Putting the politics back in Pride?

Back at the start of June, I wrote a piece looking at the contradictions of Pride events. We’re now about halfway through Pride season, and we’ve now seen at least two attempts to try and challenge Pride’s (lack of) direction – in Bristol, the EDL have announced plans to visit on the same day as pride, prompting the formation of an Anti-Racist and Proud bloc in the Pride parade, and a statement challenging various problems with London Pride has also been circulated – although, as Stavvers points out, the statement isn’t really that challenging, having been deliberately written to avoid offending anyone.
Looking at corporate-friendly, depoliticised Pride events, smothered with Smirnoff logos, the idea that anarchists should be seriously fussed about what goes on there might seem as strange as… well, wanting to intervene at any other event headlined by Boy George and Gok Wan. But it’s still an event born out of a militant struggle against oppression, a festival that started as a celebration of a riot. We shouldn’t just let that spirit slip away.
At the moment, Pride is a two-faced, contradictory event: it’s a protest and a Smirnoff advert at the same time. This means we need to try to break it apart, to heighten the contradictions and internal divisions until it comes apart. But we also need to try and take as many people with us as possible when the break comes: just announcing that we’re boycotting Pride in favour of our own anarcho-queer event might mean we get to have a nice time with people we already know, and hopefully the music’d be a bit less shit, but it’d mean pretty much nothing to anyone outside the tiny activist bubble. Just alienating as many Pride attendees as possible, and giving the space over for the corporate sponsors and reformist politicians to enjoy uncontested, isn’t something to aim for.
In this respect, while EDL protests are definitely a bad thing in general, the EDL visit to Bristol might actually prove to be a good thing for Bristol Pride (EDIT: As a commenter below has pointed out, this is a bit of a shitty, cynical thing to say, sorry about that): it enables lines to be clearly drawn, and while Smirnoff and the like might feel comfortable sponsoring Pride festivals, they’re not yet willing to slap their brand all over anti-racist protests, especially those that might involve militant street confrontation. At the same time, opposition to far-right thugs is an issue that’s broad and uncontroversial enough to appeal to even the vaguest wishy-washy, pro-”tolerance” liberals, so the Anti-Racist and Proud bloc might manage to draw in more people than just the usual suspects.
For people in those cities where Pride’s not yet happened, and where there isn’t a handy far-right march to help draw lines in the sand, it might be a good idea to try to draw people together around something sharper and more pointed than the mainstream Pride event. At the moment, and following on from my thoughts about trying to organise around our lives, not our ideologies, I think the best way of doing that might be to organise “Skint and queer” or “Broke and proud” events. It’s not that helpful to lay down an exact blueprint of what they should look like, because conditions vary from area to area, but where there’s a parade, it’s probably worth forming a bloc on it, and whether or not there’s a parade, you can still organise a picnic or a clubnight or something – whatever it is, it should hopefully be something fun, to show that we’re not just killjoys who object to people having a party on principle, but still recognisably antagonistic and spiky. I think “skint and queer”* is a pretty good starting point: it’s a message that’s broad enough to appeal to a lot more people than just libertarian communists, but it’s still a challenge to Pride’s commercialism. Ultimately, it’s a statement of our class position, which I think is probably the best way to start out when making the argument for a radical, militant, controversial Pride and against £90 platinum passes.
Say it loud: We’re broke and we’re proud!

* obviously, you should phrase it differently if there’s a local word that makes more sense, or just if you think no-one says “skint” anymore.

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About nothingiseverlost

"The impulse to fight against work and management is immediately collective. As we fight against the conditions of our own lives, we see that other people are doing the same. To get anywhere we have to fight side by side. We begin to break down the divisions between us and prejudices, hierarchies, and nationalisms begin to be undermined. As we build trust and solidarity, we grow more daring and combative. More becomes possible. We get more organized, more confident, more disruptive and more powerful."
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3 Responses to Putting the politics back in Pride?

  1. Chico Carino says:

    I attended the anti-racist and proud block at bristol pride, and I do think that the bloc effectively reached out to a broader groups than the usual anarcha/o-queer bubble. I think that there is great value in doing work to maintain connection with spaces such as pride. To raise political consciousness, and attempt to define such events in a way that highlights the political history of these events to re-politicize them for the present. However I object to some of the language used in this article: “For people in those cities where Pride’s not yet happened, and where there isn’t a handy far-right march to help draw lines in the sand”. Presenting the EDL marching on the same day as pride as convenient, or in someway helpful way for anarchist queers to make a point, or win some kind of political victory, is something I find offensive. It Ignores the real threat that the EDL present, and uses positioning against them to further a political end other than simply challenging their Islamophobia and racism. It misses the point that we did not want the EDL in our city, that we had to organize because the EDL are a real treat. You say “while EDL protests are definitely a bad thing in general, the EDL visit to Bristol might actually prove to be a good thing for Bristol Pride” really?? The grassroots organizing by a group of anti-racist queers might actually prove to be a good thing for Bristol pride. Of course the EDL protests were not a good thing for bristol pride, if proactive anti-racist activism hadn’t taken place the EDL LGBT devision might have tried to visit pride, as a way to try and recruit, and spread hateful misinformation. In a press release prior to the day the EDL claimed to ” extend hands of friendship to the LGBT community”. it was necessary to counter this co-opting of LGBT rights for a racist agenda. However the fact that the EDL were in Bristol on that day lead to a greater police presence at pride, as well as the EDL hanging around in pubs in the evening, and generally being in the city, which meant that parts of Bristol weren’t safe, or certainly wouldn’t feel safe to many people. White anti-racists who have the privilege to chose whether they come into conflict with the EDL should be aware of this privilege, even if I agree that they should use it in confronting groups like the EDL. The focus of the importance of challenging racism should remain in the ways your actions actually challenge racism, not in the ways that it might gain political support for an ideological position.

    I think that the idea of skint and proud blocs is a fine one, and I welcome many kinds of queer activism, but even without the EDL turning up I believe that there is a value in anti-racist activism at pride marches. We need to develop challenges to racism that don’t just acknowledge its existence in the scariest far right manifestations, but also work to challenge it within our own communities. that includes the radical queer community, as well as the wider LGBT community.

    • You’re right, that was a lazy and cynical way of putting it. Sorry for that – I’ve now edited the article to acknowledge your objection. I do think that it’s better for Pride events to be clear shows of opposition to prejudice than to just be big parties that pretend everything’s fine, but I admit that I made that point in a really unhelpful way. Also, good work for being part of the bloc, it does sound really worthwhile.

      By the way, I think this: “even without the EDL turning up I believe that there is a value in anti-racist activism at pride marches. We need to develop challenges to racism that don’t just acknowledge its existence in the scariest far right manifestations, but also work to challenge it within our own communities. that includes the radical queer community, as well as the wider LGBT community” – is a really important point. I think in activist circles, there’s a kind of tendency to equate racism with the EDL, or with the EDL + BNP + Infidels, and which I think is at least partly because of the fact the EDL are basically racist activists, so they express their racism in a way that’s easy for us to recognise and make a priority, which I think can then lead to us over-estimating the importance of the few thousand bigots who make up the organised far right, and neglecting other, less spectacular forms of racism. But that’s a whole other conversation, which probably deserves a post of its own. Anyway, thanks for your contribution.

  2. Pingback: Action against Atos, and other late August adventures. | Cautiously pessimistic

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