Gay emancipation a challenge to bourgeois hegemony?? was Re:[Marxism] The SWP, Gay Liberation and Leninism

Jose G. Perez elgusanorojo at
Tue Apr 20 22:39:40 MDT 2004

Gary MacLennan questions whether gay liberation really represents "a
movement with profound counter-hegemonic implications ... on that is
tremendously threatening to bourgeois ideology." 

I guess it is probably true that in theory one could envision capitalist
ideology evolving in such a way as to dispense with anti-gay prejudice,
just as in theory one could imagine a capitalism that isn't inherently
racist. Gary argues that anti-gay persecution stemmed from a
capitalist-ultrarightist alliance necessitated by the Cold War, and
antigay prejudice was a "price" the capitalists were willing to pay.

I think the roots of antigay prejudice are much deeper, and indeed the
issue is much broader than "prejudice." Patriarchal institutions are to
be found at the heart of all class societies I'm familiar with, and I do
not think the alliance between capitalists and ideological conservatives
and reactionaries is at all accidental or coincidental in *this* epoch.
The division of labor involved in gender roles is fundamental to the
reproduction of society. However much it has evolved and even mutated,
been made more flexible, there is simply no way that I know of for the
capitalists to abolish it. And I think that is what is at the heart of
the oppression of gays. 

That is why I believe that women's liberation and Lesbian, gay,
transgender, bi and queer issues/movements present a fundamental
challenge to bourgeois ideological hegemony over society. It is all
about gender, and that is the original and most basic division of labor
in society, rooted to begin with in biology, but that, when married to
the creation of a social surplus that, as it turned out, was under the
control of men, gave rise to exploitation and oppression and social
phenomena and social institutions.

As it has turned out, it is possible for the capitalists to dispense
with one or another aspect of the oppression of women, or of gays, or,
for that matter of Blacks. But in the specific case of U.S. society, I
do not believe it is possible for capitalism to abandon or evolve away
from any of these oppressions. They are too deeply woven into its social
fabric, to try to rip them out would unravel the fabric of society as a
whole, and I do not think they can do just one --for example, dispense
with the oppression of gays and lesbians-- without fundamentally
affecting the others.


-----Original Message-----
From: marxism-bounces at
[mailto:marxism-bounces at] On Behalf Of Gary MacLennan
Sent: Tuesday, April 20, 2004 1:55 AM
To: Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition
Subject: Gay emancipation a challenge to bourgeois hegemony?? was
Re:[Marxism] The SWP, Gay Liberation and Leninism

At 11:13 PM 19/04/2004 -0400, Jose wrote:

firstly Jose thank you for your very measured and lucid account of the
and its relationship to the movements. We have a lot to learn from that 
history.  But just a mere quibble  - you said:

>Gay liberation was, by its very nature (and as we are seeing today once

>again in the marriage debate) a movement with profound 
>counter-hegemonic implications (as the Gramscians might say), one that 
>is tremendously threatening to bourgeois ideology.

If by 'bourgeois ideology' you mean the ideology of capitalist modernity
am not at all sure you are correct.  I think that gay emancipation is 
anathema not to capitalists but to conservatives.  It is in the 
establishment of the Cold War alliance between capitalists and 
traditionalists that one can find the reason for gay persecution during
Cold War.  This was the price that the capitalists were willing to pay
secure  support from conservatives against the challenge of socialist 
modernity. Post cold War the need for such an alliance is not so
so you will find instances such as the Economist coming out in favour of

gay marriage for instance.

If gay emancipation was a total systemic threat to bourgeois ideology
you would not find a pro-gay marriage editorial in the Economist,

None of this is to suggest that socialists should not support full
for we gays of course.



Dr Gary MacLennan
Film & Television Discipline
Creative Industries Faculty
Gardens Point Campus
Brisbane 4001

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