Communism and homosexuality

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Views on LGBT rights and homosexuality in general throughout communist history have ranged from acceptance to apathy to condemnation. While homosexuality has sometimes been labeled by communists as "one of the effects of capitalist sociality"[1][2] and the product of the bourgeoisie,[3][4][5] some communists have more recently argued that Gay Liberation and LGBT equality is a key issue.[6][7][8]

Karl Marx himself spent very little of his time discussing sexuality. Friedrich Engels condemned homosexuality and associated it with pedophilia.[9] A large influence on communist thought historically were the principles of the Soviet Union. In 1917 in the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, Vladimir Lenin decriminalized homosexuality, and allowed openly homosexual people to serve in the government. Joseph Stalin re-criminalized homosexuality in 1933 (Stalin's criminal code punishing gay men by up to five years in prison with hard labor) and the law withstood through the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and was only repealed with the fall of communism in 1993.[10] According to RT, "several hundred people [were] charged with it every year" and it "was also a convenient tool for smears and was tacked onto spying allegations during the NKVD purges".[11]

Early history[edit]

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels said very little on the subject in their published works. Marx in particular commented rarely on sexuality in general, and the revolutionaries around him had no sense of a definitive agenda or ideology on the matter. Yet, in private, Engels criticized homosexuality and related it to ancient Greek bourgeois traditions of pedophilia.[9]

The Communist Manifesto does not address the issue of sexual orientation or gender identity. Later communist leaders and intellectuals took many different positions on LGBT-rights issues.

The German Communist Party, during the Weimar Republic, joined with the Social Democrats in support of efforts to legalize private homosexual relations between consenting adults. Yet, the situation for LGBT rights in the first Communist government in Russia were something of a mixed bag.

The Communist Party abolished all Czarist laws and its subsequent criminal code in the 1920s, did not criminalize non-commercial same-sex sexuality between consenting adults in private. It also provided for no-fault divorce and legalized abortion.[12] However, homosexuality remained a criminal offense in certain Soviet Union states in the 1920s.

In 1933, Joseph Stalin added Article 121 to the entire Soviet Union criminal code, which made male homosexuality a crime punishable by up to five years in prison with hard labor. The precise reason for Article 121 is in some dispute among historians. The few official government statements made about the law tended to confuse homosexuality with pedophilia and was tied up with a belief that homosexuality was only practiced among fascists or the aristocracy.

The law remained intact until after the dissolution of the Soviet Union; it was repealed in 1993.[13][14]

According to RT, the law against homosexuality led to "several hundred people [being] charged with it every year" and it "was also a convenient tool for smears and was tacked onto spying allegations during the NKVD purges".[11]

Homosexuals and communist membership[edit]

Homosexuals were sometimes denied membership or expelled from communist parties[15] across the globe during the 20th Century, as most communist parties followed the social precedents set by the USSR.

Association of communism with homosexuality by anti-communists[edit]

See also: Lavender scare

Senator Joseph McCarthy used accusations of homosexuality as a smear tactic in his anti-communist crusade, often combining the Second Red Scare with the Lavender Scare. On one occasion, he went so far as to announce to reporters, "If you want to be against McCarthy, boys, you've got to be either a Communist or a cocksucker."[16] Some historians have argued that, in linking communism and homosexuality and psychological imbalance, McCarthy was employing guilt-by-association if evidence for communist activity was lacking.[17]

Senator Kenneth Wherry similarly attempted to invoke a connection between homosexuality and anti-nationalism. He said in an interview with Max Lerner that "You can't hardly separate homosexuals from subversives." Later in that same interview he drew the line between patriotic Americans and gay men: "But look Lerner, we're both Americans, aren't we? I say, let's get these fellows [closeted gay men in government positions] out of the government."[18]

Connections between gay rights groups and radical leftists were not merely a figment of the imaginations of demagogues. The Mattachine Society, one of the earliest gay rights groups in the United States, was founded by Harry Hay, a former member of the Communist Party who was kicked out of the gay rights group he'd founded for his ties to the party.[19]

Famous ex-communist former Soviet agent Whittaker Chambers notably spent his time in the left-wing underground purusing both homosexual and heterosexual affairs, but he kept his liaisons quiet since his communist associates despised homosexuality.[20][21] Chambers later monogamously married the pacifist painter Esther Shemitz, working as a journalist and editor.

Current status[edit]

None of the four self-identified socialist states[examples needed] as of 2013 recognized same-sex marriages, civil unions, or registered partnerships.[22][better source needed] There are also no anti-discrimination laws in place, but homosexuality is legal in each country.[23]

Status by country[edit]

China (People's Republic of)[edit]

Further information: Homosexuality in China

Homosexuality was decriminalized in China in 1997 and was removed as a mental illness in 2002.[24] Chinese society itself is somewhat tolerant of homosexuality,[25] and Li Yinhe, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, is an LGBT rights activist. Same-sex marriage bills have been routinely proposed before the government since 2003, though none have yet made it out of committee.[26]


Further information: LGBT rights in Cuba

Shortly after the Cuban Revolution, the position of the Cuban leadership on the issue of homosexuality was negative, but in 1979, sodomy laws were repealed.[27]

In July 2007, a civil union law was proposed to the government, but has yet to be voted on.[28] The move was supported by Raúl Castro's daughter, Mariela Castro, who has been a longtime supporter of LGBT rights.[29]

In 2009, Cuba signed the UN declaration on sexual orientation and gender identity which sought to decriminalize homosexuality worldwide.[30]

It has been announced that a bill establishing civil unions that include all the rights of marriage in Cuba (including adoption) and banning discrimination based on one's sexual orientation, will be voted on in the national assembly in July 2011.[31]


Further information: LGBT rights in Laos

Since the Pathet Lao took over in 1975, the Lao government has been completely silent on LGBT rights and homosexuality itself. Homosexuality is not a crime in Laos, but female homosexuality is relatively frowned upon while male homosexuality is widely more tolerated. A growing acceptance of homosexuality in Laos continues.[32]


Further information: LGBT rights in Vietnam

Vietnam's state-run media in 2002 referred to homosexuality as a "social evil"; comparing it to prostitution and gambling, and supporting laws against it.[33] As of 2009, such laws have not been introduced. There have been no recorded laws against same-sex contact in Vietnam for all of the country's several thousand years of existence and the matter is generally not discussed. Until 2000, laws against cohabitation were in place and the government used these to arrest same-sex couples.[34] The communist youth newspaper, on the other hand, ran a story that stated people can be born homosexual, as they can be born left-handed.[35] Attitudes among Vietnamese youth have also fallen on par to these statements.[36]

On 5 August 2012, Vietnam hosted its first Gay-pride parade. Despite the protesters' not having a permit, the police made no attempt to stop the demonstration nor were there any reports of negative reaction. The event followed a surprise proposal by the country’s Justice Ministry in July to amend Vietnam’s marriage laws to include same-sex couples. Public officials say that the country is on the verge of recognising same-sex marriage, which would make Vietnam the first Asian country to do so.[37]

Status in former communist states[edit]

Homosexuality was deemed illegal under the majority of former communist states, particularly in Europe, but in certain cases, such laws had pre-existed before the establishment of Soviet-influenced doctrine. Homosexuality carried harsh penalties in the People's Socialist Republic of Albania, to which convicted homosexuals faced lengthy prison sentences and ill-treatment in prison. Homosexuality was also illegal in the People's Republic of Mongolia, but the extent to which these laws were enforced remain unknown. Homosexuality was officially decriminalized in the German Democratic Republic in 1967, a year ahead of the NATO-backed Federal Republic of Germany.[38] The age of consent was later equalized in 1987, and in 1988 in West Germany.

In the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, where communist ideology has been supplemented by Juche, LGBT rights are very limited and the subject of homosexuality remains fiercely taboo. While the government proclaims tolerance for gay people and has acknowledged its belief that homosexuality is not a choice and rather due to genetic factors, it rejects the alleged "promiscuity and classism" of gay culture in the West.[39]

Non-governing political party opinions[edit]

The American Revolutionary Communist Party's policy that "struggle will be waged to eliminate [homosexuality] and reform homosexuals" was abandoned in 2001.[40] The RCP now fully supports the gay liberation movement.[41] Meanwhile, the large and influential[citation needed] American Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in the US released a memo stating that gay oppression had less "social weight" than black and women's struggles, and prohibited members from being involved in gay political organizations.[42] They also believed that too close an association with gay liberation would give the SWP an "exotic image" and alienate it from the masses.[43] Several non-governing communist parties have made statements supporting LGBT rights, such as the Communist Party USA, which supports extending marriage to same-sex couples and passing laws against discrimination based on one's sexual orientation. The League for the Revolutionary Party, a communist party based in New York, issued a statement shortly after the passage of California's Proposition 8 condemning the amendment; reaffirming their support for same-sex marriage and expressing their views on how gay liberation is essential to the communist philosophy.[44]

The New People's Army, a communist insurgency within the Philippines has also made several statements supporting equal rights of same-sex couples and gay individuals; performing the first same-sex marriage in the country and officially endorsing such legislation if they were to come to power. They also went farther to express their support for same-sex relationships,[45] and gay and lesbians were allowed to serve in their forces before the entire country.[46] Other communist parties present in Germany and other European countries have also officially endorsed LGBT rights, including the right to same-sex marriage, and some even have extensive LGBT platforms in their parties.[47] The general secretary of the Communist Party of Finland is openly homosexual and the party also participates in the LGBT working group of the European Left Party. In recent elections held in Jawaharlal Nehru University, the student's wing of CPI(M) nominated a gay person as its candidate for key position [48]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Homosexual Desire (Series Q) by Guy Hocquenghem
  2. ^ 8/1/1973 - Report from a Cuban Prison XIV: Homosexuality in Cuba by Frank J. McDonald
  3. ^ Gay Rights and Wrongs in Cuba
  4. ^ PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: Homosexuality - NI 201 - Sexual politics
  5. ^ The last word Gay liberation
  6. ^ Outing By Warren Johansson, William A. Percy
  7. ^ Proletarian Revolution No. 71, Summer 2004
  8. ^ Communist Party USA; Young Communist League (24 June 2006). "Gay Pride Month: Communists stand in solidarity". Retrieved 5 February 2015. We at the Communist Party USA and the Young Communist League USA stand in solidarity with our LGBT brothers and sisters in the fight for full equality. 
  9. ^ a b Igor Kon (1995). The Sexual Revolution in Russia: From the Age of the Czars to Today. Simon and Schuster. pp. 52–53. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b
  12. ^ Hazard, John N. "Unity and Diversity in Socialist Law".
  13. ^ Russia: Update to RUS13194 of 16 February 1993 on the treatment of homosexuals
  14. ^
  15. ^ Doug Ireland: Turns out Norman Thomas's Socialist Party Came Close to Breaking the Gay Taboo in 1952
  16. ^ Cuordileone, K.A. "'Politics in an Age of Anxiety': Cold War Political Culture and the Crisis in American Masculinity, 1949-1960" The Journal of American History 87 (2) (2000): 515-545
  17. ^ Damousi, Joy; Plotkin, Mariano Ben (5 January 2012). Psychoanalysis and Politics: Histories of Psychoanalysis Under Conditions of Restricted Political Freedom. Oxford University Press, USA. p. 221. ISBN 978-0-19-992316-8. 
  18. ^ Lerner, Max, The Unfinished Country: A Book of American Symbols Simon and Schuster, 1959 pp 313-316
  19. ^ Lillian Faderman; Stuart Timmons (2006). Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians. Basic Books. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-465-02288-5. 
  20. ^ Charles, Douglas M. (5 Apr 2012). "Communist and Homosexual: The FBI, Harry Hay, and the Secret Side of the Lavender Scare, 1943–1961". American Communist History (Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, an Informa Business) 11 (1): 101–124. doi:10.1080/14743892.2012.666097. ISSN 1474-3906. 
  21. ^ Michael Kimmage (2009). The Conservative Turn: Lionel Trilling, Whittaker Chambers, and the Lessons of Anti-Communism. Harvard University Press. pp. 52–54. ISBN 0-674-03258-6. 
  22. ^ States and Countries That Allow Gay Marriage
  23. ^ State sponsored homophobia
  24. ^ Quiet pink revolution in dark before dawn?
  25. ^ Chinese Society More Tolerant of Homosexuality
  26. ^ See Recognition of same-sex unions in the People's Republic of China
  27. ^ Cuba: Celebrations of advancing gay rights
  28. ^ Civil unions could come to Cuba
  29. ^ Raul Castro's daughter presides at government-backed event
  30. ^ UN: 66 States Condemn Violations Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
  31. ^ [1]
  32. ^
  33. ^ Vietnam Media Call Homosexuality "Social Evil," Vow Crackdown
  34. ^ Vietnam revised marriage family law
  35. ^ Advice for gay and lesbian travellers
  36. ^ Vietnamese high school pupils accepting of homosexuality
  37. ^ Vietnam hosts first-ever LGBT parade
  38. ^ Timeline of GLBT movement in Germany
  39. ^ What is North Korea's stance on homosexuality?
  40. ^ Revolutionary Communist Party. On the Question of Homosexuality and the Emancipation of Women. Revolution. Spring 1988.
  41. ^ RCP Draft New Programme 2001
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^ Down with the Ban on Gay Marriage!
  45. ^ Gay communist rebels marry in the Philippines
  46. ^ Philippines ends ban on gays in military
  47. ^ [2] DKP Queer
  48. ^ Punainen sateenkaari - Red Rainbow website