Marxist. Trade Unionist. Socialist-feminist. Author. Poet. Speaker. Tutor. RMT ex-Exec. Workers' Liberty. Autie. Bi. PUFC fan.

Marxism and Autism discussion notes, 11 June 2016

Submitted by Janine on 03 July 2016 at 16:23

Janine read through the notes from the previous meeting, and reported on the process to draw up a Labour Party autism/neurodiversity manifesto. Discussion followed, and included:

Capitalism and autism
- capitalism makes problems and pressures for us
- capitalism is both developed and distressing, and increasingly so
- work provides no scope for people who think differently
- is neurodiversity "good for business"?
- class differences in autistic experience; autistic people from bourgeois families can often cope better
- education system: narrow curriculum

Labour Party
- Autistic equality would be expensive to capitalism, so Labour in government could not do much.
- Nevertheless, we demand that it challenges capital: Marx's concept of the political economy of the (neurodiverse) working class.
- Should we call on Labour to add a tenth protected characteristic to the Equality Act: neurological status?

The politics of autism charities
- ignoring autistic people's demands to campaign against false/abusive 'treatments'/'cures'
- reliant on funders
- expect autistic people to work for free
- NAS senior managers group includes no autistic people
- narrow focus on education
- if they were successful, charities would abolish themselves!
- their patrons tend to be conservative
- NAS is shifting its language and image, but what about its theory and practice?
- There are, however, self-organised autistic social enterprises eg. Autscape, AutAngel, Autonomy Project.

Diagnosis and identity
- 'identification' vs 'diagnosis'
- differences in how society relates to visible and invisible disabilities
- "You can go through half your life without a diagnosis or label but still know you are somehow different."
- need to take care with terminology and avoid compartmentalising ourselves
- this year's Autscape theme: 'identity'

Campaigns and issues
- Justice for LB (Connor Sparrowhawk)
- Steven Simpson
- autistic people being detained in assessment and treatment units (ATUs) away from family
- scapegoating of neurological conditions eg. when a mass killer is autistic, commentators focus on this rather than on their right-wing views
- migration is good, and it makes diverse communication even more important

Theories and approaches
- intersectionality, including people who have multiple neurodivergent conditions
- Goffman's theory of stigma as socially discrediting
- Simon Baron-Cohen's comment some issues eg. empathy, are unhelpful and woolly

We agreed to continue holding meetings following those of PARC (Participatory Autism Research Centre) at South Bank University
- PARCs and Marx :-)