The shocking stabbing of Brianna Ghey, a young trans girl from Warrington, has brought into sharp focus the devastating impact of the Tories’ vicious culture war.
Initially, Cheshire police declared that the murder was not being investigated as a hate crime. But now they have changed their tune, after reports from the victim’s family began circulating online, noting that Brianna had suffered years of transphobic bullying.
Complaints were made to her school, the council, the police, and local Labour MP Charlotte Nichols of the toxic environment that Brianna faced day-in, day-out. Yet not one of these bodies intervened to address the issue.
By contrast, candlelit vigils held in Brianna’s memory have seen hundreds attending to pay their respect, and to denounce the poisonous atmosphere of hate that has been whipped up by the establishment against transgender people.
Over a thousand people lined the steps and plaza of St George’s Hall in Liverpool tonight to mark, to grieve, and to remember the life of Brianna Ghey who was killed on Saturday in nearby Warrington pic.twitter.com/ywI7O8hyIY
— Michael Cowan (@mrmikecowan) February 14, 2023
Large crowds gathered last night outside St George’s Hall in Liverpool and on College Green in Bristol. And many more tributes and solidarity rallies are planned in towns and cities across the country in the coming days.
“Your policies of hate are killing our trans youth,” read one sign at the Liverpool event.
“I’m sad and angry,” stated Amber, one vigil attendee, speaking to the Guardian. “Sad that we need to be here, angry that we are here.”
“But it feels inevitable,” Amber continued. “The media’s hostility towards trans people has led to this. And we are in a position where the government knows what it needs to do but it doesn’t care. I think it’s only going to get worse. We’re going to be back here again in weeks, months.”
A candlelit vigil is taking place on College Green tonight to remember Brianna Ghey pic.twitter.com/TNeivcCGrg
— Martin Booth (@beardedjourno) February 14, 2023
Ghey’s death comes just weeks after the Tories – looking to divert attention from their own crises – blocked the SNP’s proposed Gender Recognition Reform Bill in Scotland.
This manufactured clash provoked a new round of hysterical reporting in the right-wing press, with suggestions that rights for trans people pose a ‘threat’ to the safety of other sections of society.
These divisive ideas are casually presented in public by reactionary politicians and journalists. They are then amplified by groups such as the LGB Alliance, who promote and fund hateful campaigns that seek to restrict trans rights.
This incessant dog-whistle bigotry has real-life consequences. Whenever the Tories and their media mouthpieces stir up a frenzy over such issues, trans people are exposed to another wave of abuse.
According to Home Office figures, the number of hate crimes against trans people recorded by the police increased by 56% between 2020-21 and 2021-22, and by 16% in the year before. And this is only the tip of the iceberg, with an estimated 88% of incidents going unreported.
In turn, reports show that 67% of trans people have experienced depression over the last year, and 46% have thought about ending their life.
All of this is part of an extremely cynical strategy being pursued by the Tories.
Faced with a rising tide of class struggle and industrial militancy, not to mention a looming economic slump and their own internal political turmoil, Tory leaders have made a cheap calculation: demonise the oppressed in order to divide and distract workers.
Above all, the government is desperate to cut across the powerful strike wave that is building in Britain, which recently saw half a million workers take coordinated action together.
It is not only the LGBT community who are being kicked around in this dangerous game of political football. Refugees are also being used as red meat, to sate the appetites of the rabid ranks of the Tory Party.
Following in the footsteps of Priti Patel, Home Secretary Suella Braverman has spent the last year ratcheting-up racist rhetoric against migrants, referring to them as ‘criminal gangs’ and as foreign ‘invaders’.
This has emboldened the far right. Last Friday, 10 February, fascist gangs organised a protest outside a hotel in Knowsley, Merseyside, targeted at asylum-seekers housed inside. Fifteen people, including a 13-year-old boy, were arrested. Copycat demonstrations are planned in other locations in the weeks ahead.
Braverman has subsequently condemned the mayhem in Merseyside. But her statement is meaningless. She is responsible for this violence and vitriol.
Rishi Sunak, Priti Patel, Boris Johnson, Theresa May, and every single Tory MP involved in cultivating the ‘hostile environment’ against migrants over the years is responsible. The capitalist class and their destructive imperialist adventures, which force millions of refugees to flee their homes, are responsible. The billionaire-owned media, which echoes the demagogic bile of the ruling class, are responsible.
All of these vile creatures have consciously fostered the horrific racism that incited hundreds to intimidate asylum-seekers in Knowsley.
The Tories cannot simply turn the culture war tap on and off as they please. More and more, we see how their cynical attacks on the oppressed seep down into the rest of society, nourishing the most reactionary and backward layers. The oppressed and the vulnerable, in turn, suffer the consequences in their daily lives.
Recently, for example, a young black schoolgirl in Ashford, Surrey, was beaten up outside her college in a racially-motivated attack. All the while, teachers and onlookers did nothing to protect her.
These horrific acts are symptomatic of a sick system – one built on exploitation, oppression, and violence, where different sections of society are pitted against one another by the ruling class, on the basis of gender, ethnicity, nationality, and more.
Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. are not inherent or innate within humans. Rather, oppressive ideas are actively promoted and permeated from the top, in order to divide workers. As Karl Marx explained, the dominant ideas in every society are always those of the ruling class.
Once they are unleashed, however, these virulent views and bigoted beliefs can develop a logic of their own, creating further polarisation and unrest within society.
An example of this can be found in the North of Ireland, where the British ruling class has consistently fomented sectarianism in order to defend its own narrow, myopic interests.
The result, however, is that they have created a Frankenstein’s monster of Unionism and Loyalism which is no longer under their control, and which has become a thorn in the side of the British establishment – particularly in relation to the festering wound of Brexit.
Similarly, the Tories today will happily lean on transphobia and other forms of prejudice where it suits them. But this strategy of divide and rule can backfire.
Recently, for example, prominent businessman and Conservative donor Iain Anderson abandoned the party, explicitly citing concerns about how Sunak and co. are waging a culture war.
“It was made pretty clear [from discussions with Tory insiders that] the plan is to run a culture war to distract from fundamental economic failings,” Anderson stated. “It’s not something I want any part of.”
Elsewhere, trans Tory MP Jamie Wallis has also attacked his own party for using transgender people to score “cheap political points”, after then-PM Boris Johnson U-turned on proposals to ban conversion therapy.
At the same time, these Tory attacks on the oppressed are increasingly failing to achieve their aim. As British capitalism descends ever deeper into crisis, and workers from all backgrounds come together to defend their living standards, ordinary people can see that it is the Tories and the bosses – not migrants or LGBT people – who are the real enemy.
Brianna Ghey is the latest in a long list of names whose lives have been tragically cut short because of the actions and choices of the Tory government.
Right-wingers will look for all manner of scapegoats to blame for her killing. But it is the Tories and their system who have blood on their hands.
Migrants are drowning in the Channel. Those who make it to Britain are being intimidated by far-right mobs. Women are being raped and murdered by the police. And an estimated 330,000 excess deaths have been caused over the last decade due to austerity and cuts to public services, with a further 170,000 killed in England and Wales by the pandemic.
All of this amounts to social murder by the Tories and the rotten system they defend.
The establishment is trying to cook up a distracting furore about trans people in prisons. But instead we should be asking: why haven’t all these representatives of the ruling class been locked away for their litany of crimes?
The only way to fight their culture war is with class war. Every cynical attempt to divide workers must be answered with united class struggle, through strikes and protests, in order to channel the anger in society against the Tories and the capitalists.
This must be linked to the fight for bold socialist demands, to address the pressing problems facing workers and youth of every colour and creed: a fully-funded NHS, to cut waiting lists and provide decent healthcare for all; a properly-resourced education system, which can offer genuine support to young people; and a democratically-planned economy, run on the basis of need, not profit.
Only on this basis can we end oppression, injustice, and discrimination in all its forms. To rid society of this poison, we have to tackle it at its root: capitalism.