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Class Politics Versus Modernity

23 February 2018

Gerry Fitzpatrick

Conference Speech given by the national co-ordinatior of Gay Rights at Work in 1981:

This year, as many know, Gay Pride was in Huddersfield to protest the police action against the local gay club [the Gemini]. One of the things that we took away from the event is the substantial opposition within today's gay movement to class and socialist politics. That issue was made clear by the demonstration itself—ahead of which the owner of the Gemini club—John Pettigrew—drove his rolls royce. Later, when organizers met to discuss future strategy and the point was made that we [Gay Rights at Work] opposed what had happened—that John Pettigrew's Rolls Royce should serve as a kind of flagship of our gay pride march—that person is shouted down and doesn't get a hearing.
We maybe clear on whose side we are on as the opposition to Thatcher and the conservatives grows, but as far as John Pettigrew is concerned when the riots finally reach Huddersfield and smashes all the pubs and the Asian shops—John Pettigrew will be calling for strong police action and the gassing of anybody that causes any trouble. There is talk of a channel tunnel [between Britain and France] all those Rolls Royces will be heading for it as soon as they get it built!

National Co-ordinatior of Gay Rights at Work speech given in 1981.

From its beginning in 1977 at the TUC, Gay Rights at Work movement supported workers who had been victimized encouraging the Trade Union movement to become more directly involved in cases of discrimination. It, along with other socialists, helped organize Gay Support the Miners during the year long miners strike 1984—1985, which in turn led to the mine workers union in leading the vote in support of LGBT rights at the 1985 Labour Party conference. This tradition was later submerged by the much broader campaign against the Tory Section (clause) 28 in 1988. In a similar way to the social unity that was in evidence in the gay movement here in opposition to Paisley's Save Ulster From Sodomy Campaign, this unity would later break apart as leading activists divided over the Belfast Agreement and its meaning, with some supporting the (DUP's) line in resistance to power sharing. Many thought that local government here would no longer be able resist the social dynamics of modernity and the acceptance of LGBTQI rights by the majority of those under 35. But as a editorial on this site has stated:

The northern state is not a liberal democracy and there is no mechanism for reform.  That is not to say that things aren’t changing—the support for marriage equality shows that they are—but such changes are unlikely to be reflected at an institutional level.  A movement for equality must be in opposition to these institutions (the Assembly & the Executive) rather than support of them and their imaginary reforming potential.
This also means that even if the first minister happens to be gay like the former secretary of state Peter Mandelson, it is does not mean that the established and embedded reactionaries will not be supported. Similarly, in the south, no matter how much the current Taoiseach would like to wear his identity as a badge of modernity that will not change the consequence of the class politics of his government and the rest are pursuing. Now that the DUP have obtained a much better power sharing arrangement with Conservatives at Westminster—Stormont is simply the stage on which to defeat and humiliate, not only SF—but ALL opposition and now even those who desperately want to be or remain their friends. So that's why the DUP leader was keen to say that progress had been made in burying the Belfast Agreement it only remains for the right of the Tory party to follow the right of the Labour Party to enable the DUP to give the Agreement the last rites.
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