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?

  • 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.

  • Great article. As a socialist I grew up associating LGBT activism with the left and to this day most people I know who at least appear to be uncomfortable (or are out-right opposed) with equal rights for the LGBT community are from the right. My Communist and Anarchist friends are among the most pro-LGBT. But that said, when it comes to parties themselves left wing parties don’t have a great track record on this issue. In addition, not surprisingly (from a Marxist point of view and a-la-Zizek) many well-off members of the LGBT community are pro-capitalist because that is where their economic interests are. As always, the real left and right are reflected at the “community” level and not necessarily parties or governments.

  • Right. Obscure African American Republicans, like Martin Luther King Jr.

    You never heard of him?

    How about Hariet Tubman, Colin Powell, Condoliza Rice, Jackie Robinson, Clarence Thomas, Allen West, Herman Cain, Ben Carson?

    Never heard of them either?

    Now I know you heard of this man, because you use his photograph as your avatar: Frederick Douglas.

    All African American Republicans. It’s high time you woke up and smelled the coffee, Moses. Your people have not done well by your party. As an entrepreneur who happens to be African American, you have a lot more in common with Herman Cain or Ben Carson than you do with Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid.

  • Hahaha. You are right. I forgot about that most obscure group of Americans, ‘Republican African-Americans’.

  • If you are attempting to draw a parallel between Log Cabin Republicans and the Gay Caucus of the Cuban Communist Party, you have to realize there is no such counterpart in Cuba. Mariela Castro’s clique must toe the Party line on every issue, producing the absurd spectacle of having her followers carrying “Free the Five” signs at the gay pride march. (as Isbel has noted before)

    http://www.logcabin.org is an openly gay group within the Republican Party. No doubt some other Republicans are uncomfortable with them, but they are still welcome in the big tent party.

    Now if you want to talk about how well African American Republicans are treated by Democrats, that’s another story. They are vilified, insulted, called Oreo cookies and Uncle Toms by Democrats and other African Americans. Some have even received death threats during political campaigns ( See the case of Mia Love: http://www.myfoxchicago.com/story/19667206/mia-loverepublican-congresswoman-not-intimidated-by-hate-mail-death-threats )

    Isbel is free to proclaim himself gay and anti-capitalist (even if his own government does not recognize his freedom). But Isbel should also note that the countries in this world who have granted gays the fullest rights and freedoms are all capitalist liberal democracies. Karl Marx was deeply prejudiced against homosexuals and considered them a manifestation of capitalist decadence. Every Marxists state that has existed was openly and aggressively repressive toward homosexuals: imprisoning them, banning them from certain jobs, and even executing them. How ironic the group above chose to be photographed by a sculpture of the man who inspired and endorsed that kind of sexual repression!

    Read the books of Reinaldo Arenas to discover how gays were treated in Cuba for the first 4 decades after the Revolution.

  • Isbel declarations that he is both gay and anti-capitalist is a lot like gays in the US who declare they are both gay and Republican. in THEORY, he should be able to freely choose his political affiliation while living his life as a gay man. However, like many “log cabin” republicans in the US, an organization of gay republicans, Isbel will discover that his political affililiation in a real democracy is largely joined by people who do not share his same-sex views. He must accept the reality that most communists seem to share anti-gay views. Communist regimes, to date, have been shown to be the biggest human rights violators, let alone gay rights. Simply declaring ‘Gay/Communist pride’ is not enough to change the reality that most folks who share his political views are most likely to be the biggest homophobes.

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