Some using the “Russia is an imperialist power” line are also weaponizing the fact of homophobia in Russia, as they do when referring to the Stalin period in the Soviet Union. This is one way that they stigmatize opponents as “tankies” and “Stalinists.”
Yes, I’m gay. And yes, I uphold the Soviet Union’s role as the bulwark that supported socialist and liberation movements throughout the world for the majority of the 20th century.
This was true even with a relatively conservative (socially and economically) leadership at the head of the first lasting workers’ state. The Soviet leadership did retreat from the most progressive gender and sexuality advances made in the early days of the revolution, just as they retreated from international revolutionary commitments.
But when push came to shove, the Soviet Union beat back fascism and especially its most virulent form, Nazism. Fascism was arguably the biggest organized threat to LGBTQ2S people in history, after classical colonialism. And the Soviet Union provided critical support throughout the world to national liberation movements, thereby being essential to the overthrow of direct colonialism almost everywhere.
The Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact ensured that there was no war in Europe from the late 1940s until well into the 1990s. The vibrant queer cultures in West Germany, not to mention the German Democratic Republic and elsewhere, were possible in part because war and far-right movements were no longer ravaging the continent.
All of this — the gains made by socialism undermining the basis of various oppressions, including abolishing the root causes of imperialist war; defeating fascism and colonialism — were essential to every aspect of LGBTQ2S liberation, and we are all the beneficiaries.
The main threat in the world today is the U.S. imperialist-led camp. Everywhere they have supported right-wing death squads, Islamists against progressive movements and governments, austerity that hurts and even kills the most vulnerable, including LGBTQ2S people.
Everything that the U.S. imperialists have supported worldwide has turned the tide against movements for liberation. They’ve bombed the infrastructure of countries into non-existence and allowed for the return of warlordism and slave markets.
The supposedly “good” countries of Eastern Europe (i.e., not Belarus) are a playground for neo-Nazi forces. In these countries, there has been an erosion of LGBTQ2S rights, through the period of alliance with Washington.
If capitalist Russia today has its internal problems with homophobia and transphobia, this in no way negates the fact that U.S. imperialism is the biggest danger in the world and that it is crucial to defeat the NATO/fascist advance in Eastern Europe.
Calling anyone who upholds the revolutionary legacy of the Soviet Union an anti-LGBTQ2S “Stalinist” is also completely disingenuous. There are some of these homophobic elements in our midst. But plenty of LGBTQ2S people understand the importance of defending the various 20th century revolutions and that these revolutions are the backdrop to every contemporary advance in gender and sexuality politics.
So I really do not take seriously the superficial dismissals in the form of, “Don’t you know that Stalin was socially conservative? That’s what you support whether you know it or not.”
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