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1970s Cold War gay-bashers condemn Cuba

Lavender & red, part 86

Published Jan 20, 2007 7:20 PM

Bob McCubbin, a young gay male leader in Workers World Party during the rise of the early gay liberation movement, recalls, “By having regular articles in Workers World, attending gay protests, producing and distributing flyers addressing lesbian and gay issues, giving extra visibility to gay comrades, organizing branch meetings on related issues, and doing outreach to the lesbian and gay communities, we were successful in attracting many lesbian and gay youth to our ranks in the early and middle 1970s.

“But this work was not without difficulties,” McCubbin says. He remembers, in particular, how a stream of articles in the big-business media opened up a campaign against Cuba. Many of the articles focused on the imperialist charge that gay and lesbian Cubans were being mistreated on the island after the 1959 revolution.

The reality is that the Cuban Revolution—which seized state power on an island in which class society, colonialism and imperialism had woven prejudices and repression against same-sex love tightly into the fabric of life—has made tremendous advances for men who love men and women who love women, as well as the struggle against racism and sexism.

The U.S.-led blockade is designed not only to economically strangle the Cuban population, but to keep an understanding of what a revolution can achieve in terms of social progress from lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans people living in the imperialist citadel.

The imperialist propaganda machine doesn’t care a whit about the lives of gay and lesbian Cubans. They want to crush the revolution and re-enslave the entire population.

But first, it is impossible to skip over the staggering hypocrisy of U.S. imperialism and its media propaganda machinery. They don’t care a whit about lesbian and gay, bisexual and trans lives. They want to crush the revolution and re-enslave the entire population.

Their political duplicity was obvious on the domestic front. In the 1950s, these Cold War capitalists had escalated a state witch hunt against every expression of homosexuality and transgender under the guise of a “Lavender Scare.”

Same-sex love was still illegal across the United States. Gay men, lesbians and all gender-variant people faced police raids and entrapment, prison, torture, forced institutionalization, rape and lynchings, loss of jobs, homes and loved ones. (See Lavender & Red series, parts 26-28, www.workers.org.)

But by the 1970s—while cops were still raiding bars after Stonewall and same-sex love was still illegal—the imperialists suddenly became champions of gay rights, anywhere except on their own soil.

The big-business spin made it seem as though the Cuban Revolution was a wellspring of anti-gay prejudice.

“Absent the persistent and pervasive climate of anti-communism,” McCubbin stresses, “such attacks would have been laughable, emanating as they did from a country where gay-baiting was an indispensable political tool and where scarcely a week went by without the murder, somewhere within the country, of a transgender person.

“But since the anti-Cuba propaganda campaign was relentless and did have a negative effect on many people, including many lesbian and gay youth, we felt a serious responsibility to answer and challenge these articles, and we did, just as we conscientiously defended the other socialist countries, and in particular the Soviet Union, from the steady stream of anti-communist attacks.

“So we were often challenged by progressive youth, gay and straight, ‘You support Cuba?’ The more serious listened carefully to what we had to say in Cuba’s defense, but we were also badmouthed frequently by anti-communist elements in the gay movement.”

An understanding of the Cuban Revolution, and the hand it was dealt by imperialism, is as important today as it was then. It demonstrates what a revolution can achieve, even when surrounded and under siege by imperialism.

The truth to begin with is this: Communists did not bring anti-homosexual prejudice to the Americas. The development of class societies and colonialism did.

Next: Arrival of colonialism in the Americas—the real “Apocalypto.”

E-mail: lfeinberg@workers.org