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Belfast right to choose march

20 October 2017

The Belfast several thousand strong right to choose march on Saturday 14th October showed, on a smaller scale, the explosive dynamic of the fight for women's rights in Ireland.

The strong points were the youth of the participants, the general sympathy of the public, as opposed to the recent past when the religious right dominated the streets, and the unapologetic demands for abortion rights, as opposed to earlier vague and ambiguous calls to "trust women."

There were weaknesses. The political understanding of the challenges the movement faces are not fully  acknowledged and the stronger elements of the coalition remain close to the trade union formula of urging a return of the local administration so that the ultra-right unionist groups can be won around to embracing human rights.

However this formula cannot long survive the ongoing collapse of Stormont and the reality of an utterly bankrupt settlement that labels political opposition as hate crime has led to confrontation with activists.

A recent demonstration for LBGT marriage rights where a young women displayed a poster headed "Fuck the DUP" (the party blocking the legislation) was followed by a police investigation and a file sent to the Public Prosecution Service. The response of the Saturday march for choice was a line of activists spelling out the slogan "fuck the DUP on the backs of T-shirts.

In the absence of a local administration the focus of the campaign demands will switch to the British state who are actually in control. Given the provocation of the local police a gradualist approach will tend to become redundant.

The  issue then will be: how can we mobilise workers in defence of workers rights and build the forces needed to defeat reaction?

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