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West Coast tour is lavender & red

Published Apr 15, 2006 1:05 PM

West Coast branches of the Inter na tional Action Center (IAC) worked with online bookseller leftbooks.com to organize seven events March 23-28 that were themed “LGBT liberation in time of war, racism and repression.” The meetings in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego featured transgender lesbian activist Leslie Feinberg.

The tour brought Feinberg’s new political novel, “Drag King Dreams,” to West Coast readers. She stressed the anti-war novel’s solidarity with the Iraqi people and with Arab, South Asian and Muslim immigrants in the U.S.: “This may be the most pro-Palestinian self-determination and sovereignty novel ever written in English by a white Jewish author. I’d like to be wrong about that and I also hope that distinction is stripped from this book quickly by as many writers as possible.”

The week of meetings helped organize wider and deeper unity on two fronts of the class war: the struggle against the U.S. imperialist war drive and the domestic struggle against racism, anti-woman and lesbian/gay/bi/trans oppression.

Feinberg, a Workers World managing editor and IAC organizer, emphasized the imperative need of the LGBT and women’s movements to defend the Iranian people against U.S. and British imperialist “regime change.” She pointed out that Washington had used the domestic status of women in Afghanistan as a “humanitarian” cover for invasion. Yet, Feinberg said, much earlier, when the Afghan people had carried out a revolution that benefited women because it sought to overturn feudal relations and establish socialism, it was the CIA that had funded and organized a bloody counter-revolution.

“Beware the pre-war spin that the U.S. and British use to bring democracy to Iran on bayonet tips—that they have to ‘liberate’ Iranian gays and women and trade unionists from their own population, religion and five-millennia-old culture. The Iranian people know all about imperialist regime change—they survived the CIA-installed Shah.”

Feinberg highlighted the importance of supporting undocumented workers by breath ing life into the truth that “there are no borders in the workers’ struggles.” And she concluded that serious organizing against all forms of oppression is the cement that creates the kind of durable unity needed to advance the class struggle against capitalism and create a basis to build socialism and its higher stage—communism.

‘Right of return’

IAC leader John Parker kicked off the week of events at a March 23 meeting in the national organization’s Los Angeles office. He restated the importance of bringing working-class-wide solidarity to the struggle against LGBT oppression. LeiLani Dowell, a national leader of FIST (Fight Imperialism, Stand Together), roused those gathered by relating the exci ting role of militant youth—from the immigrant rights struggle in the U.S. to the powerful French struggle for job rights.

The following night, a full-house audience greeted Feinberg at the Eureka Valley Recreational Center in San Francisco’s Castro district. Feinberg explained how World War I split the socialist movement. “On the one hand were the Social Demo crats who supported their own rul ers in that colonial war for empire. On the other were the communist revolutionaries who tried to unite workers and oppres sed peoples across national boundaries against the imperialist ruling class.”

She said that the inability to take a strong, principled stance against the war derailed the German Homosexual Eman cipation Movement, as well as the workers’ struggle against the boss class, until the momentum of the 1917 Russian Revol ution put the struggle back on track. Later, internationalist support for the Vietnam ese people and struggles against racism, repression and economic warfare by the left wing of gay liberation infused the movement with greater power.

On March 25, Feinberg joined a panel of speakers on “The Right to Return: From Katrina to Palestine,” co-sponsored by the Troops Out Now Coalition (TONC).

San Francisco TONC organizer Judy Greenspan chaired the afternoon event. Dave Welsh, from the Haiti Action Com mittee, spoke about the Haitian struggle against the U.S.-backed coup in 2004 that overthrew the elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. A speaker from Queers Undermining Israeli Terror ism and Tova Klein, who was born in Israel, gave moving support to the liberation of historic Palestine.

As a communist, Feinberg described ancient pre-class societies on every continent that were based on cooperative labor. “The right of humanity to return to a society free from exploitation and oppression requires building a movement today that fights every form of injustice—economic and social. It must include the rights of Katrina survivors to return home, Pales tinians to return to their homeland, and the Haitian people to return to their sovereignty and self-determination.”

Together on the road to women’s liberation

In San Diego the next day, Feinberg was part of an emotional celebration of Inter national Women’s Month at the Malcolm X Public Library. Zola Muhammad of San Diego IAC and Dawn Miller, a local activist and school teacher, co-chaired. Muham mad talked about the origins of Inter national Women’s Day. Gloria Verdieu of San Diego IAC gave a presentation on Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Wangari Maaphai, the first African female recipient of the award.

Sylvia Telafaro, a local activist/poet and president of the African American Writers and Artists Association, gave a heartfelt spoken-word performance about women in the struggle.

Third-grade student Cheyenne Muham mad received a standing ovation. She said of Rosa Parks: “Even though people say she was tired from a long day of work, I think she was also tired of segregation.”

Ruth Vela of San Diego IAC and FIST reported on the previous day’s Immigrant Rights March in Los Angeles.

Feinberg was greeted with a standing ovation. She gave a stirring presentation in defense of immigrant rights and against racism and all forms of oppression and then read from her new book, “Drag King Dreams.” Her dedication to the struggle, as well as her lucid social and political commentary, brought into sharp focus for many the need to deepen their commitment to the struggle.

Feinberg was back in Los Angeles on March 27 for an event jointly hosted by the IAC and the local artists’ collective known as The Sugar Shack, which describes itself as building “intentional community” with a sense of activism. It was a good fit, she noted, because the IAC is building “intentional activism” with a sense of community.

SAN DIEGO: ‘Fight racism right here on campus!’

At San Diego State University on March 28, students filled every seat in the large lecture hall and virtually every inch of floor space. Feinberg lent her strong support to a battle to reinstate Dr. Pat Washington, a Black lesbian professor who was denied tenure at the university after having pro tested that she and students of color faced a hostile, racist work environment. (For more information about this important struggle, visit www.patwashington.org.)

On the drive back to Los Angeles, IAC leader John Parker and Feinberg did some impromptu anti-war outreach to half a dozen Marines guarding the entrance to Camp Pendleton.

That evening, at the ONE Archive in Los Angeles, Parker related to the audience how the capitalist class has forced both Katrina survivors and Palestinians to fight for their homes. “Our bodies are our homes, too,” he said. “And LGBT people have to fight for those homes—their bodies, their loves and their lives.”

Feinberg pointed to the repository of LGBT books in the ONE archive. She said that in Germany, the archive of the Ger man Homosexual Emancipation Move ment had been one of the early targets of the Nazi Party. But when the street sweepers—low-paid workers—were ordere d to clean up the pyre of 10,000 books that had been burned, they found and saved a few precious volumes under the mountain of ashes, preserved to this day in LGBT archives around the world.

“They were like seeds carried on the winds of struggle,” she said. “Look around. They have taken root once again.”

Cumulatively, these West Coast events brought more activists into the struggle to defend the rights of undocumented immigrant workers, the battle against racism, imperialist war, the struggle against the oppression of women and the LGBT communities.

Thanks to Carl Muhammad in San Diego for contributing to this article.