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This thoughtmesh attempts to examine methods by taking three cases and making them into one.

The first is a response to an article in International Socialism, and here is the first method issue :
http://www.isj.org.uk/index.php4?id=313&issue=114

The piece was sent, as the heading implies.

The second piece is a response to a pamphlet, written by Simon Edge and published, which is the second methods issue.

The third is a response to a meeting organised in Glasgow, to attend which my expenses were paid by UCU, on global politics and lgbt rights.

So now we have the first abstracting issue: lgbt.

Which means we have the second: knowbots and ontologies.

And now we want to explore thoughtmesh.

"Socialists must support gays"

Dear Editor

In Colin Wilson's article on LGBT in ISJ there is a strange gap between 1972 and 198? On page 147.

It isn't true that by 1972 GLF was over. There were still "comes together" in 1973 and 4, in 1974 the GLF office collective transmogrified itself at 5 Caledonian Rd. into Gay Switchboard. The year of the last riot with the police on a gay pride march I can't remember, but I can remember sitting down outside police stations.

But given the nature of the organisational form taken by GLF, both a strength and a weakness, it is difficult to say when it ended, and the same may be said of CHE, which still exists.

But even stranger is the gap between 1972 and 198* for there is no attempt to explain how the one became the other.

In 1967 the Tower Hamlets Branch of the National Union of Seamen proposed an amendment to the bill working through parliament that merchant seamen should be excluded; that exclusion lasted until the 1990s, and they claimed it was their success to achieve the amendment. At least this is what the documentation in a recent exhibition in Liverpool claims. So that section of the working class wasn't in the vanguard, not long after their defeat at the hands of Harold Wilson.

So what was?

What follows is a personal narrative, almost, for reasons on which I will dwell at the end.

My experience of a demonstration, Glad to be Gay, on a Saturday lead me to think, why can't Mondays be like Saturdays, and determined me to come out at school (not a pupil by then, but a librarian).

But my political brain cell said I had to have a union on my side first.

So what is to be done?

And that is how I met Sheila Francis, and then Chanie Rosenberg.

It is also how the beginnings of rank and file groups taking up gay rights might have started?

But there were other threads. Susan Shell was sacked by Barking, a Labour, council. John Warburton was sacked by ILEA, labour controlled, and Ian Davies was sacked by Tower Hamlets, labour controlled. During the fight for re-instatement, and the case of Ian Davies was won, was begat Gay Rights at Work, and the pamphlet exists, I have a copy.

At some stage during all this, I can remember standing outside union conferences, handing out leaflets and pink post cards, speaking at fringe meetings. At some point, policy changed. ASTMS, COHSE, NUPE, I have memories of, NUT and NATFHE not, and there must have been others, for by the time of the Miners' strike, a group of gays in support of the miners had the support of the miners with the famous pink van. Standing outside the Coleherne of a Friday evening with a bucket happened many times.

Somewhere in this period there was also the fight against the National Front, which took the form of street fighting with the police. I can remember Lewisham, and a young Andy Strouthous' expression, when to a group of us he said, "stick together" and Rex, tall and languid, with his hand behind his head, said, "Stick together, darling, we fuck together".

Near Trafalgar Square I can remember being pinned against a wall by policeman determined to stop us, around whose shoulders I threw my arms and on whole face I planted a kiss; the shock of which so dislocated his police mind that their line broke.

The sequence of getting motions through union branches, whether it started with NALGO, perhaps Lionel Starling might have remembered, but he doesn't or John McKay, but he can't.

And this gets me to point number one.

People make history in conditions not of their own making, because you have to have space to keep the filing cabinets. There is no consistent record of this period.

The Communist Party or some of its members have claimed, at meetings of the London Metropolitan Archive, that their organisation was the first to support gay rights. This is simply not true, but their archives are in the LMA.

Which gets me to the title.

This was the headline, either chosen by Cliff, or by a sub editor, for an article in Socialist Worker, accompanying another partly written by John Rose, which was I think the first time the policy adopted some years earlier was actually implemented and explained. It was later re-used in a pamphlet, the Word is Gay, and appeared later in one of his collections. The only reason I know all this now, is that the Marxism.org archive has it, and I found it by searching for something else quite accidently.

So the Internet is my second point.

There were not only trades unions.

There were also professional associations, such as the Library Association, and these are the bodies which sort out things like the Dewey Classification. They also defend stocking policy, in the light of the 1948 statement in the UN declaration of Human Rights on access to information and freedom of expression.

This meant two policy issues: do you defend the freedom of expression of the National Front to kill the queers, or the Opus Dei minister or her leader in pink slippers with a long lacy frock, that we will burn in hell, or do you oppose, or do you argue for a balanced view of heaven and hell? Or do you argue for a promotion of gay liberation and an opposition to opposition?

This isn't an easy one.

But it was one.

Whereas the allocation of the dewey 6 number, a medical model approach, rather than a 3 number, a social life choice was easier to oppose, though the medical profession opposed our intervention.

So 306 it is.

The trades unions and the professional associations meant that quite a lot of Labour Party activists were hearing the argument too.

And I am sure there were many gay labour party activists who were in their own world making the argument. Some of these appeared in Gay Left, which is now available on the Internet. So something may be in record.

There was also the International Gay and Lesbian Association (or it might have been the other way round) in which the argument for the workplace fell on ears deeply desirious of not hearing it, for Dutch and Norwegian social democrats seemed to have more to do with talking with churches. But the argument of South Africa and Anti Apartheid, they denied less easily.

On the committee of the Anti Apartheid movement, I had found the argument about the role of trades unions and the workplace, and gay liberation, uphill against Stalinists, which is partly why I think the CP hadn't been turned round by that point, or the AAM, or the ANC. But by the time of Mandela's release, something had changed.

But this is turning into a book rather than a comment on Colin's strange exclusions. And it will never be despatched should I continue. I append instead what could be the framework for another article on which he could work, in order that the record of people changing the world, whether or not they take power, may be more accurately estimated.

Yours with the usual



John Lindsay

Lindsay@king.ac.uk



Socialists must support gays

This was the title Cliff or a sub-editor gave to an article in Socialist Worker, and in the pamphlet, the Word is Gay. This comes from looking through his archive on a web site.

We then take the term and google. His is the only direct hit, so he is the only one in print who has used this expression. It has never been cited.

His material doesn't appear in google scholar. Getting HistMat in?

But the reason for raising it is Wilson in ISJ 2007

In which there is an extraordinary gap in history.

We need to amass the argument.

Trades Unions

By the time of AIDS?

Gay Liberation - Saturday demonstration; Monday - why can't Mondays be like Saturdays?

Coming out at work.

Trades Unions

Rank & File

Branch meeting, not in workplace but at County Hall.

Professional grouping, librarians

NALGO

NUT

NUPE, COHSE, ASTMS

NATFHE - Gay Left Collective

Archives and knowledge organisation

Many dead

CP - archives

Sackings - Susan Shell, John Warburton, Ian Davies, some written up in Gay Rights at Work, GRAW, and the Word is Gay.

Motions to trades union branches

Pink postcards

Fellow workers on strike? I simply now can't remember - Ian Davies?

Ted Heath cottaging, Privy Council, Prime Minister, Ian Harvey.

Bishop of Llandaff

1967 Tower Hamlets National Seamen, according to exhibition in Liverpool

Explain Wilson's gap?

grep gay google isj, sr, respect socialists and gay liberation wikipedia

autonimisti Tatchell

collective, collection, potatoes

meeting Malet St. Gay Pride March

Posters, leaflets for marches over several years

Women's Voice, not Gay Voice

Gays Against the Nazis

Right to Work campaign, Brighton, Smiths Gay News

John Deason, Ralph Darlington?

Lewisham - police - Andy Strouthous

Strand - police - NF

East London Gay Centre, East London Faggots, squatting - Tolmers Square

Sexual politics conference, Bethnal Green Library and City London Poly, News of the World, Noel halifax, catering.

Gay Librarians Group, Library Association, stock policy, socialists get stuff into libraries - now Tower Hamlets - professionals, democratic and accountable - Lenin and Trotsky on reading and libraries - art and culture - Freud and sexuality

ANL - Tom Robinson

Cliff - supporting Tom Robinson - Glad to be gay, we are all - they are welcome

Turn away, hold the party together

Anti Apartheid - Stalinists

IGLA - social democrats, churches

GLF - Switchboard - Caledonian Rd. - office collective leaflets

People make history in conditions not of their own making

Dominant ideas of ruling class

change the world without taking power

denial, lying, trivialising, ignoring, not knowing

Gareth Jenkins on Genet

Anti apartheid pamphlet

Sikhs




With enemies like us?

or

Here it comes

or Gay Liberation, old and fat?

John Lindsay

1. Introduction

Friday

Pop into Clone Zone to pick up a copy of Simon Edge's book I've heard about. More than the Clone Zone! Never heard of it. Not much into books really. Pick up a little stringy thing which might just protect me from a nudism charge in the wrong place.

Gays the Word - there it is, in piles, on the desk. Scamper up to Hampstead, Louis' for some tart, a sparkling mineral water, then off to my favourite corner of the Heath where I can get undressed in the glorious sun, read and watch. Couple having it off in a corner; position myself far enough away not to intrude and begin the read.

"By spending their time denouncing 'separatism' lesbians and gay men on the far left are not only playing into the hands of the homophobes: they are also denying a painfully small lesbian and gay movement their considerable energies. At a time of political turmoil in the gay community, that movement needs their constructive input." Well, Simon, here it comes.

It isn't just the gay community: Major has announced his resignation as leader of the Tory party. We could be into an interesting time! If there is a Labour Government then we'll need to be prepared to fight even more and I suspect that leaders of the gay movement who have illusions in Labour will then be arguing "don't wriggle or you'll get the tories back!" just like last time.

To the Anvil. Interesting party for Pride, 'til I see the advert in the toilet for slaves to be paid for the night. Does that change things? The bloke being caned isn't doing it entirely for his fun, but for the money? isn't that rather a slippery slope to Blade Runner? New role for Big Issue sellers?

Saturday

Gay Pride: By Victoria Park I'm cold. The walk from Mile End brought back memories: I'd been involved in the East London Gay Centre, a squat in Redmans Rd., from 1975 and had been the Socialist Workers Party (in future SWP) district organiser during the battles against the Nazis in Brick Lane, so know the area well. There seem to be high blue barriers everywhere: what on earth do people need quite so much channelling for? Protect the traffic from them? It is difficult to work out whether the housing indicates a rise or fall in standards of living? But a lot have been destroyed, fine early 19th century terraces now a rather unremarkable, bleak, park along the canal.

Walking towards the park feel that tightening in my throat and tear behind my eye whenever I'm among a lot of enthusiastic gay people, that sense of something I'm a part of and the knowledge of how little a part of it I am.

Into the park: buy another t- shirt - might warm me up. Barcodes as a design motif rather strange - they are the mundane basics of much of my work!

Whole pigs being roasted on spits - that'll upset someone! Wander round trying to work out from first principles where the bush bunnies will congregate, always an interesting exercise in sexual geography. Reckon I've spotted the place - corner of a rather tatty garden, with what looks like paths into the bushes: wonder whether this is a usual cruising ground? Spot on.

Pick up a copy of Colin Wilson's Socialists and Gay Liberation, out today. Read it later, worthy, but not dealing with Simon's points. I must still write.

Walking away from the Park, feel that sense of anomie I always feel leaving a gay event...how short a time the collectiveness will last. By Waterloo I'm alone, and beginning to feel my t-shirt. Take it off? Chances of trouble? Nope, never given in before, not going to start now. I wonder how many of them will be worn to work on Monday? Or even where you were on Saturday? It was that distinction between the gay liberation activity on the Saturday, and school on Monday, that got me into politics.

Sunday

Pull out the powerbook to begin to write. This is going to be unapologetically autobiographical, and self indulgent. But Simon has introduced no new theory: just anecdote. So it must be replied to with anecdote, and we all each have our own.

A fortnight later

I've been in France. Haven't noticed that Capital Gay has folded. Power of the proprietor, power of the market, suddenly the gay movement loses the closest thing it had to a forum and Simon his job.

Off to Marxism '95, the SWP annual ideafest, probably 10,000 people discussing the whole range of politics - quite invigorating. But by the end of the evening the old problem - how do I find the one person with whom it would be fun to spend the night?

Someone mentions that there isn't just Edge, but three in a series. The pile I'd seen at Gay's the Word wasn't a big pile of Edge, but three different piles: Woods and Tatchell as well. Good grief. This is going to turn into a nightmare. Buy Woods. At the Marxism bookstall find Nicola Field has "Over the rainbow: money, class and homophobia" published by Pluto. Buy Field.

Off to the Bears' night at the Empire. Here the other side of the problem - how do I find someone here who I'm interested in talking with as well as spending the night? The level of chitchat in comparison with that at Marxism is depressing. But bump into Ali, haven't seen him in ages. He's been off with PCP. First I'd heard.

Read Woods on the train home. This is unspeakable bullshit. Makes Simon sound like he is still a member of the SWP. This sort of mumbo jumbo just isn't worth replying to - it is at the level of an email message on the Internet - there are millions of them - the cheapening of the costs of publishing - on this basis everyone on the planet will write books and it will be impossible to decide whether anything is worth reading.

Off to Queen's Promenade. Thank heavens for Queens' Promenade! It is the first nice warm night of the year. Brings out all the twinkies. Amazing how their gaydars work in complete darkness. They can spot an old fat man at a hundred paces. Clutter forms in the cottage, scratching of piglets I think Plato called it. Then off to bed, not fulfilled, but satisfied.

2. A healthy start?

Simon makes in a very clear few paragraphs a description of the fundamentals of Marxism which is simple and effective. But he doesn't go anywhere far enough.

He leaves out alienation. The result of having no alternative to selling your labour power is that you experience the product of your work as something estranged, or other, to you. You see the process of work, the people you work with and then yourself as alienated, as estranged other. The vast majority of us are in this position. This is the key to working class: not a sociological distinction between whether you drink from a jar or a mug!

If you cannot sell your labour power, you are unemployed, you are completely powerless, without the social structure of the workplace.

If you carry your day tools with you, now predominantly as a "knowledge worker", journalist, television, computers, you have a slightly different relationship from the manual worker who has only strength of muscle and no tools, but even that distinction of "manual" and "white collar" is exaggerated.

The next point Simon misses is commodity fetishism. The consequence of alienated production and labour markets, of being alienated from the product of your labour, is that everything produced in markets is a commodity, and a fetishised one. This is true not only bread and beer, but of sex and love too. If the existence of gay men has been defined for us by what we do with our bodies, it is not surprising that it is our bodies and their decoration and presentation, and our dicks and what we do with them, which is so important.

From commodity fetishism comes the construction of desire. Marx remarks at the end of the introduction to Grundrisse that it is not surprising that ancient Greece constructed the theory of beauty that it did: what is surprising is that has shaped ours ever since. Leaving aside his Eurocentrism, it is an endless mystery to me how hard wired I am in what turns me on, and how difficult I have always found to change it, even when I've wanted to.

Then there is the methodological issue of what Marx called historical materialism, not taught in British universities' philosophy departments I suspect. It draws on Aristotle's syllogism, through Hegel, and stands in counterpoint to Cartesian, analytical, deductive logic.

As presented by Engels in Anti During, there are three components - the negation of the negation, quantity into quality and unity of opposites - then explain significance.

But most important to us, is a consequence of all this: that the classes are forced endlessly to fight. The ruling class is forced to try to drive up the rate of exploitation through competition and the working class is forced to fight to avoid immiseration and poverty. This fight has always to potential to show in practice the implications of the theory: that the working class must collectivise in order to win, and that this shows the possibility for socialism.

But then Simon does not go on and discuss the limits to Marxism: what it is not competent to discuss. I don't rely on theory to clear my blocked drains, I use a plumber (though theory might help me to understand the plumber's relationship to the job, pay, and even me leering at him under the sink). Some Marxists would have argued that all three the points above lie outside what marxism is competent to talk about.... that private life does not have structures which are generated in the political domain. That is what "the personal is political" meant: that we are not self creating, self realising, individuals, but that we are a social product. "People make history, but in conditions not of their own making", as Marx phrased it.

And thereby lies the rub. What I call the be, do am, problem. Homosexuality as a category of people, rather than a name for an act, appears to be constructed in Western European urban society in the latter part of the nineteenth century. If that category had not been created, would we not exist? Or is there a hard wired code after all - the gay gene is not the 501? Or was it my mummy after all that made me one? Or am I only one if I accept and identify? There cannot be a gay false consciousness for you are not one until you name yourself as one? This will be important for an autonomous movement.

Tactically correctly the gay movement presented str8s with the proposition: We don't need to define or justify our existence, you are the problem. But understanding the social construction of the phenomenology of homosexuality, heterosexuality, gender, childhood and family doesn't answer my question why I was so lucky?

But my individual behaviour is not the matter: the matter is the social and political structures which frame it in a certain way. If those structures did not exist how different would I be? At what point would the phenomenon of heterosexuality or homosexuality go away?

None of this, dear Simon , was eagerly taken on board by the far left! We worked it out for ourselves. The sexual politics conference of the International Socialists (precursors of the SWP) discussed it all in the Bethnal Green library. Much of it had been in Don Milligan's Politics of homosexuality, some in Gramsci's Nuove ordine in 1921, some in Reich, and all that we'll come back to later.

Then Simon goes on to correctly point that there is a difference between having a good theory and knowing how to apply it. Quite. That is precisely the reason for the revolutionary party.. Though he rather does blot his copy book by suggesting that "revolutionary social change becomes a highly attractive option (as long as there is some realistic chance of achieving it). There is no realistic change Simon: it is essential, for otherwise the barbarism will drag us into a dark age and possibly the end of human life.

This leads us revolutionaries to a problem: Reform and revolution. If in fighting for a reform, it is achieved, then the need for revolution becomes less, and therefore the original project is diminished. So every time the system proves capable of reform, and we prove capable of winning one, Portugal, Greece, Spain, South Africa, then the necessity of revolutionary change seems less urgent.

Which raises the issue of whether the system is infinitely adjustable and flexible, whether we are doomed like the sorcerer's apprentice ever to be sweeping the flood faster and faster to compete, to accumulate, to maximise the profits? I don't think so, but I also recognise that the dominant ideas of the period are those of its ruling class, and the chance of us agreeing enough to fight united is slight. But I also think that the crises in the system, which appear to come from no where, like Bosnia, or Chernobyl, or John Major's election bid are driven by structures which are capable of being understood. The market is conscious people doing conscious things, not a meteorological blind hand. We are capable of organising resources to dispose of the misery and brutality of the world we live in"; much worse, if we fail, it will increase.

Now that assertion is endlessly disproven by the incidentals, and Jeremiah like predictions which don't become true are less and less attractive as I grow older. The trouble is that whenever crisis does break, it is then too late to build the party. That was the lesson of August 1914 in Germany. Could be the lesson now in France with the fascists getting nearly 20% of the vote. A crisis is what presents anyone when made redundant. Fighting for jobs might seem a long way from global doom, but politics is not like saving for a rainy day, or "keeping your powder dry", the metaphor of every labour party and trade unionist bureaucrat when faced with a fight. It is more like aerobics: you have to continually do it and if you do enough you can achieve a balance. Finding that balance is the hard bit.

This leaves us with two questions. Was gay oppression inevitable? Simon makes a mistake in his account of the link between capitalism and the family. He says the nuclear family is the only possible domestic arrangement (or he says Marxism says that). I don't that proposition is true. There have been many arrangements, apartheid in South Africa, miners in compounds returning once a year, immigrant labour all over the world. It is just that the nuclear family happens to play a number of roles about price of labour in the market, intellectual lessons on social relations, and imitating a class which had to control its sexuality in order to guarantee the transfer of property relations through inheritance.

None of that works any more, nor is necessary. Gay oppression I suspect was in some part an accident, and capitalism can profit without it. Though there is a particularity to imperialism for Britain, France, Netherlands, Belgium and Germany in how they defined the imperial power's relation with the native (least so in the case of France - a relation never defined in the same way by Spain or Portugal.)

So if there was no necessary structure between gay oppression or the family and capitalism, capitalism could be reformed away without having to undergo structural change. In the process it would incorporate the reforming agent in its own image. Thus from gay liberation begat the pink economy and municipal socialism and adverts in Capitalist Gay.

But there is an important link to be made between self oppression and class oppression. Coming out to myself is an important part of my construction of a gay identity. That self liberation I can achieve, by and large, within the boundaries of my own head. But coming out to others is a social and political act: it is about power in society. If there is systematic oppression, of the type and level in Iran now, rather than in Britain now, then there is a different political space and people will respond differently. The organised form of the gay movement is then a relationship between the collective organisation of groups of gay people and other political groups, of which the structured forms of the State are the most important.

Does there remain a link between gay liberation and socialism? Yes, for what remains is alienation and commodity fetishism. Which means we cannot be free (even in Engel's meaning of a recognition of necessity). Now it might be that beer at two quid a pint in Old Compton St., and an e at Fridge is as much freedom as anyone needs. But it might not!

So it isn't a matter that gay liberation is less important than socialism: you can't have one without the other. You can't have an alienation free love without a society free of alienation, and that society cannot be free of alienation if there is alienated love.

What it is though, is a debate about how this is to be achieved, so if we are agreed on the common enemy, and the common target, we have to consider how we are to succeed in our common purpose. The we can more clearly see where the reform and revolution quandary gets us. For if the prospect of love is in my lap, then I am unlikely to risk it for something more abstract. We want bread and roses, and we want them now!

And if the argument is presented that achieving the target means doing a whole load of unpalatable things, like standing outside factories or on street corners, which also means taking my love out of my lap, it is unsurprising that the relationship between short term pain and long term gain becomes a rhetorical one.

So we move onto how this target is to be achieved, which means moving to another chapter. But before we get there, we have to dispose of three red herrings.

3. Acting straight?

3.1 Britain

Simon's description of coming out and joining the SWP is quite different from mine. I'd been part of the GLF office collective, been one of the first members of Gay Switchboard, done a BBC TV programme on cottaging while working in a secondary school in East London and begun the process of raising gay rights at work in my union. Three things got me into the International Socialists. I saw them are work: they could just argue and organise better in my union, against the Communist Party, and various groups in the Labour Party. I saw them organise battles against the nazis, when people turned up at the time they said they would, with the intention of doing what they'd decided to do. But it was also the disintegration of GLF into an unspeakable organisational shambles, where what needed doing, like organising for gay rights at work or stopping the nazis, just wasn't getting done.

It was the counterpoint between the Saturday fun and the Monday work which made clear to me that I had to come out at work: I couldn't handle the contradictions. But to come out at work I had to have the defence of my union. And that could not be taken for granted. It had to be built.

But it wasn't actually just those three things: they fought for my membership. They argued with me on every point. After we started the East London Gay Centre we had considerable difficulties with local nazis and the strategy and tactics of how to fight, their arguments were invaluable. The local pub on the corner was the problem. Avoid it, sneak past, keep the lights off? No - most people in there are not antagonistic, it is only a minority. Go and put in a leaflet. Gulp. But that is what we did, evening after evening. The people in the pub were not antagonistic by and large. It was a minority who were then isolated and the attacks fell away.

I joined the IS, knowing the point Simon makes about the article from 1957, but I joined despite, as I' accepted the political and organisational argument. I also knew what had happened to Bob Kant, and before that to Don Milligan. I must admit though that I found no homophobia! On the contrary the antagonism I experienced was from the gay movement about becoming a socialist.

When we organised the second or third sexual politics conference the News of the World sent in an undercover reporter who produced the front page of "The evilest man in Britain" (plus photo!) That afternoon the comrades selling the Socialist Worker had to deal with the argument on doorsteps on estates all around Britain. They had to deal with it whether they'd thought about it before or not.

But when considering the experience of gay men in left organisations, Simon has a tendency to rather shunt us all together, from someone who, like Bob, had been in IS, to someone like Derek Cohen who might never have been in an organisation or John Johnson who might be in the Labour Party.

There are two shadows over the left in Europe: Stalinism and labourism or reformism. Each of them required convolutions in order to remain a member and defend your idea of socialism. They have been lengthily discussed elsewhere, but those tortuous convolutions were precisely what 1968 gave people a chance of breaking away from. In the period up until about 1974 there was an increase in class struggle throughout Europe. It was in that period that the GLF came from nowhere onto the streets. (We'll have to consider later the link between the two events: were they co-incidental?)

So when Derek says the struggle for Socialism has faired less well than for Gay Liberation, it rather depends what you mean by socialism, and what you mean by gay liberation? If by socialism you meant centralised state planning, state capitalism of the stalinist kind, then that project has disintegrated, as the early founders of the IS argued in the 1940s it would. If you mean the third world versions which passed for development or national liberation, then they too founded, as IS argued in the 1960s they would. If by socialism you mean building houses in Hackney or appointing equal opportunity officers in local government, then it founded as reforms will do in a crisis.

If by gay liberation you mean 100,000 on a march, hundreds of bars, designer clothes, then we have been extremely successful. Though my memory of building the first information system for gay switchboard tells me there are more pubs in London now, but fewer towns with them than then!

But in dealing with acting straight, I have to return to Simon's introduction, where he says the project isn't working. I think what he meant was that gay activists are wasting their time in the real world. I must return to my workplace. Unison had a stall on the Gay Pride march. Excellent. But how many of their members know about it? How does someone working in a borough council in deepest Surrey know, or care? What needs to be done is something which will link together workers in the area who want to come out at work, but don' t have the confidence. That shouldn't be too difficult to organise, so lets get it done, just to show how.

But actually I can do that, only because precisely the success of the project. I wonder Simon, whether you just don't know about it? Susan Shell, Judith Williams, Ian Davis, ..... do these names mean anything to you? After John Warburton was sacked from the Inner London Education Authority, despite a fight, a group of us decided this was never to happen again. A pamphlet was written, then Susan Shell was sacked. That was the mechanism for an assault on the Labour Party and on NALGO, then systematically on other unions, getting motions raised and passed, onto agendas, forcing the pace. Everywhere rank and file trade unionists who were not gay but who were politically motivated would support.

I think we can safely say that by the time the AIDS issue became significant, the unions had been won to a position of defending gay rights at work. very few lesbians or gay men are ever sacked for being gay, and anyone who is prepared to fight will find support

Now it can correctly be argued that employers don't need to sack people for being gay, as they can do it easily anyhow, which brings me to the Right to Work Campaign! This ran for about five years during the Labour Government of Wilson and Callaghan in order to try to wield together organised workers in their workplaces and the unemployed. It worked mainly through a series of very long marches, funded by factory collections. The marchers were organised off the dole queues. And queerbashing, along with racism and sexism was not tolerated. A stage further. During the Mary Whitehouse campaign against Gay News and the WHSmith boycott we marched to their shops and leafleted, right in the middle of Brighton I remember. This meant all the marchers had to be able to explain what they were doing, and I don't remember it being difficult to explain.

Shall we have some more? How about the Anti Nazi League? From its founding attacks on gays, the nazis on gays, were part of the material produced. Gay signatories to the documents, gays against the nazis badges, collections outside gay bars signing up as members, then Tom Robinson on the Carnival and tens of thousands signing "Glad to be gay" in Victoria Park. They were liberated by the experience. Fighting the nazis could go a long way!

I'm surprised Simon didn't mention Womens Voice. This is usually part of the sarcophagus. Womens Voice had been founded to provide a forum for women inside IS, then it was launched as a monthly to take IS politics into the womens movement. At about the same time there were twenty odd rank and file papers and a stack of papers aimed at ethnic groups - black, cypriot, bangladeshi and so forth.

All the activities I've described were happening at about the same time. The perspective of the IS after 1974 had been that there would be a honeymoon with labour, then the working class would return to the offensive. Building a revolutionary party was on the agenda and in 1977 the name was changed with a vision of 30,000 members. This didn't happen. The working class didn't go on the offensive. Instead it was lead to defeat after defeat by a social contract, by trade union officials saying that now there is a Labour Government. Visions of the future, Bobby Pickering.

This culminated in the winter of discontent then the election of Thatcher. Our demand in the public sector union was 35 hour week for 60. In practice we were hopelessly optimistic. The defeats were cumulative and substantial. A major row broke out inside the SWP. We'd been distorted by the success of the ANL, Tom Robinson's periphery wasn't ours (to use Cliff's expression) and we were nothing like large enough to make a difference in the thousands of workplaces where it counted.

As the victorious Thatcher implemented her agenda, unemployment rocketed (remember the posters - Labour isn't working, Tories never have?) and there was no fight. Area after area of struggle disintegrated. The row in the party became more hard as we had to accept failure after failure and recognise that the outward going perspective was presenting people with targets which could not be met and holding the centre was the crucial issue.

We closed down everything except Socialist Worker and the Journal. We closed down branches and amalgamated into large. Education and holding the centre together was the essential to the survival of the organisation. Womens Voice went in the process. There was an argument about how it was taking women out of the SWP rather than bring them in, but this was relatively unimportant in comparison with getting a proper perspective on the argument for socialism.

Then came the Falklands war. Foot, the Labour Party, even Benn capitulated. Would we have survived if we hadn't made the change?

I'm also surprised Simon hasn't mentioned the SWP gay group? We formed it after the sexual politics conference and met frequently, organising interventions around gay pride marches (which in those days usually meant ending up on the road outside a police station rather than partying in a park) and inside the SWP.

After conference voted policy on gay rights, let us not pretend that everything just fell into place. It took nine months to get the where we stand column changed in Socialist Worker. Meetings had to be organised at Skegness and Marxism. They didn't just happen! Ideas had to be hammered out and carried into branches. Branches had to be convinced to hold meetings. As long as it appeared too philosophical to lead to practical activity it was difficult, but by the time of Mary Whitehouse's attack on Gay News, the argument had been won. It was the SWP that mobilised, not the Gay Group.

When Women's Voice was launched, some of the gay comrades argued we should have a Gay Voice. I argued against it, that we were too small, that the gay movement wasn't growing politically. I won and we didn't. Noise filled the vacuum, and out of that was built the gay presence in the RCP.

Were we wrong on two counts? We moved inwards too far and we abandoned whole areas of activity in order to survive? I'm inclined to think that is the case: we moved inwards too far and gave up things we didn't need to. But had we not, we cannot estimate the consequences.

Were we wrong to close down the group? The argument is slightly more complicated as it involves a further point (which was also made about Womens Voice: that the oppression of women, gays, blacks, has to be fought by the whole organisation and not just those groups). If specialist groups existed then work in those areas would be left up to them, and the party would become a federation of different groups arguing the relative significance and autonomy of their particular oppressions.

But in practice it meant that areas didn't have the attention paid to them they needed. I wonder whether if the group had existed Simon would have found coming out on the scene easier and staying in the party likewise? Or if he'd met me he'd have run a mile anyhow?

3.2 South Africa

If the details of activity in Britain seem rather small stuff on the great movement of world affairs, perhaps what has happened in South Africa might be rather more important?

A history will need to be written, and preferably before it is inevitably rewritten in the process of change. But I know nothing of the early gay rights movements in South Africa. I know all gay acts were illegal and that from my schooldays I experienced homophobia in all manner of ways, though now they are remembered through the filters of everything which has happened since.

My first job after coming out of (not in!) the army was in Durban Municipal Library, and there I found the bulletins of the Freedom Trials of the 1950s, roneod and stapled in a pamphlet box. Dilemma of librarian. The only reason I found them was they'd not been catalogued. If I catalogued them, then they'd be destroyed; if I didn't, perhaps they'd never be found again. Smith and 1984.

One of my jobs was checking the Government Gazette against the catalogue in order that banned publications could be removed and destroyed. Talk about pig in shit. This meant I could get to Films & Filming, which arrived in the post, before the Government Gazette, and see the pictures of those formative films, If, Women in Love, Cabaret. Even more, we were able to organise politically by getting copies of the films and showing them against sheets in rooms of people's houses. "Fuck Max. I have. So have I." My first open acknowledgement after Michelangelo's God creating Adam.

With the marvels of hindsight, I managed to get all my timing completely wrong. I left South Africa in 1973, just before the upsurge of strikes of the Durban dockworkers, and after the high point of the 1968 boom in struggle in Europe, missing both.

The ideas of the gay liberation front were slow to catch on! Early issues of Gay News arrived. There was a gay club, a cruising area for late at night, and a beach. White gay men in small social scenes showed all the variety of political opinion. When I returned in 1989 the broad shape of the argument hadn't changed. When the Gay Association of South Africa had tried to join the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), the shape hadn't changed.

The dominant position was that being gay had nothing to do with politics, that it was about being oneself. (I'm leaving out all the self oppressors who didn't consider themselves to be part of a gay "community"? did we have the word? no - scene I think remains the better word, though even that over-organised.) Indeed dominantly they supported broadly policy on apartheid, racism being congenital. A smaller group took the position that you had to be progressive as black oppression shared something with gay oppression. A small minority the position that you couldn't be liberated as a homosexual without the removal of apartheid. I drew the conclusion that that would have to be the act of the blacks themselves and I as a white would only get in the way, so I left.

When I revisited in 1989, just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, I found these three positions still in place, and entrenched. The wealth of the whites and the availability of air travel and television had increased their cosmopolitan experience and given them a gay awareness, but increased also their separateness from blacks. But a political community had emerged from oppression and formed links. And there was a black gay consciousness from the townships with a further complexity of the position of the coloureds, the Indians, and other subtle differences.

I met some of the people who were involved in the ANC, the SACP and the small trotskyist grouping as well as the autonomists. All the debates Simon's pamphlet and this one are involved in were going on. But the impact of events in Eastern Europe were the shattering ones, for the stalinists of the Communist Party and within the ANC now had a new uncertainty to deal with.

The next time I went back was just before the election which made Mandella president. Now the debate on the constitution was in full flood. The rich whities had changed their position on apartheid, but on nothing else. now their line was that of businessmen anywhere. There was a more open scene of young black men being partnered by older whites, a consequence of colonialism everywhere, but, most important for the argument of this pamphlet: the influence of out lesbians and gay men in the ANC and the SACP arguing that gay rights had to be written into the constitution. And they were successful.

How the ANC came to change its position we need to capture in some detail, as well as how far that change has actually gone in practice. Its previous position had varied from "blacks aren't homosexual" to "gay oppression is a white problem", to first the struggle against apartheid, then we'll deal with other social issues. But what seems incontrovertible is that without the involvement over a long period of time in the struggle against apartheid, the ANC wouldn't have shifted in the short period of time of radical change.

Put in Sheila's story here?*

3.3 The 1930s

Do we need to go further in showing the consequences of political activists abdicating the big world to involve themselves only in the autonomous movement? Recount Germany and Spain, 1930s - Reich and Lorca or is this enough history?*

4. Humbuggery

There is no dispute at all on the position before some time in the middle seventies. Simon selectively quotes from an article by Bob Cant in Gay Left, but not from my response. For him to insist that little has changed is different from my experience. I don't know the numbers of "the biggest exodus of gay members the party had ever suffered". I do remember the meeting at Marxism where the issue came up, and I remember my response to Chris Bamberry and remark on John Rees' leather jacket (which he has never worn since). I didn't believe then, and I don't believe now, that members of the SWP, including very experienced ones, are not capable of acting stupidly, or being politically wrong. Nor do I believe they cannot be argued against, and in the process I might have to draw the conclusion that I was wrong.

That is the nature of being in an organisation. A party consists of like minded people who assemble together to achieve a common purpose. The difficult bit is the leninist argument about democratic centralism.

Again here Simon tars with the same brush the Stalinists who staved in Trotsky's head, and the supporters or Trotsky. I can remember the story of Peter Tatchell's reception at the East German conference and the argument with gay members of the CP. But I can also remember the stupidity of Peter's position at a Moslem rally and the refusal of Capital Gay to print a letter commenting on it. Somehow or other, it is just not possible to debate, anywhere, the politics of the gay movement, of the autonomisti or the separatists, without putting oneself outside the movement. This actually reminds me of the old CP hacks in trade unions!

Nor do I understand why the SWP should be tarred with the brush of people who have stayed within the Labour Party then argued night is day in order to win a particular tactic. Since Simon mentions Clause 28, let's go back there. I remember with something approaching horror meeting after meeting trying to get people to accept the sorts of tactics which were necessary in order to win: getting NALGO to make the clause inoperable so it didn't matter what the Tories did, while having to deal with every asinine public opinion marketing mumbo jumbo imaginable, and every Labour Party farrago.

By the time of the age of consent battles...* (I think I was in the caribbean and didn't really know what was going on)

The link between working class and gay liberation is one that Simon makes much of. Part of the argument I've made already: class as a marxist construction, not a sociological one. I think there has also been a tendency to idealise 'horny handed sons of toil" throughout the middle class adventure with working class politics. There has also been a failure to recognise the restructuring of capitalism in the importance of industries such as finance, retailing, insurance, telecommunications, computer industries.

However it is even more true that the idea that the working class is the agent of change, that its collective organisation is much more stable than that of community groups, and that it is in a necessarily antagonistic relationship with capital, whereby its members are from time to time compelled to fight, is exceptional to the SWP and its tradition. We therefore have much to fight for that is not intuitively obvious and from which there are many distractions. It might be what an internal neologism calls bending the stick.

That doesn't pardon workerist cretinism, but it might help to explain it. But the result of twenty years of stick bending is that in some industries we might have a little influence. No other political party will be able to withstand Blair's attacks.

It seems we can't win: if we can build something effectively, it is just for our own purposes, if we can't, then we are abandoning a struggle. Ho hum - twas always so, and likely to get worse.

The attacks by black reggae groups is a more thorny one to deal with, as is Muslim fundamentalism. There is no necessary connection between being oppressed and seeing the link between your oppression and that of other oppressed groups. Forging that link is precisely a task of the revolutionary party.

When groups of black kids engage in a rampage of queerbashing they have to be stopped. But black anger aimed at us is not the same as the white attacks of organised nazis, though the point might appear academic when the knife is in your liver (or mine in this case.)

But how a black member of the SWP active in that community deals with it is different from how I have to argue in the gay one. I cannot function effectively within the black community. This is the point of detail which flows from my earlier point that the SWP doesn't want to federalise. Inside the gay community the major issue is racism. I have had so many arguments in places like the Colherne that I have actually stopped talking to people, so that if someone starts a conversation I can at least get out by saying "You started the conversation, not me"! I can remember the arguments about nazi insignia, and I suspect it'll return in another post modern guise the next time there is an upsurge of racism, either with Redwood or Blair in government.

How are Muslims who are attracted by the ideas of fundamentalism and who think they are gay, pulled or convinced by the arguments they hear and the siren call of separatism?

Should Gay News*, White rollers and other class collaborations come in here?

There is a similarlity between the idea of gay separatism and an autonomous movement and the idea of the national liberation struggle which so distorted the thinking of the left from the 1950s onwards. Their leaders and their ideas seem to share the same.*

There are though four issues of principle where the left and the gay community share confusion.

Promiscuity

The SWP isn't at ease with this. It might be residual judeo-christian potty training. But the much repeated story of cottaging at Skegness isn't apocraphyl. And cottaging at marxism would be regarded bleakly. Partying in the sauna would be like farting in it!

But in defending its own, the gay movement hasn't stood up very well. Raids on bars and baths haven't produced the outrage and riots they should have done. Attacks on cruising areas by queerbashers don't produce a collective vfightback. The gay movement is a collection, not a collective.

Pornography

There have been debates from time to time, and no tradition of campaigning against censorship. In part this starts from the oppression of women in heterosexual pornography, in part from the alienation of which porn is a result. But against the state the SWP has always come down on freedom. This seems to me to not go far enough. It raises an argument on what is called pre-figurative forms!

The idea of a pre-figurative form, is that you can build little models of life in socialism in the here and now. From Owenite factories to Carpenterian relations it is attractive? But can I do it on my own? If socialists can drive motor cars because public transport is so awful, surely I can have porn because sex is unavailable. I have to live with the alienation! Most of the gay world would laugh at anyone agonising over porn.

But the autonomous movement hasn't been much better. When John of Cecil Court was raided, gay Rights at Work convinced him that a demonstration at the court and fighting was better than caving in. he had a right to work like any other bookseller. But despite leafleting widely, the demonstration was a complete failure.

Prostitution

If porn is a problem, revolutionaries and prostitution ups the stakes. There has never been any doubt about defending prostitutes against the state, or on their right to organise as workers. But paying someone for sex?

Paedophilia

The position of revolutionaries is that there cannot be an age on consent imposed by the state. We recognise that children are sexual from birth, and that sexuality is a social construction. All sexual relations are about power. But the power of adults over children is the most institutionalised. In particular the power of a father over his daughter.

But this isn't what is meant by paedophilia.

Child abuse

The gay movement hasn't been very good on child sex at all. In fact not only cowardly, but worse: sacrifice the minority to protect the rest of us.

The overwhelming ideal of beauty is youth, so where the borderline is drawn, puberty, 16, 18 or 21 is rather arbitrary, so there seems to be a touch of false consciousness as well.

Are there any further dragons to be slain?*

5. The Big Lie?

This is simultaneously the most important and least important chapter of Simon's polemic.

It is the least important for the details of the Bolshevik law changes are broadly probably right, and we will have difficulty ever finding out what was actually happening on the ground or on the mattresses. Antagonistic attacks are usually from émigrés who are in any event opposed to the revolutionary enterprise.

It is also well known how quickly the revolution degenerated into Stalinism, at the assaults it had to face from white armies, blockades, and the destruction of the war.

So how far the civil endeavour progresses will be difficult to measure while the viciousness of the Stalinist attack must indicate that there was something which needed attacking if the purity of mother russia was to be regained.

The most important point though is that what Simon is throwing out is the idea that when the mass of the people become the active agents of their own liberation, then the change is most complete. When they are then defeated, the counter revolution and its backlash is the more viscous. This was true of 1848, of the Paris Commune, as well as of 1917. Napoleon threw out the anti gay clauses of french law and nothing appears in the code Napoleon. But that is not the same thing. Bernstein campaigned against article 175, but he was an architect of the reformist position which led to Kautsky's capitulation on war credits to the Kaiser.

I think there is a degree of selectivity in the discussion of sources too. For example the writings in Gramsci's Ordine Nouvo by Sylvia Pankhurst, translated into Italian, does not get a mention, yet she discusses the whole gamut of personal and social relations. There is no mention of Reich and the Austrian sexpol movement, right through til his and its defeat at the hands of Stalin, after which he went decidedly loopy.

Lorca and Spanish Civil war? Any others?

And I do hope we aren't being tarred with the brush of the German Communist Party in the 1930s for not defending Hirschfelt? Though if I want to rub salt in a wound, I have an horrifying photograph of a gay bar in Germany, the windows covered in swastikas. It was taken before the nazis came to power and was decorated either because the owners wanted to curry favour, or because they actually were supporters! With friends like these, Magnus, who indeed has need of enemies?

It is the victors of history who write it. We'd never know much about what ordinary people are doing between the sheets or behind the coalshed. All our understandings about sex in history are piecemeal and we will benefit from more but I think Simon is losing the point if he is confusing the writing of histories with what happened in history.

6. What is to be done?

Now Simon is at his weakest. Suddenly the vigour of polemic mutes into spaces for debates! As is clear, I think everything is rather more important. So what is to be done by whom?

6.1 Sex

I hold this truth to be self evident: that in the pursuit of human happiness, I have a right to hold, with strength and tenderness and affection. and be held. The only difficulty is how this right is to be exercised.

6.1.1 Rape

This seems the most likely prospect. It will require a motorbike, probably a gun, and at least one collaborator! The only trouble is that strength, tenderness and affection have to be freely given and reciprocated, so outside a small subset of theatrical opportunities this option has to be ruled out.

6.1.2 Rent

With a variety of Big Issue sellers, this should be an increasingly available option. Despite an understanding in the abstract though of commodity fetishism, I find the idealised fantasy which forms the basis of this right an impenetrable impediment to pleasure via this device. It might be that through dinners and opera the conceit might be maintained but I fear the reality of a commercial transaction along with work to rule and the opposite of performance related pay makes this a non starter until I can change my head.

6.1.3 Whistle in the dark

It is well known that poofs can't whistle, but the dark has considerable opportunities. The Anvil, Attitudes, Hampstead Heath, Queen's Promenade all provide for a suspension of disbelief which while not giving what the right demands, at least give something.

6.1.4 Mercy sex

Fuck a gift horse in the mouth.

6.1.5 Stiff upper lip

And that'll be the only thing that's stiff. In practice this is what survives every time you see that look, that dropped glance or turned away head which shows you indubitably that you are too old, fat or ugly for even a glance to be held. It hurts every time. Fuck you too.

6.1.6. Give up and wither

This I suspect is what most do as they get older. But it is not in my nature. Given what the children of '68 have achieved I suspect that we will continue to invent new devices.

What seems difficult and the stumbling block, is that construction of desire around the greek classical ideal. Yet the classical tradition does show a continual attempt to bring variation and adaptation to bear in dealing with diversity. True you have to be a god to sweep up Ganymede (see 6.1.1 - maybe becoming an eagle is the answer?), but Silenius seemed to be in on all the parties. Being rich seems to be an option, but that is ruled out by 6.1.2

6.1.7 Diversity

Yet the capacity of people to be endlessly inventive is a never ending source of amazement. The bears movement from California was a revelation to me when I came across it, then came bulk, and a rich diversity of shapes and sizes. The market, in this sense, is adaptable without limit.

Optimism of the willie!

6.2 Work

In my workplace, I have to continue much as I have done in the past. Every time management tries something which will increase our rate of exploitation they have to be opposed, in the process bringing more and newer people into political activity. Every time and opportunity presents itself for generalising politics or extending our capacity to control our own lives it has to be seized. The AGM of the Surrey Club is such an example.

The employers of the County Hall are likely to make an attempt to remove a staff club facility. This will be resisted by their employees. Staff of the borough and the University have membership, so this might pull them in too. UNISON and NATFHE have gay rights policies, though the bulk of the membership might not know about it. The staff club has sections dealing with all sorts of social things, therefore lets get our unions to tell everyone that there will be a meeting to set up a lesbian and gay section of the staff club. This will get people a chance to know one another, possibly lead to getting them together for things like gay pride.

Already my union has policy on gay rights at work - first raised that years ago. Have never been forced to test it in practice. Is that because there are no elephants on Hampstead Heath, or because the policy works?

6.3 Politics

As if all the above isn't? But it might be worth just running through some of what is going on, in order to see whether the positions being taken by Simon's autonomisti help them to decide how to act?

There are two possible positions here: that we have nothing to do with the str8 world therefore its politics are of no importance to us; and that we have to form alliances therefore should take opinions, not to buy respectability, but to hold alliances. There is of course a third: that we are part of the world, not just gay, and actually have opinions on other issues too.

As well as little matters like the election of the Tory party leader, from which most of us are disenfranchised, there are quite a few other things going on. Animal rights activists are stopping the movement of live veal; anti roads lobbyists are stopping the movement of live humans in metal boxes; the rail union ASLEF if stopping the movement of larger metal boxes joined together; the French government is destroying parts of the Pacific with nuclear tests; oh, and there is Bosnia!.

I'd guess the gay movement splits on the question of eating meat. I regard the planet as here to be engineered. Not one percent of people now alive would be if we hadn't invented all the technology which makes production possible. I'm in favour of the industrialisation of all processes which increases the wealth and well being of all people. I like veal, grilled or fried or done slowly in a white wine sauce. I don't automatically support the people trying to stop its movement, but as soon as the police and the criminal justice act are brought onto the scene, it is the force of the state against a group of people who are rebelling, and in that they will be radicalised. Therefore I'm on their side, though I'm not going to do a whole lot about it.

On the question of motor cars though, I'm much more crunchy. They are going to destroy the planet. The costs of running them in time, money and space reduce our wealth immeasurably. The politics of the tories and the road transport lobby have destroyed public transport. We have to rebuild public transport and reduce the dominance of the motor car.

Yet I suspect the gay movement will split completely over this. They are car lovers, nodding bears on the back ledge taking the place of children. The motor car is an extension of the penis, and the security of the womb. On public transport I am much more likely to endure homophobia. Getting home from a club is almost impossible.

So I'm not going to find much support in the gay world to defend public transport. I'll have to deal with normal politics!

The rail strike is not likely to rekindle the enthusiasm of lesbians and gays support the miners (LGSM). Partly this will be the fault of the railworkers themselves: no picket lines, no attempt to use their organisation to involve other workers. Partly it will be because we are inconvenienced by their dispute. There is no automatic link between the experience of lesbians and gay men and the struggle of sections of the class. This link has to be formed. British Rail has a sexual orientation policy, and there have been out ASLEF members for a long time, but the link to the movement has to be built, it isn't obvious. If the hospital workers move over their wages, the link will be easier to draw, though what it looks like might be made more convoluted according to the position taken by the AIDS industry.

On French nuclear testing and Bosnia, I can't imagine many in the gay movement see any link at all: if you are going to be a sad politico, then you are on your own.

6.4 The autonomous movement

Should I be suggesting a strategy for the autonomous movement, from which I am so divorced, yet of which I am a part?

Come out - what I wrote a long time ago in a SWP pamphlet, The Word is Gay, come out to your parents, your friends and above all at work. If you don't come out at work then that separation of your life into a private and a public will weaken your capacity to resist the assaults of your employers. Those assaults are going to
accelerate. You have to work longer, you have to work for less, you have to work harder: to this there is no limit.

Get organised.

Stop flinching in agony when someone older, fatter and uglier that you looks at you!

Queeries*, ontologies, epistomology and phKO: on the tyranny of the Subject

or, the other way round.

John Lindsay
Reader in Information Systems Design
Kingston University

Introduction

This paper is in three parts, and each part is in three parts. These may be re-organised, or colour coded. One thread deals with the knowledge organisation and information systems which are necessary to make a rhetorical position. The second deals with the tyranny of the Subject as it is constructed within the University, sometimes called discipline, or faculty. The third deals with LGBT, which I thought perhaps a type of sandwich.

The first section deals with the meeting which gave rise to this, organised at Glasgow University in November 2007, under an umbrella of Gender and Women's Studies, of Politics, of Sociology, Anthropology, Social Policy, bringing together academics, activists, administrators of LGBT.

The second deals with the silences I heard during that meeting, to which I pointed, which deal with a special type of organisation, a special knowledge of activism, and asked whether the academics were silent because they simply don't know, because they are making political choices, or whether they are denying?

The third deals with strategy and tactics, what is to be done, and by whom? I was sponsored by the University and College Union to attend the meeting, so strategy must be partly directed at and the responsibility of the Union, but also of its members. But social activism appears in all sorts of communities and the University is only one engagement.

These threads and sections need to be given illustrations, or numbers, or names, in order that they may be re-oriented according to desire for orientation.

I am going to use the string IS::KO to mean the combination of information systems and knowledge organisation which include the books in libraries, the material in galleries and museums, the archives, the scratchings of humans activity. And the computer, the new still machines, with the camera and the telephone.

phKO I am going to use a post post modernist approach to the Subject, it means politics, history, philosophy as Subjects and disciplines in the University Knowledge Organisation. After the Archeology of Knowledge and the Order of Things.

LGBT is not of my making, I am using it simply because the organisers did.

Queeries

The Queeries I have been developing for many years. They have never been bibliographied, but after the meeting I simply noted the re-occurence of some of them, in the Hunterian Gallery in Glasgow, a couple of medals recorded in the catalogue, with Winckelmann, who has been a long term one. In the National Gallery of Scotland, a new translation of Michelangelo's poems to Tommaso, and Michelangelo was next to Winckelmann in the Hunterian. In the National Gallery of Scotland, two Titian's, poesie to Philip 2. And in a bookshop I picked up a reprint from 1972 of *

Queeries are a matter of history, perhaps what is called art, but that gets us to the matter of form, of medium, and matter.

That gets us quickly to politics, and to decoration. It would be much easier if we used Dewey, than words, 306 mapping onto a variety of 7 and 9. This is where phKO meets IS::KO

The politics of national galleries and museums, of libraries, of universities have been knowingly distorting, lying, hiding, denying, trivialising, these tales since the Symposium. Unless, of course, I am wrong, and there is nothing there.

Politics and Subjects

Politics is at least not political science. When I was a student the game was played of neutrality, distance, objectivity. But now the gaze is known. Yet still the game is played. Sociology, anthropology, even more suspect, more challenged, leisure class theory, n dimensional people.

Yet there has to be a scientific method.

There has to be a standard of fact, logic, argument, and that means history, even of the most local and most recent.

That raises the universality of the particular, the connection between the moment and the couple. What is true of one place is true and not true of another, and of time.

The accounts are either in documents or in minds. Both are selective, the collection of things even more so, and their cataloguing and classification almost totally untheorised. This is IS::KO

The terms which are allocated, the concepts, renaissance, enlightenment, classical, gothic, all contain Subjects, A Blunt Dialectic. A special category is the nation, the state, the nation state. but people live in cities. It is in cities, not in nations that LGBT achieve human rights? People also live in small towns and these stories will be different, but for human rights and identify they move to cities.

Human Rights is the subject of the Glasgow meeting? The UN declaration of human rights has in section 19 the freedom of expression, and access to information. This it was possible to use with the profession of librarians but meets limits of fascism and that is politics, but it is also history, and philosophy.

"Men having sex with men." "Gender assignment at birth." "Sodomy laws." "Gross indecency." "Buggery." These were just a few groups of words I picked out during the meeting in Glasgow which are in some sense symbols. But is discourses these symbols permeate, some of them in literature, some of them in art, but isn't literature an art? So of them in courts of law, which perhaps should be regarded as literature, or art? But is it politics?

Identity is a sort of category. We might have a cultural identify, a sexual identity, gender identity, is identity a universality?

Classification

Whether one is one and all alone, or divided into two, a binary, subject, object, or a trinity, Father, Son, Ghost, Ego, Id, Superego, Or anything more complex, up to Dewey and UDC things are put into categories, history, politics, philosophy, LGBT, and these categories are only but also boxes. phKO; IS::KO

It has become possible to consider a category heteronormativity and to challenge it, that might be gender studies but it is less likely to be engineering. Norms and the normative may be challenged in film, but in chemistry?

The classification of activism will be like the classification of politics. There is representative activism, the case of Chris Smith, and there is participatory activism, the self organisation of people in groups? How would we classify the activities of Peter Tatchell, in Bermondsey in 1983? Or of Edward Carpenter in 1883.

Some of this stuff will be in archives. The National Archives and the Metropolitan London Archives have begun to play an interestingly new role. Museums and galleries are a different case. Libraries yet again. Which of these are dependent on publishers? They have their own case. How many objects are there?

Trades Unions

Now we come to the meet of the matter, how was gay liberation won?

Here is one story, but it is a particular one.

The march on the Saturday, the wearing of the "glad to be gay badge", meant it either had to stay on, or had to be taken off.

And thus comes Monday.

What is to be done?

Even the Cambridge Apostles debated why Mondays can't be like Saturdays.

It seemed that coming out was work was essential.

But that would be foolhardy without allies.

The allies would have to be the trades union.

But here comes the accident of time, and I don't think I can remember the sequence, for there was also the rank and file group, and there was the professional association. I talked with a couple of people who were connected across these, and found that there were others engaged in the same process.

Now history and memory has gone, for there are now no documents. The leaflets, the ephemera, is not collected. It had been, but that is another story. I have a memory of John Warburton being sacked, of Susan Shell, of Ian Davies. These were written up at some point in a pamphlet, The Word is Gay, and in another, Gay Rights at Work, (GRAW). There was writing in Librarians for Social Change (LfSC), and a letter in the Library Association Record, a conference, or open space gathering, at North London Polytechnic, perhaps more than one, and one at Bethnal Green Library. At some point there must have been something in an internal bulletin of the International Socialists, and there was a double page spread in Socialist Worker. At some point there were motions to union conferences. But before there were motions at branches, leaflets at demonstrations,

In 1967, it was recorded in an exhibition in Liverpool, the Tower Hamlets Branch of the National Union of Seamen, (NUS) passed a motion calling for a section in the bill passing through Parliament that it exclude the Merchant Navy, and, the exhibition claimed, the seamen claimed, they were successful. In 1970 the Curator of Southampton Gallery was sacked, in 1974 the Curator of Leicester Gallery, and I had known nothing of those until very recently, Trevor Thomas I think might still be alive. Arthur Jeffress had committed suicide, yet his collection went to Southampton, and they still sacked he who achieved this. But after John Warburton, Susan Shell, Ian Davies was successfully defended and re-instated.

[In 1957 John Wolfenden had written a report which ten years later resulted in an act. One story is that his son is or was or is gay, Thus material conditions determine consciousness and the dominant ideas of the ruling class, (DIRC) change. There had been campaigns and activisms during and before this, but that is another series of queeries. ]

What had been achieved was that rank and file shop stewards, people who are predominantly not gay, had been prepared to raise the issue in their workplaces, in their trades union branches, and then speak. In parallel the Right to Work Campaign, these shop stewards had been arguing for the rights of the unemployed, and for connecting struggles over job losses, closures, with the rights of women, and LGB (I must be truthful, I don't know when or where the T came up). (There had been radical drag, but that is another matter).

Then the Anti-Nazi League, ANL did the same thing on racism, in the fight against the emerging far right. But the ANL, RtW, R&F shared the same set of ideas, and the same set of people and these had been won by the argument inside the IS.

I can't remember the places or the dates, though some of these will be listed in Socialist Worker, of the meetings, why socialists should support gays, but I have Cliff's article in Socialist Worker and that appeared in The Word is Gay. But some weeks I was doing up to five. These were in towns, and had been organised. They had leaflets. People had taken them to their contacts to try to get them along.

Yet in the Gay Movement we heard, and we still hear, that straights will not support the sexual minorities.

And this simply is not true.

It depends on the politics.

And the history.

For we have been here before, and the work on past continues to need digging.

The link between the ideas of socialists and the ideas for sexual liberation re-emerge and are washed away by the next group of activists, professionals, academics, who want to defend their strategy.

And these things happen in parallel.

The precursor of ILGA was completely resistant to the argument about the workplace and the trades union. And at the Glasgow meeting we were told it has expelled the lovers of boys. Niemoller reminder.

But the Anti-Apartheid Movement was eventually won round. And the ANC, and the South African Government.

And there are other cases which need writing.

Yet academics who know nothing will assert that what they know is true, as they have always done, and that something they can't see, because they wont, isn't.

Eroti-CISM

Now we begin to generalise.

For the argument about gay rights, about passing for straight, about being yourself, or human nature, about mad, bad, sad, about difference and diversity, about human rights, after World War 2 must have become a more easy argument. Sodomy, buggery, are other matters. Fellatio getting close to the bone. Wanker hasn't really changed its meaning?

Writing about these things, in the manner of the Sun or the Daily Mirror, has a dual purpose. Televisual scandal too. The role of the media we grasped and worked on. Mine was libraries, collection and classification.

But then there was porn.

This had always been an antequeerian activity, the scholarly approach to stuff.

But defending its publicity.

The attack by Mary Whitehouse on Gay News was the first general campaign where I realised it wasn't up to me any more. The Right to Work March went to Brighton to demand the stocking of Gay News. The placards were designed, made and distributed. Her attack was frocked in religion but that allows only for another to be added to politics, history, philosophy.

(I'm quite prepared for minor disputes on the connection between Gay News and Porn. Or Mary Whitehouse and Jesus hanging on a cross.)

It is what pulls your enemies out of the closet and onto the streets that makes clear what is at stake.

If you look inwards to your own struggles you might not be clear what it is you are actually fighting about, human, rights, art, nature,, truth, goodness, right, freedom, liberty, or whatever, but look at what your enemies name, what they call things, what it is that gets them into gear, and it will be clear.

And there have been no shortage of opportunities.

Children are their special case.

The defenders of capital punishment are the defenders of the rights of the unborn.

The floggers and spankers are the defenders of the innocence of children.

The sexuality of children remains the fault line. The demonisation of paedophilia, the removal of paedarasty from the lexicon of right on struggles, removes the debate of Platonism from the understanding of the present. But this sacrifice will return to haunt us.

And the activists, in order to defend their budget stream use the same arguments as their enemies.

This is dangerous.

My pleasure is much more simple, in an Arcadian pastoral, walking without clothes.

But then think how little we have gained, for to talk your clothes off and go for a walk is a revolutionary activity.

And this is the totality of the generalisation, for as long as men have tools with which to fuck women, some men will think they have a right. Now are we back at strategy, for some women will support them, or at least not support us.

But as long as we have commodity fetishism, alienation and reification, men will see their other, external, tool, as a weapon.

That was the dialectic of liberation.

Within the trades union it is possible only to argue the politics of the possible.

Within the political party, it is possible to argue what now I wonder?

Within the professional association, it depends. The charter will give the framework.

Within the local community there have recently been openings in Local Agenda 21, sustainable development, and there have been world summits which have opened local chances.

And this gets us to RAE.

The Research Assessment Exercise is a leisure class theory for one dimensional men in which they play with the taxpayers' money in order to DIRC. In the process, queeries are squeezed for their's isn't a subject.

The activists are squeezed too, for each panel has a dominant idea and activists cross panels in the same way as borders are crossed in communities.

The main output of the RAE is the thing called the published paper in the refereed journal, what is called peer- reiview. But who are the peers of the queeries?

How is good activism sorted?

There can be bad activism. Blair's is bad activism. But not in all parts. So is it simply what suits? Or is there better generalisation?

There is now a category called sustainable development. This includes cultural diversity. The professional societies validate courses in universities. Courses teach sustainable development, and perhaps cultural diversity. Were these categories the result of research, or of activism, and were these peer reviewed?

But all these peer reviews?

How are they organised so we may make use of them, even if only for critical theory?

Once upon a time, they were in libraries, with catalogues. Now they are perhaps in computers.

So where are the queeries?

The first case after the Glasgow meeting was www.theses.com. Grep strin "hommosexuality" produced 57 hits.

This is the total of all the research theses published in Britain, as best achieved. 57 hits.

What appear within the 57 is itself interesting.

In the period since say 1987, the first RAE, are these the people who are the beneficiaries? Is this the world gained?

Human Rights

The discourse of Human Rights is a space where politics might be activated, but we need a thread of explanation why we are not dealing with the dialectics of liberation. (1967.)

There has been the collapse of the USSR with the parallel demise of the world's Stalinist Parties which were called Communist, as was the USSR.

But with them has gone the rank and file trades union organisation in a downturn in workplace self organisation. Or even representative trades union organisation.

It is in the workplace that people experience the daily, but for academics, activists, professionals, that workplace presents a unity in which the rhetoric of right materially differences the discourse of nature.

What we need to do, above all else, is to rebuild the trades unions, in the workplace.

But this is not the agenda of LGBT rights activists.

I remember when very young having to teach the Ballad of Reading Gaol for that was in the text.

A boy says, "Are you queer too, Sir?"

On that hung a life.

We don't appear to have gained much? Glad to be Gay was the badge.

The Global Politics of LGBT Human Rights was the title and theme of the Glasgow meeting. The political argument is what is best done by representation, and what by activity. The political argument is what now is to be done in the wealthy west about international development? But there is also a political argument about how knowledge is organised and the impact of the organisation of knowledge on learning, teaching, research, and activism.

Outstilations

These are events at which points are made and media materialised. They are given names. Sometimes they are written up, like queeries. They form grep strings on which the IS::KO may be queeried.

Antequeerians

This is a list on jiscmail, and now a group on Facebook but also events during LGBTQ* history month in which the five great institutions in London are targeted for their presentations.

Blunt Dialectic

This has been a series of seminars at Kingston University near London, working from the 1938 text of A.F.Blunt, A method for the documentation of the humanities.

Cambridge Apostles

This started as Wittgenstein's Poker, but hasn't yet had a proper opening.

Choice of Hercules

A series of seminars at Kingston University which turned into a series of presentations for people interested in knowledge, information, data and metadata, KIDMM. New eivdence is popping up all the time. It started with a secular cantata of Bach, and moved to a mangotope of Clive. It hangs on Handel.

Taking a kissybion for a walk.

A paper read at the Institute of Historical Studies in the University of London for the first LGBTQ* history month, in February 2005 has had a couple of further outstilations.

Up the English Garden Path

The idea of the English Landscape Garden spread through Europe towards the later part of the 18th century. Was this the first LGBT language since Plato?

Some of these have been written up in Information, Systems and Social Change, and deposited in the British Library.