Which kind of queer anticapitalism can help us in struggling against LGBTI oppressions?
Saturday 6 August 2016 by Antoine
Goodmorning to you all, fabolous comrades.
Before starting to face each other with the oppression of the lgbitq subjectivities and before talking about marxism, anticapitalism and queer, I think that it is necessary defyning some concepts. I would start with the term gender: the better definition is the one given by Lidia Cirillo in which she describes gender as the way in which an era, a society, a human group, lives the belonging to one or to the other sex. This definition underline the bond between gender and biological sexes but at the same time it recognizes the lack of stability of this category and its ability to change depending on time and space. Gender, intended in the pre-industrial societies, is not the same gender of these days, and furthermore, the concept of gender intended in Europe is not the equal to the one intended in Latin America countries. The way in which a human group lives this belonging to one or to the other sex, is written and imposed from the patriarchy. Patriarchy is, first of all, a system of power with ancient origins that go back to the passage from nomadism to sedentatism of the human communities and that go back to its consequential division of the assignment of work. Work, production and reproduction determinate the gender division and the emergence of patriarchy. Adrianne Rich in 1976 defined patriarchy as the power of fathers, a socio-familiar system, ideological, political, in which men with strenght, direct repression or throughout traditions, laws, languages, habits, education and work division, determinate which role is women’s responsibility, determinate a system in which the female is wherever subordinate to the male. Patriarchy, like all the other system of power, has a great capability of mutate and adapt itself depending on contexts. Giullaumin affirms that the male dominion has represented the world through binomial oppositions, that are by now, so much incorporated and socially embodyed that these seem to be “natural”. Masculinity has always been determinated by negation: masculine, virile, what is not feminine. The more one is distanced from the definition of feminine, the more is recognizable as masculine.
Another concept ties perfecly gender and patriarchy and is the one of heteronormativity. Heteronormativity is the historical and social product of a control on sexuality that establish to a symbolic, discoursive and social level, heterosexuality as unique normal sexuality. William Reich, Foucault and last but not least Preciado, have analysed the meaning behind the control of sexualities and have analysed the dominion of the heterosexuality as a moment of reproduction of those gender binarisms, of that male control on society. The smaller cell but at the same time also the greatest resistance of heteronormativity is the family: in every single historical moment, in every form it has been represented, family has carried out the assignment of maintaining human beings divided between heterosexual males and females, the assignment of educating children following norms deceptive for the power. The family reproduces the mechanisms hierarchies’ stability in the roles based on work division. Gay, Lesbians, Transsexuals, Transvestites, Intersexuals, prostitutes, effeminates, anal sexual acts, sadomasochism or fetish, represents something that is out of norm, something that is not normal because it weakens the gender division and the reproductive sexuality. Patriarchy has perfectly succeeded in transforming and integrating itself keeping its own control through the happened social transformation, with the industrial revolutions and with the advent of capitalism. With the advent of capitalism is possible to attend to a modification of gender roles in a new model of production, to a normalization of the reproductive sexualities. Engels in his “The Origin of Family”, foresaw that the production and reproduction of life was composed by two aspects, the production of means of existance and the production of human beings. He identifyed the bound between the capital and patriarchy, finding in the family the perfect representation of dominion, the reproduction nucleus of the economical and patriarchal laws, the place of reproduction of the labor force.
This intuition, that in a sort of sense had been a mention to the bond between gender and class, was not deepened nor by Engels nor by the following marxists. This has contributed to a categorization marxist but “sex blind”. The bound between marxism and gender has been developed by other marxist intellectuals but what I want to express is which is the contribution to this consideration made by the lgbt movements.
Feminist movements and the movements for the homosexual liberation gave an enormous contribution because they politicized sex, personal relationship and form of cohabitation and because, at the same time, these sexualized politics and the way in which politics was made. The throw of that bottle by Sylvia Riveva, a trans woman, in 1969, against the umpteenth police violence against a gay bar, started riots that lasted weeks; her gesture not only opened the road for a faggot revolt in everypart of the western worls but also represented something more. For the first time, the afroamerican community lined itself up with the lgbt community; subjects that didn’t feel themselves represented by anyone, nor by revolutionary marxism.
On the streets, black, gays, lesbians and trans revealed an union made by exclused and oppressed. I pause on this phase because I consider that it has been an essential moment in order also to better understand the recent events. Homosexual liberation movements were born with a strong revolutionary imprint because what they wanted was to put in discussion the whole society. Not as first but with a greater strenght and visibiity these movements denounced the homophobic violence made by the bourgeois state and life but at the same time these movements hurled severe blow against the country of the real socialism; the message and the political elaboration that these movements, like the feminist ones, have given us is the one that we repeat continuously: revolution will be sexual or it will be not. An anticapitalist, antisalinist and antipatriarchal slogan. Was remarked the necessity of a discussion of the sexual gender norm, starting from the same revolutionary comrades. The class struggle and the marxism do not delete the gender oppression, comrades, class struggle can’t delete the oppression if not integrated to a feminist and lgbtq practise and theory. What has been transmitted to us by the lgbt and feminist movements of the seventies is that the patriarchy, and so also sexism and homophobia, resist as oppressions to the change of economic and social systems because these are completing part of our culture, a culture that needs again its dominant class and that through the institution of the family, through regligious rituals, symbols and cultures, it controls our lives through our sexualities. The radical movements of the seventies sexualized the anticapitalism and part of the revolutionary marxism but these movements were affected by the political social and economical transformation of the eighties and of the nineties. For many reasons, that we will not face now because we have not so much time, started so a process of “institutionalization” of the lgbt movement and a research of a place inside the society. Differently from the other movement, the one lgbt had to confront with the advent of HIV and with the stigma that society imposed on their bodies, on the lesbian and gay lives. The period of the HIV, in the eighties and nineties, marks a complete turning point for the lgbt western movement. If the center of the struggle was the sexual revolution and liberation, was exaclty of the sex, of the bodies, of the contact that people started to being afraid of. The epidemic of HIV decimated the gay community returning renovated force to homophobia and forcing to a strategic activism against the stigma that connected the illness to the sexual practices. Part of the movement died and those who remained founded the strenght to continue a battle that must be scaled down. Rose up the first institutional associations and a new language claiming inclusion. The queer theory, not casually, is born at the beginning of the nineties from a work of Teresa de Laurentis and, at a later time, Judith Butler. It has been a post HIV different answer; the will of keeping alive the radicality of the movement. The term queer was choosen because it claimed an offensive term, a political uncorrect term for homosexual and lesbian. And the word queer was pulled together with theory, because the theory was born in an academic setting. The lgbt mainstream movement had started to claim the recognizing of the lgbt identity while the queer theory, in contrast, has establish as its purpose to dismantle the dicotomy homosexual / heterosexual, and the purpose of destabilizing all the fixed identity. The queer theory, differently from the movements of the seventies, forget Marx and found its theoretical basis on Foucault, Deluze, Deridda and affirm the necessity and the possibility to deconstruct the gender and sexual identities as unique tool of real liberation. Queer theory emphasize all the sexualities and all the identities hold at the edges of the “norm”, such as sadomasochisms, intersex subjects and transgender, the monogamous relationship, sex workers’sexualities, claim of non-perfect and not-regulated bodies. An interesting data is the convergence that the queer theory has found with part of the trans and lesbian radical movement in denouncing the masculinization of the languages and practices of the lgbt mainstream realities with their male spoke men, their sexist languages and their phallus-centric practices.
Judith Butler, in her studies, focus herself on the drag queen figure, as emblematic of the reproductive function of the gender categories. The drag queen is a subject that we all recognize as a biological man who wears feminine clothes, bringing them to the extreme (big breast, feminine heavy make up, high heels). Looking a drag queen we all think “is a man dressed like a woman” and the reasoning we make is “is a man because no woman dresses like this” and “he is dressed like a woman because that are clothes typically feminine”. If we are talking with a drag queen we spontaneously will adapt the language and the pronouns declining them into feminine even we know that she is a. This paradox is the life of the gender binarism, composed by repetitions and associations among objects, costumes, words, attitudes manly or womenly. The queer theory find a lot of success in the anarchist settings, in which is proposed an everyday resistancy formula for the liberation of the individuals, through the discussion of the sexuality and the gender performation, trought the invididual action of deconstruction of the stereotypes and languages. Queer is a very ample field but is characterized by the attention on the crossing of every type of oppression of the individual through a intersectional point of view, which connect gender, race and sexuality. But can queer theory being useful in order to give the answers that we need? The bond between anticapitalism and queer can be someting helpful in reading and then destroy a situation that is illustrated as complex?
Capitalism today is the economic system that, for the first time, has no limits, extending itself globally. It is a system that makes its counts also with its economical crisis and with its internal political forces. Capitalism has just one aim: making the higher profit with the minimum investment as possible maintaining its hegemony. The internal forces, the history of the patriarchy and the imperialist relationships, make the production and the research of profit sexuated and genderized, because these aspects regulate other oppressions and create new hierarchies of control and exploitation. I make three examples that I think can facilitate the depiction of the situation nowadays.
1) As first, the referendum on May 2015 in Ireland has introduced the homosexual marriage as a constitutional right. It is an interesting case because the campaign of approval has been very pro-Europeanist, because in the victory has been seen an approach of Ireland to the North Europe countries. The supporters of the referendum talked about a victory necessary for an European integration. I mentioned Ireland because it is a catholic country that has seen the victory of gay marriages while, at the same time forbids abortion. 2) The second case is the one of the United States. The last year the American Supreme Court has declared the constitutional right of marriage to homosexual couples, justifying this choice from the recognizing the family as milestone in the american social order. In June of this year, besides, the Defense Department has declared that in the next twelve months will be removed the forbid to trans people to enter in the military forces. 3) The third case is the one of the terrible attempt in Orlando, last month. After the assassination the whole political world, included right and extreme right personalities, included Trump, not only have expressed condolences to the lgbt community, but also have renewed their war declaration agains Islam in defense o homosexuals and lesbians. Starting from these examples we can affirm that capitalism has developed a major capability of letting coexist enormous contraddictions, whithout that these effected its authority. Picking its contradictions, unveiling and exploiting them is the historical assignment of the revolutionaries. Always considering these examples we can find out two phenomena that are present in the countries characterized by advanced capitalism, that are found their development starting from the nineties until today: 1) The first phenomenon is the formation of a middle class gay, lesser lesbian, characterized by a determinated standard of live and form of consumptions, which has affirmed itself as the respectable face of the lgbt community, excuding all the others. This phenomenon is what we can call homonormativiy and it is accompanied to the heteronormativity in the indication of what are the aestethic criterions, of correct sexuality, of right styles of live. The necessity of controlling sexualities and the necessity to not destabilize the role of the family, has brought capitalism to the opening of spaces of inclusion also for non-heterosexual families with the purpose of maintaing with them this central institution, with the purpose of deflate the ranks of the lgbt movements creating a conciliatory facade, pushing ita head for enforcing the level of civilization of the West. Model citizens are citizens that produce and consume, that create families, that live following the precepts of conjugal love, both heterosexual and homosexual. In this way is possible to reach the goal of excluding from the norm every other kind of subjects that result non-conforming from the gender or sexual identity point of view, such as transgender, intersex, gender fluid or subjects that live open affective relationships. Homonormativity and the inclusion of a middle class gay is mediated, mostly, by the market and less by the insitutional politic that plays, in this sphere, a minor role. 2) The creation of these forms of sexual and homonormated identities makes easy not only their cooptation and their expolitation inside the neoliberalism but also their utilization in political projects, nationalist or racist. The imagine, shared in 2002 from the Israeli Defense in which were visible two soldiers hand in hand, represent perfeclty the phenomenon of the homonationalis, the national feeling recovered by the homosexuals and by the lesbians, a feeling of faith and belonging in a State that starts to recognize them, to which is important show gratitude.
The Government that until yesterday has not recognized us, starts today in using our identities in order to reinforce its democratic status as civilizer and in order to divide the normal, correct and western homosexuality from sexual practices and style of live considered uncivilized and from other countries.
Homonationalism is supported also by pinkwashing, the enrollment of the gay topic for political purposes; a praxis that some right parties are applying since many years. The Netherlands and Israel are the best examples; the first with its anti-migration policies and the second one with its well known imperialism that wash with a democratic and civil pink. Who defense gay and gay families is more civil and democratic than the others.
These phenomena face themselves with the different political, cultural and religious histories present in the western countries, where remain alive today more than ever, reactionary and fascist resistancies, religlious powers that perfectly make the idea of what is changed since the sixties.
These two tendencies are present in the countries characterized by the advanced capitalism that, for this reason, do not include the countries of the easter Europe in which are developing different dynamics that unfortuntately we do not have time, today, to examine in depth.
Queer theory is without doubt a useful tool for picking the contradictions inside the system. Besides in the last ten years, we have attended to the diffusion of queer political realities, connected sometimes with precise political areas, unleashed by political sectors but at the same time sping of radical politicization. The queer political realities are crossed mainly by youngs and very youngs and this I think could be an interesting element.
Fifteen \ twenty years after is not easy describe the queer activism panorama but we can somehow find the characters that in this political theory can be useful and those who represent a limits.
Minor limits of the queer theory are: • Occidentalist Theory or western centric that analyses the sexual and gender identity only in the western countries. • The languages, that are always more difficult and complex and this makes texts and analysis not usable but for a small number of intellectuals.
Major limits are: • Queer is a theory that rightly establish the intersectionality as a lecture key of the oppressed identities but propose it without a purpose to the lecture itself. The risk is the one of generating, without a purpose, infinite fragmentations. • Queer theory describes processes without analysing the causes and whithout finding casual connections. It considers the performativity out of context not putting it in a historical process – cause and effect – but as a simple historical fact without a story. Is a theory that doesn’t start to the material conditions of the subjectivities but from the theoretical lecture of the oppressions. This limit creates often an obscurantism of the secular oppression of women, recognized and oppressed for being women. • This theory propose solutions for individual and individualistic liberations. The performation and the experimentation that one make with and on her\his own body, the sexual practices and the level of self-determination are useful tool but these are not enough if not contextualized in society. The performative act is not enough alone; the smashing of the roles, the dismantling of gender and sexuality is not enough because it is not measured with the devices and with the institution of power. • The last limit coincides with the positive force of the queer. Queer indicates the enemy that everyone has: sexism, homophobia, sexuality repressed with devices that culturally has been taught to us and that we proprose again; putting this as a focus inside a political discurse has been important. Too often queer theory seems to forget that beyond an internal enemy there is a external enemy, exists the power, exists the patriarchy and capitalism and these have physical places, a language, spoke people and these must be defeated.
Make the limits of queer theory something useless? No. Starting from these doubts we must be able to pick up the best of this production and being aware that a bond between revolutionary marxism and queer is possible starting from the materialistic lecture that marxism offers. The marxist analysis enriched the queer theory and unveil the contradictions in the dynamic of the class sectors. The theoretical contribution that the queer studies offer is enormous and we must learn it, contextualize it and using it in our lives but at the same, being able to declining the theory in a revolutionary practise. We must be close to the struggles of the mainstream lgbt movement and fight for the self-determination of everyone, and for all those who are oppressed because these struggles aggregate people and potential victories able to weaken the reactionary forces, and battles that represent the modality in which are expressed the major sector othe class. Ignoring this fact means becoming an avant-garde trend useful only for the mere intellectual production. Exists a programme of transition for the liberation of the lgbt subjects and we must support the forces that are struggling for this, without cultivate the illusion that could exist a true freedom in a system of exploitation and oppression, but remaining aware that better condition of life are possible. We have to radicalize the lgbt movement suggesting struggles and purposes reachable with clear words reflecting real oppressions and pointing always to somenthing higher, without renouncing to move critics to family and homonormativity. We must create relationships among social movements, strategic coalitions and various oppressed subjects. If whit queer we mean a political identity and not an anti-identity, If queer wants to support anticapitalism proposing critics to the heternormativy and homonormativity, in case queer wants to keep constant an attentive lecture of the dynamics of costruction and reproduction of gender, of sexuality, or internal hierarchies, if these steps can be done, so an anticapitalist queer is possible and necessary. A queer anticapitalist is necessary starting from the awareness that the overtaking of capitalism is a necessary condition for every hipotesis of experimentation, liberator of new forms of relationship, affectivity, desire. Queer anticapitalist can be being defined as a politial project of liberation of the lgbt subjects from the oppression in case if points to the overtaking of gender and sexual identities starting from the costruction of practices that want to dismantle the material conditions in which today gender and specific oppressions exists; if it start from the purposes of the identitary struggles and wants to radicalize them in a perspective of identity. Until the familiary and affective relationship will remain responsible of the role of social reproduction inside the capitalistic society, any type of “family” or lasting relationship will be subjected to the objective limitations imposed by the capitalistic accumulation. Cinzia Arruzza in her book “Dangerous Relationship” writes that “queer wants to dismantle gender like socialism wants to dismantle the class. Like socialism points to the overtaking of the class division, queer points to the overtaking of gender”. Well, let’s try to find out the contradiction of the system from which start for building the road that will lead to the revolution and to the overtaking of class and genders.