The 2014 British film Pride tells the true story of a gay and lesbian group who helped a village of striking mineworkers in Wales during the 1984 miners’ strike. It is an uplifting movie about what can be accomplished when oppressed groups of people work together. It’s also a refreshing look at what activism is supposed to be—it is the hard work of raising money and raising morale and working with people to accomplish goals together. It’s about overcoming obstacles, getting to know people who are different from you and fighting for the greater good. Everyone needs this reminder about what solidarity looks like between groups who are both fighting their oppression. This film is timely in an era where the Left is completely watered-down and devoid of actual socialism and where gay liberation has turned into a movement to fit gays into the straight world without changing it. If you are into gay and lesbian liberation or if you are still a card-carrying Commie then this film will be your dream come true.
In 1984 Margaret Thatcher was in power and an intensive campaign of union-busting was underway. The government went so far as to prevent the miners from accessing their strike pay in an attempt to starve them back to work. A group of activists founded Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners and raised thousands of dollars to keep the miners fed while they were striking. They went directly to a small mining village to bring their cash donations because the main branch of the union didn’t want to work with a gay group. They did the hard work of standing in the street holding buckets and begging for donations, they talked to people about the importance of helping striking workers, and they slept on floors in strangers’ homes while on the road. They raised the morale of the mineworkers and helped make it possible for them to stand up to the right-wing government and to fight for the working class. As for the mineworkers, many of them had never met a gay person before and they were faced with working in solidarity with a group of proud and political gays and lesbians. They had an opportunity to meet real gay people, to ask about rumors they’d heard about us and to eliminate their negative misconceptions. By the end of the film, the solidarity is rock solid between the two groups. When several busloads of mineworkers show up to the 1985 gay pride parade in London, to return the favor and show their support for gay rights, it’s a triumphant and stunning moment that makes me weep with joy every time I watch it. Even though the miners eventually lose the strike, something has been created that the right-wing government can never take away. The exhilarating feeling of knowing that other people support you no matter what and are standing beside you through the struggle is what keeps us going even today in the face of austerity and unregulated capitalism.
What passes for activism today is an absolute disgrace compared to the activism in this film. Nowadays activism largely consists of posting messages on social media that attempt to bully and shame others for having “phobic” viewpoints about certain groups even though the commenters would never go out of their way to actually help the group they’re arguing over. It’s armchair activism and not only does it not help people with their real-life needs, it has the idea of activism completely backwards. Activism is not the process of going on witch hunts and tearing people down for saying the wrong things, it is identifying people who need help and taking concrete steps to help them. Most of the idiots who cry “TERF” at women on Twitter would never go out into the street with a bucket and beg for donations to help trans people. And the idiots who cry “whorephobic” at abolitionists aren’t out there raising funds for women in the sex trade either. The people who are no-platforming feminists are simply shutting down conversations but not actually doing anything to build dialogue with people of differing viewpoints. They are not looking for a consensus or even a compromise, they only want to bully, silence, and shame people in the name of “fighting oppression.” The Left have turned into a group of neo-liberals who argue over the best way to vote strategically for the least offensive bourgeois political party thinking that they’re progressive. But why so much fuss over electoral politics? Get out into the community and actually help working class people. Don’t wait for the government to do it. Do it yourself. Raise money, volunteer, raise solidarity among groups. Fight the power together. Make any government that is in power care about the needs of workers and oppressed groups. And look for ways to resist capitalism in your community and put them into place without waiting for the corporate-sponsored government to do it for you. They never will. You have to do it yourself.
The only disappointment in this film is the lack of portrayal of women’s issues. It turns out the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners was a male-dominated group where the women didn’t feel heard. Big surprise! No matter how awesome men are with their pro-gay and left-wing politics they always seem to shit on women. A separate woman-only group was formed called Lesbians Against Pit Closures who raised money for the mineworkers separately to give the women an opportunity for woman-centered activism. This is barely mentioned in the film. All we see in the film is one woman stating that she is forming a woman-only group and that she is a feminist. At that point a joke is made about not talking during the bingo game and that’s all we get to hear about that. I long to know more about what it was like for the lesbians in that group, why they decided to form a women-only group and what they did and learned within their separate space. One of the highlights of the film is the portrayal of the benefit concert by the main group, called Pits and Perverts. According to Wikipedia, the lesbian-only group put on benefit concerts too, but theirs are not portrayed in the film. This is erasure of lesbian-feminist history.
I highly recommend this film for all progressives, to show us what the work of fighting oppression is supposed to look like. To remind us that activism is not writing hilarious one-liners taking people down on Twitter, it is unglamorous hard work to provide oppressed groups with what they need to get by in their day-to-day lives. To remind us that different groups need to reach out to each other and try to understand each other and show each other teamwork and love. And while we’re at it, let’s show solidarity to the world’s largest group of oppressed people: women. Let’s use our knowledge of solidarity and teamwork and apply that to the rights of women and girls, who still get bullied and erased within every so-called “progressive” group. Left-wing politics are not progressive if they only advance the rights of the male working class, and gay rights are not progressive if they only advance the rights of male gays. If you are fighting oppression by calling women nasty slurs and bullying us, you’re doing it wrong. Reach out and help other groups, no matter what. We all live on one planet and if we don’t work together we will destroy everything. Watching the film Pride will get you inspired and energized to get back on track with the type of activism we so desperately need. Although the film isn’t perfect, it’s pretty darn close.