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Pride board's plan of shame

THE Pride board's decision to renege on its previous commitment to positioning the trade union block immediately behind Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) contingent at the head of Pride March 2015 is disgraceful.

It smacks of a group of people short on memory and lacking in principle. 

Progress made so far in the struggle for full equality in Britain was not spearheaded by corporate sponsors.

As welcome as it may be to receive cash from Barclays, Citibank and Starbucks, that cannot justify allowing these transnational corporations to enjoy pride of place in the three first parade sections before trade unionists.

Big business was slow to get off the mark in backing the battle for LGBT rights, just as it was in recognising the justice of the anti-apartheid struggle.

The parallels between the two causes are undeniable, since both attracted similar responses from those in power. 

At first, ignore them because they are a minority issue, then attack them as the property of extremists and, finally, once it is no longer possible to oppose them, the men of power and property look to incorporate them.

Nelson Mandela's speedy transition from communist terrorist to everyone's favourite uncle was matched by the LGBT community's development from an existential threat against the natural order to people unquestionably entitled to love whoever they please.

Pride's decision to accord the leading position this year to Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, 30 years on from their principled identification with Britain's mining villages that were fighting for their lives, was heart-warming.

It revealed an understanding that communities victimised because of sexuality, race, gender, class or any other pretext had more in common than anything that appeared to divide them.

The role of LGSM in reaching out to the miners and their families, initially in Onllwyn, was reciprocated by the South Wales National Union of Mineworkers who turned out hundreds to support the 1985 Pride parade. 

Nor was this, as the film Pride suggested or dramatic effect, out of the ordinary.

The trade union movement had a record of support already for the cause of lesbian and gay equality and many unions had self-organised groups within their structures.

At a time when most gay politicians hid their sexuality and even voted for discriminatory legislation rather than come out, trade unionists took a principled stand.

Annual conferences of the TUC and its Scottish and Welsh bodies committed organised labour to the equality agenda and the unions donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to Pride.

Unions and left-wing parties threw their weight behind the battle for LGBT equality because they understood the issue as a class question, aware that democratic rights are indivisible. 

While the labour movement was fighting alongside LGBT activists, the Pride board's new-found friends were rigging the Libor rate, mis-selling insurance, helping themselves to king's ransom bonuses and dodging tax.

For the board of Pride to bow to Mammon by prioritising transnational capital over the trade union movement is an act of unprincipled betrayal, or - at best - short-sighted folly.

LGSM will doubtless refuse to be separated from fellow trade unionists during the march, but more is required.

The board decision springs self-evidently from a lack of meaningful involvement with trade unions.

This makes a major union effort essential to maximise attendance by the trade union members on June 27, provide effective pro-union and anti-austerity publicity and ensure greater understanding of the history of struggle that has made Pride 2015 possible. 


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