Thursday, September 02, 2010

Homo Castro

The other day, Cuban communist dictator Fidel Castro created a dilemma for the left, even while playing a sick game of Keeping Up With The Joneses. He gave an interview with the Mexican newspaper La Jornada, in which he said (too simply and/or absurdly) that, while it was ultimately his fault, he was too busy with other matters to stop putting gays and HIV-positive men in gulags. But he was somehow not too busy to actually, y'know, put them there, as if there was some deadly holdover from the Batista regime that just kept on keepin on.
[Castro] said he was not prejudiced against gays, but "if anyone is responsible (for the persecution), it's me."
"I'm not going to place the blame on others," he said.
Castro, 84, said he was busy in those days fending off threats from the United States, including attempts on his life, and trying to maintain the revolution that put him in power in 1959.
"We had so many and such terrible problems, problems of life or death," Castro said.
"In those moments I was not able to deal with that matter (of homosexuals). I found myself immersed, principally, in the Crisis of October (Cuban Missile Crisis), in the war, in policy questions," he said.
Frankly, Castro is trying to rewrite history, and based on pure contemporary expediency. Now being pro-gay is chic, and being anti-gay will cost you support from leftists -- a commodity Castro always has relied on. So he has to give an atonement interview. (See some of the reaction here at Gay Patriot, where some leftist trolls are comparing Castro favorably with Ken Mehlman, as if marriage amendments were remotely comparable to the Cuban Gulag.)

If it weren't too easily accessible to call a "secret," one of the Left's dirty little secrets is that it was as guilty of homophobia, if not more so, than the political right for most of the 20th century. Hard as it may be to believe now, Topic H really has only prompted live-wire public issues at all for the last 40 years or so and only been a litmus test for right-left sympathies for about the last 25.

Castro, very unremarkably for Marxists and leftists of his era, saw homosexuality as the behavior of decadent aristocrats and bourgeois dandies. And given the historical facts about homosexuality and the historical construction of gay identity, this was a reasonable claim -- at the time, homosexuality WAS largely (entirely, in terms of cultural impact) the province of the upper class, which had the leisure and freedom-from-want to agonize over their sexuality, their personality, their Romantic self-identity, and to use sex for purposes other than marriage and/or reproduction (indeed, a non-Communist Marxist claim can be made that the spread of homosexuality in the rich West is the result of the democratization of leisure and wealth). But Castro always persecuted homosexuality as anti-social, never as a sin against God ("what 'god'? ... we are Marxist-Leninists"). And this Wikipedia article (which also casts doubts on the narrative, swallowed whole in the Reuters article above, that it all ended around 1980) makes the rationale quite explicit (with citations of Castro's own words):
Castro's admiring description of rural life in Cuba ("in the country, there are no homosexuals") reflected the idea of homosexuality as bourgeois decadence, and he denounced "maricones" (faggots) as "agents of imperialism." Castro explained his reasoning in a 1965 interview:
"We would never come to believe that a homosexual could embody the conditions and requirements of conduct that would enable us to consider him a true Revolutionary, a true Communist militant. A deviation of that nature clashes with the concept we have of what a militant Communist must be."

None of this was atypical. Hard as it may seem to believe now, with Bohemia rather than class defining the right-left cleavage, Communists idealized the traditional family as the producer of new workers and were sternly moralistic. Homosexuality was a retreat from social responsibility and a wallow in non-productive selfishness. Indeed, many of the great homosexual artists of the 19th and early-20th centuries were forthright enemies of egalitarianism -- Oscar Wilde, Tennessee Williams, early Genet -- and hated as such by the Marxists and socialists of the period.

To speak just of movies, it was common well into the 1980s to see European directors such as Italy's Bernardo Bertolucci, Greece's Theo Angelopoulos or Italy's Luchino Visconti (all members of their respective national communist parties, and Visconti even gay himself) portray homosexuality as the harbingers and/or the symbols of sybaritic fascism and selfish vice. To cite just two examples: a dance scene in Angelopoulos's WW2-set "The Travelling Players" has the male communist guerrillas get all the woman in the town to dance with them, while the fascist male supporters of the collaborationist Greek regime dance with one another; and Visconti's "The Damned" basically portrays the Nazi Party prior to the Night of the Long Knives as a San Francisco bath-house group.

All this by way of saying ... if you have a memory or knowledge of politics that goes before about 1970, you know that, just as with the Democratic Party and blacks, the Left has been the enemy of homosexual persons as often as their friend. Castro will always remind us of that, regardless of his pathetic attempts at revisionism.

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