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.