This week we have have been commemorating friends we have lost in the network, those we have lived and struggled with, in hardship and joy. Today we commemorate Josh a friend loved and respected by many, and we do so by sharing both words of inspiration written about him, but also words written by him too.
Our friends do not die, the memory of them lives on through us, and we live on remembering them.
First we share an introduction to Josh’s piece that comes after, by Nik Matheou, one of Josh’s comrades. (Originally published by Lumpen.)
The following piece was written by Josh Schoolar, who passed away in his sleep on the 20th of September 2020 at the age of 23. Josh was a working-class revolutionary communist from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, who in his short life contributed massively to struggles both at home and abroad.
Born to a proletarian family with a keen sense of right and wrong, Josh was introduced to revolutionary politics as a teen when he came out as gay. He began reading widely, and became a revolutionary Marxist, joining the youth organisation of Worker’s Power, a now dissolved Trotskyist group. Later, after starting university in Manchester, Josh went on to join the local group of Plan C, a pluralist radical left organisation, and involved himself deeply in student and tenant struggles.
But university wasn’t to last. Bored and alienated by his studies and worklife, Josh began planning a trip to Rojava/northern Syria to volunteer in the social revolution there, led by the Kurdish Freedom Movement. Although not classically anarchist or Marxist, Josh believed deeply in the Rojava Revolution, especially its empowerment of women and the working classes through new forms of radical participatory democracy. In his statement on arriving he wrote ‘in Rojava I can feel the victory and freedom I long for my class and my loved ones to feel back home.’ He spent six months as an English teacher in Kobane, before joining the International Freedom Battalion, an internationalist united front of anarchists and communists defending the revolution. As an IFB volunteer Josh participated in the liberation of Raqqa, the “capital” of ISIS’ so-called caliphate, returning to the UK shortly after.
Back in Britain Josh immediately got involved in local struggles, particularly as a member and then staffer of community union ACORN. He was heavily involved in organising tenants and registering working-class voters, representing his fierce belief that ordinary people can defend themselves and transform society, but only by getting organised and taking collective action. The last two years of Josh’s life were dogged by state repression for his time as a volunteer in Syria, under investigation for “terrorism”, and having his home and workplace raided by police, getting stopped and interviewed at borders, and getting his passport confiscated. This repression got him fired from his job as a SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) teaching assistant at a comprehensive, and put consistent stress on Josh right up to the day he passed away.
But Josh didn’t let state repression, or the work problems it caused, get in the way of his commitment to working-class liberation. Those who knew him had the honour to organise with one of the kindest, funniest, most genuine comrades and revolutionaries we’ll ever meet. Josh embodied the idea that the struggle for control over our everyday lives is long and hard, but also joyful and beautiful at the same time. He was a beacon of hope to many of us, an inspiringly committed and developed revolutionary at such a young age. It’s painful to know that he won’t get to see the free life we build on the current system’s ashes, but we now have the honour of building that world in his name.
The following piece was written in 2017 while Josh was a member of Plan C, and originally published on the organization’s website. Josh was an avid reader as well as a working-class militant, and his love of beat generation writers really comes across in his style here. With spontaneous, conversational and unforgiving wording and pace, Josh sets out the monotony and everyday violence of life in urban Britain as a young and precarious working-class person in the late 2010s.
Between A Job And A Hard Place: A Non-Workers Enquiry.
The rascal, swindler, beggar, the unemployed, the starving, wretched and criminal workingman—these are figures who do not exist for political economy but only for other eyes, those of the doctor, the judge, the gravedigger, and bum-bailiff, etc; such figures are spectres outside its domain – Karl Marx
Between a job and a hard place: An enquiry into boredom, youth, anxiety and the limbo between working and unemployment. A non-workers enquiry.
You realized some time ago between reading Marx in sociology at college and actually having to work, that work itself is second in its mundane torture only to the process of looking for it. Hours spent looking at indeed job search, flicking between tabs, checking your mate’s facebook (“Just checked in at the hotel with the squad, loving Menorca! Tits and lines all round LMFAO!” – fuck off Tim you sad wanker) and getting lost in the latest #moralpanic on twitter. Hours wasted trying to look for the delicate balance of what you’re vaguely qualified or experienced for and what you are willing to bother spending your waking life and energy performing. Though you know it won’t last, don’t you. If you actually cared about what it is you’re going to be doing, and not just the hourly rate then you wouldn’t be on fucking Indeed in the first place, would you? You know you don’t really care, and for some reason that makes you feel bad. Is it guilt? Not quite guilt- anger. But with no ‘line-manager’ to take it out on, you just end up angry at yourself.
This is not living. The leaflet from the GPs said that if you feel depressed and anxious again you should go back and consult your doctor, but now you get out of bed so late in the afternoon you won’t even make it there before it closes. Besides there’s a waiting list for anything other than some shit pills that you looked up online, which you can’t even get high off or sell to your mates. What you really want is someone to talk to, to feel loved, useful, and valid. Instead you feel crushed and tired even though you spend the whole day in your house sat down on your laptop and occasionally nipping out for a takeaway, an 8th or some cans, and an overpriced oven pizza from the off-license that you feel guilty about buying on the walk back home. You’re dangerously deep in your shark infested overdraft and your income is either benefits (if you’re lucky), money begged off of friends or family (in the unlikely event they can afford it), or more likely whatever’s left from your last temp contract in the bar/warehouse/coffee shop/festival/sorting office or whatever agency shit you got yourself out of the front door for. Hearing it slam as time slows down and it seems to be days before you open it again. This is not living.
If you tick the right boxes and do a bit of googling about what to say, maybe even get a letter from the doctor, you can get on benefits. Despite what you’d been led to believe by the Sun these aren’t quite as rock and roll as you thought they were. Peanuts a week and maybe some help with housing or your childcare are the plus, the negative is an army of paranoid jobsworths looking to catch you out on anything. One sanction easily leads to another as you scrape together to get by for the next month, start cutting corners, and looking for a bit on the side. You search “how to get more benefits” on your mate’s laptop, you can’t use your own because they can access your internet history now. The bastards at the job center make you wait for hours, fuck up the time of your appointment or give you 8 forms to fill out perfectly- as desperate as you are for the money their equally desperate for an excuse not to give it to you. Of course what you don’t see is the manager, the cutting hours, the weekly targets that they inevitably have hanging over them as well. This is a boring monotonous dystopia that does not in the least resemble actual living.