Have you ever walked down a street, seen a stranger looking depressed, and felt a painful tug of the heart?
Have you ever read or watched the news and recognised a truth to the world, that it is founded on inequality and injustice and breeds unnecessary human suffering, and not been able to turn away then and thereafter? For as long as I can remember, I’ve had this. I’ve had empathy, connection, insight, and yearning for change. Indeed, what else is there to making a socialist? Perhaps, our own biographies.
I grew up in a British Asian household with regular visits to and from the wider community. I learnt fairly early on about the paradox of my own culture: that the warmth and belonging I felt was predicated on family honour, and that such honour carries a pernicious and malignant flipside, shame. I knew my difference years before I could label the fact I was gay.
Meanwhile, I witnessed the hurt of relatives of my generation in complying with arranged marriage or in courageously pioneering their own break from it. We all share a story, and we all paid a price, especially the women — the shame-bearers.
Throughout my teenage years, I knew and expressed a basic affinity to socialist and feminist ideas. By the time I was at university, I began the process of looking for a home to develop my political sense of self. The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty appealed to me, since it stood over and above other revolutionary socialist groups in terms of its commitment to the liberation campaigns, to fighting racism, sexism, and homophobia. I sensed an organisation with intellectual rigour and moral integrity.
Looking back, it was an emotional rather than a cognitive journey that brought me to becoming a revolutionary socialist. So, so much of my intellectual growth came later. No-one needed to convince me of the appeal of an independent and internationalist, hybrid human culture, or of the fallacy of cultural relativism. Plain empirical evidence easily persuaded me that when workers collectively organise and withdraw their labour-power, no other force can shake capitalist social relations in such a powerful way.
I remember asking myself a question before joining the AWL, with a gist of impermanence: what do I want to know of myself in the moment before I die? The answer: I did my best to change the world. Yes, nineteen years on, it is still that simple, isn’t it?