- Category: Feminism & Sexuality
- Created on Tuesday, 13 November 2012 13:14
- Written by Curtis Cole
We received the following submission from Curtis Cole. We hope that the article opens up diverse channels of discussion on the relationship between Queer liberation and communism and how communists participate in a key liberating struggle. Posting the article does not mean endorsement of its arguments.
Consolidating History: The Path for Marriage Advocates
by Curtis Cole
Here, in the United States, the results of the most recent marriage equality votes in the contending states of Maine, Minnesota (against a constitutional ban), Maryland, and Washington displayed fantastic results (all victories).So now the question for the queer community is: how to consolidate these gains and move forward in the remaining states, while the question for the revolutionary community ishow to participate.
The heterosexual revolutionary left never had a solid foothold in the queer liberation movement. Instead most of the revolutionary groupings, from Trotskyist to Maoist, were content with joining in with the bourgeois jeers. However, fortunately, attitudes change along with the time. Now the left has been more active. While still only on a superficial level the question on the minds of the developing revolutionaries is what their “modis operandi” should be.
Despite the seesaw game of set-backs followed by victories, marriage equality at this stage in the struggle will press forward; where victory has been won, consolidation, where lacking, rejuvenation. The downtrodden will gather more signatures, initiate more petitions, raise more money, and, headed by their bourgeois leaders, try once more in another four years.
While this is what the largely liberal constituency will undertake is this what the revolutionary constituency should follow? The answer is deeper than a simple “yes or no”. Indeed to reach a mature conclusion one must analyze the reasons for defeat, the course of struggle, as well as the future of revolutionary agitation in a post-Marriage equality America.
A Majority Supported, a Majority Defeated
While the results of the elections in the contending states favored equality, and a queer supporting president was re-elected, it is important not to lose sight of the present; many queer people still lack marriage rights and the victories must be defended. Yet to earnestly understand we must know how the development of such struggles germinate and grow. Looking at defeat, will help us gleam this truth.
We have all seen the poll numbers at one moment or another. Time after time we see on television or on the internet that the majority of Americans endorse same-sex marriage. Much of the time this support carries over into individual state votes where when it comes time to campaign we see the majority supporting same-sex marriage along with the pro-marriage groups out-raising their bigoted opponents. So the question remains-why do most of these initiatives end in defeat?
No single answer for this is to blame. For an example: back in 2009 my home state-Maine-had high support prior to the election yet once the voting began they found themselves into a ditch, defeated. What is the cause for this outcome? We can look at the stilted pro-marriage ads, which often lack originality and emotional appeal, along with the fear mongering slurs rushed out by anti-marriage foes. We can examine crooked campaign tactics, support from individuals and groups which abide by their own agenda, and even people themselves if we wish to become bitter; ignorance satisfied by a few human right crumbs given by the state. Yet ultimately I think the atmosphere of homophobia which still lingers like a heavy mist, is a primary culprit.
In this list is a reason many might not suspect, however: the revolutionary left.
Why are they a reason? How they could be, you might rightfully ask. How could dozens of sects with no actual power, on either the national level or even the grassroots level, be to blame for the slow ostracize battles where the topic is something as widespread as the “gay marriage” debate?
Leftists, of course, are not a significant cause. Yet I rush to add them because too often is the Left’s history of homophobia hidden under the rug. Racism, women’s rights, anti-war, all of these causes the Left took up yet not queer rights. Hundreds of years of agitation wasted. A waste which even permeates into modernity: while the marriage equality activists undertook the rigorous, and even dangerous work, of laying the foundations for equality where was the revolutionary left? I will tell you: cadres and long term revolutionists were attempting to agitate in the Labor Aristocracy, infiltrate and wrest control of reformist trade unions, and participating in small-scale, largely “feel good”, anti-war coalitions such as UNAC. Drunken in their own spheres of relative acceptance few dared to venture out and assist in radicalizing new converts in a struggle which had been raging above ground for decades now.
Fused together as a whole we now can begin to see all the threads which lead to defeat. We can now see the path of struggle.
Now that we know where the largely heterosexual revolutionary left was we can move down onto the grassroots level, to the conditions in regards to actual agitation.
If you are like me than you have spent some time volunteering with your local equality group. If this is the case than you also know how lucky you are if you see any revolutionaries participate (even rarer if those revolutionaries are non-queer). To take an example: while I was volunteering in my state’s capital the leader of the local group was none other than a die-hard Democrat. The other volunteers, it is not surprising, were either a mixture of liberals or “Green Party” supporters (what I like to call radical liberals, for laughs). Only once, when canvassing, did a volunteer introduce himself as a “radical leftist.”
To even find any other revolutionaries in my state one would be forced to search in the wider activist community. Doing this I would perhaps locate a handful of Anarchists, only a few of which were queer, none of which, aside from myself, which believed in a new direction enough to try and radicalize outside of their niche.
Such is my point; the field has been abandoned to the reformists.
The Path Forward
So what needs to be done? Despite the “doom and gloom” feel of events nothing is static. More of the mainstream revolutionary community is slowly trickling towards the queer liberation movement, affected as they are by a handful of agitators in their ranks. Assuming the pacific stranglehold of complicacy is shattered and more heterosexual and queer revolutionist themselves become active, what do we, as a queer revolutionary re-groupment, advocate?
As in the past the answer to this is multifold and must be broken-down bit by bit.
A prevailing attitude among the revolutionary left is the question of why they should support marriage equality. After all, is not marriage a bourgeois institution? Does not legalization of such marriage serve the ruling class’s intentions?
I firmly believe that nothing is set in stone. While marriage, in itself, is certainly a bourgeois institution the revolutionary left cannot simply dismiss queer cries for equality. After all, if a revolutionary followed this train of thought one could easily dismiss past revolutionary participation in the civil rights movement as “bourgeois” because the entire concept of human right to begin with is bourgeois; after all, surely a white woman and a black man marrying is not essential to racial equality, right? Such is still reinforcing marriage.
I doubt any revolutionary would agree as many seem to possess more understanding of racial equality than they do of queer equality. No, such duplicitous thinking is a poisonous weed. Abandonment of revolutionary participation in the queer movement, as was participation in the Black liberation movement, is tantamount to betrayal of proletarian interests.
This is even truer when one considers the vital material necessities which are at stake to queer workers. Same-sex marriage is not simply a status debate but an economic one. Marriage carries thousands of benefits ranging from such categories as sickness, taxes, and visitation. The queer working class wants these demands and wants the ability to live their lives together on equal footing with their heterosexual peers. Denying such workers their demands on the basis of “its bourgeois” is thinly veiled heterosexism and queerphobia at its worst.
Carrying this concept further it is important to remember that revolutionaries, in their current state, cannot dictate to mass movements, especially those with the relevance as marriage equality. Detractors can moan all they wish but the fact remains that the movement is happening. The base-line demand for this movement is same-sex marriage and this goal is not going to “go away” or change form until queers demands are met.
Because of this revolutionaries should be participating and highlighting the roots of queer oppression to the largely queer liberal volunteers. Revolutionaries should be revealing the forms capitalist oppression used against queer people, they should be engaging the non-revolutionary and informing them of marriage’s history, the nature of capitalism, and the history of the once radical gay liberation movement, prying them away from reformism.
America after Marriage Equality
There was once a time in history when the then recently emerged gay liberation movement was headed by revolutionaries and radicals. Yet due to their overwhelming queerphobia the Left refused to assist the burgeoning movement and in due time reformists and liberals of all shades co-opted the cause. However, with the modern upsurges and forward momentum the left has a chance to redeem itself. They have a chance to sweep into the marriage debate, radicalize voices, and attract new converts.
Assuming this transpires what would be the result? Assuming revolutionists are active, perform their duties well, and aspire with the movement and stand with the queer community until the end winning marriage equality, what happens?
Two things happen: a whole generation of mostly young activists is radicalized, older people enlist in the revolutionary struggle and the battle against marriage as an institution begins.
The first concept does not need much, if any, exposition; currently the left is weak, the queer equality movement is in full swing and leftist participation is dependent on capturing new blood to engorge the “Party” ranks which in turn lead to a queer community with a new goal, a new direction in mind.
It is the second concept; however, that probably needs some explaining: the battle against marriage can begin. What does this mean?
Revolutionary communists know that marriage is a bourgeois institution. One which we have sworn to fight as it helps uphold the capitalist mode of production. As we moved past our petty-bourgeois musings about same-sex marriage, however, and conceded to helping the queer working class grab what is theirs, we also educated the masses in our epistemology. Most importantly we allowed all people, regardless of attraction, to feel the confining nature of sealed monogamous relationships. We knowingly allowed homosexuals to partake in marriage, thus saving it from continued decay, because we could not deny our brothers and sisters the same rights we enjoyed. We did this so we could convert new energy for the destruction of marriage.
As any parent must understand, weathering a child’s tantrum can be a headache. The same is so of movements which desire conservative outcomes (marriage), of movements which no matter how we might wish it, we cannot force them to change their goals. However, as the parent knows that the quickest way to end the tantrum is to give the child what it wants, we as communists know that the surest way to repair our image is to revolutionize this otherwise reformist wave. We know that after the storm, when the hordes of gay and lesbian couples realize what a travesty marriage is, the workers who once fought for inclusion in this societal tradition will eventually be on the same level of consciousness as their heterosexual counterparts: marriage being not in their interests as a collective.
Another unexpected result of this unfolding would be the decline of identity politics among the queer community. For far too long such a scourge has affected the community dividing the queer workers from their non-queer counterparts. Satisfied as the queer workers may be with marriage such ideologies would dwindle as a major roadblock towards their integration vanishes. Partly because the main divide between the two vanishes the decline of identity politics, of “my need is more important than your need”, will gradually break as well.
Once this conclusion has been reached, and all sectors of the working class are on the same page, the battle against marriage, against a major pillar of the bourgeoisie’s favored productive mode, can begin in earnest.