As Pride month rolls around each year, the capitalists and their representatives eagerly attempt to show their ‘undying and unwavering support’ to the LGBT community. And this year is no different.

Corporations are once again falling over themselves to make tokenistic gestures, such as temporarily changing their logos to be rainbow coloured, and selling Pride-themed merchandise. 

For example, budget hotel chain Premier Inn have changed their social media profile pictures to call themselves ‘Premier Out’. And the US Marines have even tweeted a photo of rainbow tipped bullets, with the caption that they are ‘proud to serve’! 

What all these companies and institutions really mean is that they’re proud to profit from the struggle of LGBT people, whilst doing nothing to actually address the issues faced by them.

Rainbow corporations

In reality, the so-called ‘pride’ exhibited by these companies is little more than a cynical facade.

There are a whole host of companies who, whilst waving rainbow flags in the West, have no problem selling their products in countries that imprison and repress LGBT people. 

For example, McDonalds is very keen for us to know that they support LGBT people in Britain. Yet they are happy to open restaurants in Pakistan, where homosexuality is punishable by death by stoning.

Similarly, banks such as HSBC and Barclays ensure that they have prominent floats at London’s Pride celebrations. Yet they also both heavily invest in Saudi Arabia, where the regime brutally represses and kills LGBT people.

This hypocrisy is not an oversight, but is the logical product of a system that is solely driven by profit. 

‘Pinkwashing’

In Britain, there has been a dramatic shift in public attitudes towards homosexuality over the past couple of decades – in large part due to years of struggle by LGBT activists. 

It was only in 2013 that, for the first time, over a majority of respondents to the British Social Attitudes survey said that same-sex relationships are ‘not at all wrong’. Now this figure is over 80% amongst 18-24 year olds.

As such, corporations are now well aware that they must present themselves as LGBT ‘friendly’, lest they be branded as bigoted, damaging their image and sales. 

Adopting the rainbow flag during Pride started out with a handful of companies positioning themselves to appeal to LGBT consumers. Now it has simply become a box-ticking exercise for the marketing departments of all major businesses.

This is a convenient – and cheap – way for companies to give themselves a ‘progressive’ veneer, whilst carrying on with exploitation as usual. In a word, they are attempting to ‘pinkwash’ a system built on exploitation and greed.

For example, Deliveroo exploits thousands of workers – men and women; gay and straight – with poverty wages, and no sick pay or holiday pay. But the company presents a smiling face to the public by changing its logo to rainbow colours during June. The same is true for all companies jumping on the Pride bandwagon.

The irony is that it has been through past struggles – such as Pride, when it really was a political protest – that homophobic attitudes have been challenged. But where were these companies in the 1980s, during rampant police attacks on gay clubs, and when homophobia was rife?

Words not deeds

The fact is that this corporate pinkwashing does nothing to help LGBT people. Beneath all the rainbow-themed logos and products, LGBT oppression continues to exist.

The discrimination and bigotry faced by LGBT people is compounded by class questions – issues that the capitalists and their political representatives are themselves responsible for.

LGBT people are disproportionately more likely to end up homeless, for example, due to a housing crisis which condemns millions to misery.

Similarly, LGBT people are acutely affected by the underfunding of the NHS, and of mental health services. A recent study by Stonewall found that over the previous year, half of LGBT people had experienced depression. One-in-eight LGBT people aged 18-24 had attempted to end their life. And almost half of trans people had considered suicide.

No amount of rainbow themed logos will do anything to solve these problems, which – at the end of the day – are a product of capitalism.

Overthrow the system

The Stonewall riots, the birthplace of Pride, began as a protest against the police and the repression of the capitalist state as a whole.

Since then, Pride has been co-opted by the ruling class in order to provide a progressive figleaf for their otherwise entirely reactionary agenda; a cheap, smiling mask, behind which lies the ugly face of capitalism.

We must therefore reclaim the fighting legacy of Pride as a protest, not a pinkwashing opportunity for our exploiters.

As the crisis of capitalism deepens, those oppressed and exploited by this barbaric system – LGBT and otherwise – are sure to face further attacks from the Tories and the bosses.

To fight back, and end all injustice and inequality, workers and youth must unite on a class basis, using methods of mass mobilisation and militant struggle.

Our movement today must go even further than Stonewall – by fighting to end all forms of oppression once and for all with the complete overthrow of the vile capitalist system.

Harrison Salkeld 

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