Revolution in Sexual Ethics: Communism and the “Sex Problem”

  • Enikő Darabos
Part of the Critical Political Theory and Radical Practice book series (CPTRP)


The shock engendered by World War I called for the necessity of new political solutions in Central and Eastern Europe to ease the increasing class conflicts between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The following paper examines the new forms of subjectivity appeared between 1920 and 1930 in the wake of certain revolutionary thoughts in the international discourse of sexual ethics. The economic goals of the dictatorship of the proletariat were pervaded by the reform efforts of communist intellectuals and leftist activists, which were apparently successful in the Soviet Union and which focused on the human body as a biopolitical factor. The emancipatory proposals of Alexandra Kollontai, Elfriede Friedländer (pen-name: Ruth Fischer) or Wilhelm Reich constituted a progressive sexual ethical system that required a harsh reformist attitude on behalf of the communist believers, politicians, and activists of the time. The paper has its main theoretical interest in deciphering the ambivalence pervading the progressive initiations meant to rearrange the social matrix of marriage, sexual relations, gender roles, sexual morality, prostitution, and parenting. This review of the theoretical assumptions regarding sexual ethics and socialist/communist parties’ attitudes toward the setting up of a proletarian sexual morality, based on the views of Kollontai, Fischer and Reich, shows that the often inconsistent and in many aspects obscure party ideology of the Russian Bolsheviks, the Austrian Socialists and the German Communists thwarted the development of a new sexual political directive as much as they promoted it.


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© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Enikő Darabos
    • 1
  1. 1.Eötvös Lorand UniversityBudapestHungary

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