Friday, August 9, 2013

Drinker's Politics

Russia, Snowden, Stoli & the Gay Movement

I don’t usually comment on the flavor of the day, but so many things came together at the same time, I had to.

It started with sex columnist Dan Savage advocating a boycott of Stolichnaya Vodka because of the anti-gay policies passed by Putin’s legislature.  High-profile gays in LA and San Francisco poured Stoli into the gutters as a nice picture opportunity.  Elsewhere – like in Minneapolis – Stoli is not being boycotted by the bars, even though Minneapolis has a large gay community. 

Putin’s policies are reactionary, as are the policies of many other countries and religions on the gay question.  How about boycotting U.S. ‘southern’ products because they are made in the bastion of anti-gay sentiments in the U.S.?  Or the Catholic Church, home of so much anti-gay theology?  The targets are endless.   7 U.S. allies punish homosexuality with death - and these countries - Kenya, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Uganda, Qatar, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan - can sentence gays and lesbians to long jail terms or punishment.  70 countries ban homosexuality outright.  You don't see the U.S. complaining about them.

The Russian legislature should grow up on sexual politics and leave discrimination behind. But developing capitalist nations need to oppress women – and gays oppression is directly linked to women's oppression.  Demonizing 'female' characteristics, and keeping 'male' characteristics the prerogative of men only is how its done.  However, the gay movement should grow up too.  Dan Savage is a columnist and he reflects the middle-class bias of the gay movement’s leadership.  We saw this stunningly displayed when the San Francisco Gay Pride parade refused to honor Bradley Manning, the most heroic gay person at present.  It would have offended their corporate sponsors.  And so it goes. 

Columnists are not political leaders, as much as they try to explain the nature of ‘santorum.’  Savage actually has no ties to any Russian organization that could affect this situation, nor has he reached out to organizations in Russia to do so.  Yet that is what is necessary.  Marxists actually have organizations in Russia because they are not merely nationalists.  Russians will ultimately decide these questions, not Americans.  Marxist organizations and others in Russia will weigh in on these reactionary politics.  Secondary boycotts like this without primary boycotts are pathetic attempts to influence policy.  Consumers do not control capitalism, much as those with wallets wish they could.  (See reviews of “No Local” and “Reviving the Strike,” below) 

So how is Stolichnaya involved in this situation?  Because it is “made in Russia?”  This seems to make it the liberal’s version of ‘freedom fries’ and of American right-wingers pouring French wine into the gutters over the French government’s correct opposition to the Iraq War.  However, the truth is somewhat different.  Stolichnaya was developed somewhere between 1938 and 1944 in Samara in the Kalingrad region, according to Wiki.   Here is what Wiki says about Soli bought outside Russia:  “If bought outside of Russia, the product is produced by the SPI Group and the label reads: Premium Vodka, produced and bottled in Latvia for SPI Cyprus and is labeled as Imported Premium Vodka.”  In other words, like the fake Irish beer Guinness, American Stoli isn’t even made in Russia, though perhaps some of the ingredients come from there.  Bloomberg reported that Stoli made outside Russia is actually owned by SPI, which is based in Luxembourg.  The CEO even says his company supports LGBT rights.  So its not just made outside Russia, its owned by a company outside Russia!  This even our local paper figured out.

Perhaps Savage needs a research associate.

And if Stoli was made in Russia?  The logic still  doesn't stick.  The Russian legislature passed these harsh, fascistic, anti-gay rules.  Not the workers at Stoli.  At bottom, Savage's logic is nothing but crude nationalism - just like his Republican fellow-travelers.  

Now how easy is it for dumb fuck Americans to hate on Russia?  Pretty damn easy, and that crosses both Party lines.  Yesterday, Democratic Party and MSNBC blowhard Lawrence O’Donnell attacked Russia expert Julia Ioffe from the New Republic – a right-wing liberal magazine – for being insufficiently hostile to Putin.  Anyone who doesn’t roll over for American imperialism is suspect to O'Donnell, you see, even people that agree with him.  Ioffe thinks Obama boycotting the summit was a good idea too. The issues?  Syria, Snowden or … Stoli?  President Obama declined to participate in a summit with Putin over … Snowden!  The U.S. dictat is refused on one little issue – and suddenly, no dialogue, no diplomacy.  If Bush had done this, the Democrat Party chorus would have been up in arms. But it shows how important they think their surveillance state is.

The bloodbath in Syria between a minority Shi’ite Alawite dictatorship and a majority Sunni population has become, not a class war, but a religious war with class overtones, with the U.S. on one side and Russia on the other, with Sunni Al-Qaeda on the side of the U.S.  Go figure. I can’t say which side I support – as I don’t - but I know that there is some nationalized property in Syria that the U.S. would love to privatize – with or without Al-Qaeda.  And I know that dictatorship is not in the interest of any labor movement, and oppression of a national religious majority is just another form of apartheid. Unspoken is Syria’s opposition to Israel in this situation, but certainly, a U.S. geopolitical goal is to eliminate immediate enemies of Israel.

Then we have Snowden, a whistle-blower who has exposed illegal spying on Americans, and everyone else in the world.  You bet those power-loving neo-liberals in the Democratic Party are pissed.  Their big, high-tech, hipster surveillance-state, hoping to save every piece of digital information in the world, has been exposed.  Why do we have more spies, billions of dollars, technology, government security clearances and SWAT teams now then we ever had when we were competing with the USSR, way back in the 80s?  The USSR had nuclear warheads, millions of soldiers, many allies, etc.  Certainly not because of a tiny group like Al-Qaeda, which the U.S. has incidentally now militarily-allied with in Libya and Syria.  And now, Al-Qaeda is stronger in Iraq than it ever was, after being ‘liberated’ by American bombs.  It didn't exist before then. After all, the original home of Al-Qaeda, Saudi Arabia and it’s Sunni Wahabist sect, is our number 2 Mid-East ally.  Given this, I think the American people are the ultimate target, as is everyone else in the world.  Not 5,000 loose Al-Qaeda members.  They are only the patsies, the excuses, the sacrificial goats, bloody reactionaries as they might be. 

Russia let Snowden stay in their country because the U.S. would have sentenced and tortured him like Bradley Manning, another whistle-blower.  If the U.S. had a “Russian” Snowden, they would have protected him too.  Manning is, without a doubt, the most heroic gay person in the world right now.  Which is why the middle-class gays and the official Democratic Party gays hate him.  They should be called State Department Gays.  Call them that. 

Glenn Greenwald is another heroic gay figure, who has supported Assange, Snowden, Manning and other whistle-blowers as a journalist for the Guardian and  He has been offered legal protection by the Brazilian government, where he lives, if he returns to the U.S. This is because of possible threats against Greenwald by certain U.S. lawmakers and also possibly by the U.S. Justice Department under Eric Holder, which is in the process of criminalizing journalism as an ‘aid to terrorism.’  (Greenwald’s book, “With Liberty & Justice for Some” is reviewed below. A commentary on Holder, "Fire Holder," is also below.)

And that brings us back to Stolichnaya – which I am drinking at this very moment, mixed with tonic - so the Latvians will be happy.  Hey, Lativia!  Let’s look at what the gay movement has accomplished in the U.S.  Against the explicit policy of the Democratic Party, whose leadership is full of heterosexual mainliners like Obama, they tripped the trigger in so many states on gay marriage, gays in the military and even DOMA – that the Democrats caved.  Now the Democrats don’t cave on war or Wall Street or poverty or foreclosures or unemployment or surveillance or what-have-you – the non-culture war issues.  But they did cave on gay rights, and that is because their base pressured them – and also because they had to throw a bone.  A BONE.   Remember, Clinton passed DOMA and DADT. 

Bone, you say?  Don’t get suggestive now.  Let’s look at the economic roots of gay oppression.  There are many homeless gay youth who have run away from home, many for good reason.  Gays are subject to physical attack.  Gays actually have less money than heterosexuals overall.  They can also be fired for being gay in over 20 states here in the U.S.  Most are not wealthy or middle-class.  Yet the leadership of the gay movement is full of gay businessmen and is primarily middle-class.  So, like the women’s movement, there are class differences among gays, and this results in different class strategies and interests.  No surprise, as this is the same in the black and Latino movements too. Class is universal, and cuts across all lines – religious, national, every single one.  Working-class gays need their own leaders, not light-weight columnists like Savage. 

However, unlike blacks, Latinos or women in the U.S., gays are not oppressed as an economic stratum or segment of the class, but as a cultural stratum.  Super-exploitation of the economic kind, as far as I know, is not practiced on gays as a group.  Which is why ethnic or gender discrimination, where money is made, is fundamentally different from gay discrimination. Gay rights involve democratic rights.  Women's rights involve democratic rights - and economic issues like exploitation in the home or lower wages.  Capitalism is not economically thriving on keeping gays in the labor shithole.  This is why the Democratic Party can throw-a-bone on this issue. It is financially a wash.  And finance is what makes those boys get up in the morning, no matter what they tell you during elections.

Gay discrimination relates to the institution of the capitalist family, the military and masculine culture.  Democratic rights should be extended to GLBT people in every country in the world.  However, insecure males get self-important mileage out of not being gay, and of hating those who are.  They are ‘men,’ you see, and conservative culture wants them to feel good about themselves – even if they might be unemployed or uneducated. This is part of the 'male bribe' paid to some men.  And oddly, the recent gains in gay rights, which should be supported, relate to the two most conservative institutions in society – marriage and the military.  The capitalist state needs more people getting married and needs more skilled people in the military – and gays can provide both.  Watch the sad marriage statistics leap up as gay marriage is legalized.  Watch our military become even more skilled and intelligent – as long as they can keep the Bradley Mannings of the future out.  Conservatives of certain kinds will actually be happy. When they are not sad.  Poor souls. 

Red Frog
August 9, 2013

P.S. - Glenn Greenwald's companion, David Miranda, was detained by UK police for 9 hours at Heathrow on August 19, and all his electronics taken from him.  He had come back from a visit in Berlin with Laura Poitras, a filmmaker who is working on a film about the NSA.  This is a blatant attempt at intimidation of the press by Obama's Poodle, David Cameron. 

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