Towards a ☭ueer Marxism
Rojo del Arcoíris describe themselves as a Spanish queer Marxist project that aims to reclaim the space historically stolen from us working class sexual dissidents within revolutionary thought. We are publishing their self-translated manifesto in solidarity. The original can be read here.
I. WHAT'S ☭UEER ABOUT MARXISM
We state that our oppression as working class sexual dissidents must be tackled through the tools to analyse and transform reality that marxism gives us. We subscribe to the words of our British colleagues from Invert when they declare that “the dissolution of static forms into social relations is at the very core of marxian dialectics”. The queer potential of historical and dialectic materialism resides, then, in the possibility of unveiling the class dimension, and as such socially constructed, of everything that we have been presented as natural and immutable. Nonetheless, often this radical potential for questioning normativity has been historically delayed within revolutionary organizations, and as a result bourgeois ideas about family (and consequently eros) have been perpetuated. The number of queer comrades who have left the struggle for socialism because of their dissidence is significant: Pedro Lemebel, Mario Mieli, Sylvia Rivera, Nastasia Rampova, Nestor Perlongher, Jean Nicolas, Daniel Guérin, Pier Paolo Passolini, to name but a few. Even higher is the number of names of queer comrades, like the one behind Amanda Klein, that we shall never know because of reactionary prejudices from those who wished for revolution erstwhile without realizing that sexuality was just one more of the relations of production to be revolutionized. So, we don’t just study the classist dimension of heterosexism and cissexism as they relate to our lived experiences as transfagbidykes; it’s our lived experience as transfagbidykes what allows us to notice that the heterosexual matrix is not being incorporated into analyses of the capitalist totality, leaving a central aspect of the bourgeois hegemony unquestioned —if not naturalized. We continue Leslie Feinberg’s legacy: Our oppression hasn’t always existed, but was born out of the class society. Let’s use, like hir, an old key to unlock new doors. It’s time to allow the queer potential marxism has always had to bloom.
II. PRO-PINK, AGAINST BOURGEOIS MORALITY
Even though Marxism prides itself on being oppositional to bourgeois ideology, marxists are constantly judging themselves on the basis of standards of what is decent or serious, constructed within those very values shaped by capitalism.
Moreover, on many occasions it opposes fervently everything that the bourgeois moral regards as perverted in any way, generally as to what is considered feminized. And so, the aesthetics and values of so-called marxist organizations take on archaic and folkloric —and masculinized— tinges, with the goal of giving themselves a particular status. From Rojo del Arcoiris (The Red in the Rainbow) we vindicate everything the bourgeois hegemonic morality doesn’t consider acceptable or dignified, because we don’t need approval from anyone guided by standards born in the bedrock of exploitation; and this is the reason we happily foster a femme and camp aesthetic, beyond what the bourgeoisie made us believe was valid.
III. SEX, GENDER AND FAMILY
We argue that the matrix of sexual difference resides not in biology but in political economy, particularly in the institution of the bourgeois monogamous family. We thus proclaim that the family produces heterosexuality, and with it, the realities of man and woman. As a product of the historical stage of bourgeois domination, heterosexuality is much more than an orientation of desire, it's the mechanism that naturalizes the reproduction of the present state of things. Likewise, the idea that there are two separated sexes does not precede the —historically specific— production of heterosexuality. The mandates of masculinity and femininity that are nowadays named under the gender label are therefore not the politicization of the natural differences of our bodies, but are themselves responsible for producing the bourgeois fiction of the natural condition of sexual difference. Genital mutilations suffered by intersex babies reveal how, behind the scenes, capital normatively adapts bodies to pass off the division of labour, as it exists today, as inevitable. Nevertheless, neither man nor woman are natural destinies; they are social relations needed to perpetuate a world divided between exploiters and the exploited, as well as the embodied product of this division itself. Abolishing the sexual difference through which capital institutionalizes our bodies as spaces for the reproduction of social classes and private property requires the abolition of the family, as a result of a prior abolition of wage labour.
IV. CAPITALIST TOTALITY AND SELF-DETERMINATION
From RDA we declare that the oppression queer people suffer is not previous or separate from class relations, but it’s, in fact, inscribed within them. This applies equally well to other oppressive dynamics such as racism, ableism and sexism, that, although presented as independent, are part of the same relations of production and reproduction of capital.
We pick up the view of our comrade Holly Lewis when she argues that “class is not another vector of oppression; it is the mystification of all social relations in service of the production of surplus value”. Consequently, we do not only reject any interclass LGTBI position, as they reconcile antagonic interests, but also oppose obreristas stances which perpetuate the declassing of sexuality as if it were external to the relations of production — this perpetuation exists in uncritical alignment with bourgeois divisions between what is public or private. This means saying that the oppression of a transfagbidyke worker is class oppression is not reduced to them being dispossessed of the means of production; their own subjectivity as a sexual dissident is a product of the capitalist order.
We make the words of our comrades from Pinko our own, since within capitalism “(t)he sexual or gender freedom we possess is nothing but the freedom to reproduce the current social order”. We question the bourgeoisie's strategies of faux-inclusion of sexual dissidents. As the queer Marxist anthropologist Gianfranco Rebucini argues, this inclusion in the capitalist order is done insofar as it makes us acceptable consumers, at the expense of the expulsion of a racialized Other. And, we add, also of the dissidences that do not bend, those of the psychiatrized and the disabled. We do not want liberal equality so that some of us can climb the social ladder; we fight for revolutionary politics that will tear the ladder down.
We assert that "gender self-determination" cannot be achieved within capitalism. The effort to legislate it within the bourgeois normative framework is not only insufficient, as it keeps coercive social mechanisms intact, but also commits the mistake of underpinning the naturalization of the sexual division of labour. What’s more, gender cannot be viewed from an individual perspective, because, as pointed out in Pinko: “Gender is currently where the work of class reproduction gets naturalized. Though it is experienced as deeply personal — as the essence of personhood, even — it is one of the central mass political experiences in capitalist society.” Likewise, it cannot be understood as a product of biological narratives either, in the way certain voices claim; voices that, far from carrying out a materialist analysis of the oppression of women, persist in a reactionary and ahistorical narrative.
We will only destroy the chains that oppress us in a collective act, we will only achieve gender self-determination by abolishing class society.
V. FAMILY ABOLITION
For most people a future without family seems almost as unthinkable as a future without capitalism; it’s hard to imagine the everyday without this system. The capitalist state pours into family care, education, sustenance and other responsibilities that should be collective, and it is therefore understandable that different working class subjects perceive it as a refuge, even as their only means of survival. This perception of the family as a bastion of working-class ties, in the face of the liquid forms of affection within neoliberalism, has recently encouraged a nostalgic turn that vindicates the hospitality of the family, displaying a naturalizing and binarist rhetoric that distances itself from the historical materialist analysis of capitalism and its institutions.
Nonetheless, the family is, above all, not just the literal — biological — but the social reproduction the capitalist regime. A regime that takes the nuclear family as its model, where the offspring is a property that has to be directed towards the interests of the bourgeois class in order to guarantee the subsistence of the surplus value guarded by the family unit. Individuals who, consciously or unconsciously, do not fit into this model endanger the stability of the family regime and, with it, the stability of the capital matrix. Therefore, they are first pushed to reform themselves and, when they remain unreformable, they are exiled from the family's political economy.
The bourgeois state also accentuates the unfeasibility and irrelevance of any form of working-class solidarity that has been built on the margins of biological filiality by those who have historically been left out of this model. These are experiences that run through the testimonies of our queer elders and contemporary comrades who weave networks of mutual support, education and emotional care outside the logic of the bourgeois nuclear family.
We know that the spaces where what Nat Raha calls queer social reproduction is weaved are still perpetuating the capitalist fiction that says we can only take care of “our own”, in intimate and domestic units. We understand that family abolition does not mean reproducing the fiction of the family through the idea of "chosen families", but through a communal care for all, which we build through sheltering all the lives that capitalism, in its impersonal logic, decides that do not matter.
Queer political subjects who, often, share a extensive historical legacy of marginalization, silencing and expulsion from the family, have been and should be aware that abolishing capitalism necessarily involves abolishing its main institution of reproduction: the family.
We go back to Holly Lewis’ words: “Family abolition is not a call to abolish the ties between people who love each other.” What we seek is to destroy the capitalist class’ capacity to exploit and control our support networks and our affections.
We understand that, ultimately, queer working class people, like other oppressed communities, represent the vanguard of the social reproduction to come. So, the black lives capitalism disregards, the queer lives capitalism disregards, the disabled, psychiatrized lives capitalism disregards, they hold the imaginative potential for the social relations of a communist future.
VI. ABOLISHING THE EXPLOITATION OF BODIES
When faced with the question of labour, as communists, we assume the premise that nobody should have to work. Wages hide a relation of exploitation from which we want to liberate all bodies. The division of labour itself was the originator of the class issue, and therefore we declare ourselves abolitionists of wage labour.
Furthermore, as queer people within marxism, we are aware there can be no freedom when it comes to sexuality as long as we still live inside the capitalist system. Therefore the goal for transfagbidyke workers should involve ending the existence of work itself, and not just the particular way in which this system exerts repression on sexual dissidence.
We also dissociate ourselves from the mythicist and obrerista view of wage labour as "ennobling" since this is nothing more than a trap of capital. It appeals to an alleged class pride, while in reality only seeking to reproduce capitalist hegemony while hindering the revolutionary impetus of the working class, making them think that they profit from the mere act of working. That is, as if we should thank our bosses and landlords for “letting” us work. The myth of individual realization through wage work stands as the antithesis of our “labour” in RDA.
However, we recognize that the place of exploitation is the place from where the working class forms ties and organizes itself, allowing collectivity and, as such, having the potential to generate spaces that can foster revolution and solidarity. That's why the bourgeoisie tries to destroy any space for organization, especially those that arise within social production, as a weak link in the capitalist order.
Human beings have the capacity to develop technology that automates work processes until our time is freed up and we can develop other activities, for ourselves - not just to survive within capitalism. To enjoy ourselves, not sell ourselves. Something hard to imagine in an environment of neoliberalism where even our hobbies and passions have been commodified to create capital.
On the other hand, we understand that the goal of labour abolition includes the abolition of sex work. We see no contradiction between this goal and helping women workers in their struggles to survive the horror of capitalism. With Silvia Federici we say “I, too, am abolitionist: I want to abolish capitalism; I want to abolish wage labour; I want to abolish exploitation”, but also: “We can’t say: this kind of exploitation is acceptable, but this one isn’t.” For us, labour abolition does not entail an alliance with neoliberal proposals based on punitivist fantasies, which seek to give more power to the bourgeois state, using its repressive and colonial tools. Likewise, as communists, we are opposed to exercising any tutelage over other working women, for as we are united by oppression, we shall only build solidarity.
However, when it comes to dealing with the issue of the exploitation of our bodies, we can’t avoid mentioning human trafficking. As Holly Lewis highlights: “trafficking —sex, or otherwise— is a problem of political economy, not evil or the patriarchy.” The difference between the conventional labour market and the trafficking of bodies lies in the fact that being a worker is defined on the basis of exploitation, and enslaved people are themselves commodities. The separation between exploitation and dehumanization is shrinking, but it involves a “paradigm shift”. Going back to Holly Lewis’ words: “the fact that an economical exchange is linked to sex does not magically change the way in which capitalism works.”
To emancipate all bodies from all oppressions — to make heterosexuality, a creation of capitalism, perish in the process.
VII. CULTURE FOR A NEW SOCIETY
We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings.
–Ursula K. Le Guin
Imagining worlds to create them. Art is not exclusively bourgeois, we do not relegate aesthetics — in Herbert Marcuse’s terms — to a “lesser” place to be emancipated. We follow figures like Raymond Williams, who understood culture as something ordinary that is constantly produced and reproduced. We are committed to offering new horizons to the community, through close communication: we do not intend to impose anything on ignorant masses, because we do not consider the people ignorant masses. It's not our intention to write in order to show off the knowledge we have. In fact, the culture we develop here is from, and for, the community. We do not want neither the culture produced for “the rabbles” with economic interests, nor the tradition the capitalist class chooses as distinguished. To the bourgeoisie we already are those villains the D*sney oligopoly has queercoded: let’s become, then, the ones to offer working-class culture a communist turn.
We need to analyse the ways in which capitalism uses art to reproduce itself, to convince us all that there is no alternative to its "inescapable" power. They have tried to extinguish our revolutionary energies through concessions that may be important to individuals —the representation of LGBT people in art— but that are co-opted in order to make us complicit in capitalist oppression.
To study queer art, too, as a possible place of revolution, to support and enhance these expressions, to find new forms of creation that could shake the stagnated capitalist present. Steal the bourgeoisie's own tools, too. Who better than we queer people, who have historically appropriated the insults used against us, to change the hegemonic meanings that condition our way of interpreting the world?
We ought to recover our genealogies. In how many film schools does the fact that one of the creators of montage, Sergei Eisenstein, was homosexual, remain unspoken? How many contributions which queer people have made to an emancipatory culture have been erased by both sides?
We declare war upon the existing hegemony and, though aware of the limitations imposed by the capitalist system, we propose producing and experimenting new ways of living in common. We believe an alternative hegemony is possible, one in which these emerging forms can become dominant.
VIII. CARING FOR EACH OTHER WITHIN THE RIOT
After the sexual division of work the feminine was relegated to housework. Family care was the stable pillar keeping the wheels of capitalism turning. It was up to us to take care of feeding the mouths that would eventually sustain other mouths. Learned care was unidirectional, altruistic, moral. The hegemonic strand endowed it with the biologicism that already permeated female gendered roles.
During history’s darkest years, we sexual and gender dissidents were forced into hiding, to avoid persecution and even annihilation. But it was in those years of extreme marginalization and criminality that we began to meet and recognize each other. Coming together to survive, to legitimize our existence. And over time, to share culture and identity, and even to visualize a future of belonging within the norm. We existed for capitalism, it might even seem that we were accepted by the system. But at what a cost? Once Chueca, Torremolinos or Gaixample were conquered by the interests of capitalism, and the posters of proletarian female impersonators and drag queens were replaced by RuPaul, all the years of learning self-care, of creating welcoming spaces, were permanently annihilated. This fact had already been observed in the case of Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, completely sanctified by capitalism today, but who lived in absolute misery as queer workers. Only rescued in order to create martyrs.
With the rise in violence against LGTBI realities, especially dissident ones, a new radical fire has sparked. As during the HIV crisis, as under the Francoist regime, we the marginalized stand in solidarity in moments of profound helplessness and rage. It's our responsibility to use all this counter-reproductive force to organize ourselves, seeking or, in its absence, founding new welcoming spaces in which to develop pedagogical and revolutionary projects. We want to reclaim spaces that belong to us, bringing the whole body of theory together and debating it, building it with blocks of firm lexicon, and cementing it with care and solidarity. Let us thus reproduce the lives that the system doesn't want alive. Brice Chamouleau points the path to follow: “take up arms against a profoundly unequal symbolic world, and against those who reproduce those social inequalities”
Together we are more of everything. We come out of the little alley we had been hidden away in after the sexual revolution —where we had always stayed. We struggled against intracommunity prejudices. We tried to heal generational resentment. We were an army of lovers. And we fought. Because we understand that our enemy is the capital and that the capital benefits from competition, niches, intolerance and mistrust, the most combative gesture is to get together and take care of each other.
To find in our relationships the home that was snatched from us, but never settle; set everything on fire until the Universe becomes our home.
IX. WE WANT EVERYTHING
If you let them red-bait, they’ll race-bait, and if you let them race-bait, they’ll queen-bait. That’s why we all have to stick together.
–National Union of Marine Cooks and Stewards
We declare nothing terrifies the capitalist class more than solidarity among the oppressed and the exploited of the world. In the fight, we queer people join up in solidarity with racialized people, disabled people, psychiatrized persons, migrants and the fights of women. From our political praxis, we build propositional solidarities that share a common horizon of emancipation with the rest of struggles. Like the comrades at Third World Gay Revolution said: Their victories are our victories and our victories are theirs. Our freedom will come only with their freedom.
We know the capitalist class wants us atomized, as Marx and Engels taught us: “Wage-labour rests exclusively on competition between the labourers.” They use our sexual dissidence to keep us apart. They corrode the solidarity between us to the shouts of “Faggot!”. But the cisheteronormative working class receives no benefit from the oppression of queer people. Reactionary sectors who call themselves communists have fully entered this game of divide and conquer between cishetero workers and working class queers. They create false dichotomies among the needs of the working class and a supposed queer lobby whose needs they see as frivolous. Healthcare or inclusive language? Labour rights or mixed bathrooms? We want everything. Give us bread, but give us roses.
We need to recover and resignify the word comrade. To weave present fights we need to create a shared horizon together, a shared ideology, a shared compromise that can go beyond specific actions. Like our comrade Jodi Dean reminds us, comrade means that “together you can fight the long fight”. To that end we must build a shared desire that racialized people, with disabled people, with psychiatrized people, migrants, women, cisheteronormative workers, and us sexual dissidents, can have in common. It’s this shared and common desire that will allow us to break away from identitarianism and fracturations: all in, to change everything and demand everything, and never leave a single social relation without disruption.
The emancipation of working class sexual dissidents can have only one path; let us break the chains of capitalist social relations that keep us bound to an old family institution in which our bodies and forms of expression could never be fully possible. Let us stop the heteronormative wheel of surplus, let us end the disciplinarian violence class society exerts upon queer lives. No more reproducing the old world in the name of what’s normal: All that is acceptable deserves to perish.
After the bourgeois storm, we are the red in the rainbow