On owning your history

People who have known me for a while, who have read this blog, or have followed me on twitter will know that I’ve not always been the intersectional anarcha-feminist I try to be these days. I used to be, especially a couple of years ago, an apologist for the forces of austerity. And while I could go down the route of some campaigners on the Left, pretend I never said that, pretend I was born on a mountain with a double rainbow in the sky when the angels sang my heralds, it’d be duplicitive and untrue. I’m human, and I’m flawed. And I think it would be much more honest to own my history as an activist.

My leftward direction over the last year or two has been noticeable, but not surprising. I’ve always seen myself as someone who opposes centralised power and prefers more personal democracy. It’s why, as a budding eighteen year old, in the context of the Terrorism Act and control orders and 42-day detention, I joined the Liberal Democrats. I was dissatisified that, both here and in the United States, racism and xenophobia was being used to justify surrendering freedoms to the security state. And really, I still am dissatisified with the current government, and very concerned.

Conversely, I appreciated the Lib Dems’ record on LGBT equality more than anything; while Labour were still drinking the S’onewall kool-aid of civil partnership being the end goal, the Lib Dems were trying to save gay asylum seekers from being returned to the execution chamber, talking of proper transgender empowerment, talking of marriage equality, things that the Labour Party opposed because it didn’t have the backbone. It was a place I could, and comfortably for a while, call home.

It’s noticeable in that, as I transitioned from a man with straight and cis privilege to a woman with neither, that I’ve been cognizant of oppressive forces in everyday life, and how economic forces work to perpetuate them. In a way, my shift in politics has been on an economic scale. I’m not nearly as supportive of capitalism as I was; indeed, I do see it as an oppressive force. But, as an intersectionalist, I’m not going to claim that the end of capitalism would mean the end of oppression. Indeed, that’s a fallacy, and as recent sexual abuse and rape scandals on the Left have proved, is complete bullshit.

I still retain my Liberal Democrat membership, though I’m not as enthusiastic as I once was. When it came to renewing my membership earlier this year, I was struck with that dilemma rather hard. It could be seen as tacit support of the austerity regime of neoliberal politics. But at the same time, is reducing the coffers in Great George Street by £6 going to improve life for the better? That dilemma is probably shared by the Labour Party members on the Left, the Owen Joneses, many people in the Student Left, who hold their memberships for various reasons, maybe for the same as mine, or maybe in hope that the Labour Party can be reformed.

And indeed, there isn’t any political party I would feel comfortable with joining now. If it wasn’t for my current membership, I would never have joined the Lib Dems now. I’d rather claw my eyes out than join the Tories. The Left is wracked with sexism, and the Labour Party of transphobia. And while the last two are being worked on, Labour is just as complicit in the neoliberal consensus as the Tories and the Lib Dems. And the Greens, as well intentioned as they are, are stooped in idealism in places to the point where, even now, they’d need a few councils and MPs to realise some realities.

But the problem is that it will be a long time until we can all undertake the revolution in our minds and the revolution in our streets. I don’t think a revolution of any meaningful value could take place in this government, or the next, or the one after? How could it? The state’s propaganda arm in the Sun, the Daily Mail, and even on the BBC at times, is pervasive. And it’s going to take a lot of work to dismantle that apparatus. We’re not going to win a revolution while reactionaries control the apparatus, and really, vanguardism is going to fail if we pretend we can, and be replaced by reactionaries in revolutionary clothing (see: the rise of fascism in the guise of the BNP or UKIP). A revolution of any means must involved an awakened oppressed, or it will collapse in theory without taking into account the people the revolution seeks to empower.

So with the system being stuck as it is, definitely for the near future, I don’t think it’s wrong to demand what can be squeezed from the powers that be while still keeping our eyes on something broader. As a trans person, I need my estrogen right now more than I need revolution. As a woman, I need to be able to face my attackers more than I need a commune. As a lesbian, I need to be safe from homophobic attack on the streets more than I need talking shop after talking shop of white middle class cis men floating ideas for more talking shops. As an activist, I need GCHQ to get away from my data rather than fleeing to leave others at their mercy. And so on.

I apologise if my previous posts have been used by people to defend a cause that isn’t really righteous. I really am sorry. But I’m not going to pretend it never happened, because maturity can not be served by refusing to admit to your mistakes. And it’s always the right time to be realistic and demand the impossible.

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