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More and more, gay men and lesbians are choosing to become a visible minority. ‘Coming Out’ in public situations can take courage and determination. In response we usually receive mostly criticism and alienation. Many gay men and lesbians involved in the peace movement are now choosing to have our contributions ‘labeled’ as it were – adding both credibility to gay people and scope to the peace movement. Regrettably, we haven’t received all that much support within the movement either.
The mainline peace movement has tried at great lengths to emphasise its normality. Look, we’re not freaks! We’re no longer the hippies of the sixties! We’re middleclass, parents, law-abiding, respectable…and straight. Gay people are excluded from many of these categories of normality. We have no legal protection from discrimination in the workplace, and thus job security is not assured to us. Many of us have our children taken away from us. Children are not a part of many gay people’s lives by choice or by force. We are often barred from jobs with children. The constant focus of the peace movement on children, although strong and beautiful, is often a reminder of the hurtful limitations society puts on gay people.
Likewise, the religious focus of a lot of the movement, although powerful for some, often reminds us of our oppressors. Most of the direct oppression comes from the churches, whether it’s the witch burnings of old Salem or the rantings of a modern-day Jerry Falwell. Of course we recognise the differences between those religious people involved in the movement and the right-wing evangelicals, but it can still recall bad memories, when we are supposed to be among friends.
We don’t often look normal, respectable or straight. Sometimes we do – sometimes we don’t. We don’t fit into the. peace movement’s advertised image of normality. Yes, the peace movement is diverse, but gay men and lesbians are also part of that diversity; as are the working class, native people, people of colour and that ever present hippie.
“We Are a Gentle Angry People” is a song popular with the peace movement. It has its roots in the struggle of gay and lesbian people. Holly Near wrote the song in response to the murder of a gay politician in the San Francisco Bay area, the subsequent cover-up and protests. It has one important verse that the peace movement often ignores: “We are a gay and lesbian people, and we are singing, singing for our lives.” It would be a nice sign ~f solidarity if we could return the verse to a song that was originally about gay and lesbian struggles. It would show that the movement is not afraid and not embarrassed to advertise our diversity; a diversity that includes rather than excludes gay and lesbian people.
In Solidarity, David Collins
To allow the Western peace movement to drift into collusion with the strategy of the Soviet-supported World Peace Council – that is, in effect, to become a movement opposing NATO militarism only – is a recipe for our own containment and ultimate defeat. – E.P. Thompson
As the Canadian disarmament movement begins a major effort at national coalition building, it is necessary to assess who are legitimate members of the peace movement. Obviously, one desires the widest coalition possible, but is it proper to include groups, such as the Canadian Peace Congress and its affiliates, who are clearly pro-Soviet. This problem has nothing to do with ideology but rather involves perspectives relating to the arms race itself.
If we assume that our movement should provide a balanced critique of both superpowers, then how do we relate to groups who place 99 per cent of the blame on the Americans and apologise for Soviet behaviour? It was such a predicament which caused Rev. James Endicott, a founding chairman of the Canadian Peace Congress and executive member of the World Peace Council, to resign from those organisations in 1971, due to their functioning as apologists for Soviet military policy.
In Western Europe, the peace movement has kept its distance from the Peace Congress. The Appeal for European Nuclear Disarmament (April 1980) clearly stated that “we must disregard the prohibitions and limitations imposed by any national state.” E.P. Thompson, one of the leaders of the European peace movement, has warned us about “sleepwalking into the night” with groups such as the Peace Congress. Why? Simply because the Soviets are hardly innocents in arms race crimes.
In particular, the Soviets must assume substantial responsibility for various escalations in the nuclear arms race, for example, the stationing of Soviet SS-20’s in eastern Europe. Furthermore, the Soviets have on a number of other occasions used the threat of nuclear involvement to bully other countries into acting in conformity with Soviet dictates.
Soviet military interventions are not only reprehensible in their own right, but also serve as potential triggers for nuclear conflict arid additionally, contribute to a very poor atmosphere in which to conduct disarmament talks.
Last, but by no means least, is the Soviet jailing of Russian independent peace activists. Members of such organisations as The Group to Establish Trust are quickly imprisoned, or often sent off for psychiatric ‘treatment.’
No government should. be left to preach peace while repressing citizens who demand it. Mr. Ter Veer, a leader of the Dutch peace movement argues that human rights are inseparable from the’ cause of peace.
He presents the principles of the Dutch movement as “the right to life and the right to life as a human being.”
At a minimum, surely; there must be solidarity between independent peace activists in the West and East. In all other Western countries, the Soviet- inspired Peace Congress groups are not an integral part of the peace movement. Only in Canada you say? Pity.
In general The Peace Calendar is great – and much appreciation to CANDlS and The Peace Calendar staff for this superb service to the peace movement. It provides a great medium for information and dialogue.
Regarding Metta Spencer’s article about repression of the unofficial peace movement ‘in the U.S.S.R. (TPC, February 1984):
Considering the real brainwashing that goes on in the West vis-a-vis the U.S.S.R., I think that the forces that are opposed to the advancement of world peace, for which you and I are working, are seeking to create the impression that the official Soviet peace movement is “phoney” and that the unofficial peace movement there is the only genuine one. I disagree with that view.
The implication in some of what you write is that we should expect the U.S.S.R. to be as open a society as ours is. I think that is a little unrealistic, particularly when, as you know, the U.S.S.R. is and has been “under the gun” from the capitalist side of the world ever since its inception (whether by military means or by the ever-active spy system.) I think we need to be very much awake to this, and should exert ourselves to demonstrate more understanding of the problems facing the U.S.S.R.
Yours for peace,
Letters to the editors are welcomed from our readers. In presenting the many views held by members of the Canadian disarmament movement, The Peace Calendar expects that other perspectives will be, submitted. Please send your letters to: The Peace Calendar, CANDIS, 736 Bathurst Street, Toronto, On. M5S 2R4.
The editors reserve the right to edit for clarity and brevity, so please include a phone number where you can be reached if we need to, confirm a different wording.