Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Socialism and the homosexual question

When the writer Oscar Wilde was sentenced to two years of forced labor, having been accused of indecency because of his homosexuality, the voice of socialists was raised in defense of the poet. In an article published in 1895, in the magazine Die Neue Zeit, of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), Eduard Bernstein, one […]

Left Voice

June 17, 2010
Facebook Twitter Share

When the writer Oscar Wilde was sentenced to two years of forced labor, having been accused of indecency because of his homosexuality, the voice of socialists was raised in defense of the poet.

In an article published in 1895, in the magazine Die Neue Zeit, of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), Eduard Bernstein, one of its main leaders, wrote in defense of Wilde that homosexuality could not be persecuted as something unnatural, since there is almost nothing in the activity of human beings that is natural. “Our entire cultural existence, our mode of life from morning to night is a constant offense against nature, against the original preconditions of our existence. If it was only a question of what was natural, then the worst sexual excess would be no more objectionable than, say, writing a letter – for conducting social intercourse through the medium of the written word is far further removed from nature than any way as yet known of satisfying the sexual urge.” And, besides, he indicated that opinions on what is natural or unnatural for human beings are historical, that is, they reflect the level of society’s development. He also charged that considering homosexuality as an illness was another form of moralism.

Two years later, in Berlin, the physician Magnus Hirschfeld founds the Scientific Humanitarian Committee, the main aim of which was the abolition of the German law against homosexuality. The social democratic deputies were the most fervent enemies of that reactionary law. It was August Bebel, an outstanding leader of the German Social Democratic Party, who proposed revoking it. In 1919, Magnus Hirschfeld founds the Institute for Sexual Research, in Berlin, and in 1921, four years after the Russian Revolution, he organizes the first scientific congress on sexuality in history. In this International Congress for Sexual Reform, that brought together scientists from different countries, Soviet Russia’s laws on homosexuality were presented as an example for the whole world. Against the established order, the German Communist Party defended equality for gays and lesbians, while homosexuals were being persecuted and discriminated against. Hirschfeld himself, on several occasions, was beaten up, suffered a skull fracture and was shot during a lecture.

The Russian Revolution eliminated all the tsarist laws that repressed homosexuality and that “conflicted with revolutionary consciousness and legality.” In 1923, a prominent Moscow doctor approved of the new legal code, saying, “Soviet legislation is based on the following principle: It declares a total absence of interference by the state and by society in sexual matters, always when the interests of any other person are not affected.”

Under the Stalinist reaction, however, together with the regression in the rights of women, there was “progress” in making homosexuality a pathology, until in 1933 it was again considered a crime, moving away from the socialist tradition, that had always maintained a very advanced position against the prevailing prejudices of the time. We feel that we are heirs of that tradition: Down with sexual oppression! Down with all the laws and regulations that discriminate against and repress gays, lesbians, transvestites, and transsexuals! Full rights for non-heterosexual people!

Facebook Twitter Share

Left Voice

Militant journalism, revolutionary politics.

Archive

The Unknown Paths of the Late Marx

An interview with Marcello Musto about the last decade of Marx's life.

Marcello Musto

February 27, 2022

The Critical Left in Cuba

Frank García Hernández discusses the political and economic situation in Cuba and the path out of the current crisis.

Frank García Hernández

February 27, 2022

Nancy Fraser and Counterhegemony

A presentation from the Fourth International Marxist Feminist Conference.

Josefina L. Martínez

February 27, 2022

Who is Anasse Kazib?

Meet the Trotskyist railway worker running for president of France.

Left Voice

February 27, 2022

MOST RECENT

Several police officers surrounded a car caravan

Detroit Police Escalate Repression of Pro-Palestinian Protests

On April 15, Detroit Police cracked down on a pro-Palestine car caravan. This show of force was a message to protestors and an attempt to slow the momentum of the movement by intimidating people off the street and tying them up in court.

Brian H. Silverstein

April 18, 2024
A group of protesters carry a banner that says "Labor Members for Palestine, Ceasefire Now!" on a Palestinian flag background

Labor Notes Must Call on Unions to Mobilize for Palestine on May Day

As the genocide in Gaza rages on, the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions has called on workers around the world to mobilize against the genocide on May 1. Labor Notes, one of the leading organizers of the U.S. labor movement, must heed this call and use their influence in the labor movement to call on unions to join the mobilization

Julia Wallace

April 18, 2024
South Korean president Yoon Suk-Yeol.

South Korea’s Legislative Election: A Loss for the Right-Wing President, but a Win for the Bourgeois Regime

South Korea’s legislative elections on April 10 were a decisive blow to President Yoon Suk-Yeol — but a win for the bourgeois regime.

Joonseok

April 18, 2024
Google employees staging a sit-in against the company's role in providing technology for the Israeli Defense Forces. The company then fired 28 employees.

Workers at Google Fired for Standing with Palestine

Google has fired 28 workers who staged a sit-in and withheld their labor. The movement for Palestine must take up the fight against repression.

Left Voice

April 18, 2024