Communism and homosexuality

Communism and homosexuality

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] most communists, especially in recent times, have argued that Gay Liberation is a key issue according to Marxism.[6][7][8]


Early history

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels both to some level expressed homophobia in their public and private writings.[citation needed] In their private communications to each other, they mocked the writings of Karl Heinrich Ulrichs and, after being charged with homosexuality, the sexuality of Jean Baptista von Schweitzer.[citation needed] Yet, they said very little in their published works on the subject.

The Communist Manifesto does not address the issue of sexual orientation or gender identity, although there are some bits of homophobia expressed in Das Kapital.[citation needed] Engels seems to be condemning homosexuality among men of ancient Greece in two separate passages of The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, describing it as "morally deteriorated", "abominable", "loathsome" and "degrading".[citation needed] Future Communist leaders and intellectuals took many different positions on LGBT-rights issues.

The German Communist Party, during the Weimar Republic, general supported the efforts to legalize private homosexual relations between consenting adults.

In the Soviet Union, homosexuality was originally decriminalized (in certain parts of the Union) by the Communist Party after the Revolution along with no-fault divorce and abortion,[9] since all old Tsarist laws had to be abolished. In the 1930s under Joseph Stalin, homosexuality and abortion[citation needed] were recriminalised in the nation. Article 121 explicitly criminalised male same-sex intercourse and with five years of hard prison labor as a penalty. The law was condemned by several communists operating in Britain. The law remained intact until after the dissolution of the Soviet Union; it was repealed in 1993.[10] Although the Nazis persecuted homosexuals during the Holocaust, Joseph Stalin regarded fascists and homosexuals as the same, and part of a far-right homosexual conspiracy.[11]

Homosexuals and communist membership

Homosexuals were sometimes denied membership or expelled from communist parties[12] across the globe. However, nearly all communist parties accept homosexuals as members today.

McCarthy era

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."[13] Some historians have argued that, in linking communism to homosexuality, McCarthy was playing off of prevalent anxieties about sexuality in order to gain support for his anti-communist campaign.[citation needed]

Senator Kenneth Wherry likewise attempted to invoke some connection between homosexuality and anti-nationalism as, for example, when he said in an interview with Max Lerner that "You can't hardly separate homosexuals from subversives." Later in that same interview he draws 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."[14]

Connections between gay rights groups and radical leftists often actually existed. The Mattachine Society, one of the earliest gay rights groups in the United States, was founded by a former member of the Communist Party who was kicked out of the party for his sexuality and, later, kicked out of the gay rights group for his ties to the party.

Current status

Currently, none of the five existing communist states recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions, or registered partnerships.[15] There are also no anti-discrimination laws in place, but homosexuality is legal in each country.[16]

Status by country

China (People's Republic of)

Homosexuality was decriminalized in China in 1997 and was removed as a mental illness in 2002.[17] Chinese society itself is somewhat tolerant of homosexuality,[18] and Li Yinhe, a high-ranking official[citation needed] in the government, 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.[19]


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.[20]

In July 2007, a civil union law was proposed to the government, but has yet to be voted on.[21] The move was supported by Raúl Castro's daughter, Mariela Castro, who has been a longtime supporter of LGBT rights.[22]

In 2009, Cuba signed the UN declaration on sexual orientation and gender identity which sought to decriminalize homosexuality worldwide.[23]

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.[24]


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.[25]

North Korea

LGBT rights are very limited and the subject of homosexuality remains fiercely a taboo in North Korea. 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.[26]


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.[27] 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.[28] 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.[29] Attitudes among Vietnamese youth have also fallen on par to these statements.[30]

Status in formerly communist nations

Homosexuality was deemed illegal under the majority of former communist nations, particularly in Europe, but in certain cases, such laws had pre-existed before the establishment of communism. Homosexuality carried harsh penalties under communist 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 communist East Germany in 1967, a year ahead of the Allied-backed West Germany.[31] The age of consent was later equalized in 1987, and in 1988 in West Germany.

Non-governing political party opinions

The American Revolutionary Communist Party's policy that "struggle will be waged to eliminate [homosexuality] and reform homosexuals" wasn't abandoned until 2001.[32] The RCP now fully supports the gay liberation movement.[33] Meanwhile, the large and influential 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.[34] They also believed that too close an association with gay liberation would give the SWP an "exotic image" and alienate it from the masses.[35] That position was abandoned long ago.

While most historic parties have been reluctant to adopt the LGBT movement, several non-governing communist parties have made statements supporting LGBT rights, such as the Communist Party of the United States, 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.[36] 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,[37] and gay and lesbians were allowed to serve in their forces before the entire country.[38] 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.[39]


  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. ^ CPUSA Election Platform 2004
  8. ^ Proletarian Revolution No. 71, Summer 2004
  9. ^ Hazard, John N. "Unity and Diversity in Socialist Law".
  10. ^ Russia: Update to RUS13194 of 16 February 1993 on the treatment of homosexuals
  11. ^
  12. ^ Doug Ireland: Turns out Norman Thomas's Socialist Party Came Close to Breaking the Gay Taboo in 1952
  13. ^ 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
  14. ^ Lerner, Max, The Unfinished Country: A Book of American Symbols Simon and Schuster, 1959 pp 313-316
  15. ^ States and Countries That Allow Gay Marriage
  16. ^ State sponsored homophobia
  17. ^ Quiet pink revolution in dark before dawn?
  18. ^ Chinese Society More Tolerant of Homosexuality
  19. ^ See Recognition of same-sex unions in the People's Republic of China
  20. ^ Cuba: Celebrations of advancing gay rights
  21. ^ Civil unions could come to Cuba
  22. ^ Raul Castro's daughter presides at government-backed event
  23. ^ UN: 66 States Condemn Violations Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
  24. ^ [1]
  25. ^
  26. ^ What is North Korea's stance on homosexuality?
  27. ^ Vietnam Media Call Homosexuality "Social Evil," Vow Crackdown
  28. ^ Vietnam revised marriage family law
  29. ^ Advice for gay and lesbian travellers
  30. ^ Vietnamese high school pupils accepting of homosexuality
  31. ^ Timeline of GLBT movement in Germany
  32. ^ Revolutionary Communist Party. On the Question of Homosexuality and the Emancipation of Women. Revolution. Spring 1988.
  33. ^ RCP Draft New Programme 2001
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^ Down with the Ban on Gay Marriage!
  37. ^ Gay communist rebels marry in the Philippines
  38. ^ Philippines ends ban on gays in military
  39. ^ [2] DKP Queer

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