Thursday, April 10, 2008

Homosexuality in the Soviet Union

In many ways the issue cuts to the core of one thing that was severely wrong with Soviet era socialism. Homosexuality was defined as a mental disorder, but not only that. It was defined as a product of bourgeois culture, as an expression of bourgeois decadence, and as such antithetical to socialism, to the working class, and to socialist states. Homosexuals were defined not just as a moral threat, repeating the same lies about what homosexuals do, but as a political threat as well. As such they were often committed to mental institutions.

The underlying premise is that there's no way that working class people can be homosexual. Working class people are fine, upstanding citizens, who wouldn't be associated with this homosexuality business.

Conservative morés and social values became enforced in the Soviet Union after Stalin took power. One after one the institutions of cultural radicalism that had contributed to the innovation present in early Soviet society were branded as being expressions of bourgeois values and shut down. Avant-garde artists could no longer find work. People who wrote novels that were other than social and then Socialist realist couldn't get their books published. Communal living experiments were prohibited. All of this wasn't just a prohibition against bourgeois elements that rode into Soviet society on the shirt tails of the Revolution, as Stalin and his supporters claimed, but a prohibition against working class thought, action, and living that did not fit into an increasingly restrictive mold.

The prohibition of homosexuality was only one indicator of a movement that ultimately wanted to limit the horizons of socialist society itself in the interest of a conservative cultural ideal labelled as the essence of the working class.

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