The Morning Star and tackling transphobia

Submitted by AWL on 6 July, 2018 - 9:42 Author: Ira Berkovic
morning star

In the justified storm of criticism following the Morning Star’s publication of an anti-trans open letter, a number of critical open letters have been circulated in response. 

One is headed Morning Star readers against transphobia”. It is good that this letter has criticised the Morning Star’s consistent record of giving houseroom to transphobia. It makes those points well. But it couches its criticisms in lavish praise of the paper. Its signatories say they “wholeheartedly support and champion the Morning Star”, and that it “makes a vital contribution to the British labour movement”.

In reality, the Morning Star’s boosting of transphobia is not an aberration, but entirely consistent with its role as the organ of the Communist Party of Britain and the chief mouthpiece for “mainstream” Stalinism in Britain. Many prominent “gender-critical” (that is, anti-trans) feminists have a CPB background. 

The letter says the Morning Star has a “proud and extraordinary history”. It is certainly extraordinary: it includes such highlights as the article in 1981 justifying the actions of a racist mob in the Paris suburb of Vitry who bulldozed a hostel housing Malian migrants (the town’s mayor was a Communist Party member). 

More recently, the paper praised Bashar al-Assad’s brutal siege of Aleppo, in which thousands of civilians died, as a “liberation”, a description entirely consistent with its line of apologism for the crimes of “anti-imperialist” dictators such as Assad and Slobodan Milosevic. 

Its role in the domestic labour movement is also conservative. It denounced a recent rank-and-file revolt in the University and College Union as “tactical insanity”, and accused the UCU members leading it of being stooges for the Socialist Workers’ Party. 

Tellingly, the open letter also objects to the Morning Star’s transphobia on the basis that it is a “source of embarrassment to the paper’s young supporters”. This is undoubtedly true: a small clique of young Stalinists has manoeuvred itself into positions of influence in Young Labour and Momentum, milieus where the Morning Star’s transphobia (and hostility to free movement; and support for the likes of Assad) put Morning Star supporters very much at odds with the political instincts of most other activists around them. If these comrades find an association with the Morning Star “embarassing”, they should reconsider the association. 

The letter’s signatories also initially included the names of a number of activists, including supporters of Workers’ Liberty, who have not signed the letter, and whose names appear to have been added by others using the open form at the bottom of the letter’s website. Some of those names have since been removed. Whether this was done to “provoke” Workers’ Liberty into a denunciation of the letter is unclear. In any case, this would be a bizarre manouvre. We have no wish to denounce the criticism of transphobia made in the letter. Equally, Workers’ Liberty’s attitude to the Morning Star and the Stalinist politics it carries is no secret and we are happy to reaffirm it here. 

The fight to place liberation and equality at the heart of the labour movement and the left, including the fight for a progressive position on trans rights, must also be a fight against the reactionary conservatism of Stalinism.

• Another open letter deals with issues more straightforwardly: "For informed discussion of proposed changes to the GRA". We encourage all labour movement activists who support trans rights to sign it.

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