As a left-winger, most of my friends share similar political views to me. We might have different operational methods (an example that comes to mind right now is that many comrades would prefer to have a battle and win or lose it, returning to have it again if lost, where I would prefer to find common ground and compromise where I can do so without compromising on my own politics and principles)*. However, coming upon these friends as I have, through political circles, it can be very difficult to delineate where friendship and politics cross over, and much of our relationship will live in that liminal space. I think that indefinition can, in itself, be a good thing. I couldn't tolerate racist friends, for example, and politics are a large factor in the friends I have.
I am not someone who finds standing up to my friends easy. In general, this doesn't affect matters too much, there might be times when I neglect to make requests related to health and access because I would prefer not to be seen as a burden, but where it becomes political this can be quite complex. At what point does one decide to stand up to ones friends and comrades, challenge decisions made by a group one was part of, and do something one believes was right. How will that affect pre-existing friendships?
Coming from a background of female socialisation, I believe that the result of that, in part, for me, was to incalculate a mindset in which I make an effort not to stand up to or challenge (other) men, and in which I see myself and my opinions as inherently inferior. I don't credit my socialisation fully for this, but I do for a part of it. However, as it stands, that is the case. I made a decision in our AGM last night, I proposed an amendment to a friend's motion, another friend opposed it, and the amendment passed with the support of people who are not always my political allies. In it passing, I felt I had betrayed my friends, but I also felt I had done politically what was right, yet I still wonder whether those friends will trust me politically again.
Expressing differences in our movement can be difficult. It is a painful and fragmenting process to enter into, but not having these discussions doesn't make our movement stronger. They are not, however, entered into on an equal basis, and privilege dynamics do become relevant, as do interpersonal issues when comrades and friends are one and the same. Privilege dynamics in terms of the expectation of being heard, or not, that one might have, and interpersonal issues that friends might be aware of when challenging one another within a movement, that people might not know about strangers they challenge.
I massively value the fact that I have a situation where not all my friends are political friends, where I have my trans* family, where I have friends with whom I will fight vehemently in some political contexts and alongside in others, where I have friends who switch off whenever I start talking about politics. Nonetheless, the personal and the political do and will enter into conflict sometimes, and there are several factors I believe should be considered. We can't always consider all of them at the time, and soemtimes have to reflect, but I think taking these things into account when expressing political differences between friends is important.
1 - Is the timing for this debate right? Can it happen at a time when everyone is cool and prepared, or not?
2 - Is the atmosphere for this debate right? Are we in a room in which everyone feels safe?
3 - Is everyone in this debate capable of handling it? Are there welfare issues that people are aware of? If it needs to happen here and now how can we focus on maintaining it politically without risking people or personal friendships?
4 - Are there issues of privilege imbalance inherent in this discussion? How can we ensure that those do not affect it?
Personally, I fucked up badly on number four recently, trying to override a group of women to force the decision I felt best in terms of women's liberation, and I hold my hands up and say I was wrong. That's part of what prompted me to consider these issues.
How do we hold ourselves and our friends accountable, and protect our friendships and each other's wellbeing during political disagreement? I don't know, do you?
*If people feel misrepresented by this, please suggest other ways of explaining it.