Thursday, April 24, 2008
Guy Hocquenghem posted by Richard SeymourI just wilt over the thought of French revolutionaries. And, looking at the youthful Guy Hocquenghem - as he was during the tumult of '68 - who could blame me? And what I like about Guy Hocquenghem should be obvious enough. A gay liberationist, a founder of the Front Homosexuel d'Action Revolutionnaire, a leader of French cultural revolution, and - what else? - a scathing critic of those who "traded Maoism for the Rotary Club". The weaknesses and downright absurdities of French Maoism need no rehearsing here, although it is a fuck sight better to have illusions in Mao than to be a corrupt stooge of Mitterrand. At any rate, it isn't clear that Hocquenghem himself was ever a Maoist except in the perverse sense.
Hocquenghem had been expelled from the PCF for his homosexuality, and had then been excluded from the Trotskyist Ligue communiste revolutionnaire (the great LCR which, sadly, is soon to liquidate itself into an anticapitalist party of some sort), because of his fondness for 'direct action' which was seen as a Maoist sin. He had been part of a loose confraternity of the radical and revolutionary left, and was inspired by Huey Newton's support for gay liberation. He rejected a certain class of gay rights as constituting a new normativity that was deadly to desire, and even leftist discourse was susceptible to this normalisation. It was necessary to sustain the culture of marginality and deviance, to resist not only legalism and moralism, but normality itself. You can see how this would be compatible with a certain kind of ultra-left politics, and indeed he became convinced that capitalism should be assailed on all fronts at once, rather on its strategically weak points as the orthodox marxist position insisted. And Hocquenghem operated in a Maoist milieu including his work with the journal Tout!. However, when Maoists of the Gauche proletarienne (GP) tendency started to defend Pakistan's suppression of the Bengali liberation struggle, Hocquenghem was a harsh critic. Ironically, he criticised them and the regime they emulated, for being insufficiently Maoist - la pensee maotsetung was the authentic Maoism that was being betrayed by the CCCP and its supporters.
As for the 'nouveau philosophes' and their milieu, it was not their abandonment of Maoism that Hocquenghem attacked so much as the way in which former street-fighters or would-be street-fighters like Andre Glucksmann, Bernard Kouchner and even Daniel Cohn-Bendit had become bourgois, careerist and conformist. The activists who had co-founded the student publication Action at the Sorbonne with Hocquenghem were, by 1981, part of Mitterrand's Restoration. They defended the French state's imperial intervention in Chad, and its nuclear 'shield' at a time when Mitterrand was abandoning the Gaullist posture of restricting the use of nukes to France's self-defense, and suggesting they might become part of the anti-communist arsenal. They hypocritically denounced the youth for their apathy, yet would deprive them of the excitement that would rouse their passions. They warned of the dangers of a spectral 'totalitarianism', clinging to a normality that was only one or two steps away from Travail, Famille and Patrie. Hocquenghem abused and disabused these courtiers in the style of burlesque satire, but it was a humour that originated in disgust. He never apologised for his gauchisme and, unlike the bell-wether 'contrarians' of today, knew that perversity could come in the form of gallant fidelity.
Hocquenghem, despite his obvious importance in French intellectual and political history, has not really been given the profile he deserves. The most recent attempt to undo that injustice, perhaps resulting in part from the hegemony of his foes, is a documentary entitled La Revolution du Desir. This is an extract: