Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2177

Thousands attended a vigil against homophobic hate crime in London’s Trafalgar Square last month (Pic:» Guy Smallman )

Thousands attended a vigil against homophobic hate crime in London’s Trafalgar Square last month (Pic: » Guy Smallman)

Why the fight against homophobia is political

The recent vigils against homophobia (Socialist Worker, 7 November) were hugely important in providing a place to protest against recent attacks.

Yet the question that echoed around the conversations of people on the London vigil was, “What next?” Most people seemed to consider the answers put forward by platform speakers inadequate. But then they came from speakers like broadcaster Sandi Toksvig, the gay Tory deputy London Mayor Richard Barnes and the owners of Soho’s most profitable bars.

It is a problem that in much of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) movement our oppression is seen as a problem separate from other problems in society. But to fight LGBT oppression we need to know who our allies are.

The straight worker prepared to strike to defend a gay colleague against homophobic victimisation is a real ally. The rich gay club owner, who profits from LGBT people not being able to “be themselves” in most other bars and clubs, is not. Neither is a politician belonging to any party prepared to use bigotry to break working class unity.

But socialists cannot merely complain about the conservatism of the current, self-appointed LGBT “leadership”. Advances in recent years have created a new generation of confident LGBT activists who can be won to the massive opportunities socialist struggle provides.

I was won to the Socialist Workers Party because it takes on the fight of every worker in society as its own. Standing on the picket lines, demonstrating against fascism and war, fighting homophobia with a view to transforming the whole basis of society – that’s the way forward for the thousands of LGBT people radicalised in the past few weeks. That’s the way we’ll suffocate LGBT oppression for good.

Adam Lambert, North London

I was concerned when Sandi Toksvig said, “It’s really important that tonight is not about politics,” while compering the London vigil against homophobia.

In fact it was very political. David Cameron and Gordon Brown both sent messages of support, and there were speeches from ministers.

These people cannot be trusted to take the fight for LGBT liberation forward.

Cameron leads a party that imposed the homophobic Section 28 legislation onto schools.

And Labour was in power six years before repealing it.

The biggest gains for LGBT people were made during the 1960s and 1970s, when a militant movement made links with other liberation movements.

We need to revive the spirit of the early LGBT movement to re-ignite the fight today.

Katherine Branney, South London

Race, IQ and genes

In an otherwise excellent article on race and intelligence, John Parrington states that “human intelligence is almost certainly due to a highly complex mixture of genetic and environmental factors” (Socialist Worker, 31 October).

John exposes the racist use of IQ tests to justify the discrimination against black people in education.

He also points out that the very concept of intelligence has been socially constructed to fit in with the prejudices of particular societies and that IQ tests measure “culturally specific general knowledge”.

So the big question is: what is intelligence?

If intelligence is a learned skill – be it a critical thinking skill, an interpersonal skill or a problem solving skill – it is a result of a complex interaction between an individual and their cultural environment, family, schooling, peer group and so on.

Class position is crucial in this. It does not depend on a relationship between genes and environment.

Indeed, there is no correlation between brain size and intelligence within the range of human brain size.

Genes provide humans with a physiological capacity which is rarely tested to its limits.

The growth in educational achievement since the 1960s demonstrates the vast untapped abilities of massive numbers of people.

The development of human intelligence is limited by opportunity, not by genes.

Pete Wearden, Bristol

Race: Science’s Last Taboo was an excellent programme that revealed many so-called “experts” as plain old-fashioned supporters of eugenics.

There is enough evidence out there to show that environmental factors, along with cultural trends, are influencers on so‑called “intelligence”.

Surely it is time for the bigots to give up this very tiresome line of attack against people of colour?

Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera, Newbury, Berkshire

Socialists do defend individual freedom

Mark L Thomas makes some good points in his case against liberal ideas and “free speech” for Nazis (Socialist Worker, 31 October).

But ultimately his argument is a bit crude.

He objects to the fact that “liberalism sees the individual as the basic unit of society”. 

Well, yes, the basic unit of class society is classes.

But Karl Marx pointed out that in a socialist society “the free development of each is the condition of the free development of all”.

One day the individual will be the basic unit of society.

It should be obvious that our lives already include a limited amount of free will, even if it is severely curtailed.

Mark objects to the idealism of liberal philosophy. 

Actually the materialist dialectic is a special case of the idealist dialectic that only applies in a class society. 

A socialist society will be governed by reason, not blind economics. 

Mark says that workers can only fight capitalism collectively. 

This is true, but it should be remembered that collectivism is a tool, not an ideal. 

Socialists are morally superior to liberals because we are better fighters for freedom of thought and action – and that’s precisely because we put the power of the collective at the disposal of the individual.

Mark Donaldson, Edinburgh

Labour’s policies boosted the right

At the end of October the English Defence League was on the streets again, this time in Leeds. Fascist groups have been consistently boosted by Labour’s racist rhetoric and xenophobic immigration policies.

This position is demonstrated most starkly in the practice of detaining child asylum seekers.

This has a predictably devastating impact on their physical and mental health and on their emotional and educational development.

Socialist Worker has provided some excellent coverage on this issue and the campaign to end the practice is gathering pace.

Visit the End Child Detention Now website at where we are calling on people to join the campaign initially by lobbying their MPs and adding their names to the nationwide petition.

These are two early steps in winning the battle against this appalling attack on asylum seekers.

A successful fightback on this issue can give confidence to the whole anti-racist and anti-fascist movement and reverse the tide of xenophobic immigration policy in Britain.

Andrew Bebbington, Leeds

Valuing call centre staff

William asks whether my report, entitled “Anger over DWP call centres”, demeans the work of thousands of call centre workers (Letters, 7 November).

But I was by no means undervaluing the important work carried out by many people based in call centres.

The PCS is campaigning to drastically improve the working conditions of contact centre workers.

At the same time, we want to defend the service to the public.

Currently, due to the experience of many of our members, they don’t just answer the phone – they also deal with the customers’ queries.

Under the new system, those members will lose their benefit experience, as their jobs will consist of constantly answering the phone.

That is what I meant by “deskilling”. 

Steve West, Bristol

Glad to read the truth

You may like to know I’ve been passing on copies of Socialist Worker to our local postal workers.

One has been putting them up on their canteen notice board and another said to me, “This is the only paper I’ve seen that tells the truth!”

Mitch Mitchell, March, Cambridgeshire

Delegitimise the Nazis

I think Alf Filer misses the point about calling on the state to ban the English Defence League (Letters, 7 November).

Alf is right that workers’ solidarity is the ultimate defence against fascists and that the state would happily use its powers against us. 

Indeed, the state would, if need be, encourage the likes of the British National Party (BNP) in the hope of intimidating working class militants.

We wanted the BBC to ban BNP leader Nick Griffin. His appearance allowed him into the mainstream. And the debate around immigration has moved sharply to the right since his appearance.

It is necessary to delegitimise fascist activity at every turn.

This is not a matter of rejecting “self-defence” or trusting “the forces of law and order”. It is part of the battle – which exists on the streets as well – to keep the Nazis small.

Jay Williams, Sheffield

Don’t defend mercenaries

Although I would like the vast majority of British soldiers brought home, I am actually in favour of leaving mercenaries like Danny Fitzsimons to face local justice, and even the death penalty, if Iraqis feel that is what they deserve (Letters, 7 November).

The position taken in Socialist Worker treads dangerously close to the idea that Iraqis are not fit to govern themselves – or at the very least that the mess we have made of the country leaves its system unfit to try foreigners, but fine to govern the locals.

I feel sympathy for all normal British soldiers caught up in the mess we have made of that country, but not a lot for the mercenaries who went after large pay cheques and showed no concern for the human rights of the local population.

Jon Fanning, Kexby, York

Academies are rubbish

So much for the government’s academy programme.

It is going so well that the government has been forced to tell the United Learning Trust (ULT) – the biggest sponsor of academies – that it cannot sponsor any more schools until it improves its results.

Many ULT sponsored academies have been judged as “inadequate” by inspectors Ofsted.

The government should learn from this – stop all academies, get private interests out of education and fund schools properly.

Emma Power, Todmorden

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Article information

Tue 10 Nov 2009, 18:52 GMT
Issue No. 2177
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