Saturday, December 11, 2010

*From The Archives-The Struggle To Win The Youth To The Fight For Our Communist Future- The Spartacus Youth's Fight Now (2010) And Then (1971)-On Gay Oppression

Markin comment:

One of the declared purposes of this space is to draw the lessons of our left-wing past here in America and internationally, especially from the pro-communist wing. To that end I have made commentaries and provided archival works in order to help draw those lessons for today’s left-wing activists to learn, or at least ponder over. More importantly, for the long haul, to help educate today’s youth in the struggle for our common communist future. That is no small task or easy task given the differences of generations; differences of political milieus worked in; differences of social structure to work around; and, increasingly more important, the differences in appreciation of technological advances, and their uses.

There is no question that back in my youth I could have used, desperately used, many of the archival materials available today. When I developed political consciousness very early on, albeit liberal political consciousness, I could have used this material as I knew, I knew deep inside my heart and mind, that a junior Cold War liberal of the American For Democratic Action (ADA) stripe was not the end of my leftward political trajectory. More importantly, I could have used a socialist or communist youth organization to help me articulate the doubts I had about the virtues of liberal capitalism and be recruited to a more left-wing world view. As it was I spent far too long in the throes of the left-liberal/soft social-democratic milieu where I was dying politically. A group like the Young Communist League (W.E.B. Dubois Clubs in those days), the Young People’s Socialist League, or the Young Socialist Alliance representing the youth organizations of the American Communist Party, American Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (U.S.) respectively would have saved much wasted time and energy. I knew they were around but not in my area.

The archival material to be used in this series is weighted heavily toward the youth movements of the early American Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (U.S). For more recent material I have relied on material from the Spartacus Youth Clubs, the youth group of the Spartacist League (U.S.), both because they are more readily available to me and because, and this should give cause for pause, there are not many other non-CP, non-SWP youth groups around. As I gather more material from other youth sources I will place them in this series.

Finally I would like to finish up with the preamble to the Spartacist Youth Club’s What We Fight For statement of purpose:

"The Spartacus Youth Clubs intervene into social struggles armed with the revolutionary internationalist program of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. We work to mobilize youth in struggle as partisans of the working class, championing the liberation of black people, women and all the oppressed. The SYCs fight to win youth to the perspective of building the Leninist vanguard party that will lead the working class in socialist revolution, laying the basis for a world free of capitalist exploitation and imperialist slaughter."

This seems to me be somewhere in the right direction for what a Bolshevik youth group should be doing these days; a proving ground to become professional revolutionaries with enough wiggle room to learn from their mistakes, and successes. More later.
Workers Vanguard No. 969
19 November 2010

Gay Oppression and the Suicide of Tyler Clementi

(Young Spartacus pages)

NEW YORK CITY—On September 22, 18-year-old Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi committed suicide by jumping from the George Washington Bridge. Earlier that week, his college roommate had secretly streamed video over the Internet of him making out with another man. Following Clementi’s death, reports of suicides of gay youth around the country came trickling out in the press. The next month saw the kidnapping and torture of three young men in the Bronx because they were suspected of engaging in homosexual sex. These terrible events are not anomalies; they speak to the ongoing oppression of gays, and of all those who diverge from the deeply entrenched gender roles inherent to the institution of the family in capitalist society.

Homosexual youth are up to four times more likely than straight youth to attempt suicide. Almost two-thirds report feeling unsafe at school. The growth of religious backwardness and the reactionary “family values” campaigns pushed by both Democrats and Republicans have further intensified anti-gay bigotry and violence, at the same time that state-sponsored “abstinence only” campaigns and the rollback of abortion rights have aimed to repress every expression of young people’s sexuality.

Confronted by the events of the last several months, everyone from the New York Times, the bourgeoisie’s newspaper of record, to the reformist International Socialist Organization has responded with calls for anti-bullying measures. For public school and campus administrations, the capitalist rulers’ watchdogs, anti-bullying policies are a pretext for further snooping into the private affairs of youth, who are already subject to anti-drug witchhunts. Black and minority students, who especially are branded as criminals by cops and security guards and subject to discriminatory “zero tolerance” policies in their schools, would be among the first targets.

We oppose school administrators having stronger disciplinary powers, and we also oppose “hate crime” legislation. Hate crime legislation strengthens the capitalist state’s repressive powers while promoting the absurd idea that the state will defend the interests of those oppressed and exploited under capitalism. In practice, such laws have been used to persecute anarchist protesters and pro-Palestinian activists while gays, immigrants and black people continue to face cop and vigilante terror in the streets.

We seek to win youth to building a revolutionary workers party that will act as a champion of the oppressed against the barbarism of capitalist society. Only socialist revolution will open the way to an egalitarian, communist society where the institution of the family, the source of women’s and gay oppression, can be replaced because its economic and social functions will be fulfilled by society as a whole.

We print below a Spartacus Youth Club speaker’s remarks at the New York Spartacist League’s October 9 forum, slightly edited for publication.

* * *

What I wanted to talk about is what, probably, you have been reading in the papers, this recent wave of attacks against gays in New York and the surrounding areas. There is the case of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student, a tragic suicide. There are also the cases of the brutalized gays in the Bronx that were on the front page of the New York Times, and the attack on a gay man at the landmark of the gay rights movement, Stonewall, in the Village.

It is a vital task of the workers revolutionary vanguard to fight for full democratic rights for gays. In the United States, which is one of the most politically backward advanced capitalist countries on Earth, we see an infestation of Puritanism and religious fundamentalism.

The monogamous family remains the legally enforced social model for the organization of private life in its most intimate aspects, such as love, sex, bearing and raising children. It is the central institution oppressing women, and anti-gay bigotry flows from the need to punish any “deviations” from this patriarchal model.

So what is our program? You can, of course, read more in the Women and Revolution pages of our newspaper, or come to one of our youth classes at City College this semester. To give you a snapshot of our program for women’s liberation and for the complete end to this system of oppression, I would like to quote Leon Trotsky.

We had this in our article “For the Right of Gay Marriage...and Divorce” [WV No. 824, 16 April 2004]. Leon Trotsky wrote a response to the magazine Liberty in January 1933. They were asking him, “Is Bolshevism deliberately destroying the family?” This is Trotsky’s answer:

“If one understands by ‘family’ a compulsory union based on the marriage contract, the blessing of the church, property rights, and the single passport, then Bolshevism has destroyed this policed family from the roots up.

“If one understands by ‘family’ the unbounded domination of parents over children, and absence of legal rights for the wife, then Bolshevism has, unfortunately, not yet completely destroyed this carryover of society’s old barbarism.

“If one understands by ‘family’ ideal monogamy—not in the legal but in the actual sense—then the Bolsheviks could not destroy what never was nor is on earth, barring fortunate exceptions.”
From The Revolutionary Marxist Caucus Newsletter (forebear of the Spartacus Youth Clubs), Number 7, April 1971

Homosexuals have long been accustomed to the charge of "crimes against nature" by the spokesmen of official morality. Much of the radical movement, however, accuses them of crimes against the revolution be¬sides. If the cops don't get them, maybe the revolution will-if some "revolutionary" organizations are taken at their word.


Progressive Labor is one organization doing its best to convince sexually oppressed groups that if PL could make the American revolution, their social oppression could be even more systematic than what they endure now. PL has done it before— witness the WSA-SDS position at the time of the June '69 SDS split on the family as an instrument of revolutionary struggle, and their long opposition within SDS to raising the demand for free and legal abortion. A variation on the same pseudo-proletarian Victorianism is their line on homosexuality expressed in the February issue of PL, as a disease of capitalism like dope addiction which is damn well not going to exist under socialism. Here PL marshals its ignorance in the service of an opportunistic con¬ception of reaching workers with their politics (lots of workers don't like homosexuals).


PL is trying to "fight male chauvinism" in strange fashion. It should be obvious to anyone that homosexuality is encouraged by no dominant capitalist institution (except negatively by the horrors of bourgeois mar¬riage and family life). The most effective means for discouraging homosexuality (besides direct persecution) are the same means used to oppress women and youth. Central among these are the institutions of bourgeois marriage, the family, and religion. Here people receive the conditioning which includes a taboo against homosexual feelings and practices-a fear which for many people is probably stronger than positive response to either sex. That the conditioning process is not uniformly successful means only that no social order succeeds completely, always, in molding individuals exactly according to a certain pattern—if it did, there would be no homosexuals, no women's liberation movement, no communists, no nonconformists 'of any sort. Those who do opt for noncon¬formity, of course, pay a big price-ask any independent women or homosexuals.


It is one thing to recognize the Marxist truth that the struggle for social revolution cannot center around issues of special social oppression, sexual or otherwise (most sections of the women's, black and "gay" movements have yet to realize this). But another matter entirely is the utterly retrograde belief that the prejudices and chauvinist practices among workers under capitalism, such as those concerning women and homosexuals, represent a progressive aspect of their consciousness. Obviously a homosexual communist is duty-bound to take backwardness into account, and not invite isolation before obtaining a hearing for his (her) class program, just as no communist woman should seek to win the sympathy of socially conservative workingwomen on the basis of some libertarian personal life style. But these important tactical considerations do not mean that absolute sexual freedom is not part of a communist program. The Bolsheviks (before Stalin) struck all the oppressive laws off the books regarding women and homosexuals. They also rejected the back¬door oppression of "rehabilitation” of anybody's brand of consenting sexual behavior. (For documentation of the Bolshevik policy on various aspects of sexual oppression, and the policy reversals under Stalin, see the Socialist Workshop pamphlet available from the RMC for 50 cents)

But avoiding stupidities like the cliché "Do you want your daughter to marry a black and why not?" is very different from elevating backwardness into revolutionary virtue. For every worker alienated by "Gay Liberation" there are plenty who are driven to frenzy by Women's Liberation—because psychologically it seems to threaten most of them more directly. The hollow "satisfaction" of male supremacy in personal relations (provided one is confident of "masculinity" of course) is one of the few "satisfactions" which capitalism promises the male worker. We take this backwardness into account tactically in order better to defeat it in the long run, not because we endorse it.

What does PL propose? If they believe that "movements which unite with drug addicts and homosexuals a defamatory and baseless analogy close the door to workers" how do they propose to implement this insight? Consistency would demand that PL expose and root out such carriers of capitalist corruption within the workers’ and radical student movements. The right wing can root out the communists and PL can expose the sexual "deviants" of all political stripes. PL partly backs away from this logical implication of their medievalism by not proposing to catch and "cure" the "deviants" now under capitalism-that will be done humanely but oh so effectivey under socialism. Yet PL knows that other "evils of capitalism" must be fought here and now, every day. Is PL just afraid to talk now of purging society of homosexuality in the way they talk of smashing racism?

We think so. We suspect that PL does not undertake the line of action outlined above because they realize that every decent element would despise them for it. And they may know better than what they print in PL. Perhaps some "aversion therapy" from the radical sections of Women's Liberation will help the editors of PL be "rehabilitated into useful roles"(PL's "socialist" formula for the homosexual cure)-in the fight against sexual oppression.

Probably the Maoists will be undismayed to learn that homosexuals are indeed persecuted as undesirables in China; they are already acquainted with the concepts of the "socialist family" and bureaucratic vacillations on abortion. And in Cuba (SWP-YSA, recently enthusiastic about "Gay Liberation", take note). The allegedly capitalist Soviet Union still persecutes the "capitalist sickness" of homosexuality; according to PL's and Mao¬ist logic, some shred of revolutionary moral¬ity must therefore persist there.

We have reserved our sharpest criticism for Progressive Labor, because as self-proclaimed vanguard party, they deserve it most. (Less significant "Marxist" organizations have outdone PL; when PL has been opportunist, ignorant, and wrong, they have been obscenely wrong. The National Caucus of Labor Committees in a recent leaflet against the SWP-YSA compared homosexuals, and by implication all specially oppressed groups, to dogs.) But while criticizing "vanguard" groups which mouth idiocies in the name of revolutionary leadership, we must not spare the various movements against special oppression, whose leaderships reinforce PL's prejudices. It is more than a mood of pseudo-revolutionary Puritanism which makes PL vilify homosexuals. In part PL is reacting impressionistically to the fact that the exist¬ing movement against homosexual oppression (like most of Women's and Black Liberation) lacks anything resembling a program for socialist revolution, the only permanent solution to their oppression.

The best of "Gay Liberation" is the Red Butterfly group. A main arena of their work seems to be winning recognition for their struggle through work in the SWP-YSA-dominated SMC. Participation in the SMC, notorious for its class-collaboration (denounced regularly and essentially correctly by PL and its sections of SDS), is an excellent way for homosexuals to win tem¬porary acceptance from liberals and their confused student following. It is also an excellent way to reinforce the prejudices of groups like PL, which, although dead wrong on many vital issues, nonetheless do seriously desire to reach the working class to make a revolution. The SMC also alienates all sections of the work¬ing class, which correctly hate their liberal enemies repeatedly featured at SMC rallies, and which will hate them more, not less, as they lose widespread illusions about the capitalist system in struggle. The Red Butterflies, despite their evident desire to bring a radical perspective to homosexuals, remain a centrist group according to the classic short definition: revolutionary in words, opportunist in deeds. Their desire to be part of the "mainstream" (read SMC) of the "movement" is not in itself unhealthy. But the mainstream of the "movement" happens to be led by class-collaborationist garbage—and only a bitter struggle can change that.
From opposite poles, PL and the various "liberation" movements make symmetrical errors. PL, in backward sectarian fashion, refuses to intervene actively in important movements once it has recognized the rottenness of their leaderships. Perhaps PL feels that its own politics and cadre are not tough or sophisticated enough to win people away from their misleaders when more than the simplest issues are involved. (Through the low-level politics of the CWSA strategy in SDS, concentrating mostly on unorganized workers, PL overcame its past opportunism in union work of "left-center coalitions" with "progressive bureaucrats, etc., by simply avoiding unions.).


The existing "liberation" movements universally share a lack of working-class revolutionary perspective. What PL fails to recognize is that nowhere has any movement, including movements of the working class itself, been anything but bourgeois in leadership and pro¬gram in the absence of Marxist leadership. No spontaneous movement against any form of oppression, even against the economic exploitation upon which capitalism is based, can main¬tain a revolutionary program unless it is linked through its most conscious cadres with a Bolshevik communist party. The various movements do not recognize this either, the more left among them seeing their particular struggles as somehow "inherently revolutionary" without a revolutionary program. For homosexuals, and for all the specially oppressed, liberation can be wan only by struggle alongside the working class armed with Marxist program for the destruction of class society, the basis for all oppression.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:59 AM

    This is a fine article and should be read and reread by those interested in ending gay oppression.