Saturday, 10 August 2013

Just when you thought "Socialist Unity" couldn't get any worse......

Perhaps I was being a bit naive when I thought that the political content of the totally misnamed Socialist Unity website could not get any worse when I saw the latest missive from John Wight published yesterday under the title Stephen Fry's call for the Winter Olympics to be moved from Russia over gay rights smacks of hypocrisy.

So what exactly has upset "comrade" Wight so much? Lets read what Stephen Fry has written to the Prime Minister:

I write in the earnest hope that all those with a love of sport and the Olympic spirit will consider the stain on the Five Rings that occurred when the 1936 Berlin Olympics proceeded under the exultant aegis of a tyrant who had passed into law, two years earlier, an act which singled out for special persecution a minority whose only crime was the accident of their birth. In his case he banned Jews from academic tenure or public office, he made sure that the police turned a blind eye to any beatings, thefts or humiliations afflicted on them, he burned and banned books written by them. He claimed they “polluted” the purity and tradition of what it was to be German, that they were a threat to the state, to the children and the future of the Reich. He blamed them simultaneously for the mutually exclusive crimes of Communism and for the controlling of international capital and banks. He blamed them for ruining the culture with their liberalism and difference. The Olympic movement at that time paid precisely no attention to this evil and proceeded with the notorious Berlin Olympiad, which provided a stage for a gleeful F├╝hrer and only increased his status at home and abroad. It gave him confidence. All historians are agreed on that. What he did with that confidence we all know.

Putin is eerily repeating this insane crime, only this time against LGBT Russians. Beatings, murders and humiliations are ignored by the police. Any defence or sane discussion of homosexuality is against the law. Any statement, for example, that Tchaikovsky was gay and that his art and life reflects this sexuality and are an inspiration to other gay artists would be punishable by imprisonment. It is simply not enough to say that gay Olympians may or may not be safe in their village. The IOC absolutely must take a firm stance on behalf of the shared humanity it is supposed to represent against the barbaric, fascist law that Putin has pushed through the Duma. Let us not forget that Olympic events used not only to be athletic, they used to include cultural competitions. Let us realise that in fact, sport is cultural. It does not exist in a bubble outside society or politics. The idea that sport and politics don’t connect is worse than disingenuous, worse than stupid. It is wickedly, wilfully wrong. Everyone knows politics interconnects with everything for “politics” is simply the Greek for “to do with the people”.

An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 on Sochi is simply essential. Stage them elsewhere in Utah, Lillyhammer, anywhere you like. At all costs Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilised world.

He is making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did Jews. He cannot be allowed to get away with it. I know whereof I speak. I have visited Russia, stood up to the political deputy who introduced the first of these laws, in his city of St Petersburg. I looked into the face of the man and, on camera, tried to reason with him, counter him, make him understand what he was doing. All I saw reflected back at me was what Hannah Arendt called, so memorably, “the banality of evil.” A stupid man, but like so many tyrants, one with an instinct of how to exploit a disaffected people by finding scapegoats. Putin may not be quite as oafish and stupid as Deputy Milonov but his instincts are the same. He may claim that the “values” of Russia are not the “values” of the West, but this is absolutely in opposition to Peter the Great’s philosophy, and against the hopes of millions of Russians, those not in the grip of that toxic mix of shaven headed thuggery and bigoted religion, those who are agonised by the rolling back of democracy and the formation of a new autocracy in the motherland that has suffered so much (and whose music, literature and drama, incidentally I love so passionately).

The rest of the letter can be read here

John Wight (eventually) responds by stating that:

Firstly, the recent law passed by the Russian Duma is hardly a reason to compare contemporary Russia to Nazi Germany, as Fry does in his letter. The ludicrous nature of such a comparison only serves to trivialise fascism and the huge suffering endured by the Russian and Soviet people in the Second World War, during which 25-30 million died before the Soviet Union defeated the Nazis.
Homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993 and though there are still cultural issues with regard to prejudice against gays in the country, the idea that liberals and activists in Britain have the requisite moral authority to preach to the Russian government over the issue is the product of arrogance.

It seems Wight takes umbrage at one of his favourite states being attacked over what he calls a "lifestyle choice", a phrase which betrays his reactionary leanings as I would have thought anybody with an ounce of progressiveness in their souls would understand by now that being gay is a biological imperative in a number of men and women. Wight continues:

Many societies remain uncomfortable with homosexuality. In our own country gains in LGBT rights and equality are a relatively recent phenomenon. Whether we like to admit it or not, homosexuality and sexual promiscuity are still viewed as two sides of the same coin in some societies, feeding a misplaced understanding of homosexuality as solely a lifestyle choice motivated by hedonism. It is seen as a corrupting and corrosive influence on social cohesion as a consequence. There is of course nothing wrong with homosexuality as a lifestyle choice. The freedom to choose any lifestyle a person so wishes, as long as it does not impinge on the rights of others, is rightly deemed sacrosanct in a healthy society.

But social attitudes are inevitably buttressed and influenced by cultural traditions, which differ across the world and are the product of specific histories and inevitably develop at different rates of progress. These factors cannot simply be abstracted in favour of a western-centric approach on the part of liberal commentators and activists in Britain.

Russia’s new law against providing information on homosexuality to minors, while regressive, has to be seen in this context. Yes, by all means protest the new legislation in Russia, but let’s keep it in some sort of perspective.

So there we have been told, we "liberal commentators" (read anyone Socialist Unity does not agree with) are failing to see the context of the discrimination and because we live in the decadent west are in no position to lecture or complain about the treatment of gays in Russia.

The anarchist blog Left of the Left of the Left puts this nonsense in perspective:

Starting with the central premise of the article:
[T]he idea that liberals and activists in Britain have the requisite moral authority to preach to the Russian government over the issue is the product of arrogance.
This is a bizarre line of reasoning to see from a socialist. As if the need for socialists to show solidarity with oppressed groups in other countries is contingent on some “moral authority” derived from how our home nation state behaves. As if anybody but the most idealistic of liberals sees political activity as being about “preaching” to a state in the hopes of persuading it to use its power more wisely.
Where was the call from Stephen Fry for the 2012 London Summer Olympics to be moved in protest at Britain’s participation in illegal wars responsible for so much chaos and carnage in the Middle East, for example?
Oh, I’m sorry, have we not talked about the things important to you enough yet? There are legitimate questions to be raised about why some struggles get a great deal of mainstream media attention and others are largely ignored by everybody other than dedicated politicos, this is not an argument against solidarity action with oppressed people fighting those struggles.
This kind of twisted reasoning can by applied to almost anything, for instance, I can’t help but notice that Wight has a particular interest in Palestine, a worthy cause indeed.But the idea that liberals and activists in Britain have the requisite moral authority to preach to the Isreali government is the product of arrogance. Where is the call for a BDS campaign against Britain for it’s participation in illegal wars responsible for so much carnage in the Middle East, for example?


John Wight and his co thinkers at "Socialist Unity", Andy Newman and Tony Collins have shown further evidence that whatever they are, they are certainly not on the left of anything. Collins in particular has accused secularists of being EDL supporters by the default of daring to criticise Islam and Islamism.

Socialist Unity continues to pursue a reactionary course by backing reactionary clerics, the Iranian and Chinese dictatorships and now the ex KGB agent Putin against democracy, women's rights, peace and now gay rights as part of it's right-wing agenda. They are cuckolds in the Labour and Trade Union movement and should be treated with the contempt they deserve.


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