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Thursday 29 August 2013

Position Post of Reddebrek on the RCP and Bigotry

Warning this is going to be a long one


The Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) founded in 1975 but it had existed as the Revolutionary Union (RU) prior to this.  The RCP’s official ideology is Maoism though according to some critics including from fellow Maoists is more interested in validating its leader Bob Avakian. The RCP despite its small size has managed to become known around the world; unfortunately its reputation is nothing to be proud of.

In 1973 the RU published a well very odd paper that would become the backbone of it’s and then the RCP’s most controversial social policy. The title of this paper was “Position Paper of the Revolutionary Union On Homosexuality and Gay Liberation” it doesn’t make for pleasant reading.  It’s a list of justifications for opposing homosexuality, for a start it outright states you can’t be a Communist if your gay.

While gay people can be anti-imperialists we feel that they cannot be Communists.

Overall it seems hypocritical and incoherent. For example Male homosexuality is accused of 
reinforcing male chauvinism because it apparently “turns its back on the struggle between men and women”. Lesbianism on the other hand is an escape from Male Chauvinism even though the paper accuses both putting a barrier between men and women.

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 also repeatedly states that Gays of both sexes are unwilling to struggle with members of the opposite sex. The only evidence the paper bothers to cite is anecdotal comments about Lesbians within the women’s movement.

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.

 However it never actually bothers to explain why its authors think this. Are male homosexuals choosing to be Gay due to experiences within a man’s movement of some sort? And why exactly does this mean that Gays are unwilling or incapable of struggling with members of the opposite sex? I find this line of reasoning very odd given that by its own admissions homosexuality is a minority “choice” so that must mean that the majority of male chauvinists are heterosexual so if there was a correlation between sexuality and sexual chauvinism that would imply the opposite, that it is heterosexuality not homosexuality that would reinforce chauvinism.  But the paper is saying the opposite and even states that it is heterosexual males and females alone who can struggle against patriarchy, but again doesn’t bother to say why. The only reason I can think of is that the authors genuinely believe that men and women can only work together if they fancy each other. I can’t think of another reason why they’d bring up the lesbians not wanting personal relationships with men.
After that it starts claiming that homosexuality is individualistic, now at first it seems true though an odd criticism, but it’s when they start elaborating that the paper exposes (again) it double standard.
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.

Now when I first read this passage I thought this line of argument seemed familiar, it sounds like a pro-life Christian’s argument against abortion. Now saying that a woman having the right of her own body is a bad thing is a pretty disgusting belief, whether the justification be a moral imperative from a divine been or a “Needs of the many” arbitrary collectivism. But once again it reveals that the paper is just an attempt to graft an intellectual argument onto their personal bigotry. If choosing to relate sexually only to women is Individualistic then why isn’t choosing to relate sexually to men individualistic? How is a woman coming to the decision that they want to be intimate with another woman different from deciding to be intimate with a man? Aside from the physical process it isn’t.

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 passage really caught me off guard, they are literally saying that since gay relationships are a lot of work you shouldn’t bother and you’re being self-indulgent. If this paper where written today a good word to describe the above is “Meta”. The nuts and bolts of what it says are actually true this time, in the 1970’s in America homosexual relationships where either very short lived or very discreet. However this is because of the society of the time, the culture of the day put legal obstacles in the way and enormous societal pressure on homosexuals to conform or stay shut in. This very paper is an excellent example of this, a self-described Revolutionary organisation is reiterating many of the homophobic slurs of mainstream American society and adding a few of its own for flavour.
And again apologies for repeating myself here but once again we have blatant hypocrisy. Surely joining the RU/RCP and believing in its ideology also put you outside the mainstream of American society, and so naturally to make something of their relationship with the party they would need to put in a lot of work. Certainly much more than those in a relationship with the mainstream parties, therefore to be a member of Revolutionary party is to be self-indulgent.  And what about mixed race relationships between heterosexuals, are they suddenly self-indulgent too? Many of the pressures that made Gay relationships failures were true for couples of differing ethnicities.

This is not meant to put down such relationships as abnormal or immoral.

This little sentence is a complete lie, the paragraphs before this one concluded that homosexuality was a choice and since it is a minority choice abnormal by default. And they state that male homosexuality reinforces male chauvinism so unless the RU doesn’t find male chauvinism immoral they definitely do find homosexuality to be so.

It is simply a recognition of the social context 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.

A social context that this paper and the attitude and policies it would lead too (more on that later) actively reinforce. Also they do make reference to a natural state throughout the paper they keep saying that homosexuality is a choice and give many reasons for this choice. But they never say they believe heterosexuality is also a choice meaning that they are in fact implying it to be natural state that a few deviate from it.

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.

So yes they are comparing homosexuality to religion and living on a commune[1], and again they don’t address or even realise that we could add joining the Revolutionary Union[2] to this list since such an act forces members onto the periphery and vulnerable to public abuse via “Commie bashing” and intimidation from the authorities[3].  And again they refuse to explain why this is true for homosexuality and not heterosexuality, unless their argument is simply society is currently opposed to it therefore it is harder for Gays to can the confidence of the working class and bring about Revolution. Which actually probably is their argument as vapid as that is, but if so again why even bother if you believe that. American society was extremely hostile to Communism and particularly the “Chi-Coms” leader Mao Ze Dong. Again they are either trying to make their bigotry look enlightened or incredibly deluded.

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.

If they genuinely believed homophobia was “unfortunate” then why did they write and publish a paper calling for the banning of homosexuals. This paper has repeatedly called homosexuals bourgeois and not part of Proletarian culture this means they aren’t fit for membership.  So it is also guilty of the “unfortunate” act of ostracizing gays.

homosexuality is an ideology of the petty bourgeoisie, and must be clearly distinguished from proletarian ideology. 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.”

Credit where credits due, we’re halfway through and that’s the first time they directly quote the “Great Chairman” so they’ve shown remarkable restraint. Unfortunately (for them) choosing this particular quotation actually exposes there lies as it directly contradicts the first assertion. If the RU weren’t Communists I might actually accept their statement that calling gays bourgeois wasn’t meant as an insult (it would still be wrong and worthy of rebuttal) but as the quote says, Maoists believe class effects everything a person within that class does. Therefore if Gays are bourgeois they are unfit to be Revolutionaries and will need to be dealt with at some point.

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.

Of course Maoists also believe that rich nationalists can be progressives and anti-imperialist fighters too so this attempt at a compliment doesn’t mean much. It’s at this point that the paper devolves into damage limitation exercises. However in the process it completely ditches what little coherence it managed.

 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 to maintain.

 On the surface this might seem like an attempt to meet the Gays halfway, and I’m sure it was quoted many times when the RU and then RCP started getting a lot of flak for this paper. But actually this is quite sinister when kept in context; they are saying Gays can be very important fighters against imperialism, but what’s lost is the difference between anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism.   

Anti-Imperialism means nothing more than opposing foreign domination, that’s not the same as Revolution which will end Capitalism. What the RU is literally saying is if you’re Gay you can still work hard and take all the risks involved but when the Revolution does come you won’t be playing a part in it. And since they view homosexuality as bourgeois they won’t leave you alone after they get in power.

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.

Now I’ve already covered all of this so I won’t re-tread old ground. I just wanted to make it explicitly clear that the RU is overtly arguing you can’t be Gay and a Communist. I’m not reading between lines or interpreting in a different way, this paper was written to provide ideological cover for anti-gay policies.

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.

All the oppressed people except for the Gays clearly. But at last we have gotten to some honesty; you can officially ignore the first half of the paper (and my rebuttals I guess) this is what this issue is all about. Being Gay is inconvenient to the organization so you have to sacrifice your love life and a key part of your identity or you’re not dedicated enough to the cause and are selfish. I can’t even find the words to describe how loathsome that last sentence is.  And again their own words completely undermine themselves, why did they write all those justifications and slurs if they were going to come out and admit that they just find it inconvenient and value their own powerbase over the well-being of individual members.

I could very easily stop right here but I won’t, not only because the paper isn’t finished but the final paragraphs hammer home the “Our members are tools to do our bidding” message in case there was any doubt.

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.

So not only do the RU/RCP[4] oppose homosexuality but they also apparently oppose loving and fulfilling heterosexual marriages too. Remember Comrades if you want to spend time with your spouse you’re failing the Revolution.

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.

Again more double think, by opposing Bisexuality you are in fact making a decision on it. What really annoys me personally about this paper is sentences like this, the authors will make a decision and then try to absolve themselves from it.  Oh and we also get a bit of Orwellian speak at the end here, we need a “united front led by the working class fighting in its material interests” a front no doubt formed after the organisation has finished excluding people it doesn’t want to work with.
But almost at the very end we do finally get an explanation about how Gays support Male Chauvinism (sort of) now why they didn’t do this after they brought up this idea at the beginning I couldn’t even guess. 

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.

That isn’t actually true, first Lesbians are still women so there oppression must still be part of the oppression of women, second Gays actually are a materially oppressed group. This is true today and it was certainly the case back when this was written. Gays can be fired for being Gay[5], and Gays were as a group excluded from a number of professions. Firstly in America homosexuality at the time was heavily associated with perversion and paedophilia therefore open homosexuals were effectively barred from “respectable” jobs especially those involving children like teaching. Furthermore many American states had laws against sodomy meaning open homosexuals risked arrest and criminal records making employment much more difficult. In addition to justifying there bigotry this paper spends a lot of time denying the seriousness of homophobic bigotry in America.

Also I do believe that Capitalism does in fact benefit from homophobia. Throughout Africa many regimes are using homosexuality to divert discontent and attention and channel it in ways that while very deadly for their nations LGBT community leaves the system of Capitalism untouched. It’s also been used as an explicit “anti-imperialist” tactic by associating homosexuality with foreign decadence and infiltration.

The gay liberation movement has no class analysis of imperialism, it claims to be above classes, attacking the “deeper” roots of oppression.

This part I actually do agree with (sort of) there were two tendencies in early LGBT organising, one was basically politically liberal and concerned itself with a struggle for acceptance and legal equality. And it is this one that has survived and grown worldwide, the other was a much more radical attempt to challenge and destroy sexual oppression and patriarchy. The main weakness of the latter was that for the most part it was focused completely around sexuality issues[6], and was devoid of class analysis. Unfortunately this doesn’t in anyway validate the RU/RCP line. They had no interest in working with any LGBT group or assisting them in building a class analysis. Indeed this paper and its refusal to work with them would simply validate the Gay Liberation Movement, since in the RU’s own words it isn’t interested in Homosexual Liberation it and its politics have nothing to offer them.
But we aren’t finished yet; the paper veers again into outright provocation with this

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.

There in case there was any doubt the RU and its successor were completely homophobic. They have explicitly put homosexuality on the same level as Fascism. And they base this assertion on a pro-family belief.

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.

And here is the origin of the “RCP want to put the Gays in camps” comment. They come completely clean at the end and admit that their Revolution will involve the elimination of homosexuality.
But we’re still not done yet, they provide “evidence” of Gay counterrevolution.

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.

This is a petty attempt to make Lesbians appear racist and anti-workers organisation. Lesbians did indeed disrupt the demonstration but it had nothing to do with the Columbia University maids. They were disrupting the NOW demonstration to protest the exclusion of lesbians at a demonstration about women’s rights.

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.

This following paragraph makes the attempt to imply racism clear. The RU believes homosexuality is a choice now they are saying it is a choice borne out of western culture. This is exactly the same thing Mugabe is saying in Zimbabwe.

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.

First of all they’re lying again but that’s been thoroughly exposed,  and second you are in fact taking a stand.

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”.

Here we have it a reiteration of their homophobic intentions.

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.

This, really floored me, I mean this has nothing to do with homosexuality (unless brutalization is euphemism for rape) but wow. They just admitted that they support the brutalization of people they disagree with, and this was a comparison to their stance on homosexuals. No wonder the RCP is treated with such contempt. And that is it the last part of the paper is a reiteration of their three main points.
Now that was absolutely disgusting, it was bigoted and self-serving, but it was written in 1973 so is it really fair to keep having ago at the RCP for a paper they wrote before they were the RCP? No if this was the end of it. Sadly it isn’t the RCP has a lot more to answer for next time.

[1] Earlier they compared it to Trotskyism
[2] I mean that literally by the way, more than a few ex members have admitted that the RCP would tell them which jobs to get and where to live as part of its projects.
[3] This may have been written in the 70’s but Anti-Communism was still a potent and deadly force in America.
[4] The RCP maintained an explicitly homophobic policy until 2001-2 and still maintains an aggressive pro-family policy to this day.
[5] In Russia Anton Krasovsky was a very public example of this practice on the 15th August 2013
[6] Groups like the Gay Liberation Front which popularised terms like “straight gays” and viewed heterosexuality as the root cause of all power structures in the world.

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