First Published: In Struggle! No. 278, January 24, 1982
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Since I began working with IN STRUGGLE! in the winter of 1977, I have learned to defend a number of causes – to intervene and take a stand against ail kinds of oppression and repression. I also learned to remain silent; to remain silent on the women’s struggle, because the class struggle always came first; but above all, to remain silent about, hide, cover up my lesbianism. That’s still the situation for me today, and if yesterday I was not afraid to say that I was communist, today I am no longer afraid to speak out and say that I am lesbian. Nor will I hold back from condemning the repression of homosexual men and women in the left, despite progressive people’s supposed defence of all oppressed. I won’t shrink from demanding that people finally acknowledge that we will not disappear under socialism.
Like all the other “Marxist-Leninist” organizations, IN STRUGGLE! promoted a certain “proletarian” life style that boiled down in practice to the nuclear family, the denial of sexuality and the sublimation of desire through political work. In the fall of 1977, a dozen activists (I was the only woman) got together to help the Organization work out a point of view on the question of homosexuals. We had managed to dig up some interesting documents, including a text that linked the struggle for homosexuals’ rights to the struggle for socialism. At the beginning of our second meeting, two “security” people showed up. We were very glad to see the Organization was already taking an interest in our work. Imagine then our surprise and disillusionment when they asked us to surrender our texts and explained that our caucus was in fact a faction, that if we wanted to make the Organization aware of our “problems”, we should do it on an individual basis, by speaking to the individuals in charge of our political work.
When we did that, we ran up against a stone wall. The response some, including myself, met with was an embarrassed silence on the part of the person in charge of us politically, whose knowledge of homosexuality went no further than an acquantaince with the word. Others met with gratuitous and degrading putdowns. The common denominator in all cases was the contempt: homosexuality is the fruit of capitalist decadence...it’s “petty bourgeois”... it makes for unstable individuals... it’s a security risk... it’s a form of misogyny... it’s a kind of feminism... it is doomed to disappear under socialism... etc. etc.
The majority of us left. The others tried to “convert” or else fell back on keeping their private lives very private indeed. Despite everything, we have quietly and gradually resurfaced – because it is not so easy as all that to deny one’s desires, because there are times when the contradiction between the progressive values advocated by the Organization and its reactionary silence on homosexuality becomes an active threat to one’s convictions.
It was in the spring of 1980 that the Organization IN STRUGGLE! began the process that led it in the fall of 1980 to publish an editorial defending men and women homosexuals. In the April 1980 internal bulletin, Charles Gagnon wrote: “It is inacceptable that prejudices and discriminatory remarks about homosexuals circulate in our own ranks, as would seen have been the case in the Montreal region in recent months... Homosexuality is socially inoffensive. It has never prevented a society from surviving. The problems are created by the repression of homosexuality...”
Subsequently, there were a number of letters in the newspaper and journal. Some members in Montreal got the notion that it would be a good idea to distribute this series of letters at the Gay Cinema week held in the end of June 1980. If ridicule killed, they would be dead. After our years of silence on the issue, the intervention in Montreal’s gay community could only seem pretentious (as you can see, we are not immunized against the “correct line” syndrome!).
Today, the gays and lesbians who work with IN STRUGGLE! are beginning to get to know each other, and a number of them have indicated that they would like to meet to discuss why we are interested in working with the Organization, despite everything. We could use this opportunity to pursue the work the “alleged” faction wanted to do, make known our struggle and work together to prepare texts, resolutions and proposals for the 4th Congress. We hope we could also take advantage of the meeting to talk with members of groups, newspapers and caucuses working to defend the rights of gays and lesbians that were such a valuable contribution and support in our own collective and individual “coming out”. As a result, we thought of planning a workshop for the national conference on January 30 in Montreal. I hope many, many of you will attend.
Thousands of homosexual men and women have fought for a better society. Thousands have experienced nothing but repression and silence under socialism. How long will we continue to remain silent?
...But when I hear people talk about a positive balance sheet
I can’t help wondering what the price was
And the millions of dead who are the debit
We should ask them what they think
Don’t ask me to be an accountant
To sing today this tragic century
The lessons drawn in underhanded ways
Corpses transformed into profits and losses
We have to reinvent another future
Without idols or models, gradually, modestly
Without pre-established truths, without triumphal tomorrows
A happiness invented definitively
A future born from a little less suffering
With our eyes wide open to reality
A future marked by our vigilant attitude
Towards all powers on earth and in heaven
For the sake of the ideal we fought for
And that we still fight for today...
(Jean Ferrat, “Le bilan”)
Carole B. La Grenade, member