Beatrix Campbell

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Beatrix Campbell
Born Mary Lorimer Beatrix Barnes
(1947-02-03) 3 February 1947 (age 67)
Carlisle
Residence United Kingdom
Nationality British
Political party
Green party
Movement Marxist feminism

Mary Lorimer Beatrix Campbell, OBE (born 3 February 1947[1]), née Barnes, is an English writer and activist who has written for a number of publications since the early 1970s. Her books include Wigan Pier Revisited (1984), Goliath: Britain's Dangerous Places (1993) and Diana, Princess of Wales: How Sexual Politics Shook the Monarchy (1998). She has also made films, including Listen to the Children (1990), a documentary about child abuse.

Early life[edit]

Campbell was born in Carlisle, England. She was educated at Harraby Secondary Modern School and Carlisle and County High School for Girls.[2] Her parents, Jim and Catherine Barnes, were Communist Party members.[citation needed] She had two younger siblings.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Beatrix Barnes took the name Beatrix Campbell on her marriage to Bobby Campbell, a former Glasgow shipyard fitter and fiddle player, who was part of the renaissance of radical politics and music in Scotland in the early 1960s.[3] They met in London at the end of 1966 and lived in a commune in Tower Hamlets. They divorced in 1978 but remained close friends until his death in 1998. Bobby encouraged Beatrix to get a job in journalism, and she joined him at the communist daily The Morning Star, formerly The Daily Worker, where he was the boxing correspondent. She became a sub-editor and later a reporter. She became deeply committed to the women's liberation movement in 1970, and from that time was oriented towards women and women's issues.

Working and political life[edit]

Campbell was fourteen when, in 1961, she took part in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament's march from Aldermaston to London in protest against nuclear weapons, and was still a teenager when she joined the Communist Party. At that time the party was deeply divided over its relationship with the Soviet Union. She belonged to the party's anti-Stalinist wing that opposed the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. In London, she and Bobby Campbell joined a dissident group within the Communist Party founded by university lecturer Bill Warren[4] that produced a critique of both Stalinism and the party's economic policy.

From the early 1970s Campbell's engagement with the Communist Party was increasingly as that of a feminist: from this perspective she challenged the tenets of the Communist Party, both its political approach to organising among women and its overall strategy.[citation needed] Geoff Andrews wrote of her opinions in his book End Games and New Times: The Final Years of British Communism 1964–1991[5] feminism now "became a priority, not subordinate to some higher goal. It was a crucial part of redefining socialism". Campbell was one of a group of journalists on The Morning Star who in the early 1970s challenged the editor to break the paper's exclusive ties to the Communist Party and the trade union movement, and open a dialogue with newly emerging social movements. After the appointment of Tony Chater as editor in 1976 Campbell felt the struggle to reform the Star had been lost, and resigned, joining[citation needed] the journal Marxism Today and the Gramscian New Times.

By the end of the 1970s Campbell was working principally for Time Out, whose staff were involved in a long strike and occupation in 1981 over equal pay for all and for the right of staff to be consulted about major investments. Ultimately, she and the majority of the staff left and started the cooperatively-owned London magazine City Limits.[citation needed]

The emergence of the women's liberation movement changed Campbell's life. With Nell Myers, she set up a women's liberation movement group in Stratford, East London and in 1972 was in the group of women Communist Party members that founded Red Rag. It immediately opened itself up to women in the wider women's movement, describing itself not only as a Marxist but as a "feminist journal", and defining feminism as "the political movement which emerges as women's response to their own oppression". When the Communist Party banned Red Rag, the editorial collective's response was "it's not yours to ban", and the journal continued to flourish for ten years.[6]

In the 1980s, Campbell's writing focused on the transformation of Britain by Thatcherism. She set off on a six-month journey around England and wrote a polemical critique of George Orwell's book The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) and what she saw as the myopia of sexist socialism. She investigated the Conservative Party's appeal to women. She also became associated politically and professionally with the emergence of radical municipalism, particularly in London, under the leadership of Labour's Ken Livingstone.

Campbell stood twice as a Green Party candidate in local elections, (in the London Borough of Camden) and in the 2010 parliamentary election (in Hampstead and Kilburn constituency), where she obtained only 1.4% of the votes, the seat being held by Labour's Glenda Jackson. She also co-authored several plays with Judith Jones, including And All the Children Cried, commissioned by West Yorkshire Playhouse, and Blame, performed in the Arcola Theatre, London.

Honours and citations[edit]

Campbell has received several academic honours including honorary doctorates conferred by Salford University, Oxford Brookes University and The Open University. Her work has gained her several awards, including the Cheltenham Literature Festival Prize in 1984 for the book Wigan Pier Revisited, the Fawcett Society Prize in 1987 for the book The Iron Ladies and the First Time Producers' Award in 1990 for her Dispatches documentary film Listen to the Children.[citation needed]

In June 2009 Campbell was offered and accepted an OBE for 'services to equal opportunities'. Writing in The Guardian, she self-defined herself as a "republican with politics rooted in Marxism and feminism" and explained the apparent contradiction in accepting the award as:

By clinging to symbols and rituals that belong to a cruel imperial order the government compromises the gonged.

You ask yourself the question: how can I accept anything from this horrible imperial regime?

And yet, getting gonged confers recognition of "citizens" contributions' to a good society – in my case equality – and the gesture affirms our necessity; the radicals – not the royalists – are the best of the British.[7]

In 2012 she was in the World Pride Power List of the 100 most influential gay people of the year.[citation needed]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Sweet Freedom: Struggle for Women's Liberation, by Anna Coote, Beatrix Campbell & Christine Roche (1982), Picador Books
  • Wigan Pier Revisited: Poverty and politics in the Eighties, Beatrix Campbell (1984), Virago Press
  • The Iron Ladies: Why Do Women Vote Tory? by Beatrix Campbell (1987), Virago Press
  • Unofficial Secrets: Child Abuse – The Cleveland Case, by Beatrix Campbell (1988), Virago Press
  • Goliath: Britain's Dangerous Places, Beatrix Campbell (1993), Methuen Books
  • Diana, Princess of Wales: How Sexual Politics Shook the Monarchy, by Beatrix Campbell (1998), Women's Press
  • And All the Children Cried, by Beatrix Campbell and Judith Jones (2005), Oberon Books
  • Agreement: The State, Conflict and Change in Northern Ireland, by Beatrix Campbell (2008), Lawrence & Wishart
  • End of Equality by Beatrix Campbell (2014), Seagull.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Ms Beatrix Campbell, OBE Authorised Biography – Debrett's People of Today, Ms Beatrix Campbell, OBE Profile". Debretts.com. 3 February 1947. Retrieved 4 December 2013. 
  2. ^ "Burke's Peerage – Preview Family Record". Burke's Peerage. [dead link]
  3. ^ Jack, Ian (30 September 1997). "Obituary: Bobby Campbell". The Independent (London). Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  4. ^ Geoff Andrews Endgames and New Times, p. 63
  5. ^ Geoff Andrews Endgames and New Times,p. 224-243
  6. ^ Geoff Andrews Endgames and New Times,p. 66-69
  7. ^ Campbell, Beatrix (16 June 2009). "Why I accepted my OBE". The Guardian. 

External links[edit]