What We Owe to Each Other

Over a month on, I still find the Labour defeat lingering at the edges of my mind, lurking in the shadows of sleep. It is a familiar pall: the fever invoked by a bitter winter blurring into the viscerally physical aches with which depression torments one’s body and mind, until any sense of where the malady begins and ends utterly disintegrates. The whole world contracted into a void as you collapse in on yourself. Any possibility of respite disrupted, wracked by guilt and disquiet, the festive lights powerless to penetrate. I could sense it in so many we met as we canvassed in the glacial darkness, an etiolated rose struggling to take root in frozen ground, our red boards dimmed and scarcely flickering in the ruthless night, their sheets of intention sodden and in tatters amid biting squalls. The fault lines of despondency haunted people: they plagued us too, buffeting and dissipating the fragile fire of what could have been, eclipsing once again the horizon of the future. This was a historic crunch point, an opportunity to begin to reverse decades of long defeat and suffering, to tackle the calamitous political and ecological trajectory unfolding across the world – all within reach, only to be dashed, snatched from us.

The next week brought the crushing fall from grace that would punish our hope, even timid and braced for defeat as those dreams were, even devoid of illusions in the ornate halls of Westminster. A return to the routine of panic and dread at the Job Centre, toiling for a pittance in the turmoil of the gig economy, the vicious nightmares of waiting rooms and loss and the bloodied fray of austerity.  There were few words to piece from the embers, only a strained solace in one another as we dwelled on another five years of sentence, as we once again stumbled and huddled together in the desolate chill, shoes so drenched they came apart at the seams, feet blistered and hands numb, that ‘Everything for Everyone’ scarf cast to one side and forgotten, waiting on yet another arrested train to creak by under pallid street lamps and blown platform displays. Our morale was shattered, our conviction in disarray, dislocated by the tremors of agitation and shock, hastily regrouped for the endless, enervating march. How does one believe again, carry on, despite all the overwhelming forces of reaction set against us.

I think those feelings resurfaced this week particularly when I was rejected for yet another job, with all the disempowerment and worthlessness wrought by the cutthroat facelessness of application cycles into which all the energy and time of your life becomes submerged irretrievably, trapped in the degradations and stresses of vying even just for a subsistence, of ingratiating yourself to the callous, capricious mercy of a boss of targets and metrics and algorithms. That all-consuming compulsion to ‘sell’ oneself – to dehumanize and alienate oneself into an optimized commodity for business – is one of the defining, overarching features of the anxiety of our generation, from the very early, increasingly fraught days of education with all its incessant ranking, channeled towards an exploitative work regime marked by a race-to-the-bottom in terms, conditions and working protections. The lure to individually develop and advance oneself, in the absence of collective solidarities, can seem the only recourse to these declining conditions – producing deep guilt and anxiety when a system premised on disposability and insecurity withholds the prosperity it promises despite our restless striving. The fantasy of meritocracy gives under the weight of the rapacity of profit; yet, fatigued, we often feel it our fault for not measuring up.

And so that sifting through the ruins bleeds across our whole lives, the only certainty generally being that the jobs we are chasing do not matter, and that we do not matter to them. Worse still, we are forced to stifle that resentment under humiliating performances: the affected enthusiasm and motivation you trade on cold-calling or serving people at the tills, where all the frustrations of our powerlessness and fractured connections are brought to bear. The blow for the caseworker job was, I suppose, so pronounced because of that converse indignity: the dispiriting sense that a job that you would actually want is beyond your station. Certainly, the treatment of this topic in media commentary is coloured by a more sheltered, middle-class demographic coming to terms with the pangs of stultified ambition; a proletarianization process that is historically recurring within capitalism, if no less painful for its lack of novelty.

Less, though, is said of that other kind of pain, the cynicism and dejection inflicted by such drudgery having always been your life experience, the sense of class shame and inferiority you are taunted with in which destiny is a luxury not to be entertained, much less thwarted, the resignation that meritocracy has always been a myth for people like you. Rather than a sense of lost entitlement that you were not one of the select few ‘winners’, it is the absence of any real control or freedom, the melancholy that you were always meant to lose in this system – throbbing in the work injuries that scar your flesh and the bruising sanctions that push you utterly over the brink on which your life has always teetered. It was this pain and antagonism, bent towards anti-politics, that we struggled particularly within the top-down limitations of party politics to grapple with on the doorstep. And yet now we are so frequently disciplined on the same Amazon warehouse factory floors, inhabiting similar neighbourhoods and utilising similar run-down libraries and fragmented transport infrastructure, constrained by lack of resources to return home to the same towns we grew up isolated in, maybe those that were historically Labour and cleaved Tory this time. It is these kinds of common arenas, though it might seem an anachronism, where solidarity can be fostered across those different kinds of experience and grievance.

In the nights after the defeat, I felt the damp clinging heavier than ever to the air in my cramped room, fixated on the kind of ceiling leak that still courses down the gaunt walls of so many decrepit Victorian terraces, morphing into mould spores that fester through the peeling wallpaper. Disconsolate, the doubt and misery felt paralysing: but it can all start with coming together to demand the landlord stop that leak. Not for the purposes merely of firefighting, as a substitute for intervening in the rot in the whole architecture, but because by improving our lives collectively we can raise confidence and hope in what is possible and thus rebuild our movements, institutions and solidarities. It’s why so many sacrificed weeks in grievous conditions to fight with such vigour for a Labour victory: because of what we owe to each other. Not simply on an individual basis, but as a greater social whole: a collective duty to combat injustice and exploitation. And that organized yearning for a better world remains, still, beyond any setback, as our anchor.

A certain common sense has emerged from our atomization, seeping into even left cultures, that we owe one another very little, not even an explanation. Certainly, steeled against transphobes howling at you in the streets, that impulse holds, and the fear and paranoia at its root comes harshly into focus. But we collapse all minor infractions into the vein of this oppression, banishing potential comrades as merely the spectre of our aggressors, at our peril. The neo-liberal expectation towards frantic self-curation and demanding self-evaluation is reflected in such puritanical drives. Empathy can be impugned as unremunerated ‘emotional labour’, social loyalty renounced as an inconvenient barrier to autonomy, self-actualization reduced merely to comfort or personal gratification. But if we are serious about community organizing, then we must too be insistent on a practice of compassion without condition, trusting in the capacity of people to grow and change things through our relationships with one another, even as we never tolerate oppression. There is a hostility to one another harboured in fear: an acute recognition that our association can be fraught with malice, rejection, selfishness, division, even abuse. It is why we isolate ourselves to survive our trauma. But, in this bunker, we can lose a sense of ourselves, of one another, of the miraculous, messy bonds that also rejuvenate us and tie us together, that no amount of prejudice or competition can prise apart, that indeed can be fortified wondrously in spite of and through overcoming fear together.

As the rainwater trickles down the wall, that is what enables me to rise. Any courage I have is owing to others, and bolstered, especially against crisis, by the sense of what I owe to others. That vulnerability is a hard wager, and a beautiful one: a reprieve from rancour, a chance to flourish that may smoulder, a chance that we must hold to against all uncertainty. It is the daunting admission that our actions are of great consequence. Though I still dream of utopias, and believe more than ever that positive vision is a necessity against economist strains of leftist politics that wrongly relegate imperatives of culture and liberation – as if working class people can imagine no greater than the bare necessities beyond immiseration – I am not as confident as some in the predilection toward ‘collective joy’. Militating against a context stricken by mental health crises and political decay, it is a noble and important goal, that we extricate ourselves from the individualistic pressure to ‘stay positive’ and instead share affects of elation that arise from the adventure of unlocking community and empowerment in the world.

But I increasingly think of hope as something patiently and deliberately cultivated, as a grace borne of the hard, complicated and healing work of forming relationships with others, not as a fantastical abstraction or an ephemeral release among crowds. Certainly, the fact that people’s despondency grated up against the bold Labour manifesto is no reason to retreat in our vision. But it does demand we ask of ourselves: what do we owe to each other? Not just to like-minded friends, but those we have never known, bearing burdens and hardships similar and altogether different to our own, who speak different languages and have different cultures, who almost perished in violent seas fleeing terror only to be imprisoned and further tortured in the detention centres of our ‘green and pleasant land’.  A solidarity without hierarchy must be the answer of socialists: that care is strengthened, not weakened, by its extension to all. The warmth of new comradeships, of pulling together searching for every door on the list as rain and night fell, of tangibly moving people through connecting our stories, the transformative potential of our movement, renewed and compromised, disappointed and invigorated, persists beyond any election cycle – as the swell in activity around organizations like ACORN attests. We engaged with the General Election campaign because it was a strategic avenue to further our efforts to organize in communities, rather than out of any particular loyalty towards party politics – it was by no means the be-all-and-end-all.

I see the traces of utopia attenuated, perhaps inevitably, though they still inspire me. I no longer hinge my faith on each demonstration as a rage of destruction and the surge of a new dawn from the ashes. That, I think, is something every activist must come to terms with, burnt out after racing against every injustice, so desperate for it all to come crashing down, for freedom to finally descend. There is no panacea of martyrdom, and, ultimately, only the blessing and burden of what it is to shoulder duty and responsibility in supporting and organizing with people through all our collective flaws and complexities and contradictions, all our conflicting fears and desires, day after day. There is remarkable triumph and, more often than not, devastating defeat in the perennial struggle to change society, an exposure to the worst of injustice and that most exceptional fortitude of human beings to transcend and resist it. But, most of all, there is that gritty infinity: what we owe to each other. Everything, everything, everything. Those glimmers of utopia reside in our every action to benefit the world and each other. There is a hope that may be without answer, without guarantee, yet blazes and reverberates and endures nonetheless.


 

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At The Tills

There was a person at the tills today who didn’t have enough money on any of their cards to afford their shopping and ended up having to return it all. This has unfortunately happened on a few occasions, and usually it’s accompanied by wrenching admissions of, ‘i’m so sorry, this is really embarrassing’ and it’s just agonizingly sad to witness it happen and feel helpless to offer anything but consolation and empathy. I’d normally sneak through a few items anyway, those undercommoning moments of solidarity hidden amongst the throb of a busier and busier store, the abyssal gaps of vastly exceeded sales projections in which the livelihoods of the poor fold and collapse, bank balances floundering in negatives and dwindling from month to month as food prices rise and management reap the spoils whilst people literally starve – when a whole shop is returned this is almost impossible, of course.

Part of me wanted to just offer the shop for free with a reckless abandon, flouting these cruel, machine-like rules which sanctify the gatekeeping of property over real, urgent need; I seethed with the impulse, urged against the shackles that similarly bound myself and them, forbidding a commonality that could otherwise extend beyond small talk and strained smiles and courteous ‘what do I owe you?’s. I knew my job would be forfeit, of course, but better that than principle slowly renounced in adjustment, that irreparable cost whose marks we all bear. Revolutions are not made from individual reckless impulse, but that does not absolve complicity.

The instinct smouldered as they became flustered – their cards declined again and again, that calculated notification fractured across the screen that invites such plunging dread – and pronounced their embarrassment; such an act might not only be an abstract martyrdom but indeed be perceived as an act of pity, or at worst leave the customer at the mercy of security that have savagely wrestled shoplifters into the grasp of police. That was the hardest part – the shame in their voice, wracking unsure movements as they reached for the next card, etched into wearied frowns, fault lines haunting the visage of austerity: that they blamed themselves, felt themselves disgraced that they could not afford food. And I said I’m sorry, that there is nothing to be embarrassed about, that I understand how hard times are, those tearing consolations, that gnaw at you with their weakness, their indignity, that do little to compensate this systemic theft. And I felt ashamed, ashamed of this society, ashamed of this corporation, ashamed that they had to feel ashamed. And I wished them well, and the check-out beeps sounded, more than ever, like the pangs of a lament, twisted, heavy, a cacophony on repeat.


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No Guarantees

Labour’s defeat at the General Election was devastatingly painful for all of us. Knots plaguing our stomachs into the final few days, shivering exhaustion, anxiety-ridden rest, have unravelled into a punishing hollowness. Behind the shock of the blue glare of the exit poll, the despair of mothers we met on the doorstep whose disabled children had endured callous cuts to educational and pastoral support, the grandfather pained by worry for his grandchildren’s future whose local hospital had fallen to ruin, the homeless people trapped on glacial streets this Christmas. All let down. Hope in ashes.

I think we would do well to pause, reflect and process our grief before lashing out in bitter recrimination over the loss. Otherwise we’ll end up falling back on reductive, reactionary narratives like — if only we were more Blue Labour we’d have retained the north. Any trend towards this has to be utterly resisted. The fact it’s dovetailed once more with an uptick in horrendous racist abuse towards people like Ash Sarkar proves how insidious it is. We have to stand in solidarity with BME communities against this vicious tide. Anyone who was out on the doorstep knows that the only reason we retained a lot of our seats was because BME communities almost unilaterally voted for Labour, as they consistently do. With every reason to feel even more taken for granted, they continued to stand by the party.

In the coming days you’ll hear a lot of the commentariat clamour to define, often in racist and patronizing terms, exactly what the working class up North wants. We should be wary of these narratives, and be wary of easy answers — especially those that condemn Momentum, despite its remarkable efforts, as somehow responsible for the loss, or that haughtily brand young canvassers nobly daring for a better world as naïve, pernicious, or indulgent idealists. The ghost of There Is No Alternative will resurface — and we will need to dispel it.

There are, of course, real strategic problems to attend to — I did have frustrating conversations with people I know in the London Momentum office who just didn’t grasp what was happening on the ground up North, just as there were people locally who were screening out places like Outwood until the final few days. But just purely blaming the London left, or Brexit policy, or Corbyn, or the media, or the weather, is a defence mechanism in the wake of this loss: seeking out vindication to console ourselves. If only this one thing had not happened, it could have been different. The more fundamental answer, I think, is more difficult, and more simple: we did not have enough power organic to those communities.

For example, blaming how Brexit was managed from above can act as a reverse mirror to centrist arguments that we should have tacked full Remain, becoming a technocratic rationalization that indulges Lexit fantasies, not a serious argument about class. We do need a specific analysis of the collapse in Labour support up North, but one that does not find recourse in divisive, homogenizing notions of the working class: decayed councils, deindustrialization (and with it, the long decline of bastions of trade unionism), severe regional inequalities, isolation and dereliction by Westminster and local authority, crumbling infrastructure and institutions are chief among these. This means not countenancing opportunistic and discriminatory trade-offs between towns and cities, like vague attacks on ‘cosmopolitanism’ etc as code for neglecting the multicultural character of the working class. Glossing over the role of racism in all of this would be an indefensible omission, given Johnson’s record and the Tories’ abhorrent legacy of Hostile Environment terror, Windrush scandal and abetting the siege in Yemen, and the crackdown on Travelling communities proposed in their manifesto. Fighting racism will only increasingly become the pivot of an effective class politics.

We need to reach the unorganized, embolden and empower social majorities behind our ideas. Activist martyrdom, good-natured voluntarism, on however an impressive a scale, is no substitute for robust class struggle, which connects real experience to that vision of a better society. I met some Labour legends who came down to Outwood from London — lovely people, astute activists, and I’m hugely grateful for their effort and sacrifice. But they struggled talking to Leavers, and understanding why their friends, despite being left-wing, wouldn’t come canvassing. It revealed exactly the problem: not only that too many young people lean to our ideas but don’t feel ownership over the movement, but that we’re still locked in an activist minority, we-are-the-righteous-few mindset. The work of Labour By The Many etc provides a framework for beginning to transcend that.

The Labour party has always been the formal political expression of the labour movement, not the other way round. We have to treat it as such, or we’ll always be playing catch up — the state ahead of the ambitions, expectations and experience of the movement on the ground. These social struggles — grassroots, independent, anti-racist unions, community and renters’ unions, social justice organizations — do exist. We just need to amplify them, broaden them, organize hard — all with the aim of building the collective power to rebind a frayed social fabric.

Pinning the blame at Novara et al’s feet is an alibi, protecting us from the fear of confronting that harder truth — how grievous the fight ahead will be. We need to work through this denial and bargaining and evaluate seriously what really went wrong. Conditions are never of our choosing — but we have to make history against those odds regardless. We’re mourning the disintegration of the first glimpse of a future in a long time — which many people will suffer immensely because of. We must be generous and forgiving whilst we rally ourselves.

It was clear that Labour’s insurgency stagnated in between election periods, and especially in public debates with Johnson. We cannot recapture this insurgency without the movement at the base of the party actually escalating that conflict — nor without responding to the ossification of Labour’s local party organs. Labour’s defensive appeals to ‘money in your pocket’ in the final days signalled this deterioration of insurgent ambition; we must appraise why ‘Get Brexit Done’ cut through where, for example, free broadband did not — Brexit’s imperial nostalgia as much as the gaping frustration, fatigue and disillusionment with political inertia.

This is not to abandon bold vision by any means through some calculated, stolid pragmatism, but rather to ground that vision in real experience such that it has credibility, cogency and force. A reckoning with, and powerful alternative to, the lure of reactionary nationalism is incumbent upon us, but PR management of narratives also only takes us so far. Because, again, stories of something better only resonate when depressed expectations are raised through Labour institutions being a force for good against the immiseration and alienation in peoples’ lives. People struggle to believe in better, that they even deserve better, whilst ground down by poverty and powerlessness, after being betrayed by the ruling class again and again.

It would be understandable right now, but misplaced, to think that the ground game of the GE amounted to nothing, that the sacrifices we made were in vain. We lost instead because we were asked to do the impossible: restore hope and trust in the political system in one conversation. Even though the approach was much better this time, going against the grain of the centrist common sense you can’t convince people on the doorstep — the conversations were still transactional. I understand there are X problems in your life, this is how Y policy can help you. There are structural limitations of electioneering and electoral politics we’re pushing up against here, but in and beyond parliamentary politics, the principle always has to be the proactive effort to organize people to gain power and control over their own lives.

That’s the only way one can reconstruct a constituency for socialist politics: improving peoples’ material conditions through continuous cultural and political intervention in which working class people are their own agents, transforming consciousness through the experience of solidarity and organizing. Here the experience of the US left in adapting to the Trump victory can provide useful lessons: the Chicago and L.A. Teachers’ strikes illustrate this re-orientation towards militant unionism, through which we can practice the sustained exercise of power needed to govern, with great masses of people prepared for, and already practically engaged in, the implementation of a programme of redistribution.

Part of coming to terms with grief is admitting that which was outside our control: the media vilification was indeed relentless and did set people against us, the machinations of the Tories were indeed grotesque and mendacious, Brexit did paralyse the debate along untenable polarizations. And it is understandable that we rail vehemently against these external pressures, but we immobilize ourselves if we explain away defeat, or excuse our lack of power, with reference simply to structural constraints — bunkering into resentful paranoia and fatalism, or even conspiracy.

We need to also have the humility to admit our defeats, and own up to our failures, even as the right will try to weaponize this loss to demonize Momentum and Corbynism, once again pronouncing the end of history, that socialism is dead and buried. Uncritical loyalism both implies the left surge begins and ends with Corbyn, and also forces us once again on to the backfoot of warding off their smears rather than strategically innovating ourselves. During the campaign, activists — especially those far removed from the professional layer of Momentum staff — were not provided with ownership over strategy or coordination, leaving them in the lurch, struggling to know where the centre of gravity was, and feeling like foot soldiers to a distant scheme.

It is important to consider the merits and shortcomings of the implicit ‘distributed organizing’ model here: effective at empowering people to take charge themselves, precipitate rapid, flexible action through social networks, and aggregate hype, but less so at consolidating robust and durable strategy. This epitomized deeper tensions in the old Labourist traditions and newer social movement tendencies that grate up against one another and struggle for symbiosis in the context of Momentum — which unresolved have limited it to a sleek, media-savvy outrider for elections.

We tried our utmost within given constraints, in exacting and adverse conditions, running ourselves into the ground through desperation. Still, agonizingly, it was not enough. The organic enthusiasm of 2017, which feels now almost like a heady accident, could not carry across effectively and I think did not align with the response on the doorstep. Performative optimism, which veered into hubris, hindered us from admitting this, and from grappling with our vulnerability in the deindustrialized regions. The desolation was years in the making; neither parachuting activists in, nor deft strategizing from a London office, could undo it.

In the compressed frenzies of an election cycle, where we could not wait for the labour movement to just resuscitate itself, we did all we could. These bases cannot be conjured out of thin air, merely by the fact of someone stating it, and we must deliberate carefully about how to rebuild them. It was right to foster a sense of optimism and urgency against these circumstances, but we should have cautioned ourselves against over-inflating the predominance of one election, as it opened us up to an utterly bruising fall from grace which activists may struggle to recover from.

Our task remains ensuring 2017 was not a surge, a moment, an aberration, but another paving stone in the arduous, rocky and bright path toward socialism. This horizon is not contingent on the caprice of election cycles, but reflects a profound and interminable desire for human emancipation. In that struggle, there are no guarantees, no assurances of victory. There is only the risk of promise and yearning, and many a crushing obstacle, pitfall and setback. Duty to our values and principles, the gravity of our project, and our enduring care for one another, can be our guideposts.

Hope, resolve, ideals, in and of themselves, have and will come up short; they are not a substitute for deep-rooted organizing. But nor is transformation — the patient, deliberate work of showing up day after day to rebuild trust, community and solidarity — possible without them. We must pull together, or else all be ground down by the weight of grief. The energy, bonds and skills of our movement were fortified and magnified to an inspiring scale during the GE: there is much for us to be proud of. Each and every effort was meaningful, heroic, and worthy of celebration.

The task upon us, as always, is collectively formulating how to harness that energy and develop those capacities as we advance forwards. A task very easy to comment on with arrogant ‘gotchas’ and hackneyed aphorisms about community organizing — but much harder to piece together. I, too, am at a loss. We regroup — from our fear and anger at the prospect of further attacks and graver misery in our communities. From the distress at how this country will become an even more evil place. From our demoralization and weariness and guilt that we have fought for so long to little advance.

Our positive vision, that we struggled for many years to assert from a defensive posture of firefighting against vicious austerity measures, might seem in tatters, as if we are back at square one. But we inch along the path, even as we falter, even as it winds upon itself, with a great legacy behind us, pluming and blazing against the torrent of rain. It is that dream of solidarity that orients us in a cracking and dark world, that propels us onwards. The exercise of goodness and kindness, the succour of a just cause, might be our only solace, where there are no guarantees. We must, against cruelty, wage struggle, and find strength in one another. Those ties are our thread through the ruins.

Crestfallen, we rise again. We rebuild together. We will need each other, now more than ever.


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It Matters

I don’t have much in the way of consolation right now. What I do want to do is say how proud I am of each and every one of my comrades for giving their all to this campaign. Those bonds of care, compassion and solidarity will see us through this, just as they have seen us through the past 9 brutal years of austerity.

We have always loved, resisted and inched forward against the most oppressive and adverse of odds. Those bonds, as long as they remain and continue to be forged, open up the possibility of transformation — they are, in no small part, the foundation of that transformation. That’s something to hold on to. That’s what enables us to recover, to regroup — and to fight on. Together, we will always fight on.

In that fight, we discover the best parts of ourselves, of one another. That matters. That struggle for dignity and justice, despite the terrible demoralization of defeat and hardship, always matters. That building of community and connection has a meaning that bitter, fraught nights like this especially illuminate.

What is at stake in this General Election?

Last year, I’d been working a supermarket job since leaving university. It was the kind of drudging work that erodes your spirit and hope, eclipses it under a barrage of petty indignities and degradations. I felt defeated after years of fighting and failing in the anti-austerity movement, dejected after grappling with bouts of mental health crisis that ravaged my own life and that of my close friends, devastated at how communities have been blighted by gentrification and bigotry and ailing services, how the torments of Work Capability Assessments and Universal Credit had wrought such misery, how dislocated and trapped so many of us felt as we struggled through poorer, stressed, lonelier, adrift, stultified lives. I still feel the burden of that, as so many of us do.

The tensions of these social and economic crises — intensified manifold by the shadow of climate catastrophe — loom gravely, and impel us all on, at this juncture of historic opportunity during the General Election. I think we should not gloss over feeling the profound, thwarted grief our society harbours after 9 years of austerity, and many more decades of neo-liberal warfare — nor tame the rage at this loss as it incites us onward. Because I also believe in our collective capacity to change the world, despite everything, despite all that turmoil.

This is why ‘rebuilding Britain’ was such a powerful statement, and encapsulates such an important shift in the narrative: it speaks to the human fortitude to rejuvenate our world, even from ruins, through such collective interventions. It resonates with the story of bolstering one another, uniting together, embracing one another in the wake of loss and adversity, even as grief lures us to retreat, resign ourselves to despair, torture ourselves with guilt and regret. It’s the hardest, most magnificent thing — to elect to hope again. And it’s absolutely necessary.

Because when I think about what’s at stake in this General Election, I’m reminded acutely of both the calamities austerity has inflicted and the gravity and urgency of our demand for a better world. For the woman I met whilst working at Sainsbury’s who had lost her whole family and, because our communities are so shattered, had few other people to confide in but the cashiers. For co-workers who lost their jobs in a vicious bout of contract changes similar to those currently being imposed by Asda, their loyalty of decades rewarded by strong-arming them into compliance or else severing their livelihoods, the calculated brutality of ‘business need’, as if they didn’t matter or count at all.

For friends who’ve suffered through the cruelty of the benefits system, who’ve been stricken by mental health crises only to be failed by decimated services, who’ve been forced from one cold, damp, insecure tenancy to the next whilst restricting their food and heating because they’re locked out of work or balancing multiple zero-hour contracts, friends whom you love dearly and agonize over thought of in their absence, separated by a gulf of forces beyond your control. For people like my mum, wearily undertaking damage control in a debt charity call centre, who got a mere morning off work to attend a colleague’s funeral because he killed himself under the strain of the job.

For every person I’ve stood on picket lines and on demonstrations with, desperately clinging to hope and fighting still, despite demoralization, despite defeat, despite the anguish of all this injustice — bonds stitched through every wound of repression and every bruising setback. Drawn together from the rugged threads of all those struggles, this is our make-or-break chance to finally end austerity, to forge something better out of the wake of all this loss and desolation.

Let’s seize it — because our lives depend on it. Because we don’t have to live in fear like this, struggling anxiously on the brink of the boss and landlord’s mercy from pay check to pay check, the ghosts of those murdered clenching our chests as we trudge for miles past dilapidated working men’s clubs and firetrap tower blocks and shuttered high streets to line up and be punished into destitution by the Job Centre. Aching in the limbo of a future ripped ever further away from us, restless and unable to dream for the sprawling web of pressures tugging at you, constricting you, unravelling you — debt, job rejections, care and workloads you just can’t manage, always just one shock away from losing a home that never even belonged to you, an indifferent message in your UC journal which capsizes you with dread, that haunting insecurity and worthlessness. How joy becomes a mask, something you can hardly remember as the world caves in on you in the arrested break between shifts.

Because there’s something more than this — something that drives us in vast numbers out on to the doorstep to quake the streets in the bitter cold of the night. Something nursed and kindled in our clasped hands as the chill light of dawn filters through fraught waiting rooms. Something that rouses us to the picket lines in snowstorms to defend one another. That we can better our lives together. That there’s a future breaking through like a distant flare, blooming in every one of our actions, here, and now. That maybe, just maybe, we can be brave enough to dream again.

Save Our Homes LS26: The Intimacies of Hope

Earlier this month, a community in Oulton triumphed over their landlord, private investment firm Pemberstone, overturning a planning application to demolish and gentrify their estate. Through the unity and determination of long-term, tight-knit grassroots organizing, the residents themselves lead the fight to save their working class former mining estate homes and defend their community. Their campaign is an example and inspiration to residents struggling against social cleansing across the country, reminding us that people power can still prevail over the dictates of big business.

The Airey estate which the residents of Sugar Hill Close and Wordsworth Drive inhabit is something of an anomaly. So much of the cultural heritage of these homes, built many decades ago by the Coal Board to house miners, has perished in successive bouts of demolition across the country, rendering the Oulton estate one of the few left standing. Rather than melancholically resign themselves to the idea that their estate was a relic of a bygone world, the protesters drew on the power of history as a living force to fuel their campaign. They participated in cultural heritage days, warmly opening up their homes to visitors who came to identify with the estate and the lives, bonds and memories the residents had embedded into its fabric. They linked up with cultural institutions like the Twentieth Century Society, which campaigns for 20th century architecture, enshrining personal attachments to cherished homes within a rich, rare lineage, part of and continually recreating a place greater than themselves through familiar intimacies of hope and struggle, survival and loss, love and loyalty.

They were supported by the National Union of Mineworkers, whose historical clout and collective memory of struggle, however scarred, still has a powerful and vivid legacy in the landscape of deindustrialized regions. This imbued the LS26 campaign with the stalwart spirit of resistance of the miners, some of whom still inhabit the estate, their stories otherwise kept dormant by trauma inherited, reanimated and unlocked more and more in the course of the campaign. Through this it was fortified with a sense of continuity, place and purpose which resonated with and inspired those struggling for their own livelihoods again, its strength rooted in one of the grandest historical forces of the organized working class in Britain.

This was linked in with a broader narrative around class inequality, the housing crisis, and the rapacity of private developers fomenting a culture of ‘managed decline’ — where affordable and social housing is minimally maintained and invested in to cut costs, only to then be ‘regenerated’ after being abandoned to deteriorate for so long, all so developers can profit. With the antagonisms and fractures around housing sharpening everywhere — with council housing at all-time low levels of provision, conditions for tenants ever more squalid and insecure, and landlords everywhere reaping immense wealth and power from such misery — this narrative swayed supporters across generations to their cause, and decided the votes of even complacent councillors who were under renewed pressure to not shirk their traditional labour values nor abdicate their duties and obligations to the working class. In symbiosis with sympathetic socialist councillors emboldened by broader shifts in the Labour Party to fight their corner, it was bottom up, independent campaigning pressure also equipped to leverage the weight of the institutions that held the council’s bureaucracy to account.

Confronting the vicious contempt and facelessness of Pemberstone, and puncturing the mechanistic, detached managerialism of planning law, the names, stories and lives of the residents were always front and centre, staunchly asserting their dignity and humanity and their right to their homes over the whims of the market. Perhaps most importantly, they did not gloss over their vulnerability as they were trapped in the limbo of demolition threats for years, as they grappled with their fear and anger over a community shattered and cast to the lurch of temporary accommodation and council house waiting lists, and as the tireless campaign took its toll on already strained physical and mental health. Through this they forged solidarity in the wake of the landlord’s callousness, banding together to overcome both a common enemy and the despair and weariness of struggle, just as they have in the vicissitudes of their day-to-day lives. In doing so, they proved community is not obsolete, that class is not an anachronism — and that we have a magnificent, enduring power together, bolstering and rousing us through the most grievous adversity to extraordinary triumphs of compassion and resistance, however difficult the fight. It is this urgent, honest story of grief, struggle and solidarity — not the temptation of a curated positivity that stakes out painless, easy victories — that can be a guidepost to wider movements at a low ebb.

Through the throes of stress, anxiety and shock, the tenants united, formed a resident’s association, and began to self-organize, because their livelihoods had become tied to the necessity of struggle. They were ‘self-made’ activists, forced by circumstance to defend their homes or fall prey to eviction by a ruthless landlord to whom their community did not matter — and that is at the root of why their convictions were so iron-clad. Almost every house on the estate was emblazoned with their posters, as they petitioned relentlessly, reached out and fundraised at community festivals, raised their story at community meetings, so embedded as public sector workers and community members in their local area that everyone from Labour CLPs to nearby community centres rallied behind them. The campaign was grounded organically in the surrounding community, activating political consciousness by grappling with the hardships of everyday life, building power from shared material conditions.

And whilst incorporating these traditional, tried-and-true methods — community organizing in all but name — they adapted press and social media savvy strategies, platforming their story in national and local news to shame Pemberstone for their cruelty and mobilizing a direct channel of engagement and public contestation with councillors and Pemberstone’s representatives. They networked with other further flung struggles against gentrification, learning from their experiences, collaborating, and drawing strength from one another’s activity. A broader vision of anti-gentrification and anti-austerity developed from this as they also joined up with groups like Hands Off Our Homes, reckoning with the fact that the injustice they were suffering was not isolated but part of a much wider exploitative system that relegated tenants to second-class citizens, where our living standards have declined and our rights have been undermined due to our lack of collective power.

They marched through the streets of Rothwell and Leeds, galvanizing wider and wider layers of civil society behind their cause. Protesting outside the council planning committees, activist groups and community organizations like Sisters Uncut and ACORN Leeds also lent their solidarity, injecting it with more dynamism, energy and combativity, threading together the forces of new and old. Planning objections were coordinated en-masse across the institutional networks established, councillors pressed and held to account, and an initially deferred decision fraught with equivocation shifted to a unanimous vote against the application through the pressure. By this point Pemberstone’s legitimacy was in tatters, their lies exposed, their reputation disgraced, all their evasion of scrutiny and consequence catching up to them as they crumbled whilst failing to answer even fundamental questions about urgent climate implications in the final planning meeting. The confidence and agency of the residents was emboldened as they fought for themselves and won against all odds, reinforcing their power to oversee decisions about their own communities, homes and lives in counter to the heft of organized money.

Indeed, the pivotal fact was that this community was already organized — not on the basis of abstract political ideas, but on the foundation of bonds of care, kinship and support fostered over many years. People were fighting for neighbours they knew and loved and looked after, to protect homes that are precious to them. This kind of trust is yearned for by many renters of my generation, increasingly estranged and atomized from one another, uprooted year-on-year, that shadow of uncertainty seeping from place to place until it’s all you know, engulfing the future just as it did even more bitterly for the residents of Sugar Hill Close and Wordsworth Drive, worrying when the ground will be ripped out from underneath you, how hope comes untethered as you rattle from sofa to sofa.

But as we celebrated jubilantly outside the Civic Hall after the unexpected decision to overturn the application, the opulent courtyard reverberating with dispirited chants only a few hours before only to be transformed into tears of relief, and cheers of exultation, and embraces between people strangers not long ago — I felt the warmth and pride of community restore my sense of something more, redeem fraught memories of home that tied me so closely to the fate of this estate, assemblages of former lives somehow overlapping with this trajectory of struggle, sacrifices harmonized by chants of solidarity, like this was where I was supposed to be, like this is the reason I’d returned, like the magnitude of history was relieved and revived all at once in the belonging of that moment, as if the story had finally come together.

These homes were saved because the campaign wielded both the robust weight of the institutions and the versatility of social movements, because it insisted on homes for the many not assets for the few through the self-activity of tenants themselves, because of unrelenting courage and solidarity in an expanding mesh of local struggles and movement demands converging around the terrain of housing. But perhaps the most powerful element was the testimonials of the residents, the stories that resonated beyond the ossified rituals of committee meetings, that broke through the screen removing communities and their grievances from decision-makers and developers, that dispelled the crushing spectre of austerity. The LS26 campaign derived its strength from its reflection of a more universal and deeper truth kindling the core of all our struggles, all our dreams of a better world — that hope springs from each other, our care for each other, our defence of each other. The struggle goes on, as it always does, as it must — and the intimacies of hope bear us through.


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Collection of Published Articles

A list of all my published articles so far:

December 3rd One Year On, Warwick Globalist, 3rd December 2015

What Is a Union For?, Novara Media, 1st May 2016

3 Ways We Must Rethink Mental Health in the Workplace, Novara Media, 14th October 2017

5 Reflections on Trans Liberation in Higher Education, Novara Media, 13th November 2017

To Transform the World, the Left Must Look Beyond Elections, Novara Media, 11th September 2018

Why Labour Should Be Bolder on Trans Rights, Novara Media, 23rd October 2018

5 Reasons Feminists in Leeds Are Striking on the 8 March, Novara Media, 7th March 2019

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Reflections from Housing Campaigning

Much to be said on the decision to defer the planning decision over the demolition of the LS26 estate today, which felt like little more than a partial victory – an attempt to kick the issue into the long grass, fob off the residents that have endured so much turmoil, prolonging the limbo they’ve suffered for over 18 months by jamming it in the bureaucratic gears. The foreboding, looming in the shadow of a bulldozer, lingers on, just as the fight does.

A community under siege, that has banded together with such courage and unity amidst that adversity, inheriting a spirit of resistance that is as much an heirloom as the estate itself. Faceless, opaque, byzantine planning rules, democratic processes stacked against communities and in favour of committees and developers and unaccountable planning officers, a culture of contempt towards tenants from landlords and even the council. Deception, the masking of political cruelty under administrative technicality, abdication: opulent committee rooms and impenetrable procedural labyrinths, not meant for oversight from people like us, decisions about the livelihoods of the poor in the clutches of bureaucrats and developers, ‘community issues’ a sideshow to their profits, their rules.

Gentrification, social cleansing, disempowerment; the despair of what seems almost a struggle to claw back the last remnants of a dying world, the rehearsal of age-old battles, the phantoms of austerity Britain. Some Labour Councillors, even, who brand social cleansing ’emotive language’ that distracts from the job they have to do, the rules they are constrained by, who are gracious to landlords demolishing an estate because they haven’t yet served eviction notices – Councillors that really need to learn to grow a spine. Anger, dislocation, demoralization, grief, hope – that, rugged, the fabric of community remains, that there is a power between us they could not factor into their calculations, that they did not count on.

*

I think one of the most heartbreaking things whilst doing this sort of work is seeing tenants scared to be in their own homes because their landlords and agents are such utterly callous bullies. Always feeling on edge, unsafe, tugging at the thread of their history of exploitation and feeling it unravel completely out of control. Not being able to sleep at night whilst they do soundly, prospering from your insecurity, content that they can get away with anything without consequence, never taking responsibility while the burden of it – the suffocating mould, the leaking roofs, the tormenting harassment – chips away at you. No one should have to live like that, and we can only stop it by organizing, together, doing everything in our power to support one another.

*

As of late we’ve been working relentlessly to set up ACORN Leeds from scratch. It’s incredible to see all those efforts finally bearing fruit, making worthwhile the setbacks and obstacles we’re still having to venture through and stumble over. I feel immensely proud to be part of this union, and an even greater gratitude to all those who came before us who established the foundation on which we’re really just building.

Upon receiving our branch t-shirts and flags, I was struck by sensations that were alien to me even when I was in a trade union: empowerment, ownership, purpose, solidarity, triumph. I think it’s the affirmation that comes with doing good, serious work, with feeling like this is what you’re meant to be doing, this is why you’re here. The strain of rebuilding class power is not easy; it will always to an extent be painful facing up to and tirelessly struggling against injustice. But that burden is part of our duty to one another, and it’s a burden we can and must share by creating robust institutions so we’re no longer in a position of retreat. Because, when you realize the strength we have together, it’s inspiring beyond measure too.

*

It’s Leeds Pride today. Just yesterday I was harassed in the street by some guy trying to touch my hair and calling it ‘girly’. I spoke at length on the ACORN stall with an older gay guy who had been persecuted by his neighbours and neglected by the council for decades in his council home, which doesn’t even have central heating or double glazing; forced to sleep for months on his sofa despite chronic back pain, with the majority of his bedroom packed up in boxes after an untended leak flooded through the ceiling and damaged the walls and bed. He was deeply isolated, bedeviled by the sense that his dreams and housing were decaying around him, and suicidal.

I thought about what queerness and queer love is, often still wracked by loneliness and absence and aching, intertwined with oppression. But maybe, also, it can be the love of a union, of a movement, a community, the love of defiance and overcoming. I’ll carry all of that with me in the march today – celebrating, and commemorating.

*

Last weekend I travelled up to Hebden Bridge to meet a disabled tenant and ACORN member who’s been experiencing dire problems with her housing association since she moved in there in the early 2000s. It was a tough and intense day, delving into years of distress accumulated from being treated like an inconvenience, being victimized and discriminated against as a trouble maker for raising grievances, support workers cut despite the daily throes of severe pain she endures from a degenerative spinal condition.

It reminded me how deep the scars in our communities run, in but also much beyond austerity, the difficulty of organizing outside urban centres where people are often isolated, the difficulty, most of all, of finding hope. The shadow of all that suffering weighs on so many of us most days, aches in our bones. But as I struggled in the sweltering heat up punishingly steep hills I noticed anti-fracking signs in the windows of terraced houses, posters for Corbyn and opposing education cuts guideposts to my resolve, raised in unassuming protest amidst the sunlight that reflected from houses linked arm in arm and radiated over the rolling hills.  It was such an idyllic place, verdant with culture and light and life. There are glimmers of beauty and resistance everywhere.

Partings

A quick re-post of something I wrote a year ago after leaving university, that, though the reality of home is always rockier, still resonates today:

I left the West Midlands today. I was struck by an odd myriad of emotions: sadness, joy, wistfulness, nostalgia, unease, relief, love, loss, affection and heartache. Its difficult not to be sentimental in moments like these – and I’m wary of romanticizing the past few years and obviating its difficulties because of that. But regardless I find myself returning to the place I desperately wanted to escape by going to university more content, despite the teary departures. Not the kind of contentment that’s tied to innocence or abstracted from pain, but the kind that’s rooted in feeling blessed to have found a place in wonderful and resilient communities, feeling an overwhelming affection for those I’ve parted with and others I will soon be reunited with up North, feeling a gratitude for the wonderful and warm and rare memories we’ve shared.

Partings are always tough – but what a blessing it is, to have banded together and overcome despite sufferings and trials and hardships, to have loved such inspiring people, to continue to love them, to have even been lucky enough to be loved by them. What a blessing it is, for such joy to depart and yet persevere still, a joy threaded in quiet nights of conversation and film and celebration under fairy lights as much as forged in demonstration and occupation and struggle, peaceful and seismic and ordinary and extraordinary in equal measure. What a blessing it is, to have fought and convalesced and danced and chanted and changed and dreamed and demanded and tried and lost and triumphed and found one another.

Constellations of connections weave toward and in and through moments like these, radiating and reconverging endlessly. Partings are not the end, but to have found one another, to reconcile the story you’ve shared together, to resolve that we will continue to find one another. This, more than anything, then, is a thank you note: the most important thing I learnt at university is that it is connection that paves our lives here. To part with such bittersweet sorrow is a reminder of how important we can be to one another, to part in such a way that it is not a parting at all.

After Pride, Unionize

We recently began establishing a new branch of ACORN in Leeds, a membership-led community and tenants’ union that seeks to build power through direct action against inequality and housing injustice. It’s been both trying and immensely rewarding, reminding me what a left with a sense of direction, strategy and robust structures can concretely achieve in working class communities from which we’ve been too long severed. As an homage to Pride month coming to a close, I thought it worthwhile to figure through why queer tenants are strongly participating in the organizing drives in multiple cities. This is perhaps unsurprising: for all the chauvinism and social conservatism that abides in trade unions, particularly defanged and bureaucratized as many are today, queer and trans workers are disproportionately unionized, not least because, however hollowed out, union representation remains one of the strongest defences against discrimination in-work, especially in instances of unfair dismissal. But we do not just need people to be unionized, we need people to be organizers: militant labour organizers and queer activists creating autonomous institutions have a shared historical understanding that only our self-activity can ensure emancipation.

This is especially significant on the 35 year anniversary of the formation of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, whose fervent support of the miners remains an inspiration to those of us who believe class injustice and LGBTQI+ oppression are fundamentally bound up with one another, that the indignities inflicted upon us share a similar source, and that only collective power can defeat and supplant a system that has division, bigotry and exploitation at its core. Their legacy, our heritage, is a watchword that can sometimes seem distant, both for the political pacifications of neo-liberalism and the seething prejudice that continues to resurge: solidarity. That our destinies are intertwined, that divisions between us can be overcome through struggle, that a challenge against any one oppression bears with it a duty and commitment to the cessation of all oppression.

In short, that the power we have to transform society derives from the leverage we have as workers, as tenants, as communities to directly shut down and repurpose the infrastructures of production and reproduction. That mass social and labour movements, whether Act Up groups blockading the FDA building to demand the adequate provision of AIDS medication or miners engaging in mass pickets outside coal mines, have much more in common than we might imagine, fighting for livelihood as much as dignity, bread as well as roses, often in the very same historical periods where states and corporations were besieging both working class and queer communities. That the organized working class, and agitations for a politics of liberation within it, has been a key driver in civil rights movements the world over, and precipitated many of the advances in rights and protections – such as Equal Pay legislation deriving from the Ford Dagenham strikes – that seem under renewed threat today.  That the fabric of our world, that can so often seem to be fraying under the ravages of neo-liberalism, climate change, and the far-right, was formed by the vision of unity and solidarity these movements, at their best, shared – a mantle we must now extend in our struggle over the future.

Indeed, it is in realms like struggles over housing that I believe we can fruitfully develop common cause to combat both material exploitation and social oppression.  It is in such arenas that discrimination and inequity converge to manifest in acute forms of dispossession, as exemplified by those who are homeless being disproportionately LGBTQI+. We know what the trauma of losing a home is like. Housing as a terrain is uniquely disposed towards community forming, because it is where we share living conditions, intimacy and care, but it is also where misogyny and queerphobia are systematically brought to bear through abuse, exclusion and violence.  As such, it is a site of contradiction where alternatives are most needed: where we might both organize with those who have been dispossessed to demand public housing provision and proactively intervene by bolstering communities so people are less vulnerable to such oppression.

Indeed, it is also a site where we are increasingly atomized and isolated, whether through cuts to disability benefits, cycles of rental house shares with strangers, or blighted community and support services. And though the influence of the patriarchal nuclear family unit is waning, the power relations it mystifies still have a hold: property ownership, the guarantor of resource distribution in capitalist society, increasingly out of reach for young, precarious workers whose families might be at odds with our sexuality or gender identity.  Disowning conspires with displacement by gentrification and avaricious landlordism to broker a raw deal for a generation that is queerer and poorer than their parents. This, alongside the dynamics of insecure work, perhaps goes a great way to explaining the trajectories that are resulting in more young people conceiving of their lives in terms of class, despite the long decline in trade unionism: a whole industry of agents and landlords, and increasingly universities themselves, engineering themselves specifically to fleece and capitalize upon an ever swelling, unhinged, predatory rental market. Exorbitant, spiralling rent for collapsing roofs, black mould and faulty electrics: ever deteriorating living conditions to further line the pockets of those who control our lives simply by virtue of being rich enough to afford a property outright.  Suffering and insecurity for the workers, profit for the bosses: housing and work are two pillars of the same dismal fortress of inequality.

Because, of course, the conflict is not just internal, other tenants or our families that might be hostile towards us so as to diminish our power and resources, but also overriding, a class conflict between tenants and landlords. An antagonism that probably is the most clear-cut, the most egregious, the most acute, younger people encounter on a daily basis, as they are harassed and bullied by tyrants who ratchet up the rent year-on-year with impunity, revenge evict them if they complain about health and safety, and sell the house out from underneath them when it’s decided speculation is more profitable than leaching away half of someone’s wages so they can access shelter.  The reservoir of indignation is profound, because the degradation is: entrenched by decades of policy of housing deregulation, fire-sale of public housing and rampant speculation by landlords, property developers, investment firms – and the same building companies that are spearheading precarious contracts and turfing undocumented workers into the Home Office after hyper-exploiting their labour. A vicious cycle, a poisonous web, the very same profiteering whose fallout haunts us from the financial crisis, willingly abetted by the powerful in Westminster who reap the spoils and benefit from the turmoil.

Because it’s not just younger people: long-standing working class communities have been and are being socially cleansed, as epitomized in the ongoing struggle of the Save Our Homes LS26 campaign to stop the demolition of their former mining estate right here in Leeds, just around the corner from where I used to go to high school, parents of peers who they probably rarely see now, who I wish I’d known better, who I can’t help but think of still. It will often be public sector workers inhabiting these estates, who already bear the experiences, memories, and scars of class struggle, who have endured the brunt of the bloodied impacts of austerity policies, and remain some of the most densely unionized workers that we must unite with.  The ‘managed decline’ of social housing, where working class estates are left to crumble into disrepair to rationalize their eventual sell-off, the institutional indifference and facelessness of ever more commercialized housing associations, the toothless enforcement mechanisms and negligence of local councils: older working class tenants are subject to appalling profiteering and contempt, often from the same ‘public’ bodies that were supposed to protect them.  With more and more shafted into the private rented sector, we have common foes and interests; though neo-liberalism has eroded public housing provision and local government, councils are often accomplices to property developers, and should not be absolved of their own political weakness in addressing the housing crisis. We must stand up for ourselves, hold them to account for their abdication, by developing our own collective power.

In and after Pride, we must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with these struggles, reach out and form alliances across communities, embed ourselves in the kinds of organization with the potential to win back class power and upend this rapacious social order. Just as LGSM fought alongside the miners then, we must stand with the residents of Sugar Hill Close and Wordsworth Drive now: what more apt way could there be to inherit and honour that noble history of solidarity than opposing the threat of eviction against one of the last enduring mining estates? It is in our power to continue that story, not just to preserve it as a relic but to reclaim and take it up and advance it as we too become authors in the persistent struggle for emancipation. In the process, the legacies of institutions of queer life flourishing outside the bounds of capital and the state, the furtive solidarity underpinning queer shelters and the expansion beyond family structures as the sole basis for community, the rage and defiance inflamed by dispossession, could be instrumental in deepening class struggle.

While we nurse the vitriol burning from the wounds of bigotry and hatred, we cannot resign ourselves to the bitterness of lonely refuge, to insular competition for absolution.  Our salve is compassion for the forsaken, for each other. That is the fount of our pride: to affirm and discover one another, to love anew, to resist, through even the most desperate grief, for that chance to love. More deeply, more passionately, and more freely than we might ever have imagined.  United on the picket lines, in the streets, in our homes: rejoicing together in the yearnings of dignity and hope, the spirit of a drag queen pummelling a cop with her heels at Stonewall and the fortitude of the miners at Orgreave defending themselves from police alike blazing in our chorus of commemoration.

Pride is finding somewhere to belong. A home.


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