When I was growing up, I remember being really confused about why some people had loads and other people didn’t.
It seemed really unfair that I was well fed, clothed and schooled while other children didn’t go to school, or had to work, or went to bed hungry.
I grew up in a really middle-class environment, and a lot of what some people said made me angry. When I was about eight, I said that people should be made to give up their wealth. Some adults would just scoff, or laugh at me, or say I would change my mind as I got older. I may only be twenty-five — but I haven’t yet changed my mind about believing that people who have loads should pay up.
As a child, my views weren’t all progressive. I was led to believe that I was cleverer than other people and that, because my grandparents had done so, it was possible for all working-class people in Britain to become middle-class if they wanted to. This led to some deeply awkward conversations with poorer people at my church. I knew that what I’d said in these conversations was wrong, but I didn’t know how to reconcile what I’d been told with the reality of people’s lives.
As a teenager, I expressed my feelings of dissatisfaction at inequality in the world by raising money for aid and development charities. When I was 18, I went off to work for Christian Aid for a year (I was semi-religious until I went to university).
While I was working for Christian Aid, I lived with an Anglican theologian called Helen. She’s a massive feminist and a socialist, a very posh and wonderful woman to whom I still feel indebted for looking after me and making me a better person. She and our next door neighbour Natalie helped me to start embracing being queer, a feminist and left-wing. We spent hours in the evenings smoking cigars, eating elaborate meals and talking down bigots.
When I got to university, I immersed myself in the LGBT society. I was more and more confident in being bisexual despite my evangelical Christian background. I was studying Sociology and Politics at a posh university. In my first year tutorials, rich young men openly laughed at me for being a feminist and a socialist. I was vaguely involved in the Labour Club, the Trades Unions Society and quite heavily involved in the Feminist Society. Through the Feminist Society, I met anarchist-feminists and socialist-feminists.
I didn’t seriously consider revolutionary politics until my third year. Like many other people around my age, a lot changed for me as a result of the student protests in 2010. The anti-fees movement felt like it had real momentum, and we came close to winning. Although there were and are many faults with the student movement, it showed me how people can work together to do “what is necessary”. It showed me the power of collective organisation, and that we could run stuff ourselves, without bosses!
I have an instinctively anti-authoritarian politics and was around a lot of anarchist communists. Although I have a lot of respect for proper anarchist communists, I never quite became one as I didn’t and don’t understand their “plan” for achieving a communist society.
By this time my politics were much clearer and harder. I’d seen my comrades getting beaten up by cops and had seen the way police exist to protect the state and ruling class interests.
I’d had fights with the university management. I’d had crap jobs and understood the role of the bosses and had some idea of the importance of the wage relation. I knew that rich women had nothing in common with me and that their interests differed fundamentally from mine. I’d read the Communist Manifesto and thought I was a Marxist. But there was a lot still to work out.
In my fourth year I came across the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts and started going to their events. This is how I came across Workers’ Liberty. I hated being an undergraduate for various reasons, and my mind was ravaged by depression. I was scared of reading things and of disagreeing with the small circle of lefties at Edinburgh University. But I found that as I became more educated, my politics became sharper and clearer.
The first person who’d ever asked me what I thought, and waited for an answer, was a Workers’ Liberty organiser. He didn’t second-guess what I thought, or presume what I thought, he just asked me for a straightforward answer. I had never come across anything like that before. He also challenged me, in a comradely way, when I said things that were lazy, wrong or poorly thought-through. The way he and a few others in NCAFC approached politics impressed me a lot. I was looking for real ways to change the world, and so were they.
Through discussion and reading, I started to become convinced of the politics and the importance of the programme of Workers’ Liberty, but I definitely joined too early. I don’t think that when I first joined I had a clear idea of the purpose of my being in the group or what it would achieve. I thought, “I broadly agree with this group of people so I should join”. I drifted away and left because I found the heated internal discussions about religion and race very disorienting, and no longer knew what to think about the group. It didn’t help that I was working very long hours and was extremely exhausted. If I’d had a better understanding of my reason for being in the group, I wouldn’t have left.
I very recently re-joined the AWL after a series of discussions, and after having done a lot reading and thinking. I came back because I think the AWL advocates an essential set of politics: containing the kind of ideas that would make a workers’ revolution successful and sustained. This tradition needs to continue and people need to take these ideas on. I want to be trained to be a more effective revolutionary, and we need others to do the same.
A workers’ revolution in Britain is a distant prospect — but we have to take advantage of flashpoints of struggle and exploit the bosses’ weaknesses wherever we can. As far as I’m concerned, there’s a huge amount of work to be done in order to prepare ourselves for class war.
If you’re reading this article and thinking about how it might apply to you, or that you agree with some of what the AWL says, I urge you to come to our events, to begin discussions with a comrade and to start reading and to educate yourself more about Marxism.
Human liberation from exploitation and oppression rests upon the abolition of capitalism and class divisions, and building a socialist society in its place. It is too important for us to leave to chance. The work starts here and now.