The gay marriage bill passed the House of Lords successfully this week, effectively legalising marriage for same-sex couples in the UK. For most of us, this is a wonderful step forward for human progress and equality. For a select melodramatic few, the World is about to end. One of the many charges against those who support same-sex marriage, is…. well… I’ll allow these people to gleefully inform you:
– Article here.
So, I thought I’d write on the subject of Communism, and homosexuality, in order to dispel this – easy to dispel – right winged myth, that same sex marriage, can in any way, be linked to Communism. As it turns out, a lot has been written on the Soviet Union and homosexuality, and rather in depth the subject is too. So I will briefly summarise the research here.
We must of course cast ourselves back to the very foundation of the concept of Communism, and its founders, to base our understanding of Communism and Homosexuality. The 19th century that Karl Marx inhabited was a very homophobic century, and this homophobia didn’t escape Communists of the time. Actually, much of the complaints of modern day homophobes on the Right – conspiracy against the State – can be found in the writings of early Communist. Engels himself linked homosexuality, with paedophilia – a tactic used by both Stalin in the 1930s, and today on the right wing – as a reason to discriminate heavily against the gay community. On June 22, 1869, Engels wrote to Marx:
“That is really a very odd ‘Urning’ you just sent me. Those are just unveilings being extremely against nature. The pederasts begin counting themselves and find that they are forming a power within the state. Only an organisation was missing, but according to this it seems to be already existing in the secret. And as they are counting so important men within all the old parties and even in the new ones, from Rösing to Schweitzer, their victory is inevitable. ‘Guerre aux cons, paix aux trous de cul’ it will go now. It is only a luck that we personally are too old to have to fear, this party gaining victory, to have to pay bodily tribute to the victors. But the young generation! By the way, only possible in Germany that a guy like that appears, translates the dirt into a theory and invites: introite, and so on. ”
– Here, Engels is talking about Karl Ulrichs, the early gay rights pioneer. Ulrichs sent a letter to Marx asking for support from the Communists. Marx asked Engels for his opinion. Engels writes back rather unequivocally. The word ‘urning’ in the opening sentence, is a word meaning the body of a man with the mind and lusts of a woman; a man attracted to other men. ‘Against nature’, ‘forming a power within the state’, ‘existing in secret’, ‘translates dirt into a theory’. The homophobic diatribe by Engels is reminiscent of 21st Century conservatives like the blogger above who is convinced same-sex unions are a coup by a well organised group to destroy the state as we know it.
Whilst homosexuality was technically legalised in the early Soviet Union (not purposely, but as a result of the overturning of all Tsarist laws), it only applied to Russia itself. The nations surrounding Russia, within the Soviet Union had extremely strict anti-homosexuality laws. There was no big Communist push to liberalise sexuality. There was no suggestion that homosexuality could be used to destroy Western civilisation, that it was an intrinsic materialist device to overthrow Capitalist society. In fact, homosexuality was a crime in Azerbaijan, in Turkmenistan, in Uzbekistan. In 1930, only 13 years after the founding of the Soviet Union, a Soviet medical official named Sereisky penned the Soviet’s new stance on homosexuality:
“Soviet legislation does not recognize so-called crimes against morality. Our laws proceed from the principle of protection of society and therefore countenance punishment only in those instances when juveniles and minors are the objects of homosexual interest … while recognizing the incorrectness of homosexual development … our society combines prophylactic and other therapeutic measures with all the necessary conditions for making the conflicts that afflict homosexuals as painless as possible and for resolving their typical estrangement from society within the collective.”
– The passage here officially condemns homosexuality as a crime against morality, that it is a threat to children, and that it is outside the realms of civilised society, whilst stopping short of full criminalisation. As it happens, this demonisation of homosexuality was a precursor for the next phase in Soviet sexual repression.
Three years later, in 1933, Article 121 was added to the Soviet penal code within Stalin’s Soviet Union. The Article stated that:
“sexual relations between men are punishable by prison terms of up to five years.”
– This law lasted another sixty years, with ten people imprisoned in 1992 for homosexual relations. Originally, Stalin introduced Article 121 in order to give credit to the idea that homosexuality, was actually a Fascist plot. Just before his death, Soviet cultural writer Maxim Gorky wrote:
“”In a country in which the proletariat rules courageously and successfully, homosexuality, which depraves the youth, is recognized and punished as the antisocial crime that it is, while in the so-called cultivated countries /…/ it occurs freely and unchecked. Already, a sarcastic proverb has been devised: Eradicate homosexuality and you will eliminate fascism.”
– Of course, Gorky left out the part in which upon coming to power, Hitler rounded up homosexual men and threw them into concentration camps, but it suited his narrative, and Soviet homophobic propaganda, not to mention that. Isn’t it ironic that the same arguments employed by the far right today, were used almost identically by the far left almost a century ago; both are guilty of the social abuse of a minority in order to advance their own ideological agenda.
We also see Gorky using the commonly used tactic; fear for the future of your children. We’ll come back to this a little later.
After Stalin’s death, Kruschev repealed many of the anti-liberalisation laws of the Stalin era, including anti-abortion laws, anti-divorce laws…. but he didn’t repeal the anti-homosexuality laws. Those remained in place. He was afraid that the prisoner-like sexual mentality would infect the rest of the population. Suddenly, in less than a year, the very top of the Communist regime in the Soviet Union went from mistakenly linking homosexuality to paedophilia, to linking homosexuality to forced prison-like sex. The anti-homosexuality rhetoric and action were so repulsive, it is only matched by the repulsive attitudes toward homosexuality coming from the right wing today. For example, the Stalinist (and Engels) line that homosexuality and paedophilia are linked, has been appropriated in recent times, by the US Christian Right. Here, Pat Robertson tells us that gay marriage, will lead to the legalisation of paedophilia:
“How about child molestation and paedophilia? How can we criminalise these things and at the same time have constitutional amendments allowing same sex marriage? You mark my words, this is just the beginning in a long downward slide in relation to all the things that we consider to be abhorrent.”
– Pat Robertson seems to be employing the Stalinist ‘crimes against morality’ logic with linking homosexuality to paedophilia, alongside a staggering slippery slope fallacy. It is exactly the arguments put forth by Communists within the Soviet Union, in the 1930s.
Similarly, Michael Savage, US Radio DJ said:
“You’ve got to explain to the children … why God told people this was wrong. You have to explain this to them in this time of mental rape that’s going on. The children’s minds are being raped by the homosexual mafia, that’s my position. They’re raping our children’s minds.”
– The protection of children, as mentioned above, has been a key rhetorical device used by the homophobic for decades. You must fear for your child’s future if homosexuality is allowed to persist… is the cry of the bigot. Not only did Stalin, Sereisky, and Gorky dubiously tie homosexuality with child molestation, but the right wing now appears to have taken that argument and made it their own. Like the ‘crimes against morality’ line that links both Soviet Communists, and modern day conservatives, the argument that we must fear for our children’s safety, because of homosexuality, is also a direct link between Soviet Communists, and modern day conservatives.
Whilst homosexuality was criminalised in 1933 between two men, it wasn’t criminalised between two women. Instead, gay women were referred to psychiatrists, who in turn, had then committed for three months. During that time, drugs were often tested on young gay women, followed by the forced signing of the mentally ill register, rendering any possibility of a good career, a driving licence, and happy life, almost impossible. This practice ended, as late as 1988, though still proceeded in many provinces.
One only has to look at the repression of homosexuality in Russia today, to understand the development historically of a very homophobic nation.
In fact, Homosexuality was only removed from the list of Russian mental disorders, in 1999. Homosexuality, in Communist China was not decriminalised until 1997, and considered a mental illness until 2002.
In the USA, the great gay rights activist Harry Hay was thrown out of the Communist Party, because the Communist Party did not allow gay people to be members.
Nepal’s Maoists are still very anti-homosexuality, and repression of Nepals LGBT rights advocates, is widespread.
Dev Gurung, the Maoist Minister of Justice for the Communist Party in Nepal, offered a mirrored image of right winged insistences that Communism and Homosexuality are intrinsically linked, with this little gem of melodrama:
“Under Soviet rule there were no homosexuals in the Soviet Union. Now that they are moving towards capitalism, homosexuals may have arisen there as well. So homosexuality is a product of capitalism. Under socialism this kind of problem doesn’t exist.”
– So you see, the same tired arguments are thrown from the fringes of the right and left, putridly degrading a minority, perpetuating discrimination and hate based on nothing of any substance, to promote an ideological standpoint.
Communists regimes were among the most repressive in history, toward homosexuality.
The repression of homosexuality throughout the Soviet Union, and by Communists in general was widespread throughout its history. Thousands were imprisoned for decades, many more were brutally beaten and murdered simply for being gay. This is what happens when you not only criminalise and work hard to stigmatise a biological trait (be it sexuality, gender, or race) but you base an entire social system upon patriarchy, or Theocracy, or the supremacy of one race above all others. A system of privilege for those who wrongfully think themselves the rightful rulers of civilised society based on no valid reasoning, develops into a system of repression against those who don’t fit its narrow band of what is decent and correct. To defend this system, the same fallacious arguments are thrown around, usually in an attempt to induce fear within a population. Defend homophobic, racist, patriarchy… otherwise God will punish you, and your children will be in danger! They scream ‘agenda!’ at every possible turn; the ‘abolitionist agenda’, the ‘feminist agenda!’, the ‘gay rights agenda!’, as if those are to be viewed negatively, rather than positive strides toward equality and an end to discriminatory, regressive consciousness. They insist the government is under attack, they play on the fears of danger to children. And it is the same today. 21st Century Conservatives; in a show of intense irony, those who claim the mantle of freedom and individual liberty, are the most repressive defenders of systems of privilege in the 21st century.