i also became involved in catonsville roadrunner,the radical christian paper inspired by catholic and others draft resistance to the vietnam war,in the united states and indeed named after the catonsville 8(or 9?)who included 2 priests who obtained entry to a government office in catonsville where they took their own and others draft cards and burned them.
on my way to an interview for a place on a social work training course,aged 19,i decided that if i failed the interview i would move on to visist and perhaps work/volunteer for the roadrunner.
i got a place to train to my surprise,which was the reverse of what i had assumed if not expected so i returned home before tipping up at freshers week fair straight from the train.finding the army recruiting in the doorway,i decided i was not having that and began a picket immediately which attracted the attention of other students,and my comrades and the president of the union who was i think somewhat shoched at what he found.i like to think my recollection is rightg that in fact he asked the army to leave.i know that fairly quickly a resolution to the union general meeting,open to all students resulted in the army being expelled "permanently" from inside student union events although they tried having a stall at the college doorstep and then on the street where some of us gave the same resistance.
but i digress except in indicating that very quickly i found myself almost fully integrated into student life,although that said the political tradition of which i was part never allowed its membership the cosy life of students as it was then and i am still appreciative of an organistaion that fought and organised alongside workers,both as members and in the wider community and at the many flashpoints of class struggle.my professional interests allso quickly brought me into contact with others outside the city and college and the interests developed in my recent past also occupied me.the political organisation i was in allowed me my idiosyncracies and my wider actvity.
by the end of my 1st year i was involved in social work student organsiations,the student paper and other things.in my cohort of students we had several disputes within our own department and by the end of the year had a partially successful strike against exams.
i remember meeting afriend of my then partner.both were roman catholics.in a lengthy discussion about politics and religion,the friend had suggested that i sought a pick and choose religion where i was free to select or reject as i wished.i had limited answers and it was a turning point in the sesnse that i withdrew most of my involvement as a christian and from a list of would be ordinands(candidates for priesthood).that withdrawal was never complete nor permanent for i kept in touch with the roadrunner,as a local but to my regret inactive correspondant/contact.i also had contact with the local college priest who in turn was connected with the somewhat radical origins of what i belive became the urban theology unit.i was active in the scm/student christian movement,which was then very mch of the left.i was also involved in the de chardin society which was a proto-green organisation.
part of my training involved placements.my first was 2-3 days a week with the local authority social work department where i arranged to be supervised by a woman i had formed profound respect for as she was known as a a socialist and indeed was both a member of the same political organisation as myself and had written for the only social work magazine for revolutionaries,win which i also became involved and led the student organisation therof.i later tried,rather feebly to get aplacement in chicago,illinois with a catholic worker project-catholic worker being a catholic anarchist organisation with roots in poor communities.having failed in that endeavour i did an eye opening residential placement in a glasgow childrens home,where i ,learnt with ahsock some of the issues and problems of childcare,and met a huge range of fellow socialists who during the summer met everynight in a particular glasgow pub,which became a temporary organising centre of activity all over the city.that was my first introduction to the bitter sectarianism between catholics and protestants which shadowed and echoed the divide in the 6 counties of northern ireland.behind deep religiious divides were alsoeven deeper economic and political differences...
by the time i left college,the socialist organisation had transfornmed itself into a party.one of its leading cadres wrote a historical piece about the"smallest mass party in the world".although i perhaps musquote,i amdit i never quite understood that idea and saw it as a non-sequitur.
having qualified i returned to london where i worked as a local authority social worker and remained active in a number of other campaigns and organisations.i became involved in the rank and file organisations of the unions i was active in.i also became active in housing campaigns during my own search for independent accomodation.those organisations always tended to be soemwhat anarchist in outlook although inevitably reformist in practice,in that they were manageing the improvement of housing at thje bottom of the social and economic scale,although activists were not reformist in outlook.i also lived for a number of years in a collective/communal outlook who shared living together to strengthen our activities in political organisations and communities.
when my party turned away from its particular rank and file focus,i like some others remained active in the left,rank ands file orineted organisations and managed to avoid the expulsions meeted out to other whole sections of membership.now i am able to acknowledge that i was grievously not as active in theior defenbce as i would have wished because i did not have an adequate grasp of the issues.i regret that.
although the party did and still does not allow permanment factions,which are not allowed to exist at all outside the extended conference period of 3-4 months a year,i also became active in rock against racism for some time,following what the mythology refers to as the battle for page 11,by the post electric faction which launched RAR.
i remained active in the party until the mid 1980s when opportunities enabled me to spend a period effectively living and working in the united states,where i joined and was then effectively expelled from the sister organistaion in the usa.that was a strange and deep political lesson that still has resonances today and damaged several people and their relattionships to this day.one of the things it taught me was how similar exclusion from anmy important organisation for the individual and groups the experience can be.
returning to england i never rejoined but associated with the organisation for many years into the 1990s,and continued to work in trade union,peace movement.i became active in the churfch again,and indeed found myself propelled into church organisations also,sometimes amongst the "awkward squad"who seem to dra together in any context",and again lead me to belive that we make some of our personalreligious/spiritual and political and indeed other choices not as on a tabula rasa/blank background but in a situation in which to scramble marx-we make choices but not in situations of our own choosing.i think equally strongly that often such choices reflect our individual psychological disposition which is formed both from our genes and our environment.
for over a decade i did not soc much step aside from activity,as make adecision to nurture my own family.my long standing partner has taken place as front runner in a numvber of activities,afgtefr we spent many years working together in capmpaigns.although she is of theleft our political and spiritual outlooks are very different,although this relationship has been a bedrock for me in reinforcing the lesson that people can work together for common purpose without the gulf of a sectarian divide.whilst i do not think that individual and particular experience of can be tranlated or transferred into wider political and social organisation,the comparison and the lessons of one are relevant to the other.
for me the life path,my relationships of all kinds as well as self conscious,chosen learning have taught me much,although equally i have learnt that life lessons and knowledge of all kinds hav different standings,from belief to knowledge and the status and accuracy of that status is not always clear.its intellectually something also important to me.
here i wsant to bring in one more factor of relevance.i would say that my own life is likea spiral in which i like to think that whilst i undoubtedly make and reapeat some mistakes i also approach life experience at higher levels.so sevral time sin my life i came across the idea of gnosis before fully embracing it in the new millenium.
it is my engagement with gnosis that now forms my spiritual path and has allowed me to forgive myself alittle better than in the past.it also allows within my disposition for spirituality-and i dont mean spiritualism-to stand alongside a revolutionary politics in away which acknowldeges the probability that i and others are capable of believing diametrically opposite things at the same time,and that the resolution of such a conundrum is part of life's puzzle and does not need resolution now.i suggest that lookinbg at anyones life would reveal points where things do not easily"add up".it suggests that the dialectic of sorts is written in the very script or weave of life.
being a materialist politically does not rule our also being spiritual in outllok even if there is the discomfort of a contradiction.indeed interestingly,reading recently about one of thje dutch,council communists-and i dont remember whether it was pannekoek or gorter,their own philosophising as a materialist allowed them to redasmit the thinkling of the human brain back into thne materialist fold.
i myself do not know what to make of the assertion by some science journalists that the dna/genetic code,sets us up for a predisposition for "religious"belief.the notion of particular genetic constructs for crime,religion and much else is of course problematic,because what constitutes crime or religion is itself socially constructed rather than natural or pre-existing.and to say that crime and religion have enough in common imn say ancient egypt,medievela peru and contemporary britain is not an answer.
it and much else does however lkead me to understand(believe?)that religion cannot be as easily dismissed from marxism as the avowed atheists would like.for me marx famous and often misquoted comments about religion are ambivalent,enigmatic,poetic,insightful but they are neither sharp nor fact,nor immediately practical.
so where to from here?