Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Forgotten Legacy of Left-wing Homophobia

In the face of today's resurgent right-wing fundamentalist movement which demonizes gays, using opposition to marriage equality as an excuse for dragging out tired old arguments and prejudices, it's hard sometimes to remember how far, in fact, we've all come. In the face of right-wing Americans running off to Uganda helping to organize "death to sodomites" rallies and backing super-repressive legislation in such countries, it seems natural to think of the movement for gay equality, or what we once called gay liberation, as walking hand in hand with other socially progressive movements. But it wasn't always like this. There used to be profound divisions on the left as well. I was reminded of this when I ran across this pamphlet tucked into a crowded shelf. Published in Canada by the Maoist/pro-Albania communist sect Lines of Demarcation, "On the Question of Homosexuality" was published in 1981 reprinting a dialogue between the group and the left-leaning Body Politic Collective, which published a progressive, gay news journal in the 1970s and 1980s. Reading like one of today's ultra-right evangelical texts, the blurb on the back promises "a clear analysis of the foundations of homosexuality in class society and upon the oppression of women and discusses the reactionary character of the homosexual recruitment movement."

This pamphlet is a sad little reminder of some of the tragically awful thinking that has plagued the left, especially its dogmatically varieties. While Canada's Lines of Demarcation might have, I hope, faded into historical obscurity, the US Revolutionary Union, since evolved into the Revolutionary Community Party and more recently the force behind the "Not In Our Name" wing of the anti-Iraq war movement, once held positions identical to these.

I won't attempt to summarize all of this hateful pamphlet's arguments, but let a few lines speak for themselves and serve as a grain of salt:

"The Bolsheviks must take a stand against, and expose, homosexuality. The social institution of homosexuality itself stands in antagonistic contradiction with the proletarian revolution. Homosexuality in the ranks of the Bolsheviks and in the ranks of the revolutionary proletariat will erode the struggle against the bourgeoisie, will introduce bourgeois individualism and degeneration, will sap the righting capacity of the proletariat, will drag back the struggle for the political unity of the sexes and for the complete emancipation of women. The complete abolition of homosexuality is a goal of the proletarian revolution and will be a great step forward in the liberation of the proletariat.... Homosexuality did nothing to promote the survival of the species. Those who perceive the world through their gonads, as does the homosexual recruitment movement, will never be able to grasp this very simple idea, but to a materialist it is obvious...The role and influence of homosexuality in modern decadent imperialist art is extremely important to the entire construction of the antisocial offensive by the imperialist bourgeoisie against socialist revolution....The entire discotheque culture -- its lights, its dancing, its music -- originated on Fire Island, New York, a gathering place of homosexuals and has been seized upon with full vigour by the bourgeoisie for its entire offensive in the corruption of youth, diverting them from political concerns and sapping their fighting capacity....The same holds true of fashion. The fad of long hair for young men begun among homosexuals; then, when large numbers of young men were letting their hair grow long, the homosexuals led the charge back to short hair....The homosexual movement is a consistent ally of every agent of bourgeois reaction which is willing to 'come out' and embrace it, from the lowliest Trotskyite all the way up to the United States Marines....Its doom is spelled by the inevitability of the proletarian victory."

1 comment:

  1. There's a similar type of theme explored here in a review about a book on homosexual men in India:

    there's this too:

    and this:

    P.S. you were right about communists ruling afghanistan pre soviet invasion- one stupid ingroup feud seemed to mess everything up.