I gave a guest lecture in London yesterday, and whilst there picked up a copy of the Camden New Journal, and a pamphlet on LGBT liberation by Laura Miles of the Socialist Workers Party, "Pride, Politics and Protest: A Revolutionary Guide to LGBT Liberation"
An example of the difficulty some people face living the life they wish was starkly set out on p.8 of the CNJ - the suicide of West Hampstead GP Dr Nazim Mahmood. Having spent Eid with his family in Birmingham, Dr Mahmood was confronted by his mother and told he needed to be cured of his homosexuality. He subsequently committed suicide, leaving behind a male partner of 13 years.
Given the restrictions religious scriptures and religious organisations place on sexuality, one might expect the SWP's pamphlet on gay rights to critically examine the world's main religions, their attitudes to gay men and women, and the impact this has on people's lives. Instead, of 32 pages, less than 2 are devoted to religion, and most of that is taken up by criticism of the homophobia of the Russian Orthodox Church (to be condemned, but hardly the biggest issue facing people here in the UK) There is then brief comment on anti-gay laws in three countries - India, Uganda and Nigeria. Although this section does manage a passing reference to encouragement for this from 'homophobic churches' the point is qualified before it is even made
"Very often such homophobic laws and attitudes are relics of colonialism by various imperialist powers not least of course, Britain" (Miles, 2014, 15).
No explanation is forthcoming as to why former colonial powers have long since abandoned anti-gay legislation, whilst some Commonwealth nations are launching attacks anew. In this brief global summary, one might also have expected reference to Iran, probably the country with the worst record in the world for executions of gays, and one of the few to conduct forced gender re-assignment. More than 4000 homosexuals have been executed in Iran since the Islamic Revolution - a subject Laura Miles does not see fit to mention.
Instead, 'Pride, Politics and Protest' ticks many of the boxes that appear to matter these days on the 'revolutionary' left. Russell Brand's book, Revolution is praised, islamophobia and Israel's attacks on Gaza condemned, the Bolsheviks are displayed as far-sighted on the issue of gay equality, the nuclear family gets booted in a two page spread, as do the Nazis.
There are repeated references to the BNP, and sweeping references to UKIP's homophobia, without any attempt to understand the complex debates and arguments within that party on issues such as gay marriage. One could be forgiven for thinking the biggest issue facing LGBT people in Britain was whether Nigel Farage still wants to park the issue of gay marriage.
Laura Miles simply does not do complicated detail - there is no mention here of the beliefs of the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, or any of the rising evangelical trends in the UK. The second biggest religion in the country - Islam - is not mentioned at all, save for the listing of gay Muslim support group Imaan under 'Useful organisations and Contact Points' - although why any person would need to contact them, given the content of this pamphlet, is a mystery.
When she was still in the SWP, Lindsey German famously argued that the issue of 'gay rights' should not become a 'shibboleth'. Ever since the Socialist Alliance in Preston discovered you could win council elections with Muslim votes, the SWP and the various splinters from it, have been on a precarious roller-coaster ride with a succession of Islamist actors. Far from being a guide to 'liberation' (whatever that means), what they lose, as Laura Miles pamphlet shows, is their critical faculties.