Last weekend, on Saturday 6th July, more than a million people turned out in central London for the UK's biggest pride march. Amongst those attending were Socialist Appeal supporters and activists, who protested the corporatisation of the movement.
This year's Pride holds particular importance, as it is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich, New York. The riots sparked the formation of the Gay Liberation Front, whose confrontational tactics led to them organising a yearly march that aimed to combat societal shame with ‘gay pride’.
Pride today, and in particular London Pride, is a far cry from these political roots. The parade, dominated by corporations, has been forced into an apolitical celebration; a thin mask for a corporate cash grab of the ‘pink pound’.
Peter Tatchell — one of the organisers of the first UK Pride in 1972 — has reacted to London Pride 2019 in utter dismay, stating that "pride has sold its soul to rainbow-branded capitalism".
Kick out the corporations
Socialist Appeal supporters attended, giving out leaflets encouraging the community to kick corporations out of pride. This message resonated with the crowd, especially young people and those from more marginalised parts of the LGBT community.
With young LGBT people being grossly overrepresented within youth homeless populations, they are all too aware of the hollow allyship of corporations waving the rainbow flag in one hand, whilst continuing to stab the LGBT community in the back with the other.
Amongst our capitalist ‘allies’ marching this year were:
- HSBC, who recently launched a $451bn fund dedicated to investment in Saudi Arabia, a country notorious for its oppression and torture of members of its LGBT community.
- Serco, who are pocketing millions for running UK immigration removal centers for the government - centers that forcibly send LGBT refugees back to countries where they face torture and death.
- And Shell, who profit from destroying the climate, the effects of which are felt hardest by the most vulnerable in society.
The central reason for this change in London Pride is its increasingly bureaucratic organisation and its obsession with financial profit. Who can march in the parade is tightly controlled, requiring a paid application, with corporations paying to essentially dominate the parade.
All of this means that groups that are fighting for LGBT rights today are sidelined from the event. ‘Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants’ were forced to barge their way into the parade in order to highlight the horrors that this government is inflicting upon LGBT migrant communities. The police even tried to block them from taking part. This is an outrageous stifling of voices calling out LGBT oppression.
Pride is a fucking protest! We broke down the barricades of pride and were joined by 2000 beautiful marchers in solidarity with queer people seeking asylum, homeless queer people & migrants ✊?? pic.twitter.com/tW77285dWi— Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants (@lgsmigrants) July 6, 2019
The height of hypocrisy of the day was the attendance of prospective prime minister Boris Johnson. Hoping to pinkwash his history of unapologetic homophobia, he attempted to cast himself as an ally to the LGBT community.
While there were outcries to this vapid publicity stunt online, if Pride was a political protest Boris Johnson would not have been able to step a single slimy foot within a mile of the parade.
you called gay men ‘tank-top wearing bum boys’ and compared same-sex marriage to a person marrying a dog, didn’t attend london pride 2011-2015, allowed gay marriage ban in bermuda, and have a homophobe running your leadership campaign - so fuck your salute and fuck you too https://t.co/95zxxbk8Em— chloé (@chloeannelillia) July 6, 2019
But Boris is not the only one guilty of continuing LGBT oppression - it is a crime of the entire capitalist system. Corporations, the Conservatives, and the police are all complicit in the oppression of LGBT people.
These institutions of big business continue to protect the rights of landlords whilst we face the worst housing crisis in modern history, which is forcing even more LGBT people into homelessness. They continue to gut NHS mental health support services, which LGBT people depend on. They continue to deport LGBT refugees, forcing them into oppressive and dangerous conditions.
Pride's origins were explicitly political: commemorating the Stonewall riots; calling for social transformation; and seeking to stand up to the oppressive forces in society.
This was the Pride that was headed by miners, who stood by our side when Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners stood by theirs. This is the Pride our community needs today. One that fights for our rights and builds bridges with those who share our conditions of oppression.
We have nothing to lose but our promotional Barclays key-rings! We have a world to win!