PRESS RELEASE: Sex, Race & Class - a new book by Selma James
New Book by Selma James,
founder of the International Wages for Housework Campaign
Sex, Race and Class – The Perspective of Winning
A Selection of Writings 1952-2011
Published by Merlin Press in UK 27 April 2012. Foreword by: Marcus Rediker. Introduction by: Nina López
£14.95 Paperback pp300 9x6 ins
Subjects: Feminism, Literary
The UK publication this week of Selma James’s anthology could not be more timely. Almost 40 years to the day after she launched the Wages for Housework Campaign, the work mothers do as primary carers has become a key factor in the US presidential election.
The firestorm was started by a comment that Ann Romney, the wife of Republican contender Mitt Romney, hasn’t worked “a day in her life” despite having raised five children. It prompted President Barack Obama to comment “there’s no tougher job than being a mom . . . it’s work . . .and anyone who would argue otherwise needs to re-think.”
The issue is not only whether this work is recognised and rewarded, but whether all women should have the same choice as multi-millionaire Ann Romney to raise their own children.
A Bill – the WORK (Women’s Options to Raise Kids) ACT – has just been presented in Congress demanding recognition for the important and legitimate work of raising children under age three for the purposes of entitlement to welfare. And since, according to the polls, women are closely divided between candidates, women’s votes in this election count more than ever.
In the UK, women and children are paying the highest price for ConDem cuts. The poorer sex and their children have been plunged even further into poverty through unemployment, loss of working tax credits, cuts to income support and disability benefits, for a start. At the same time, women are expected to do even more unwaged work when children’s , health and community services are decimated.
These life-and-death issues which determine what kind of society we have, and if that’s what we really want, are the subject of an international conference Invest in Caring Not Capitalism (Sat & Sun 28/29 April) in London at which Selma James’s book will be launched.
Praise for Sex, Race and Class – The Perspective of Winning
♀ “Intellectually ambitious attempt to synthesize Marxism, feminism, and post-colonialism, not with the usual sellotaped hyphenations.” — Jenny Turner, London Review of Books
♀ “This book is not only an intellectual tour de force, it is the best how to organise manual I have ever read . . . The staggering breadth of James’ writing takes your breath away . . . practical how-to feminism from one of the outstanding thinkers of our time.” — Cary Gee, Tribune
♀ “The final essay ‘Striving for Clarity and Influence’ is a fierce defence of CLR James political legacy against those who would see his achievements in purely literary terms. Fascinating.” — Becky Gardiner, The Guardian
♀ “Strong stuff . . . James has clearly walked the talk during six decades of activism.” — Angela Cobbinah,Camden New Journal & West End Extra
♀ Why is it that so many of us militant mamas who struggle to balance paid work, social justice work and childraising remain so unfamiliar with Selma James, her writings and her work? . . . a challenge to bring these histories into our present-day organizing for a truly liberated society. Victoria Law, author of Resistance Behind Bars.
♀ “In varied contexts and at many venues, including the UN, James’s output over six decades, Sex, Race, and Class,shines with radical clarity on the economy, humanity, and society . . . Hers is a gift of clarifying often knotty issues in words that people can grasp.” — Seth Sandronsky, Z Magazine
♀ “A ‘must’ for feminist and social issues collections alike, this college-level collection provides powerful assessments of evolving women’s rights.” — Midwest Book Review
♀ “It's time to acknowledge James’s path-breaking analysis: from 1972 she re-interpreted the capitalist economy to show that it rests on the usually invisible unwaged caring work of women.” — Dr. Peggy Antrobus, feminist, author
♀ “We have been enlightened and energised by [her] care and passion and commitment.” — Lord Anthony Gifford, QC
♀ “Clarity and commitment to Haiti’s revolutionary legacy. A sister after my own heart.” — Danny Glover, actor and activist
♀ “Reminds us that liberation cannot be handed down from above. A feminism that truly matters.” — Dr. Alissa Trotz, Women & Gender, and Caribbean Studies, Toronto
♀ Why had I missed this writing though much of the perspective has pervaded the movement in some form or another? . . . Her prose at once theoretical and inspirational has provided a renewed praxis to work with. Amrita Shodhan, http://feministsindia.com/,teaching fellow SOAS
♀ “Selma James is a treasure, as this volume of riches makes clear. Pioneering analysis of ‘race-class-gender’. . . One of the key political thinkers and activists of our times.” — Marcus Rediker, from the preface
♀ “. . . reflects in concentrated form the history of the new society struggling to be born. In this respect, Selma James embodies in these essays the spirit of the revolutionary tradition at its most relevant.” — Dr. Robert A. Hill, dir. of the Marcus Garvey Papers Project, and literary executor of the estate of CLR James
♀ “An insightful and exceedingly intelligent political analyst.” — Dr. Gerald Horne, University of Houston
About the book and list of other publications
In 1972, Selma James set out a new political perspective. Her starting point was the millions of unwaged women who, working in the home and on the land, were not seen as “workers”. Based on her political training with her late husband C.L.R. James, on movement experience South and North, and on a respectful reading of Marx, she redefined the working class to include sectors previously dismissed as “marginal.”
For James, we face a conflict between the reproduction and survival of the human race, and the domination of the market with its exploitation, wars, and ecological devastation. She sums up her strategy for change as “Invest in Caring not Killing.”
This selection, spanning almost six decades, traces the development of this perspective in the course of building an international campaigning network. It includes the classic The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community which launched the “domestic labor debate,” the groundbreaking Sex, Race and Class and Marx and Feminism, the exciting Hookers in the House of the Lord about a church occupation by sex workers, an evaluation of the UN Decade for Women, a reappraisal of the novels of Jean Rhys and of Julius Nyerere’s Tanzania. Her account of CLR James’s organisation the Johnson-Forest Tendency—published here for the first time, together with some of the Woman’s Place columns she wrote at the time—reveals a different CLR from the intellectual popular among academics: an imaginative anti-capitalist organiser. Her writings and speeches are steeped in the grassroots movement and the class split in feminism—from Haiti, Venezuela, Egypt and Palestine to SlutWalk and Global Occupy.
The writing is lucid and without jargon. The ideas, never abstract, spring from the experience of organising, from trying to make sense of the successes and the setbacks, and from the need to find a way forward.
Other publications include A Woman’s Place (1952), Women, the Unions and Work, or what is not to be done (1972), Sex, Race and Class (1974), Wageless of the World (1974),The Rapist Who Pays the Rent (1982 co-author), The Ladies and the Mammies—Jane Austen and Jean Rhys (1983), Marx and Feminism (1983), Hookers in the House of the Lord (1983), Strangers & Sisters: Women, Race and Immigration (1985 ed. & Introduction), The Global Kitchen: The Case for Counting Unwaged work (1985 and 1995),The Milk of Human Kindness: Defending Breastfeeding from the AIDS Industry and the Global Market (co-author, 2002).
Selma James is a women's rights and anti-racist campaigner and author. Raised ina movement household, she joined CLR James’s Johnson-Forest Tendency at age 15, and from 1958 to 1962, she worked with him in the movement for Caribbean federation and independence. In 1972, she founded the International Wages for Housework Campaign, coining the word "unwaged" to describe the caring work women do – it has since entered the English language to describe all who work without wages, on the land, in the home, in the community . . . She co-authored the classic The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community which launched the "domestic labour debate." In 1975 she became the first spokeswoman for the English Collective of Prostitutes. She is a founding member of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (2008). Since 2000 she has co-ordinated the Global Women’s Strike.
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