Gays and the cold war

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(Michael Hurley. Gay Community News. July 1980)
A new Cold War has begun. The Cold War of the 1950s was disastrous for homosexuals. Legal and social persecution were intensified. We were purged from public life. The price of survival was often betrayal of our self respect and our friends.

In Australia, the Menzies era was in full swing. All progressive forces came under attack, especially communists. Women’s Weekly, the largest national magazine emotionally blackmailed women into the home. Lesbianism was not acknowledged. There was no public discussion of homosexuality.

The United States searched out and sacked known and suspected homosexuals. In Britain, legal prosecutions soared. The number of possible legal offences increased five-fold. There were public trials with sensationalised media coverage. The use of police agent provocateurs on beats became common. We were considered to be psychologically crippled.

The state saw us as a security risk. There was a myth that we were all communists. Menzies moved to ban the Communist Party. The Cold War was a period of militant homophobia in the western, capitalist countries. We were dehumanised and viciously stereotyped: corrupters of youth and agents of Satan.

These times can return. The freedom to organise politically and to socialise in bars is not guaranteed. Nor is the right to work. The rights we have are the result of 200 years of struggle by the labour, women’s and gay movements. Our social freedoms were won after long and bitter battles. They must be defended and extended.

The Soviet Union provides a prime example of how social freedoms can be repressed. In 1917 the Bolsheviks legalised abortion and homosexuality. In 1934 Stalin authorised mass arrests of homosexuals. Male homosexuals became liable for eight years imprisonment. {Still, less than Victoria in 1980). In 1936 abortion was made totally illegal. Today, in Cuba, homosexuals are being deported. None of these actions are defensible.

However, neither the Soviet Union nor Cuba is causing the new Cold War. The basic cause of Cold War 2 is the attempt by the USA to re-assert its political and economic power. In 1975 Vietnam defeated the economic, political and military might of the USA. Imperialism suffered a major set back. Imperialism is international, capitalist economic exploitation. Sometimes it involves military invasion on behalf of capitalism as it did in Vietnam.
For the last five years, the USA has been attempting to recover from its defeat. This recovery has been further hindered by events in the Middle East. US strategic interests have been defeated in Iran and Afghanistan. Soviet intervention in Afghanistan will assist the defeat of the landowners and religious leaders opposed to reform. The reactionaries are supported by the Pakistani military government and the CIA. Their defeat is essential for land reform and the liberation of women from feudal, religious oppression.

The intervention will strengthen the forces of anti-imperialism and the ruling Afghani military bureaucrats. It may help undermine the Islamic leaders in Iran. This has implications for all homosexuals, women and leftists in the region.

The US has responded by taking the offensive. It has used Soviet intervention in Afghanistan as an excuse to try and organise a boycott of the Olympic Games. This tactic suits Carter’s own electoral needs. It also allows the US to claim it is defending democracy and freedom.

The result has been phase 2 of the Cold War. United States imperialism is the greatest threat to world peace. Failure to return the Shah to Iran is forcing Iran’s hand. If Iran closes the Persian Gulf, the United States domestic economy will collapse. It is dependent on oil from the OPEC countries. Within the Persian Gulf are eight major oil producing countries. They supply one third of the world’s total daily crude oil production. Iran is being forced diplomatically into a potential alliance with the Soviet Union.

Events in 1980 make it clear we cannot restrict ourselves to homosexual politics. Our oppression is determined by forces greater than the law and national government. Already there are increasing attacks not just on our sexuality but on political freedom and economic security generally. The labour movement is fighting continuously to defend our living conditions.

We must defend the anti-imperialist struggles of the Soviet Union and Cuba. Neither is a capitalist country. Both act in accordance with their national interest as determined by bureaucratic elites. These elites forcibly repress political organisations fighting for greater political and social freedom.

The choices for homosexuals are not easy. But defense of the Soviet Union and Cuba cannot be avoided. The Cold War threatens all our gains of the past ten years. Our rights to organise and defend ourselves as homosexuals, as women and as workers are at stake. The anti-imperialist struggle is crucial in the fight for political and social revolution. Women’s and homosexual liberation requires we organise as socialists against imperialism.
Oppose the Olympic Boycott. Defend the Soviet Union.
(Reply to above by Mick Armstrong. GCN Nov. 1980)
In your July issue Michael Hurley argued that gays should defend Russia against America in the ‘new cold war’. I believe that this would be a disastrous policy both for gays and the left.

Hurley uses two arguments to support his position. Firstly that the Cold War of the 50s was bad for gays and any recurrence would be a disaster; and secondly that Russia is anti-imperialist and is not causing the new Cold War.

Hurley is correct in saying that ‘the Cold War was a period of militant homophobia in the western, capitalist countries’. But things were not exactly sweetness and light in the state capitalist East. In most of these countries the official Stalinist line was that homosexuality was a form of bourgeois decadence to be ‘treated’ in Siberian labour camps and metal hospitals and that the advances of ‘socialism’ would progressively eliminate it.

And things have not improved all that much for gays over the last few years. During the Olympics an Italian gay activist was expelled from Moscow by the Russian authorities for handing out leaflets criticising the persecution of Russian gays. And I can’t see how supporting Russia during the Cold War would have helped male homosexuals and lesbians in the west. After all the most militant defender of Russian imperialism in Australia at that time, the Stalinist Communist Party, parrotted the anti-homosexual line from Moscow. In their quest for ‘respectability’ the western CPs purged gay activists from their ranks.

It is true that the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 did bring significant advances for women’s and gay liberation. But these advances were reversed by the Stalinist counter-revolution which smashed workers’ organisation and inner party democracy and instituted an authoritarian state capitalist dictatorship.

Hurley’s statement that ‘neither the Soviet Union nor Cuba is causing the new Cold War’ is just silly. Both America and Russia have been engaging in a major arms build up over the last few years. Both powers are engaged in bloody imperialist wars.

After all it was Russia, no matter what excuses you invent, that invaded Afghanistan, not the US. It is Russia that is threatening to invade Poland if the working class movement there gets out of hand. It was Russia that brutally crushed the Hungarian workers’ revolt of 1956 and the Prague Spring in 1968. It is Russia that is arming and encouraging Ethiopia’s repression of the Eritrean liberation movement.

Of course Russia is no worse than the US, which has been involved in a series of bloody wars in Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, the Middle East, Korea, etc. And I definitely don’t think gays should go along with the war-mongering anti-Russian campaigns of Jimmy Carter and Malcolm Fraser.

Because our own ruling class is our major enemy - the group which denies us our liberation - it was necessary to oppose their Olympic Boycott campaign. But that does not mean we should close our eyes to the oppression of gays in Russia or support the Kremlin bureaucrats in a future nuclear war.

It is only by getting rid of both Russian and Western imperialism (of which Australia is part) that we can open the road towards gay liberation.

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