Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2272

A victory against homophobia and Islamophobia in east London (Pic: Terry McGrath)

A victory against homophobia and Islamophobia in east London (Pic: Terry McGrath)

Pride protest shows unity against bigots

East London Pride on 24 September was a tremendous victory for LGBT campaigners.

It blew out of the water the racist myths that Muslims are all homophobic, and that in East London the Muslim and LGBT communities are at war.

Those ideas have been around all year. In February, a young Muslim man put up homophobic stickers referencing the Quran around the East End. Many were rightly outraged.

Activists secretly associated with the racist English Defence League (EDL) tried to take advantage by calling an “East End Pride”.

They wanted to divide communities further and scapegoat Muslims. But they were exposed, and their event collapsed.

Unfortunately, some LGBT campaigners have also argued that homophobic Muslims are the main problem gay people face.

In the spring Johann Hari wrote that “zero percent of British Muslims” found gay people acceptable. He claimed that homophobia had forced many LGBT people out of Tower Hamlets.

In August Peter Tatchell claimed that LGBT people in East London were being told to keep their heads down so as not to upset Muslims. He said they “have to tolerate homophobia for the sake of… not upsetting certain communities.”

None of this was true. The previous month the co-chair of Rainbow Hamlets, a local LGBT organisation, had been a platform speaker at a 700-strong meeting against the EDL.

She had received warm applause from an audience including many Muslims, at a meeting held at the London Muslim Centre.

The 3 September anti-EDL protest involved both Muslims and LGBT people, with three LGBT speakers and many gay campaigners in the crowd.

At East London Pride, LGBT people marched proudly and openly—passers‑by clapped and cheered. Lutfur Rahman, Muslim Mayor of Tower Hamlets, spoke at the concluding festival.

He pledged his support for LGBT rights and to building links between communities—and then was photographed smiling, with his arm round a drag queen.

LGBT people will need to continue fighting racism—but the battle that started in February is over, and we have won.

Colin Wilson, East London

Bombshell for arms workers

I live in a town called Horwich in north west England.

It was once a thriving town with large British Rail, British Aerospace and British Steel works, to name but a few.

Then Thatcher got in and shut the entire town down, leaving mass unemployment and misery.

Even as I speak they are doing it again to the aerospace industry. Some 3,000 loyal staff have been notified by email that they will lose their jobs.

Our beautiful town was cut down by Tory greed. It is now a shadow of its former self. We can’t let them do it to any more towns.

Des Ellis, Horwich

BAe Systems reported pre-tax profits of £691 million in July. It has no justification for making 3,000 job cuts, throwing workers and whole communities on the scrapheap.

It is true that demand is falling for the military aircraft and warships that BAe Systems manufactures. This is something socialists should celebrate.

The last thing we should be calling for is more investment in weapons of war—let alone lobbying the government to buy British weapons rather than American.

But these are highly skilled workers, whose labour could be used to benefit the whole of society.

Workers at Lucas Aerospace in the 1970s showed the potential for arms workers to retrain and develop medical equipment.

Today we urgently need to develop renewable energy and sustainable infrastructure to halt the onset of climate change.

The skills of the BAe Systems workers should be central to doing this. But their bosses are more interested in profit.

We need a militant campaign to demand the nationalisation of the BAe Systems plants to save the jobs of our members.

But this campaign needs to demand retooling and retraining for socially useful work—not greater investment in war.

Unite union rep, Defence Industry

Cutting council goes for gold in hypocrisy

The London bid for the Olympics was won with promises to leave a legacy in the local area and to promote participation in sport.

From the time the first allotment was destroyed to make way for the site, these pledges have been a lie.

Now Newham council has announced the closure of the nearest leisure centre to the games, the Atherton.

The council claims it cannot find the £250,000 needed to refurbish the centre. This is the same council that recently loaned £40 million to West Ham United football club.

Cathy Devine from the University of Cumbria has shown up the unequal impact of London hosting the games. Participation in sport for professionals and managers has increased, but for manual workers and all women it has decreased.

Closing the Atherton, which was visited by 240,000 people last year in one of the poorest and most multi-racial areas of Britain, will make this worse.

The council is clearly worried, however. Their plan says: “Reputational risk following the closure of the building will be managed by putting in place a robust communications strategy.”

They know we will see through their hypocrisy and come out fighting.

Simon Shaw, East London

A last chance for Babar Ahmad?

Tuesday 27 September was the deadline for the British government to submit evidence to the European Court of Human Rights on Babar Ahmad’s final appeal against extradition to the US.

After more than seven years in custody this could be Babar’s last chance for freedom.

In 2003 Tooting resident Babar was arrested under anti-terror legislation and assaulted by police.

It took over five years for them to acknowledge the assault. In 2004 Babar was rearrested and faced extradition.

No evidence of wrongdoing has ever been produced and Babar denies any involvement in terrorism. But, he is constantly being moved between various high security prisons—despite high profile campaigns for his release.

Those assembling against war in Trafalgar Square on 8 October will do so for many different reasons.One reason I will be there is because another innocent has had his life ruined by British foreign policy.

Sometimes it’s difficult to focus on the persecution of one individual, but Babar Ahmad is a casualty of the ‘war on terror’.

Francine Koubel, South London

Lives made miserable

The charity Christians Against Poverty recently carried out a national survey of over 1,000 of its clients living with debt.

They found that more than 70 percent of those questioned sacrificed meals because they had no cash. Some 37 percent considered or attempted suicide as a way out of their situation.

Everything is going up except salaries.

If you haven’t got much money to start with, it only takes a few changes to your circumstances to really notice. It can be the choice between feeding your family or heating your home.

All this in a country that has the sixth richest economy in the world.

John Appleyard, West Yorkshire

Labour leader not on strike

Ed Miliband is the latest Labour leader to attack striking workers.

Instead of siding with workers preparing to take on the Tory government, he used his conference speech to praise Thatcher’s anti-union laws.

This follows his refusal to back the strikes on 30 June. It should come as no surprise.

Tony Blair is remembered for imperialist wars, but he also went into battle with workers on strike against privatisation and cuts.

Neil Kinnock refused to offer Labour support to the year-long miners’ strike against Thatcher.

Even during the “golden years” under Clement Attlee, the army was sent to break strikes 18 times.

Martin Percival, Sheffield

No hope for posh Labour

How can Blue Labour possibly win—or Purple Labour, or Labour as pink or red?

It’s struggling with another Gordon Brown bloke in charge.

Miliband is useless as a speaker. He sounds like a posh kid, and sadly he is posh.

He tells workers without jobs that they are lazy, but he has never had to work­—he even had a safe seat.

I will not vote Labour.

Robert, Carmarthenshire

Who are the real looters?

The looting in August was completely wrong.

However, the sentences handed out are way out of proportion.

We also seem to condemn the looters as bad people, but not the bankers, politicians who flipped their homes, and the greed and shallowness that pervades our entire society.

Indeed, some of the companies that were looted have probably looted their workers’ pay packet, hoping they are none the wiser.

Mark Richards, Staffordshire

Royals get it all for nothing

Westminster’s Tory council is giving the employed priority when it comes to housing.

They are justifying it on the perverse grounds that they’re challenging the “something for nothing” culture.

Aren’t the royal family residents of Westminster?

Sasha Simic, East London

Marx made me a singer

To many Socialist Worker readers, Will Young is simply another former pop idol—a plastic creature of the music industry.

However, he recently told an interviewer from independent news site Beehive City, “Marx made me want to be a singer.”

He continued, “For Marx it was all about putting yourself into your work. People aren’t allowed to do that because they try to strip away that sense of self.”

I leave it for readers to decide whether Young’s music avoids the degrading impact of alienation which Marx saw as bound up with labour under capitalism.

Susan Leyland, East London

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Article information

Tue 4 Oct 2011, 18:02 BST
Issue No. 2272
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