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