The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Russia:
Bigotry of Reactionaries

Aug 19, 2013

This article is from the August 16th issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

At President Putin’s urging, the Russian Parliament passed a law against “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations directed toward minors,” meaning a law against gay relations. Some Westerners proposed to boycott the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in protest of this discrimination.

Leaders of the Western powers are complete hypocrites, since they find nothing to say when certain allies throw gay people in prison or even kill them, like in Saudi Arabia.

“Reactionaries, Bigots of All Countries, Unite!”

Other voices raised a chorus of reactionary prejudices. The Russian State put forward a celebration of religious marriage, calling it the “Day of Family, Love and Faithfulness.” A right-winger in France congratulated Russia for setting an example by prohibiting “gay propaganda.” Putin, a former colonel in the KGB and re-elected president, gets the supporters he deserves.

In Russia, a few rare demonstrations defending gay rights have been severely repressed by the regime’s police and other thugs, with the blessing of officials of the Russian Orthodox Church.

In Russia, like everywhere, priests want to regulate people’s minds and private lives. For years, the Russian Orthodox hierarchy has endeavored to prevent the fights women have made for the right to an abortion. The Russian regime, which can’t do without the cops and the priests, is happy to support the church.

On the same day the Russian Parliament voted for this homophobic law desired by the Church and the Kremlin, it created the crime of “offenses against religion.” In addition to serious penalties for “gay propaganda,” offenses against religion can lead to three years in prison and a $15,000 fine!

Czarism and Stalinism

In 1716, the Czar Peter the Great intended to modernize Russia, even if he had to bludgeon the population to achieve it. He decreed a law that beat suspected gay soldiers and sent them into exile. In the following century, Nicolas I, supported by the Orthodox Church, increased these penalties and extended them to civilians.

The revolution of October 1917 legalized abortion and de-criminalized homosexuality. The Soviet State was a pioneer in these domains as in so many others. But Stalinism negated these advances brought about under the Bolsheviks. In March 1934, Stalin decreed that gay people were criminals liable to four or five years in labor camps. This repressive legislation only disappeared in 1993.

But starting in 2000, in order to bolster the state, Putin, like Peter I and Nicolas I before him, based himself on the filthiest prejudices – chauvinism, hatred of foreigners – and on the priests who claim to speak for morality.

Today, the regime weighs all the more heavily in this direction since it is trying to impose religious conformism, sexism and homophobia. It hopes to gain the support of the most reactionary and backward sectors of society to make a counterweight to all forms of opposition, as its popularity crumbles.