Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

December 25, 2020

Welcome to Chechnya

Filed under: Chechnya,Counterpunch,homophobia,television — louisproyect @ 5:25 pm


Chechnya’s strongman ruler Razman Kadyrov appears to be even more determined to repress gays than Stalin. He doesn’t bother with the niceties of the courtroom, even if based on prejudicial laws. Instead, he has encouraged mob rule in which gay men are entrapped by either cops or vigilantes who have the power to torture anybody caught up in their net.

With his barbaric mixed martial arts background, made even worse by Islamist homophobia, Kadyrov brazens his way through interviews, making Donald Trump look Gandhian by comparison. During an interview with Bryant Gumbel in July 2017, Kadyrov said, “We don’t have such people here. We don’t have any gays. If there are any, take them to Canada. Praise be to God. Take them far away from us. To purify our blood, if there are any here, take them.”

Currently showing on HBO Max, “Welcome to Chechnya” allows you to hear from the people suffering from a brutal crackdown that began in early 2017. The documentary states it started with a drug raid, rather than a Stonewall-type assault. One of the arrested men had a cell phone with messages to his male lovers as well as gay porn. The cops then used the phone to begin a massive campaign that sounds quite a bit like the witch-hunts of the 1950s that targeted both Reds and gays. To get lenient treatment, you had to name names. If you refused to incriminate fellow gays, you’d end up spending months in prison being tortured.

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June 24, 2017

Stone and Putin discuss the problem of gays in the shower room

Filed under: homophobia,Russia — louisproyect @ 7:12 pm

Over the past week or so as I watched Oliver Stone’s interviews with Vladimir Putin, I took copious notes. I originally wanted to answer Putin’s propaganda on Ukraine and Syria but decided instead to hone in on the appalling exchange the two men had in a hockey rink about homosexuality. It is as much a commentary on Stone as it is on Putin. In a somewhat lame attempt to show that he didn’t care for bigotry, Stone included footage of gay rights supporters getting hassled by the Russian police but that hardly made up for him asking Putin about being on a submarine with a known homosexual. “Would there be any problem with that?”, asked Stone. Putin replied, “Well, I prefer not to go in the shower with him. Why provoke him?”, laughing heartily. He added, “But you know I am a judo master and a SAMBO master as well.” When I saw the reference to SAMBO, I wondered if first the Russian president was referring to the racist children’s tale but it turned out to be the acronym for SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya, which literally translates as “self-defense without weapons”, a martial arts practice the Red Army inaugurated in the 1920s.

What was Putin trying to say? That if some gay sailor tried to make a pass at him in the shower, he’d use his martial arts mastery to protect his heterosexual manhood? It reminds me of the old Burns and Schreiber taxi cab skit. Burns is a very macho passenger and Schreiber a typical Jewish cab driver back in the day when they were common. Somehow, the subject of ballet comes up and Burns assures Schreiber if he ever ran into a ballet dancer, he’d punch him out. This skit was from the early 60s and a pointed commentary on the bigotry that was universal at the time.

And why the fuck would Stone even ask such a stupid question to begin with? This is the same thing you heard to justify keeping gay and lesbian soldiers in the closet. And then after that, excusing professional sports homophobia. Scott Cooper, an out of the closet college football player, showed how absurd these worries were in an article on Generation Outsports:

Let’s first talk showers and football, since that seems to be a big concern for some players, especially in light of Michael Sam coming out. I played high school football for four years, and college football for three, and I was out to my teammates in college. After hours of hard practice in 105-degree August heat, I was hot, sweaty, sore, bruised, tired and hungry. Hitting on my teammates was the last thing on my mind. Never mind that they were like my brothers and weren’t my type; I just wanted nothing more than to rinse off the turf and sweat and get some Gatorade and grub.

Putin takes great pains to point out that there is no persecution of gays in Russia but defends the law that bans homosexual propaganda since it is meant to prevent teachers and the like from converting their students to an “alternative” life style in the same vein as Communist teachers being fired in the 50s so their students wouldn’t stop believing in capitalism. What stupidity. A 14 year old boy or girl knows what their sexual preferences are at that point and would not be susceptible to “propaganda”. And what would that mean, anyhow? Assigning them Allen Ginsberg poems?

Putin lays it on the line. As head of state, he sees his duty as upholding traditional values and family values. When asked by Stone what that entails, he replies that same-sex marriages will not produce children. “God has decided, and we have to care about birth rates in our country. We have to reinforce families.”

In a lame attempt to entice Putin into sounding less disgusting, Stone refers to the possibility that in a society with “dysfunctions”, there might be children in orphanages who need a more supportive environment, even if it is gay or lesbian parents that adopt them. He replies, “I cannot say our society welcomes that, and I’m quite frank about that.”

For me, the whole Russiagate question is a joke. I say that as someone who is sympathetic to Putin pointing out in the fourth and final episode of the interviews that the USA has meddled in Russian elections ever since the fall of the USSR, not to speak of a country like Nicaragua whose elections the CIA, the NED and other American agencies subverted with impunity.

However, what troubles me greatly is that many of the people who scream the loudest about the investigations pushed by the Democrats are aligned with Stone on the need to defend Putin tout court.

Why would the left find Putin so attractive? I think to some extent it is his animal magnetism that must have drawn Stone to him as well. When he is not asking Putin softball questions of the sort that Charlie Rose might ask Barack Obama, he is oohing and aahing over Putin’s physical assets. It resonates eerily with Ronald Reagan’s popularity among college boys who kept posters of the Gipper chopping wood at his ranch on their dormitory walls.

Is it possible that Oliver Stone has a thing about gays? Remember “JFK”, his dramatically compelling but ideologically nonsensical film blaming the “deep state” for killing his idol? One of the co-conspirators, according to Jim Garrison, was Clay Shaw who was played by Tommy Lee Jones as a stereotypical flamboyant homosexual. He and two other in the cabal are portrayed as “a trio of debauched New Orleans homosexuals who dress up like Marie Antoinette and Mercury and flog one another with chains” as John Weir pointed out in a NY Times article about Hollywood gay-bashing.

This homosexual phobia did not always exist in Russia. The late Leslie Feinberg, a lesbian and transgender activist who was a member of the Workers World Party that unfortunately veers toward Putinphilia, was an expert on the changes produced by a proletarian revolution.

The Russian Revolution breathed new life into the international sexual reform movement, the German Homosexual Emancipation Movement, and the revolutionary struggle as a whole in Germany and around the world.

It was a historic breakthrough when the Soviet Criminal Code was established in 1922 and amended in 1926, and homosexuality was not included as an offense. The code also applied to other republics, including the Ukrainian Republics. Only sex with youths under the age of 16, male and female prostitution and pandering were listed. Soviet law did not criminalize the person being prostituted, but those who exploited them.

All that changed under Stalin, who recriminalized homosexuality in 1933 with punishments up to 5 years. My friend, the artist Yevgeniy Fiks, wrote a book titled “Moscow” that incorporated a letter from a British CP’er named Harry Whyte that challenged the anti-homosexual laws that can be read on Ross Wolfe’s website. Whyte was quite eloquent:

But science has established the existence of constitutional homosexuals. Research has shown that homosexuals of this type exist in approximately equal proportions within all classes of society. We can likewise consider as established fact that, with slight deviations, homosexuals as a whole constitute around two percent of the population. If we accept this proportion, then it follows that there are around two million homosexuals in the USSR. Not to mention the fact that amongst these people there are no doubt those who are aiding in the construction of socialism, can it really be possible, as the March 7 law demands, that such a large number of people be subjected to imprisonment?

Just as the women of the bourgeois class suffer to a significantly lesser degree from the injustices of the capitalist regime (you of course remember what Lenin said about this), so do natural-born homosexuals of the dominant class suffer much less from persecution than homosexuals from the working-class milieu. It must be said that even within the USSR there are conditions that complicate the daily lives of homosexuals and often place them in a difficult situation. (I have in mind the difficulty of finding a partner for the sexual act, insofar as homosexuals constitute a minority of the population, a minority that is forced to conceal its true proclivities to one degree or another.)

I accept that many on the left admire Putin but I am content to be in a minority opposing him, especially since he has described Lenin as the worst thing that ever happened to Russia and because he has presided over a revival of Stalin-idolization in Russia that goes hand in hand with his ties to the Russian Orthodoxy. My idea of socialism owes a lot to the early days of the USSR when all sorts of social norms were being challenged, just as they were when I was in my 20s and the USA was boiling over with challenges to sexism, homophobia, racism and war. I can understand why Putin would be an object of Stone’s affection. There is a deep need for a father figure on the left in a time of great turbulence and that is certainly what Putin projects. For me, the 1950s and early 60s was a dreadful time when television shows like “Father Knows Best” were popular and when you could routinely hear men being referred to as “faggots”, even at a place like Bard College. I don’t care if I am the last person on the left to find Putin a symbol of bigotry and medieval backwardness. At this stage of the game, if I haven’t reached the point of having self-confidence in my own socialist values, I might as well cash it in.

June 12, 2016

Selfie of the Orlando mass murderer

Filed under: crime,homophobia — louisproyect @ 9:18 pm


May 26, 2014

This is Russia, get it, faggot

Filed under: homophobia,Russia — louisproyect @ 7:09 pm

Early this month Conchita Wurst won the Eurovision Song Contest, a TV show similar to “American Idol” but covering the European continent. Wurst is the stage name of Thomas Neuwirth, a bearded transvestite who wowed audiences with a number he wrote called “Rise Like a Phoenix”.

If you forget about the gown he wears, he would be indistinguishable from other androgynous stars like Prince or Turkey’s Tarkan. Strictly speaking, he performs as a man rather than in the female impersonator style of “La Cage aux Folles”.

Wurst is not very popular in Russia or Belarus, a neighbor of Russia that is even more committed to traditional values. In Belarus, a petition campaign directed to the very Orwellian sounding Ministry of Information complained:

The popular international competition will see our children filled with European liberals become a hotbed of sodomy! Belarus, one of the few countries in Europe that was able to maintain normal and healthy family values based on love and mutual support between men and women!

The Russian petition had just about the same wording. For Russians, the clear choice was the Tolmachevy sisters, twins who were the very picture of wholesomeness. They sang a treacly ballad titled “Shine” (I suppose the same thing can be said about Wurst’s song.)

Vladimir Yakunin, who runs Russian Railways and is close to Putin, stated: “This vulgar ethno-fascism from the distant past has once again become part of our lives. The ancient definition of democracy had nothing to do with bearded women but with the leadership of the people.” When asked why a handful of votes for Wurst were cast from Russia, Yakunin replied: “In Russia we also have people with different psychology or abnormal psychology so those [are the people] who voted for this person, the bearded lady.” (Financial Times, May 15)

Meanwhile, his boss told a dinner audience in St. Petersburg that he had nothing against gays just as long as they aren’t too pushy about it: “For us it is important to reaffirm traditional values…. I personally am very liberal (on matters of personal morality). People have the right to live their lives the way they want. But they should not be aggressive, or put it up for show.” That being said, he reminded them that: “The Bible talks about the two genders, man and woman, and the main purpose of union between them is to produce children.” (Telegraph, May 26)

Meanwhile, down in Iran, another country that doesn’t put up with sexual deviancy, the government was cracking down on some youngsters who made a Youtube clip of themselves dancing to Pharrell’s “Happy”. I confess to being ignorant up to that point of Pharrell or his song but subsequently learned that he is quite popular with young people and that he had invited his fans all around the world to create such videos.

The lyrics to Pharrell’s song are as vapid as Wurst’s or the Tolmachevy sisters. You’d think that the Iranians had danced to Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping”:

Pissing the night away
Pissing the night away
He drinks a whiskey drink
He drinks a vodka drink
He drinks a lager drink
He drinks a cider drink
He sings the songs that remind him
Of the good times
He sings the songs that remind him
Of the better times

Tehran’s top cop said: “After a vulgar clip which hurt public chastity was released in cyberspace, police decided to identify those involved in making that clip. Following a series of intelligence and police operations and after coordinating with the judiciary, all the suspects were identified and arrested.” Thankfully, the miscreants “confessed to their criminal acts”. (AFP, May 20)

After Iran’s “reformist” president twittered something that was interpreted as the need to cut the “Happy” dancers some slack, they were released. Some analysts view the arrests as an attempt to put the reformists on the defensive by hardliners who preferred Ahmadinejad. For those so disposed, it is probably reassuring that Putin has been able to keep the riffraff at bay, more or less after the fashion of the “kettling” tactic used by cops in the West.

For some on the left, the Russian and Iranian rulers are among the world’s best hope. As a counter-hegemonic bloc, the BRICS and their lesser allies in Syria and Iran, are just what is needed as an alternative to the IMF, NATO, Wall Street, and the EU. Probably nobody articulates this better than Asia Times’s Pepe Escobar whose May 19th article “The Geopolitical Earthquakes Reshaping Eurasia’s Economy” was ecstatic over a “new global architecture”:

Right after the potentially game-changing Sino-Russian summit comes a BRICS summit in Brazil in July. That’s when a $100 billion BRICS development bank, announced in 2012, will officially be born as a potential alternative to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank as a source of project financing for the developing world.

More BRICS cooperation meant to bypass the dollar is reflected in the “Gas-o-yuan,” as in natural gas bought and paid for in Chinese currency. Gazprom is even considering marketing bonds in yuan as part of the financial planning for its expansion. Yuan-backed bonds are already trading in Hong Kong, Singapore, London and most recently Frankfurt.

So if you are the kind of leftist who gets a frisson of excitement over a $100 billion BRIC development bank, it makes sense that you would be hostile to anything that undermined Brazilian, Russian, Indian, Chinese and South African ambitions. So what if Brazil’s World Cup hosting cost billions that could be better used to build hospitals and schools? Or that India is now being run by a man regarded by many as a fascist or that the ANC gunned down miners at Marikana? After all, you can’t make an omelet without cracking a few eggs.

I got my first glimmer of a tendency of the left to adopt an authoritarian attitude when it came to the clash between a BRICS figurehead and the riffraff shortly after Pussy Riot was jailed for sacrilege in a Russian Orthodox Church. Mike Whitney cheered Putin on in an August 8, 2012 article:

The truth is Putin kicked ass. But what does that prove? It proves that the Russian people are either very gullible or that the western media is just spreading more lies. So which is it?

The elections also prove that most Russians don’t share Pussy Riot’s views on Putin. Most people don’t want to “send Putin packing” as the girls said in their so-called “protest prayer”. And that’s understandable, too, because Putin has raised the standard of living for most Russians. He’s reduced poverty, increased literacy, and cut the number of people living in extreme poverty in half.

Let me try to explain the mindset of people like Mike Whitney. It is actually quite interesting in psychological terms. I assume that he, like many people on the left who have become part of the BRICS brigade, were long-haired, dope-smoking freaks who hated Nixon’s “silent majority”. But years of frustration on the far margins of the American left were difficult for many to endure. Such a lonely and thankless task it was to promote a socialism that so few workers were likely to embrace.

Salvation came in the form of the BRICS. If you never would have dreamed of going to a Richard Nixon rally, now you could rally around a Russian president who is about as close to Nixon as you are going to get. What makes Putin attractive, however, is his quarreling with the USA. If you are tired of knocking your head against the wall trying to win working people to socialism, the next best thing—at least for people like Whitney—is backing the “other side” in a geopolitical chess game. What does it matter if they are capitalist oligarchs? As long as they are “anti-American”, that’s good enough for him—goddamnit.

The fervor for Russia is really quite remarkable. On some twitter accounts that belonged to pro-Putin anti-imperialists, there were queries about how to get St. George Ribbon’s, the WWII commemorations worn by separatist militias in east Ukraine. For alienated cyber-leftists who never made a leaflet in their life, let alone passed one out, this was made to order. Wear a St. George’s Ribbon to a college class and you will be making a real statement, just like Pat Buchanan, George W. Bush, or Barack Obama wearing one on their lapel.

I suppose I am inoculated against such a psychological transference because my personality was shaped by the tail end of the beat generation. When I became a Trotskyist in 1967, I never was able to shake the feeling of being an existential outsider that had been with me since high school. I always felt a certain distance from the ranks of the party, young people shaped more by student government than Jack Kerouac.

So that predisposed me to identify with the Pussy Riot type people in Russia rather than the Richard Nixon wannabes like Vladimir Putin. I like angry, alienated people who are driven to sacrilegious behavior. I especially like Kirill Medvedev, the Russian socialist poet who has translated Charles Bukowski—an unbeatable combination in my eyes.

After the Russian Duma passed a law on June 11, 2013 against “the propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations”, Medvedev joined a protest as he recounts in N+1:

I came to the Duma today to protest the homophobic legislation. On the Mokhovka side of the building I found an impenetrable wall of OMON troops and a girl with a sign that said, I think, “Lesbians are people too.” I came around the other side, along Giorgievskiy Pereulok. OMON, a bunch of journalists, a mass of young “religious activists,” and a small group of protesters, without signs. There’s a guy standing at the entrance to the Duma with a sign denouncing pedophiles. I saw a friend, Gleb Napreenko, and came over to him; he said they’d arrested four people so far. A few guys were standing next to us; one of them had a backpack, and his buddy took an egg out of the backpack [to throw it at the protesters]; there was a whole bag full of eggs in the backpack.

I thought about it for a couple of seconds, then stuck my hand into the backpack, pulled out the eggs, and stomped on them. The guys were confused, at first they didn’t say anything. Then one of them came over with an egg in his hand. We started wrestling, sort of like bulls. I was shaking. I decided that he could easily smear his egg all over my face, so I ripped the egg out of his hand and threw it on the ground. He became very angry, but he kept himself under control. I thought, maybe they’re under orders, you can throw eggs but no actual fighting. We came closer to the bus with the protesters in it. A group of young Christians followed us, and were joined by a few other people.

The guy who’d had the egg comes up to me again. “You gay?” he asks me. I say, no, I’m not gay. Cut it out, he says. You’re gay, right? No, I say, I’m not. Then why are you here? I say I came here to support these people, I don’t want eggs being thrown at them. He says to me, You got egg all over my hand, I want to wipe it off on you. I say, No, don’t wipe it off on me. Gleb says, Let me give you a napkin. The guy says, OK, give me a napkin, but I’m still going to wipe my hand on him. Gleb starts looking in his bag for a napkin, the guy and I start pushing and pulling one another, in the end my shirt is of course covered in egg. Another, bigger guy comes up and says, What, you want gay marriage? I say, Yes, I do, but I’m not really going to discuss this with you right now, in this situation. He says, This is Russia, get it, faggot?

This is Russia, get it, faggot? Yes, we get it.

May 7, 2014

From a Moon of Alabama reader

Filed under: Fascism,homophobia — louisproyect @ 1:48 am

Screen shot 2014-05-06 at 9.46.06 PM

Just to poke the hornet’s nest with a stick, I posted that Golden Dawn “anti-imperiaist” statement on Moon of Alabama–one of the higher profile Red-Brown websites. Look at the homophobia and the barely suppressed admiration for fascism. In the next couple of days I plan to blog about the rebirth of National Bolshevism (in some sense it never went away.)

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: Your Vice dot com article
Date: Wed, 07 May 2014 01:37:31 +0000
From: <cnpmky9+n2lpmg@guerrillamail.com>
To: lnp3@panix.com <lnp3@panix.com>

Maybe if Fake Left did something more than suck dudes’ cocks and receive them in his arse, and actually spent time outside doing something besides mincing and sashaying between the home front door and the open Bentley door Jeeves holds open for them, they might not have completely lost the working class to right-wing groups such as Golden Dawn and the National Front.

The leader of Golden Dawn recommended killing bankers. This connects with down and out workers and the unemployed, and  of course it also explains why left wing pussies are so HORRIFIED by Golden Dawn. It’s because Golden Dawn and the National Front actually speak in terms of protecting workers’ jobs and committing violence against the Wall Street criminals.

Oh, the horror. Can you even imagine a cocksucking buttfucking gay married leftist EVER suggesting that working class people should kill bankers? That day will never happen. Far better to be outraged by the workers than try to understand their anger. This is why the left is so pathetic, useless, and ineffective, and why it always will be.

December 21, 2013

Duck Dynasty is a fake

Filed under: capitalist pig,homophobia,humor,racism — louisproyect @ 1:07 pm

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