United Queerdom Dan Glass Zed Books, £12.99
Dan Glass’ United Queerdom: From the Legends of the Gay Liberation Front to the Queers of Tomorrow is partly an autobiography, partly programmes for change and partly a diary of the current queer movement and its activities and theories he experienced. The Gay Liberation Front (GLF) arrived in the UK in 1970 from America full of the ideas of the time. It was street politics and a whole mish-mash of ideas learnt from the black movement, particularly the Black Panthers, the civil rights movement and the women movements. But GLF came to Britain at a time of a high level of class struggle, mass strikes and huge working class movement; all very different from today. But it meant that everyone, including GLF and the gay movement that it spawned, could see that if you wanted a revolution then the working class was a force that could get you one.
The gay movement attempted to be non hierarchical. This sounds very nice and democratic but in reality this could mean that those who could talk longest and loudest when discussing ideas or actions got their way by wearing others down. This was later dubbed as the tyranny of structurelessness, and was one of the reasons why the groups and movements often fell apart. The movement that wanted to smash capitalism ended up providing the base for the launch of the pink economy and the further expansion of capitalism into all areas of life. On the 50th anniversary of the GLF, however, the movement has been relaunched, and this book is the story of that relaunched movement. Its spirit is summed up thus: “For those of us who can’t help but be activists, activism changes them as people. It makes friendships, it creates lovers and it changes the outside world because activism has changed us.”
As to how the world is to be changed: “Humans are beings of praxis. Praxis involves strengthening a culture of dialogue where those at the peripheries can search for and find sooner the lighthouse that will guide them to safety ahead. The point is to start the change that stops manufacturing inequality. This will change these cycles of violence from repeating themselves in the form of cooption of Pride, and throughout austerity Britain today.” History is a disputed area but this relaunch of the heady breathless spirit of the GLF for the 21st century seems to have remembered the fun bits, the street actions and so on, but overlooked the weaknesses.
It would seem that disillusion with the official Prides, the corporate takeover and commercialisation of LGBT+, and increasing inequality has spawned this relaunch of a radical activist queer movement which is far to the left of queer theory. It is to be welcomed, but it retains the same issues and contradictions that it had first time round, while the world it is reborn into is grimmer. But it’s a hundred times better than the stilted world of the academy where so much of LGBT+ ideas have been discussed of late.