Hey Ladies! // Terence Kissack : ‘Free Comrades’

Hey Ladies!

It’s “International Ladies’ Day” today (March 8th) — or somesuch nonsense; the day Complainey Janeys around the world have Official License to do what they do best: complain. March 8th was declared to be “The Day To Complain” in 1910, when the Second International held an International Women’s Ladies’ conference in Copenhagen.

And they’ve been nagging gentlemen ever since.

Ironically, it was twenty-first century social democrats who oversaw the physical destruction of the House in which the conference was held. Congratulations for this principled act of social cleansing must go to innovative Copenhagen Mayor Ritt Bjerregaard — who, when she’s not evicting squatters, on holidays, praising police terror squads, or ‘campaigning’ for ‘environmentalism’, ‘feminism’ and ’socialism’, is a gardener in her organically-managed manor; mostly growing apples — and the Christian fundamentalists who now own the empty block where the People’s House/Youth House once stood.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah…

I mean…

‘Free Comrades’

Free Comrades: Anarchism and Homosexuality in the United States 1895-1917 is a new(ish) book (AK Press, 2008) by US historian Terence Kissack:

“By investigating public records, journals, and books published between 1895 and 1917, Terence Kissack expands the scope of the history of LGBT politics in the United States. The anarchists Kissack examines—such as Emma Goldman, Benjamin Tucker, and Alexander Berkman—defended the right of individuals to pursue same-sex relations, often challenging the conservative beliefs of their fellow anarchists as well as those outside the movement—police, clergy, and medical authorities—who condemned LGBT people.

In his book, Kissack examines the trial and imprisonment of Oscar Wilde, the life and work of Walt Whitman, periodicals including Tucker’s Liberty and Leonard Abbott’s The Free Comrade, and the frank treatment of homosexual relations in Berkman’s Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist. By defending the right to enter into same-sex partnerships free from social and governmental restraints, the anarchists posed a challenge to society still not met today.

Terence Kissack is a former Executive Director of San Francisco’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society, and he currently serves on the board. His writings have appeared in Radical History Review and Journal of the History of Sexuality.”

Terence Kissack @ GLBT Historical Society, July 30, 2008: “The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Transgender Historical Society (GLBTHS) collects, preserves, and interprets the history of GLBT people and the communities that support them. We sponsor exhibits and programs on an on-going basis” (San Francisco, United States).

At one point, Terence is asked about Oscar Wilde’s relationship to anarchism; Terence responds that at various points, the Fenian bugger described himself as one. What Wilde meant by this is somewhat uncertain, apparently, and may be read as motivated by his desire to separate himself — the cultured artist — from ‘the herd’. In this context, Wilde was using the term ‘anarchist’ in an ‘elitist’ sense. Leaving aside the fact that Marxist critics of anarchism in particular frequently characterise anarchism as being an ‘elitist’ doctrine (see EMMA GOLDMAN: A life of controversy, Lance Selfa, International Socialist Review, No.34, March–April 2004), Wilde did formulate his political opinions more extensively in his 1891 essay ‘The Soul of Man under Socialism’, rightly-recognised as a classic of libertarian socialist thought.

Another interesting point raised in the discussion following Terence’s talk relates to the position fin de siècle anarchists in the United States adopted towards religion. On my reading, this relationship was a highly-antagonistic one. This was certainly the case of anarchist movements in Europe and South America. This antagonism derived from both the core tents of anarchist philosophy — summarised in Bakunin’s pithy epithet “if God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him” (‘God and the State’, written February–March, 1871; first published 1882) — and the Church’s role in the political and social repression of the masses.

In this context, reference is also made to the legacy of Dorothy Day (1897–1980) and the ‘Catholic Worker Movement’ (1932–), a quasi-anarchist movement/network established after the eclipse of the anarchist movement proper, the members of which, despite a certain radicality in their political and social views, nonetheless retain(ed) loyalty to the Catholic Church.

    See also :

    MILK Skimmed – What was left out of MILK? “A provocative GLBT Historical Society roundtable about what was left out of Gus Van Sant’s movie. February 19, 2009 in San Francisco.”

    Sexual Orientation.info [Jamie Heckert]: “This site is developing as a resource to help people think about sexuality and relationships differently. Is it okay to tell people who they really are, who they should be or what they should want? This is what is happening when we try to fit people into sexual orientation boxes.” Also: ‘Towards Consenting Relations: Anarchism and Sexuality’, Jamie Heckert (University of Edinburgh) [DOC].

    Anarchist Studies Network Reading Lists on Gender & Sexuality.

    anarcha.org: “online resource for anarcha-feminist news, articles, images and discussion”.

    Tiara Naputi, ‘Mujeres Libres: Identity Formation in Anarchist Spain’, Paper presented at the annual meeting of the NCA 94th Annual Convention, Nov 20, 2008: “Founded in 1936, Mujeres Libres was the first autonomous feminist organization in Spain. It responded to the lack of attention to women’s issues in the anarchist movement, thus simultaneously supporting and refuting the movement. This dual role was achieved through identity formation. This essay analyzes the decision to tie gender identity to the qualifications for participation and membership and examines the rhetorical tactics and their effects on the broader goals of the organization.”

    Mujeres Libres @ libcom.org.

    Martha A. Ackelsberg, Free Women of Spain: Anarchism and the Struggle for the Emancipation of Women, Indiana University Press, 1991.

    Mujeres Libres: “a celebration of the struggle of the Zapatista Women”.

    RAG – revolutionary anarcha-feminist group (Dublin, Ireland).

    The Alexander Berkman Social Club: “a group of anarchists who want to talk about what anarchism is, how anarchists see things and what anarchy could look like” (San Francisco, United States).

    Social Anarchism, No.19, 1994; No.37, 2004-05, ‘All about Emma’: “This issue features a special section on Emma Goldman, including commentary and reviews of new publications of her work.”

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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