Queer Liberation at an Impasse
The movement for sexual and gender liberation movement is at a crossroads. The historical divisions within this have exacerbated to the degree that an irreparable split has formed within the so-called “community”. In place of a seemingly unified community based around the material history of gay liberation, two great camps are now emerging. On one side we have the gay middle classes, the privileged members of the petit bourgeois and bourgeois proper, and those intent on assimilation into the bourgeois hetero-patriarchal structures of society. Their mode is imitation, hoping to perform an ideal of middle class life so as to be afforded a scrap of dignity from the powers that be. On the other hand, the growing mass of young, militant and proletarian queers are looking with discomfort on the movement we are inheriting.
The victory of the long struggle for gay marriage was the impetus for the deepening of this division. The movement up until this point had been structured around the demands of the aspirational gay middle classes - it is their demand, that of legal equality within the bourgeois institution of marriage, that persisted, while other demands were left unheard. This interclassist movement was doomed to split once the demands of legal equality had been achieved. With the advent of legal equality, there are many who are content to go on with their ordinary lives. For those of us that possess no such opportunity nor desire, another politics must emerge. Working class queers still suffer discrimination, violence, domestic abuse, homelessness, poverty, and a lack of access to healthcare. We are surveilled and controlled by condescending doctors and social workers, politicians, bosses, landlords, and police. A struggle for liberation is clearly still necessary.
It is vital that this proletarian, communist, militant camp now asserts itself. The period of relative social peace following the legislation of gay marriage has been broken apart by a vicious assault by the forces of reaction. In the United States, Britain, Australia, and elsewhere, the far-right and their progressive allies seek to roll back transgender rights as the first step in rolling back all social acceptance of all queer people. This backlash must be resisted. It must be reversed.
Break with the bourgeois and middle class dead end! For a queer liberation front in the proletarian struggle!
Social Reproduction Theory, Queer Oppression, Patriarchy, and Backlash
The liberal-identitarian politics that dominates the contemporary movement is characterised by a middle class orientation, and a lack of theoretical rigour and political analysis. For the liberal, even the “radical” liberals that are so common in academia and NGOs, oppression must be addressed in a vacuum, without giving an honest account of the totality of oppressive social relations. For us, as revolutionaries, our analysis of queer oppression begins with the system of social reproduction.
The institution of the gendered division of labour, and the correlating ideological apparatus of the dyadic gender system is foundational to the structures of the oppression of women in general. This gendered division of labour is chiefly in relation to social reproduction - the basic social tasks that sustain human life. This reproduction, which organises domestic life in order to reproduce labour power as a commodity in the short and long term, is performed mostly by women in the form of cleaning, cooking, childcare and other forms of domestic servitude. Indeed, it is around this labour that the content of “woman” as a social category is constructed. Even when the woman enter the workforce, she is still expected to perform a double-shift (carrying out her domestic duties in addition to her waged work) and she is overwhelmingly channelled into a variety of industries that fit her domestic role - teacher, carer, nurse, secretary, sex worker.
This fundamental nexus of this oppression is organised by the family unit. Patriarchal domination is one of the oldest pillars of class society, co-emergent with class relations in the first city-states and theocratic oligarchies. In its contemporary bourgeois form, the nuclear family, the family unit organises domestic labour, serving as the fundamental unit of social reproduction in much the same way that the firm constitutes the fundamental unit of capitalist relations. It is through this unit that domestic labour, atomised bourgeois culture, and ideological domination of the capitalist system are perpetuated and maintained.
The oppression of queer people grows directly out of patriarchal oppression - indeed it is not a separate oppression, but a part of patriarchy. The patriarchal capitalism structures gender roles and sexual relations around the need to maintain the gender-binary, the gendered division of labour, and the nuclear family. This is not to say that heterosexual women cannot perpetuate oppression of queers! Patriarchy has always relied on women’s active participation, be it in its violent rituals, or in covering up its abuses, or in the simple passive acceptance of the oppressive regime. The very social category of womanhood rests on compliance.
The contemporary crisis of sex-gender roles and sexuality is produced by two historical processes: the de-industrialisation of the global core as a result of globalisation, and the partial victories of feminist and gay liberation struggles. These processes have worked in tandem to destabilise the traditional, patriarchal social order that guaranteed social reproduction in the core countries. This has produced a profound crisis in contemporary gender roles - women are economically more independent, but still poorer than men and denied total freedom at every turn, while men are increasingly unable to express their masculine identities through traditional modes of social life. In turn, sexual and romantic life is increasingly mediated by capital, dating markets, and digital apparatuses, compressed by precarious and exhausting work hours - the modern forms of social alienation. The results are clear: declining birth rates, social dislocation and mental health crises, reactionary masculinist terrorism and incel social withdrawal.
The solution offered by reactionaries to this crisis in the gender system is to role back the wheels of history - to re-enslave women in the home and rollback social acceptance of queer people, to allow men to reclaim their social status at the head of the household, to allow all men to share in the benefits of patriarchy. The bans on abortion in the American South and the attacks on trans youth in Britain are connected - both are sites of patriarchal oppression. It is for this very reason that queer liberation and feminist revolution are so intimately bound together. When we rebel against patriarchy, we rebel against the gender system itself, against the category of womanhood.
There is no queer liberation without women’s liberation! There is no women’s liberation without communist revolution! Fight for a feminist revolutionary movement to combat patriarchal capitalism! Break the chains of patriarchy! Out of the kitchens and into the streets! Out of the closets and into the streets!
Gender Abolition is Central to Our Programme
The communist position on the gender question is that of abolition. Only when the gender-dyad has been overthrown, when gender has been smashed, and where biology no longer determines our destinies, can we truly live as free people. A society in which gender is abolished is a society where one's genitals, or one's chromosomes are as relevant to one's upbringing and one's life outcomes as one's blood type.
However, it is impossible to pursue the goal of gender abolition without pursuing the broader goal of the revolutionary overthrow of patriarchy itself. In order to achieve this aim, the communists seek to socialise domestic and reproductive labour through the formation of collective domestic units and socialised kitchens, childcare centres and laundromats, apportioning domestic labour on the basis of a fair and organised sharing of collective tasks.
Such a revolutionary step - and indeed it is the most important step in smashing gender's hold on human life - is only possible with the advent of a workers republic. Only when the working class as a whole, and working class women and queers in particular seize political power can the cultural revolution against patriarchy truly be unleashed.
As a marginalised and oppressed group, queers are already being pushed into the vanguard of the liberation struggle. Our struggle is the mark of a truly revolutionary political programme - those so called revolutionaries who cannot speak on our issues mark themselves as revisionists and conservatives. Militant queers must move forward into the vanguard of the struggle - our rebellion against hetero-patriarchy must be turned into a social revolution!
Social Revolution now! Down with unpaid domestic labour, isolated suburban life, and atomised consumption! Break the chains of patriarchy, fight for communism! Freedom for queer people means abolishing the gender system!
Forward to the Communist Party!
Only communist revolution can provide a future for working class women and queers. In order to win a communist revolution, militant women and queers must work to build a communist party that can carry forward the struggle, even when reactionary forces predominate. The communist party will be the product of our struggles, embodying our collective strength, hope and discipline.
The Revolutionary Communist Organisation seeks to unite with all militant queers and working class feminists in building a new communist party - a party that can serve as a weapon of the working class against capital and the state, and can prepare our movement for the seizure of power. Such a party must be staunchly against opportunism, revisionism, and reformism, and must place women's and queer like at the centre of its programme.
As such, we seek to fight for the following demands, as part of our broader struggle for communism. We are for:
Building a militant feminist and queer liberation movement, led by women and queers.
The provision of free, safe, and accessible abortion, contraception, and sexual education.
The seizure of all housing by the working class and its redistribution on the basis of need.
The free and universal provision of healthcare, including trans healthcare and mental support.
The elimination of conversion therapy, the suppression of patriarchal, anti-queer reactionaries, and the expropriation of the property of reactionary churches.
The organisation of women and queer workers into militant workers organisations.
The abolition of the legal status of marriage and full legal equality for all relationships.
The abolition of all laws used to harass and discriminate against queer people.
The formation of large domestic units as the basis of collective political activity and consumption, starting with neighbourhood committees.
The collectivisation and socialisation of domestic labour, including childcare into creches, laundries and kitchens.
The formation of women's defence organisations to combat domestic and sexual violence and exploitation through community activity and organisation.
The full participation of women and queers in all forms of social organisation, through both specific and universal institutions.
Unify under the banner of communism! All proletarian women and queers must join the struggle for liberation! Death to reactionary feminism, liberalism, opportunism and reformism! Victory to communism, to queer liberation, to feminist revolution! Victory to the international proletarian revolutionary struggle! Revolution in our lifetime!