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‘Socialism & LGBT movement are linked’

Published Jul 21, 2005 8:54 PM

“There is nothing intrinsic to socialism—a planned economy in a workers’ state—that lends itself to anti-gay bigotry or any other form of divisive ideology,” well-known transgender lesbian activist Leslie Feinberg stressed at West Coast public meetings July 15-18. “Capitalism, on the other hand, is a dog-eat-dog economy that requires divide-and conquer ideology.”

Ruth Vela, Leslie Feinberg,
Maggie Vascassenno and
John Parker in Los Angeles.

Feinberg, a managing editor of Workers World, spoke in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas about her journalistic series “Lavender and Red” which has run weekly over the last year in WW newspaper. She stated, “It documents how the left wing of the revolutionary movement, including leaders of workers’ states, have supported the demand to end state repression against same-sex love for more than a century.

“Where problems have existed in workers’ states,” she added, “they have been the result of too little socialism—based on imperialist encirclement and lack of material resources—not too much socialism. Yet let no one forget that they have done what no rich capitalist country can do: provided free education and health care, jobs, housing and food for all.”

Feinberg called for movement-wide discussion groups to delve into a detailed discussion about communism, an examination of history from a class-struggle vantage point and commitment to confront red-baiting. That call was met in all four cities with standing ovations.

San Francisco

A multinational audience of some 200 people—including many youth—packed a hall at the San Francisco Women’s Building on July 15, sitting in the aisles and pouring into the hallway.

Feinberg refuted the idea that bigotry was a result of human nature, pointing to the book “Living the Spirit,” an anthology by Gay American Indians that documents alternative sex/gender roles in 135 Native nations in the Americas. What makes this fact of human history so subversive, she emphasized, is that it shows that since society has not always been the way it is now, it doesn’t have to be this way.

John Parker, a leader of the West Coast International Action Center and of the Million Worker March Movement in Los Angeles, spoke eloquently about the links between struggles: the fight against the war in Iraq, the work of unions and the Million Worker March Movement and the struggle for LGBT rights. He concluded that “All these struggles are against a common enemy. All movements need to stand together to fight oppression. They know we’ll fight back so they try to put more fear in people’s hearts, to divide people. We can’t let them do that.”

Judy Greenspan, who chaired the meeting, noted that Workers World Party had supported an end to LGBT oppression even before the modern U.S. movement raised the demand. “It’s not often you hear the words lesbian, communist and transgender together,” she said.

Nedjula Baguio, a transgender prisoners’ rights activist, spoke about the abuse that trans people suffer behind prison walls, including the denial of hormone treat ments. Trans and gender-variant indivi duals are often unable to get higher education, employment, housing or access to affordable health care. “When your every move and all your behavior is continuously criminalized, you’re bound to end up in a negative situation or prison,” Baguio said.

Rebecca Cooper—a fourth-generation steel worker, union organizer and slam poet from Pitts burgh—wowed the audience with her poem “Wal-Mart,” which pas sionately and powerfully described the store’s purpose —“attack, demoralize, destroy, create and exploit the working poor.”

Los Angeles: ‘Fight war,
racism and reaction!’

Feinberg and Parker spoke together at a standing-room-only meeting the following day at the LGBT Community Center. Almost half the audience Latin@, Black and Asian.

Feinberg drew lessons for coalition building from Frederick Douglass’ 19th-century fight for the abolition of slavery, against the U.S. war on Mexico and for women’s rights. She added that the communist leaders of the early 1950s Matta chine movement for homosexual emancipation also reached out when they opposed the Korean War and spoke out publicly against police brutality unleashed on the Chican@ community in Los Angeles.

Ruth Vela—a leader of FIST (Fight Imperialism, Stand Together)—and Maggie Vascassenno of the Los Angeles IAC co-chaired the meeting.

San Diego

Ruth Vela and Feinberg addressed an activist audience that drew Mexican@/Chican@, Black, Asian and white activists —lesbian, gay, bi, heterosexual and trans.

Vela chaired the meeting and spoke on the San Diego border struggle against the racist anti-immigrant vigilantes known as the “Minutemen.”

Feinberg talked about how the “war on terror” was aimed at any country that tried to defend its right to self-determination and sovereignty abroad and also as a cover for repression against immigrants and other oppressed groups in the U.S., as well.

Las Vegas

In Las Vegas, Feinberg and Workers World Party leader Bob McCubbin spoke to an enthusiastic multi-national audience that included an overlap of LGBT youth, anti-war and labor activists. The meeting, called by the local Peace Now Coalition, was chaired by Las Vegas SEIU organizer Pete Reilly.

McCubbin traced the ground-breaking work of Marxists that has revealed the roots of lesbian, gay, bi and trans oppression in the development of class-divided societies, large-scale private-property and the repressive state—cops, courts, police and military.

Feinberg concluded that ultimately, LGBT liberation can only be achieved by ending the exploitation of human labor on a world scale.