Kasama pamphlet: Out of the red closet

Downloadable PDF pamphlet


From the pamphlet introduction:

One of the most remarkable events on the Kasama site during the summer of 2011 has been the outpouring of discussion over the treatment of gay people in the previous communist movement.

Libri Devrim opened the door with her piece “My life in a red closet” – a heartfelt remembrance written with deliberate restraint.

There was a heartening outpouring of interest, experience and discussion. Kasama published several different, unsolicited new posts.

Three of them detailed experiences with the red closet in the Revolutionary Communist Party (a relatively small communist organization in the U.S.) : “Working with the RCP, Opposing the homophobia,” “Rejected by comrades: My love was just love,”and“Suzie’s story: Queer, isolated, invisible.”

Other posts dealt with experiences and summations from outside the RCP, including “Closet Rules: My Story of Survival” and “The Cahokian: Homophobia & the value of thoughtful excavation.”

There were (all together) about 200 comments and over 6,000 page views of these threads.

In this pamphlet, we gather and reprint these posts and some of the comments that followed.


Excavation and Self-Criticism

For a number of reasons, the discussion focused largely on excavating the methods of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA.

Previously, it has been widely known that the RCP (and quite a few other communist organizations before them) argued theoretically that gay people were inherently non-revolutionary or reactionary. But there has never previously been an open exposure of the methods this gave rise to and (in turn) justified: The pressure for gay supporters to live as heterosexuals, the shunning or expulsion of those who refused, and so on.

Each of the remembrances that appeared on Kasama contained new details of what this line had justified. And these essays also contained common features — that help sketch a larger picture of what were clearly generalized, national practices implemented over years.

A process of communist summation

This enables us to soberly confront and explore how things had gone so wrong — how this could happen in a communist movement that prided itself on revolutionary disdain for tradition, on a stand with the oppressed and on a supposedly objective form of analysis.

How had it been possible to be so wrong in the evaluation and treatment of gay people? And how could it have gone on for thirty years (through the AIDS crisis, through several program rewrites, through pretenses of theoretical re-evaluation)? For those who participated in this period, as members and supporters of the RCP, our Kasama discussions have been an occasion for self-examination, for self-criticism and a real sense of apology.

These Kasama threads have represented one collective contribution — in excavation, self-critical examination, and in seeking lessons for future forms of communist organization.

People in this conversation

  • Guest - jake

    The reason (in my opinion) you'll never see a self-criticism from RCP on the line switch is because it was a conversion from dogmatism to opportunism.

    There was no analysis of the line and its relation to the communist movement; it was when the far right was waging its "Christian fascist" offensive, and in order to "re-polarize" society against it, and garner the support of many who were opposing it (in part because of the virulent homophobia) the RCP switched to being defenders of the targets of the far right.

    There was no materialist analysis; they realized they'd marginalize themselves from a large number of potential supporters on what was a big issue, that was all.

  • Guest - Tell No Lies

    I suspect matters were somewhat more complicated than that. I'll leave it to those who were in or around the RCP to confirm or reject, but my impression is that they were responding as much to internal tensions generated by their old line as they were to any perceived external "opportunities." My understanding is that it gave rise to some pretty sharp internal fights. While I certainly agree that the new line did not arise from a materialist analysis as much as from the need to jettison the old line, I think that need had more to do with the fact that most people in the RCP or its periphery under a certain age thought the old line was indefensible bullshit and were sick of having to defend it. The new position isn't actually any good either, but it has the virtue that nobody really gives a shit about it, so the issue goes away. The lack of serious self-criticism given the damage done, not just to individuals involved but to the revolutionary movement, it what is most inexcusable.

  • Guest - Gary

    In his comments on Libri's piece Mike wrote:

    <blockquote>"Certainly, in the period of “changing the RCP’s line” (in 2002-2003), it was sharply forbidden to question “who had this political analysis hurt,” and “what was the cost of this analysis,” and “what exactly were the policies that flowed from this analysis,” and “who was responsible for this analysis — where was it decided,
    when and by whom.” All such questions were forbidden, and when the lid came off (and when they were raised with passion and determination), the whole explosive mix was one of the triggering events of the Avakian self-coup of 2003."</blockquote>

    I wonder how much the short-lived public, website discussion over the new, ambitiously comprehensive (but now abandoned) "New Draft Programme" of 2001 helped blow the lid off. There was sharp criticism of the RCP's historical line on homosexuality there, and while any reference to Avakian's own homophobic statements was disallowed---as somehow being an inappropriate personal attack on him---there was lively, liberating discussion, followed by the abrupt termination of the whole project.

    Instead of a new program, the RCP produced a new "constitution" of the party (2008) and then an imaginative draft for a constitution for a future USA (to be led by itself). It looks to me like a retreat from struggle, from criticism/self-criticism, reflecting a fear of honest criticism. The leadership may find this whole "gay issue" annoying, and wish it would just go away. But by its failure to "engage" criticism of its preposterous statements of homophobia it insures that it won't go away.

  • Guest - hammering

    Hi folks,

    While I appreciate the diversity of opinions and perspectives presented on this site, the intense focus on people's negative experiences with the RCP seems a bit narrow. If the point were to excavate issues and tensions around this group's political approach towards the material basis of queer oppression, its relation to capitalism, etc, then I would be much more interested.

    It seems potentially problematic to not ground our experiential critiques with a connection to the published programmatic views of the group in question. There must be a connection, and it doesn't seem rigorous enough to conclude that it's more important to analyze what's not said. Not saying that this is what you all are doing, but just wanted to put the thought out there.

    Looking forward to more substance.

  • Guest - PatrickSMcNally

    "the intense focus on people’s negative experiences with the RCP seems a bit narrow."

    If you check over the materials you'll find that The Cahokian's experiences with the Spartacist League and Spark were included in the accounts provided.

  • Guest - Kassad

    Hammering, what exactly do you mean?

    A lot of people on here spent a lot of time in the RCP (myself, just about a year, luckily) and definitely have a lot to say about the Party's homophobic line, as well as Avakian's self-absorbtion.

    I guess my main thing is that there was obvious homophobia in the communist movement's history, but as time progressed, most moved past this and joined the fight for LGBT liberation, as intertwined with the struggle against capitalism.

    What exactly are you looking for in our critiques, as I'd be glad to do my best to provide some answers.

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