Friday, October 29, 2010

Bad Old Days: When the Left Hated the Gays

I remember sometime during the 2008 elections various discussions about how "values" issues were suddenly off the table, how "electorally divisive" issues like gay marriage were no longer national campaign issues. Well, here it is two years later and it seems like with the rise of the teabaggers, the so-called tea party, social issues are back on the campaign trail with a vengeance. Despite the bizarre denials by the mainstream media that the teabaggers are only issued in economic issues, it doesn't take much observation to see that while "values" issues might not be campaign slogans, one after another teabagger and mainstream Republican candidates are making sure it's clear exactly where they stand on social issues. Thanks in large part to Christian fundamentalist hate groups like Focus on the Family (what one lesbian blogger bitterly calls "Focus on the Anus") and the National Organization for Marriage, it's fashionable once more for the far right to use gay issues as bonafides of their social conservative intent. The pendulum swings.

Which brings me to this hilarious pamphlet I dug out of a file drawer. It's another example of how much of the left also used to ride that social conservative bandwagon, replacing concern for "Christian values" with concern for "proletarian values." It's called Revolutionary Union On Homosexuality: A Stalino-Leninist Guide to Love and Sex and it was put out by some gay anarchists in Ann Arbor, Michigan back in 1975. The bulk of the pamphlet is an internal position paper of the Revolutionary Union, the American Maoist faction led by Bob Avakian that is today known as the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). The guerrilla gays who reprinted the document have spiced it up, talmud-style, by filling the margins with Brenda Starr-like cartoon frames (examples shown above and below) where the soap-opera dialogue is replaced by absurdly homophobic quotations from the text. Pictures of popes and Communist icons are splashed around the pages next to accounts of anti-gay repression. There are photos of Fidel Castro sucking on a hugely phallic cigar and a photo of Lenin and Stalin sitting almost romantically together on a bench. It's introduced by the pamphlet's anonymous gay authors and with an inspiring manifesto from the French "Front Homosexuel d'Action Revolutionnaire," The Gay Revolutionary Action Front. "Go Gay and Smash the State" was an irreverent slogan that came out of the radical wing of the post-Stonewall gay liberation movement. The Maoists, of course, missed the humor of this slogan, and wrote their position paper as though gay people were actually suggesting mass conversion of heterosexuals.

Here are a few excerpts from the original Maoist document:

"Homosexuality is a response -- consciously or not -- to a male supremacist society. Because it is a response to oppressive institutions and oppressive relationships it is not necessarily a progressive response or one that challenges the power of the monopoly capitalist.... As our relationships become unstable, people -- particularly the petty bourgeoisie, which has more leisure time -- scramble about in a desperate attempt to find some meaning in their lives. Today people are grasping at all kinds of straws, at exotic religious sects, mysticism, drugs, pornography, promiscuity, sex orgies, trotskyism, etc..... In posing an individual solution to the contradictions of monopoly capitalism, homosexuality is an ideology of the petty bourgeoisie, and must be clearly distinguished from proletarian ideology.... While gay people can be anti-imperialists, we feel that they cannot be Communists. To be a Communist, we must accept and welcome struggle in all facets of our lives, personal as well as political.... We feel that the best way to struggle out contradictions in our personal lives is in stable monogamous relationships between men and women based on mutual lives and respect. Because homosexuals do not carry the struggle between men and women into their most personal relationships they are not prepared, in principle, for the arduous task of class transformation....

When homosexuality is raised to a principle, when the banner of 'gay is good' is raised as a strategy for defeaing imperialism, then it becomes a reactionary force retarding the struggle of the working class and of the people as a whole....The only real liberation, the only road to real happiness for homosexuals -- like all people caught in the mire and muck of bourgeois decadence -- is to eliminate the reactionary, rotting system that drives them to homosexuality; and to build a new society, under the rule of the working class, that promotes working class culture and opposition to selfishness, self-indulgence and the decadence of individualism and exploitative relations."

What utter bullshit, and the anarchist authors of this pamphlet rightfully call it out. "Leninist vanguard parties...almost universally condemn love for one of the same sex as a transitory byproduct of capitalism, instead of seeing it as one basic way of relating to people.... Are we to overthrow [capitalist] control of our personal relationships without overthrowing that same control of our social productive lives? One is impossible without the other, just as there is an indissoluble link between love and creativity. Down with the Mao Tse-tung/Pepsi Cola/Billy Graham axis!" The authors quote the gay revolutionaries of FHd'AR: "We know, because we know one another, because we alone can know. We are, with women, the moral door-mat on which you wipe your conscience. We are saying here that we've had enough, that you won't smash our faces any longer, because we will defend ourselves."

Those bad old days are over... for now. I've read discussions on leftwing blogs where straight leftists said that since there were now gay Republicans and a host of pro-capitalist established mainstream gay institutions, gay issues were no longer particularly progressive. So who knows, maybe the pendulum can swing back here as well. Homophobia -- and heterosexism (what a great word; I'm sorry it's fallen out of use) -- remains virulent. The far right finds it a useful tool; it would disappoint me but not surprise me to find homophobia re-embraced elsewhere on the political spectrum.

I have posted excerpts from another Maoist tract against gays here, and written before about my experiences with homophobic leftists here.


  1. hey ish!

    this has nothing to do with your post, although it was quite an interesting read. i thought you'd like to know: i was browsing the bins at a favorite local digging spot of mine, and i found a copy of flora purim's "open your eyes you can fly" for just 1$! remembering how much you love her music, i just couldn't pass it up. oddly, i've never checked her out much before, so this will be fun. it's on the turntable now, so an assessment will follow!

  2. Cool, freebones. Lots of nice electric piano on that one...Hermeto Pascoal is wonderful with her. Let me know what you think.

  3. i have listened to it through once, and i enjoy it very much so far. i was hesitant to listen to flora originally because i have never been much of one for afro-cuban/brazillian/bossa jazz, but i really do like the funky infusions she's made. i don't know if i love her as much as you do, but it's some great stuff!

  4. omg I wish I had access to that pamphlet!

  5. could I convince you to put this thing up via scanner? It sounds completely glorious!

  6. Hey Iris. Lemme check how many pages the whole thing is. Will try to do if it's not too many. Great idea.