Backing Helen Steel

ImageLast weekend [10–13 May], Helen Steel was forced off a protest walk across moors at a camp organised by the Land Justice Network. This happened not because of anything that Helen had done or said at the actual camp, but because individuals objected to views she had previously expressed regarding the impact of gender identity theory on women’s rights. She was told that a decision had been made prior to the camp starting that she would not be welcome.

Although Helen had been at the camp from the first day, she was only told she wasn’t welcome after the ‘action’ ramble had left the camp – leaving her to walk back across the moor alone. Fortunately two comrades walked in solidarity with her, one of them (like Helen) a founder member of the Land Justice Network.

Whether calculated or not, the impact of this treatment was to give a very public and demeaning punishment to someone who has voiced opinions which differ from those of the activists who inflicted it.

None of the small subset of the organisers who were involved in making this decision were prepared to either publicly explain themselves or to give Helen a right of response.

There were others on the site who shared opinions similar to Helen’s who were not asked to leave.

The claimed justification for treating Helen so shabbily was that she is a hateful transphobic bigot. We do not believe that Helen is a bigot.

Helen is a feminist who holds beliefs based on basic biology, that humans are a dimorphic species and it is not possible to biologically change sex. Her view prioritises objective facts above personal subjective feelings when looking at how we should try to change society and dismantle oppressive social constructs such as gender stereotypes.

This was the third time that Helen has been threatened or evicted from political events in this way and others have received similar treatment.

The idea that questioning gender identity theory amounts to bigotry and ‘hatred’ of trans people is justifying the exclusion of people from the movement. The effect of this is that many are afraid to express an opinion on the issue or even to ask any questions about it, and the end result is that most do not understand different perspectives on the issue.

Progressive movements are supposed to work on the basis of mass participation; it is only through the honest exchange of views and varied life experiences that we are able to understand the implications of power dynamics, policies and laws and able to ensure that everyone’s rights are protected.

It is out of order to single out one individual to be excommunicated, hounded, physically assaulted and humiliated for views which many other progressive people in our radical networks share. No comrade deserves to be treated so shabbily, much less comrades whose commitment to social justice is undoubted and who have suffered so many attacks from both corporate and state power.

This has to stop. It is time to make up your mind. Do you really think Helen Steel is a bigot?

Even if we disagree with some of her views, wouldn’t you agree that her motivation is not hatred, but her experiences of sexism and wanting to dismantle it?

Maybe you need to look into the issues and do some reading and thinking before you can decide. Fair enough. But now is the time to do this.

As we’ve said many times before – an attack on one is an attack on all.

If you don’t think Helen is a bigot then you must acknowledge that the way she is being treated by people in our movement is wrong.

We need to talk about this. It is time to speak up.


Cath Bann, Rikki Blue, Beatrix Campbell, Kate Evans, Simon Fairlie, Peter Le Mare, Rebecca Lush, Dave Morris, Diana Shelley, Theo Simon, Jo Wilding and 363 others

Editor's response:

PN did ask the Land Justice Network for a response, but none had been received by the time of going to press.

Vote for peace*

ImageAt a time when the status quo has failed producing war, refugees, starvation, pollution and persecution globally and failing living standards and increasing violence here, we urgently need to consider new ways.

Please will you consider the underlying role of our first-past-the-post voting in producing destructive policies. In our system, it is normal for the ‘winner’, even if by just one vote, to take all.

Members of the opposing party are seen as ‘enemies’ not colleagues. Co-operation and consensus, so common in Europe with their proportional representation, are viewed here as weakness.

In 2010 and 2015, the two main parties received about two-thirds of the votes, yet they took 87 percent of the seats. In 2015, the Green party, with well over one million votes, only got one seat, as did UKIP with 3.9 million votes.

In 2010 and 2015, the Tory government gained majorities with the support of less than 40 percent of the 65 percent of the population who voted.

Completely out of touch with the living conditions of most people, the Conservatives used those majorities to ram through ‘austerity’ which has been a disaster, producing poverty, hunger, homelssness and despair, and damaging basic services and the economy.

Austerity has alienated large sections of the public who feel insulted and desperate and that they no longer have a stake in society. ‘Austerity’ is almost certainly a root cause of the current growth in violence and a large factor in the ‘leave’ vote.

In addition to the Citizens Assembly demanded by the Extinction Rebellion to organise the response to the climate catastrophe, one huge cause of war and turmoil, we need one to organise a system of proportional representation.

This will not immediately solve our problems, but would be an important step in starting real conversations and the civilised exchange of views. Only with caring government can we start to solve our many problems to bring peace. Only with an informed public can we hope to get a caring government.

It is worth remembering that, had the Green Party proposal of a Progressive Alliance been adopted by the Labour Party and others at the last election on the promise to end austerity, sort out Brexit and organise a proportional voting system for future parliaments, we would probably not have had to suffer the chaos and pain of Theresa May as prime minister.

Alicia Hull, Norwich

No to vaccines

ImageClaire’s rant on the subject of vaccination (PN 2626–2627), I call it a rant as at no time does it approach logic or reasoning. Her assertion that people do not trust big pharma but trust the food industry, banking or insurance is absurd and unfounded.

Has she been asleep for the last 30 or 40 years?

Since vaccination was introduced in the 1940s, it has been surrounded by cover-ups, denial, perversion of research and persecution of whistleblowers.

There is no known compound of mercury that is safe to inject into the human bloodstream.

To say that a small amount is OK is untrue especially since no tests are ever done to establish whether the subject (to be vaccinated) may already have a significant or dangerous levels of mercury in their blood.

My experience with vaccines testifies to their danger. In 1984, I had a chance to travel to South America and dutifully subjected myself to the recomended vaccinations only to become seriously ill for 30 hours.

I actually thought I was going to die.

When I later moved to Wales, and therefore had to change my doctor, in my first meeting with the GP, he questioned [me] on many things, commenting only that the vaccine that had made me so ill had since been withdrawn as it had been found to be totally ineffective in providing any immunity.

The only bit I can agree with Claire is that better science education is necessary – starting with the most needy, herself.

Paul Richard Haskell-Cooper