Over the Rainbow

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(416)

A crowdfunding campaign has allowed Nicola Field to republish her 1995 book with a new introductory chapter. The book makes a welcome reappearance.

Field, an original member of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM), decided the book deserved a new airing following the huge success of the film Pride (2014) which tells the story of the group.

The author explains in a new introduction that the account in Over the Rainbow (OTR) is the first in-print version of the story of LGSM.

As an active socialist in the early 1990s, the period that this book deals with, she wanted to take up key debates in the wider LGBT+ movement of the time.

Essentially her task was to fight for unity and to argue against post-modernist and post-Marxist conceptions of where the power to fight for sexual liberation can come from.

Some may ask why they should read a polemical piece of writing located so firmly in a particular time frame, now over two decades ago.

Firstly, the book is very useful from a historical point of view. Much has changed and much has stayed the same. The Tories’ insistence on “family values” was as alive and well in the 90s as it is today.

The debates that Nicola takes up over separatist ideas and forms of activism, put forward by people such as Peter Tatchell, remain relevant and are interesting to read even if they aren’t put in the same way or by the same people. One of Nicola’s skills in the book is to generalise and link up arguments in a way that stridently advances her case.

The chapter which involves interviews with LGBT+ business people and their profit-hungry motives is fascinating and makes the point about “the pink pound” well.

Field reiterates throughout the book that LGBT+ oppression is rooted in capitalist society and the bourgeois conception of the family, and that any challenge to LGBT+phobia must challenge that very system.

The chapter on the role of the police is also well written. In the early 1990s the police were keen to be seen to be liaising with the LGBT+ community but were simultaneously involved in continual harassment through arrests and raids on LGBT+ people.

Chapter nine deals with “Bisexuality”, and while these debates are not as forthright as they were when OTR was first written, Nicola brings clarity to them, particularly on the problems of labelling sexuality, still highly pertinent.

By far the best chapter is the one on class struggle which documents LGSM. There are a number of complementary stories involving groups of workers which are every bit as useful to socialists and activists too.

It is completely impossible in 1995 that Nicola could have predicted that the story of LGSM would become a hit film of international acclaim. It’s a wonderful thing that it has been popularised in this way.

She explains that as the brilliant film emerged there was a battle for the soul of the newly reformed (and now disbanded) LGSM — for her it was vital that it couldn’t just be a nostalgia trip; it had to lead people to activism. The story told here of the battle for the shape of the 2015 London Pride is just one important example.

Hopefully the success of Pride will help OTR to reach a new audience. Perhaps more importantly, a new generation of activists, excited by the prospects of solidarity and change raised in the film, can engage with this important Marxist contribution to the struggle for sexual liberation and socialism, and use it as a guide to action.