Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Position Paper of the Revolutionary Union on Homosexuality and Gay Liberation

Not publicly distributed: 1974. Reprinted in Toward A Scientific Analysis of the Gay Question n.d. [1975].
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The following is the R.U. position on homosexuality and gay liberation. Our position on homosexuality and the gay liberation movement starts from an analysis of the concrete conditions of life in the USA today. The problem we direct ourselves to is what is the correct path to follow if we are to defeat imperialism and establish socialism in this country, and what role will homosexuals and gay liberation play in the revolutionary struggle. We will deal first with our analysis of homosexuality and then with an analysis of gay liberation.

The USA is an imperialist power on the decline. It is being attacked by rising revolutionary movements throughout the world and within the USA itself and it is facing increased competition from other imperialist powers. To maintain its wealth and power the ruling class is forced to increase its oppression and exploitation at home. Although this oppression hits hardest on Third World and working class people, it is felt by almost everybody, including large sections of the petty bourgeoisie. The alienation that people living in capitalist society already feel is greatly intensified. The ruling class attempts to hold back the advancing revolutionary movement by increasing the contradictions between white and Third World workers, between the working class and the petty bourgeoisie, between men and women.

Homosexuality is a response – consciously or not – to a male supremacist society. But 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. We see that the pressures of capitalist society on each individual are tremendous. The difficulty we have in all our relationships, the lack of fulfillment in our daily lives is a source of anxiety and personal suffering. 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. People more to rural communes because they feel totally alienated from capitalist society, especially in decaying urban centers. We can understand where such a response comes from, but we don’t therefore call it progressive. A response, a movement, a struggle is progressive if it moves the struggle of the working class forward; if it doesn’t, it is not progressive.

Homosexuality is an individual response to male supremacy and male chauvinism; it is a response which turns its back to the struggle between men and women. We think that Lesbianism is more understandable as an escape from male chauvinism; male homosexuality reinforces male chauvinism in its refusal to deal with relationships with women. Both forms of homosexuality, however, are premised upon the unwillingness to struggle with the opposite sex in very important relationships.

It is important to deal concretely with homosexual relationships as they exist in our society today. Many people, especially women, have become homosexuals as a matter of choice, usually after some involvement in the women’s movement. These are women who said they couldn’t or wouldn’t deal with men in their personal relationships. Such a choice is clearly individualist; it says: I have a right to relate the way I want to, I can do what I want with my body. There are many people who become homosexual out of inclination, or for a thousand other reasons which we can call more or less unconscious. Objectively, however, there are no real differences between the two cases, although the subjective attitudes of the people involved might be different. In both cases people are in relationships which necessarily place them outside of the mainstream of our society and thus puts enormous strains upon the relationships, strains over and above those which exist in heterosexual relationships, which are by no means ideal. Because of such strains, homosexual relationships are rarely long-lasting. The relationships that are principled require much more cultivation, much more time and energy–in short, much more self-indulgence. This is not meant to put down such relationships as abnormal or immoral. It is simply a recognition of the social context8 in which homosexual relationships must exist. As materialists, we do not deal with anything in the abstract, we don’t deal with homosexuality as it might exist in some future society where people live without sexual or other inhibitions. We don’t make reference to some so-called “natural” state. As a rule homosexual relationships in our society are extremely difficult, require a lot of time to make work, if they work at all. They involve a great deal more cultivation than do heterosexual relationships.

Based on the above considerations we see that homosexuals are forced to live on the periphery of society (insofar as their relationships are subject to public abuse), and therefore such relationships can be only individual solutions to the contradictions of imperialism, much in the same way as going to live on a commune is an individual response to alienation or in the same way as embracing a religion is an individual solution. Because people who make such a choice are ostracized is unfortunate, but again it is not a sign of being progressive. The thing that makes it individual – and not progressive – is not that it is done alone (communes can involve a lot of people), but that it does not engage masses of people in struggle, it doesn’t organize or set the basis for organizing masses of people to fight around their needs.

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. The ideology of the working class is based on the knowledge that the only way to resolve the contradictions of capitalism is through mass struggle with each other and against our common oppressors. To say that homosexuality is based on petty bourgeois ideology is not to cast aspersions on homosexuals, any more than calling most students petty bourgeois is to put them down. As Chairman Mao says: “In class society everyone lives as a member of a particular class, and every kind of thinking, without exception, is stamped with the brand of a class.”

To say that homosexuality is stamped with the brand of the petty bourgeoisie should not imply that gay people cannot be and aren’t strong fighters against imperialism. But we should be clear that it is not the homosexuality of gay people which makes them into anti-imperialist fighters. It is quite possible that many gay people began to recognize the nature of imperialism as a system because of particular attacks on their democratic rights. There is, however, often a difference between the way in which people come to recognize the beast and the weapons they use in fighting it. Gay people can be anti-imperialists, because they can see imperialism as the enemy and they can understand and take up the main spearheads of struggle against imperialism.

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 cannot struggle with male supremacy in the factory and not struggle at home. We feel that the best way to struggle out such contradictions in our personal lives is in stable monogamous relationships between men and women based on mutual love and respect. Because homosexuals do not carry the struggle between men and women into their most intimate relationships they are not prepared, in principle, for the arduous task of class transformation.

As Communists we have chosen to put class struggle and the revolutionary movement of the working class and all oppressed people into the forefront of our lives. It is a serious task. “A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture.” Because homosexual relationships require so much time we have found that homosexuals have had an extremely difficult time meeting the strenuous requirements of a communist organization and they have often put unnecessary burdens on their comrades.

Because we put class struggle first, we are opposed to all relationships which are seen by the people in them as the main source of their well-being or as a source of personal salvation. It is extremely difficult to have totally fulfilling relationships in this society and any attempt to have one must be a full-time job. As things exist now, given the prevalent conditions of relationships under capitalism, we see that monogamous heterosexual relationships are by far the most favorable for providing the grounds for struggle, respect, and love. And it is within such relationships that Communists can best devote their lives to the enormous task ahead. It is important for us to deal with the reality that now exists, with the material conditions which exist. Utopian schemes for relationships such as bisexuality will only disrupt our work. We are not dealing with chimeras of the mind but with a powerful enemy. Perhaps in some future society bisexuality will blossom. This is not for us to decide, and we certainly can’t base our lives and the revolutionary movement on such experiments. It is not a change in life style that will overthrow imperialism, but a united front led by the working class fighting in its material interests.

When homosexuality is raised to a principle, when the banner of “gay is good” is raised as a strategy for defeating imperialism then it becomes a reactionary force retarding the struggle of the working class and of the people as a whole. This is born out in both the theory and the practice of the gay liberation movement.

There has been a lot of confusion about the relationships of the struggle of women to the gay liberation movement. Much of this confusion is based on the fact that many sections of the petty bourgeois women’s movement of the sixties concentrated on the psychological aspects of the oppression of women, on the attitude of male chauvinism. Women’s oppression was caused by sexist attitudes, by male chauvinist ideas which placed women (and men) in certain well-defined roles. With such an analysis, parts of the women’s movement began to see that gay people were equally oppressed by sexist attitudes and gay relationships equally distorted by oppressive roles. The oppression of women and gay people was seen as rooted in the same cause: sexism.

What this analysis left out was the primary cause of women’s oppression–that is, the material cause of this oppression. That is why we speak of male supremacy to refer to the institutional forms of oppression, and. male chauvinism as the ideology and psychological attitudes which are used to justify male supremacy. In Marxist terminology they are related as base to superstructure. The oppression of women developed historically out of the division of labor in ancient slave society and continues today with the division of labor in capitalist society. The oppression of women is based primarily on material oppression due to their position in production (reserve labor force, cheap labor, unpaid work in the home) and reproduction (as mothers). Imperialism profits directly from the oppression and exploitation of women. Male supremacy and male chauvinism are mainstays of imperialism. This is not true for gay people. They are not materially oppressed as a group, and the denial of their democratic rights does not secure greater profits for the ruling class.

The confusion of the fight for democratic rights with a liberation struggle is based on an idealistic, metaphysical understanding of oppression. To raise the slogan of “go gay and smash the state” is to lead all people down the road of certain defeat. The gay liberation movement has no class analysis of imperialism, it claims to be above classes, attacking the “deeper” roots of oppression. But there are no “deeper” roots of oppression. The roots of oppression are summed up in the fundamental contradiction in capitalist society, that between the bourgeoisie and the working class. In reality, gay liberation is anti-working class and counterrevolutionary. Its attacks on the family would rob poor and working people of the most viable social unit for their survival and for their revolutionary struggle against the imperialist system. The only real liberation, the only road to real happiness for homosexuals–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 class culture and ideology – the principles of equality, cooperation and the dignity of collective labor – in opposition to selfishness, self-indulgence and the decadence of individualism and exploitative relations.

The practice of gay liberation bears out its anti-working class ideology. An example of this is a demonstration called by the National Organization of Women in NYC last August. Although NOW is petty-bourgeois it does have progressive aspects. At this rally Third World Women who had led the struggle of maids at Columbia University against discrimination in hiring and firing were scheduled to speak. Lesbian activists attacked the speakers’ stand and seized the microphone because no Lesbian had been on the program. This destroyed the rally and held back the unity of the women’s movement.

Gay women also played a destructive role in NY in recent planning for a rally around International Women’s Day. All groups present agreed on only raising slogans concerning democratic rights of women such as day-care and free abortion. The fragile unity which existed between the participating groups was destroyed when the gay women refused to take part in any demonstration which didn’t raise “support for gay liberation” as a slogan. Many of the Third World women in the group were dismayed at the blatantly anti-working class and national chauvinist character of the gay group.

The R.U. supports the democratic rights of gay people under capitalism but we do not feel that the Attica Brigade has to take a stand on this question. Although we support those democratic rights, we do not do so in an abstract way. We oppose the arbitrary use of laws against homosexuality and we oppose bourgeois methods of treating homosexuals as “criminals.” But we do not uphold the so-called general abstract “right to be homosexual”. To make a comparison with religion we support the democratic rights of people to exercise freedom of religion, but we wouldn’t support the right of some Jesus-freak sect to proselytize in working class neighborhoods, but we would support a Black Muslim being brutalized in prison. We support the democratic right of freedom of speech, but we don’t support the racist demagogues.

As Communists, we are always guided by the overwhelming principle: to promote, defend and fight for building the unity of the proletariat and the people in struggle against monopoly capitalist rule; to expose, oppose and struggle against everything that divides, demoralizes and weakens the proletariat and the overall anti-imperialist struggle.

Our position can be summarized in three main points:

(1) Homosexuality in the USA today is an individual response to the intensification of the contradictions brought about by decaying imperialism; in particular it is a response to the contradiction between men and women which is rooted in male supremacist institutions and male chauvinist ideology. Because homosexuality is rooted in individualism it is a feature of petty bourgeois ideology which puts forth the idea that there are individual solutions to social problems.
(2) Because homosexuality is based on petty bourgeois ideology and deals with the contradiction between men and women by turning its back to it, (at least in intimate personal relationships), homosexuals cannot be Communists, that is, belong to communist organizations where people are committed to struggle against all forms of individualism, in all aspects of their lives.
(3) Gay liberation in putting forth gayness as a strategy for revolution in this country is a reactionary ideology and can lead us only down the road of demoralization and defeat.