Huey Newton on the Women’s and Queer Liberation Movements

Huey & the Panthers knew the correct way to approach this issue back in 1970, while the crackers in the "RC"P-USA only claim to have had a change of heart a couple of years ago

While I certainly don’t agree with everything that Huey says here, or even most of his political theory (in particular his theory of intercommunalism), he was an important leader of the Black Revolution of the 1960s and 70s, leading one of the most important African revolutionary organizations in history. He also was a precursor to today’s modern African liberation movement, as well as a martyr for the people.

I am posting this on the women’s and queer liberation movements in light of ongoing discussions about the vicious past queerphobia of the settlerist “Revolutionary Communist” Party, USA, in particular because Avakian and other current and former leaders and members of the “RC”P-USA claim to uphold the legacy and contributions of Huey and the Panthers.

Delivered on August 15, 1970

During the past few years strong movements have developed among women and among homosexuals seeking their liberation. There has been some uncertainty about how to relate to these movements.

Whatever your personal opinions and your insecurities about homosexuality and the various liberation movements among homosexuals and women (and I speak of the homosexuals and women as oppressed groups), we should try to unite with them in a revolutionary fashion. I say “whatever your insecurities are” because as we very well know, sometimes our first instinct is to want to hit a homosexual in the mouth, and want a woman to be quiet. We want to hit a homosexual in the mouth because we are afraid that we might be homosexual; and we want to hit the women or shut her up because we are afraid that she might castrate us, or take the nuts that we might not have to start with.

We must gain security in ourselves and therefore have respect and feelings for all oppressed people. We must not use the racist attitude that the White racists use against our people because they are Black and poor. Many times the poorest White person is the most racist because he is afraid that he might lose something, or discover something that he does not have. So you’re some kind of a threat to him. This kind of psychology is in operation when we view oppressed people and we are angry with them because of their particular kind of behavior, or their particular kind of deviation from the established norm.

Remember, we have not established a revolutionary value system; we are only in the process of establishing it. I do not remember our ever constituting any value that said that a revolutionary must say offensive things towards homosexuals, or that a revolutionary should make sure that women do not speak out about their own particular kind of oppression. As a matter of fact, it is just the opposite: we say that we recognize the women’s right to be free. We have not said much about the homosexual at all, but we must relate to the homosexual movement because it is a real thing. And I know through reading, and through my life experience and observations that homosexuals are not given freedom and liberty by anyone in the society. They might be the most oppresed people in the society.

And what made them homosexual? Perhaps it’s a phenomenon that I don’t understand entirely. Some people say that it is the decadence of capitalism. I don’t know if that is the case; I rather doubt it. But whatever the case is, we know that homosexuality is a fact that exists, and we must understand it in its purest form: that is, a person should have the freedom to use his body in whatever way he wants.

That is not endorsing things in homosexuality that we wouldn’t view as revolutionary. But there is nothing to say that a homosexual cannot also be a revolutionary. And maybe I’m now injecting some of my prejudice by saying that “even a homosexual can be a revolutionary.” Quite the contrary, maybe a homosexual could be the most revolutionary.

When we have revolutionary conferences, rallies, and demonstrations, there should be full participation of the gay liberation movement and the women’s liberation movement. Some groups might be more revolutionary than others. We should not use the actions of a few to say that they are all reactionary or counterrevolutionary, because they are not.

We should deal with the factions just as we deal with any other group or party that claims to be revolutionary. We should try to judge, somehow, whether they are operating in a sincere revolutionary fashion and from a really oppressed situation. (And we will grant that if they are women they are probably oppressed.) If they do things that are unrevolutionary or counterrevolutionary, then criticize that action. If we feel that the group in spirit means to be revolutionary in practice, but they make mistakes in interpretation of the revolutionary philosophy, or they do not understand the dialectics of the social forces in operation, we should criticize that and not criticize them because they are women trying to be free. And the same is true for homosexuals. We should never say a whole movement is dishonest when in fact they are trying to be honest. They are just making honest mistakes. Friends are allowed to make mistakes. The enemy is not allowed to make mistakes because his whole existence is a mistake, and we suffer from it. But the women’s liberation front and gay liberation front are our friends, they are our potential allies, and we need as many allies as possible.

We should be willing to discuss the insecurities that many people have about homosexuality. When I say “insecurities,” I mean the fear that they are some kind of threat to our manhood. I can understand this fear. Because of the long conditioning process which builds insecurity in the American male, homosexuality might produce certain hang-ups in us. I have hang-ups myself about male homosexuality. But on the other hand, I have no hang-up about female homosexuality. And that is a phenomenon in itself. I think it is probably because male homosexuality is a threat to me and female homosexuality is not.

We should be careful about using those terms that might turn our friends off. The terms “faggot” and “punk” should be deleted from our vocabulary, and especially we should not attach names normally designed for homosexuals to men who are enemies of the people, such as Nixon or Mitchell. Homosexuals are not enemies of the people.

We should try to form a working coalition with the gay liberation and women’s liberation groups. We must always handle social forces in the most appropriate manner.


Posted on July 9, 2011, in Queer & Trans Struggles, Revolutionary Theory and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Here we have a real revolutionary engaging in public self-criticism and attempting to work towards the correct position. What a difference from the RCP-USA and it’s embrace of a counter-revolutionary position as regards queer and trans struggle.

  2. Not to try and defend the RCP here, as a whole, but they have engaged in self-criticism since this was written in 1970. Homophobia is no longer taken on by that of the group, or by that of Chairman Avakian. Comrade Fidel Castro, himself, along with his brother had to engage in the very same self-criticism, and today both are outright advocates of same-sex marriage and sexual equality.

  3. Hey BJ.

    It’s worth pointing out that while the RCP has engaged in self-criticism (though many queer rads I know are still deeply distrustful of them) and comrades Fidel and Raul did the same, they and the Cuban revolution were decades ahead of the RCP-USA on this matter though.

    An article I posted some time ago said that following:

    After the failed Bay of Pigs invasion by US-backed counter-revolutionaries in 1961, military training and defence measures increased. From 1965, Cubans who refused to be conscripted into the army were sent to austere Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP) to carry out agricultural work instead. Openly gay men were not allowed to join the military and therefore were conscripted into UMAPs. Following protests to the government, as well as an undercover visit from Fidel Castro and a number of cadres from the Union of Young Communists (UJC), the camps were closed down in 1968.

    Homosexuality was still illegal, and openly homosexual Cubans were thought to be “deviants” and a threat to the revolution. This meant homosexuals were considered unfit for work in roles with even modest responsibility. The first legal challenge to homophobia came in 1975, when the Cuban Supreme Court ruled against discrimination at work. The decision paved the way for changes in 1979, when homosexual acts and same-sex relationships were officially decriminalised. Despite this advance, it took another nine years before the offence of committing same-sex acts of affection was removed from the penal code. Toward the end of the 1980s literature with gay subject matter began to re-emerge.
    At the 1992 UJC congress, discrimination based on sexuality was condemned, and in 1993 education workshops on homosexuality were run throughout Cuba to explain that homophobia is an unacceptable form of prejudice. The same year, then Cuban president Fidel Castro spoke out against homophobia, saying: “I do not consider homosexuality to be a phenomenon of degeneration … I consider it to be one of the natural aspects and tendencies of human beings … I am absolutely opposed to any form of repression, contempt, scorn or discrimination with regard to homosexuals.”

    In 1994, the popular feature film Fresa y Chocolate (Strawberries and Chocolate), produced by the government-run film industry, featuring a gay main character, portrayed the nation’s homophobia. Ian Lumsden, an associate professor of political science at Atkinson College, York University, Canada, and author of Machos Maricones & Gays: Cuba and Homosexuality, has extensively studied attitudes toward homosexuality in many Latin American countries. He has lived in Cuba and states that since 1986 there is “little evidence to support the contention that the persecution of homosexuals remains a matter of state policy”.

    The same was the case for Huey and the Panthers. While Huey was openly saying that we need to remove queerphobic phraseology from our vocabulary Avakian was cracking jokes about “faggots” at the first congress of the RCYB.

%d bloggers like this: