I’m still getting to grips with scurrying around in disguise at a festival I once considered home. Worse still, I’m terrified of being discovered by comrades and so-called comrades that I once considered to be almost family.
In this heat, wearing a mask and hat is bad enough, but looking like one of these trendy “Occupy” /Guy Fawkes types is an affront to my sense of style. But worse than not being seen is being unable to speak openly in case my voice gives me away. I find myself automatically taking speakers slips after talks by speakers who knew their subject less well than me – no offence to those comrades intended of course. And that’s before some of the idiotic contributions from the floor, where I find my hand shooting up, only to sheepishly lower it again.
As for my many friends here, I just had to find a way of revealing myself without having to incur the wrath of my enemies So I had to walk straight past countless comrades, sometimes suppressing a snigger at my mask, when in previous years – decades – I would’ve stopped for a long discussion. (Now of course, these could be predictably farcical rows.)
By the Friday afternoon, I thought I’d hit on the answer to meeting individual trusted comrades discreetly. I took to hanging around the gents toilets in ULU waiting to discreetly persuade a few of my male comrades into a cubicle. At first, this tactic was successful and I surprised a few close comrades who hadn’t expected to see me at all.
The discreet meetings were going well until Friday afternoon after a particularly frustrating meeting on the NPA and the French Left.But as I waited in my cubicle, hoping to catch XXXXXX XXXXXXXX , instead I overheard XXXXXX XXXXXXX from the CC talking urgently with a TEAM member about me and my behaviour!
Unbelievably, my presence in the toilets had brought up the ghost of the gay SWP members at Skegness in the 1980s who’d caused outrage by mimicking gay cottaging in public toilets to shock heterosexual members, and to reveal some supposed “latent homophobia”.
“Of course”,CC member XXXXXX patiently explained to the Marxism TEAM member, ” it was said at the time that we’d been too soft on gay separatism. We should’ve understood that many of our younger gay and lesbian comrades were pulled the lifestyle politics and separatism that dominated the Section 28 campaign”
“But why were they cottaging?”, asked the TEAM member.
“Well”, said XXXXXX”they claimed it was just a joke, but we felt that by trying to shock straight SWP members they were implying that we could be homophobic”
“Outrageous”, exclaimed the TEAM member.
“Of course”, continued XXXXXXX, “the revolutionary party ensures its members are free of all grains and traces of racism, sexism and homophobia.”
“So did the gay comrades get expelled?”
“No, we were a bit softer back then.Anyway, it was partly our fault. We’d booked “The Joan Collins Fan Club“, Julian Cleary’s drag act which quite frankly was very stereotyped and did nothing to educate and integrate our gay members.”
“We seem to have trouble with these comedians and performers”.
“Yes – especially when they get famous, like that bloody Steel. Objectively they have joined the bourgeoisie of course”
“So what should I do about this masked guy hanging around the toilets? Demand his ticket is returned and chuck him out?”
“No no no!” laughed XXXX “That would make us….. er……just explain where we stand on gay liberation. Y’know – opposing homophobia,gays and straights unite and fight, the Russian Revolution freeing gays……” His voice trailed off and he then seemed to be talking on his mobile and leaving the toilets.
“Er, OK then. Er bye” the TEAM member replied, apparently talking to himself.
I wasn’t going to hang around to be humiliated. I quickly left the toilets and almost ran out of ULU bar, ignoring the “excuse me sir!” behind me. But now I had to think up more tactics to talk to my comrades.
At first, I tried hiding in the bushes around SOAS, and was able to call the odd friend over. But by the Saturday morning, these areas all stunk of piss – the TEAM obviously hadn’t been doing their job properly.
Then I saw the perfect hiding place.
A life size papier mache statue had appeared near the bushes and I was able to lift up the bottom and comfortably stand inside. that morning seemed to get ridiculously crowded. It sounded like there were far more attendees than I’d expected. I could her hundreds of animated discussions and laughter going on all around,just like the old days. So in fact it became quite easy to spy a friend through the eye holes and call them over for a discreet chat.
Hopefully, nobody noticed that amongst the crowds of what turned out to be Occupy Marxism,occasionally an older SWP member would stop by next to Zinoviev for a brief chat.