Debate and discussion: What socialists should say about the PJP

Submitted by Anon on 17 July, 2004 - 8:33

Gerry Bates (Solidarity 3-52 27 May) says "The PJP has called on Muslims not to vote Lib-Dems because the Lib-Dems are in favour of equal rights for gays and lesbians."

Gerry knows this is not true. Jim Denham reported in early May on one of the left e-mail lists, that the leaflet had been withdrawn.

The sequence of events is as follows:

A draft leaflet by two candidates of the PJP in Saltley which had a homophobic comment, was available at a PJP meeting in Saltley on 2 May 2004. I am informed by Raghib Ahsan, a left wing ex-Labour Councillor and candidate for the PJP, that leading members of the PJP ordered the leaflet to be withdrawn. I have seen the amended version and it does not contain any homophobic comment.

Only this second version of the leaflet was distributed to the general public. Given the widespread opposition to equal rights for lesbians and gays by leaders of religious communities whether Catholic, Jewish or Muslim, the fact that the leaders of the PJP overruled this leaflet is a considerable advance.

The Peoples Justice Party is a significant organisation mainly based in the Asian community which has two elected Birmingham Councillors and stood 15 candidates in the June local elections. It holds public meetings with hundreds of supporters and has clearly moved to the left under the impact of the Iraq war. It originated in the mid-90s as a result of the long-term closure of Labour Party branches in the inner city areas and a campaign against the jailing of a Kashmiri activist. Recently a number of Asian left wingers have joined the Party and it has reinforced its collaboration with the socialist left. It is calling for a vote for Respect and Respect is calling for a vote for the PJP in the local elections.

The PJP has been correctly criticised because its two councillors voted for the New Labour Council budget in the Birmingham Council. without consulting the local party activists. I am informed by Amir Khan, an ex-Labour Councillor and candidate for the PJP, that this action by the councillors caused uproar in the Party with a clear majority opposed to their action.

The PJP is clearly an amorphous political organisation with clear political positions on the withdrawal of imperialist troops from Iraq and opposition to privatisation but less clarity on other issues. Surely the tasks of Marxists is not as some comrades advocate, to write off the working class activists in the PJP as 'homophobic', but to work fraternally with these comrades in campaigns against the war and privatisation, hoping to accelerate their evolution towards revolutionary socialist politics and being politically critical where necessary.

Stuart Richardson, Birmingham

To prove we are deliberate liars, Stuart Richardson, a member of the International Socialist Group, cites one of our comrades Jim Denham as reporting that the leaflet had been withdrawn! But nothing that Gerry Bates wrote depended on the assertion that the leaflet had been withdrawn; Bates said nothing about that one way or another. In fact we have never disputed the point.

We have no way of knowing about the successive 'drafts' of the leaflet. We responded to the public activity of the PJP, the giving out of a leaflet. We do know that the homophobic 'draft'/'product' call it what you will, has been seen by a lot of people on the left in Birmingham.

Sure, an edited version of the leaflet appeared. But there was no retraction of the homophobic stuff.
Gerry Bates commented on the way Respect was appealing to Muslims as Muslims, the danger of accepting all Muslim community politics and making alliances with 'Muslim organisations' that are essentially communalist organisations.

It is to be welcomed, if what Stuart Richardson says is true, that some in the PJP have 'moved left'. But unless they break with communalism, their 'leftism' will be worth very little.

The editors

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