---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 20 Jun 2002 13:36:01 -0700
From: radtimes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Gay Liberation and the FBI
Gay Liberation and the FBI
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the June 27, 2002
issue of Workers World newspaper
LESSONS OF COINTELPRO FOR TODAY: HOW YOUNG GAY
LIBERATION MOVEMENT FOUGHT THE FBI
By Leslie Feinberg
>>From a talk at a Workers World Party Forum in New York June
14 celebrating lesbian, gay, bi and trans Pride Month.
June is the month that lesbian, gay and bisexual,
transsexual and transgender people commemorate a June 1969
uprising in Greenwich Village against police repression at
the Stonewall Inn that lasted for four summer nights.
The turbulent social upheavals that gave rise to this
rebellion were provoked by the iron-fisted state repression
of the 1950s. After their victory in WWII, after having
dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the
strategists in Washington and on Wall Street had thought
their monopoly on this mega-weapon would insure their
military hegemony and their political and economic
domination of the world.
But the war had so weakened most of the other imperialist
countries that the oppressed peoples in Asia, Africa and the
Middle East were emboldened to rise up for real
independence. In China, northern Korea and North Vietnam
liberation movements led by communists came to power.
The triumph of the Chinese Revolution sent the U.S. rulers
into a tailspin. They deeply feared the developing
relationship between the USSR, China and the Third World.
The Pentagon was hunkered down in a war to keep Korea in the
In this country, Sen. Joseph McCarthy was hunting down
communists and progressives. This did terrible damage to
civil liberties, union organizing and political expression.
An anti-gay frenzy was also unleashed and anti-Semitism was
deepened. Jim Crow apartheid was the law of the land, and
when it came to women, "Father Knew Best."
DANCING IN DEFIANCE
I came out as a young factory worker into the blue-collar,
gay-drag bars of Buffalo and Toronto around 1964-1965. It
was mostly gender-variant gay and lesbian people who were
out--literally visible--before the mass movement. That's one
reason the state could terrorize so many people during the
McCarthy period with gay baiting and FBI background checks:
the vast majority of the gay and lesbian population that was
not visibly gender variant was closeted or in underground
At that time it was against the law for two women or two men
to dance together in public. Of course we did, quite
Without political organization, the bars were the only
places that we could meet the oppression we faced with group
strength. In a segregated city, they were one of the only
places that people of color and whites could choose to
socialize together after work.
After the mid-1960s we began consciously organizing in the
bars, monitoring police radios to alert us when the cops
were going to raid us, and forming our own political
organizations. The Stonewall Uprising was on the horizon, a
rebellion that would call us out of the bars and into the
streets, voicing our own demands, under our own banners.
Historically, lesbians and gays had always been politically
active and had provided leadership: building the union
movement, defending the Scotsboro Brothers, challenging the
anti-communist McCarthy hearings, organizing for a stay of
execution for the Rosenbergs, swelling the ranks of the
civil rights movement. But we weren't necessarily out as gay
in these movements.
However, each wave of movement that challenged oppression
created more room for another in its wake. And the skills
we'd learned in these movements helped the Stonewall
Rebellion and gay liberation to break out.
THE SWEET TASTE OF FIGHTBACK
Some today recall that the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover
launched Cointelpro--Counter-Intelligence Program--a
murderous campaign that sought to derail and destroy Black,
Latino, Native and Asian civil rights and national
liberation movements in this country.
Fewer today know that Cointelpro sought to target and
disrupt the movements against the Vietnam War and for
women's and gay liberation.
Here are two examples of why the FBI viewed our gay
liberation movement as a threat.
First, youths at the Stonewall Rebellion fought the cops so
ferociously that the police retreated into the bar and
barricaded themselves inside. Someone cut the building's
phone and electrical wires so the cops were in the dark
without backup for 45 minutes.
The bodies of some of these youths--many of them Black,
Latina and white transgender teenagers who were homeless and
had to turn tricks to survive--still bore wounds of past
arrests. So the youths rocked a parking meter, uprooted it
from the concrete sidewalk and used it as a battering ram to
try to break down the doors to get their hands on the cops.
They tried to burn the bar down with the cops inside.
Here's another taste of the flavor of this young fightback
movement. This is an excerpt from the Gay Liberation Front
Statement of Purpose adopted after Stonewall in 1969: "We
are in total opposition to America's white racism, to
poverty, hunger, the systematic destruction of our
patrimony; we oppose the rich getting richer, the poor
getting poorer, and are in total opposition to wars of
aggression and imperialism, whoever pursues them.
"We support the demands of Blacks, Chicanos, [Asians],
Women, Youth, Senior Citizens, and others demanding their
full rights as human beings. We join in their struggle, and
shall actively seek coalition to pursue these goals."
MARCHING IN SOLIDARITY
Let no one forget that the Gay Liberation Front named itself
in solidarity with the South Vietnamese National Liberation
Front at the height of the Pentagon war. The banners of the
left wing of our young gay liberation movement snapped in
the wind at virtually every rally and march to stop the
And our left wing marched and rallied in support of the
Black Panther Party, Young Lords, Chicano/Mexican
organizations and the American Indian Movement--all targeted
by Cointelpro. Our multi-national LGBT unity in defense of
militants under siege won concrete expressions of solidarity
from the most revolutionary and militant currents of the
Just 13 months after the Stonewall Uprising, Black Panther
Party leader Huey P. Newton issued a public letter in which
he urged that wherever the forces of Black liberation meet,
the forces of gay liberation and women's liberation must be
Several years before her death, I interviewed Stonewall
combatant Sylvia Rivera, a self-proclaimed Latina
revolutionist who had lived homeless on the streets of New
York since she was 10 years old. She told me that after
Stonewall, when she and other trans street people started
STAR--Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries--one of the
first places they unfurled their banner in public was at a
mass demonstration of the Young Lords in East Harlem against
police repression in the fall of 1970. The Young Lords
Sylvia said she joined the Young Lords' internal gay caucus
formed shortly after Huey Newton's letter. Sylvia told me,
"They gave us a lot of respect. It was a fabulous feeling
for me to be myself--being part of the Young Lords as a drag
queen--and my organization [STAR] being part of the Young
Workers World Party's own youth group--Youth Against War &
Fascism--also established a gay caucus around 1972, when I
was coming into the Party.
That's the kind of unity we were generating. That's why the
FBI launched a domestic program that spied, spread lies,
infiltrated, disrupted and smeared organizations of the
oppressed. They resorted to assassinations and frame-ups to
"neutralize" progressive leaders. They tried to drive a
wedge between gay and Black groups, between Jewish and Black
What are the lessons of the period? One is, don't think a
gay, cross-dressing head of the FBI won't wage war against
gay liberation! Like the divide between a Margaret Thatcher
and a Sojourner Truth, the barricades in the war between the
exploiting class and the exploited demand of each of us:
Which side are you on?
Then there is the lesson of Stonewall: that people who do
not share the same oppression, or the same social and
economic burdens, can make history when they unite shoulder
to shoulder against a common enemy.
That's why all of us in Workers World Party fight on behalf
of trans people and lesbians, gays and bisexuals, just as we
fight racism and every form of bigotry. We consider
solidarity between all oppressed people to be worthy of
LAVENDER AND RED
We are fighting for socialism. That means collectivizing
ownership of industry so we can plan production and
distribute goods equally.
Sometimes people say to me, "Oh, thank goodness you're a
socialist. I was afraid you were a communist." And I tell
them: "Hold on a minute--I'm not finished yet!"
Equal distribution still isn't fair. People have different
and changing needs. Communism is the next and higher stage
of society in which we can produce such abundance that
people can have what they need and want: "From each
according to their ability, to each according to their
What do socialism and communism mean for lesbians, gays,
bisexuals and trans people? Look, there have been problems
for gays in workers' states, and there have been advances.
We don't make light of the problems. We analyze them because
we want to make socialism stronger.
But let's not forget this: Even the poorest workers' states
have done what no rich capitalist country has been able to
do. They've fed and clothed, provided free education and
health care, guaranteed jobs and inexpensive housing for all-
-gay and straight. That helps decrease social tensions. And
it removes the economic necessity for pitting people against
each other that is characteristic of class-divided
However, overturning capitalist property relations merely
sets the stage for the development of socialism. The old dog-
eat-dog values from class society, the old patterns of
living are not immediately washed away. A revolution is not
a single act, it's a process.
And every country liberated by workers and peasants trying
to build socialism has been surrounded on its borders by the
imperialist countries--like a maroon community of run-away
slaves encircled by former slave-owners--bristling with
weapons of mass destruction, including economic embargoes.
That has made it hard to carry out the kind of cultural
revolutions that Marx, Lenin, Che and Mao wrote are needed
to deepen the social and political revolution.
With the conscious intervention of the more revolutionary
elements, these heavy burdens from the past can be lifted
from the shoulders of the new generations.
Also, remember that every oppressed group that struggles
against capitalism leaves its imprint on the struggle for
socialism. And on the revolutionary program of our Party,
So if you've been looking for a revolutionary party, we
welcome you to Workers World--with Pride--where you can be
lavender AND red!
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Thu Jun 27 2002 - 12:19:33 EDT