London. We wanted to remind the ambassador, his guests and passersby that the rights of women are under serious threat in Spain.

The Morning Star article continues:

“Women have fought for their rights with great spirit and determination,” said one of the organisers Jade Hope. “For their rights to now be taken away from them is a disgrace.”

The campaign has emphasised how almost 50,000 women die after unsafe and regulated abortions every year across the globe.

Ms Hope added that abortions should be exclusively a woman’s choice.

“No one else has the right to impact on such a tough decision and the Spanish government thinking they can is to deny human rights,” she said.

Women’s rights activists in Britain stood alongside protesters in Berlin, Vienna and Lisbon in solidarity with Spanish women.

Mormons excommunicate women’s rights campaigner


This video from the USA is called Mormon Women: KATE KELLY, ORDAIN WOMEN standing for truth they desire to receive.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Mormon church excommunicates women’s rights campaigner

Tuesday 24th June 2014

THE US Mormon church excommunicated Kate Kelly, the founder of a prominent church women’s pressure group, yesterday.

The rare measure brings down the harshest punishment available on Ms Kelly, whose only crime was creating an organisation and staging demonstrations calling for women to be allowed to join the priesthood.

Kelly’s former church leaders in Virginia notified her by email after holding a disciplinary hearing on Sunday.

They found her guilty of apostasy, defined as repeated and public advocacy of positions that oppose church teachings.

Ms Kelly’s group, Ordain Women, announced the decision and released excerpts from the letter she received.

After a year, they will consider allowing her back, but only if she displays “true repentance” and shows she has “stopped teachings and actions that undermine the church, its leaders and the doctrine of the priesthood.”

Ordain Women spokeswoman Debra Jenson said the group was saddened but will continue to fight on.

Mormon Church Hasn’t Budged on Gender Roles in 40 Years: here.