In and beyond the UK cuts

by Rosa Campbell, F co-founder

The F Collection is a blog project by F that highlights a feminist or women’s rights campaign, group or issue every Monday. Today we have a guest post from London-based feminist Rosa Campbell. Read on!

I arrived in London last year, to a city being dismantled and reshaped by the global financial crisis and – the solution posited to this crisis by the UK Conservative- Liberal Democrat government – massive cuts to the welfare state[1]. I arrived to find myself on the fringes of a broad and vibrant left, keen to re-imagine the possibilities of our movements and the world we want to win.

The rhetoric of the cuts

To call extreme austerity measures ‘cuts’ doesn’t really cut it. The rhetoric of the cuts implies that there is fat, or waste, that can be cheerfully trimmed and stripped to expose a leaner and more efficient welfare state. But, the logic of the clean up is not what underpins these extreme austerity measures. The brilliant Stuart Hall describes the cuts and their ideology with greater accuracy and humanity by calling them a ruthless extension of the neo-liberal project. Through,  I would add, the radical destruction of the welfare state.

Cutting women out

If we examine the cuts and their early fallout, it becomes quickly clear that women stand in the brutal intersections of austerity. As feminists we understand that women do most of the unpaid care work and emotional labour, so, as state-funded care services (childcare centres, special needs services, women’s refuges, public schools, meal provision, elderly care homes, women’s organisations) are dismantled, the burden will fall on women already under pressure.

As feminists we also understand that not all women will experience the cuts in the same way. Some women will be able to afford to pay privately run care-services, but for most women of colour, (of whom 40% lived in poverty before the cuts), women with disabilities, poor women, Traveller women, trans women, older women, single mothers, women seeking employment, women who are all or some of these things, for the majority of women, this is simply not an option.

Standing up and imagining the possibilities. 

Activists involved in campaigns to save these services in London have suggested that a united front between those who use the threatened services  and those whose workplaces are under threat make for a fighting campaign.

During the London Teachers strikes, the Conservative government pitted parents against teachers, arguing that teachers were ‘disrupting pupils education and hugely inconveniencing parents.’ If teachers, parents and students were united in defending the rights of teachers and the right to quality education, these kind of divisions would not be possible and our campaign would be stronger for it.

If service users and workers and teachers, parents, students and community members stood together to defend the welfare state, we would be best placed to re-imagine it. We could begin to map our common vulnerabilities, needs and dreams and how these could best be met by the services the state provides. We could ask what it has meant that our needs have not been reflected in these services for so long. Crucially, we could demand that the state foot the bill.

As Camille Barbagallo and Nicholas Beurat, activists involved in the campaign to Save Hackney Nursery remind us, these discussions must occur within the context of a broader discussion about care work and emotional labour; what care is, who cares and where care takes place. Through creating a feminist map of care, we gain deep, contextual understanding of the lives of those who currently hold the burden of care; women.  We also gain insight into how to radically change the position of women and society.

As the banners at all the demonstrations say, when you cut, we bleed.

It is here, where people resist austerity that we can begin to find the solutions to the problem of the cuts. Further, these ideas on how to act now are underpinned by brightly burning ideas for a world on our terms and how we get it. It is by these stars that we can navigate a path of resistance.

This work is made possible by:

The feminist fightback collective particularly ‘Cuts are a Feminist Issue‘ (Soundings 49, Winter 2011) available at 

the commoner journal particularly issue 15, ‘Care Work and the Commons, Winter 2012)

UK Uncut 

the UK no borders network 


[1] To be clear, by ‘welfare state’ I mean all of the resources and services the government provides to her citizens. I mean stuff like (but not exhaustively) the national health service (like Medicare), free or subsidised childcare, welfare payments (like single parent benefit or youth allowance or job seekers allowance).  It also includes things that  as feminists we are critical of,  like the police and border security.

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  1. […] to justice and equality, so I definitely want to keep those services that currently exist.  As Rosa Campbell said recently: If service users and workers and teachers, parents, students and community members stood together […]

  2. […] to justice and equality, so I definitely want to keep those services that currently exist.  As Rosa Campbell said recently: If service users and workers and teachers, parents, students and community members stood together […]



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