Workers Vanguard No. 947
20 November 2009
Full Democratic Rights for Homosexuals!
RCP: Anti-Gay Moralists Then and Now
(Young Spartacus pages)
On October 11, tens of thousands turned out for the National Equality March for gay rights in Washington, D.C., calling on Barack Obama, Commander-in-Chief of the imperialist military that is brutally occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, to overturn both Bill Clinton’s infamous “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for homosexuals serving in the armed forces and Clinton’s 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. (Obama opposes gay marriage.) Though supportable, these demands reflect the fundamentally conservative thrust of the gay rights milieu in a period of little social struggle. As we noted in “For the Right of Gay Marriage and Divorce!: Marriage and the Capitalist State”: “It’s a far cry from ‘free love’ and the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969 to today’s marriage ceremonies, PTA meetings and Democratic and Republican Party fund-raisers” (WV No. 824, 16 April 2004).
Far from being a defender of gay people in this viciously oppressive and bigoted society, the Democratic Party is a staunch promoter of anti-gay “family values” and brutal anti-sex witchhunts. This results from the capitalist class’ dependence on the institution of the family, which arose as a means of ensuring the inheritance of private property. The main source of women’s oppression, the family is an important means for the bourgeoisie to regiment society and anti-gay bigotry flows from the need to defend this patriarchal structure against any “deviations.” Our article on gay marriage explained:
“We socialists 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’ legal mold.”
We seek to replace the family as an economic institution by socializing childcare and housework, freeing women to play a full and equal role in social and political life as part of constructing an egalitarian, socialist society.
In contrast, rally co-organizers in the International Socialist Organization attempted to police the rally against our “disruptive” opposition to the Democratic Party and our defense of Roman Polanski, targeted for consensual sexual activity that took place more than 30 years ago (see “Stop Vendetta Against Roman Polanski!” WV No. 944, 9 October). The Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), long notorious on the left for their open anti-gay bigotry, turned out with banners calling for gay rights, pushing Democratic Party lesser-evilism through their still ongoing “World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime” project.
The RCP is desperately clawing its way deeper into the liberal Democratic Party swamp, in an atmosphere of anti-sex bigotry and “family values” moralism. Of course, the RCP wouldn’t have gotten far at the National Equality March while ranting against lesbians and gays as “degenerates.” When they were known as the Revolutionary Union, this group issued a position paper describing homosexuality as a disease of capitalist society like “exotic religious sects, mysticism, drugs, pornography, promiscuity, sex orgies, trotskyism, etc.” (“Position Paper of the Revolutionary Union on Homosexuality and Gay Liberation,” 1974). Ever the opportunists, since that time they’ve had a “change of line”—though not exactly a change of heart.
RCP’s “New Position”: Same Old Prejudice
The RCP’s 2001 “On the Position of Homosexuality in the New Draft Programme” admits that their former Programme “did tend to treat the fairly widespread phenomenon of homosexuality in the U.S. as a reflection of imperial decay and decadence, and although not portraying homosexuals as enemies, did regard them as individuals whose backward outlook needed to be reformed and homosexual practice remolded. This was incorrect”! They proceed to defend this “incorrect” program:
“Our view on this subject was also a product of opposition to and criticism of the more degrading and abusive sexual practices engaged in by some homosexuals (which do exist), and to some misogyny towards women (including lesbians) on the part of some male homosexuals. Also, basic masses, among whom our Party is based, works among and relies on as a decisive force for revolution, have a wealth of experience with U.S. prisons and with the widespread use of homosexual sex (including rape) to establish power hierarchies over people in prison and sometimes outside of prison . All the negative things we spoke of really did (and do) exist .”
So what is the “new” position on homosexuality? Now they “do not see a homosexual orientation or the practice of homosexuality per se as something that constitutes an impediment to the emancipation of women and the abolition of all oppressive and exploitative relations.” Gee, thanks.
The RCP apparently felt compelled to investigate, “why do some people engage in sexual activity with people of the same sex?” This obsession with trying to find the culprit for something that is a natural phenomenon led them to embark on an extensive “theoretical review” of the cause of homosexuality. The fact is, what “causes” homosexuality is completely irrelevant! All we can say is, it’s as natural a sexual expression as any other—occurring not only in all human societies throughout history but in many other species. All the RCP’s baloney about reviewing biological studies to conclude that “even the most backward and socially objectionable of these practices or ‘scenes’ are not the ‘cause’ of the oppression of women” (emphasis in original) is a fig leaf on their bigotry. They would have us believe that in the decades when they were busy excluding gays from their organization as “degenerates,” science couldn’t have told them that they were full of crap.
What they admit to sounds bad enough, but the RCP’s document is rife with falsifications. The statement that “our party has always been firmly opposed to the discrimination and attacks leveled against homosexuals and we welcomed and encouraged the participation of homosexuals in the revolutionary struggle” is a bald-faced lie. Actually, they excluded gays from their organization, stating in their 1974 position paper: “homosexuals cannot be Communists.” All their rhetoric about fighting “pogromist” attacks on gays is empty—they pushed the same reactionary garbage that’s used to whip up murderous hysteria against gays, lesbians and transgenders, including calls to “reeducate” homosexuals from their “degrading” and “shameful” practices. We wonder what the RCP would say about “socialists” who pushed an alleged analysis of black people as intellectually and morally inferior while insisting that they “always opposed” lynching!
The Family and Uncle Joe
The RCP attempts to drag the Marxist movement into the mire of their own Stalinist degeneracy, claiming, “we were unfortunately in line with some long-standing historical tradition within the international communist movement.” In reality, the communist movement from its beginnings has stood forthrightly in defense of homosexuals’ rights, including courageous public stands such as August Bebel’s 1898 speech in the German Reichstag for repealing the penal code against “unnatural fornication.” The Russian Revolution gave flesh and blood to the Marxist understanding of the woman question and homosexual rights. The Bolsheviks’ position was explained in a 1923 pamphlet by Grigorii Batkis, director of the Moscow Institute of Social Hygiene:
“Concerning homosexuality, sodomy, and various other forms of sexual gratification, which are set down in European legislation as offenses against public morality—Soviet legislation treats these exactly the same as so-called ‘natural’ intercourse. All forms of sexual intercourse are private matters. Only when there’s use of force or duress, as in general when there’s an injury or encroachment upon the rights of another person, is there a question of criminal prosecution.”
—The Sexual Revolution in Russia
Soviet Russia annulled all laws discriminating against homosexual acts, and a campaign was undertaken against anti-homosexual prejudice as part of the broader struggle for the liberation of women and children from the prison of the family.
In fact, the “longstanding historical tradition” the RCP follows is Joseph Stalin’s, under whom many democratic rights for women and gays were overturned and abortion and “sodomy” were re-criminalized. This was part of the process of political counterrevolution where a conservative bureaucratic caste usurped political power from the working class in impoverished Soviet Russia. The Stalinist bureaucracy, a parasitic layer dependent on the socialized property forms won through the Russian Revolution, sought to buttress its own position by promoting social conservatism and respect for authority, including the outright bourgeois ideology of Great Russian chauvinism and the cult of the family.
As exiled revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky observed in his 1936 analysis of the degeneration of the Soviet workers state:
“Instead of openly saying, ‘We have proven still too poor and ignorant for the creation of socialist relations among men, our children and grandchildren will realize this aim,’ the leaders are forcing people to glue together again the shell of the broken family, and not only that, but to consider it, under the threat of extreme penalties, the sacred nucleus of triumphant socialism.”
—The Revolution Betrayed
With Soviet Russia isolated after the revolution failed to spread internationally, in 1924 the Stalinists developed the ideology that socialism could be built in one country if only peace could be maintained with the imperialists. This program of class collaboration led to the strangulation of revolutionary struggles internationally, the betrayal and murder of Communists around the world and, in 1991-92, the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union itself. We stand in the tradition of Trotsky’s Left Opposition and its fight against the Stalinist betrayers and for the revolutionary, proletarian, internationalist principles that animated the October Revolution.
Second only to their cultish obsession with their Chairman Bob Avakian, the RCP promotes Chairman Mao, who represented the same nationalist program of “socialism in one country” as Stalin, only in a different country, China. The 1949 Chinese Revolution overthrew capitalism and the rapacious landlords, in the process transforming the lives of Chinese women who in prerevolutionary times were barely recognized as human beings. However, the society that emerged was and remains a bureaucratically deformed workers state, qualitatively similar to Stalin’s Russia. As Trotskyists, we fight to defend the gains of the 1949 Revolution, including through the overthrow of the parasitic bureaucracy and the establishment of workers democracy. Internationally, we fight for socialist revolution, including in advanced industrial countries, which will lay the basis for an increase in the productive capacities of society and allow the family to be replaced.
Just like the Stalinist leaders in Trotsky’s polemic, the Chinese Maoists (who have regarded homosexuality as an “illness”) promote the family as an ideological prop. Like all Maoists, the RCP glorifies the family as the fighting unit for socialism. However, following Mao’s death, the RCP backed the Gang of Four in the intra-bureaucratic fight in the Chinese Communist Party. After the Gang of Four was outmaneuvered, the RCP wrote China off as capitalist, leaving these defenders of “socialism in one country” without a country.
Chairman Avakian’s Bedroom Police
The RCP’s 1974 position paper stated:
“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 . In reality, gay liberation is anti-working-class and counterrevolutionary. Its attacks on the family would rob poor and working class people of the most viable social unit for their revolutionary struggle against the imperialist system.”
The sentimental portrait of the socialist family in RCP’s new Programme is likewise a far cry from Marx and Engels’ view of an institution “based on the overt or covert domestic slavery of the woman” (Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, 1884).
The RCP’s present enthusiasm for gay marriage apparently has more to do with their enthusiasm for forcing people into the stultifying institution of monogamous marriage than with any opposition to the oppression of homosexuals. In their 1988 article “On the Question of Homosexuality and the Emancipation of Women,” the RCP ranted against gay men’s “very narcissistic and self-indulgent lifestyle, including a high degree of preoccupation with sex” and “transvestism and displays of stereotypical ‘effeminate’ behavior” (we could go on). The RCP’s list of “backward and socially objectionable” practices includes sexual promiscuity, pornography and casual anonymous sex—and their injunction that everyone who joins their party will be held to a “higher standard of proletarian morality and discipline than the masses,” means that hapless prospective members, gay and straight, should think twice before surrendering their personal freedom to join the ranks of Chairman Bob Avakian! (One might also question the “standard of proletarian morality” of an organization that felt compelled to include rules against raising “money for yourself in the name of the Party” and attempting “to get people to support or join the Party by threatening them” in its 2001 Programme.)
In any case, the RCP’s bourgeois family values have led them to embrace the vilest anti-sex campaigns, foaming at the mouth with disgust for anything that strays from their Maoist dystopia. The crowning example is their slander as “child molesters” of NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association), an organization that calls for the decriminalization of consensual relationships between younger and older men. Anti-pedophile hysteria is used by the state to justify the grossest intervention into people’s private lives, and especially to police the behavior of youth. We have a proud history of defending NAMBLA and opposing reactionary age of consent laws and all laws that curtail the privacy and sexual freedom of consenting individuals—for which the RCP also slanders us as “child molesters”! We believe in the principle of effective consent, that is, the sexual behavior that consenting individuals pursue is nobody’s business but their own. For the RCP, an organization that lumps together porn and rape, the distinction between consensual and coerced sex is simply irrelevant.
The Marxist program does not include any position on the value of any particular sexual orientation, and the Spartacus Youth Clubs stand on the tradition of the Marxist movement in opposing all forms of discrimination against homosexuals. As we concluded in our 1976 RCP polemic “Bible Belt Maoists Rant at ‘Deviant Sexual Behavior’”:
“As Lenin declared in What Is to Be Done?, communists must be ‘in, but not of’ bourgeois society. Communists must seek to become the ‘tribune of the people,’ championing the cause of all the victims of bourgeois oppression and exploitation. Foolish superstitions and vicious bigotry are the odor of decaying bourgeois society.”
—Young Spartacus No. 47,
Bereft of a Marxist program and shamelessly wallowing in the present backward consciousness inculcated by bourgeois society, the RCP caters to and promotes that consciousness. Here, as on every other crucial question, the program of the RCP has nothing to offer anyone who wants to fight for a revolution against this exploitative, oppressive capitalist society.