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Opening with stark contemporary footage of police violence during the Miners’ Strike, the Stephen-Beresford-scripted Pride, telling the story of the Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) group, is not a film afraid to show its politics, and it is marked by an admirable tone of earnestness throughout. It’s a film about political conflict, but not between mining communities and the British state; instead, it’s about the political clash between traditional industrial communities and urban, post-industrial political identities.

Based on a true story, the film plays between three lead characters. The main protagonist is Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer), the charismatic and intuitively political young gay man who is inspired, on a whim, to start bucket-rattling for the miners on the morning of the 1984 Gay Pride march. His attempts to formalise this inspiration into a support group are met with ill will by most of his gay peers, many of whom experienced violence and oppression growing up in working-class mining communities.

Nevertheless, he manages to enrol a small group of gay men, and one lesbian, to his cause, including the under-age, middle-class and closeted Joe. It is through Joe (George MacKay), who is new to the gay scene, that we are introduced to the politics of London’s gay Left in the 1980s. Joe is one of the few characters in the film totally invented by Beresford; he stands as an audience surrogate, allowing the film to explain to the modern viewer the markedly different attitudes within gay politics 30 years ago.

Despite having collected over £200 for the miners, the fledgling LGSM group find it almost impossible to donate the cash, with the intransigent National Union of Mineworkers refusing their calls, until Mark hits on another moment of inspiration – bypassing the union dinosaurs and linking up with a single mining village. The third “character” is the working-class community of Onllwyn, a small Welsh mining village in the Dulais valley where most of the men are on strike. LGSM pick the village from the phonebook, and are introduced to its strike committee by the kindly and tolerant Dai (Paddy Considine), an idealistic local trade unionist.

This sets the stage for a culture clash between “the gays” – flamboyant, metropolitan and sexually liberated – and the villagers, by turns cautiously welcoming, if a little confused, and downright homophobic, agitating against the support of “perverts”. What transpires is a series of amusing and genuinely touching scenes whereby the two groups discover they have plenty to learn from each other. For the miners, the gays offer excitement, dancing, legal experience in dealing with police violence, and a window to a world outside the valleys; for the gays, Dulais offers an opportunity to rethink their image of the industrial heartlands as homophobic and unwelcoming places for queer people.

Although Pride is filled with a soft wit and some moments of sharp irony, the film is noteworthy for its sincerity, unapologetic for being a committed and partisan piece of political filmmaking. It fits into what is now becoming a staple genre of the British film industry, the “Industrial Action Movie”, and includes many of the tropes of the genre too; like Billy Elliot (2000), it tackles issues of prejudice and discrimination within working-class communities. It also offers some hope of redemption through creativity and self-expression, a theme continued from The Full Monty (1997) and Brassed Off (1996). Like Made in Dagenham (2010), it features a belligerent, conservative trade union bureaucracy that refuses to meet the challenges offered by changing social conditions.

The Industrial Action Movie is sometimes framed as being about an easily comprehensible struggle between Thatcher and the industrial communities she savaged throughout the 1980s, but in reality it’s about a much wider cultural and political shift, starting in the 1960s and continuing into the late ’90s. Each film plays upon social tensions caused by the collapse of the Fordist model of production, with its focus on the male industrial worker as the key working-class social identity, and the rise of new ways in which work is organised, moving away from the industrial worker towards service, hospitality and entertainment industries.

Playing with the tensions produced by the collapse of a steady identity and the growth of new desires from freedom and sexual liberation, these movies all feature one key plotline that structures the friction and eventual resolution of the story: the collapse of the straight male working man as the lodestone of British cultural life. The core plot of all Industrial Action Movies is not the struggle between bosses and workers. Instead, it’s the struggle of men to come to terms with the collapse of the supremacy of the white working male identity, and the rise of new forms of masculinity and the increased role in culture and society played by women and queer people. It’s telling that the most homophobic character in the film, Marion (Monica Dolan), justifies her position by invoking her late husband, who died working down the pit during the glory days of trade unionism, social democracy and steady family values.

Some commentators have seen the film as a powerful invocation of a dwindling tradition of class solidarity, but the film seems to hold a clearer political fable. After all, it is not the trade unionists who hold an intuitive grasp of solidarity; rather it is the gays who teach them that solidarity is about mutual aid, not worshipping at the feet of a monolithic working-class male identity. It is the queers and the outcasts who show the miners that the world is changing and that their concepts of who are valid political actors must change with it, or they will be bound to lose.

LGSM had to prove their worth and validity by honouring the white straight men in the face of mockery and abuse before the white straight men would ever acknowledge not only the validity of their political struggle but even their shared humanity. It’s only through understanding this mismatch in power that we can understand why, 30 years on, many if not all of the oppressions faced by gay men and lesbians in the film – discrimination, queer-bashing and ostracism – are still common occurrences.

One striking and brave move by Beresford and the director, Matthew Warchus, was to mirror this frostiness towards minorities within LGSM itself. Although it’s a fleeting plotline, Beresford does at least acknowledge the reactionary political attitudes towards gender held by many gay men at the time, when he shows the split within the group and the formation of Lesbians Against Pit Closures as a reaction to the boorish male treatment of women’s issues within LGSM. Importantly, this plotline doesn’t resolve itself; that fundamental division has remained a key faultline within LGBT politics ever since the 1970s.

It is this bittersweet dynamic between the two groups that gives the film its touching and spiky edge. In the end, the film is about the failure of a rigid trade union model, focused on the industrial worker, to adequately conduct a political struggle. Instead, the film suggests, political movements must be expansive. More than this, the film’s core political message is that it is not just through winning that politics changes people’s lives, but attitudes are changed and lessons learned through the process of fighting itself.

This is important, because we must accept that this film is about communities who lost their struggles. These remain communities traumatised by the cataclysms of the 1980s and ’90s, their stories still written as natural disasters rather than the product of Conservative policies of willlful neglect, prejudice and social destruction. Within the gay rights movement, there has been an increasing focus on issues of representation, not withstanding victories such as the repeal of Section 28 and the equalisation of the age of consent, and a shift from material issues that are more likely to affect working-class queers, such as healthcare provisions and housing. The dominant values are more likely those of Joe’s middle-class mother – caring, if repressive; always concerned with respectability rather than solidarity, with conforming rather than realising wider horizons. Campaigns for marriage and the right to serve in the Armed Forces have accompanied and encouraged a drift away from a more radical queer politics intimated by the characters in Pride.

Meanwhile, within former industrial communities, many of those who can find jobs now languish in a low-paid service sector that the trade union movement still struggles to understand and fails to organise. The challenges to the dominance of the mass-industrial male worker from changing economic and social conditions, presented so clearly in Pride, have not been met. Instead the British Left seems afflicted with nostalgia, wanting to return to a world that was already crumbling by the time of the Miners’ Strike, and that many were happy to see the back of.