Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Gay Rights in Iran & The SWP

The issue of rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans individuals (LGBT) has reached unparalleled prevalence on the far-left within the last 20 years or so, related discussion feature in the Socialist Workers Party’s ‘Marxism’ and the Socialist Party’s ‘Socialism’ events yearly. Accusations of retrospective homophobia levelled at Socialist Party comrades are dismissed as nonsense, or simply attributed to the lingering ideological baggage of previous political leaders. Such as Socialist Appeal’s Ted Grant – a man prone to describing the movement for gay liberation as “petty bourgeois” nonsense [1].

That the language used by sections of the left in reference to these issues has changed is not expressive of a reawakening of the left to the importance of these issues. Far from the championing the rights of oppressed and minorities groups within the last five years there has instead been an abdication of basic solidarity within many of the most oppressed and marginalized within these groupings.

Comments made by Lindsey German of the Respect Party most clearly express the Herculean task sections of the far-left have set themselves in accommodating phantom right-wing reaction of every shade and hue. This is perhaps most famously expressed by the characterization of the rights of gays and women as expendable in an attempt to avoid “shibboleths” at the Marxism 2003 meeting ‘Revolutionaries & the left’ [2].

That Respect has had to begrudgingly accommodate – if just formally – an acknowledgement of the rights of LGBT individuals within the material it publishes says something about the measure of pressure exerted on the leadership in the face of previous omissions and oversights [3].

I cite these examples not for the joy of the inarticulate genuflection within which they are couched but to instead suggest it is expressive of the wider politics of the Socialist Workers Party’s role inside and outside of Respect. Beyond the lip-service occasionally paid to the issue at conference time and in policy documents scant attention is provided by the Socialist Workers Party to the rights of oppressed minorities they begrudgingly champion, as is most clearly the case in Iran.

Reading the pages of the ‘Socialist Worker’ one would not know that there even existed a persecuted LGBT movement in Iran, a belief that would seem to oddly coincide with views attributed to London Central Mosque cleric Sheikh Sharkhawy, that homosexuality simply does not exist in the Islamic Republic of Iran [4].

Until recently the most obvious omission of this fact related to the scant coverage of the hanging of two gay teenagers – an act rightly condemned by gay rights organizations such as Outrage! The threatened deportation from the UK of Iranian lesbian Pegah Emambakhsh to near certain “arrest, imprisonment, torture, lashings and/or possible execution” looks set to continue this tradition of silence on the part of the Socialist Workers Party – members of which can expect very few articles about the persecution of Pegah and others like her [5].

The attacks on gay minorities in this and other instances are attacks on us all and should rightly be met with the vocal and continuous outrage they deserve. The task of principled communists is to call on the unity of LGBT minorities, students and workers to condemn these acts and fight against the capitalist fundamentalists that threaten and divide them, as part of a wider project of principled international solidarity in opposition to imperialist war and regime change from above.

[1] http://www.marxist.com/the-theoretical-origins-of-the-degeneration-of-the-fourth-interview-with-ted-g-3.htm

[2] http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/602/respect%20LGBT.htm

[3] http://www.ukgaynews.org.uk/Archive/2005nov/2202.htm

[4] http://www.ilga.info/Information/Legal_survey/europe/supporting%20files/out_and_muslim_in_the_united_kin.htm

[5] http://www.petertatchell.net/international/savepegah.htm