NUT Left Abstain on Homophobia

Submitted by AWL on 31 March, 2008 - 10:53 Author: TomU

For the first time in its history, the annual conference of the National Union of Teachers debated a motion submitted by LGBT teachers from their own conference. The motion, entitled "International Homophobia and Transphobia" condemned the current levels of anti-LGBT bigotry in Britain and the rising tide of militant right-wing attacks on LGBT people and Pride demonstrations around the world. Poland, Russia, Israel and Iran were among the places singled out for mention.

Tim Lucas and Claire Jenkins from the NUT LGBT Working Party proposed and seconded the motion and a number of delegates submitted cards to speak in favour. At the last moment, Ray Sirotkin (Secretary of Lambeth NUT and an associate of Socialist Action) put in a card against. Sirotkin is not the most coherent of speakers on a good day so it was fairly difficult to follow his line of argument - unless you had some understanding of his political background. After 'apologoising' to conference for what he was about to do, Sirotkin accused those who drafted the motion of pandering to "neo-colonialist" ideas. He claimed that by passing the motion NUT conference would adopt a patronising "we know better than you" attitude to the rest of the world. So if a state other than Britain decides to arrest, torture and murder LGBT people then trade unionists - and self-proclaimed socialists like Ray - should keep quiet about it!

Sirotkin's comments came just a week after George Galloway appeared on national Radio and Television to smear Mehdi Kazemi, a gay Iranian asylum seeker facing deportation. Galloway first claimed that those campaigning for Mehdi to stay were "giving a pink tinge to the khaki war machine" and later claimed that Mehdi's partner had been executed by the Iranian government for sexually abusing young men. The Iranian state has made no such claim, levelled no such charge - it is a figment of Galloway's imagination. So why make the claim? Galloway may have bigoted attitudes towards LGBT people but he's not usually in the business of launching homophobic press campaigns. He chose to attack Mehdi and his murdered partner because for him, the threats of war against Iran far outweigh the persecution of LGBT people (and women, students and trade unionists for that matter). That Iran is threatened with attack propels its government into Galloway's anti-imperialist camp. All other concerns are secondary - or no concern at all.

Galloway's protective instincts towards the theocratic Iranian regime no longer come as a surprise. He has a long record of supporting such rotten reactionaries. That someone involved with Socialist Action should echo the same politics - albeit in their own weasel way - is now run of the mill. They behave in the same way within the student movement, the only other place outside of the GLA administration where SA shows its face. More surprising is that the Socialist Workers Party, having repudiated Galloway and his communal politics, chose to abstain on the motion along with large sections of the Socialist Teachers Alliance (one of the two main left groups in the NUT). It is now clear that the SWP leadership has only gone so far in rejecting the politics of their recent rotten past.

By abstaining on this motion the Ray Sirotkin, the SWP and a large chunk of the STA shamed themselves once again. If internationalism is to mean anything at all there can be no qualifications, no ifs or maybes when it comes to solidarity with LGBT people.


Submitted by Daniel_Randall on Wed, 16/04/2008 - 01:19

The kitsch, classless left Tom was criticising in his speech have been stomping around for years referring to everyone they don't like as Islamaphobes, racist, pro-imperialists, Zionists, and all sorts of other ridiculous scare-words and slanders as a substitute for political debate without pausing to think twice about the implications of any of it.

But did those of us on the receiving end of those slanders whine about it and demand apologies? No - we dealt with the politics at hand, stated our case and proved that the slanders were just that; slanders.

The situation we're dealing with here is quite different to that, though. As I understand it, Tom didn't call Ray Sirotkin "a Brownshirt" but rather compared Galloway to "a Brownshirt". (Ray's own post here seems to bear this out.) Maybe this is hyperbolic, overly virtiolic, whatever, but it's a political assessment of what Galloway represents and the idea that he should have to apologise for it to anyone is laughable.

Have we really reached a situation on the left where the SWP, Socialist Action and whoever else can run around calling anyone anything they like, but start mewling and demanding apologies the second someone sends a bit of vitriol their way?

Submitted by AWL on Mon, 21/04/2008 - 22:18

Ray, I'd hardly describe my comments as a diatribe. I'm not surprised that members of the SWP and STA are angry about our report, I'm sure on reflection that they're very embarrassed by the abstentions on the motion. NUT conference had chance to vote for international solidarity against homophobia, you led the opposition to that for the flimsiest spurious reasons. Thankfully the rest of conference voted without exception for the motion.

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