Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ill-considered praise for Fidel Castro is another demonstration of the largely unknown treatment of homosexuals by communist regimes. Trudeau, who regards himself as the champion of human-rights and who sees Canada as an oasis for refugees, is in all likelihood spectacularly uninformed about the ‘remarkable’ leader’s sinister record towards Cuba’s gay and lesbian citizens.
Just as a many of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara’s admirers don’t know that when he presided over La Cabaña prison, in the aftermath of the revolution, he approved the summary executions of dozens and possibly hundreds of helpless ‘counter-revolutionary’ prisoners after perfunctory show trials.
Much of the intellectual dislocation on this topic probably derives from the fact that in modern times, most Marxist parties in Western countries are associated with gay rights campaigns. But there is a world of difference between the micro Marxist parties of Australia, which are composed mainly of student radicals, and a fully-fledged communist party in control of all the agencies of the state.
In Castro’s Cuba homosexual acts were a criminal offense. Gay Cubans were denied the right to become members of the Cuban Communist Party, a policy that by many accounts still persists. The Cuban Constitution as it presently stands defines marriage as a ‘union between a man and a woman’. Castro repeatedly used the phrase ‘Maricones’ which roughly translates to English as faggots. When commenting on the more pure existence of those labouring in the rural parts of the island he claimed that ‘in the country there are no homosexuals’.
Openly gay writers were subject to harassment and denied the right to publish their work and the charge of being a homosexual was often a convenient means to silencing opposition figures. Labelled as ‘anti-socials’ many real or imagined gay Cubans were confined to ‘re-education’ camps and subjected to appalling and degrading treatment.
This mimicked practices of the Soviet Union to condemn opponents as psychologically disturbed and then imprison them in psychiatric institutions. One such infamous ‘hospital’, known as the Serbsky Centre, diagnosed its patients (usually political dissidents) with what it called slow developing schizophrenia, a condition common amongst those brave enough to have stood in opposition to the Kremlin.
Gay men and women were ostracised and harassed in pre-revolutionary Cuba and anti-gay laws were on the books. However Havana, in the first half of the twentieth century, was an open, colourful, cosmopolitan city. Scores of American and European pleasure seekers flocked to Havana eager to indulge themselves in the cities bars, nightclubs, resorts, drug dens and brothels. In this anything goes town various gay clubs and associations were tolerated by the authorities, even if they were not considered legal.
The ‘victory’ of the Cuban Communists put an end to the tolerance of gays and lesbians who fast became a target of revolutionary ‘justice’. Treated as part of the capitalist moral degeneracy and associated with destructive foreign influences they were the object of a much more intense persecution than anything perpetrated by the preceding regime.
His claim to have eliminated the vice of homosexuality was similar to the extraordinary claim by the Soviet Union that were no disabled persons in their society. That remark was made by a Soviet official who when asked why his country chose not to participate in the Paralympics replied that “There are no invalids in the USSR”.
Castro generally adhered to communist doctrine that homosexuality was a symptom of capitalist-bourgeoisie decadence. There is a tendency for Marxist inspired individuals to view homosexual practices as an elite affair and not something that correct minded proletarians, who are focused on their labouring and not their indulgences, get up to. As such Marxist-Leninist regimes have an almost universal tendency to regard homosexuals as anti-revolutionary agents and the tools of ‘imperialists’.
The origins of all this are not exactly clear. Karl Marx had little to say on matters of sexuality, so it is hard to attribute communisms latent aggression towards homosexuals directly to him. Marx has been accused of harbouring homophobic attitudes based on the contents of his private correspondence. Friedrich Engels, in a work entitled Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State, appeared to equate homosexuality with ‘pederasty’ (paedophilia) and in another translation ‘sodomy’. Engels’ intent here has been disputed, with some claiming he was referring to forced sex between unconsenting males.
Marxism is built upon an economic materialist interpretation of history and society and since homosexuality is not an economic subject it’s not something Marxists associated with revolution. But there is a consistent pattern of Marxist regimes treating homosexuals as a psychologically disturbed menace. Communist regimes in Albania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Romania maintained harsh laws against homosexual acts between consenting adults. Under Mao homosexuals were targeted for un-revolutionary behaviour in China but by the 1990s the Chinese legal system had effectively decriminalised homosexual acts.
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