Sexism and the Left: Three Case Studies


  • Abigail B. Bakan OISE, University of Toronto
  • Paul Kellogg Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, Athabasca University



feminism; socialism; epistemology; left; patriarchy


Many Left organizations pride themselves on their commitment to women’s liberation, and socialist feminism is a real and important current of Left praxis. Nonetheless, there is also a long history that demonstrates a remarkable persistence of sexist practices within socialist organizations. This article suggests that sexist practices, as well as feminist analyses of and responses to sexism, have been epistemologically minimized, dismissed, distorted and ultimately forgotten, enabling a normalization of patriarchal hegemony on the Left, and producing what the late Charles Mills termed an “epistemology of ignorance.” To demonstrate this, the article draws on three case studies, spanning recent and distant history of socialist organizing: the crisis of the International Socialist Tendency and Socialist Workers’ Party UK (2010-13); the founding period of the International Socialists in Canada (1975-6); and the Bolshevik-Menshevik division in Tsarist Russia (1902-3). The argument is based on extensive original research including four decades of personal archives from socialist and feminist praxis.

Author Biographies

Abigail B. Bakan, OISE, University of Toronto

Abigail B. Bakan, Professor, Department of Social Justice Education (SJE), Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto

Paul Kellogg, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, Athabasca University

Paul Kellogg, Professor, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, Athabasca University