Here we reproduce excerpts from an interview that Carolyn Leckie (SSP MSP) gave to Bridget Morris (published in Sunday Herald on 4 June 2006).
Women’s vital role in the struggle
From an early age, I considered myself a socialist, and spoke out about inequality, class and poverty. For as long as I can remember, I’ve also been assertive about gender issues. I soon learned that for some people on the left, there could be tensions between these two areas.
Seeing the industrial action in which my father was involved during the early 1970s, I became aware that it was usually women who had to deal with the practical repercussions of strikes. They were the ones who had to send the weans out to wait in the bread queues and make sure there was food on the table. There was almost a privileged role for the men in conducting the struggle. But while the women enabled it to happen by keeping the family going, their vital role never seemed to be properly valued, though it’s now recognised that if it hadn’t been for the magnificent work done by women in the miners’ strike, the men wouldn’t have been able to stay out as long as they did.
There are lots of progressive, right-on, feminist-thinking men within the SSP. But a few members still seem to resent the progressive gains we’ve made as women, particularly over the 50:50 issue. I was surprised by Tommy Sheridan’s recent comment that
we are a class-based socialist party, not a gender-obsessed discussion group, because I understood he supported 50:50 at the time the policy was agreed, although he wasn’t an active participant in the debate.
You hear a lot of patriarchal, macho language within the Scottish Parliament. That kind of chest-beating appeals to some people. But to me, and other women within the SSP, the important question is: how are we going to change society – by having competing strong leaders, or by empowering every single member of society so they can change it on an equal basis? …
It would be unfortunate if comments about
gender obsessed discussion groups were seen as representative of the SSP’s views on women’s issues, because that would be inaccurate. Our party has progressive policies on gender.
We have talented, committed women who are upfront and arguing on that terrain, at the same time as they are fighting on the picket lines and in their communities against hospital closures, school closures and privatisation. I don’t accept that you can’t do all of that while also tackling gender inequality, racism and other oppressions. …
White knuckle ride
How can you liberate the working class without liberating the half – or more than half – who are female? Compared with the left in general, the SSP has been phenomenally successful in advancing women’s issues. With progress, however, there is always a competing tension. Right now, the party is under tremendous strain, and those tensions are in unusually stark relief. The next few weeks and months are going to be a white-knuckle ride. But I am confident that we’ll come out the other end intact. …
So we will survive, because there is a demand for a party such as ours. Because all the problems we are trying to tackle within society, are not going to go away. They may be about to get worse.