Gay oppression, capitalism etc (or Sodomy and surplus-value)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Dec 4 07:37:41 MST 2000

Phil Ferguson:
>wage-labour under capitalism.  Similarly, feudal statutes against sodomy
>may be historically interesting, even fascinating to speculate upon, but
>they don't explain anything about gay oppression under capitalism.

Of course they do. The main impediment to homosexual rights in the United
States is organized religion, the Catholic Church in particular. If there
ever was an institution that had the stamp of precapitalism across it, it
is the Catholic Church. In countries that have diminished church attendance
and beliefs, tolerance toward same-sexers goes hand-in-hand. When you get
agnosticism mixed with a strong socialist (but non-Stalinist) movement, the
possibilities for gay liberation are almost unlimited, EVEN when capitalist
property relations are in place.


Paradise regained
Weimar Berlin's depraved, sin-filled nights tantalize the imagination anew
in Mel Gordon's "Voluptuous Panic."

- - - - - - - - - - - -

By Stephen Lemons (

Nov. 22, 2000 | A snapshot of Berlin between the world wars includes nudist
magazines devoted entirely to children; glittering cabaret shows parading
acres of sweaty, perfumed female flesh; and an endless supply of cafes,
bars and private clubs catering to gay men, transvestites, lesbians and

Inflation is so rampant that the local paper currency is good only for
toilet paper. Cocaine, morphine and opium are peddled on every street
corner. And more than 120,000 desperate women and girls of every age and
stripe sell their bodies for a pittance, including mother-daughter
prostitution teams and brazen streetwalkers well into the third trimester
of pregnancy.

Such was the glory that was Weimar Berlin, a burg American writer Ben Hecht
called the "prime breeding ground of evil." Most are familiar with its
reputation as a crime-ridden sewer of frenetic debauchery through period
classics such as Fritz Lang's "M" and Josef von Sternberg's "The Blue
Angel," stage productions of Brecht's "The Threepenny Opera" or screenings
of Bob Fosse's lurid, leggy movie musical, "Cabaret." However, very few of
our assumptions about that decadent interwar wonderland are based on actual
documentation of Berlin's whorish past. And most of it has been filtered
through the arid prose of academia.

Now with Mel Gordon's new tome, "Voluptuous Panic: The Erotic World of
Weimar Berlin," connoisseurs of carnal excess have the next best thing to a
time machine with which to visit that era of blissfully morbid hedonism.

Drawing from his vast collection of pre-Nazi Berlin memorabilia, Gordon, a
professor of theater at UC-Berkeley, has assembled an Encyclopedia
Britannica of Weimar smut. This 267-page omnibus of Babylon-on-the-Spree's
demimonde is full of antique pornography, guidebooks, magazine
illustrations, board games, photos of Rube Goldberg-like masturbation
devices and priceless ephemera from bygone restaurants and pubs.

Gordon says his massive, wallet-busting collection began as part of a job
assignment from the Goethe Institute, a program supported by the German
government to promote German language and culture.

"Back in 1994, I got a grant from them to do a cabaret extravaganza in San
Francisco starring Nina Hagen," recalls Gordon. "I decided to do a real,
three-ring Weimar production based on the life of Anita Berber, the great
sex goddess/flapper of the age. We had a lot to go on, research-wise,
except the visuals. I went to the library, and I was amazed to find nothing
except old George Grosz and Otto Dix paintings and some rather tame photos
which had been reprinted endlessly."

Gordon discovered that even the research done by Hollywood types for
"Cabaret" came up with little to back the thesis that Weimar Berlin was the
hotbed of vice Christopher Isherwood depicted in "Berlin Stories" (the book
that inspired "Cabaret"). Could it be that this fabled city of whores never
existed? That it was all an invention of perverse intellectuals? Gordon
began combing the antique shops of Germany and Austria as well as those of
Northern California, where a number of Germans fled after Hitler's rise to
power. Soon he went from having nothing to having more than 20,000 genuine
Weimar Berlin relics. Hagen's show was history, and Gordon realized he had
the makings of a book on his hands.

Louis Proyect
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