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Friday, October 15, 2010

Proletarians of all nations: caress yourselves! (2008)

Founded in 1970, the Homosexual Front of Revolutionary Action brings together more than 4,000 militants in France who have decided to show themselves. Everywhere and by all means. "Class struggle goes through the body."

"Having no reason for being other than desire, homosexuality is the living negation of false values, sacrosanct institutions and all roles. It is the absolute negation of the world such as it is."
"Lesbians and faggots, let's raze the walls. Let us leave the dumps and the ghettoes!"

Every Thursday for the last two years, in a hall at the Ecole des beaux-arts, 300 to 400 young men, several dozen young women, very young for the most part, meet up, recognize each other, speak with each other. Each evening, newcomers, a little lost because they have suddenly been placed outside of their solitude or their province, seek each other out. We are a general assembly of the Homosexual Front of Revolutionary Action (FHAR [Front homosexuel d'action revolutionnaire]). For two hours, and sometimes longer, we don't do anything [special]. Several young men make an announcement or provide information; someone writes a slogan on a board; another passes around photos of the most recent demonstration in which the FHAR participated; yet another get made-up. Such is (or, rather, was) the nocturnal life of the Beaux-Arts this past June [1972]. Because certain waterfront dwellers have signed to petition to ban them, the Thursday general assemblies will no doubt not be convened this autumn, at least, not in the same place. . . .
These open, general assemblies, which recall the smoky general assemblies of May 68, were quite different from the atmosphere of the "dumps" ["boites"] traditionally reserved for homosexuals: ghetto-dumps.[1] Also very different from the Arcadie club, which -- founded 19 years ago by Andre Baudry -- was long the only spot in which homosexuals could get together so as to fight against the conditions that society imposes upon them: today, Arcadie includes 15,000 members, who are involved in its journal and its club, who organize conferences-debates and receive medical benefits and social assistance. At FHAR, there is no membership card, only badges, and quite recently a newspaper produced by a working group. But almost everywhere, in the provinces, in the high schools, FHAR groups are being founded and FHAR descends upon the streets at every demonstration. Several thousand people, scarcely 0.2% of French homosexuals, [this is] a revolutionary fringe, but [also] an international force, because there currently is a liaison between all of the revolutionary homosexuals in the form of the Revolutionary Homosexual International. From 9-11 September [1972], there was a seminar in Denmark on the sexual minorities, and FHAR was invited to attend. On 15 October, on the initiative of the Italian Front, a large meeting took place in Milan to prepare for the 1973 Congress at Paques. An international newspaper, International Politico-Sexual Information Sheet,[2] was founded. This newspaper is a liaison-paper produced in Paris and distributed in a dozen [other] countries. Like the American G.L.F. (Gay Liberation Front[3]), from which it issued, the FHAR participates deeply in the myth and its activists do not refrain from entertaining it, because they have charged themselves with liberating themselves from other myth, a very powerful one, which is that of homosexuality. It is more against received-ideas and the form of society that guarantees them than against the laws that the FHAR decided to struggle, and in this the FHAR goes even further than its sponsors, the G.L.F., by resolutely placing itself outside of all "unionist" or "reformist" perspectives.
Of course, everyone seeks to aid each other and, from the provinces, FHAR receives many appeals in distress. Of course, everyone fights against the institutionalized repression of the "hetero-cops" ("those who erect their heterosexuality as the only form of love and profit by repressing those who do not imitate them") that is manifested by [legislative] ordinances and sub-amendments. The ordinance of Vichy, promulgated in 1942 and confirmed on 8 February 1945 in fact declares that anyone "who commits an immodest act or an act against nature with an individual of his sex, less than 21 years old," will be sentenced from six months to three years in prison, and fined from sixty to fifteen-thousand francs. But the model of the genre remains the Mirguet sub-amendment voted upon by the National Assembly on 30 July 1960, which decreed that homosexuality was "social plague" like alcoholism or procuring for prostitutes. And if the newspaper of one of the political groups (the French section of the Revolutionary Homosexual International [I.H.R.]) took The Social Plague as its title,[4] this choice strangely recalled the Communards' slogan "They are the rabble and, well, so I am"[5].
What in reality is the FHAR? We have posed this question to the activists, the "political ones," the members of the I.H.R., the "spontaneous" (the Gasolines)[6] and the lesbians (the Red Dykes).
The "political ones" participate in "initiatives" or assemble following their affinities into groups numbering between six and 30 people. There are five such groups in Paris (three of them constitute the French section of the I.H.R.) and 15 such groups do the same work in the provinces. Some of these groups publish newspapers: Le doight au cul ["Finger in the ass"] in Nice and The Social Plague by the I.H.R.
Remi, 25 years old, employee (I.H.R.): "Before the FHAR existed, for many of us it was solitude, isolation, and guilt. Before the FHAR, I did not belong to a political group, [because] none of them gave a place to sexuality and wouldn't accept me. What the FHAR provides is the faculty of struggling without compromise for the revolution, without putting sexuality aside, without denying who one is. One of the great strengths of the FHAR is that it mobilizes people who have no need of making an intellectual effort to understand why they fight. All the Leftist groupings need a few workers to fight for them! But we do not need to seek out homosexuals, we are all homosexuals, we are all proletarians!
Alain, 30 years old, graphic artist (I.H.R.): "Our revolutionary ideal is alive and not content with phrases. It isn't because I have read Marx that I have more to soak up! The Leftists who rejected us at the beginning now try to recuperate us, just as they did with the women. . . . But we have already passed the stage of Leftism and we must take a position that is critical with respect to it. Not marching to a cadenced step, like the O.A.J.S. Do not take us too seriously."
For the working group that meets in the IIth arrondissement, the retreat from Leftism is less great.
Rene, 22 years old, student (Group 11): "What we want is to pose the problem of sexuality in the context of a general questioning of society. We are not a union of homosexuals; we address ourselves to the people who are aware of society's problems and want to transform it. One can pose the problem of sexuality as such, but it is necessary that sexuality is relative to a historical situation and that the roles attributed to the different sexes are transformable. The heterosexuals impose on us a neurotic perception of our sexuality and, in fact, they oppress our heterosexuality. At the limit, we can cultivate the homosexuality that we take up as a provocation, but I no longer consider it as a point of departure. We refuse to guarantee a uniquely sexual approach."
How do these groups conceive of their work? Refraining from giving an alibi to the Communist Party or the Leftist groups, they try to find means of expression that are their own and in which they can mock the "irony" of L'Aurore or Minute[7] (which speaks of the "pink" front without recalling that the homosexuals condemned to death by the Nazis were forced to bear a pink triangle on their uniforms in the camps) or the accusations of L'Humanite[8] (which likens homosexuals to perverts and sick people). Addressing itself to "professional revolutionaries," The Social Plague (organ of the I.H.R.) presents the following program.
Several propositions.
1) Homosexuality doesn't exist (only in the heads of those who believe themselves to be heterosexuals or those so-called heterosexuals who have managed to persuade [us] that they are homos).
2) Heterosexuality also doesn't exist; sexuality can only be global and cannot suffer partition or division; any specification is arbitrary and illusory, and behaviors are fixed according to archetypes that our culture has proposed.
3) Any specialization is invented and flattered by the dominant class to favor some to the detriment of others, and vice versa, so as better to impose itself; moreover, transgressions that do not involve a modification of social status are perfectly tolerated.
4) Homos and heteros have equal title to being victims of the system; they are simply utilized, exploited and oppressed in different ways. . . .
5) "Normal" and "natural" are words to be banned; nothing that concerns mankind is natural; by leaving the animal kingdom to become social, the human biped has abandoned everything natural; he/she is freed from nature. Nothing that is specifically human is natural.
6) [We must] Rethink the raising of children in a non-authoritarian way, assuring their free development (nothing in common with the bidon experiments, of either the Freinet or Summerhill types).
7) Destruction of the family as a repressive and hierarchicalized mini-society.
8) Destruction of all roles.
9) Destruction of all "scales of value"; value is a bourgeois notion.
10) Culture is a bourgeois notion.
11) All physical or intellectual domination of one individual by another is a deviation from the sexual instinct (domination of men over women, of adults over children).
12) The goal of the revolution isn't the seizure of power by the "proletariat," it is the destruction of the very ideas of power and proletariat.
13) The concept of "class struggle" is to be completely re-thought.
14) Democracy is a latrine.
15) The generalized self-management of life.

The Gasolines: "Getting made-up is a way of life."
Refusing the "recuperation" of the political groups, refusing all hierarchy and all authority within the FHAR, and having a genius for provocation, the Gasolines (or the "crazy" partisans of spontaneity) within the FHAR are not a political group but a group of "behavior." No structure, no meetings, no newspaper. But they know how to fight; three of them overturned a police car during the confrontations in Charonne after the murder of Pierre Overnay.[9]
Marlene (Alain), 20 years old, student: "I have had it with activist relations! Discussions about the Russian Revolution of 1905 and the short works by Lenin: that's the University! What we want is the total transformation of life. One only makes revolution if one lives it permanently, in everyday life. We are not social revolutionaries; we are revolutionaries of the current moment. We will construct the next barricades in evening gowns."
Zohra, 25 years old, journalist: "We are activists who have problems with the fashions, with coiffure, with make-up. Getting made-up is a way of life, of expressing oneself immediately. Verbal expressions are gratuitous. The gesture is efficacious and in the streets the Gasolines are ingenuous."
Marc, 26 years old, worker at a marketing firm: "We have a communal trunk and we get made-up for all the demonstrations. Obviously those who adore going to Madame Arthur or Alcazar[10] cannot tolerate seeing the same [type of] thing in the streets, which means we are often harassed at the cafes in Montparnasse. . . . But our make-up is neither a travesty nor a provocation."
Daniel: "One doesn't play with madness. One lives it. There is no journal. If there is one, one is behind in one's revolution. Personally, I work in an administrative office. I have a rose in my ear, I call my colleagues 'Dear.' People end up loving us and not only accepting us. Gasoline means 'revolution of the peas.' There is a kind of catharsis or dynamic in finding oneself together and it aids in the liberation of one's workplace and oneself. But what is effective and enriching is what each person does and not what he says here. The FHAR is useful as a forum, as a dimension without dimension. If it was an end in itself, it would be completely stupid. . . ."
The Red Dykes: "The heteros are happy to reproduce us."
As we have said, there are few women in FHAR. (This is striking during the general assemblies.) At the beginning, things weren't this way, but the general assemblies quickly became masculine for two reasons: 1) the difficulty of integrating young women into a group, because they aren't used to it; and 2) the different degrees of oppression that have been lived, double in that it affects them as women and as homosexuals. The Red Dykes say the young women in FHAR assume their physical sexuality but still aren't liberated. They still have a way to go. They are at the stage of self-defense and thus often at the stage of provisionally closing themselves off. They have the courage to respond to aggression with aggression. But they still haven't reached the level of verbalizing with the others.
The Red Dykes (this is the name that homosexuals have given to the group that they constituted within the M.L.F.[11]) have abandoned the general assemblies to work in groups. There are two hundred of them in total. In Nice, Marseilles, Caen, Lille and Lyon, many of them participate in the creation of FHRA groups because, in the provinces, the M.L.F. cannot support them (the M.L.F. is too reformist!). On 13 May 1972, they participated in the Days Denouncing Crimes Against Women by showing up and engaging in debate with the audience:
"There are homosexuals onstage but also in the audience. If we mount the stage, it is because we are no longer ashamed. One has buried us in silence; one has insulted us because we refuse to submit to the laws of the phallocrats and the hetero-cops. We are fundamentally subversive. We are homosexual by choice of pleasure. Our pleasure is neither masturbation for two, nor psychosexual infantilism, nor a caricature of male/female relations. We are creatures of pleasure outside of all norms. We are lesbians and we are happy to be lesbians."
Catherine, 22 years old, student: "Thirty-five percent of women whom one calls heterosexual haven't any sexuality. They practice coitus but feel no pleasure. I have seen heterosexual women who are more anti-male than lesbians. Homosexuality is a myth in the sense that it is a word attached to a practice that is in itself like all the practices, perfectly partial with respect to what the individual is. One cannot say that there exists a homosexual personality, a homosexual social comportment, or a family structure that produces homosexuality.
"The myth creates separate existence, particularity. There are homosexuals who imitate the myth and who use it. Very different in attitude. If one must take up the myth in part, it is only so that the [other] people truly believe in our homosexuality. If it is enough that a young man wears a beard or is accompanied by a young woman for one not to believe that he is homosexual and that this demolishes his discourse and possibilities of action, then it is necessary that he should put a carnation in his hair! The myth is so strong that we are obliged to make use of it ourselves, but as a weapon against the dominant heterosexuality, to destroy people's defenses."
Anne-Marie, 27 years old, administrative executive: "The FHAR, being a homosexual front, is a sexual front. Heterosexuality isn't sexual, it is reproductive. Forced to confront the image of sexuality as pleasure and the blossoming of the individual that we have proposed to it, heterosexuality can only find itself transformed.
"The FHAR is not structured. It is a myth and will remain one, among the small groups of people who continue to maintain that myth. It is more important that this is a myth than a party organized like the others, because homosexuality is itself a myth. It would be quite comic to organize it in a bureaucratic fashion! Any 'structure' of the homosexual movement could only be an inverted world in which the heterosexuals would be 'anormal.' Has someone attempted this? I belong to the movement to liberate heterosexuals! As a frenzied sympathiser. . . .
"It is heterosexuality that feeds us and produces us. But by constituting ourselves politically, we recreate our own forces. But the heterosexuals are happy to produce us! We will raise ourselves and we will raise their children, who will be like us!"


[Author's] Bibliography[13]

Francoise d'Eaubonne, Eros minoritaire (Balland, 1970).
F.H.A.R., Rapport contre la normalite (Champ Libre, 1971).
Daniel Guerin, Autobiographie de jeunesse (Belfond, 1972).
Phillippe Naboun, Sexe en prison / Plaisir contre les principes (Nouvelles editions polaires, 1972) (no billposting and prohibited to people under the age of 18).
Special issue of Partisans: Sexualite et repression (Maspero, 1966).
Reimut Reiche, Sexualite et Luttle de classes: Defense Contre La Desublimation Repressive (Traduit De L'allemand Par Catherine Parrenin Et Franz Josef Rutten) (Maspero, 1971).
Maria Sylva Spolato, Les Mouvements homosexuels revolutionnaires (1971).

(First published in French in Gulliver, #1, November 1972. Translated by NOT BORED! 31 May 2008. All footnotes by the translator.)

[1] See "the 'dump-city' phenomenon" in From a Supper of Ashes to Embers of Satin (On the Riots of November 2005 in France).
[2] English in original.
[3] English in original.
[4] See Patrick Cardon's essay History of a Journal: The Social Plague (France, 1972-1974): The marriage of the situs and the queers.
[5] See the song "L'Eveil de la classe ouvriere," words and music by J. Darcier and J.B. Clement (1871).
[6] The "Gazolines" splintered off from the Homosexual Front for Revolutionary Action in 1972. Folded in 1974. Among their members were Marie-France, Helene Hazera and others. Known for dressing in drag and playing upon madness, the group also engaged in confrontational behavior, including overturning a police car during a demonstration against the destruction of les Halles.
[7] French rags.
[8] Communist Party rag.
[9] Young Maoist shot dead by security forces at Renault in 1972.
[10] Presumably ghettoized gay hot spots.
[11] Women's Liberation Movement.
[12] Best-known for her books about the French anarchist musician, Leo Ferre.
[13] We have corrected the many typos in this list and have filled in publication data when missing.

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