This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the famous Stonewall uprising by gays and lesbians in New York City against their being harassed and victimized by the police, by the political establishment and by anyone who wanted to single out a seemingly easy target. Well, those days are over, at least the more egregious parts, although this struggle is far from over. This year, with the real advances on the gay and lesbian right to marriage front (despite that very important lose in California at the ballot box and in the courts) and the positive hoopla over Sean Penn’s well-deserved Oscar for his portrayal of bourgeois gay politician Harvey Milk of San Francisco, seems a fitting time to review some aspects of the gay liberation struggle as it has unfolded over the past forty years of American political and cultural history.
Originally I intended to review “Milk” (the Penn version) and a much less well-known 1980’s documentary on Harvey Milk. However, I was unable to find that earlier film to make the comparisons. In the meantime I came across a review by Amy Rath, editor of the “Women And Revolution” pages of “Workers Vanguard”, that hits many of the point that I wanted to make. I still intend to do that comparative review at a later date.
Workers Vanguard No. 932
13 March 2009
The Communist Program and the Fight Against Homosexual Oppression
By Amy Rath
(Women and Revolution pages)
The San Francisco Democratic Party establishment learned decades ago how to manipulate the rhetoric of “gay power” to bolster its rule, and the story of Harvey Milk is front and center in that spin. At the time of the murders of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Milk in 1978, the Democratic Party machine seized on the issue for political capital and it hasn’t stopped since. Spouting “gay rights” rhetoric to round up votes, the city government flaunts “progressive” pretensions while it does the work of capitalism in oppressing the poor and exploited and attempting to tame the powerful Bay Area labor movement. It’s by no means a fluke of history that San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom rode the movement for gay marriage as part of his bid for national prominence as a Democratic Party politician.
Thus, when Milk, Gus Van Sant’s biopic about the first openly gay member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, had its world premiere last October in a special showing at the Castro Theatre (just down the block from Milk’s old camera store), Newsom joined the movie moguls and film stars strutting on the red carpet. Patrons paid $50 to see the film and as much as $15,000 to attend the post-premiere dinner and party at City Hall. With characteristic smugness, Newsom congratulated the city “progressives” on the changes of the last 30 years: “This story couldn’t have happened anywhere else” (San Francisco Chronicle, 29 October 2008). No doubt he hopes that this “for the people” veneer will prove useful as California sinks more deeply into economic crisis and layoffs engulf the working class. After all, Newsom got elected mayor based on his reactionary “Care Not Cash” initiative that sought to drive the homeless from the city. His championship of gay marriage helped bring his left-liberal opponents solidly into his camp.
Has any film been as good for the city’s political and business establishment as Milk? Newsom opened City Hall to on-site filming of Moscone’s murder, while various worthies of the San Francisco establishment appeared in person in the movie, including the openly gay politician Tom Ammiano (formerly president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and currently a member of the California State Assembly). The on-site filming poured money into the coffers of the city and its merchants. Now tourists are flocking to the Castro district to see the home base of Harvey Milk’s gay constituency.
Milk tells the story of how “gay power” became institutionalized in City Hall, and it’s fairly accurate within the limited scope of the movie’s storyline, which focuses on Milk as a gay politician to the exclusion of the larger political and social forces of the time. The movie is well-made, enjoyable entertainment. Hailed by fans and reviewers everywhere as brilliant in his portrayal of Harvey Milk, Sean Penn won an Oscar for best actor. He certainly deserves it. Not least of Milk’s gifts to the capitalist Democratic Party was his puckish charm and outspoken courage, and Penn shows it all.
Adding not a little to the interest sparked by the movie itself was the passage of California’s reactionary Proposition 8—which overturned the legalization of same-sex marriage—last November 4, only days before the film opened nationwide. Headlines read “Milk Recaptures Californian Intolerance at Exactly the Right Time” (Village Voice, 26 November 2008) and “Activists Seek to Tie ‘Milk’ to a Campaign for Gay Rights” (New York Times, 21 November 2008). But it’s not just some of the reviewers in the capitalist press that relish the connection: our reformist opponents on the left are salivating over the movie.
The International Socialist Organization (ISO) hails the movie’s opening “at a crucial teaching moment in the struggle” and comments that the “latest explosion of gay militancy” is “magnificent” (“Teamsters and Trannies, Unite!” International Socialist Review, January-February 2009). Certainly tens of thousands have protested in the streets against Prop 8, and we Spartacists have joined them, opposing all discrimination against gays with our own revolutionary program—while also pointing out that the demands of the “movement” are limited to lobbying the Democrats for a few token reforms. The main strategy of Prop 8’s opponents is to sue to overturn the law.
For the supposedly “socialist” ISO, over the moon over the ascension of mainstream bourgeois politician Barack Obama (who opposes gay marriage) to the imperial presidency, a “movement” which can more effectively pressure capitalist politicians for such reforms is the ultimate goal. Thus the ISO article enthused over “genuine rainbow power”—i.e., Teamsters, transvestites, former Republic Windows workers, Latinos and gays united—but united for what? Their “ultimate” demand is to overturn Bill Clinton’s reactionary “Defense of Marriage Act” and to “tell President Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress to end this federally sanctioned discrimination once and for all.” Who are they kidding? We support full democratic rights for gays, but as Marxists we understand that anti-gay bigotry will not be rooted out short of a socialist revolution which overturns capitalism.
For its part, the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), creator of the “World Can’t Wait” outfit, says the film “resonates in what is at times an almost eerie way” with the current political assault on gay marriage and “the powerful resistance from the people, particularly the gay and lesbian community” (Revolution, 14 December 2008). At the time of the events depicted in the film, however, the RCP spouted the grotesque Stalinist/Maoist line that homosexuality was a “sickness” and barred gays from membership in their organization. Thus their enthusing over Milk today rings grossly hollow—though their tailing of petty-bourgeois reformist “movements” is consistent.
For such reformists, politicians like Harvey Milk are the stuff of their illusions in “fight the right” Democrats. George Moscone, the supposed “friend of labor” mayor, and Harvey Milk, the uncloseted gay supervisor, are cast as progressive martyrs cut down by hoary reaction in the person of the bigoted ex-cop Dan White (who was also a Democrat, although no one likes to admit it). This is just a means of tailing the Democratic Party establishment in San Francisco, where the votes of homosexuals are corralled to fuel a vicious anti-labor drive. Moscone came into office in 1976 with a tough-on-labor line, signaled by a series of anti-union propositions on the city ballot attacking the pay scales and benefits of city workers. In 1976—during the period covered by the movie, which restricts labor struggle to the Coors beer boycott that Milk assisted—Moscone’s anti-labor offensive led to a bitter, hard-fought strike by city craft workers backed up by Muni mass transit drivers.
Keeping social protest safely within the bounds of the capitalist courts and the ballot box is fully in keeping with the politics of Milk, which represents quite accurately the fulsome confidence in capitalist democracy that Harvey Milk pushed. With the election of the first black president, Barack Obama, the American ruling class is hoping for an extended honeymoon of race, class and social peace, while refurbishing illusions in American imperialist democracy. Milk is “the first openly Obama-iste movie,” quipped the Village Voice. Slate agreed: “Few reviewers will miss the opportunity to point out—the parallels are hard to ignore—that Harvey Milk was the Barack Obama of his day, a minority candidate who represented change, opposed the party machine, and preached the gospel of hope.” Not to be outdone, the New York Times reviewer wrote: “This is how change happens. This is what it looks like.”
Sure, that’s what they want the exploited and oppressed to believe. Milk himself said, “If a gay can win, it means there is hope that the system can work for all minorities if we fight. We’ve given them hope.” With such words Harvey Milk funneled the votes of the large homosexual community in San Francisco to the Democratic Party, which is no less a capitalist party of racism, war and “family values” than the Republicans.
Gay Oppression and “Coming Out”
With scenes of handsome, bare-chested men and exuberant parties and parades, Milk makes constituency politicking look like a lot of fun. It also represents Milk’s personal take on “gay liberation”: all the closeted gays should “come out” so that the bigots will see that homosexuals are “just folks” like them. But while this may seem to be true in the small bubbles that are San Francisco’s Castro district and New York’s Christopher Street, seeing politicized lifestylism and constituency politics as the answer to the oppression of gay people is a most dangerous illusion.
The oppression of homosexuals is not merely or even primarily the result of narrow-mindedness. Homosexuals continue to be repressed by capitalist law. Widespread bigotry on this issue is fundamentally conditioned by the institution of the monogamous family unit, the main social source of the oppression of women, youth and homosexuals in class society, and by the considerable power of organized religion. Such oppression does not make homosexuality in itself political. Sexuality is a complex and essentially personal and private matter; thus the Spartacist League most vehemently opposes any government intrusion into consensual sexual activity and private life—we say, “Government out of the bedrooms!”
A corollary is the SL’s political opposition to the program of “coming out” pushed by “lifestyle liberationists” such as Milk, which may defy but cannot eradicate class-rooted repressive institutions. We defend those who choose to “come out” against victimization by reactionaries. But living as an open homosexual or transvestite or whatever one’s individual choice—courageous as it is—can be deadly in this violent, backward, anti-sex society. Recall the brutal killing of Matthew Shepard in 1998—beaten and left hanging on a barbed-wire fence to die—and of Gwen Araujo, a transgender youth, in 2002. A 2006 survey by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network reported that violent attacks are a daily part of life for gay, lesbian and transgender youth: nearly two-thirds reported feeling unsafe at school, over a third experienced physical harassment, and nearly a fifth were assaulted because of their sexual orientation.
Young gays in the Castro today might note that the cross on Mt. Davidson still dominates the city’s southern skyline and bear in mind that the first big concentration of gays in the Bay Area was not the footloose youth of the late 1960s-’70s “sexual liberation” era. During World War II, with San Francisco as its West Coast embarkation point, U.S. imperialism threw tens of thousands of young men out of the military as homosexuals, giving them blue discharge papers marked with a capital H. The Department of Defense still refuses to say how many thousands were discharged. Not relishing the prospect of returning to their hometowns, many of these young men stayed in San Francisco. An excellent book by Allan Bérubé, Coming Out Under Fire, details the history of these gay men and women, many of whom first met others like themselves in the military in World War II. Today, gays still aren’t allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military. According to a 2004 report by the gay rights group Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, in the ten years after Democratic president Bill Clinton adopted the infamous “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, around 10,000 service members were discharged for being gay or bisexual.
Who Was Harvey Milk?
As Randy Shilts recounts in his 1982 biography The Mayor of Castro Street, Harvey Milk was a latecomer to the politics of “gay power.” After his 1951 college graduation, Milk, a fervent anti-Communist who wanted to stop the Reds from taking over Asia, enlisted in the Navy during the Korean War, where he rose rapidly through the ranks to become an officer. After leaving the Navy, Milk worked as an insurance broker and a researcher at a Wall Street investment firm. A staunch conservative, he was a supporter of Republican Barry Goldwater, opposing any kind of government intervention in the capitalist economy. Milk was at this time entirely uninterested in his homosexuality as a political question. But as ’60s New Left radicalism swung into full sway, Harvey Milk got into hippie lifestylism, growing his hair long as he hung with the cast of the flower-power hit Hair. By the early ’70s, he and his lover Scott Smith had moved to San Francisco.
Harvey Milk’s transformation from New York stockbroker to San Francisco Democrat moved him from the conservative to the liberal wing of capitalist politics. He built his power base in the Castro as a small businessman, defender of his community and president of the gay-dominated Castro Village Association. The movie portrays Milk’s politics quite accurately. Sean Penn gives us pretty much word-for-word Milk’s speech at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade in June 1978. Milk quoted patriotic passages from the verses engraved on the Statue of Liberty, phrases from the Declaration of Independence and the national anthem, and continued:
“No matter how hard you try, you cannot erase those words from the Declaration of Independence. No matter how hard you try, you cannot chip those words from off the base of the Statue of Liberty. And no matter how hard you try, you cannot sing the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ without those words. That’s what America is. Love it or leave it.”
Milk said in his inauguration speech as San Francisco supervisor: “I fully understand the debt and responsibility that major corporations owe the shareholders.... American business must realize that while the shareholders always come first, the care and feeding of their customer is a close second.” And gays, Milk insisted, were among their best customers—if not fellow players.
The Democratic Party Machine in San Francisco
Played by actor Josh Brolin, reactionary bigot Dan White is first shown in the movie spouting a sentence from his election campaign: “I’m not going to be forced out of San Francisco by splinter groups of radicals, social deviates and incorrigibles.” Ex-cop Dan White didn’t fit in with the clique of slick professional politicians who made up the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. For most of these well-off businessmen, realtors and lawyers, open contempt for the oppressed is considered bad taste. But there was no fundamental difference in the class loyalties of the three players, despite how White’s vengeance drama played out against Moscone and Milk. As we pointed out following the murders in “Reformists Weep for Strikebreaker Moscone” (WV No. 222, 5 January 1979): “Just who are these ‘elected officials’ anyway? Isn’t Moscone the same capitalist politician who crushed the 1976 San Francisco municipal craft workers strike? Isn’t Milk responsible for funneling votes of the large homosexual ‘community’ to the party of Anita Bryant, the Dixiecrats and the Vietnam War?”
In the ’60s and ’70s the Democratic Party machine in San Francisco was undergoing certain tactical shifts spurred by social and economic changes in the area. As the industrial base shrank and gentrification took over many old working-class neighborhoods like the Castro, San Francisco looked to tourism and to building up the downtown financial district as a corporate center. Old-time party bosses, with ties to the Catholic church and the white ethnic neighborhoods, were giving way to the new liberal-chic politicians who remain in power today. It is really these changes that are responsible for this huge falling out in the Democratic Party power structure, which exploded in Dan White’s murder of Moscone and Milk.
The movie ends with a candlelight march of tens of thousands in mourning for Harvey Milk. But the important aftermath is reduced to a couple of sentences on the screen: Dan White, who committed two coldblooded killings—of elected government officials, no less—that couldn’t have looked more like deliberate, premeditated murder in the first degree, was slapped on the wrist with two counts of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to less than seven years in prison (he served five). If some gay person had murdered ex-cop White and Moscone, you can bet that nothing less than the death penalty, on the spot, would have sufficed.
So naturally the “gay ghetto” exploded in rage. Well into the night, thousands battled with the cops. Nearly every window in City Hall was broken and the doors were smashed, while Mayor Dianne Feinstein (now a U.S. Senator) and other bigwigs were trapped inside. Cop cars and paddy wagons went up in flames. We wrote in “Behind S.F. Night of Gay Rage” (WV No. 234, 22 June 1979):
“Revolutionaries solidarize with the legitimate outrage of San Francisco’s homosexuals over the light sentence given to this bigoted, reactionary, killer ex-cop. And we fully support their defending themselves against the rampaging goons of the capitalist state. But the identification of many San Francisco gay people with Harvey Milk generally translates into political support for the liberal-chic wing of the Democratic Party, a ruling-class group whose policies toward workers and the poor are often harsher than their more traditional old-line ‘machine’ opponents.”
How did Dan White get off so easily? The infamous “Twinkie defense” claimed that sugary junk food contributed to a mood disturbance that resulted in “diminished capacity.” At the time, there were cries of collusion between the cops and the D.A. as well as charges of homophobia against the judge and jury. But the real point is that the jury wanted to believe Dan White’s defense. The jury, largely working-class and middle-class, was drawn from those areas of San Francisco that were seen as the last bastion of family life. WV commented:
“What the jury shared with White was not simply ‘homophobia’ but a fear, exploited by the reactionary White, that San Francisco has become unlivable for ‘just plain folks.’
“But this ex-cop turned Supervisor was not ‘just plain folks’; he was not some working-class guy driven into a crazy frenzy by some posh liberal snobs. Dan White was a dangerous reactionary politician. He exploited the fears, grievances and economic distress of San Francisco’s ethnic Catholic lower classes for the politics of racist, anti-gay bigotry, just as Harvey Milk exploited homosexual oppression for the liberal-sophisticate face of capitalist rule.”
After Dianne Feinstein was elected mayor in her own right in 1979, one of her first acts as she sought the support of gay voters was to mandate the recruitment of gay cops into the San Francisco police force. By 1980, one in seven new police recruits was either a lesbian or a gay man. Such “diversity” does not alter the cops’ role as agents of repression for the ruling class, which includes persecuting immigrants, black youth and striking workers.
Jimmy Carter, “Human Rights” and the Anti-Sex Witchhunt
Milk shows a 30-second cameo of then-president Jimmy Carter calling on Californians to vote against Prop 6, the John Briggs initiative on the 1978 state ballot that sought the firing of homosexual teachers and their supporters. Aside from this issue and the “Save Our Children” campaign promoted by homophobic “sunshine girl” and spokeswoman for Florida orange juice Anita Bryant, the crucial context of national and international politics is absent from the movie. But Anita Bryant and Briggs were not isolated nutcases out to wreck things for the progressive gays. They were the voices of larger political forces at work, directed from the White House. While Prop 6 was defeated, Carter’s formal opposition signified no commitment to gay rights (even supreme bigot Ronald Reagan opposed Prop 6 at the time).
Coming to office in 1977, the Democratic Carter administration kicked off an onslaught of domestic social reaction and the renewal of U.S. imperialism’s Cold War drive aimed at the destruction of the Soviet Union, garbed in the call for “human rights.” These policies reflected the attempt of the American ruling class to overcome widespread fear and loathing of the government following the explosive years of the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the rise of the New Left, the women’s liberation movement and black radicalization, and finally the Watergate break-in that forced the resignation of Republican president Richard (“I am not a crook”) Nixon in 1974. For the American bourgeoisie, this all-sided social turmoil and defiance of authority was deeply disturbing, and the potential for an alliance of black militants and radicalized students with an increasingly restive labor movement was a threat that had to be stopped. Thus a major bourgeois ideological assault was launched to overcome the “Vietnam syndrome” and to instill an unquestioning acceptance of capitalism, God and family, including the desirability of dying for one’s country.
The Carter administration brought “born again” religious fundamentalism front and center into the White House. This was the national backdrop for Bryant’s “Save Our Children” campaign of hate and Briggs’s witchhunting of gay teachers. While the movie makes good fun of these bigots, showing Milk’s sharp wit in debate with Briggs, Milk is also shown promoting the deadly illusion that the bigots had actually done gays a favor by publicizing their oppression, forcing them to “unite” against it. In fact, the Bryant campaign, which rallied the forces of the aggressive hard core of virulent reaction, was a grave threat not only to homosexuals, but to all concerned with democratic rights. Indeed, paired with Briggs’s Prop 6 on the California ballot was a tougher death penalty initiative, Prop 7. Briggs insisted that the two issues were inexorably tied together. A fund-raising letter issued by his campaign raved against California’s “ineffective” death penalty law and listed homosexual teachers as an equally horrendous threat.
The Spartacist League intervened heavily into the nationwide demonstrations against anti-gay bigotry. The oppression of homosexuals, like the oppression of women, serves as an index of more general social and political attitudes. The SL has always recognized that democratic rights are indivisible—and indeed has stood out in opposing reactionary state repression of the most oppressed or marginalized, including Mormon polygamists and NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association), a group shunned by more “respectable” gays for simply advocating the decriminalization of consensual sex between men and boys. As we wrote in “Rightist Reaction Pushes Anti-Homosexual Hysteria: Stop Anita Bryant!” (WV No. 165, 8 July 1977):
“To struggle effectively against the persecution of homosexuals, ‘gay rights’ activists must begin by understanding that bourgeois democracy is partial, fragile and reversible…. The struggle fundamentally is not about sex but about all-sided democratic rights. The ‘Save Our Children’ mobilization is presently the most visible component of a much broader rightist offensive aimed at rolling back real and token gains of the last decade of liberalism. Recent targets include legal and safe abortions, especially for poor women; the Equal Rights Amendment; busing to combat school segregation; preferential minority-group college admissions. The ‘right-to-lifers’ screaming for the death penalty grasp the logic of the Bryant crusade far better than do some of its opponents.”
Today, over 30 years later, the bitter truth of that warning is all too apparent. In the 1980s, reactionaries seized on the deadly AIDS epidemic to demonize gays. Who even remembers the Equal Rights Amendment, a proposed amendment to the Constitution simply affirming formal equality for women? Busing and affirmative action are dead, the racist death penalty has claimed over a thousand lives since its reinstitution in 1976, legal and safe abortion is ever more out of reach for poor women. And the Soviet Union has been destroyed by counterrevolution, a world-historic defeat for the working class. In Milk you see the occasional picket sign demanding “human rights” for gays. This was a major demand of the anti-Bryant demonstrations, an implicit endorsement of Carter’s anti-Soviet “human rights” crusade to rearm U.S. imperialism, extending its buzzwords to homosexuals in the U.S.
We Marxists opposed the imperialist campaign against the USSR. We called for unconditional military defense of this bureaucratically degenerated workers state against imperialist assault and internal counterrevolution. We also called for political revolution by the working class to oust the Stalinist bureaucracy and restore soviet democracy and the proletarian internationalism of Lenin’s Bolsheviks.
Full Democratic Rights for Gays!
The alliance of lifestyle radicals, reformists and Democrats can promise only token reforms that enrage American backwardness and touch off new waves of backlash. Today, over 40 states have enacted laws banning same-sex marriage. In California, an unholy alliance of the Mormons, the Catholic church and evangelical Protestants went on a rampage to get Prop 8 passed. Recognizing that with Obama’s candidacy black voters would turn out at the polls in record numbers, a big push was made to find allies among conservative black Baptist preachers. A full-page ad in the Los Angeles Sentinel, the city’s major black newspaper, urged a yes vote on Prop 8 to restore “the sanctity of marriage.”
Perhaps the most effective campaign tool to boost Proposition 8 was the “robocalls” to people’s cell phones with recordings of Obama addressing a crowd with the declaration: “I believe marriage is a union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union.” While proclaiming that he did not support Proposition 8 because it was “unnecessary,” Obama’s opposition to gay marriage is a direct echo of Bush and other fundamentalist yahoos of both capitalist parties. After all, Bill Clinton signed the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that pronounced, “The word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” In the same year, he signed the “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act,” part of his ending “welfare as we know it,” consigning millions of impoverished mothers and children to misery and hunger.
The Spartacist League and Spartacus Youth Clubs joined protests against Prop 8 with placards demanding: “Down With Prop 8! For the Right of Gay Marriage...and Divorce!”, “State, Church and Family: Holy Trinity of Women’s Oppression!” and “Don’t Crawl for the Democrats—Build a Workers Party!” As fighters for the socialist liberation of humanity, we are committed to full democratic rights for gays, lesbians and transgenders, and we support any legal advances that can be wrested from this cruelly bigoted society, including the right to marry. But we do not advocate or prettify the institution of marriage. We fight for a society in which no one needs to be forced into a legal straitjacket in order to get medical benefits, visitation rights, custody of children, immigration rights, or any of the many privileges this capitalist society grants to those, and only those, who are embedded in the traditional “one man on one woman for life” marital mold.
In the ’70s, politicians like Harvey Milk represented the wing of the gay rights movement at peace with capitalism. But there were others, disaffected with capitalism, who broke from sectoralism—the “left” version of plain old capitalist “constituency politics”—and found their way to communism. A dozen cadre of the Los Angeles-based “gay liberation/communist” Red Flag Union (RFU), formerly the Lavender & Red Union, fused with the Spartacist League in 1977.
In the course of their political journey, the RFU rejected the false programs of a number of our reformist opponents. Against both crude Maoists like the RCP and anti-Communist “state capitalists” like the Shachtmanite Revolutionary Socialist League (since deceased), they came to the Trotskyist position of defense of the degenerated and deformed workers states while calling for workers political revolution. Opportunist groups like the feminist Freedom Socialist Party sought to cater to the supposed “lifestylism” of the RFU by slandering the SL’s so-called “closet rule,” which simply states that in public our members seek to be known by their politics, not by their lifestyles. The RFU agreed with the SL’s position and sharply refuted the opportunists’ slanders.
The RFU wrote in Red Flag No. 3, a special fusion supplement to Workers Vanguard (WV No. 172, 9 September 1977): “There is no special revolutionary program for homosexuals. The communist program includes demands which address the special oppression of homosexuals. But unlike sectoralists, revolutionaries understand that the fate of homosexuals—like that of any other oppressed group—is determined by the course of the class struggle.” The RFU comrades came to understand that only the road of the Bolshevik October Revolution can open up a future of a socialist world where all forms of oppression and exploitation will be eradicated.
Only a socialist revolution can lay the basis for the replacement of the institution of the family with socialized childcare and housework. In the first five years of the Russian Revolution under Lenin and Trotsky, the Bolsheviks, insofar as they could in conditions of extreme poverty and international isolation, sought to liberate women through collectivized kitchens, childcare, dwellings and schools. As well, laws against all forms of consensual sex were abolished, establishing the noninterference of the state in all matters of private life. While a revolutionary government will always act to promote all measures to bring about freedom for all, bigotry cannot simply be abolished by decree. But the Bolsheviks understood that liberation is a material act, requiring resources far beyond those available to a backward peasant society like Russia. Nonetheless, the forces of proletarian state repression put the bigots and former oppressors on the run.
To finally arrive at classless communism requires the destruction of capitalist imperialism as a world system and the establishment of a world socialist division of labor, leading to a tremendous leap in the productive forces that can provide material plenty for all. The withering away of the family as the basic institution defining sexual relations will result in the eventual disappearance of patriarchal relations and of generalized anti-homosexual oppression. Our task is to build a revolutionary workers party like the Bolshevik Party that will act as a tribune of the people, a defender of all the oppressed, to lead the fight for world socialist revolution.
The article “Milk: A Review” (WV No. 932, 13 March) stated that Dan White, who killed Harvey Milk and San Francisco mayor George Moscone, was “sentenced to less than seven years in prison.” White was in fact sentenced to seven years and eight months. (From WV No. 933, 27 March 2009.)