LGBTQ liberation and the struggle for socialism

LeiLani Dowell
LeiLani Dowell
photo: G. Dunkel

Following are excerpts from a talk given by LeiLani Dowell, a Workers World managing editor and Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST) organizer, at the Workers World Party national conference. Go to to hear the entire talk.

I’d like us to have a moment of silence for all the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth who have lost their lives to anti-LGBTQ bigotry — whether by suicide, by police violence or by attacks by others.

A beautiful movement has taken place in the past few months where LGBTQ people have been posting videos, encouraging LGBTQ youth that it may be rough, but to stick it out because it gets better. A project called “We Got Your Back” aims to provide spaces for the voices of LGBTQ people of color.

And yet, we know that things don’t get better without struggle. Marx said that the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, and in this capitalistic society, you can bet that every single step toward LGBTQ liberation was won in the streets.

The final step toward LGBTQ liberation — the total, worldwide defeat of capitalism — will also be won in the streets. It will get amazingly better under socialism. But we know that nothing ever gets better without a fight. And yet, as LGBTQ people, our experiences tell us that the knowledge that it will get better through struggle is like a lifting of a heavy load; while the participation in that struggle keeps us going when every odd is stacked against us.

We in Workers World Party participate in progressive struggles even if we don’t completely agree with the politics, based on a principled stand of unity and recognition of self-determination. And at the same time, we attempt to respectfully insert our politics into those struggles.

In 1970, the women of Youth Against War & Fascism, the Party’s youth wing, formed a Women’s Caucus to connect to the burgeoning women’s movement. This caucus organized the first major demonstration of the women’s liberation movement in New York City, which notably marched to the Women’s House of Detention in solidarity with those imprisoned there.

The next year, Workers World Party co-founder Dorothy Ballan wrote “Feminism and Marxism,” which explained that the oppression of women by men has not been some eternal struggle since the dawn of time, but developed with the rise of class society. The book also challenged white women in the movement who refused to recognize the added oppression that women of color face.

Recently, we had a chance to intervene at a wonderful, anti-imperialist, international women’s conference in Montreal, organized by our allies in FiRE and Gabriela. As a U.S. delegation, we made important interventions to raise the struggles of women within the imperialist countries, as well as approaches to women’s oppression in other countries that did not allow U.S. imperialism to portray itself as “protectors” of women. We made sure that women’s resistance to imperialism in Iran, Afghanistan, etc., was acknowledged.

We also have years and years of intervention in the LGBTQ struggles, beginning in the initial years following the Stonewall Rebellion in 1969. We participate every year in the Pride marches, which have been consciously watered down by the forces of capitalism to be much less about liberation and more about consumerism. But we participate in them regardless, because we have to reach out to our class wherever we can find it. And when we do, we raise the theoretical contributions comrades like Bob McCubbin and Leslie Feinberg have made, not just to our understanding of the LGBTQ question, but to a communist and a global understanding.

I want to close by raising our new call to abolish capitalism and reawaken the struggle for world socialism. Let’s do even more to intervene in the struggle and strategically raise the struggle for world socialism. Let’s do it in honor of the youth who we couldn’t save and for the ones we can.


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