Monthly Archives: August 2013

Russian LGBT Network – Winter Olympics: We Should Speak Up, Not Walk Out

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A few days ago I’d written an open letter to both the country of Russia and the revolutionary left throughout the world, addressing both the homophobia taking place in the country of Russia and the revolutionary left’s counter-productive attacks on individuals who speak out against the Russian govt’s oppression of the LGBTQ peoples. In my letter I concluded that it was maybe a good idea to ban the 2014 Olympics in Russia as a means of the world saying ‘No!’ to homophobia. Well I present below a better alternative proposal in addressing the issue, as was written by the Russian LGBT Network themselves:

Dear friends and colleagues,

In light of the recently enacted Russian law on ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors’ that renders illegal statements and actions that acknowledge LGBT equality and in response to the growing violence against LGBT people and allies in Russia, the upcoming Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Sochi have already become a subject of an international debate both over the impact of this context on the athletes, spectators, staff, and volunteers of the Games and over compliance of the Sochi Games with the Olympic values of diversity and non-discrimination.

The Russian LGBT Network applauds the actions of individuals and organizations who address the escalating official and societal homophobia in Russia, and we are with them in the commitment to the protection of the rights and freedoms of LGBT people and allies. Numerous initiatives in regards the 2014 Winter Olympics are successfully garnering support worldwide, with the centerpiece of the debate being the pro- / counter-boycott considerations. We would like to join the momentum and share our vision.

While we value diversity in approaches and welcome all efforts that forward justice and equality, we will contribute the work of the LGBT Network to the promotion of proactive participation in the Games instead of a boycott.

We believe that calls for the spectators to boycott Sochi, for the Olympians to retreat from competition, and for governments, companies, and national Olympic committees to withdraw from the event risk to transform the powerful potential of the Games in a less powerful gesture that would prevent the rest of the world from joining LGBT people, their families and allies in Russia in solidarity and taking a firm stance against the disgraceful human rights record in this country.

In retrospect, the record of the Olympic boycotts is not utterly promising in regards the potential to bring a change; look at the 1980 boycott of the Moscow Olympics, the 1984 ‘retaliation’ boycott of the LA Games, or at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. What is remembered from 1968 is neither the number nor the names of those who boycotted the Games, but the ‘human rights salute’ by Tommie Smith and John Carlos who rose black-gloved fists and bowed their heads on the victory stand as a sign of resistance to racial injustice and solidarity with everyone who fought for equality and human rights.

The Olympic Games are a unique and powerful occasion for individuals, organizations, diplomatic missions, and governments to come together and voice, in tune with the Olympic ideals, the ideas of human rights, freedoms, equality and justice – regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Participation and attendance of the Games in Sochi will not indicate endorsement of injustice and discrimination; they will only if they are silent. We hope to join forces and succeed in raising everyone’s voices for LGBT equality in Russia and elsewhere. We hope that together with those who share this vision, we will succeed in sending the strongest message possible by involving athletes, diplomats, sponsors, and spectators to show up and speak up, proclaiming equality in most compelling ways.

We call for organizations and individuals who are attending the Games to exercise freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and to not fall accomplices to the homophobic policies by censoring own beliefs, statements, and identities.

We will work for greater visibility of LGBT pride before, during, and after the Games in all domains possible, and we hope for the support of national organizations in making sure that the athletes publicly take a stance against violence toward LGBT people and stand strong for LGBT equality; that the national houses fill the gap of the banned Pride House and support LGBT athletes, staff, spectators and their allies on their grounds; that sponsors follow through with their policies and visualize their commitment to justice and observance of human rights in regards LGBT people at the Games; and that the broadcasters display all this in a positive and supportive way.

The Olympics in Sochi should embody the ideals and values of the Games and should demonstrate to everyone who is watching that the greatest athletes stand strong with their LGBT competitors and partners, out or closeted, and that together they stand strong with LGBT people and allies everywhere.

Do not boycott the Olympics – boycott homophobia! Stand in solidarity with people in Russia and bring LGBT pride and values of human rights and freedoms to the Games in Sochi!

An open letter to both Russia and the Revolutionary Left

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By B.J. Murphy

The media is now catching onto actor and secular humanist Stephen Fry’s letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, urging him to ban the upcoming 2014 Olympics that’ll take place in Russia. His reasoning, despite what some media sources simplistically title, is because of the growing culture of Russian anti-LGBTQ bigotry and crimes, comparing it to how Nazi Germany developed its culture of anti-Jew bigotry and crimes. I write this letter to both Russia and the revolutionary left because I feel that both are in the wrong for their own reasons.

Russia is obviously in the wrong for its heinous crimes against the Russian LGBTQ peoples, in which its government is turning a blind eye to. I find this extremely unfortunate because I’ve come to greatly respect Russia over the last year. I respect and thank Russia for defending a nation (Syria) when it was at its peak of receiving imperialist aggression by that of the U.S., Israel, Turkey, etc.; I respect and thank Russia for providing a home for NSA spying whistleblower Edward Snowden when the entire West was out for his head. Both actions are quite admirable and worthy of attention and solidarity by that of the left. Having said that, though, I cannot respect, nor thank, Russia for their continuing line of anti-LGBTQ discrimination and crimes.

Even the Communist parties of Russia, despite their radical left persona and actions for revolutionary socio-economic change in the country, adhere to the homophobic fervor that sweeps the nation. I cannot imagine what the LGBTQ peoples of Russia are going through when they have no allies in govt, in the left – nowhere, except a pocketed few of a minority who adheres to reason and social equality in all forms of society.

As for the revolutionary left throughout, even here in the U.S., I’ve noticed a certain appeal to knock down Stephen Fry’s letter, under a dubious reasoning that somehow his letter will be used as a means of justifying Western imperialism against the nation of Russia. I find this to be absurd. It is one thing to call for an armed invasion of a country, or economic sanctions which will only harm the targeted country’s people rather than its own govt, but it’s another in calling for a ban in the Olympics in order for a much more peaceful, progressive world to say to Russia that they will not sit idly by as they continue committing crimes against their own.

Fry’s letter is a wakeup call against all forms of anti-LGBTQ bigotry. His letter is not a call for opposition against the country itself or its economic model, but rather against how the country handles questions like whether or not LGBTQ people deserve rights like every other. If the Olympics were to be held in Saudi Arabia, a country very well known for its anti-LGBTQ and anti-Woman social policies and culture, I’m fairly certain that Fry would be sending an exact same letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, despite Saudi Arabia being an ally to both Britain and the U.S.

Opposition to Stephen Fry is absolutely uncalled for, especially by that among the so-called revolutionary left. Rather opposition should be targeted towards the Russian govt’s inexcusable crimes against the Russian LGBTQ people. I find the revolutionary left’s response to these two events unfathomable – both their actions and inaction.

As a progressive, a revolutionary leftist, an anti-imperialist….I wish to say to the revolutionary left that they put an end to their dogmatic mindsets of a black ‘n white world and recognize that one can be anti-imperialist while maintaining a revolutionary approach to crimes of the oppressed in each country – whether they be an imperialist or anti-imperialist nation.

I also appeal to the Russian govt that they put an end to their anti-LGBTQ bigotry and crimes and to start leading the way for their liberation and freedom. I wish for there to be a 2014 Olympics event in your country, because I can think of no better place than where they stood their ground when the West tried formulating another disastrous, unnecessary war against the sovereign nation of Syria. I can think of no better place than where Edward Snowden’s been able to rest and be treated as a hero for his actions in exposing the NSA’s scandalous spying program of an entire nation. But then I cannot accept this place as being an appropriate venue of international unity in sports when the country hosting it cannot even comprehend why discriminating, torturing, and murdering LGBTQ peoples is a direct contradiction to the very message in which the Olympics upholds.

As Fry stated in his letter, “Every time in Russia…a gay teenager is forced into suicide, a lesbian “correctively” raped, gay men and women beaten to death by neo-Nazi thugs while the Russian police stand idly by, the world is diminished and I for one, weep anew at seeing history repeat itself.”

I weep as well, for both Russia’s actions and the revolutionary left’s inaction. This cannot continue any longer.

Zimbabwe reelects Robert Mugabe as president

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The following article below was originally published by Fight Back! News, the news wing of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization:

ZANU-PF sweeps parliamentary election on platform of land and freedom

By Dave Schneider
August 3, 2013

ZANU-PF supporters rallying ahead of the Zimbabwean election.

ZANU-PF supporters rallying ahead of the Zimbabwean election.

Although official vote totals in the July 31 election are still coming in, the people of Zimbabwe voted overwhelmingly to reelect President Robert Mugabe to another five-year term. Mugabe’s party, the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), also won the parliamentary election in a landslide, making gains and solidifying their majority. Despite claims by Mugabe’s opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), that the elections were rigged, monitors from the African Union called the elections “peaceful, orderly, free and fair.”

Mugabe’s victory is a mandate for the ZANU-PF manifesto, which calls for over $1.8 trillion in idle mining assets and $7.3 billion in foreign-owned assets to be turned over to Zimbabweans. Voters similarly favor the ZANU-PF plan for “education for all,” “housing for all,” and gender equality “through laws, empowerment programs and promotion of women in sectors and positions previously held by men only,” according to the ZANU-PF 2013 election manifesto.

This is the third and latest defeat of MDC candidate Tsvangirai, who ran against Mugabe for President in 2002 and 2008. Although Tsvangirai led the 2008 presidential election, he failed to garner a majority vote and lost decisively in the runoff to Mugabe. Wikileaks cables from 2010 revealed collaboration between Tsvangirai with his MDC party and the U.S. Tsvangirai called on the Western countries to toughen the economic sanctions on his own country and people after he lost the election. Since that time, more and more Zimbabweans disapprove of the MDC in opinion polls.

In February 2013, Zimbabweans approved a new constitution, ending a power-sharing deal between ZANU-PF and the MDC. A decisive election victory for ZANU-PF provides a mandate and curbs outsider meddling in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe.

Indigenization Program central to election

Zimbabwe’s election comes at a time of profound revolutionary changes in the nation. In May 2012, ZANU-PF announced the implementation of the Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Program, to transfer ownership of the major national industries to Zimbabweans and workers. According to the ZANU-PF’s election manifesto, called “Taking Back the Economy,” the indigenization “seeks to enforce the transfer to local entities of at least 51% controlling equity in all existing foreign owned businesses.” The aim is to “create dignified employment especially for the youth, distribute wealth amongst citizens more equitably, cause a general improvement in the quality of life of every Zimbabwean and bring about sustainable national development which is homegrown.”

ZANU-PF’s campaign focused on strengthening the nation’s land reform – which redistributed more than 7 million hectares of land, mostly to African peasants and farmworkers – and deepening the indigenization policies. In a preface to the manifesto, Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace, write, “The essence of ZANU-PF’s ideology is to economically empower the indigenous people of Zimbabwe by enabling them to fully own their country’s God-given natural resources and the means of production to unlock or create value from those resources.”

Indigenization policies already distributed more than 120 mining companies to black Zimbabweans, organized into employee ownership trusts. These trusts allow working people in Zimbabwe to share in their nation’s resources, rather than Western companies taking profits out of Zimbabwe. ZANU-PF also aims to transition the current stock exchange into an indigenized market owned by Zimbabweans called the Harare Stock Exchange. They claim that shares will be distributed to at least 500,000 people in the first year, with the greatest beneficiaries being women, youth, and disabled people.

Zimbabwe’s struggle against colonialism and imperialism

ZANU-PF’s victory demonstrates the continued importance of Zimbabwe’s revolutionary history. British Imperialists, led by infamous mass murderer Cecil Rhodes and his British South Africa Company, invaded and colonized Zimbabwe around 1880. Rhodes named the country after himself as white colonists seized the best land. With most of the land and the government in white hands, the whites ruled the country despite never being more than 4.3% of the population. In 1966, Zimbabweans waged a 13-year liberation war against white minority rule that ended the racist Ian Smith regime in 1980.

Mugabe’s continued popularity and re-election as President comes from his leadership during the liberation war, called the ‘Second Chimurenga’ by Zimbabweans. Influenced by the Chinese communist revolutionary Mao Zedong, Mugabe founded ZANU along with other black revolutionaries in Zimbabwe. Ian Smith imprisoned Mugabe for more than a decade, and then he was elected President of ZANU in 1974 shortly before his release.

After winning majority rule, most black Zimbabweans remained dispossessed and poor while white colonizers kept the best farmland. After a series of austerity measures forced upon Zimbabwe by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the people of Zimbabwe began occupying large farms and taking control of their own resources in 2000. Almost 75% of the beneficiaries of the land reform were poor peasants, former farmworkers and urban workers – many of whom were women – making it one of the most progressive land reforms in the history of Africa.

By stripping wealthy whites of their land and political power, Zimbabwe angered the U.S. and Britain, who responded with economic sanctions that sent Zimbabwe down a destructive path of hyperinflation and economic turmoil. However, with new investment from socialist countries like the People’s Republic of China, Zimbabwe’s economy began to recover, with their gross domestic product growing by 11% in 2011 alone.

Unemployment remains a persistent struggle in Zimbabwe, caused by the continued sanctions placed on Zimbabwe by the U.S. and Britain. However, ZANU-PF designed the indigenization program to create dignified jobs for Zimbabwean workers and allow them greater ownership of the nation’s resources.

At 89, Mugabe is the oldest African head of state, and constitutionally this will be his final term as president. ZANU-PF spent the past five years, after the 2008 election, holding party cadre schools to train activists to continue the revolution. With a new victory on the horizon, the days ahead shine bright for Zimbabweans.