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For choice: Let loose the “monstrous regiment” of women and the other regiments of the working class!

What the 45,000 strong march for choice in Dublin on 30th September tells us is that nothing has been settled for the Irish state. 

The most recent mobilisations, around water charges, have been seen off by some fancy footwork by the government. A tactical retreat on charging allowed them to preserve the privatisation structures. 

Now new mobilisations are apparent. This time the militants are much younger and the demands are becoming more intransigent and subversive. 

When movements enlarge they tend to burst the bounds of the humdrum and routine opposition of the past. This is the pattern in Ireland today. 

So a rather timid call to "repeal the 8th" (a call for a referendum to repeal an amendment to the constitution that draws an equals sign between woman and embryo) is replaced by a demand that women have the right to choose. 

Demonstrators did not counterpoise the two issues, nor should they, however they do lead in different directions. One raises the possibility of yet another veto by the Catholic right, followed by a discussion among right wing parties about what limited exemptions they will allow. The other asserts a democratic right and directly challenges the right of the confessional Irish state to oppress women. 

Alongside the change in tone comes a change in method. The focus moves away from the Dail and unto the streets and all the issues of the alliance of church and state, the utterly savage repression of the working class and the current clerical control in many aspects of society come into focus and become the basis of the mass alliance needed to defend woman's rights. 

A new issue of leadership arises. Sinn Fein have excused themselves from the arena of abortion rights. The left of the trade union leaderships have focused heavily on lobbying for constitutional change as a catch-all method of improving capitalism. The socialist groups have tended to follow in the wake of the union leaders. They have enough flexibility to change direction, but can only be a part of a bigger movement. 

The future depends above all on what John Knox called the "monstrous regiment of women" and the other regiments in the working class that stand beside them.

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