This article by IBT supporter Bill Logan lays the political basis for his later work campaigning for homosexual law reform (see “Thirty Years of Homosexual Law Reform”) and other aspects of queer rights both before and after he helped to found the New Zealand section of the IBT. It was first published in Salient on 6 July 1981 and subsequently in Pink Triangle, September 1981, and in New Zealand Monthly Review, October 1981.
This society uses all its resources to force people into a pattern of personal relations which one day will be seen to have been restrictive and bad for all its members. The education system, the courts, the framework of employment and un-employment, religion, the taxation structure, the politicians, the media, housing arrangements, a network of popular prejudice, and even the so-called Human Rights Commission all support and sustain that key sacred institution, the nuclear family. Although it gives most men certain paltry privileges, and it especially oppresses women, the family is an institution which oppresses all its members. But most people somehow, with more or less pain, and with more or less ability to hide that pain from themselves, are able to be squashed into the family system. Lesbians and gay men, however, do not fit at all, and society, through discrimination and oppression, takes its revenge.
The gay struggle for a fair go, for respect and equality within the existing framework of a family-structured society, can never be completely won. In some periods limited mitigation of oppression can be achieved, so it is an im¬portant struggle which can sometimes lead to the easing of the difficulties of huge numbers of people. But these gains are always in danger of reversal. Real and permanent gay liberation is only possible through a strategy for a totally new social structure in which the constraints on patterns of sexual life are removed, in which the family as we know it disappears, in which there are no externally imposed rules about living arrangements, and in which people can start to explore their personal needs in true freedom.
The very idea of this is threatening to most of us. We are at least familiar with the family. Though they hurt us, families are also the providers of much of the solace available to us in a hostile society. A world without families is beyond our experience, and no visionary can describe the forms we will develop to replace them. But there is no need to feel threatened. The develop-ment of human society beyond the stage of the family will not be a matter of ripping people from the bosoms of their beloved; rather it will be achieved by removing restraints and allowing people to make choices freely.
Two “reforms” which would start to remove some of the constraints and which all liberationists would support are voluntary, free, high-quality, twenty-four hour child-care facilities, and voluntary, free, quality dining rooms. They are of course impossible, but not because of the expense. They would use resources more efficiently than our present way of arranging things. These reforms are impossible - within the existing social system - precisely because they would tend to undermine the compulsions which force us to organise our personal lives around the family.
To develop a strategy for liberation from the family system we must under¬stand why the family is so entrenched, we must understand what it does that makes it so valuable to society. Most obviously the family is the unit of reproduction. But this society needs reproduction not of real human beings, but of human beings dehumanised by being shaped to fit different special so-cial roles - class roles. And the modern family is a machine finely tuned to perform this function. In particular its very restrictiveness inculcates a de¬gree of discipline and docility in the workforce necessary in order that the ruling class can rule and can reap profits. By making some of its members dependent on others, who must be mindful of their responsibilities as bread¬winners, it helps stem industrial militancy. And at the same time it puts some of its members in positions of power over others, and provides a “harmless” escape valve for feelings of powerlessness and frustration arising from the workplace. In his family, as husband and father, the working man is boss. This creates an ideal environment of discipline-training for tomorrow’s workforce.
It is its dehumanising restrictiveness which makes the modern family system so valuable to this inhuman society. It is an institution then of a particular kind of society, a society in which ownership and control of the economy is in the hands of one class, while the work is done by another class which must be kept under control. The family is an instrument of capitalism. As long as capitalism survives the family system will be maintained at all costs, and les¬bians and gay men will be oppressed - and most other people, too, to a greater or lesser degree.
Only through the destruction of capitalism, the removal of the power of the class who own and control the means of production and whose interests shape the web of social institutions which determine the patterns of our lives, can liberation be achieved.
Liberationists must have a strategy of creating a force capable of removing the power of the ruling class. The core of that force must be the class which is in direct and daily conflict with the ruling class - the working class. The social web tries to hold the working class within the framework of the capitalist system too, of course, and it is permeated by apathy and false con-sciousness - sexism, racism and so on. And insofar as it today fights the ruling class it is for a few more dollars. But the working class can escape the web, and liberationists must prepare the way for that escape.
For the working class to become a force capable of overthrowing the ruling class it must be¬come conscious of its interests as a class against the ruling class, and conscious of the web of oppressions and institutions which preserve capitalist rule. A revolutionary party must be built to fight for that consciousness in the working class, because there is today no revolutionary party, nor even a grouping with a programme which is truly revolutionary.
Although in the early years of the Russian Revolution an important start was made in loosening the compulsions behind the family system, eventually the isolation of that revolution and the weakness of the Russian working class led to reverses. Although gains have been made in China, Cuba and the rest, both in dismantling capitalism and, if compared with the pre-existing situations, in personal life, the family system remains as a prop for the new power of bureaucrats. In all these countries the oppression of homosexuals continues. These are cramped, confined limited, deformed revolutions, based on material backwardness, international isolation and cultural deprivation. It is unfor¬tunate that the revolutionary movement beyond their borders reflects their cramped, confined, limited, deformed revolutionism, and that as a consequence the different groups of would-be revolutionaries in New Zealand today do not have among them a revolutionary programme.
A process of ferment, a process of criticism and political conflict among the different groups and individuals who seek a revolution is necessary to forge the programme capable of leading to revolution and the nucleus of a revolu¬tionary party. Gay revolutionaries, by virtue of their ability to see the flaws of those countries which are the models of the left, and by their somewhat different perspective on the structure of oppression in capitalist society, are in a position to make a special contribution to the necessary process of fer¬ment. And out of the process can emerge eventually a power which lays the conditions in which the human race can learn to live.