Gay and Lesbian Oppression [ZACF]

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We demand complete liberty to give ourselves to those who please us, and absolute liberty to refuse ourselves to those who displease us.

Emile Armand,
French Anarchist,
on free relationships


Gays and lesbians have long been subject to discrimination and prejudice in South Africa and other countries. Personal freedom in the area of sexual preference (as in all other areas of life) is tightly controlled under capitalism and the State, with laws in almost all countries defining what forms of adult sex are and are not acceptable.

We believe that all consenting adults should have the right to engage in the sexual practices and relationships that make them happy, and we therefore oppose the oppression of gays and lesbians.

We do not accept the argument that gay and lesbian activity is unnatural, because such behaviour has always existed in all societies. This includes Africa, contrary to the claims of bourgeois nationalists.[1]

The gay rights clauses in the new constitution of South Africa represent an important victory for all people. They were won through struggle, and must be defended in the same way. Such legislative reforms, while important, are not enough. For example, the laws will still be applied by the same bigoted police and judges who implemented the old anti-gay laws. Moreover, there is a gap between paper rights and the reality on the ground. In general, the broad structures of gay and lesbian oppression remain in place in practice. The forces which gave rise to this oppression (see below) are very much alive and kicking.


The oppression of gays and lesbians, just like the oppression of women, is rooted in the nature of capitalist society and the ideas it promotes.

Capitalism relies heavily on the heterosexual family which provides care for the workers, the sick, the elderly and the next generation of workers. The hostility towards gays and lesbians stems from the challenge that their sexuality poses to the idea that this is the only possible form of family. Clearly, it undermines the idea that sex is only for reproduction. Homosexuals are condemned as unnatural because their sexual activity cannot produce children.

Promoting hatred of gays and lesbians (homophobia) is also a very effective way of dividing and ruling the workers and the poor.


This analysis of the roots of gay and lesbian oppression has a number of important implications for strategy and tactics in the fight against gay and lesbian oppression.

Some gays and lesbians see the solution to their oppression in separatism and lifestyle politics. We do not see these as real solutions as these people are trying to drop out rather than struggle to change the society in which they live. The fight for gay and lesbian liberation needs to be taken up by all progressive forces and definitely should not be seen as “their struggle” only.

Given the roots of gay and lesbian oppression in the class system, capitalism and the State we do not think that the way to defeat gay and lesbian oppression is by promoting gay “business power” or by uniting all classes of the “gay community”. The presence of capitalists in the gay movement is a serious problem, not part of the solution. The gay bourgeoisie objectively defends capitalism and the State and cannot thus consistently fight lesbian and gay oppression. Instead, it tends to try to divert the struggle into safe channels like sponsoring glossy magazines, trying to make gay pride marches into harmless carnivals and advertising events etc.

Instead, we think that the fight must be linked to the class struggle against capitalism and the State, and we think that all progressive forces should support gays’ and lesbians’ right to equality.

United class- struggle is the only way to finally defeat gay and lesbian oppression racism for once and for all. There is no substitute for a programme of “boring within” and “anarchising” the trade unions.


Non-homosexual people do not benefit from gay and lesbian oppression, as it seriously divides and weakens the working-class in its struggles for a better, freer life, resulting in worse conditions all round.


However, although we believe that true liberation for gays and lesbians will only come about with the abolition of capitalism and the State, and the creation of a society that gives everyone real control over their lives, we do not put off the fight for freedom until the future. Gays and lesbians are entitled to full support in their struggle for equality.

In immediate terms, we must raise the issue of fighting against discrimination on the job, in our trade unions. An end to harassment must be demanded. Stereotyping and anti-gay attitudes must be challenged everywhere.

We support physical self-defence by lesbians and gays against gay bashers and the police where necessary.

We reject the right of the State to dictate the sexual choices of consenting adults.

We support progressive initiatives of the gay movement such as Gay Pride marches, the scrapping of anti-gays laws and anti-discrimination campaigns. We also think that links must be built with other working class campaigns.

The right of gay parents to keep their children must be supported.


  1. This is documented for Africa. See, for example, B.D. Adam, (1986), “Age, Structure And Sexuality: Reflections On The Anthropological Evidence On Homosexual Behaviour”, in E. Blackwood (ed.)., Anthropology and Homosexual Behaviour. Haworth. NY. London; E. Blackwood, “Breaking the Mirror: the Construction of Lesbianism and Anthropological Evidence on Homosexuality”, in E. Blackwood (ed.)., Anthropology and Homosexual Behaviour. Haworth. NY. London ; M.J. Herskowitz, (1967), Dahomey: an Ancient West African Kingdom. 2 vols. Evanston. Northwestern University Press; S.F. Nadel, (1942), Black Byzantium: the Kingdom of the Nupe in Nigeria. Oxford. London; E. Pritchard, (1971), The Azande. Oxford. Clarendon; E. Pritchard, (1970), “Sexual Inversion Amongst the Azande”, American Anthropologist, no. 72; M. Wilson, (1963), Good Company: the Structure of Nyakusa Age Villages. Oxford. London.

Zabalaza #11 (October 2010)

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Zabalaza 11
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  • Editorial – by the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front

South Africa:

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All in the Name of the Beautiful Gain

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Phansi Fifa, Phansi!A ZACF statement on the 2010 Soccer World Cup
in South Africa

The 2010 Soccer World Cup must be exposed for the utter sham that it is. The ZACF strongly condemns the audacity and hypocrisy of the government in presenting the occasion as a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity for the economic and social upliftment of those living in South Africa (and the rest of the continent). What is glaringly clear is that the “opportunity” has and continues to be that of a feeding-frenzy for global and domestic capital and the South African ruling elite. In fact, if anything, the event is more likely to have devastating consequences for South Africa’s poor and working class – a process that is already underway.

In preparing to host the world cup the government has spent close to R800 billion (R757 billion on infrastructure development and R30 billion on stadiums that will never be filled again), a massive slap in the face for those living in a country characterized by desperate poverty and close to 40% unemployment. Over the past five years the working poor have expressed their outrage and disappointment at the government’s failure to redress the massive social inequality in over 8000 service delivery protests for basic services and housing countrywide. This pattern of spending is further evidence of the maintenance of the failed neoliberal capitalist model and its “trickle down” economics, which have done nothing but deepen inequality and poverty globally. Despite previous claims to the contrary, the government has recently admitted this by doing an about turn, and now pretends that the project was “never intended” to be a profit making exercise [1].

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Zabalaza #9 (September 2008)

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Zabalaza 9 cover
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In this Issue…

Southern Africa

  • Workers, Bosses and the 2008 Pogroms
  • “Ba Sebetsi Ba Afrika”: Manifesto of the Industrial Workers of Africa, 1917
  • Ninety Years of Working Class Internationalism in South Africa
  • Unyawo Alunampumulo: Abahlali baseMjondolo
    Statement on the Xenophobic Attacks in Johannesburg
  • Xenophobia, Nationalism and Greedy Bosses: An Interview with Alan Lipman
  • Interview with Two Libertarian Socialist Activists from Zimbabwe


  • Kenya’s Troubles are Far from Over
  • Will EU troops stop the Central African cycle of violence?
  • Brutal Repression in Sidi Ifni (Morroco)


  • Obama and Latin America: a Friendly Imperialism


  • Anarchism & Immigration
  • The Poison of Nationalism
  • Nostalgic Tribalism or Revolutionary Transformation?: A Critique of Anarchism & Revolution in Black Africa

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Zabalaza #8 (February 2008)

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Zabalaza #8 cover
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  • Asgisa: A Working Class Critique
  • Now is the Winter of Our Discontent: SA Public Sector Strike Stokes the Fire of Popular-Class Unity and Reveals “Communist” Weakness
  • The 2010 World Cup, the Neo-liberal Agenda and the Class Struggle in South Africa
  • Students and Staff Protest University Privatisation
  • A Short History and Introduction to the Anarchist
    Black Cross
  • Vigilante Farmers Want Refugee Camps on the Borderland
  • Swaziland: The Royal Assassination of Our Dear Comrade
  • Europe, Africa and the Neo-Liberal Strategy of Co-Optation
  • Blood, Water & Oil: Fallacies of the Darfur War
  • The Congo’s Dilemma: Why the Congo is yet another example why we have to rethink our political system
  • A New Guantanamo in Africa?
  • Misrepresentation of Self-Management in the Caribbean
  • Some Thoughts on Theoretical Unity & Collective Responsibility
  • Clarity on What Anarcho-Syndicalism Is
  • Towards an Anarcho-Syndicalist Strategy for Africa

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People must empower themselves, not wait for government

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ZACF on the recent Young Communist League (YCL) Statement
on the Unjustifiable Increase of Bread.

“We call on government to empower our people, especially through community cooperatives with the necessary inputs for bread production, namely land, tractors and seeds to plough wheat.” – this was the demand made by the Young Communist League (YCL) in their recent Statement on the Unjustifiable Increase of Bread.

The Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF) agrees with the YCL that “This increase will have negative consequences on the majority of our people, especially the working class and the poor youth who rely on bread as a source of living.” We support the YCL and Cosatu in defying this price increase. We regard the vast and repeated increases in the bread price – and in the prices of maize meal, other grains and food in general – as a direct attack by capitalist profiteers on the very survival of workers and the poor. An attack against which workers and the poor need to defend themselves.

But the YCL does not seem to recognise the inherent contradiction in its statement.

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ZACF Statement on the “racist anarchists” of Potchefstroom

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Right-wingers in the South African town of Potchefstroom removed street-signs with the names of liberation figures and replaced them with those of Boer leaders. But the Potch City Council attributed the actions to “racist anarchists”.

The Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation (ZACF) of South Africa and Swaziland notes with concern that the removal and defacement of street signs in Potchefstroom has been attributed without proof by Potchefstroom City Council spokesman Kaiser Mohau to “racist anarchists”. We presume that Mohau is simply politically naive in putting about his mistaken attribution of these acts of vandalism. However, his comments have the unfortunate effect of besmirching the good name of the small, but active anarchist movement in southern Africa.

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