week in review
Editor: Stephen Hersh
Associate Editors: Ann Marie Lipinski, Elaine Fletcher
December 5, 1976
are now his comrades
By STEPHEN HERSH
JIM VENERIS was standing with
a small group of Ann Ar-
borites at the rear of the Michigan
Union ballroom, talking in Chinese
about his adopted homeland, the
People's Republic of China. He was
drinking a Coke.
Drinking a Coke - that isn't
anything very unusual. But in Ven-
eris's case, it carried a kind of sym-
bolic weight. Until his current visit
back to the United States, the last
time he had thrown his head back
ind quaffed a cold Coca-Cola was
23 years ago, as an American sold-
ier waiting to serve in the Korean
"Do thev sell Coke in China?"
someone asked him in English,
"Coke? No they don't sell that,
but they have something similar."
He held up the bright red can and
tapped on it. "This," he said, "is a
product of monopoly capital."
Veneris had been an itinerant
industrial worker in the U.S. since
his youth during the Depression;
he shad served in the Army during
World War II. During the Korean
conflict he decided that he couldn't
remain stateside while his friends
were fighting and dying in Asia.
So he signed up for a tour in Kor-
He was captured by Communist
forces, and held as a prisoner by
the Chinese. "Really, I was lib-
erated," he now recalls.
His experience as a prisoner of
war was not a brutalizing one; ra-
ther, he was so pleased by his con-
tact with the Chinese that lie de-
cided to stay on in the socialist
world after the war ended. He took
up work in a factory in China, and
has been living in that country
Now Veneris is nearing the end
of a five-month visit to the Unit-
ed States. He has been touring
the nation giving speeches, like the
one he delivered Tuesday evening
at the Union, describing life in the
The months he has spent stump-
ing for friendship between the
American and Chinese peoples
have taken a toll on his voice -
even before his' speech, he sounded
hoarse. "You'll have to excuse my
voice," he said repeatedly through-
out the evening. "I've been talking
for four months straight."
VENERIS' ENGLISH reflects a
somewhat incongrous mix of
American and Chinese cultural
traits. His direct, down-to-earth
urban American speech is sprink-
Stephen Hersh is editor of the Sunday
-- - -Photos by CHRISTINA SCHNEIDER
led heavily with Chinese Commun-
ist terminology, whether he's talk-
ing about war, international poli-
tices, American society, or life down
home at his communal factory. For
those unfamiliar with Maoism, his
vocabulary and his perspective
take some getting used to.
"Everybody in the world has
their own viewpoint when they look
at things," he observed during his
talk. "I like to look at things from
the viewpoint of classes and class
While talking with Veneris, you
2an't forget that viewpoint for a
minute. In his blue single-breasted
suit, black shoes and horn-rim-
med glasses. he probably looks just
as he did 23 years ago, before he
re-enlisted to fight in Korea. But
when he takes out his wallet, it
once aa'ain becomes clear that he's
changed radically - instead of a
leather billfold, Veneris uses t h e
red-nlastic cover of a pocket-sized
hook: "Quotations from Chairman
In his speech, Veneris described
his life in the states before the
Korean War, his experience as a.
soldier, his treatment as a prisoner
of war, and his life in China since
his decision to make his home
there. As a worker in America, he
remembers being constantly buff-
feted by unemployment and job in-
security. He hoped that the war
would spread quickly so that in-
creaing armament orders might
mean a job for him in a steel plant.
He fought in the world war,
worked in the years following it,
and when the Korean conflict
reached a fever pitch, Veneris felt
that he couldn't remain within the
safe confines of an American fac-
But his combat experience in
Korea, he says, made him call into
question the notion that the U.S;
was fighting for freedom.
"North Korea was bombed flat.
I saw American planes drop na-
palm on people's homes - t h e
people would run, burning to
"We were supposed to go over
there and liberate the Koreans. I
wondered, if we wanted to liberate
those people, why did they fight
WHEN HE WAS CAPTURED, Ve-
neris recalled, he expected
to be tortured and executed by the
Communists. Instead, he discov-
ered among them a friendly and
cooperative spirit which he h a s
found to be pervasive in China.
After deciding to live on in
China, Veneris was given, the
choice of enteringaa universityor
taking up work. Several years lat-
er -he opted to enter People's Uni-
versity in Peking to earn a social
science degree, but on first set-
tling down he decided to start out
as a factory worker. He says that
he immediately fell in love with
the cooperative nature of society,
with the power people have in
China to manage their local a f -
"You can't conceive it," he said
in a conversation after his speech.
"The nature of those factories is
different than it is here. Those
factories are run by the people.
That's one thing you must not for-
get. There is no monopoly run-
ning the factories. It's the workers
themselves that are in charge."
See HIS, Page 5
By DAN TSANG
WHILE THE STRAIGHT world settled down Thanksgiving weekend
in front of the TV with a plate of leftover turkey to watch the
men of Penn State battle it out with the men from Pittsburgh, a few
hundred people assembled together in New York City for a different
sort of convocation - the fourth annual conference of the Gay Aca-
I got to Colunibia University around 11:30 a.m. Friday, in time
to hear the second speaker, Jim Owles, a founder of the Gay Libera-
tion Front, one of the nation's first activist gay groups. He threw out.
one statistic: there are now over 1,300 gay organizations in the U.S.,
implying, he said, a success in attempts to develop local organizations.
He called for a decentralization of the movement. "In New York we
have neglected our locals; we have to do what we can to build
up a coalition from the grass roots. The grassroots is where we're
finally going to define gay liberation."
But as I looked around in those first moments of the conference
it seemed as though decentralization must have already occurred.
Attendance was half that of the year before, when a thousand or so
lesbians and gav men had come to participate. This year the crowd
looked pretty straight. Fewer women than last year, only a handful
of blacks and other minorities.
Owles had criticized gays for concentrating on one bill or one
person, and pointed out that when Bella Abzug, a strong supporter of
gay rights, lost her bid for the U.S. Senate, many activists had become
disillusioned and dropped out of the political scene altogether. The
grassroots is where "we're finally going to define gay liberation,"
[said Owles. And indeed during the conference weekend that seemed
to be the case.
Instead of setting goals for future unified national political ac-
tion, the conference acted primarily as ' an informational exchange
for groups of faculty members and graduate students.
Despite the attempt by gay professionals -to keep the conference
within a traditional academic focus, a loose group of gay socialists
was able to put together a series of last-minute discussion forums.
These proved to be' the most stimulating of the weekend.
In these Danels the relationship between homosexuality and social-
ism was explored.
I attended a panel discussion on "The University, the economic
crisis and the gav movement," where Bruce Steinbeck, a Michigan
graduate and economics nrofesvor snoke. Steinbeck, along with the
others on the onnel warned that gay rights movement that did not
include onnressed grouns would play into the hands of the oppresor.
Jean O'Leary turned up by the door. O'Leary, a member of the
National Gay Task Force and a member of Jimmy Carter's advisory
committee on women's rights, had delivered the keynote address to
the conference that morning. In response to a question, the Democrat
remarked: "I do not have -a-replacement for the system we're in now.
I have not studied socialism. I'm here to listen." Apparently I hadn't
missed anything by arriving after her speech that morning. O'Leary
felt Carter would help gays. To be- sure, we might get some reformist
gains, I thought, but to trust Carter? Not after his Playboy interview
in which he labelled homosexuality a "sin" and conceded he had no
experience with sodomy.
DURING THE DISCUSSION ON gay people and socialism, someone
inevitably asked about the anti-gay policies in the Soviet Union,
Cuba and China. (Fidel Castro has stated that homosexuality "clashes
with the concept of what a militant Communist must be . . . homo-
sexuals should not be allowed in positions where they are allowed -to
exert influence upon young people . . . Because of the problems which
our country is facing, we must inculcate our youth with the spirit of
discipline, of struggle, of work." Other Communist leaders have ex-
pressed similar views.)
Despite official pronouncements, I was glad to discover, the reality
for homosexuals under socialism is not always bleak. Even in Cuba,
conditions are said to be improving. James Steakley, author. of The
Homosexual Emancipation Movement in Germany, reports that several
gays in East Germany who have lost their jobs because of a homphobic
supervisor have successfully argued their case before workers' courts
and have been reinstated.
Other indications of progress being made in certain socialist
parties surfaced during a discussion by gay socialists on gay male and
lesbian history. David Thorstad a, former Socialist Worker Party mem-
ber, pointed to a growing link between gays and labor. He cited gay
participation in the General Strike in Canada this summer, as well
as a recent endorsement by 20 labor leaders in the Bay Area of gay
rights provisions in labor contracts.
He reported that even the Stalinist British Communist Party
has just set up a gay commission and adopted a position paper on
He felt that gay liberation's most important contribution was to
win the left movement to a Marxist-historical materialist analvsis of
homosexuality and homosexual oppression. The proceses of winning
the left, however Thorstad added, has been "uneven."
Thorstad concluded: "The liberation of homosexuals cannot
be separated from the liberation of all the opnressed. Our interest
lies not with those gay Democrats or the gay capitalists or the keynote
speaker at this conference yesterday, or other liberals who try to
patch un the endemic ineauities of the canitalist system and whin off a
little cream in the nrocess: but rather it lies with those who under-
stand and act unon the fact that the only rond to freedonm lies in the
destruction of the system itself which causes our oppression."
By no means did all the precentations fons on the e roirwicon
of socialism and avness. Greq Lehne, an assictant professor of de-
vplonmental poveholoev at Antioch Co1lPeg in Marvind. nresldpd
over a diceusion of "homonhohia among men." The nrofesnr s'ilgest-
ed that the onepnt he ahnionnd. There Is no evidence that fear of
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