This is the text of a leaflet distributed by supporters of Socialist Revolution throughout the country. Download the PDF version of the two-sided foldable leaflet here.
Fifty years after the Stonewall Rebellion, the heroic and militant legacy of mass struggle has been obscured by increasingly apolitical and commercialized Pride celebrations.
Stonewall represented the boiling over of all the pent-up discontent and anger at decades of oppression, humiliation, and endemic police brutality suffered by LGBT+ people on the margins of society. On the night of June 28, 1969, what started as yet another routine police raid on a gay bar sparked spontaneous mass resistance, which escalated into a street battle spanning two days and involving over a thousand people.
The events served as a catalyst for mass mobilizations in support of gay rights across the US and transformed the character of the movement. The defensive stance of the previous decades, appealing for acceptance from the rest of society, gave way to bold demands for liberation and a militant expression of gay pride. The birth of the gay liberation movement was marked by a turn to the left, towards revolutionary positions which, though relatively vague, linked up with the rise in class struggle during the late 1960s and 70s.
Through mass mobilizations, growing solidarity, and pressure from below, many important victories have been fought for and won in the last fifty years. These undoubtedly warrant celebration. We have witnessed a profound shift in public opinion, particularly among the youth, whose instincts are increasingly gravitating toward solidarity and against the reactionary attitudes of the past. Under this pressure, the right to same-sex marriage expanded from just one US state in 2004, to the entire country in 2015, through various court rulings and in some cases, direct popular votes.
However, as important as these victories are, they are not absolute or final; they must be used to advance the struggle for full and genuine human liberation for all. Marxists fight for all basic democratic and civil rights, and we welcome them enthusiastically when they are won, even under capitalism. But we must also remember that at any moment, the sharpening of the class struggle can push the ruling class to take back what they have previously been forced to grant, and to use these issues to divide and rule the working class. We cannot forget that the Clintons lead to the Trumps and the Macrons to the Le Pens.
Whenever and wherever basic rights are won, capitalism threatens and limits them at every opportunity. Every year, dozens of anti-LGBT+ bills are introduced in state legislatures around the country. 129 such bills were introduced in 2017, and 12 of them became law. No conquest is guaranteed to last as long as we remain within the capitalist system.
And even when we have civil rights on paper, what can we do with them if we are not also guaranteed quality jobs, education, and housing, if we cannot afford healthcare for ourselves and our loved ones? What use is the right to same-sex marriage if we have to dedicate all our time and energy to a boss and end up exhausted and fighting over unpaid bills with our partners when we return home?
Once we enter into the problems of everyday life, a class divide opens up within the LGBT+ movement. This is because the quality of our everyday lives varies greatly depending on the class we belong to. The vast majority of LGBT+ people are part of the working class and many are underemployed or unemployed altogether. They are exploited as workers and experience oppression both as workers and because of their identity or sexual orientation.
Marxists fight to end all forms of exploitation and oppression—not to establish equality of exploitation and oppression for LGBT+ people and heterosexuals under capitalism! This is ultimately a class question and we need a class solution. The way forward for the LGBT+ movement is to fight along class lines, shoulder-to-shoulder with the broader working class—and organized labor must take the lead. This is how we can win affordable housing, better jobs and wages, free healthcare, and much more. This is the kind of unity that can lead to victory!
Bigotry and scapegoating are in capitalism’s DNA. To end them we need to overthrow capitalism, free ourselves of the ruling class, take over society’s productive resources and wealth, and use them in a planned and harmonious manner for the collective needs of society—not the profits of the few. To achieve this we need to build a mass working-class socialist party that can fight to establish a workers’ government. Such a government would represent the interests of the vast majority and could immediately take measures to guarantee higher wages and the right to quality and affordable housing, provide high-quality childcare and education, and dramatically reduce the workweek so that everyone has the time and energy to live a fulfilling life.
On this material basis we will be able to break with the morality perpetuated by the ruling class when it comes to the family, sexual orientation, and gender identity. We will be able to throw patriarchy and homophobia into the dustbin of history. We will be free to express ourselves and live our lives as we wish, and the rich diversity and potential of human social relations will finally be unleashed after millennia of stifling confinement within class society.