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Gay Liberation in Canada:
A Socialist Perspective


With this pamphlet, Vanguard Publications is pleased to make available material on a topic of importance to all those concerned with social change.

The rise of the gay liberation movement has had a profound and positive impact on the consciousness of millions of persons in this country. Yet experience has shown that it will not be easy for us to win our full civil rights and to end all forms of anti-gay discrimination and oppression.

Defenders of the status quo look for scapegoats to blame for society’s ills and to deflect peoples’ angers, frustrations, and fears away from the real problems. The mass murders of homosexuals at the hands of the fascists and the vicious witch-hunts of the McCarthy period are prime examples of how homosexuals have borne the brunt of such campaigns.

The opponents of gay rights today are dead serious. Anita Bryant’s bible-thumping crusade in the United States to "save our children" is only part of a backlash designed to take away even those few gains the gay movement has won.

In Canada, police launched sweeping raids on the gay baths and discotheques in Montreal as a spearhead of the campaign of repression to "protect" the Olympics.

Since then a similar "clean-up" rampage by cops has opened up in Vancouver.

In the New Democratic Party, a party based on the labor movement, there is now massive membership support for gay rights. But NDP governments in Saskatchewan and Manitoba have refused to pass laws to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The Conservative government of Bill Davis in Ontario refuses to reinstate racing steward John Damien, despite a Canada-wide outcry against his firing.

The right of lesbians to custody of their children is being threatened by the courts, and now we find the armed forces are purging gay women from the service in the name of "morale," "efficiency," and "national security."

The list goes on and on. All this is only the tip of the iceberg — of the formidable problems that gay men and women face in this country every day.

The attacks on homosexuality are taking place in an ominous context — a general offensive by capitalist governments against the interests of women, immigrants, Quebecois, Natives, and all working people in this country. Cutbacks, wage controls, Trudeau’s campaign against Quebec — these go hand in hand with the victimization of gay people.

For those who wish to end gay oppression the challenge is clear. More than ever before, we need a movement that can unite thousands around clear demands for gay rights, mobilizing them into the streets.

But even this will not be enough in itself. The fate of gays is also linked to the fate of other struggles for democratic and human rights. Our decaying capitalist system tends to reinforce and deepen every form of exploitation and oppression. It grants concessions under massive pressure — but these gains are never secure.

Only a socialist world can bring about the deep-going transformation necessary for genuine human freedom.

For socialists the gay liberation movement has posed an important challenge: the need to learn from the gay movement, as well as to con-tribute to it the socialist view on how it can be victorious.

This pamphlet presents the view of the League for Socialist Action/Ligue Socialiste Ouvriere (LSA/LSO), the Canadian section of the Fourth International.

This is only part of the discussion that has taken place in the LSA/LSO. Several other questions are taken up in individual contributions which are listed at the back for further reading. They include views and reports on such key topics as the struggle to end lesbian oppression, and the activity and experience of the LSO in the upsurge of the Montreal gay community in 1976 to drive back the police attacks.

This discussion is far from over. The Revolutionary Marxist Group and Groupe Marxiste Revolutionnaire are the two other organizations of the Fourth International in Canada. The experiences and approaches of their members active in the gay movement have been different from those of the League. The LSA/LSO is now working toward fusion with these two groups. With a new, unified organization we can look forward to further and richer discussions on gay liberation.

Alongside the Young Socialists/Ligue des Jeunes Socialistes, members of the LSA/LSO are active in building struggles and movements for social change. They also believe that for these movements to attain their ultimate goals and for humanity to progress beyond capitalism, it is urgent and absolutely essential to build a strong revolutionary socialist party.

The reports and statements which follow were written as part of a discussion within the LSA/LSO. Thus they take for granted many things which will make some passages and concepts hard for the reader to follow.

The range of topics is limited. They center on the basic question of what is the political significance of the gay liberation movement, and what approach revolutionary socialists should take to it.

The first item in this pamphlet outlines the present position of the LSA/LSO on gay liberation and socialism. Other items illustrate the evolution of the LSA/LSO’s approach and assessment since 1971.

The pamphlet concludes with a commentary by two LSA/LSO gay activists, which offers their personal evaluation of where the discussion now stands.

The LSA/LSO is publishing this material to encourage and facilitate discussion among socialists and gay liberation activists. We hope this pamphlet provokes comment, constructive criticism, and further exchanges of views.

— Duncan McLean, June 1, 1977

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