Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Los Angeles Research Group

Toward A Scientific Analysis of the Gay Question

VII. The Gay Movement

After laying out its ’theory’ on the gay question, the RU goes on to discuss the practice of tae gay liberation movement. Once again, the RU cannot deal with reality when it differs from their subjective attitudes. There is empirical evidence for the RU to view the gay movement as anti-working class, just as there is empirical evidence for women to see men as the enemy. However, what we must learn is to apply the unity of theory and practice to our analysis. It is not sufficient to collect isolated empirical data ripped from historical context; things do not exist isolated from a concrete reality. Experience must be analyzed and illuminated by the application of historical and dialectical materialism. The RU fails to do this. Instead, they resort to untruths and misrepresentation, totally disregarding the concrete historical context that the gay movement has existed in.

First, they say the gay movement raised homosexuality to a principle by raising the slogan “gay is good” as a strategy for defeating imperialism. Let us look at this slogan in its concrete context. The present day gay movement was ’sparked’ by the Stonewall Riots along Christopher Street in New York in 1969. Gays took to the streets, fighting back against the police who had been arresting and openly brutalizing them. The riots lasted for several nights. Soon afterwards, Gay Liberation Front chapters (GLF, named after the National Liberation Front of Vietnam) were formed across the country, mostly by gays who had been active in the student and anti-war movements. One of the initial slogans of GLF was “Gay is Good”. The slogan was not raised as a strategy for anything. Its purpose was to strike out against the bourgeois thinking promoted by sociologists, psychologists and religious leaders that gayness was bad, evil, sick, unnatural, arrested development, etc.. It served to reawaken gay people to a sense of health and productiveness in society. As such it was not unlike the early slogan on the Black liberation movement, “Black is Beautiful”. Given the subjective and objective conditions of gay people at the time it was a necessary slogan and had a tremendous liberating effect on the collective consciousness of gay people. If the RU indeed is so concerned with people raising their sexual preference to a ”principle” they should look at themselves. They have truly raised sexuality to a “principle” by making heterosexuality mandatory for membership in their organization.

The next main slogan to emerge was “Out of the closet, into the streets.” Its basic purpose was to get gays to “come out” from hiding in the “closet” and fight for their democratic rights and against anti-gay attitudes and propaganda. At the same time GLF did organizing for anti-war demonstrations. Gay women spoke at mass women’s and lesbian antiwar contingents, stressing the importance of anti-imperialism in the struggle for the liberation of women and lesbians,, and speaking for the “Sign the Agreement” slogan and against the Trotskyite “Out Now” slogan.

But the gay movement, like the student, anti-war, Afro-American, women’s and other movements, had its contradictions:

The Vietnam war and the Black liberation struggles represented the main sources of radicalization for the petty-bourgeoisie (as well as others) in this period... As the anti-imperialist movement grew and spread, alongside of it blossomed the dope-smoking do-your-own-thing “youth culture”, which was sparked by the anti-imperialist movement while in essence being opposed to it, although both tendencies were very much intertwined in practice.[1]

The gay movement “arose during the period in which the working class was not headed by a conscious vanguard, a revolutionary communist party, and for that reason the class could not direct and unite all the struggles of the people.” We wonder why it is that the RU sees and concretely analyzes contradictions in other movements and ignores them in its “analysis” of the gay movement?

The gay movement operated in the same context as these other progressive struggles. Chief among the contradictions within the gay movement, as in other groups, was the predominance of petty-bourgeois elements. The communist forces in the gay movement were also small in number and still primitive, and got very little support for their work from other communists. Many gay communists saw anti-war work and the working class movement as more important; gay women communists saw the women’s movement as a higher priority than the gay movement. As a practical result, the gay movement was abandoned by communists to the leadership of the petty-bourgeoisie to where it is now dominated, on the one hand, by a few opportunists and reformists, such as the Gay Community Services Center (GCSC) and Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), who are bought off by government and foundation grants. On the other hand, there are those in the gay community who put forth gay separatism and chauvinism as the solution to gay oppression. These separatists, along with the gay reformers, are the most vocal segment of the gay population.

We communists must learn to distinguish appearances from essences. The essence of this separatism is petty-bourgeois. It is an attempt to escape, an individual and non-struggle approach. It does elevate the struggle between men and women to the primary contradiction. And it is a response – an incorrect response to the oppression of gay people by the bourgeoisie. Who are the gay separatists? They are men and women who express their response to bourgeois oppression almost exclusively through their gayness. They do not have class consciousness and therefore cannot and do not analyze gayness in relation to the capitalist system.

But the gay separatists and reformers are an appearance of the whole gay population. They are not the representatives of gay people, and they do not speak to the real aspirations of gay people. The fact that anti-gay communists take the most conspicuous gay people for the whole points again to their one-sided, superficial and subjective approach. These same communists do not base their analysis of the Black national question on the NAACP, SCLC, or the Black Muslims, who at one time were the dominant forces in the Black liberation movement.

Lesbian groups at first were affiliated with the gay movement but, feeling a greater unity with the women’s movement, soon left and joined the women’s movement. Lesbian groups, like the now predominantly male gay movement, had many contradictions which were compounded by a SWP takeover in many areas. The SWP, as in the anti-war movement, catered to the most backward elements through their lowest common denominator line. As a result of the SWP and other petty-bourgeois influences, most lesbian groups degenerated to such lines as separatism, Amazon nation, and others. Recently, however, some gay women, mostly workers, have come to see the futility of such lines and are beginning to investigate Marxism. Such women should clearly be encouraged:

The stand of the proletariat is not to slam the door on other ’movement forces’ who haven’t changed, who still uphold a petty-bourgeois idea of revolution and communism. The proletariat wants to win them over.[2]

Our attitude should be as Mao describes:

To criticize the people’s shortcomings is necessary... but in doing so we must truly take the stand of the people and speak out of whole-hearted eagerness to protect and educate them. To treat comrades like enemies it to go over to the stand of the enemy.[3]

In summary, the gay movement is not in its present state because it is innately bad or incorrect. Rather, it is because the communist movement has failed thus far through its own subjectivism and primitiveness, to recognize the progressive aspects of the gay movement and therefore to unite with it and give it working class leadership. The gay movement must be looked at historically, in its concrete context, and not as any “thing-in-itself”, immutable and incapable of changing.


[1] Revolutionary Union, “Rushing Headlong Into the Swamp,” March 1975, p. 1.

[2] ibid., p. 1.

[3] Mao, “Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art,” Selected Works, Vol.III, p. 92.