National Sections of the L5I:

An action programme for gay liberation

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The systematic oppression of lesbians and gay men under capitalism is not accidental. Capitalism utilises the family as a social unit for the reproduction, physical maintenance and early education of labour power. As such, it portrays the family – a monogamous, heterosexual, child producing and rearing unit – as both natural (it has “always” existed) and as normal (anybody not conforming to this set up is “abnormal”). To reinforce the family as an institution capitalism has developed a set of sexual and moral codes which are stultifying for all, but are especially oppressive for women, children, lesbians and gay men.

The Christian church, an anti-sex bastion, plays an important role in perpetuating and legitimising this morality. From the nineteenth century on medical science and psychology have reinforced this view defining any but heterosexual relations as perversions, sickness or abnormality. These “scientists” do this despite the absence of any “value free” evidence for their case. Sexual orientation becomes, not a matter of free and informed choice, but a product of social conditioning. An exclusive heterosexuality is imposed on people from their earliest days. Expressions of homosexuality in people are consciously fought by moral teaching, social pressure and, ultimately, a battery of repressive laws enforced by the capitalist state.

The ideological requirements of capitalism for the defence of its family provide the justification for the oppression of lesbians and gay men. The isolated family household, despite being the only redoubt of personal security for working class people in capitalist society, is also the material basis for the oppression of lesbians and gay men, as well as women generally. As such, despite the fact that there are non-working class lesbians and gay men, the fight for lesbian and gay liberation is a class question. Only the political triumph of the working class over the capitalist class and the creation of an entirely new social and economic order – communism – can create the conditions whereby the family, as the basis for social oppression, can be transcended.

Thus, working class lesbians and gay men – or those who consciously and consistently identify with the struggle of the working class – have a material interest in fighting for real sexual liberation. Middle or upper class lesbians and gay men can and have been won to struggles for democratic rights, for formal equalities under capitalism, for public tolerance and so on. Indeed the existence of gay men in the highest echelons of capitalist society has led to periods of limited tolerance. However, bourgeois and middle class lesbians and gays can, despite their oppression, afford to cushion themselves from much of that oppression in a way that working class lesbians and gays cannot. Being oppressed does not automatically mean that lesbians and gays of the middle or bourgeois class are likely to be radical. Their stake in bourgeois society is often an overriding factor. Working class lesbians and gays may share aspects of oppression with such elements but they have a fundamental and irreconcilable class antagonism to them.
Therefore we are against any attempt to blur class differences within a lesbian and gay organisation/movement. We are for the clari?cation of such differences. Not in order to drive out people from these class backgrounds for this reason alone, but if bourgeois and middle class elements will not come over to the side of the working class then they thereby place themselves on the side of the class enemy. Furthermore, we are against any tendencies to separatism. For this reason we oppose the call for an autonomous lesbian and gay movement, implying as it has come to do, autonomy from distinct politics, as well as from distinct parties.

Working class lesbians and gay men have a consistent, material interest in fighting the system that lays the basis for their oppression. Formal equality under the law means nothing to a worker who does not have the material means to go through endless court cases fighting discrimination. Only the abolition of capitalism will create the material basis for the end of oppression, for a society in which sexual orientation becomes a matter for absolutely free choice. While we as communists fight for an end to all forms of discrimination and while we defend all those attacked because of their sexual orientation, we do so on the basis of recognising that the lesbian and gay question is not a separate question from the class struggle requiring a separate programme and party, but a class question requiring a working class, socialist answer and a revolutionary communist party. The fight against sexual oppression must be part of the overall struggle of the working class against all forms of exploitation and oppression.

The pattern of sexual reform and moral reaction in the major imperialist countries over the last 35 years demonstrates clearly the relationship between lesbian and gay oppression and capitalism. The early 1950s witnessed an enormous expansion of capitalism – the post-war boom – which brought with it material reforms for the working class. In Britain the capitalists were able to afford to expand health, education and welfare services to an unprecedented degree. The demand for labour power in both industry and the expanding service sector meant that women were drawn into employment on a massive scale. The family remained crucial, but capitalism could afford to buttress it with expanded services rather than economic coercion and ideological terrorism.

These material reforms were the necessary preconditions for changes in sexual attitudes and actual legal reforms affecting the domain of “public morality”. Capitalism could afford to be more relaxed about its own morality since economic crisis was not undermining its ability to pay for welfare services, nor tearing apart the fabric of family life. Indeed the need for women in the workforce led to an increased emphasis on the importance of “happy” sexual relations as a means of cementing the family unit. The 1950s saw a definite shift in attitudes towards sex particularly towards women and sex.

It took a further decade of pressure – largely in the form of middle class lobbying campaigns – for this more relaxed morality to produce changes in the law with regards to homosexuality. Proposals for legal reform in Britain had been recommended by Wolfenden in 1957. They were not enacted until 1967. Sexual reform lagged well behind the economic conditions that made it possible. Nor would it have come without pressure from progressive circles (labour movement and liberal). The other side of this time lag, however, is that the intensification of moral reaction in the imperialist countries (recognising that limited legal and public tolerance did not eradicate moral reaction but merely temporarily offset it), came in the 1980s, almost a decade after the opening of the new period of economic crisis.

The imperialist bourgeoisie’s first, and still primary, targets were the economic gains workers had made during the boom years. Wages, jobs and services have all been under attack – mounting in severity by the year – since the early 1970s. The increased tempo of attacks on the public sector has necessitated a new ideological campaign aimed at glorifying the family. The hatred of the moral reactionaries for the 1960s is evidenced by Tebbit’s fulminations against that “permissive” decade.

Inevitably lesbians and gay men have been pin-pointed as a threat to the family. Early warnings in Britain of the systematic gay-baiting that was to follow, came when Mary Whitehouse successfully prosecuted Gay News for blasphemy and when the Callaghan Labour Government – as part of its attempt to portray Labour as the party of the family – carried out a vicious, hysterical witch-hunt of the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE). To broaden the onslaught paedophilia and homosexuality were lumped together by the popular press and gay men were portrayed as would-be child molesters. The fact that PIE, which included both heterosexuals and homosexuals in its ranks, stood four-square for consensual relations only and against molestation was characteristically ignored by the rabid press.

The arrival of AIDS in the 1980s in the USA and Europe was the cue for the present backlash against lesbians and gays. In the USA the Moral Majority is on the offensive. In Britain reactionary crusaders like Manchester Chief Constable James Anderton were beating the drums of anti-gay bigotry. In France the right wing Chirac government attempted to ban a popular and widely read gay magazine. And, as the economic situation shows no signs of improving, these attacks have increased, not gone away. A “Monitoring of AIDS Victims Bill” is being mooted, and people with AIDS have been stopped and deported from several countries while travelling in Europe. The Tories launched an open attack on lesbians and gay men with Section 28 and the proposed Clause 25.
For lesbians and gay men, therefore, the task is to organise to fight moral reaction. The relationship of capitalism and its crisis to the level of lesbian and gay oppression reveals, above all else, that the working class is not merely the ally of lesbians and gay men, but the only force capable of waging a successful struggle against moral reaction and its insidious effects (increased physical attacks, legal harassment, discrimination at work etc). Lesbians and gay men must not organise a fightback separately from the struggles of the working class and its organisations. The fightback must be organised within these organisations, winning support for the struggle against oppression. At the same time within the lesbian and gay “communities” support must be organised for the economic and political struggles of the working class. Lesbians and gay men must stand in the front ranks of the labour movement as militant class fighters and, at the same time, win that movement to a militant, class fight for lesbian and gay liberation as part of a struggle for socialism.

That such a class perspective amongst lesbians and gay men can achieve tangible results was shown by organisations such as Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) during the Great Strike of the British miners in 1984-85 and, also in Britain, Lesbians and Gays Support the Printers during the 1986 News International strike. In both cases a class perspective of solidarity with workers in struggle brought together, and gave a sense of political purpose to, lesbian and gay activists. Not since the decline and fragmentation of the lesbian and gay movement in the 1970s had politics, class politics, been fought for so vigorously. The result was not only real solidarity with strikers but also support from workers for the struggles of lesbians and gay men, notably the progressive politics embraced by the NUM and the participation of miners and their families in the 1985 Pride March.
To build on such developments lesbians and gay men must organise within the labour movement – building union caucuses, united front campaigns and, when necessary and possible, co-ordinating all these activities in a proletarian movement – around a programme for social and political equality and liberation. The programme we advance now is largely orientated to the British situation, but, we believe, it can be focused and adapted to other countries. It is a programme to rally lesbians and gay activists to the class struggle and to rally the working class to the cause of lesbian and gay liberation.

The trade unions are dominated by a bureaucratic caste – unaccountable and politically reformist. In general its reformism is of the most staid, reactionary sort. It accepts as eternal the bigoted attitudes of its members – themselves a product of capitalism’s daily ideological crusade in schools newspapers, the media and through the church. It does nothing to counter this ideology. On the contrary its tendency is to oppose progressive policies on the lesbian and gay question. The defeat of this bureaucracy is something every conscious worker must be committed to. Only the defeat of the bureaucracy can clear the way to the transformation of the unions into revolutionary instruments for the struggle against exploitation and oppression.

• For the right of lesbians and gay men to caucus inside the unions to prepare for full participation in the union and to develop the confidence to be able to come out in the unions.

• For union sponsored education courses for officials, shop stewards and members on lesbian and gay oppression and how to ?ght it.
• For union meetings to be held in work time with no loss of pay – a burning necessity for lesbians or (less frequently) gay men with children and facing the resultant domestic pressures.

• For rank and file control of the unions: through regular mass meetings to decide on action; through making all officials subject to regular election, recallable between elections and paid the average wage of workers they represent; through union conferences made up of lay delegates elected by the branches.

• For the building of an anti-bureaucratic rank and file movement in the unions, committed from the outset to the fight against lesbian and gay oppression.

Mass unemployment is a stark reminder of the bankruptcy of capitalism. Amidst a world of plenty, a world in which millions could be put to work producing goods desperately needed by the starving poor of the imperialised world, the dole queues in Britain, the USA, Germany and France continue to grow. Lesbians and gay men are affected as much as anybody, by the curse of unemployment. We also face the additional threat of being discriminated against and stopped from getting jobs if we have already come out, as well as being victimised and thrown on the dole for no other reason than that the employer has discovered our sexual preferences. What should be an entirely private matter becomes an excuse for vindictive sackings. Teachers, social workers and youth workers have been particularly affected by such discrimination, normally charged with being a danger to young people – a miserable piece of prejudice that bears no relationship to the statistical reality of child molestation or abuse (predominantly heterosexual in character). Fighting discrimination needs to be seen as part of the fight against unemployment.

• For the right of lesbians and gay men to come out at work without fear of discrimination by the employers on the grounds of sexual orientation. For full equality of opportunity for vacancies and promotion for lesbians and gay men in all spheres of employment, and for the necessary increase in public spending on investment resources to fulfil this demand.

• While discrimination by employers should be made illegal, the working class must recognise that, as with women and blacks, discrimination against lesbians and gay men, must be fought with direct action. Only this will stop the bosses exploiting loopholes in legislation. For strike action to defend lesbians and gay men sacked by the state or the bosses.

• For workers’ control of hiring and firing to enforce an anti-discrimination, equality of opportunity policy. Workers’ control over the bosses is imperative if they are not to abuse formal equal opportunity policies. For 24 hour state funded creche facilities to enable lesbian and gay parents to get to work.

• Fight unemployment by cutting the hours (with no loss of pay), sharing the work (under workers’ control) and nationalising, under workers’ control and with no compensation to the bosses, firms pleading bankruptcy or threatening closure or redundancy. For strikes and occupations to fight for these policies.

• For an unemployed workers’ movement with full rights of representation within the labour movement. For the right of the unemployed to join the union of their choice at reduced subs-rates. For the championing of the fight against lesbian and gay oppression within such a movement.

Capitalism can no longer afford the welfare services it provided to slightly ease the burden of domestic labour for women in the family during the boom when it needed women workers in large numbers. It is compelled to attack services and unload the burden of welfare provision back on to individual families. In the spheres of health, housing and education these attacks can have disastrous consequences for lesbians and gay men. They must be fought around politics that meet the needs of all workers. All too often the leaders of the labour movement settle for compromises that benefit only sections of the working class leaving others to suffer the consequences.

• End the discrimination against lesbians and gay men in housing. All too often lesbians and gay men are refused housing by the councils on the grounds that “families” come first. There should be equal access to housing for all on the basis of a massive housebuilding programme financed by the state, but under the control of the workers. The resources for this must be fought for if heterosexual working class families are not to be set into competition with lesbians and gay men.

• For council provision of decent temporary accommodation until permanent homes are ready. For working class tenants’ groups with lesbian and gay representation to enforce this policy.

• For a massive expansion of the NHS to cope with the health requirements of all. This is literally a life and death question for many gay men faced with the danger of AIDS. Cash for research – not to line Saatchi and Saatchi’s pockets. For free condoms and needles on demand.

• A London hospital has had to suspend dispensing Retrovir (a life prolonging drug for people with AIDS) because it cannot afford the drug companies’ prices. Nationalisation of the drug companies under workers’ control and with no compensation can end such scandals.

• No compulsory testing for AIDS. Repeal the Contagious Diseases Act.

• For an adequately funded sex education programme in all schools – to be decided by committees of classroom teachers, parents and pupils – to explain in a manner free from heterosexual bias, sexuality in general and homosexuality as one aspect of it. Children and youth must not be “protected” by being fed the bigoted lies that are the stock-in-trade of the state and many headmasters/mistresses.

• Full support to councils who pursue “positive image” policies with regards to homosexuality in the schools. Such politics, however, must be a step towards a national scientific, materialist based sex education course.

• All of the above policies require that lesbians and gay men take their place in the numerous battles against school or hospital closures, under the slogans – no cuts, expand the services to meet everybody’s needs, for a massive programme of public works funded by the state but controlled by the workers.

Like all workers lesbian and gay workers need a living wage. When workers struggle for better wages – or against attacks on jobs for that matter – lesbians and gays must join that fight and, on the lines of LGSM, take that fight out amongst the lesbian and gay “community” seeking to rally those oppressed for their sexuality to the cause of those exploited and oppressed by capital at work.

• For a national minimum wage linked to the cost of living and set at the level of the average industrial wage.

• Against all wage restraint. For the protection of wages against infiation by wage rises in line with rises in the cost of living as determined by committees of workers and their families.

• For real equal pay, for equal work for women. End all inequality of pay suffered by many lesbians.

In 1967 in Britain limited legal reform enabled a gay man to have sex with another gay man provided both were over 21 and sex took place in total privacy. This reform was a concession but it still leaves an enormous gap between the democratic rights of most people and those of gay men. Lesbians remain unrecognised in British law but are no less systematically discriminated against for that. Full legal and political equality under capitalism does not equal liberation, but it must be fought for by the working class as an important element of the ?ght for liberation.

• Abolish the age of consent whereby a private matter – sex between consenting individuals – is subjected to the control of the capitalist state. At the moment the age of consent for heterosexuals is 16 and for gay men 21. This leaves youth open to vicious oppression. For young gay men under 21 the oppression is particularly severe. Every sexual act they engage in is a crime.

• For the right of lesbians and gay men to have custody of their children. No legal discrimination in custody cases, on the grounds of sexual orientation.

• Abolish all laws – gross indecency, soliciting, outrages to public decency, insulting behaviour and all laws relating to prostitution – used to persecute lesbians and gay men.

• Abolish the obscenity and blasphemy laws which can and have been repeatedly used against homosexual literature (Gay News, Gay’s The Word etc.).

• Abolish the exceptions to Wolfenden – the army, navy, etc. All homosexuals should have full legal and political equality in society. No democrat can oppose the above reforms. They encapsulate the basic democratic position that a person’s sexual orientation and practice – providing it is consensual – is entirely a private matter.

• End all police harassment of gay men via entrapment. All cases involving entrapment brought to court to be automatically dismissed. Disband all the special squads and units, like the IRU’s, the vice squad and others, which can and have been used to raid gay bars and clubs.
Moral reaction is part and parcel of the bosses’ overall offensive against the working class. The anti-union laws, the police picket-busting squads and the witch-hunts, are all elements of this offensive. So too are the gay-baiting articles that litter the national press, the increased incidence of “queer-bashing”, often organised by fascist groups like the British National Party and the National Front, the physical attacks on health workers who look after people with AIDS, the vandalism of AIDS hospital units and the police raids on gay pubs and clubs. This offensive must be met with bold policies and direct action.

• For the right of lesbian and gay organisations to reply to the vicious gay-baiting articles churned out in the bosses’ press. For print workers to fight for such a right and to stop the presses if it is not granted.

• For a democratically controlled labour movement daily paper committed to regular articles supporting the struggle for lesbian and gay rights and against oppression.

• For organised defence squads to defend lesbian and gay pubs, clubs and individuals against “queerbashers” and police raids. For links with workers’ defence guards – joint support, training etc. Full labour movement support for lesbian and gay defence squads.

• For workers’ defence of AIDS related workers, establishments and people with AIDS. For state funded education courses on AIDS to explain the nature of the disease to healthworkers and school/college students.

• For the repeal of all anti-trade union laws.
Capitalism continuously strives to divide worker against worker. Sectionalism divides craft against craft and skilled against unskilled. Sexism divides men against women. Racism divides white against black. And heterosexism divides heterosexuals from lesbians and gay men. There is a constant pressure on all sections of the working class to seek separate solutions to what are, in fact, the common problems of exploitation and oppression. This pressure has given rise to various forms of separatism amongst sections of the working class – craftism, feminism, black nationalism. While communists understand such pressures we do not concede one inch to them. We are integrationists, not separatists. We strive for maximum unity of the working class against the common enemy. To achieve this unity we fight against all those things capitalism uses to divide us.

• Against craftism – we fight for the linking up of industrial struggles, up to and including the use of the general strike against the bosses’ offensive. We are for industrial unions to transcend craft and trade unions.

• Against sexism, we are for the full social and political equality of women as part of the fight for real women’s liberation and socialism. We fight all instances of misogyny amongst gay men, and we combat the ideas of radical feminist separatism amongst lesbians.

• Against racism, we fight all immigration controls by the British state. We do not simply try to make them less racist or heterosexist in application. We support black self-defence against racist and police attack. We join the fight to drive organised racists from holding office in the unions. We are for physically smashing the fascists, not giving them a platform, driving them out of the unions. We do not gay bait fascists or right wing reactionaries such as Harvey Proctor, but we do not excuse any lesbian or gay fascists from the treatment they will get from the defence squads of the labour movement.

• Against the poisonous fumes of nationalism we fight for a consistently internationalist policy. Disarm the imperialist bosses – always better their defeat in wars than their victory. Despite their persecution of lesbians and gay men we defend the USSR, Cuba and other degenerate workers’ states against capitalist attack. We are for the workers – not the capitalists – overthrowing the bureaucracies that rule those states, thereby clearing the way to socialism and lesbian and gay liberation. We support the abolition of all anti-lesbian or gay laws in the degenerate(d) workers’ states. We are against nationalist solutions to the economic crisis – like import controls – that line workers up with the bosses. Workers of the world unite – so too must lesbian and gay workers, for oppression is international and must be fought on an international plane.

• Imperialism’s enslavement of the oppressed colonies and semi-colonies must be fought. National liberation movements should be supported. In Britain today this means fighting to get British troops out of Ireland and supporting the struggle of the republican fighters to achieve this aim. Lesbians and gay men have no interest in helping the British state maintain loyalist rule in the six counties, a rule that means vicious oppression for lesbians and gays (remember Paisley’s anti-sodomy campaign).

The Labour Party has given the lesbian and gay issue mixed treatment in the last ten years. We know full well where Neil Kinnock stands – “on the balls wing” of the party, ready to denounce “fairies” during the repulsive gay-baiting campaign against Peter Tatchell in 1983. But despite this posturing by Kinnock the party has a formal commitment to support lesbian and gay rights. Moreover at a local level various left councils – spurred on by the old GLC – have set up lesbian and gay committees, launched equal opportunities programmes and have even tried to introduce “positive images” of homosexuality in the schools. However, all too often these councils have – despite carrying the “loony left” tag – either left policies at the level of being good intentions with no hard cash to back them up, or approached the whole question from a non-working class perspective. Indeed Livingstone consciously set the tone by cultivating lesbians and gays as one element of his “rainbow coalition”. He was always quick to denounce “the old, white, male working class” – a thinly disguised attack on the working class as a whole.

The result of all of this is that policies on lesbian and gay rights have either been tokenistic or, as happened during the 1987 general election, jettisoned because they were an “unpopular” cause (unpopular with the rabid bosses’ press that is), and replaced it with a campaign proving Labour’s commitment to the “family”. The lesson is clear. Reformism cannot consistently fight the oppression of lesbians and gays, let alone advance a programme to overcome that oppression.

However, we recognise that many lesbians and gays, like many workers in general, do not believe us. For this reason we say that we will join them in a vigorous fight to win the Labour Party to a policy of consistent support for lesbian and gay rights – demanding it takes up the policies we have outlined in this programme. We also fight to force Labour, should it get into of?ce, to carry out these policies as part an overall programme for arming the working class, making the government accountable to the mobilised working class and its base organisations, and moving against the military, economic and political power of the bosses and their state. We do not believe Labour will carry out such a programme, but in the struggle to force it to we can and will win to that programme millions of workers, the foremost fighters for lesbian and gay liberation amongst them.

The struggle for lesbian and gay rights and liberation is, as we have stated throughout, a class struggle. To be defended and extended on any sort of lasting basis it requires the overthrow of the bosses’ state, its repressive apparatus, its laws and its bureaucracy. Only the working class, led by a consistently revolutionary communist party, can perform this task. Such a party must comprise the leading militants of the working class. It must be rooted in the workplaces and workers’ organisations. It must be forged in the active struggles of the working class, winning leadership of them and directing them towards the conquest of political power. To do it the working class needs to build its own councils of delegates from the factories, the housing estates, the communities, and its own armed militia. Not only can these act as instruments for the overthrow of the capitalist state but also as the instruments of a new order – of working class state power.

In what way will working class power benefit lesbians and gays? How will it liberate them? By liquidating the social and economic power of the capitalists, by expropriating their factories, the workers’ state could develop a centrally directed, but democratically controlled, plan of production, eliminating the anarchy of competition and the mad drive for profit and replacing them with production to satisfy human need.
One part of this plan would be directed towards the provision of services that could socialise child-rearing and housework. The domestic slavery of women within the family could be progressively eliminated through the provision of socialised childcare, washing, cooking and cleaning facilities. The specialised care of the old and care for the disabled could be taken on by state funded community services. All of these tasks now belong to the woman within the family. They explain the importance of the isolated family unit and its normative heterosexual structure, to capitalism. Socialise these tasks and you create a new foundation for human relationships to be built upon. Not merely is the material basis for ending women’s oppression created but so too is the basis for a revolution in sexual attitudes.
Of course liberation will not come overnight. But, the gradual elimination of production for profit, the education of people away from the prejudices that have for so long blighted human relations, and from institutions like the church that have encouraged prejudice, and the ability of all to participate freely and equally in social, economic and political life, will progressively eradicate women’s oppression, lesbian and gay oppression, indeed all forms of social oppression.
We cannot predict what pattern sexual relationships will follow in a communist society. What we can say is that the removal of the oppressive norms so pivotal to the bourgeois family, will lay the basis for sexual relationships rooted in real freedom of choice. As such this will free lesbians and gay men from the torments and horrors of a coercive morality that obliges millions to deny or disguise their sexuality, and that has driven thousands to suicide or mental illness because of their sexuality.

Forward to communism and lesbian and gay liberation!