Pratiki dreams and delusions; a life of socialist feminist activism and surviving the Socialist Party of England and Wales (SPEW) – an extract

The nocturnal hour of da 6th of November, remembDear readers, I’m currently working on two long-term writing projects but as of yet I’ve been rather reticient about (self) publishing, mainly due to a lack of self-belief. That, however, my friends is changing; recent challenges defending women’s sex-based rights have tested me to limits I didn’t even know I could have reached, yet here I am still breathing, still believing, but now even more resolved that I will tell my stories and my truths with my integrity and sincerity intact.

Call me a witch if you will (thankfully females are no longer actually burnt at the stake), misunderstand me, libel me, denounce me for all the things that I am not, but be assured that one thing I am not is a coward, far from it. To quote Mr Richey Edwards (but without the self-harm) I am 4REAL.

So…… without further ado, here is an exclusive introduction to my long promised memoir (for my fiction, you will just have to wait a little longer). It is no literary kiss ‘n’ tell, just my version of that nebulous and highly contested concept otherwise known as ‘the truth’.

As soon as I first identified as a feminist there was trouble. Back then in the early 1990s I was a teenager who could barely see beyond my own Valley but now it’s the same shit but worse, as folks do say.

Nevertheless finding feminism gave me a voice to express my resistance to how girls and women are mistreated and devalued because we are not boys or men. This is what I hold onto when the overwhelming social, political and economic culture in which I live tells me to be quiet, shut-up or else. Stubborn I am. 

Learning when to step back and protect myself is the goal that I aim to reach. What is more I want to acquire the ancient arts of self-defence and make like a jaguar, move freely and unobserved when in danger and outrun, outclimb and outswim any predator that dares to try and catch me. That is survival, intelligence and self-control, yet…… I keep getting it wrong (of course there’s always tomorrow), and although I’ve had over twenty years experience since, it’s still early days as a trainee feminist ninja for me. Most of my life I’ve lacked the ability to effectively defend myself when I’ve needed it most. Now necessity tells me to do otherwise and start to truly believe in myself.

This part-memoir, part-confessional (hear the echoes of my Catholic upbringing) and part-reportage piece from the front-line of left-wing, feminist and socialist politics in South Wales over 17 years was for a long time a still-born project, stilted and stunted my my own self-doubt and over-regard for the feelings of others – others who have not necessarily returned the same consideration for my own. 

First conceived in April 2013, in the aftermath of my abrupt and dramatic exit from The Socialist Party of England and Wales (SPEW lol) – or The Socialist Party of Wales and England – as we Welshies would joke to mystified delegates at the European conferences of the Committee for a Workers’ International (or the C.W.I. – in which SPEW are the dominant party), this account has been long time coming.

I left SPEW during the week of Thatcher’s long-awaited death – a co-incidence that is somehow still telling – after all, the first time I really paid attention to political events was during the almighty anti-Poll Tax struggle back in 1990, when I was ten and in my last year of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Primary School in the Cynon Valley. To this day I vividly recall my ecstatic headteacher bursting into my class one November day with an almighty grin to announce – ‘She’s gone! She’s gone! She’s gone!’ – and us kids all knew he meant that evil Mrs Thatcher, lapping up the adults’ joy at the tyrant’s fall from power.

Fast forward a decade later and there was I, a fire-y Swansea University student, at a Socialist Students meeting with Alec Thraves and Rob Williams, recounting this very same anecdote. Their eyes lit up, impressed with my innate militancy, all ready to ‘love-bomb’ me into joining their party, which they introduced as Socialist Party Wales. I couldn’t put a foot wrong back then and sensing my vulnerability (I was depressed, lonely and recently heart-broken) they fell over themselves to offer me a new social life and sense of belonging, offering to take me to their national recruitment event, ‘Socialism 2000’, for virtually no cost to myself, in London that November.

I went reluctant to join, but swept up by the camaraderie and powerful group-think of self-declared revolutionaries, I found that they had already signed me up when I got back to my Swansea flat late that Sunday after the conference was over to find a letter welcoming me as a new member. Eerrr okay, I thought, but I swept that early doubt aside and dived right in, allowing this party to dominate my entire life for the next 12 and a half years. Like so many other ex-Catholics I was to meet in SPEW over the years, I simply transferred my long-gone religious conviction to them, and for many years I was at once one of their most ardent devotees and one of their most notorious internal critics, once the sucking-up was over and in their eyes (especially Alec and Rob’s actually), I metamorphed into their worst nightmare, one of three feminist witches, as they nicknamed me and two other prominent Welsh female party members.

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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