Thursday, June 28, 2007

*From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-In Defense of Homosexual Rights: The Marxist Tradition

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for "Communism and homosexuality".

Markin comment:

The following is an article from the Summer 1988 issue of "Women and Revolution" that may have some historical interest for old "new leftists", perhaps, and well as for younger militants interested in various cultural and social questions that intersect the class struggle. Or for those just interested in a Marxist position on a series of social questions that are thrust upon us by the vagaries of bourgeois society. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of "Women and Revolution" during Women's History Month and periodically throughout the year.

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 homosexuals— centrally 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 principle:

'It declares the absolute non-interference of the state and society into sexual matters so long as nobody isinjured 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 original]

—quoted in John Lauritsen and David Thorstad, The Early Homosexual Rights Movement 1864-1935

Wednesday, June 27, 2007




About five years ago, in the summer of 2002, I went to my first anti-Iraq war demonstration in downtown Boston. At that time, if you remember, we were fighting for no attack on Iraq. It is hard to believe, but not really surprising, that five years later we are still in the quagmire and prospects of getting out any time soon look pretty dim. As witnessed by the numerous commentaries that I have made at this site concerning the dead-end strategy used by the mainstream anti-war movement of reliance on parliamentary maneuvering, mainly by the opposition Democrats, I have, in any case, held out little faith in that way of ending the war. I stand by that position. However, today’s bit of political wisdom revolves around a very, very belated if tepid Republican parliamentary opposition to continuing the war.

Over the past couple of days two key Republican United States Senators, Richard Lugar and George Voinivich, have made it very clear they are not going down with the Bush ship. These guys are not marginal renegades but the heart of the Republican parliamentary establishment. Moreover, at the most practical political level- survival- their decisions make perfect sense. As anyone east of the Oval Office knows by now this whole military ‘surge’ strategy cooked up by the Bushies as a last gasp effort to gain ‘victory’ is in shambles. Christ, the latest American governmental reports on the readiness of Iraqi troops and police to take charge are like some chamber of horrors. According to the accounts nobody here has any clue about how many Iraqis are ready and where all the money went. Assuming they ever wanted to know.

But let us be blunt-on hard military grounds what is required in Iraq is probably another couple of hundred thousand more American troops for five to ten years. I won’t quibble over the numbers or the time frame but is any rational politician ready to go down the line with Bush on that ship. Hell, no. He is gone in January 2009 and will leave the Iraq mess to his successor so few aspiring American politicians want to go down in history as Bush’s poodle at this stage. This is where the senators’ ‘every person for him or herself’ throwing in of the towel comes from.

I have long argued that the parliamentary Democrats have been at least a year, if not more, behind the curve on Iraq. The Republicans, as witnessed by this spring’s fiasco over the war appropriation budget, are at least two years behind. However in neither case are the participants any more committed to immediate withdrawal, meaning literally starting to pull out today, than previously. Thus, the new Republican opposition, like the tamed Democrats, is in no hurry to just stop the damn war in its tracks. But we are. Organize those anti-war soldier and sailor solidarity committees in order to call for the troops to lead the way out of Iraq. Pronto.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007




In a time when I, among others, are questioning where the extra-parliamentary opposition to the Iraq War is going and why it has not made more of an impact on American society it was rather refreshing to view this documentary about the seemingly forgotten Weather Underground that as things got grimmer dramatically epitomized one aspect of opposition to the Vietnam War. If opposition to the Iraq war is the political fight of my old age Vietnam was the fight of my youth and in this film brought back very strong memories of why I fought tooth and nail against it. And the people portrayed in this film, the core of the Weather Underground, while not politically kindred spirits then or now, were certainly on the same page as I was- a no holds- barred fight against the American Empire. We lost that round, and there were reasons for that, but that kind of attitude is what it takes to bring down the monster. But a revolutionary strategy is needed. That is where we parted company.

One of the political highlights of the film is centered on the 1969 Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) Convention that was a watershed in the student anti-war protest movement. That was the genesis of the Weathermen but it was also the genesis of the Progressive Labor Party-led faction that wanted to bring the anti-war message to the working class by linking up the student movement with the fight against capitalism. In short, to get to those who were, or were to be, the rank and file soldiers in Vietnam or who worked in the factories. In either case the point that was missed , as the Old Left had argued all along and which we had previously dismissed out of hand, was that it was the masses of working people who were central to ‘bringing the war home’ and the fight against capitalism. That task still confronts us today.

One of the paradoxical things about this film is that the Weather Underground survivors interviewed had only a vague notion about what went wrong. This was clearly detailed in the remarks of Mark Rudd, a central leader, when he stated that the Weathermen were trying to create a communist cadre. He also stated, however, that after going underground he realized that he was out of the loop as far as being politically effective. And that is the point. There is no virtue in underground activity if it is not necessary, romantic as that may be. To the extent that any of us read history in those days it was certainly not about the origins of the Russian revolutionary movement in the 19th century. If we had we would have found that the above-mentioned fight in 1969 was also fought out by that movement. Mass action vs. individual acts, heroic or otherwise, of terror. The Weather strategy of acting as the American component of the world-wide revolutionary movement in order to bring the Empire to its knees certainly had (and still does) have a very appealing quality. However, a moral gesture did not (and will not) bring this beast down. While the Weather Underground was made up a small group of very appealing subjective revolutionaries its political/moral strategy led to a dead end. The lesson to be learned; you most definitely do need weather people to know which way the winds blow. Start with Karl Marx.