Dave Widgery

Wrong on radicals

(February 1988)

From Letters, Socialist Worker Review, No.106, February 1988, p.35.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

JULIE WATERSON’S article The Politics of Abortion (Jan SWR) is a useful addition to the small Marxist literature on this subject. The problem is however, that in attempting to cover such a large field one is often obliged to become so abbreviated as to be worthless.

In trying to summarise complex issues, one can too easily succumb to mere functionalism (Chartism was defeated and the working class family structure also changed but the former did not cause the latter). One might as well say that the rise in neonatal mortality rates in 1986 is caused by Margaret Thatcher. It makes good journalism but lousy analysis, at least one of the reasons for the 1986 fall is the increasing tendency for very tiny babies, which in the past would have been recorded as miscarriages, to be given eventually unsuccessful intensive care. More care is needed for a serious analysis.

Waterson, is also somewhat immodest about the efforts of the bourgeois sexual radicals against that of the proletarian left. Those boring incorrect old radicals were still performing abortions long after the KPD had been gunned down. And there was a mass abortion campaign after the KPD had succumbed to sextarianism.

Indeed, one wonders where someone like Wendy Savage would figure in Waterson’s world of absolute certainties. Probably not worth a footnote. But many women, some in the SWP, owe a good deal to her work and example.


David Widgery
London E8


Last updated on 29.11.2004