Hunter’s first and self-published book is a kaleidescope of essays that mediate key phases of his life, trauma and resistance through an intersectional understanding and experience of the classed power dynamics, processes and agency that make and shape communities and social movements in the UK today.
The first narrative lens opens on the first 25 years of his life in 1990s NG7 (Radford, Nottingham). From street homeless living in his mother’s car to being turned out by her at the age of ten to pay for drugs and food, to sleeping in the Forest Rec and turning tricks with a group of self-employed child sex workers aged 11 to becoming a dealer and ‘violent thug’, navigating the care system, school, Young Offenders Institutes, Psychiatric institutions and Prison.
His father’s behaviour and impact is largely represented in short cartoon strips. He was a white working class English National Front activist who’d take D on BNP and NF marches on his shoulders. D’s mum’s side of the family were Irish Gypsy and he explores the common theme running through both sides of his family with the belief that ‘they were the most marginalised, the ones who everyone was out to get. Not only that, but both continually positioned other marginalised groups as in league with dominant forces’.
D’s analysis of the white supremacist heteronormative capitalist patriarchy comes about not through a namechecking of theoreticians – although Angela Davis and Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin feature as influences, and he did learn to read and write at the age of 25 through a borrowed copy of Gramsci’s prison diaries with a dictionary in rehab – but analysis come to life through his family, friends, neighbours, lovers, cell-mates ‘those who walked alongside me in the first 25 years of my life. The dead, the disregarded and the disgraced’. Trans sex client Samantha, ‘feral love’ Valerie, co-dealer Faizan, cell-mates Tyrone, Junior Jones and Steve, and nameless lover boyfriends. All with agency, humanity and individuality.
D doesn’t give himself or anyone ‘a pass’ on their actions (See chapter ‘Me, The Racist) but instead interrogates their making and takes responsibility for his own forms of capital and agency as he learned to ‘Pass, cover and become respectable’. He explores his whiteness, cis-gender identity and maleness, the acceptability these gave him in the white mainstream gay scene. He also navigates how he harnessed a university education and underclass survivor identity with all of the above, to consciously and unconsciously, acquire status in the anarchist and radical left activist scenes he moved through, even though so many of the activists at political meetings alienated him and reminded him of the social workers, judges and people he used to mug.
The other moving lens in the book is an analysis and critique of how social movements, liberal culture and The Left continue to structurally marginalise, in large part due to their lack of deference to working class self-determination and representation, and their domination by capital-heavy activists who perpetuate and reproduce classed culture and power, and exclusionary notions of safety, due to fearing underclass leadership.
The uprisings of 2011 and the response of the Left are laid bare as an example of the gulf in understanding of how and why the oppressed choose particular forms of resistance. This lens also demands a recognition of the mutual aid, love and collectivism of the most marginalised survivor communities he knows (see Bread and Roses for the Warriors).
I re-read my copy of D’s book and almost every other page is annotated. Every page of this book is a spark, a window, a blow, bringing realisation. This is honestly the most important intervention into mainstream, predominantly white and middle class social movements – of which I count myself a part of and perpetuator of for many years – that I have ever read. This book does what groundbreaking writing should – models new awareness and challenges, reflects and changes the reader’s thinking and understanding of oneself and their relationship to others. Take it, grab it with both hands and read it.
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