Lenin decriminalized homosexuality


On March 7, 1934, the criminality of male-male sexuality was reintroduced in the Soviet Union. This was done on the initiative of then head of the secret service Jagoda and promptly met Stalin's approval. "Punish these villains in an exemplary manner," wrote J. W. Stalin under Jagoda's draft law.

This development was a clear break with the Leninist tradition on this issue. After the October Revolution, the newly created workers 'and peasants' state immediately suspended the tsarist criminal law, and with it the penal reinforcement of male-male sexuality as it had existed under tsarism. In the new version of the Penal Code of 1922 and 1926, the European Union Republics, including the Russian ones, did not mention same-sex sexuality, i.e. impunity. This position of the Bolsheviks was a tremendous step forward. In Germany, for example, as is well known, § 175 existed at that time, which made consensual male-male sexuality a criminal offense.

In connection with the revision of the revolutionary achievements of the October Revolution, which was carried out by the Stalin group, there was also a renewed illegalization of same-sex people. To this end, we are publishing here the note from the then head of the secret service, G. Jagoda, to Stalin, and the corresponding draft law.

Jagoda complains in his note about pederasts (this term is used synonymously with homosexuals) who celebrate orgies and seduce Red Army soldiers without being punished. In order to remedy this "grievance" of the lack of criminal liability, he immediately attached a draft law to his note. Stalin agreed to it, then the Politburo, and then this nefarious law became a reality. Incidentally, only same-sex acts between men, but not acts between women, were criminalized. This points to inequality between men and women, to a disdain for the sexuality of women on the part of the leadership of the CPSU (B).

Gustav Kluzis (around 1934): "Life has gotten better, life is happier
". J.W. Stalin This did not apply to gay men ... Source: Cologne, Museum Ludwig. Cat.IV / 6

All of this happened without any public discussion. Here it becomes clear in which direction the social conditions in the SU had already developed. Lenin made it clear:

"The bourgeoisie only considers a state to be strong if it is able to use the full power of the government apparatus to direct the masses where the bourgeois rulers want them to go. Our concept of strength is different. According to our concept, it is the consciousness of the masses that makes the state strong. It is strong when the masses know everything, can judge everything and do everything consciously. " (Lenin, "Final Word to the Speech on Peace", 1917, Works Volume 26, p. 246)

The principle of mass awareness of which Lenin speaks here was grossly violated by the Stalin people when the anti-gay paragraph was introduced, and "The inference that the means is inferior to the end is entirely justified." (Engels, The Situation of the Working Class in England, MEW 2, p. 400).

The reintroduction of the criminality of male-male sex was only one step in the restoration of civil relations in the Soviet Union. Further steps soon followed, including in the area of ​​family policy:

Divorce was made more difficult, abortion banned (1936), and eventually there were even medals for maternity:

"In the Soviet Union mothers are honored like never before and nowhere else in the world, for which the award of women who have born and raised ten or more children with the title" Mother Heroine "is a visible expression. There are far more in the Soviet country than 30,000 mothers who bear the title of "Mother Heroine" and more than 2,800,000 mothers who have been awarded the "Mother Glory" and the "Mother Medal". " On communist morality, Berlin 1953, p. 150

Family: Very lucky - the Soviet family ... The commandant's family, 1938, Moscow. Central Army Museum. Cat. IV / 16

Where there is oppression, there is resistance, Mao Tse-tung once stated. One example is the gay British communist Harry Whyte, who was then working for the Moscow News editorial collective in Moscow. He wrote a protest letter to the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU (B), J. W. Stalin, against the new anti-gay law. It took great courage. Harry Whyte's Russian friend had already been arrested.

In the following we publish this letter in German for the first time, which the Yeltsin government published for the first time in 1993 and in Russian (incidentally under the outrageous heading: "From the archives of humor", as if the oppression of gays and the fight against it a humorous one Matter).

The historian Dan Healey evaluated this document in his book: Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Russia (University of Chicago Press, 2001), and I then arranged for the translation of this letter from Russian into German.

There was nothing to be found out about Harry Whyte as a person, except the information he gave about himself at the end of his letter. Likewise, unfortunately, the identity of his Russian friend remains unknown.

Now to the contents of Harry Whyte's letter. The starting point of his letter is the statement that is still valid today:

The situation of homosexuals in capitalism is on the whole analogous to that of women, colored races, national minorities and other groups who are subjected to oppression for one reason or another.

I also think the way in which Whyte quotes Stalin about egalitarianism and uses this statement from Stalin to demonstrate the whole absurdity of the renewed gay persecution is very good.

Arbat: Arbat Square, around 1930. A meeting place for men looking for contact on the Moscow ring road. Source: the Dan Healey collection.

Whyte's argument against the anti-gay attitude towards the author of the homosexuality entry in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia of 1930 is correct. A point of view is always to be judged according to its correctness and not according to the sexual orientation of the author.

However, I see a number of errors and crooked arguments in Whyte's remarks, which I would like to elaborate on here:

1.Whyte's distinction between constitutional homosexuals and those who act same-sex because of vice or poverty is complete nonsense. Neither poverty nor wealth have a direct impact on sexual orientation and, as Kinsey has shown, the transition from opposite to same-sex orientation is fluid. Incidentally, if homosexuality can arise from being bored with heterosexuality, then the reverse should also apply, and there would be a lot of former gays who would have turned to women out of boredom with love for men.

2.Whytes rejection of any organizationally independent gay and lesbian movement is fundamentally wrong, as history has shown. Without their own efforts, the situation of lesbians and gays would be much worse today, they would know much less about their own history, and their self-confidence would be less developed.

3.Whyte's assessment of Friedrich Engels' two letters is wrong. Engel's letter of 6/22/1869 is an exposition of his anti-gay point of view, and there is nothing commendable about this letter. In this letter, Engels even goes so far as to hope for the continuation of the anti-gay special paragraph (later Section 175) in the penal code. (Marx / Engels, Werke, Vol. 32, p. 324 ff.) Whyte's position on Engels' letter of 8 February 1890 is also wrong: anti-gay press campaigns against gays as gays, even if they belong to the ruling class, are always political and not privately, because they serve to consolidate discrimination against same-sex people, and to this extent the revolutionary proletariat, communists must resolutely oppose such filth. (On the overall complex of Marx and Engels' attitude towards same-sex people, we will soon publish an essay that examines this question more deeply and more precisely).

Stalin did not deign to reply to Harry Whyte. He wrote on Whyte's letter: (to the archive) "An idiot and degenerate. J. Stalin."

The anti-gay line that spread through Stalin's leadership in the Soviet Union and the entire communist movement in the 1930s had serious consequences. After the victory over the Nazi fascists and the establishment of the people's democracies, as well as the victory of the Chinese revolution, this anti-gay line found its way into the criminal code of all these states. In the later GDR, § 175 in the pre-Nazi version was reinstated (in the later Federal Republic the Nazi paragraph continued to apply unchanged), and gay concentration camp prisoners were not recognized as victims of fascism. Part of the responsibility for this bears Stalin's anti-gay line, another part bears the SED, which from the beginning offered a home to German national and right-wing opportunistic views, including this question.

The Nikitskie Gates, a square on Moscow's boulevard city ring, was a well-known meeting place at the time. Behind the memorial there were underground toilet facilities where men had sex in the 1920s and 1930s. Source: Photo undated, late 1920s. From the Dan Healey collection.

For us who live today, the following applies:

It took hundreds of years for capitalism to triumph over feudalism. In our historical epoch, for the first time in human history, there is an opportunity to fight for communism, the classless society in which all relationships between people based on exploitation and oppression will be abolished:

"Instead of the old bourgeois society with its classes and class antagonisms, there is an association in which the free development of everyone is the condition for the free development of all." (Marx / Engles Manifesto of the Communist Party, Werke Vol. 4, p. 482)

This struggle has been going on for over 150 years. During this period there have been great victories, but also huge defeats. Learning from these defeats is the prerequisite for future victories. Gays and lesbians have to have their say and act, so that the next round in world history goes better for all revolutionary forces and so that communism moves closer.

The publication of the following documents may be a small contribution to this.

We publish in detail:
1. Jagoda's note to Stalin, his draft law and Stalin's comment (for the first time in German).
2. Harry Whyte's letter of protest to Stalin (for the first time in German)
3. Excerpts from the Great Soviet Encyclopedia of 1930 (cited by Harry Whyte) and the entire entry on homosexuality from the Great Soviet Encyclopedia of 1952 (for the first time in German). He sums up the Stalin era "theory" about same-sex desire.

Berlin, March 2005

Michael Hellmann

welcome to
T-house from etuxx!

From now on I would like to present you with texts that shed light on the past and present of heterosexism and the struggle against it.
Forgotten originals, foreign language in translation, nothing should be left out here if it serves to establish the truth. Because without theory, practice becomes blind. Knowledge of history is essential in changing the present. I plan to contribute to the clarification here.

First step:
Sunglasses off.

Second step:
Into the archives.

Third step:
Make public!

If you would like to contribute and publish something here, please contact me:
michael [at] etuxx.com

And now have fun theorizing while drinking tea.

Michael Hellmann

Make the circumstances dance by playing them their own melody.

Jagoda's note to Stalin, his bill and Stalin's comment

Harry Whyte's letter of protest to Stalin

Excerpts from the Great Soviet Encyclopedia 1930, 1952, 1972