the ultra-left on homosexuality?

Ralph Dumain rdumain at igc.apc.org
Tue Feb 7 19:05:00 MST 1995


I don't have immediate access to CORRESPONDENCE, so I can't answer
the question right now.  I would be very surprised if there were
public discussions of homosexuality there, being such a taboo
issue at the time.  I would suppose that that is something the
Johnson-Forest people would have personally tolerated among people
known to them, but not a matter for policy.  I am just guessing,
though.

I can't answer the question re News & Letters or Socialisme ou
Barbarie.  BTW, Socialisme ou Barbarie had connections with both
Johnson-Forest and the Situationists, but I am aware of no
connections between Johnson-Forest and Situationism.  If you know
of any, please inform me at once.  There are some enquiring minds
who want to know.

However, C.L.R. James did refer to homosexuality on some occasions
both publicly and in manuscript or correspondence.  There is one
reference to James Baldwin as a "Negro swish", not complimentary,
but not particularly insulting either.  (I think he was more
concerned about Baldwin's derogation of Richard Wright.)  James
mentions homosexuality as a theme in Herman Melville in MARINERS,
RENEGADES, AND CASTAWAYS.  James expresses amazement, maybe in
AMERICAN CIVILIZATION, that homosexuals would be so reviled and
persecuted in the USA and wonders why.   My general impression is
that James was detached and objective about this phenomenon.  I
don't know if he would have considered it normal behavior but he
doesn't show any repugnance or moralistic disdain either.  I think
that his attitude to examining human behavior was to get it all
out in the open and try to understand it.  He may not have chosen
to do this personally for every topic, but it seems he thought
that the new society would put everything on the table, including
an examination of human sexuality.

Recent James scholars -- Kent Worcester may have mentioned it in
an article or two -- have made some references to James's remarks
on homosexuality.

Sorry, I'm going entirely on my fickle memory here.  If I get a
chance, I'll check my sources a bit more carefully.

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