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John Passant

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November 2009



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



Why is society so homophobic?

To many people today, especially young people, the ban on same-sex marriage is an anachronistic denial of a basic civil right – a throwback to a bygone age of intolerance and anti-gay bigotry. But the hostility of both Liberal and Labor governments to same-sex marriage is not simply the product of the prejudices of a few homophobes or the malevolent influence of the institutional churches.

Despite a fa├žade of tolerance and acceptance homophobia remains entrenched in modern capitalist society because it directly serves the interests of the rich and powerful who dominate our lives. Just like nationalism, racism and sexism, homophobia serves to keep working class people divided. It makes it harder for workers to stand up as a united force and defend their rights and living standards which are constantly under attack by employers and their governments.

As well homophobia and sexual oppression more generally turn people in on themselves and undermine their personal confidence. One reflection of this is the high rates of suicide and depression amongst young lesbians and gay men.

If people are underconfident about one of the most basic aspects of their lives – their sexuality – they are going to be a hell of a lot less confident to fight for a better world, to assert their rights at school or to stand up to a bullying supervisor at work. Insecure, atomised young workers make perfect fodder for the production line at Subway or McDonalds.

But there is an even more fundamental reason why homophobia remains entrenched – the central role of the heterosexual family in capitalist society. A smoothly functioning, socially stable and profitable capitalism needs a well-disciplined and trained workforce, reproduced and maintained at minimal cost to big business.

The heterosexual nuclear family fits the bill perfectly for capitalist interests. The overwhelming bulk of the cost of reproducing the next generation of workers and of feeding and preserving the existing generation is forced onto individual working class families.

So rather than all the top corporations having to pay the cost of the training, upbringing and maintenance of their workforce, individual working class women are forced to do the work of child care, cooking, cleaning, emotional support and so on for free – as well as having to work outside the home in a job for which they are paid less than men. The likes of Woolworths, Coles and the major banks save billions of dollars a year on child care costs alone.

And it is not simply the cost of bringing up children and caring for the existing generation of workers that the capitalists offload onto working class families. Increasingly these days, governments are forcing the costs of looking after the aged, the disabled and the sick onto working class families, while at the same time cutting taxes for big corporations and the rich.

So preserving the nuclear family, and the subordinate role women play in it, is vital for capitalism. Homosexuality does not fit this capitalist norm. It is a challenge to the capitalist nuclear family and in particular to the sexual division of labour. That is the key reason that homophobia is still rife today.

The “traditional” family has clearly evolved significantly over the last few decades. Women have fewer kids and don’t, by and large, spend decades stuck at home as “housewives”. Women are now half the workforce. As well, today many children are raised in single-parent households.

These changes have opened up some space for some less conventional relationships. Nonetheless it is still overwhelmingly women who are responsible for rearing the next generation of workers.

That is why it is so important for governments and big business to prop up the idea that it is “normal” for women to settle down in a heterosexual family and have kids.

So governments wage relentless ideological campaigns to maintain the image of the nuclear family as the norm and pour billions of dollars into goading women into heterosexual marriage and bribing them to have more kids. These measures to prop up the nuclear family are ever more important as the stresses and strains of modern day capitalism are constantly putting working class families under pressure.

Women are expected to spend more and more time in the workforce and yet at the same time deliver better quality care for their children and partners, sick relatives and ageing parents. No wonder relationships are torn apart.

In this context then it is important for capitalists to ensure that homosexual relationships continue to be marginalised. Sure, capitalism can tolerate gays and lesbians up to a point, provided they know their place and keep to their own little ghetto. They can even have their once-a-year public events like the Mardi Gras. That after all adds a bit of colour to city life and draws in the tourist dollar.

However the powers that be don’t want homosexuality to become too mainstream. That’s why they are reluctant to grant same-sex marriage rights. They don’t want same-sex relationships to be seen as just as valid as heterosexual relationships.

They don’t want young people to be encouraged to explore their sexuality. That is why you get so much hysteria about gays “corrupting” youth and why homophobia is so entrenched in schools.

Socialists oppose all forms of homophobia. We support the legalisation of same-sex marriage as a basic democratic right and we are for building a mass movement to win that demand.

However while we can win some reforms under capitalism, we are not going to get rid of homophobia until we have swept away the whole of this rotten, divisive, exploitative system. At the heart of capitalism is the necessity to pump out profits from the labour of workers, and the bosses can only keep on doing this successfully if they keep workers, both gay and straight, divided, insecure and fearful.

This article, by Mick Armstrong, first appeared in Socialist Alternative.



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