The paederasts are beginning to count themselves, and discover that they
are a power in the state. Only organisation was lacking, but according to this
source it apparently already exists in secret. And since they have such
important men in all the old parties and even in the new ones, from Rosing to
Schweitzer, they cannot fail to triumph. Guerre aux cons, paix aus
trous-de-cul will now be the slogan. It is a bit of luck that we,
personally, are too old to have to fear that, when this party wins, we shall
have to pay physical tribute to the victors. But the younger generation! ...
Just wait until the new North German Penal Code recognises the droits du
cul, then he will operate quite differently. Then things will go badly
enough for poor frontside people like us, with our childish penchant for
- Engels to Marx, June 22, 1869
There is much that can be made of Engels's hysterical, pseudo-ironic paranoia about homosexuality, though we naturally ought to be charitable about the prejudices of a different age. Questions of heteronormativity aside, this letter seems to reveal something quite important about the nature of Marxism; as always, it is Engels who is more over-the-top in exploring these questions, while Marx stands quietly to the side.
The anxiety in this letter is a counterrevolutionary one. It recognizes the "paederasts" as a well-organized, politically motivated, anti-establishment movement--and yet, even in its sarcasm, does not find an affinity with the proletariat. After the New Social Movements of the past decades, we've been accustomed to lump the vaguely leftish political affiliations together: Marx with Gay Liberation, black separatists with radical feminists. Here, no such camaraderie is to be found. Engels plays the role of the offended bourgeois.
His anxiety is inseparable from the theoretical foundations of Marxism. The proletariat is the only really revolutionary class, and the German Ideology suggests that it is such because it is a class that lacks a concretely defined identity: a permanent "outside" of all the "have-nots." Any other revolutionary movement is thereby grafted onto or colonized by the proletariat--as a kind of body without organs. But the appearance of a conspiratorial revolutionary movement not based on the jejune claims of homo oeconomicus throws this neat conception into disarray. Hence Engels's outburst.
But are (were?) the NSMs really the solution to this relentless totalization of radical agency? For Engels, there's no clear contradiction between him making his revolution and the "paederasts" making theirs at the same time. That seems to be the only redeeming feature of this letter: that it does not assume that the goal is in any way the same. The "multitude," the Rainbow Coalition, the putative alliance of NSMs and OSMs: all of these commit that mistake, and thus aspire to nothing more than a bourgeois utopia. For if "differ[e/a]nce" can be made a principle of praxis, so can contradiction, and one implies the other. Flows of desire can run at cross-purposes.
Neither the proletarian body without organs nor the contemporary telic unity of movements can be adequate schemata for conceptualizing revolution. Better ideas have yet to be found; it is perhaps more worthwhile to abandon the project altogether.