Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Pride not Profit... or Bankruptcy!

For a Campaigning Brighton Pride - Fight the Cuts, Prejudice and Capitalism!

With the organisation which has been responsible for running Pride in Brighton and Hove facing severe financial difficulties, this year’s Pride event is at risk. If it does go ahead, it is likely to have a commercial focus as it has in recent years. However, Pride began as a political protest march for equal rights and against discrimination, and The Socialist Party believes the fight is far from won. We are calling for Pride to get back to its roots, to demonstrate the strength of the LGBTQ community in opposition to the direct attacks from the ConDem government cuts.

Recent reports in the Argus describe the financial difficulties facing Brighton Pride this year. £180,000 worth of debts are owed by the charity Pride (South East) with “nearly £130,000 owed to production company Fisher Productions... [whose] final bill for the event of £355,000 was almost double the initial tendered bid.”Furthermore, “last year’s Pride in the Park lost a total of £125,000, and £68,000 of that was spent paying off debts from previous years.” Last year, as a result of the event charging entry, the security costs alone amounted to £30,000.

The Argus concludes that the future of Pride in 2012 is now under question. This threat comes at a time of significant attacks taking place against public services, the living and working conditions of LGBTQ people and their community.

The huge assault taking place on public services is something that affects everyone from a working-class background, but support services which LGBTQ people disproportionately rely on are particularly in the firing line. While 22% of respondents to Brighton’s ‘Count Me In Too’ survey (CMIT) have been homeless at some point in their lives, cuts to grants for homelessness charities will mean that there are fewer safe refuges, and less support will offered to those rough sleepers in the city. With housing benefit being slashed as well, this can only make things worse, as people are put at risk of homophobic or transphobic abuse as they are forced to live in shared houses.
Cuts to the NHS budget will be felt by LGBTQ people as healthcare services in areas such as mental health, sexual health and gender reassignment may be slashed.

Academies and free schools are not only an attack on public owned education but a relaxation of what is taught, opening the possibility of homophobic attitudes and gender stereotyping being taught in schools. Faith schools already receive exemption from sexual orientation laws and academies do not need to even have a policy on sex and relationships education, let alone teach a factual, non-judgemental syllabus.

Hate crime continues to be extensively perpetrated against LGBTQ people. 73% of respondents to CMIT said that they had experienced abuse related to their sexual identity and/or gender identity in the past five years. In schools, homophobic bullying is rife and often encouraged by the mainstream media. Alongside the need for anti-bullying schemes and educational psychologists in schools a mass campaign needs to be waged to oppose such attitudes.

While the role of the police in suppressing protests, especially those of students and occupy, has been revealed to many, the government is making cuts to those police services that offer specific protection to minorities. We call for an end to police cuts while also making it clear there must be genuine democratic accountability of the police in all local areas.

Although people of the same sex are now able to have a civil partnership, in the UK they are still banned from getting married. This blatant discrimination is unacceptable in modern society, and there is simply no practical or logical reason for reserving the right to marriage for people of different sexes. Likewise, civil partnerships ought to be available to people of different sexes.

Pride began as a political demonstration for gay rights in Stonewall. It has since become highly commercialised, as can be seen by the large brands which dominate the Pride march. However, the need remains for a mass campaign to defend and extend democratic rights as well as living and working conditions. Such a campaign should be linked to the overall struggle against the ConDem government, which is dragging society back to the living conditions of the past.

While Pride offers an opportunity to wage a mass campaign for equality, its commercial focus blunts the message, wrongly suggests that no more battles need to be fought and implies that only a few issues stand in the way of full equality.

There is a need to recognise the class divide within the LGBTQ community, with the impact of capitalism affecting the working-class far harder.

The debts incurred in the commercialised Pride events of previous years could prevent pride from taking place this year. However a protest march is comparatively much cheaper to organise. If Pride is cancelled we will be contacting other interested groups and individuals to call a Pride not Profit demonstration. If Pride goes ahead this year we will participate with a strong political message:

fight the cuts, fight prejudice, build a mass movement against austerity, bigotry and capitalism!