At this year's RMT AGM, I spoke in favour of a resolution from the union's Disabled Members' Conference calling on the union to adopt the social model of disability. The resolution was passed unanimously. This is what I said.
Autistic people face discrimination and prejudice in a society which expects us to understand and fit in with social rules that are not of our making. Autistic people are also part of the disabled people's fightback. This section includes my work providing 'Autism in the workplace' training and information for trade union representatives, plus campaign news, and personal and political observations.
Statement by the TUC Disabled Workers' Committee to TUC Disabled Workers' Conference, 18 May 2017:
There will be a general election on Thursday 8 June. Whatever the circumstances under which it was called, it is an opportunity for voters to either reaffirm or change the government.
I am quoted about autism and my sensory experiences in this article on The Independent's website.
When I ask Janine what her individual Achilles’s heel is, perceptually speaking, she immediately replies: “Adverts in public spaces – especially moving ones
Some notes from recent discussions on Marxism and autism (two meetings and some online exchanges):
- There is a capitalist market in products aimed at autistic people and their families. These range from useful resources through to fake and even abusive 'treatments' and 'cures'. As well as commodifying autistic people's needs, this also exploits the fears felt by autistic people and particularly by parents of autistic kids.
- The mass production brought about by capitalism has had the effect of 'standardising' human beings, pushing us into a narrowly-defined 'normal', in contrast with the more individual, craft-based systems of production that preceded it. On the other hand, mass production has brought major advances and increased living standards. Can socialism combine the advantages of mass production and a renewed scope for individuality and diversity?
I wrote this blog for the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which published it on 3 April 2017.
Do you have any autistic workmates? Perhaps you do. Perhaps you do but you don’t realise it. Perhaps you are autistic yourself. Maybe you have an autistic dependant – child or adult – or you know a workmate who does.
Can Marxism can help us to understand autistic experience in modern capitalism? How might Marxism inform our struggles for equality and liberation?
There are different approaches to understanding autism. Perhaps the dominant approach is a medical one: seeing autism as a disease or tragedy, and autistic people as being broken and needing fixing. Over recent years, a more progressive approach has developed. It stresses acceptance of autistic people rather than simply “awareness”, and demands rights, equality and support rather than abusive “treatments”.
This approach is based on the concept of neurodiversity: the recognition that the human species is neurologically diverse; that different people have different brain wiring. But this more progressive approach, while welcome, does not necessarily locate autism and neurodiversity within the social, economic and political structures of society. It is important to do this — firstly, because all disability exists in a social context; and secondly, because autism is largely an issue of how people interact socially. We are all expected to follow social rules, but who makes those social rules, and how?
Yesterday saw RMT's first ever Disabled Members' Conference, held in London.
Although quite small (9 delegates, plus union officials), the important thing was that it took place at all, especially as rank-and-file members had pushed for its creation against the wishes of the union's national leadership. Now it is established, it will grow from year to year, as the union's other equalities conferences have done.
An introduction to autism, explaining what it is, common terms, with a plain-English account as well as the medical stuff. This video explains autism in terms of what is different about autistic people, rather than what is "wrong" with us.
By Joe Booth and Janine Booth, published in Solidarity 426, 11 January 2017
Socialist activists are drafting a manifesto for the Labour Party of radical policies to advance equality for autistic and other neurodivergent people (those with an atypical “brain-wiring”, usually a condition such as dyspraxia or attention deficit disorder). Supported by John McDonnell, a steering group has drafted a proposed manifesto and, having launched it at Labour Party conference in September, is now inviting input from Labour Party and trade union bodies and interested individuals.
This is the sound recording of my talk about Autistic Workers, Trade Unions and Solidarity at the AutSpeak event on Thursday 12 January in London. The overall theme of the event was Building an Autistic Community. It was well-attended, and after the four panellists had finished speaking, a lively question-and-answer session took place.