Isbel Diaz Torres

HAVANA TIMES – That a person or group should defend gay rights and also assume an anti-capitalist posture is something that makes many commentators at digital fora, journalists, some sociologists and even LGBTI activists uncomfortable.

I can understand perfectly well that pro-capitalists or right-wingers should not feel comfortable with this and that they should try to discredit anti-capitalist postures. Ultimately, both sides are confrontational and they both know it.

This is the way things are and will continue to be, and I often find many of the debates – where the fact the terms “Left” and “Right” have lost all meaning or the Left has betrayed its own historic struggles are explored – highly interesting.

I believe that a compelling reason for a group of activists (of which I am a part) to clarify their political posture is to prevent the fragmentation of the movement, such that it can assume transversal and comprehensive demands.

The strategies used to tackle this wide range of demands have been varied in Cuba and, for inattentive eyes, they may appear disconnected. The fact of the matter, however, is that they allow us to share physical and temporal spaces and to forge valuable alliances.

In a society like Cuba’s, characterized by serious restrictions on freedom of association and a lack of political rights, these procedures have very peculiar characteristics (which are not the subject of this post).

The truth is that, as Haroldo Dilla commented in a recent article, it is of vital importance for people to “take to the public arena not only the issues that affect them, but also their worldview.”

One may label the global system (into which Cuba has become increasingly incorporated) as “colonial”, “exclusivist,” “oppressive”, “authoritarian” and other serious-sounding adjectives. However, the view we share is that, in essence, it is a capitalist system which embodies all of those attributes, and that it is the matrix that reproduces homophobia and many other forms of exclusion and oppression.

To say, next to many other people, that the rights of an individual should be as full and comprehensive as their being, is nothing novel, but nor is it pointless. Of course, this could lead to other debates about what such a totality of rights would include, in dependence of the radicalness of the groups or individuals in question.

The notion that we live in a capitalist world, needless to say, takes us beyond the simplistic formula of the Cuba-US struggle, where, for a certain public, the former embodies the ideals of socialist emancipation and the latter the implacable imperialist machine and, for another, socialism is synonymous with the absence of democracy and State oppression, while US capitalism equals democracy and a legally constituted State.

As I see it, neither of the two countries strictly represent any of that. Nor do I believe that the Cuban revolution is the only process that has resulted in the repression of gays, nor that these struggles are directly connected to the long-standing struggle between the two countries.

A truly radical and emancipatory social project must set its sights on dismantling the matrix that produces oppression, and I do not believe that guerrilla warfare or neoliberalism have proven to be optimal strategies. I prefer the transformation of common sense, the gradual construction of a decolonized paradigm.

The struggle for LGBTI rights are part of a larger struggle only if they manage to look towards the larger horizon described above and begin to broaden their political agendas little by little. Of course, globally speaking, there is a right-wing LGBTI movement that centers on a critique of the State and make clear demands in favor of their community, but this movement is unaware of the larger social reality they are part of and, as such, does not appeal to me. Their demands could be useful for the now, but they will not accomplish much in the middle or long term.

I defend the right of such movements to do the political work they do, as it would be foolish to expect anyone to assume the “total emancipatory project,” but I don’t see why I should identify with such self-restrictive perspectives, just as I don’t see why I should be part of groups that are bound hand and foot by State institutions.

The perspective that I and other people I work with have is intersectional, thinking political rights in conjunction with civil, social, economic and any other rights that strike us as pertinent, including some that are not acknowledged by the UN Human Rights Charter.

We assume this posture, of course, as part of specific movements that ultimately incorporate themselves into broader networks.

I am an indissoluble whole: an LGBT activist, a lover, an ecologist, a revolutionary, a writer, son, anarchist, reader, big eater, man from Pinar del Rio and Havana…one can’t take just one little part of me, much less try to organize these attributes into hierarchies, even if I only do one thing at a time.


Isbel Diaz

Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

9 thoughts on “Gay and Anti-Capitalist?

  • Martin Luther King was not a Republican.

    Regarding Frederick Douglass, although the emancipated slaves did initially vote for the Republican Party that worked diligently to ensure citizenship and voting rights during the Reconstruction, the majority of black southerners were stripped of their right to vote in the decades before and after the turn of the twentieth century. Southern Democrats ushered in an age of terror, disfranchising African American voters, passing segregation laws in state legislatures, and enforcing these changes through the threat of lynching.

    In the effort to attract white voters, the southern Republicans began the Lily-White Republican movement in the 1880s and 1890s in order to oust black politicians and appointees from the party. By the early 1920s, black voters in the South had no viable political alternatives in either party even if they managed to overcome the poll taxes, literacy tests, and all-white primaries in order to register to vote.

    Black voters voting outside of the South in the wake of the Great Migration began to shift toward the Democratic Party. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal policies that tried to remedy the crisis of the Great Depression were the first real opportunities for fair employment and civil rights in decades. However, this political shift made southern segregationists increasingly uncomfortable within the national Democratic Party.

    Angered by Present Harry Truman’s establishment of the President’s Committee on Civil Rights and the addition of a civil rights plank to the Democratic Party Platform, a group of southern Democrats walked out of the 1948 convention and formed the State’s Rights Democratic Party, commonly known as the Dixiecrats. This segregationist party nominated South Carolina governor Strom Thurmond as its candidate for president. While the Dixiecrats won only four southern states and failed to effectively split the vote, their campaign cemented white southerners’ discontent with the national Democratic Party.

    The campaign of Republicans like Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Richard Nixon in 1968 attracted many former segregationist “State’s Rights Democrats” to the national Republican Party and repelled the majority of the few remaining black Republican voters. Many southern Democrats like former Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond switched to the Republican Party while the Republican “Southern Strategy” stoked racial resentment for electoral gain.

    So a great deal has changed since Frederick Douglass voted Republican.

    However, if there has ever been a moment when it would be good for the Republican Party to remember Frederick Douglass, this would be it. Perhaps these Douglass Republicans might fight for voting rights and women’s rights to contest recent moves to limit both. Perhaps a contingent of Frederick Douglass Republicans can contest the recent wave of state laws limiting access to the polls. Perhaps the Frederick Douglass Republicans can censure those who are passing new laws attacking women’s reproductive health care. A real Frederick Douglass Republican would seek to change today’s Republican party from one that seeks to limit rights, to one that is expanding them.

  • Thoughtful and illuminating post — glad to learn more about your “intersectional perspective” and your activism to help dismantle, or at least support alternatives to, the “capitalist matrix” (good term). Thanks!

  • Can you identify any of these racist Republicans by name? I submit there are just as many racists in the Democrats, perhaps more.

    You don’t have a problem belonging to the party that founded the KKK? Grand Wizard Robert Bird doesn’t ruffle your feathers?

  • On most economic issues, you have a point. It is simply when the Republican party racists begin to speak that I hold my nose and renew my Democrat registration.

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