In Defense of Homosexual Rights: The Marxist Tradition

Milizia boltxebikea

In Defense of Homosexual Rights:
The Marxist Tradition

Defense of democratic rights for homosexuals is part
of the historic tradition of Marxism. In the 1860s, the
prominent lawyer J.B. von Schweitzer was tried, found
guilty and disbarred for homosexual activities in Mannheim,
Germany. The socialist pioneer Ferdinand Lassalle
aided von Schweitzer, encouraging him to join
Lassalle's Universal German Workingmen's Association
in 1863. After Lassalle's death, von Schweitzer was
elected the head of the group, one of the organizations
that merged to form the German Social Democratic
Party (SPD). The SPD itself waged a long struggle
in the late 19th century against Paragraph 175 of the
German penal code, which made homosexual acts (for
'males) a crime. August Bebel and other SPD members
in the Reichstag attacked the law, while the SPD's party
paper Vorwarts reported on the struggle against state
persecution of homosexuals.

 In 1895 one of the most infamous anti-homosexual
outbursts of the period targeted Oscar Wilde, one of
the leading literary lights of England (where homosexuality
had been punishable by death until 1861). Wilde
had some socialist views of his own: his essay, "The Soul
of Man Under Socialism," was smuggled into Russia by
young radicals. When the Marquess of Queensberry
called him a sodomist, Wilde sued for libel. Queensberry
had Wilde successfully prosecuted and sent to prison
for being involved with Queensberry's son. The Second
International took up Wilde's defense. In the most
prestigious publication of the German Social Democracy,
Die Neue Zeit, Eduard Bernstein, later known as a
revisionist but then speaking as a very decent Marxist,
argued that there was nothing sick about homosexuality,
that Wilde had committed no crime, that every
socialist should defend him and that the people who
put him on trial were the criminals.

Upon coming to power in 1917 in Russia, the Bolshevik
Party began immediately to undercut the old bourgeois
prejudices and social institutions responsible for
the oppression of both women and homosexualscentrally
the institution of the family. They sought to
create social alternatives to relieve the crushing burden
of women's drudgery in the family, and abolished
all legal impediments to women's equality, while also
abolishing all laws against homosexual acts. Stalin's successful
political counterrevolution rehabilitated the
reactionary ideology of bourgeois society, glorifying
the family unit. In 1934 a law making homosexual acts
punishable by imprisonment was introduced, and mass
arrests of homosexuals took place. While defending the
socialized property forms of the USSR against capitalist
attack, we Trotskyists fight for political revolution in the
USSR to restore the liberating program and goals of the
early Bolsheviks, including getting the state out of
private sexual life. As Grigorii Batkis, director of the
Moscow Institute of Social Hygiene, pointed out in
"The Sexual Revolution in Russia," published in the
USSR in 1923:

"Soviet legislation bases itself on the following
'It declares the absolute non-interference 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." [emphasis in
-quoted in John Lauritsen and David Thorstad,
The Early Homosexual Rights Movement

—W&R [+]