[Marxism] Re: John O'brien's comments ...

John Obrien causecollector at msn.com
Mon Apr 19 00:16:22 MDT 2004


David,

Sorry to challenge you my friend - but I was there in 1969 and knew Kipp Dawson well having worked with her for several years before that.  She was never out in 1969.  The YSA did not change their policy in 1969.  It was announced in late 1970 that they changed their policy of barring from membership Gays and Lesbians.  Of course there were many closeted Gays and Lesbians in the SWP and YSA prior to the Stonewall Rebellion.  This was true of most every form of organization from political to religious.

As for the number 300 - I happen to know many who left and most made no big mention in their locals or branches - they just left - disgusted and wanting to not be used and not respected - the same was happening in many groups throughout society - and still is.  I also know a couple of non-Gays who left over this effort to denigrate Gays and Lesbians. This large number left individually over a period of 24 months.  Kipp Dawson stayed in the SWP as did around eighty other Gays and Lesbians I knew.
Self respect takes a long time for some to develop.  More and more will leave such organizations.  More and more will demand full respect and will come out - and little can stop this from continuing around the world.

A "Melvin" who was with the Stalinist Communist Labor Party still holds such views - and just sent two emails with lots of such usual wordings to imply that most Gays and Lesbians are not workers but some other kind of "thing".  Melvin does not comprehend that there are tens of millions of Gays and Lesbians in the United States alone - and that they are not all capitalists!!!  This is also true in every other country on this planet.

It was not George Breitman but Frank Lovell who was the most backward in the SWP leadership.  Nat Weinstein was also in print with his homophobia in 1973 and later.  Ironically, Nat Weinstein told me at this past October 2003 San Francisco anti-war march, that he was never a bigot!  I told him (to his surprise) that his words in documents were kept in Gay archives and many Gays and Lesbians in leadership positions are familiar with what happened with the SWP in 1973 - and know of his role.  Nat has not a clue how despised he is by some - such as me. 

Glad to be in contact with you again!

John O'Brien
Society for Education & the Arts
P. O. Box 381040
Los Angeles, CA 90038
causecollector at msn.com


  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: dwalters at marxists.org 
  To: marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu 
  Sent: Sunday, April 18, 2004 1:47 AM
  Subject: [Marxism] Re: John O'brien's comments ...


  A few points of clarification on this historical stuff about the SWP and gay 
  rights. First, greetings to John O'Brian who I haven't had the pleasure of 
  discussion for about 10 years now.

  The YSA changed their position on the gay rights in 1969, not 1970. The Party 
  did it in 1970. The change took place after recognizing the reality that 
  dozens, indeed hundreds of gays joined the YSA because of it's work in the anti-
  war movement and that after Stonewall, gay liberation was considered part of 
  the general movement for social change going on then.

  Additionally, there were dozens of OPENLY gay members of the YSA that were not 
  expelled or othewise blacklisted, Jon Hilson's mode of operations 
  notwithstanding. Kip Dawson, for example, was openly gay well prior to the 1969 
  convention. So the YSA simply had to adapt or stay in the dark ages ala CP.

  The position adopted by the YSA (opposed by only one person, Dan Fine) and 
  adopted by the SWP later (opposed as John pointed out by Nat Weinstein and 
  George Breitman, et al) opened a flood gate of gay activity on part of the YSA. 
  During the 3 subsequent years, both Breitman and Weinstein campaigned against 
  this kind of 'open' position on Gays...don't forget, it wasn't just a change to 
  allow gays to function openly on the SWP/YSA, it was a wholesale orietnation 
  toward the burgeoing gay liberation movement. The YSA became very active in 
  this movement.

  The result of the campaign by Nat and George on this was a 'retrenchment' of 
  sorts. I believe this took place in August of 1973 which was a general SWP 
  Convention, not the special Winter one back-to-back with the YSA one, which was 
  called to deal with he factional issue of the IMT/IT, Armed struggle, etc 
  debate going on that far overshadowed the debate over gay liberation. Anyway, 
  the retrencment was the infamous 'Gay Memorandum' that laid out an actual 
  theoretical (and retreating one)position of the SWP on gay rights. This is what 
  caused an exodus of *some* gay members and I seriously doubt 300 people left, 
  John, it sounds way to big, even for the SWP/YSA then that had about 1500 
  members.

  The Memorandum actually justified work in the Gay...now called 'Rights' 
  movement...since the 'liberation' part of the position was expunged...gay 
  rights now seen as 'only' a struggle for "democratic rights", not "liberation" 
  which was seen at higher level of challenging capitalism (like Womens's 
  Liberation and Black Liberation). Gay work, as such, actually increased between 
  1973 and 1978. But with the turn, the ugly adaptation of white-ethnic hysteria 
  slowly but surely became in vogue again. Although I was straight, I remember in 
  1975-1976, I was part of a gay rights fraction of 60 people in the New York 
  Local. This period saw some very large gay rights demonstrations and the YSA 
  and SWP built them...but as the turn came, the faction was dissolved. This was 
  the period when David Thorstadt was expelled. I think it took place in 1977 or 
  1978 and it had nothing to do with gay rights but with pedophilia.

  In the 1981, the SWP expelled from my branch (Brooklyn) a transexual. The 
  National Office mobilized it's minions to stack the meeting to ensure expulsion 
  over regular branch members who objected since we worked with the person in 
  question and considered her a loyal hard working comrades. Two arguements were 
  put forward: a transexual could never pass a physical to get "into Industry" 
  and, the person in question joined the YSA was named "Tommy" and was now 
  named "Darleen" (I think), ergo the person lied when transfering from one 
  branch to another. I kid you not, this actually happened.

  BTW...the 'core' group of Barnes supporters in this was the rather large, 
  unaffected sub-group of lesbians in the NY Local of the SWP. Apparently it was, 
  and still is OK to be a gay women, not a gay man, however.

  David

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