Ruth: I see my politics as a totality.

Women activists in the UK discuss anarchism, feminism and the relationship between the personal and the political in extracts from interviews carried out by myself and Lynn Alderson in 1977. The whereabouts of the original tapes, or longer transcripts,  is unknown, though we still have hopes of recovering them. For now, these partial transcripts are all there is. See  Anarchism and  Feminism:  Voices from the Seventies for the other interviews and further information.

Note on Text: In line with the original intention that  the interviewees would remain anonymous,  I  have given them pseudonyms, and made one or two minor alterations. Editorial amendments are indicated in square brackets [1977 edits] or square brackets and italics [2014 edits]. Ellipses appear in the original transcriptions, indicating cuts.  In a couple of instances I have made additional small cuts, indicated with […], to remove repetition or obscurity.

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Key Words: anarchism, anarchafeminism, feminism, gender, politics, women’s liberation, 1970s

Notes →

I see my politics as a totality.


I would choose to call myself libertarian.[*]

At university I thought my women’s group was too lefty because of my liberal upbringing, but after a trip to the States, I was appalled at the logical extension of capitalism so therefore I thought you must be a socialist … [Later] I always identified myself as radical feminist and never saw it precluded me from being socialist feminist … [as distinct from Marxist feminists]. Socialism can include libertarian principles like not having leaders and accepting the intrinsic rights of all women participating rather than having a vanguard with a political answer.

I do see my politics as a totality, i.e. it’s silly putting labels on bits of it … I don’t actually relate politically better to male anarchists than I do to male Marxists. …

I don’t like feeling that there’s any one party line that I have to dedicate myself to totally and I do feel very comfortable with the basic principles that I see the WLM [Women’s Liberation Movement] standing for, i.e. autonomous local or interest groups which can choose to interact with other groups if that’s to their mutual advantage; and the fact that every woman has an equal right to express herself but no one else can speak for them. Also the fact that everyday life is an important part of your politics. … I think being in the WLM does force you to question every aspect of your life. …

If socialism means true equality I don’t see how you can have hierarchies and therefore I don’t see how it’s possible for one person to presume that they know how another person is thinking or to say what’s best for them. You can only say what you want for yourself arising out of your own situation and experience. That’s the autonomy of the individual. One thing I think the WLM has taught women, and should go on doing, is we do it because we want to change our situation, not for anyone else. …

It’s important that revolution should be a constant process not just a one-off event — If you conceive of it happening at any moment or any time then that affects your behaviour … If you think that means are important, then individual people feel part of that process, and are not reduced to being insignificant pawns in someone else’s game …

The classic issue of the abortion campaign — whether it restricts itself to fighting for changes in the legislation — i.e. asking someone else to do something for us (I think that has its place) — or whether we say we must explore teaching ourselves and other women how to do safe extractions, because that alters the power structure, and the former doesn’t …

In fighting the closure of hospitals, we should also be questioning what services they provide and what they do to people. We should be sharing knowledge with hospitals rather than just dictating methods of treatment … the essential things about campaigns — we are invariably making demands on someone else and don’t challenge our thought processes so that we make demands on ourselves, not reinforcing our impotence in the face of bureaucracies and hierarchies who are doling out the goods.

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* Note

[Libertarian: in Britain this term does not  usually have the right-wing connotations that it has in the USA. In these interviews it means something like anti-authoritarian socialist/leftist.]