A historical survey of Marxism and queer life, from the young Soviet Union to Stalinist homophobia.88 posts and 8 image replies omitted. Click reply to view.
For decades, common sense dictated that Marxism focused solely on class antagonisms and ignored other forms of oppression, like the oppression of women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people. Indeed, many of those claiming the mantle of Marxism, from those in the Stalinist tradition to the social democratic tradition — including even the present-day Democratic Socialists of America — downplayed the importance of special oppression and maintained an economistic strategy that benefited only the upper strata of the working class. But the reactionary positions of Stalinism and social democracy on sexual and gender oppression do not reflect the legacy of Marxism in the slightest, as a look into the history of the revolutionary workers movement shows. Rather, revolutionary socialism in Russia, with the October Revolution, led the way toward a radical change in the material and ideological foundations of LGBTQ+ discrimination. Reactionary deviations occurred when parties and organizations, despite their socialist self-image, abandoned the revolutionary horizon and tried to come to terms with the capitalist world. This historical insight can help us clarify what kind of politics we need for emancipation today with a new onslaught of attacks on the rights of queer people, particularly in the United States, the world’s most advanced capitalist “democracy.”
The Bolshevik Advance
In the second half of the 19th century, a gay scene formed in Russia’s two most important cities, Saint Petersburg and Moscow. It created places for socializing, such as bathhouses; linguistic codes (tetki, which roughly translates as “auntie,” a word that was applied to homosexual men, both by them and others); elements of a dress code; and, at least in private spaces, cross-dressing. As historian Dan Healey describes in his influential work on the history of homosexuality in revolutionary Russia and the Soviet Union, Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Russia, it would be “heterosexist and nationalist chauvinism to claim that in tsarist Russia or in the USSR, this homosexual subculture was imported from abroad or created by Communist misrule.”1
At the same time, same-sex intercourse between men was illegal under the rules of the Orthodox Church. Until 1917, consensual “sodomy” was punishable by exile to Siberia. But the this threat was unevenly realized. The abolition of the czarist legal codes in 1917 meant the de facto decriminalization of homosexuality, and with the adoption of a new code in 1922, references to “sodomy” disappeared from the official legal texts of the young Soviet state. After revolutionary 18th-century France, the Soviet Union was thus one of the first states in the world to legalize homosexuality. In the Weimar Republic, meanwhile, the infamous paragraph 175 from the Kaiserreich, criminalizing homosexuality, remained in force before it was tightened under fascism and ultimately abolished in the Federal Republic only in 1994 — a lifetime after decriminalization in the Soviet Union.
Women who entered into romantic or sexual relationships with other women had less access to the public sphere in Russia and accordingly found it more difficult to form a cohesive community. Fewer sources exist on this issue, since same-sex intercourse between women was not punishable and therefore does not show up, for instance, in court records. Nevertheless, economically independent women in particular succeeded in forming networks and entering into relationships beyond the traditional heterosexual family. In the military climate of the Civil War years after the October Revolution, many women adopted a masculine style, which on the one hand signaled a loyalty to the Revolution and a willingness to defend it, but on the other hand could also be code for homosexual women to attract other women. The lines to transsexuality were blurry sometimes. In response to a survey on sexuality at Moscow’s Sverdlov University in 1923, one answer was “I want to be a man, I impatiently await scientific discoveries of castration and grafting of male organs (glands).”2 Such operations were indeed performed in the 1920s, even if their success was doubtful owing to still rudimentary methods. Even apart from medical interventions, many took advantage of the opportunity to change their gender identity. They had appropriate identification documents issued, adopted male variants of their old names, and changed their clothing and appearance. This was accompanied by lively scientific debates about the origin and nature of homosexuality and gender, which were widely considered to be closely related. Biologist Nikolai Konstantinovich Koltsov asserted, “Of course, there is no intermediate sex, but rather an infinite quantity of intermediate sexes.”3
Evgenii Fedorovich M. began to assume a male identity in 1915, when he was 17 years old. During the revolution he had his name changed in the official documents and began to work in the secret service. In 1922, with the new documents, Yevgeny married a woman who, in the sources, is named S. Even after the change of identity became known; a local court case in which the couple stood accused of a “crime against nature” failed, and the marriage persisted. The court ruled the union legal because it was mutually consensual — the gender identity of the spouses was irrelevant. The couple continued to live together as a family for several years with a child that S. gave birth to after an affair with a colleague.4 The revolutionary awakening and the rejection of traditional norms were not only represented by elite Bolsheviks but also allowed people like Yevgeny an unprecedented degree of self-determination.
Bourgeois historical scholarship has occasionally claimed that the Bolsheviks did not intend to legalize homosexuality at all by abolishing the czarist legal codes. Simon Karlinsky, for example, claimed that the October Revolution reversed and negated the advances for gay rights achieved in the revolutions of 1905 and of February 1917, passing over the first decriminalization of “sodomy” as an aside.5 Healey, however, comes to the following, unequivocal conclusion based on the files of the Commissariat of Justice, which became accessible with the opening of the Soviet archives in 1991:
While these documents do not discuss the sodomy statute in detail, they do demonstrate a principled intent to decriminalize the act between consenting adults, expressed from the earliest efforts to write a socialist criminal code in 1918 to the eventual adoption of legislation in 1922.6
By decriminalizing male homosexuality, the Bolsheviks stood in the long tradition of the labor movement. In 1898, for example, the leader of the German Social Democrats, August Bebel, had been the first politician to call for homosexual emancipation in a parliament. Three years earlier, socialists had defended the famous writer Oscar Wilde when he was put on trial for his homosexuality. Eduard Bernstein sharply criticized the idea that homosexuality deviated from “nature,” proposing instead that it be understood as a deviation from “the firmly maintained fictional norm,” and holding that “there is no reasonable ground why a similar contract between man and man should be criminally punished.”7 Socialists were not the only ones to call for the legalization of homosexuality. After the October Revolution, however, they not only raised the demand but actually put it into practice.
The pamphlet “The Sexual Revolution in Russia,” written in 1923 by the head of the Moscow Institute of Social Hygiene, Dr. Grigorii Batkis, gives an impression of the official position of the Bolsheviks in the first years after the revolution. In it he writes,
[Soviet legislation] declares the absolute noninterference of the state and society into sexual matters, so long as nobody is injured, and no one’s interests are encroached upon. Concerning homosexuality, sodomy, and various other forms of sexual gratification, which are set down in European legislation as offenses against public morality — Soviet legislation treats these exactly the same as so-called “natural” intercourse. All forms of sexual intercourse are private matters.8
Of course, in the young Soviet Union, not all the prejudices were eliminated from one day to the next. They had become ingrained in decades and centuries of tsarist backwardness. Moreover, the legalization policy of the Bolsheviks did not extend to the entire area of the Soviet Union. The code of the Uzbek SSR, for example, which was established in 1926, still contained paragraphs against homosexuality. While in the European center of the country, homosexuality was understood as an innate characteristic of a minority; in the periphery it was conceived of as a widespread phenomenon arising from social conditions. Healey calls this a “contradiction between the Soviet Union’s declared sexual vanguardism and its policies in outlying regions.”9 Furthermore, during the 1920s, access to ballrooms and meeting halls in the urban centers dwindled more and more, which, according to a common interpretation, led to a retreat into the private sphere. This is contradicted, however, by the fact that homosexual men played important public roles in the young Soviet republic. Author Mikhail Kuzmin, who came from an aristocratic background and wrote the first coming-out novel affirming homosexuality, Wings, in 1906, sympathized with the revolution and served as chairman of the Petrograd Artists’ Association. Kuzmin was friends with the openly gay Georgy Chicherin, who served as People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs, a post that was roughly equal to a Soviet foreign minister, from 1918 to 1930.
A few isolated statements by Lenin are often used to argue that the Bolsheviks allegedly took a prudish position on questions of sexuality. In correspondence with the French socialist Inessa Armand in 1915, he defended himself against the demand for a “freedom of love.”10 In a few lines, he argued that freedom from material calculations, religious prejudices, or “from the fetters of the law, the courts and the police” would be poorly expressed by this phrase and could also be understood to mean freedom “from the serious element in love” or “from childbirth,” which he described as a bourgeois demand. Healey, too, infers from these lines (and from similar statements attributed to Lenin after his death by Clara Zetkin11) that Lenin may well have meant to say that those suffering from a “personal abnormality” in their sexual lives should do so in private while devoting themselves to the revolution.12 Sherry Wolf strongly rejects this “rather stilted reading of Lenin’s thoughts” in Sexuality and Socialism, arguing that it conforms to the Cold War caricature of Lenin as a teetotaling ascetic.13 In fact, Lenin’s letters to Armand were not published until 1939 under Stalin to signal, as Healey himself writes in a footnote, that the “changes to family policy in the 1930s had Leninist origins.”14
The Stalinist Rollback
Contrary to the hopes of the Bolsheviks, by 1923, no further socialist states had emerged from the European revolutionary upsurge after World War I. In capitalist encirclement, material deprivation after years of first world and then civil war, and the resulting massive attenuation of the Soviet industrial proletariat, an extensive bureaucracy had taken hold in all areas of administration, attempting to elevate the country’s isolation to the status of theory with “socialism in one country.”
The bureaucracy’s interest in self-preservation, coexisting with the capitalist West, was matched by an increased demand for labor, which led to a policy of increasing the birth rate. Efforts to abolish the family, whose tasks for social reproduction were to be made superfluous through the establishment of public child care, laundry shop, or state canteens, were replaced by the consolidation of traditional family and gender norms. In a trade union newspaper, Aron Solz, who had held leading posts in the Soviet judiciary before being ousted in 1938, wrote: “A Soviet woman has equal rights with a man, but she is not relieved of the great and honorable natural duty: she’s a mother, she gives life.”15
The ideological justification for the renewed criminalization of homosexuality was provided in 1934 by Stalin’s mouthpiece on cultural issues, the author Maxim Gorky. He attributed to homosexuality a corrupting influence on youth and contrasted the myth of Russian “purity” with the decay of the “overcivilized” West, which, supposedly, along with homosexuality, also gave rise to fascism. His utterance culminates in the infamous statement: “Destroy the homosexuals — Fascism will disappear.”16
Just as the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1922 had been part of a broader effort to overcome any form of oppression based on gender or sexuality, the counterreforms of the 1930s were also not limited to reintroducing the persecution of homosexuality. Prostitution was also recriminalized, abortions banned, and the women’s section of the party’s Central Committee dissolved. Leon Trotsky described this policy of prohibitions as “the philosophy of a priest endowed also with the powers of a gendarme.”17 This turn toward a cult of motherhood was accompanied by the cruel persecution of any real or imagined political opposition. In her book Bread and Roses, Andrea D’Atri describes, in relation to women’s politics, the discontinuity between the first decrees of the nascent workers’ state and the outrageous later provisions of the bureaucracy. For the bureaucracy, it was clear: “The revolution needed to be opposed with a counterrevolution.”18 This rupture was enforced with the deportation, imprisonment, torture, and murder of countless people.
this is literally just opportunism. We have fucking principles! Yes, if this scares away conservatives, fine. No one is saying to bring up gay people when you're unionizing (unless u work with gay people), but as communists yes we absolutely must not cater to conservatives. There is no point in debasing ourselves, and showing everyone a complete lack of backbone, to bend over backwards to appease the most backwards and reactionary elements. It destroys exactly what we have to offer, which is clarity of purpose and a wide embrace of the working class. If we try to be so open as to split with certain groups we would otherwise also embrace
in order to embrace conservatives, we're directly putting them in charge of the communist movement. That's ridiculous. The right needs to be combated, and so does the center. It's impossible to find reconciliation when the demand is for us to abandon our principles and for intolerance at those who otherwise are allies.
Your coworkers (assuming they are homophobes) have been unironically brainwashed to hate gays. Their obstacle to favor communism isn't that socialism is LGBT friendly or whatever, their obstacle is brainwashing. No amount of pandering to them or watering down socialism to fit reactionary's sensibilities will do anything.
I encourage you to do praxis, but in its abscense, I suggest you ask comrades who do praxis in conservative states. You'd be surprised at their experience. Eddie Smith has videos where he talks precisely about this failed watering down cop-out in the context of the midwest, pointing out how it's unnecessary and actively harmful.
>The pamphlet “The Sexual Revolution in Russia,” written in 1923 by the head of the Moscow Institute of Social Hygiene, Dr. Grigorii Batkis, gives an impression of the official position of the Bolsheviks in the first years after the revolution. In it he writes,
>[Soviet legislation] declares the absolute noninterference of the state and society into sexual matters, so long as nobody is injured, and no one’s interests are encroached upon.
The covert bourgeoisie within the dictatorship of the proletariat; the bureaucracy, needs to be overcome, at all costs, to safeguard the revolutionary gains by the proletariat in its movement towards communism.
Which ones depends on their temperament and intelligence not in the crude qualitative tism score sense but more as a quality
Unless you want to go full Pravda Which for the record I entirely support you doing but am probably in a minority on the issue
the association between men who have sex with men with disease will continue being reinforced under capitalism due to capitalism inability to tackle matters of health
Issues aren't disconnected from the world even to go full Pravda which is to say truth would require socialism
Humanitarian efforts can be made but the primary contradiction causing the issue remains capital
First off, I ain't reading all that>>4010
Weakness of the mind. I think they are rationally pursuing irrational ends cause ceding a point can you ingratiate yourself to someone, this seems correct in theory, tho I don't know much about the topic of being a faggot debatelord.>>3998
Has anyone considered this angle? Like not to compare myself to Stalin but I ignore things that are too stupid.
"this is the most retarded shit I ever archived"
"ah, but you did archive it"
-Gay Jack Sparrow
>>4110>wort existiert nicht,d.H Konzept existiert auch nicht
stupid cunt, read origin of the family; everything Engels does there in outlining a not at all natural, but societally determined basis for the family structure and gender roles within it can easily be applied to gender itself. In fact, it MUST be applied to gender itself; if we agree with Engles when he writes that male usurpation of societal dominance from women was perhaps the first class conflict in history, then it only logically follows that a strict delineation between the categories of "man" and "woman" would also result from that same conflict (can't achieve dominance over an ill defined social group, can't maintain dominance of an ill defined social group).
therefore we have no reason to privilege these categories, borne of male domination of women as outlined in origins of the family, as "natural," or "morally correct," etc
fucking "conservative Marxists" haven't even read our own books
I'm going to weigh in on this as le closeted trans woman (potential AGP, not sure)
Basically, I want to see a world where nobody gives half a flying fuck if I'm trans besides maybe other trans people. It's the most basic response that you can give, sure, but it's one that's the most well-applying for me. I don't want there to be any stigma or preconceived idea of me for being trans. It already pains me enough that I'm not cis and have to deal with dysphoria, so I'd rather not have being outed also find its way on the list of things I need to worry about.