We've all been shocked at the vicious nature of Russia's official embrace of anti-gay politics, but we should all be deeply concerned too -- because what we appear to be witnessing is the descent of post-Communist Russia into a fascist state.
First Russian officials passed an Orwellian law banning gay "propaganda," making potentially anyone even remotely sympathetic to LGBT people into criminals. That was followed by the appearance of neo-Nazi thugs on the scene, attacking any gay-rights demonstrators with open violence. The official response to these attacks was instructive: Police either stood by as the thugs attacked gays, or they themselves arrested gay demonstrators and carted them off.
Russian journalist Masha Gessen has been saying this openly:
"What they're doing with this law is they're enshrining second-class citizenship," she added. "So in that sense it's very much like the laws in Nazi Germany. It makes it a crime to say that a group is socially equal to another group. So I said this is creeping Fascism, and if you don't want us to become a Fascist country, then don't just stand by, put on a pink triangle."
Moreover, officials are openly encouraging the violence by making clear that it's justified and won't be prosecuted:
Vitaly Milonov, a deputy in the St. Petersburg legislative assembly from United Russia, is co-author of the notorious law forbidding “promotion of homosexuality.” He blamed the incident in the club on gay people themselves. He said in an interview with Snob.ru that the incident was the ”result of the obnoxious, crude and permissive behavior of the gay community. …What other reaction could there be when, in response to democratic actions, they run around like jackals at consulates, beg for another grant and write letters demanding that the authorities be punished? This is a warning to the gay community so that they don’t forget that they live in the Russian Federation, a country with a healthy historical and cultural legacy.”
In case anyone missed that, let us spell it out in plain English: an elected official from Russia’s second largest city, its so-called “window on Europe,” has condoned mob violence against a particular group of his fellow citizens, blaming them—the victims—for the attack. This is fascism.
Oh, and remember Pussy Riot’s desperate attempt to warn their own fellow citizens and the rest of the world about the dangers of a fusion of church and state in Russia? Well, here’s what you get when the merger is a done deal and the gloves come off:
Sergei Rybko, a Russian Orthodox priest, spoke out more forcefully. “The Holy Scriptures instruct us to cast stones at all those guys with nontraditional orientation. As long as that scum is not banished from Russian land, I completely agree with people who are trying to cleanse our homeland of them. If the government won’t do it, then the people will,” he said an interview with Pravoslaviye i Mir (Orthodoxy and the World). He added that he regretted that because he is a priest, “he couldn’t take part in actions of this sort.”
Nor is it an exaggeration to observe that this is classic far-right fascism, with gay people playing the role of the old fascists' Jews as chief scapegoat, whipping boy and otherwise expiative target for violence.
That's because, according to observers in Russia, the Putin regime and its official right-wing cohort have been actively courting and supporting the activities of various far-right entities in Russia, including a variety of skinhead and neo-Nazi factions.
The anti-gay law is not just another law that seeks to villify LGBTQ people and their very existence, but this move by regime is a capitulation to Russian neo-Nazi organisations to further terrorise LGBTQ people. Police complicity with fascists already has a history in Russia and Putin’s regime has sponsored nationalists in the Rodina party, and the neo-nazi Nashi youth organisation to attack and discredit challenges to the regime from the Communist Party and Russian youth. From watching videos of the recent attacks on LGBTQ people, police often stand back and let homophobic and transphobic assaults continue with little or no intervention. Protesters recall previous pride demonstrations (which have been increasingly bigger targets for anti-queer violence) where cops were seen allowing fascists into vans where arrested protesters were being held, suggesting the police work with or are members of neo-Nazi groups.
Neo-Nazi group Format18 and their infamous spokesperson Maxim Martsinkevich (nicknamed Tesak, or ‘hatchet’) have lead the attacks on LGBTQ youth that claim to target paedophiles on the internet. However this is a lie; they put up fake profiles on social networking sites and arrange to meet with LGBTQ youth for a date, only to kidnap, torture, rape and even kill them – all without prosecution by the state. Many of the young people that this group have targeted have subsequently had videos and photos of their kidnap and torture put on the internet, causing them to be outed, humiliated and often driven to suicide.
The victims of the far-right are not just LGBTQ people, the fascists also attack black people, immigrants and various religious groups, in order to scapegoat them – one high profile attack in 2006 by neo-Nazis in St. Petersburg ended in the death of a Sengalese student, Lamzar Samba.
Nor is it any accident that this is happening. It's been brewing for awhile now; these people are well-organized, and some reports the ranks of neo-Nazis have swelled to 100,000 and more in recent years.
And all this has its sources in far-right radicals from the United States and elsewhere.
Back when he was rehabilitating his career after spending time in prison for fraud related to his gambling addiction, David Duke spent a great deal of time organizing neo-Nazis in Russia:
White supremacist David Duke has set his sights on Russia. Saying that the nation holds the "key to white survival," Duke has recently embarked on a campaign to spread his racial theories of white superiority and anti-Semitism in the former Soviet Union. The notorious American hatemonger has recently launched an appeal to Russian nationalists. In Duke’s eyes, Russia presents an unmatched opportunity to help protect the longevity of the white race, since he predicts that "racially aware" parties could achieve political influence there. He believes that Russia’s "sense of racial understanding" will unleash a trend internationally.
Duke has taken at least three recent trips to Russia to speak with nationalists and to promote his new book, The Ultimate Supremacism: My Awakening on the Jewish Question (the Russian title translates as The Jewish Question Through the Eyes of an American). Duke has indicated he may move there to more actively "struggle against people of other colors and with Jews," according to the Interfax news agency.
During his visits to Russia, Duke has held a rally at a respected literary museum and met with nationalist leaders there, including former Communist lawmaker General Albert Makashov, a figure well known for anti-Semitic statements. Duke went to Russia this past summer at the invitation of Alexander Prokhanov, editor-in-chief of Zavtra (Tomorrow), an ultra-nationalist newspaper, and Konstnatin Kasimovsky, the head of an anti-Semitic organization called Russian Action. At the time, several Russian nationalist publications ran reports on Duke’s visit to Moscow. An Internet forum of Russian neo-Nazi skinheads praised the meeting with Duke, who was termed "a well-known American patriot."
This organizing appears to have melded with another branch of far-right activism in Russia, also with its roots in American radicals -- the virulent anti-gay radicals who blame the Holocaust on gays and sponsor anti-gay legislation in places such as Africa and in Eastern Europe.
The largest of these organizations calls themselves the Watchmen on the Walls, and they represent a coalition of Russian-American, American, and Russian right-wingers whose loathing of LGBT people and their rights knows no bounds.
One of the Watchmen's leading figures is a Holocaust revisionist named Scott Lively, who blames Teh Gay for the deaths of millions during World War II. And these are the kinds of things he's prone to pronouncing:
And in the United States where the sexual revolution began, it was the homosexual political movement that designed this strategy to attack Christianity. The homosexual movement teaches sexual freedom, and its first target is the heterosexual people. The homosexual activists stayed hidden but they taught this philosophy through their activists. And out of the philosophy came the principalities and powers that is destroying the West: The pornography industry, the abortion industry, and the destruction of marriage through divorce. These things are the product of a way of thinking. They deny the Truth of God. They deny the design of God for human beings. And their purpose is the change the cultures of the world.
Now, the homosexual movement has been winning this war in the United States, and it has been winning this war in Europe. And we’re looking at the future collapse of Western civilization. And Watchmen on the Walls is an organization to fight against this collapse. Watchmen On the Walls is an organization of men and women with courage, who will stand on the Truth of God and without compromise demand that the culture will follow the guidance of God. That marriage and family must be held at the highest level.”
Lively has also given talks wherein he describes, in a jocular fashion, the bashing death of a gay man by Russian nationals in Sacramento.
"I can’t point to any country of the world today that is a model for the rest of the world, except perhaps for Russia, which has just taken the very important and frankly necessary step of criminalizing homosexual propaganda to protect the society from being 'homosexualzed.' This was one of my recommendation to Russian leaders in my 50-city tour of the former Soviet Union in 2006 and 2007.
"I strongly advise that you adopt an anti-propaganda law similar to what Russia has recently passed, to stop the 'gay' agenda from advancing any further that it may already have done. It will also be necessary to uproot and discard any existing sexual orientation regulations (the bad seeds) which criminalize discrimination against homosexuality in your laws and in the official policies of your government agencies, universities, corporations, and NGOs."
It's also worth noting that Lively was a significant source of misinformation for Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, another attempt to whitewash away the common ground between genuine street fascists and the mainstream right. But now that common ground is making itself manifest in Russia.
The most disturbing component of all this is the open collusion between authorities and these far-right thugs. That is the classic manifestation of genuine fascism as we have known it historically; the examples of Germany and Italy in the 1920s are always there to remind us:
Fascist violence was neither random nor indiscriminate. It carried a well-calculated set of coded messages: that communist violence was rising, that the democratic state was responding to it ineptly, and that only the fascists were tough enough to save the nation from antinational terrorists. An essential step in the fascist march to acceptance and power was to persuade law-and-order conservatives and members of the middle class to tolerate fascist violence as a harsh necessity in the face of Left provocation. It helped, of course, that many ordinary citizens never feared fascist violence against themselves, because they were reassured that it was reserved for national enemies and "terrorists" who deserved it.
Now it's all the straight, non-gay Russians and other Eastern Europeans who are standing by and watching this trend develop, knowing that they will not be targeted for the fascists' violence ... this round. When they gain real power, well, that will be a different story.
If people in the West do not awaken to the nature of the beast that is taking root in Russia and Eastern Europe, all in the guise of gay bashing and "defending traditional marriage", they will live to regret it.
Cross-posted at Orcinus.