Russian Communists must stand against LGBTQ persecution

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My grandparents fled czarist Russia in the beginning of the 20th century when pogroms - government-inspired mob action against Jews - swept that country. The czar's laws made it virtually illegal to be a Jew. History teaches us that the pogroms had other victims too - the Russian people as a whole, who were suffering from war, hunger, and inequality. The pogroms diverted their rage and frustration from the real perpetrators of their suffering and directed it toward a socially isolated and blameless minority.

It was not until the Russian people, with its newborn Communist Party taking the lead, exposed the divisive role of anti-Semitism and pogroms that the working class was able to unite the country and achieve peace, land and bread.

The hateful new legislation passed in Russia in recent weeks - which for all intents and purposes outlaws gay people - lays the groundwork for 21st century pogroms against another isolated and blameless section of the population. Once again it is an attempt to divert the people's anger from the real perpetrators of poverty and inequality, Russia's new ruling class.

It's disturbing to learn that the Communist Party of the Russian Federation has lent its support to this disgraceful new law. All of the Russian CP members of parliament voted in favor of it! There can be no explanation of how this furthers the interests of Russia's working class or people, because of course, it doesn't.

We in the U.S. are sharply aware - from our own country's painful history - that state-sanctioned hate - such as Jim Crow laws as well as anti-gay legislation - not only encourages, but actually guarantees violence and terror, lynchings and hate crimes, while at the same time blocking unity of our working class and people. The wave of anti-gay violence and murder in Russia in the weeks since this law was passed is no accident. It is the law's result.

Like communist and workers' parties around the world, the Communist Party USA proudly includes members of the LGBTQ community among its leadership, membership young and old, and allies, co-workers, families and friends. We didn't come to this position as early as we should have. Although we never advocated anti-gay measures, for a long time the CPUSA did not understand the urgency of defending LGBTQ rights as a democratic issue. Today we are stronger, as is our country's labor movement, for recognizing the LGBTQ community as an important ally.

We have a saying, "An injury to one is an injury to all." Diminishing the rights of gays and lesbians diminishes rights for all Russians and creates an anti-democratic mood that allows for mob violence and restriction of rights including those of communists.

Just this week gruesome photographs posted by Russian Nazi gangs document their kidnapping, torture, and murder of suspected gays. Will Russian communists stand against this fascist ideology?

It would honor the legacy of 20 million Soviet citizens who sacrificed their lives to defeat Nazi fascism - another hateful anti-working class ideology - and it would honor the lessons of solidarity the early Russian Communist Party shared with the world if our comrades in Russia would correct their course and embrace the socialist and humanitarian ideal of democratic rights for all.

Roberta Wood is secretary treasurer of the Communist Party USA.

Photo: A gay activist is seized by police during a picket against homophobia on Russia Paratroopers Day, Aug. 2, 2013. Valya Egorshin CC 2.0

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  • Very well said. Funny how the tables have turned. The Democratic and Republican party have swapped ideologies the Democrats went from conservative states rights in the 1860s to adopting the position in 1960 of the Radical Republicans of the 1860s etc. - and the more federalist abolitionist yankee liberal Republicans of 1860 are no more, they've taken the spot of the civil war southern democrats and are now the ones pushing states rights and intolerance and conservatism. History is hilarious!

    And The Russian/ U.S. relationship seems to be following that historical example, and performing that same odd ideological square dance. Today, the United States seems to be starting the journey heading Left under the direction of President Obama and the modern Democratic Party and the Russian Federation is fast being led farther right, in the fascist direction under the leadership of United Russia Party and Vladimir Putin. lol.

    Posted by TD, 08/11/2013 9:02pm (8 months ago)

  • Excellent article. The new figures are twenty-seven million who perished in the Soviet Union, not the old number of twenty million.

    The larger issue is one on which the CPUSA has taken an honorable stand. I just wrote an article on the general subject for Political Affairs, "The Communist movement and gay rights: The hidden history." Here's the link: http://politicalaffairs.net/the-communist-movement-and-gay-rights-the-hidden-history

    Norman

    Posted by norman markowitz, 08/10/2013 3:40pm (9 months ago)

  • Russia regime is using conservativism to prop itself up. It will ease up on civil rights when it is no longer under attack in regards issues like "democracy".

    Posted by Jackson, 08/10/2013 5:49am (9 months ago)

  • The anti-LGBTQ line taken by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation is a direct repudiation of Leninist policy. Lenin insisted that the 1922 revision of the Russian criminal legalise homosexual relations. Lenin also appointed Georgi Chicherin, an openly gay Bolshevik, as People's Commissar of Foreign Affairs after Trotsky's resignation over the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1918 (he served until 1930); Chicherin was also one of the chairmen of the First Congress of the Comintern. Again, in 1923 the Commissar of Public Health, Nikolai Semashko, gave a speech at Magnus Hirschfeld's Institute for Sexual Science -- the principal advocacy group for legalisation of homosexuality in Weimar Germany -- in which he characterised the legalisation of homosexuality as “a deliberately emancipatory measure, part of the sexual revolution.” Certainly there were homophobic elements in Russian society and even in the party, but it was not until 1934 that the recriminalisation of homosexuality was ordered by Stalin (from whose correspondence we learn that he confused homosexuality and paedophilia and was convinced from the large number of homosexuals in the leadership of the Nazi SA that homosexuality was pathologically related to fascism -- both of which beliefs were baseless).

    Posted by Greg Rose, 08/10/2013 5:24am (9 months ago)

  • Thanks, Ms. Wood, for a fine, ethical and moral statement.


    Civil rights don't stop at borders, and regression to reactionary behavior such as gay-bashing is embarassing for a civilized and modern state. In fact, it's a disgrace.

    Thank you for opposing this kind of stupidiry.

    Posted by Dave Cunningham, 08/10/2013 4:27am (9 months ago)

  • Thank you for this clear statement. Let us hope that Russian Communists will take a strong stand against the forces promoting and supporting anti-gay legislation.

    Posted by Julia M. Allen, 08/10/2013 4:12am (9 months ago)

  • Thanks to the Secretary Treasurer of the CPUSA for bringing this issue to light.

    Now..... can we get a formal statement from CPUSA to that of the Russian Federation, raising this concern?

    Posted by gary hicks, 08/09/2013 9:08pm (9 months ago)

  • I also thank you for this piece and hope the CPUSA has some influence with its' Russian comrades. Of course, the Russian party itself is no stranger to anti-gay bigotry or anti-Semitism, especially under Stalin, who put a stop to progressive trends in Russian law regarding gender, sexuality and religion.

    All voices must be raised to stop the gathering anti-LGBT pogrom in Russia. I salute the CPUSA for raising your voices when the history of fraternal relations might make this difficult.

    Posted by pinkjohn, 08/09/2013 6:57pm (9 months ago)

  • I watched the video that this picture was taken from. It appeared that the police protected this young man by putting him in a squad car and then arrested one or more of the muscular thugs in striped shirts who had assaulted him. It was this assault that prompted the police action!

    Posted by Joe Sompolinsky , 08/09/2013 3:44pm (9 months ago)

  • My maternal grandparents too fled Czarist Russia because of the virulent anti antisemitism. To see a party such as the Communist Party of the Russian Federation side with the forces of reaction is sickening. My the rank and file raise their voices in protest!!

    Posted by Harvey Smith, 08/09/2013 2:51pm (9 months ago)

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