[sixties-l] Gay Liberation and the FBI (fwd)

From: sixties@lists.village.virginia.edu
Date: Thu Jun 27 2002 - 12:04:14 EDT

  • Next message: sixties@lists.village.virginia.edu: "[sixties-l] The Age of Acquiescence (fwd)"

    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    Date: Thu, 20 Jun 2002 13:36:01 -0700
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    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


    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
    capitalist orbit.

    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."


    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.


    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."


    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
    Vietnam War.

    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
    welcomed them.

    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
    militant defense.


    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