Dedicated to Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act
Dedicated to Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act
[This article, titled “A Chapter of Russian Reaction,” translated into English here for the first time, was written in German by longtime homosexual activist Kurt Hiller (1885–1972) from London and published in the Swiss gay journal Der Kreis in 1946. Hiller had been active in Germany’s first homosexual-rights organization, the Wissenschaftlich-humanitäre Komitee (Scientific Humanitarian Committee), headed by Magnus Hirschfeld (1868–1935). Founded in 1897, the committee was Germany’s most prominent gay group.
We’re at an interesting (and terrible) moment where we’re witnessing attacks on most every gain working people have made for at least the last half century. The curious exception to that has been the advance of marriage and civil rights for gay and lesbian couples in many U.S. states and core imperialist countries.
The killing of Clément Méric, an 18-year-old anti-fascist activist and member of a student union, by a young fascist skinhead in Paris on May 6th has shocked French public opinion.
[This article was written for a foreign audience, so I have spelled out some things that might otherwise be taken for granted when writing for an American reading public.]
Multiculturalism vs. human rights?
Defending multiculturalism but warning against its excesses
Multiculturalism has many positive benefits. It defends the right to the different, which is a very important and precious human right, especially for those people whose difference has historically resulted in social marginalization and exclusion: including women, black, disabled and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
Thomas Harrison and Joanne Landy
LET ME USE MY SPACE in part simply as memory, reflections by a homosexual whose sexual orientation, at 78, is academic.
Socialism without fucking is dull and lifeless.
— The heroine, WR: The Mysteries of the Organism,
a 1971 film directed by Dusan Makavejev.
THE PRESENCE ON MANY CAMPUSES of a significant number of liberals ("Of course gay people are entitled to the full rights of citizenship") proved critical in allowing lesbian and gay studies to gain a toehold. But as I kept discovering, unpleasantly, a willingness to grant us basic rights wasn't remotely the equivalent of actually wanting to know about our lives — let alone of believing that our distinctive perspectives might have anything of importance to say to them.
THE JESUITS TRAINED ME WELL. My high school speech and debate coach taught me how to speak in complete paragraphs and to construct what he described as a "seamless" argument. Many years later, a close friend and fellow historian used the same word in reference to my historical writing. He described one of my books as a "seamless" narrative. Well, that skill, if I have it, has eluded me as I've tried to compose my contribution to this discussion. So, instead, I offer a series of disconnected, but I hope relevant, observations.
GROWING UP IN A COMMUNIST FAMILY and in Communist circles in New York City in the late 1940s and 1950s sexuality of any kind was never discussed, ever, in any context, for any reason. I am not laying claim to any kind of universal experience in saying this; I am only commenting on the absence of discussion in my own experience.
THE GROWTH OF SOCIALISM in the United States has been hampered by the lack of imagination of the leaders of socialist thought. The appeal of the socialist has always been to the future, with a paradisiacal vision of economic plentitude and true democratic freedom. That is — the level of appeal has been a mixture of economic and social goods and leisure in a milieu of democratic-liberal sentiment. This has been good but not good enough.
PREFATORY NOTE: While researching a book on African-Americans and the anti-Stalinist left in the archives last summer, I stumbled across a striking and long-forgotten document, "Socialism and Sex," in a 1952 discussion bulletin, The Young Socialist. In one page, its author H. L. Small — almost surely a pseudonym — provided an elegant, concise exposition on behalf of destigmatizing consensual sexuality between same-sex lovers.
ON THE EVE OF 2009, it is impossible to speak of a national gay liberation movement, as that would entail active groups of people mobilizing at the grassroots to achieve common aims.
IN 1865, WHILE MARX, IN HOLLAND, was playing the Victorian parlor game “Confessions” with his daughter Jenny, when asked for his favorite maxim he replied, “Nihil humani a me alienum puto” or “nothing human is alien to me,” a dictum he had lifted from the second century B.C. Carthaginian slave-turned-playwright Terentius (Terence.)
IN 1865, WHILE MARX, IN HOLLAND, was playing the Victorian parlor game “Confessions” with his daughter Jenny, when asked for his favorite maxim he replied, “Nihil humani a me alienum puto” or “nothing human is alien to me,” a dictum he had lifted from the second century B.C. Carthaginian slave-turned-playwright Terentius (Terence).
SAME-SEX DESIRE has always been a part of human life.There is much evidence, though not yet conclusive, that a predominant sexual attraction to members of one’s own sex is innate. But innate or not, we know that it is definitely formed early in life, certainly before the age of ten.
The Sweet Little Old Gray-Haired Lady in Sneakers
AS SEVERAL OF THE PARTICIPANTS in Part I of this symposium noted, the association between lesbians, gays, and the left was a constant through much of the 20th century. It is an open question whether that connection will amount to much in the 21st century. As in many countries, there is a push in the United States today to incorporate lesbians and gays into the prevailing sexual and familial order. Given how that order is structured under capitalism, probably the best it can offer us is second-class citizenship.
IN THE LAST ISSUE OF NEW POLITICS, we published Part I of a symposium on gays and the left, with contributions by Bettina Aptheker, John D’Emilio, Martin Duberman, Jeffrey Escoffier, and David McReynolds, and a piece by Christopher Phelps on a 1952 document of the Socialist Party youth that urged the SP to support the decriminalization of same-sex activity. Below is Part II of the symposium, with articles by Peter Drucker, Marcia Gallo, Thomas Harrison, Doug Ireland, and Sherry Wolf. We invite responses from our readers.
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