by James Whitely -
SGN Contributing Writer
Sherry Wolf, valued collaborator of Cleve Jones and one of the leading organizers and speakers of the National Equality March in Washington D.C., is coming to Seattle to continue her speaking tour for her recent book, Sexuality and Socialism, and to speak at the International Socialist Organization's (ISO) 5th Annual Northwest Socialist Conference November 7-8.
Wolf has been a leader in the good fight for more than 25 years. Since she was a teenager, she has seen herself as a "post-Stonewall, pre-Twitter" LGBT rights activist. Starting out as an anti-racist and anti-apartheid activist and gaining a stronger political base during her college years, in recent years she has become a leading - if not the leading - Socialist LGBT rights activist in the United States.
However, on July 4, 2009, Independence Day, Wolf was offered the opportunity to step up her passion for activism more so than ever before when she received a call from Cleve Jones, who was spearheading the planning for the National March on Washington D.C. and wanted her help.
"When I heard about the [National] March, I thought this was the right political call and the right political tone," Wolf told SGN. Wolf and the ISO, which she is a leading member of, decided to centralize their efforts.
The ISO made the National March on Washington their priority for the fall of 2009. From the release of Wolf's book last June, right around the 40th anniversary of Stonewall, to the grassroots organizing on campuses and neighborhoods all around the country, including here in Seattle, each chapter of the ISO made it their mission to create as much energy and excitement for the National Equality March as possible.
"It made perfect sense to organize the speaking tour on the book around the National March," said Wolf.
The SGN wanted to take the opportunity to ask the well-rounded and passionate activist some basic questions about radicalism and socialism.
James Whitely: What does it mean to be a radical socialist LGBT activist versus an LGBT activist with no personal politics?
Wolf: I see that the problems in our society are structural and the solution is collective. Workers make all the wealth, and ought to control that wealth and decide how society is organized. The way we're going to win LGBT liberation is in the wider context of other struggles - immigrant rights, etc. I have always rejected a separatist "Gay-only" struggle.
When we win - and we will - we are still going to have to fight the homophobia that capitalism generates. & We need not only to fight for reforms, but for a society that is fair - economically, socially and politically.
Whitely: Is it more important to be radical than simply support organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and American Civil Liberties Union?
Wolf: It's not about opposing [them]; we will work with anyone that wants to work in a grassroots fashion. We need to not be tied to the Democratic Party or to corporate strategy, so they [organizations that use those strategies] need to be confronted, rather than collaborated with.
Whitely: Do you think there is a strong outpouring of youth in the movement? Do you think they are working together effectively with older activists?
Wolf: It's indisputable that there is a generational explosion among young people that have come up in an era that is more culturally open. But the divide that exists - that the March exposed - is not a generational divide, but a political divide. The March was organized by mostly younger people. The March, and explosion of interest in the march was an expression of defiance and of anti-corporate strategy.
It showed that there is a political questioning about the motives of the Democratic Party and whether they are capable of delivering the goods without pressure from below.
At the conference, which will be held this year at the University of Washington, Wolf will be speaking on the November 7 LGBT Equality Panel in Sieg Hall, Room 134 at 7:00 p.m. On November 8, at 10:30 a.m., in Thomson Hall, Wolf will be speaking about her book, Sexuality and Socialism, as well as answering questions about it.
Single conference sessions are $5 each, and the entire conference - a weekend full of political theory and debate that's well worth the cost - is a sliding scale payment of $20-50. The extra money, if you wish to donate, goes directly to funding other events just like the Northwest Socialist Conference.
You can register at the conference, or pre-register online. To see the full list of the weekend's events, ranging from Marxist economics to the history of Seattle working class struggle, or to pre-register, visit www.nwsocialistconference.org or www.seattleiso.org.
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