Thursday, June 13, 2013

Attacks on human & democratic rights in Russia

During the Cold War, US propaganda counterposed communism & equated capitalism to democracy. The thuggish politics of Stalinism made that invidious contrast seem valid so for capitalism it’s something of a propaganda misfortune that restored capitalism in Russia is indistinguishable from Stalinism.

But of course, democratic rights are under attack everywhere because the oligarchs who run this world have an agenda not served by democracy & human rights. In that regard, Putin & Obama are soul mates. The surveillance systems that once characterized the Stalinist gulag now dominate US politics.

Religion is playing a central role in this political drama: Islamophobia & alarmism about “creeping sharia law” are contradicted by US willingness to collaborate with Islamist regimes against the democratic Arab uprisings. In Russia, Putin & the State Duma pander to the Russian Orthodox church to undermine democracy. Last year, they incarcerated the punk group Pussy Riot for “hooliganism on grounds of religious hatred” after they sang a protest song in Moscow’s Orthodox cathedral. This week, the Duma passed a new bill mandating imprisonment for “public actions expressing manifest disrespect for society & committed to insult the religious feelings of believers.” Fines & imprisonment differ if the protests are within a house of worship or held elsewhere. It may be a misdemeanor & is certainly a provocation to demonstrate opposition to the actions of religion within a place of worship. But outside the doors, on the public streets there should be no impediments to public protest.

A second bill passed hours later by the Duma will slap extortionate fines on & prohibit political activities of those advocating “non-traditional sexual relations” & “the rejection of traditional family values.” LGBTI activists protesting outside the Duma prior to the vote were arrested by police after being physically assaulted by right-wing thugs. The activist here being attacked is one of those protesting for their human & democratic rights. The homophobic legislation will only fuel greater violence against gays & allow the government to scapegoat LGBTI activists for the growing economic & political crises in Russia.

(Photo by Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

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