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Sex and the Socialist Party, 1952 | Hunter of Justice

Sex and the Socialist Party, 1952

by on July 24, 2008  •  In Uncategorized

Historian Christopher Phelps, of the Ohio State University at Mansfield, has discovered an article on "Socialism and Sex" written for the 1952 bulletin of the youth section of the Socialist Party. Articles by Phelps and a number of leading historians discussing its significance, as well as the text of the 1952 document, appear in the summer 2008 issue of New Politics.

GayCityNews – Socialism and Homosex

[Phelps argues that] the article "Socialism and Sex" "prefigured the 1960s. It urged socialists to understand the genesis of political commitment and their ultimate goals in a capacious sense, transcending narrow economic terms. It treated sexuality as a political issue, comprehending the interrelationship between personal and public in a manner strikingly similar to the subsequent feminist position that ‘the personal is political.’ While the scant intellectual resources available to a young person exploring such questions in the early 1950s lent the article a modest temperament, the document contains in embryonic form the admixture of socialism and gay liberation that would find more militant, revolutionary expression in the post-Stonewall explosion of such groups as the Gay Liberation Front. For all these reasons, ‘Socialism and Sex’ is a document of great significance in the larger sexual history of the political left… It stands as an arresting forerunner of modern gay civil rights consciousness."

Moreover, in a series of interviews with YPSL and Socialist Party activists from the 1950s, Phelps discovered that the Party came very close to adopting a homosexual emancipation plank in its platform at its 1952 convention. The chairman of YPSL at that time was Vern Davidson, a UCLA senior who had had several same-sex affairs, including with other Party members, and who, he told Phelps, "was instructed by the YPSL to attempt to put a homosexual rights plank before the platform committee." …

Davidson told Phelps he tried and tried to draft an appropriate platform plank but "I just couldn’t write anything that seemed to fit into the platform. So I let it slide by. I had no guidance. We didn’t talk about ‘discrimination based on sexual orientation’ in those days. That phrase would never have come to me. And everything was going fast, we were fighting over the [Korean] war and everything, and it didn’t get done. And I take responsibility. But I believe to this day, had I been able to do my job, [Norman] Thomas [then leader of the Socialist Party] would have joined me, and we would have had it back then, in ’52."

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One Response to Sex and the Socialist Party, 1952

  1. eve online isk June 29, 2009 at 11:28 PM

    Davidson told Phelps he tried and tried to draft an appropriate platform plank but “I just couldn’t write anything that seemed to fit into the platform.

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