Archive for the ‘LGBT’ Category

The retirement of southern Irish taoiseach (prime minister) Enda Kenny several months ago led to Leo Varadkar taking his place.  Varadkar is young, gay and his father is an Indian immigrant to Ireland.  Varadkar’s victory in the leadership contest in the Fine Gael party and assumption of the role of prime minister has been widely hailed as some kind of victory for gay rights and anti-racism.  Varadkar, however, is a committed anti-working class politician, with no track record of campaigning for either gay or migrant rights.  Varadkar  is no friend of the oppressed and exploited – quite the contrary.  The article is taken from the Irish Socialist Democracy website here, where it appeared on June 30.  It is a timely reminder that people need to be judged by their politics rather than being lauded because they are gay and/or female and/or brown.

The election of Leo Varadkar as Fine Gael leader – and his assumption of the role of Taoiseach – has been hailed as a watershed event in Ireland.  This perspective – which is particularity prevalent in international media coverage – carries the assumption that identity is the overriding factor in contemporary politics.  Within this framework the election of a relatively young gay man of ethnic migrant descent – standing in stark contrast to the profile of leaders that went before – is indeed a seminal event.  The other assumption attached to this identity-centred perspective is that a person from such a background will have a more liberal approach to politics.  However, a consideration of the record of Leo Varadkar quickly debunks such assumptions.      


Despite his relative youth, Varadkar is a long standing member of Fine Gael (he claims to have joined as a 17 year old) – the most conservative party in the state – and has consistently occupied the most right-wing positions on a range of issues, including those related to sexuality and race.  In 2010 he opposed the Civil Partnership Bill and also raised concerns over the prospect of gay couples  (more…)

Below is the text of a talk delivered by Dani in Dunedin on Friday, July 21.

by Dani Sanmugathasan

Good evening! My name is Dani Sanmugathasan, and I am a member of the British Marxist and Leninist organisation called the Revolutionary Communist Group. The following talk will be on the topic of ‘Corbynmania’ – the opportunist phenomenon that’s swept through the labour movements in core economies over the last two years – and a good place to start is at the events in London earlier this month.


“Oh, Je-re-my Cor-byn!” rang out the chants of many on the streets of London on the 1st of July at the People’s Assembly’s ‘Tories Out’ march. The People’s Assembly, Momentum, Radical Housing Network, the Socialist Workers Party, the Stop the War Coalition, the Socialist Party, and the large trade unions (PCS, RMT, CWU, Unison, Len McCluskey’s Unite the Union…) were all rallying round the Labour Party leader, the holy Son of Attlee, the man who would save Britain from the iron grip of Tory austerity.

But beside these organisations, a distinct second current of marchers – composed of such organisations as Class War, the Focus E15 Mothers, Lesbians & Gays Support the Migrants, Architects for Social Housing, Movement For Justice, the Revolutionary Communist Group, and trade unions like the IWGB – led a different chant: “Labour, Tory, same old story!” These groups made (more…)

downloadby Louise O’Shea

To a casual observer, it might seem incongruous that a campaign to prevent a prominent second wave feminist speaking on a university campus would be led by the women’s officer of the student union. But this is typical of the world we live in, and of student politics in the English-speaking world in particular.

The second wave feminist concerned is Germaine Greer, who was invited by the University of Cardiff in the UK to speak on the topic of “Women and power: the lessons of the 20th century”.

The campus women’s officer, Rachael Melhuish, initiated a petition calling for the university to cancel the event on the basis of Greer’s “misogynistic views towards trans women”. The petition attracted more than 2,900 signatures. While the university has resisted cancelling the 18 November event, it is unclear whether it will go ahead.

There is nothing to celebrate here.

The episode reflects a widespread tendency towards knee-jerk appeals to authority by student union officials as the preferred method of righting wrongs. Calling on a neoliberal university administration to use authoritarian measures to protect students from unpalatable ideas does nothing to strengthen the collective organisations of staff and students. Nor does it help develop the (more…)


Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard

The piece below is reprinted from the Australian journal Marxist Left Review #4, Winter 2012; it presents a damning indictment of the Rudd and Gillard Labor Party governments across the ditch and those who propped them up.

by Diane Fieldes

Less than five years after the landslide defeat of the hated Howard government in 2007, Labor is so unpopular that the return of the Liberals to office seems assured. By the 2010 election Labor was already close to losing office. Despite the much-vaunted success of the Australian economy since the start of the global economic crisis, both parties’ 2010 election policies made clear their commitment to the capitalist class’s desire for pre-emptive austerity measures (cuts to public spending, a budget surplus) while business profits were propped up. Both parties went to the 2010 election committed to a reactionary consensus: undermining workers’ rights while kowtowing to the ultra-wealthy, continuing the slaughter in Afghanistan, locking up refugees behind razor wire, and continuing the genocide of Aboriginal people.

The result of Labor’s 2010 election campaign was that the ultra-reactionary Tony Abbott came within a whisker of winning. The ALP could not form government without the support of the Greens’ single House of Representatives member, Adam Bandt, and three independents – the ex-Nationals Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, and former Green Andrew Wilkie. Some on the left welcomed the formation of this minority government as a positive outcome. It supposedly presented an opportunity for progressive advance. The day after the election long-time left wing activist Tim Anderson declared:

“Unexpectedly… a great opportunity for social change has emerged… The August election was a strong statement against… shallow electoral politics… there is room for a range of new voices, including the Greens, including the maverick MPs, but also including all those of us who have been disillusioned with conventional politics.”[i]

Prominent Greens member (and former Democrat senator) Andrew Bartlett, argued that:

“this new parliament is likely to be (more…)

by Daniel Harvey

The new normal

Each year, when the Pride march in London comes around, the claims that it has become commercialised and separated from its roots get stronger. This year was no different, with the movement becoming more splintered than ever – the divisions are clearer between its traditional left support and the newer, corporate-sponsored wing. There has been a concerted effort over the last decade to incorporate some forms of gay identity, but that process is partial, and incomplete, because, despite everything that has changed, the LGBT ‘community’ is hardly homogeneous.

That was certainly in evidence on the June 27 march, and in the arguments that swirled around it. There was an altercation with the Pride board over the UK Independence Party’s gay section, LGBT Ukip. Pride originally invited the group to attend, only to retract the offer because of “health and safety concerns” when there were so many complaints. Whilst the Ukip leadership is formally for gay equality, so many of its members have come out with homophobic statements that the idea of a Ukip LGBT section faintly seems ridiculous. And, of course, Ukip has such horribly reactionary policies on a whole range of issues, not least immigration.

The darker side of the incorporation of gay identity into the mainstream has been the small but real rise of what has been dubbed ‘homo-nationalism’: that is to say, the use of gay symbols and tolerance of LGBT people to promote (more…)

The Weavers

The Weavers

by Don Franks

Progressive American singer and stage actor Ronnie Gilbert died last Saturday, aged 88.

Ronnie Gilbert was born Ruth Alice Gilbert in Brooklyn on September 7th 1926 to immigrant parents.

Her Ukrainian father worked as a milliner. Her Polish mother, Sarah, was a garment worker, union activist and Communist Party member.  When Ronnie was ten years old, her mother took her to a union rally where Paul Robeson sang, an experience Ronnie Gilbert later recalled as “transformative.”

“That was the beginning of my life as a singer and a — I wouldn’t call myself an activist, but a singer, a singer with social conscience, let’s say,” she said in a 2004 interview.

As a teenager, in Washington, she met other musicians and eventually became part of a group called the Weavers: Pete Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert, Lee Hays and Fred Hellerman. Combining strong harmonies with sparkling guitar and banjo accompaniment, the quartet quickly became popular. Innovative for the time, the Weavers’ versions of oral tradition folk songs, union ballads and gospel tunes sounded new and fresh.

The Weavers’ first concerts were free performances at (more…)

images (9)

by Philip Ferguson

The south of Ireland has given a resounding ‘yes’ to equal marriage rights.  The vote has gone roughly 62% for, 38% against.  In Dublin the vote is more like 70-30 and in some of the big working class areas voting booths have even shown support as high as 80%.  The working class and young people voted overwhelmingly for marriage equality.

Indeed, the socialist-republican organisation éirígí noted the day after the referendum: “Tallies have revealed that the YES vote is highest amongst working class communities in cities and towns across the Twenty-Six Counties.

“In Dublin the people of areas like Tallaght, Ballymun, Ballyfermot, Coolock and the South Inner City have voted for equality by margins of up to four to one.

“Many of these same communities are also hotbeds of resistance to the water tax and austerity. All indicators of the growing levels of political awareness and mobilisation – of the potential strength of an organised working class.

“Yesterday we broke the chains of church domination. Tomorrow we break the chains of (more…)