Sunday, August 31, 2014
Are we history?
Those of us who've been waiting for mainstream popular cinema to deal with the miners' strike in a way which is a bit more "Made in Dagenham" than "Billy Elliot" appear to be about to get our wish with the forthcoming release of "Pride".
I look forward to a good evening out - but (like most activists "of a certain age") I'm sure I'll look back as well. The defeat of the miners has shaped a generation in this country as part of the global retreat of the working class movement associated with the fall of the wall and the emergence of a unipolar world in which capitalism faces no global challenge (unless you count mediaeval religious fanaticism with guns).
I'm sure I'm not the only ageing activist who often feels myself a 1980s lefty mysteriously adrift in an unwelcoming twenty-first century. Indeed, it seems we have to fight over again many of the battles we thought won then.
It's not just the anti-feminism (shading into misogyny) that expresses itself in political parties from the Liberal Democrats to the Socialist Workers - only in the last week, I have encountered attitudes to racism from employers (and elsewhere) which we were confronting thirty years ago. The movement we have to take on reaction is weaker now than then, with half as many trade unionists and far lower union density.
A film about the very important work of "Lesbians and Gays support the Miners" is bound to set us thinking about all these issues. Have the politics of those of us socialists who consider ourselves Marxists become a historical curiosity? Are we simply history, to entertain progressive cinema audiences and fill the review pages of liberal newspapers?
We are history - but not in that negative, defeatist sense.
History isn't simply the past - it is the past moving into the future (and we study it not simply for entertainment but to understand our world in order to change it).
The vision of a better world, shared by many of those active around the Miners' Strike, has been - and is - shared by millions since. The values of solidarity and equality deserve a completely pig-headed defence in a time of individualism and faux-meritocracy (as the elite entrench their power and encourage division amongst our class).
Our movement has been moving for centuries - and often across harsher terrain than that of the early twenty-first century. There are always new activists joining our ranks and - though sometimes there are fewer young socialists than at others - we move forward again after every setback and every defeat.
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.