“Labour is the only political Party with the capacity to take on discrimination in all its forms & change this country in the interests of the many. But to stand a chance of democratising the state, our Party must first practice what it preaches.”Solma Ahmed
The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the structural racism and inequality at the heart of our political system.
Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority women are more likely to have been forced to continue working in unsafe environments, and in precarious, low paid jobs that mean many of us don’t even qualify for statutory sick pay.
As migrant workers, many of whom wouldn’t qualify under the new visa system proposed by the government, we’ve been undervalued and ignored, even though our work has kept the country going throughout the pandemic.
Women like me have been forgotten by a government that doesn’t care about us. That’s why I am running for Labour’s newly formed Women’s Committee: to use my experience as a working class Bangladeshi woman to transform politics so it works for the most vulnerable.
I know what it’s like to be marginalised and discriminated against. I’m often seen as a passive victim, unable to hold socialist feminist views because of my religion. Muslim women, including left MPs like Apsana and Zarah, are constantly fighting to be seen as legitimate.
But I also know how to organise and fight these injustices on the ground. In the 1990s, I established two women’s refuges in Tower Hamlets and Hackney, as well as a counselling service for women fleeing domestic violence. That focus on organising practically, on the ground to counteract the impacts of violence against women by men is a central part of what I hope to bring to the national commitee.
I have campaigned within the Labour Party for the rights of migrants and refugee women, and one of my proudest moments was speaking to 1500 delegates at the 2019 Labour Conference. Whether in education or employment, and whether fighting sexism or Islamophobia, I have dedicated myself to ensuring all women are treated equally.
Labour is the only political Party with the capacity to take on discrimination in all its forms and change this country in the interests of the many. But to stand a chance of democratising the state, our Party must first practice what it preaches.
If we are to truly be a Party that represents the working class, then we must be open and democratic. Yet some elements within our Party are seeking to shut democracy down.
We all know the history of our movement. It is a history of fighting for the vote, for the right to have our voices heard and for working class representation. Greater democracy – both economic and political – always benefits the working class as it takes power out of the hands of elites and devolves it to the people. The Party that is supposed to represent working class people should thus aspire to be unscrupulously democratic at all levels. The reality is of course very different.
The recent mass suspension of Party members, the shutting down of CLP AGMs such as in Bristol, the shambolic scrapping of the shortlist in Liverpool – these are all attempts by a Party bureaucracy to shut out working class socialists from mainstream politics.
The constant attacks on our members are driving our people out of the Party that they have given so much to. It’s an act of sabotage, and we are already seeing the results in the polls.
But the Women’s Committee elections give us a chance to fight back. There are a range of brilliant socialist feminist candidates who are standing on a platform to protect All Women Shortlists, challenge institutional misogyny in the Party and ensure that programmes set up to support women in the Party (such as The Jo Cox Women in Leadership programme) are rooted in socialist and feminist thinking rather than individualism and careerism.
This new committee, which will give women members more strength and autonomy to project our voices and our campaigns, is a direct result of the clamour for more democracy in the Party that coincided with Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party.
In this campaign, I’ll be fighting for democracy and for a socialist feminism that represents all women. I hope to have your support.
- Solma Ahmed is a Momentum NCG member and a candidate for the Labour National Women’s Committee. Follow her at https://twitter.com/solma_ahmed