J. Martin Stafford, BA Explains

The news that J. Martin Stafford, BA – member of CHE’s Executive Committee – had urged Lord Longford and the Director of Public Prosecutions to take private action against Gay News, naturally enough caused somewhat of a stir within CHE itself and in the gay community at large.

Mr Stafford felt it necessary, therefore, to give an explanation of his actions. His memorandum was circulated to local groups of CHE and to delegates of CHE’s National Council (which will be reported in Gay News 14).

The item that horrified him was “what purported to be a photograph of Lord Longford in a naked state”. J. Martin Stafford, BA, makes it clear that, though he mentioned his position within CHE in his letter to Lord Longford, he did not suggest that he was acting on CHE’s behalf.

He writes: “I am convinced that the Gay Liberation Front and all bodies and publications of a similar persuasion are a potent menace to the cause which I embrace and a hindrance to the realisation of ends which I – and no doubt most other people in CHE -esteem desirable. For let us be quite clear about this: GLF, by the outlandish appearance of many of its adherents, by the lunatic extravagance of its professed aims, and by the blatant indecency of its publications, makes social acceptance and further law-reform less probable, not more so; since almost everything which it does, says, and is – far from dispelling prejudice and assuaging potential sympathisers confirms all their gravest apprehensions that homosexuals are freakish perverts … etc etc etc”.

He continues: “… there is absolutely nothing in GLF or Gay News with which any person who held a position of responsibility or who had any concern to maintain his own good name and reputation would wish, or could afford, to be identified, however erroneously”.

Still linking GLF and Gay News together, he believes they give an impression of homosexuality as misleading as that offered by Dr Reubens. He urges CHE to “disassociate itself from all jargon-happy idiots and to renounce their theories as mistaken; their recommendations as impracticable.”

He writes: “I therefore took the view, by which I abide, that any lawful means of eliminating this menace was justified, and proceeded to conspire its ruin.”

After a further paragraph of attack on GLF and Gay News during which he suggests that in himself homosexuals will see they have “at least some spokesmen fit to plead their cause” and also that “some homosexuals have the sense to reject the idle pretentions of revolutionary fanaticism”, he concludes by asserting his intention of remaining on the Executive Committee of CHE “until 1975, or at least until it suits me to leave.” And ends: “The role I play can not, alas, be a very constructive one (sic) but perhaps a restraining influence is not altogether without value.”

At CHE’s National Council, delegates having read Mr Stafford’s hysterical memorandum (for those of us with less intelligence than that Mr Stafford claims to possess found the path from a cartoon of Lord Longford to the “idle pretensions of revolutionary fanaticism” a little difficult to follow), proceeded to give the little fellow a severe trouncing. He sat it out with his usual cool and it was only later in the day that he delighted his fans with one of his celebrated stamping performances.

Mr Stafford told the council that Gay News should be suppressed and “all its shallow and immature gestures eliminated” since it confirms all the worst impressions of homosexuals that people already possess.

A delegate from London (Kensington group) pointed out that Mr Stafford’s action was entirely antagonistic to all the law reforms CHE seeks because he represents himself as a spokesman who wishes to impose restrictions. “He has done everybody a grave disservice”, concluded Peter to loud applause.

The chairman of London’s Putney group remarked that for a homosexual to “recommend that heterosexuals should take legal action against homosexuals was utterly abhorrent”.

The chairman of the Brighton group, speaking with controlled anger, said that Mr Stafford’s action was outrageous in itself, but his “arrogant explanation has added fuel to the fire; the excuse that he is speaking only for himself is rubbish”, said John, “until now Martin Stafford has been a joke. But unless he is removed he will become a menace”.

It was a delegate from London (group 1) who rose to associate himself with Martin Stafford. In a peculiarly confused speech he insisted that he “strongly associated himself with Gay News and had even renewed his subscription. Yet when he saw the relevant cartoon “I was shocked, I thought it in gross bad taste”. Clearly the concept that merely being shocked by something is reason to try and get it prosecuted in the most punitive way, still exists.

Finally two resolutions were put before the Council. The first, from the Croydon delegate, said: “This council disassociates itself from the action of Martin Stafford over Gay News and deplores that a member of the Executive Committee should consider such an action”. Three people voted against this.

The second, put by Bernard Greaves of Cambridge said: “This Council welcomes Gay News‘s existence, applauds its editorial independence and thanks it for its contribution to the homophile cause while not necessarily agreeing with everything contained in it”. Again an overwhelming show of agreement with two votes against.

Martin Stafford embodies all the negative, depressive, death-dealing qualities of the acutely self-repressed homosexual. It is most unfortunate that he has acquired a position on the National Executive Committee of CHE. He admits he will not support his colleagues ard states he will always try to act as “a restraining influence.” His efforts at restraint have hitherto only been exercised within CHE and, while acutely disturbing, have had no relevance to the gay community at large. But in this case he has moved outside CHE to attack (in what is potentially the most vicious way) the efforts of another group of people (homosexual and heterosexual, unaligned to any organisation) to bring those much needed elements of contact, communication and information to both gay and straight communities.

Whenever Martin Stafford goes on one of his anti-life rampages, he falls back on the fact that he was elected to the Executive Committee of CHE this year with a majority. “Ten months ago the voting figures confirmed beyond all dispute that my views command considerable support; for after submitting myself to election on a question of confidence I was returned to the EC, not only at the top of the poll, but by a very impressive lead.”

This reads well. However it must be pointed out (as indeed the vice-chairman of CHE, Tony Ryde, did point out at the council) that Martin Stafford won 95 outright votes at the election, less than 10 votes ahead of his nearest rival. Out of a potential electorate of about 2,500 at this time, this is less than considerable, certainly not impressive. These facts, of course, only reflect on the inertia or lack of interest of CHE’s membership at large in electing their representatives. It also means that the other members of the Executive Committee are in the same position. However, it must be remembered that the other members of the EC are aware of this and only act after collective agreement and do not go off on individual rampages claiming a massive, but mythical, support.

Roger Baker

ED: We repeat again and again and again – Gay News is linked in no way whatsoever with any organisation.

Running, Jumping, Standing Committee

Two decisions of considerable importance to the national development of CHE were made at the organisation’s National Council held in London on November 25. The Council agreed to recognise hybrid groups and also agreed to set up a Standing Committee on promoting legal equality.

A little background is necessary to explain the implications of these decisions. CHE’s National Council is a quarterly event and is attended by the National Executive Committee and delegates from CHE groups all over the country. Unusually, the National Council is one of CHE’s best events since it promotes a feeling of unity and togetherness among the widely separated groups. People from different parts of the country meet their colleagues, learn of their activities at first hand and come to understand each other’s local problems in a very realistic way. But in order to have a voice in the Council’s discussions a group must first be recognised by the Council. This is usually a formality. When the Council met in September 1971 it was agreed that the criteria for group recognition should be that the group should consist only of CHE members, that there should be ten or more members registered in the national CHE headquarters.

Since then however the homophile movement has expanded and gathered strength. In many places this has meant the evolution of groups that consist only partly of CHE members but also of other, unaligned people and which are called by another name: Reading Gay Alliance, Gay Cambridge and the Bristol Gay Awareness group are examples.

This development has worried certain people within CHE and the first thing the Council had to discuss was a proposal from Bristol CHE which asked the Council to restrict recognition to groups that are comprised only of paid-up members of CHE.

Discussion was brisk, mostly against the proposal, and in the course of it we learned a great deal about conditions outside London relating to gay groups.

Derrick Stephens, the convenor of the Bristol CHE group who made the proposition suggested three reasons why he had done so. First he felt that by accepting non-CHF. members groups could come under the influence of GLF. Then he felt that hybrid groups would contribute towards a “blurring of CHE’s image”, and finally that CHE as a whole could come under the influece of GLF.

The delegate from Cardiff felt that the proposal was “too rigid, too narrow and had no flexibility”. In Cardiff he reported, the local GLF had become less and less in sympathy with national GLF and had disbanded. But most of these activists now came along to Cardiff CHE meetings and they had found no particular differences in outlook. “There are no reds under the bed in Cardiff”, he claimed.

He indicated that the tradition of open meetings was a help to nervous or shy people who didn’t want to give their names and addresses first, before getting involved. If the proposal was agreed Cardiff CHE would have either to expel group members or leave the National Council – and he felt it would be the latter.

The Tyneside guy said it would deny local groups freedom, would give the impression that CHE was an inward looking organisation, would result in people leaving CHE, would prevent people joining and anyway was technically impossible to implement.

Bernard Greaves explained the situation in Cambridge, explaining that a hybrid group was the only solution. “We must overcome sectarian division within the community”, he said, “Gay Cambridge has a tradition of open meetings and we must destroy any thought of a secret society. This proposal is just about petty-minded, beaurocratic tidyness”, he added.

Martin Stafford said he felt the proposal was unworkable but that it was nevertheless laudable. “Concern with CHE’s image is correct, we must consider it seriously or we will have no corporate identity of any kind.”

We heard that when Reading was just a CHE group there were 13 members, now there were more than 100. “And what can you do with 13 CHE members except sit around and discuss constitutions. Let’s get on and do things and get an image in that way”.

The proposal was defeated and group recognition went ahead.

For some time it was felt that CHE’s aims and objectives were a little vague and confused. Earlier this year they were broken down (by the PPB system) into detailed and precise parts. The first objective, thus examined was “to promote legal equality”

The working party laid its proposals before the Council which were accepted, and this means the setting up of a Standing Committee charged with co-ordination of all CHE’s efforts in the legal/police field.

In practical terms this means that handling examples of discrimination, harassment etc will no longer be a matter of inconclusive discussions, perhaps letters to relevant bodies and papers, but will be tackled in an efficient manner on all possible levels.

In All Probability It’s The Movie Maker Who Is Perverse

If anyone wanted to know why West Germans have been denied the sight of It Is Not The Homosexual Who Is Perverse But The Situation In Which He Lives, a couple of showings the movie got at the London’s National Film showed that it’s probably for the good of gays in Germany and also for the majority of the TV audience, which is, presumably, heterosexual.

There are quite a few Germans and if they believed that gays lived a form of Rake’s Progress (or should it be The Three-penny Opera?) as it was portrayed in this movie they might do everything they could to make sure that Amendment 175 of the constitution of West Germany, which makes homosexual acts legal among legal consenting adult males, and all that stuff.

The NFT showed the movie on two successive nights, and on both nights they got a full house (it’s probably the first time the NFT’s commissionaire has ever seen a queue) and although Volker Eschge, the assistant director wasn’t allowed to finish his piece which tended to go on and on, by shouts of boredom from the audience, no-one who missed Herr Eschge’s summation of the director Rosa von Praunheim – who’s male, by the way – missed much.

On the second night, either the audience was more tolerant or Herr Eschge had severely curtailed his speech on the relevance of Marxism to a sexual revolution.

The important bit he said was that the movie was shot as a simulated documentary about 1967 and planned as far back as the first stirrings of the USA Gay Liberation Movement – the riots in the Greenwich Village Stonewall. Which put the movie into perspective. Even if no-one was admitting it, it was made as a piece of pro-gay propaganda made to show how society forced the homosexual into a degrading life-style.

As Derek Malcolm said in the post-movie discussion after its second showing: “It shows that Rosa von Praunheim knows nothing about the gay scene.”

Whether Mr Malcolm, who writes about movies for The Guardian, knows all that much about the gay scene is immaterial, largely because he found the movie’s fundamental flaw. Every scene looked like a cheap back-of-the-lot Hollywood Western set. Cheap fittings with any little bits of effort put into it so hard they stuck out a mile.

It’s true that this sort of garish gay scene did exist before Amendment 175 was passed. At a time when German gays were totally disorganised. So the movie preaches that they should join their local groups and become militant gays, equating sexual and social revolution with a political revolution.

It’s true that you can’t have the former without the latter, but the unprocessed propaganda that the movie came out with was more likely to get the millions of German gays retreating into their closets with their Bullworkers, iron crosses and elevator shoes, as well as turning the majority of society against gays.

It Is Not The Homosexual… followed one Daniel on the broad path through the bar scene, the rent scene, and, after freaking out of leather, and into drag to being talked at by six well-meaning nude gentlemen who were doing all they could to cover their naughty parts.

The plan of the movie is probably – it’s not so obvious as to be able to say that this is what it’s about definitely – the degradation of Daniel through his contact with the Berlin gay world. Unfortunately the only English language print was made for showing in the USA, so we had a lot of references to ‘faggots’, ‘leather-freaks’ etc. And that sort of categorising doesn’t do anyone any good.

During this scene there was a mysterious large bottle of Coca-Cola being passed from one end of the group to another.

So, basically, It Is Not The Homosexual… is about another time, another place and none of it is helped by the fact that it’s made with all the expertise of a ten-year-old psychopath turned loose with a Super-8 camera and a roll of Kodachrome II.

Herr von Praunheim won’t let the movie be shown unless there’s a discussion after it. So George Melly tried to get people discussing the movie one at a time on the first night the movie was shown.

Come the second night and Mr Melly (of The Observer) had been replaced – according to plan – by Mr Malcolm, Roger Baker of CHE by Bernard Greaves of CHE and Denis Lemon of Gay News by your faithful reporter.

Regrettably the movie is to be shown at last on German TV in January. Pity really, as the direction and the acting are both so wooden as to make Crossroads look like a masterpiece of movie-making.