Title: Uncivil Societies: Post-Communism and the Christian Right Credit: Craig Young Comment Tuesday 24th October 2006 - 12:00pm1161644400 Article: 1460 Rights
While we tend to associate the excesses of the Christian Right with Australia and the United States, post-communist Russia and Poland's LGBT communities have graver difficulties. Their problems lie with their respective national histories. Despite their confessional (Catholic and Russian Orthodox) differences, Poland and Czarist Russia both resisted the Western Enlightenment, social liberalisation, development of democratic and pluralist institutions, human rights and civil liberties. Polish Catholicism did nurture the culture of resistance to Polish Communism, but Russian Orthodoxy was one of the chief beneficiaries of a predominantly feudal society. In both cases, their societies have not fared well under post-communist social change. Concerned overseas LGBT onlookers may have noticed neofascist paramilitary groups and individuals who attacked Warsaw and Moscow Pride marchers this year. Before 1917, Russian Orthodoxy had strong links with the Czarist absolute monarchy and the boyar nobility, and anti-Semitism was alarmingly mainstream. During the interwar period, Poland lurched from absolute monarchy to military dictatorship, and was similarly afflicted. Not surprisingly, both societies have embraced blind nationalism, sectarian religious philosophies, homophobia and xenophobia. In Poland, Jaroslaw and Lech Kaczynski are heads of the Law and Justice Party, whose philosophy is opposed to privatisation and the open economy, and combines this with social conservatism, homophobia, anti-immigrant racism and anti-Semitism. As with the United States, one of the chief reactionary elements is talkback radio, particularly Radio Maryja. Radio Maryja originally set up as a Catholic devotional radio station, but its content has lurched increasingly to the far right. It is a regime supporter, and regularly broadcasts racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic and anti-immigrant content. To its credit, the Vatican has censured Radio Maryja, but has taken no steps against its errant radio station. However, Benedict XVI is understood to be contemplating further action. Russia is more intractable. In its case, geopolitics play an important role in muting western criticism, as western obsessions with 'radical Islamists' diminish interest or criticism of Russia's activities within Occupied Chechnya, and its long-drawn out battle against its secessionist insurgents. Vladimir Putin and his followers are exploiting this strategic neglect to assemble a new post-communist Russian autocracy, with a corrupt and impaired free market whose key players pay kickbacks to central government, and where the President cynically exploits the obscurantism, xenophobia and homophobia of the Russian Orthodox Church, much as the Czar did before him. Russian Orthodox priests blessed neofascists from the Liberal Democratic Party, Russian National Movement and Movement Against Illegal Immigration, who attacked Moscow Pride marchers when they tried to commemorate Russian LGBT dead during the Second World War. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzkhov and his head of Security openly sympathised with the neofascists. Russia is playing a dangerous game, which could rebound on Putin if its neofascist elements drive foreign investment from the burgeoning Russian post-communist open economy. One might legitimately shudder at the violent excesses of the Russian Orthodox and Polish Catholic Christian Rights. Unfortunately, only strong LGNT international solidarity movements can counter the rise of violent social authoritarianism and neofascism in both societies. In case we needed any reminding, this is what happens when meaningful religious freedom and church-state separation are ignored. We neglect these examples at our peril. Recommended: Oliver Bjorksetter-Blaylock: "State of Hate" DNA 81 October 2006: 46-51. Jerome Taylor: "Holy Terror:" Attitude September 2006: 49-51 Craig Young - 24th October 2006    
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