The first assumption of this article is that it is never easy to be radical; the second that this is particularly so within radical social work. The historical context and contradictions of radical social work are examined and the related social limitations that can lead to its deradicalisation are elaborated. The latter part of the article considers the problematic relationship of social work and marxism, and the centrality of gender divisions, reproduction and feminism in the analysis of (radical) social work. The article concludes with a discussion of political possibilities for radical social work, in resisting reactionary pressures, and maintaining political activity through organisational politics. I am very grateful to Bob Ashcroft for his help and encouragement in writing this article, to Julia Graham, Peter Hitch, Jim Kincaid, Mark Philp, Satya Schofield and Helena Scott for discussions on the issues raised, and to Satya Schofield for typing the script. I also owe a great, though more diffuse, debt to many other people, and particularly those involved in childcare campaigning.