A short while ago, I wrote and published on Facebook a letter to Valerio Arcary, questioning a Post that he shared written by Ana Cristina Machado, which was masquerading as a homage to Nahuel Moreno, but was in reality a slanderous attack based on a falsification of history.

By Alicia Sagra.

 

I expressed my objections, after considering that when a renowned leader like Valerio, shares a text of such slanderous nature that does not stop there, there are consequences.

We are witnessing one of those consequences. Jéssica Milaré, columnist of Esquerda Online (journal of the MAIS), in a Facebook publication of February 10th, in a very few lines makes one of the most brutal attacks ever made against Nahuel Moreno. She makes clear her aversion to Moreno, who she argues qualifies as lgtb-phobic, and a brute with Stalinist morality. It emanates from a work that Moreno wrote in 1969 from prison in Perú, “Morals and revolutionary activity”, in which there is a phrase (also cited in Ana Cristina’s post) which puts lesbianism with the pederasts, as an example of the social perversions and morals of a capitalist society in crisis.

In any case, it would be a little light-minded to define in such a categorical way a leader only from a single phrase, as horrible as this may be. Especially in the case of Nahuel Moreno, which has been defined by confronting all kinds of oppressions. He has always manifested in defense of oppressed nations and cultures, against racism, against the oppression of women. And, regarding homosexuals, in the 70s in Argentina, PST, under his leadership, was the only party which publicly supported the struggles of the Homosexual Liberation Movement, offering its locations for them to meet. And that, independent from the more or less theoretical clarity he might had on the subject at the time.

But Moreno, until the last day of his life, was concerned with advancing on his knowledge of Marxism, his comprehension of reality and, from there, on analyzing critically his own stands. In that way he advanced on his theoretical and programmatic comprehension on the subject of homosexuality and therefore, and without any drama, modified his stands of 1969, as he always did when he knew he had made a mistake.

Jéssica Milaré says Moreno never retracted what he said on that phrase from 1969. She is a young militant and may know little of the work of Moreno. That is not the case of Ana Cristina Machado, who in her text mentions the long interview realized on 1986, short before his death, which is considered his political testament, Conversaciones con Nahuel Moreno. Recently, as it was met the 30th anniversary of his death, IWL-FI published a special edition of that work, where Moreno gives his opinion on the subject. To the question about his opinion on homosexuality, he answers:

“As a social problem, it is complex. Sexologists I have read say that the oppression of the male homosexual, which has always been intense, has begun to lighten up in recent years. In the same way, thirty or forty years ago society rejected a woman who had several mates and now begins to accept it. It seems that the same is happening with homosexuality. Many prejudices remain but are fading. Some Italian sexologists vindicate female homosexuality: they say in a heterosexual relationship the woman is submissive, while in a homosexual relationship she becomes a subject. There is great friendship and frankness where the couple express themselves freely. I consider homosexuality something so normal that I refuse to make propaganda. In that sense, I totally agree with Daniel Guerin, the great French Marxist historian – and renowned homosexual, author of a book where he vindicates homosexuality. It is the best I have read on the subject. In the prologue of the Japanese edition he alerts homosexuals against the tendency to make their liberation an end in itself and argues that the big problem for every militant must be concerned with the transformation of society.

(…) Within society we struggle to the death against the oppression of homosexuals and all kinds of oppressions: National, Racial, etc.”

One can agree or disagree with Moreno’s view, but cannot say it is lgbt-phobic, nor that he is a brute defending Stalinist morality regarding homosexuality, as argued by Jéssica Milaré, and as the text of Ana Cristina Machado suggests.

How do we Explain the 1969 Phrase?

Even when there has never been a similar phrase in any of his previous or later texts, the phrase existed. The only explanation one can give is that it was a product of the culture and stage of development of science at that time, which means with this phrase Moreno capitulated to the dominant homophobic culture. A culture that was so strong that in England, one of the most advanced countries in the world, homosexuality was still considered a crime until the 1970s and in the one of the most “progressive” countries it took until 1973 for homosexuality to be removed from psychiatry texts as a perversion.

It is the same explanation for the prejudiced attitudes of Marx and Engels towards homosexuals, who they considered “pederasts”, as seen in the letters they exchanged[1]; Lenin’s references on “the aberrations of a sexual life abnormal or hypertrophied”[2]; the mention of Clara Zetkin on the “moral consequences of the concentration of many women in a factory”[3].

But, besides the more backward definitions which were related at the time, what was obligatory on the politics was the fight against all types of oppression. Thus German Marxists opposed the incarceration of Oscar Wilde in England in 1895; in 1922 the first Bolshevik penal code stopped mentioning homosexuality as a crime, and the soviet constitution “declared a total lack of interference from the State and society in sexual matters, as long as it did not affect the interests of any other person”; Clara Zetkin defended homosexuals who were pursued by Stalin in the 1930s; Moreno offered the party offices for the MLH[4] to meet in the 1970s in Argentina.

Analyzing an individual independent of the time has little to do with Marxism. And it has very little to do with intellectual honesty to attack leaders for previous positions, when these have been corrected and changed. No-one can say today (apart from Stalinism) that Lenin defended the Revolution on stages and that Trotsky was against the Bolshevik party, because they abandoned these positions in 1917. Therefore, why is Moreno attacked over a phrase in a document from 1969, when in practice he acted differently and made explicit his changed views in a widespread text in 1986?

As I said, Jéssica Milaré may not know the later positions of Moreno, nor his political stance on the MLH in the 70s. But, how can the MAIS leadership which claims to be Morenist, not be concerned with providing clarity to their young comrade?

Which Morals were Defended by Nahuel Moreno?

It is inexplicable that the MAIS leadership remains silent when a columnist of their journal publicly declares that Moreno’s text on morals in 1969, is “a Stalinist vision of LGBT people, to justify a moral judgment on LGBTs within a revolutionary organization”.

The text, as our whole tradition knows, was not written to answer Stonewall, as Jéssica Milaré declares. I do not know if it was written before or after June 28 1969. What I am certain of, is that it would have been very difficult for the reverberations of those processes to penetrate the walls of the Peruvian jail where Moreno was incarcerated, at a time where the media was nothing like it is today.

The text was written to answer some problems inside the Argentinian party that had nothing to do with homosexuality, but with the development of moral issues based on the principles of pleasure and individual liberties, morals concerned with “doing what we want to do”, satisfying the needs of everyone without thinking about the incarcerated, new comrades, and with no rule or regulation. Which meant morals highly related to spontaneity, sponsored and practiced by the militants and leaders of the party, and whose primary victims were women.

Against that Moreno counter-poses Bolshevik morals, which have roots in the international socialist revolution and at a party level base importance on other comrades, as much in militant action as in personal relationships, based on trust, honesty and mutual respect.

Jéssica Milaré of course, has every right to be against the criteria defended by Moreno. But it is necessary to clarify to her that that criteria has nothing to do with Stalinist morality – a morality of leadership privilege (at every level), a morality of lies, of the falsification of history, and of slanders.

On the contrary, his questioning of spontaneous morals, the morals of “pleasure and individual liberty”, has a lot to do with what was expressed by Lenin in his exchange with Clara Zetkin:

“The hypocrisy in respect of bourgeois morals and the constant prodding around sexual matters disgusts me equally. As much as it sells itself as rebellious and revolutionary, that attitude, in the end is perfectly bourgeois. It is the chosen tendency among intellectual and related sectors. Our party, at the core of the militant proletariat and with class consciousness, has nothing to do with these questions.

Young people’s change in attitude towards the problems of sexual life is, of course, a matter of “principle”, and pretends to base itself on theory, many call their attitude “revolutionary” and “communist” and honorably believe it is. To me, as I am older, that does not impress me. And although I do not have a dark ascetic, I believe that what young people – and some mature men – call “new sexual life” is nothing more than, in most cases, a strictly bourgeois sexual life, and extension of the bourgeois brothel. All that has nothing to do with freedom of love, as we communists conceive it.

Surely you know the famous theory that in communist society the satisfaction of sexual impulses, of the need for love, is something as simple and unimportant as “drinking a glass of water”. The theory of the glass water has gone crazy, completely crazy with some of our youth, and has been fatal for many young men and young women. Its defenders claim it is a Marxist theory (…) The famous glass of water theory is, to my understanding, completely anti-Marxist and antisocial. Sexual life not only reflects the work of nature, but the work of culture as well, may that be on an inferior or superior level (…) But even more important than all of this is the social aspect. Because the act d drinking a glass of water is an individual act, and love involves two beings and a third new life can be born. In this act lies a social interest, a duty to the community. (…) As a communist, I have no sympathy for the glass of water theory, even if it is presented with the colourful “emancipation of love” label. As for the rest, this so-called emancipation of love is not communist or new. As you may recall, it is a theory that has been preached mainly in the middle of the last century in literature with the name “freedom of the heart”. Then the bourgeois reality showed that it was not about liberating the heart, but the flesh (…)[5]

I waited some time before answering to this attack made by Jéssica Milaré, waiting some kind of clarification from the MAIS Leadership. Unfortunately that clarification never came. That absence makes it more important for us to respond, since the text does not attack this or that error of Moreno but his morals, and we cannot stand by an attempt tot tarnish the morals of a revolutionary in such an irresponsible way, more so when it is to our primary leader and teacher.

***

Translation: Guillermo Zuñiga.

Notes:

[1] Marx and Engels, Complete Works, letters from June 22nd and December 17th 1869, referenced Jean Baptiste von Schweitzer, who directed the Lasallists after the death of Lasalle and was renowned for his homosexuality.

[2] My Recollections of Lenin, Clara Zetkin, Virtual Library, www.omegalfa.es.

[3] La emancipación femenina y la revolución alemana de 1848 [Female Emancipation and the German Revolution of 1848] – Clara Zetkin.

[4] MLH: Homosexuals Liberation Movement.

[5] My Recollections of Lenin, Clara Zetkin, Virtual Library, www.omegalfa.es