Unwelcome hammer and sickle, a US embassy speech and consumerism at every turn. We attended the Rainbow PRIDE Bratislava.
Pride and the Left
This year’s Pride was held in Bratislava on Saturday, July 22. It is a celebration of the identity of all queer people. This regular event gives an opportunity to the all-round oppressed community to enjoy moments of freedom and the absence of hate.
Pride and all things gay have crystallized over time as something liberal. Among other things, it is a failure of the authentic left which promotes equality of all people and rejects false, unscientific distinctions between them. The failure of past socialist states to dialectically grasp the issue of queer liberation has allowed the “progressive” right to steal the issue in the same way that they have hijacked the issues of women’s rights, national, religious or ethnic minorities, and so on.
“[The transition from capitalism to socialism] will create the necessary conditions for the elimination of all forms of political oppression (…) This is indisputable. But to confine ourselves to this is to fall into a ridiculous and miserable [class essentialism].”Lenin
We must therefore focus on “partial” and different forms of oppression. Such as those experienced by gay people in a state that is not separated from the church and in which capitalists look for every opportunity to point the finger at the “enemies of the nation.”
Rainbow capitalism AKA “consume, homo!”
It was the first Pride since the fall of 2022 when the terrorist attack on Zámocká Street in Bratislava took place. Two young innocent lives were cut short in front of the queer café/bar. The perpetrator was a right-wing extremist and one of the many young people who have been radicalised through the internet, in a culture that abhors everything non-masculine, non-white and “abnormal”. Above all, he is a symbol of the influence of petty bourgeois thinking on the individual as well as the consequences of upbringing in an extreme right-wing environment (his father is a businessman and a supporter of Štefan Harabin – a far right conservative politician). This year’s PRIDE was therefore conducted with increased security measures. However, the paradox is not to be missed, as the Slovak police is the last institution queer people can trust when it comes to hate crimes.
There was an astonishing number of people of all ages at the event. We shook hands with our sympathizers and talked to people who were intrigued by our leftist-themed flags. The entire Námestie slobody (Liberty Square) was reserved for the Pride. However, the number of stands of companies and corporations trying to show how “progressive” and in solidarity they are was overwhelming.
We wrote about rainbow capitalism and its myriad of problems in the past. It is distressing that even Pride itself has not been able to protect itself from the onslaught of capitalists seeking to maximize their profits. The fact that these companies do not care about queer people at all is obvious. You can see it in the speed with which corporations remove rainbow themes from their marketing once Pride Month is over. It is just a clever ploy to make the most of the people’s struggle for liberation.
Perilous hammer and sickle
Before the parade began, there was a conflict between one of our members and two organisers. Our comrade was carrying a rainbow flag with hammer and sickle – one of the symbols of the radical left – on it. Despite the fact the staff tried to pull down the flag and threatened to call the police, no actions were taken. The hammer and sickle symbol was also used as a symbol of the USSR, which, after its inception, decriminalised homosexuality, became a voice of progress on issues of gender identity and introduced marriage for all, while taking a trans* positive approach to medicine. Besides this, the Pride has not banned such symbolism in their official codex.
The parade through the city was very calm and professionally managed. The organisers ensured safety of the participants. We believe that everyone had a great time during the march, which was one of its main purposes. The march was followed by politically charged speeches given from the stage.
US Embassy as the guest of honor (again)
The series of speeches were opened by the Ministers of Justice and Culture, Jana Dubovcová and Silvia Hroncová. We have become accustomed to very generic whispers of support from the state authorities. They keep telling us how sympathetic they are and how they would love to help, but (as the most powerful in the country) they cannot. By the way, the reason is the capitalist reality in which the bourgeoisie (business owners and employers) hold real power over the state. The aforementioned division of workers into queer and non-queer is more profitable than the unity of the working people.
The most ridiculous was the presence of a representative of the US embassy. In traditional Western imperialist style, he came to teach us about the importance of human rights and how to respect them. We know it, thank you. In return, we would like to remind him of the torture of prisoners in the illegally occupied Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Or about the animal cages into which refugee children in the south of the US are thrown after being torn away from their parents? Or the way their over-politicized Supreme Court messes with women’s rights or gay rights depending on what imperialist hue is currently sitting in the White House? Speaking of imperialism, remember how the human rights of civilians in Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and others have been respected in the endless wars of this “savior of democracy”. When one takes off the rose-coloured glasses of propaganda about life in the States, one understands that such a person has nothing to teach us about human rights. As long as we do not close our eyes to Slovakia’s problems, we do not need hypocrites like those in Washington to give us lessons on how to run our own country.
Words of encouragement
We have to keep in mind what was said at the beginning of this article. Protecting minority and workers’ rights are explicitly left-wing issues. Anyone else who presents themselves as the one who will solve them is a charlatan who either ignores the facts or has no good intentions. This is not an event that nationalist-leaning people would come to. We have even become accustomed to moralistic criticism from “communists” who deny all theory in a nostalgic fervour. Our aim is to unite all authentic leftists, and we do it even at the cost of such adversity. Our support for Pride is natural for those attending. And they are not wrong.
Let’s turn the card over. Let’s move outside of Bratislava or any regional city and take a trip to the so-called “hunger valley” in Slovakia, where people have no jobs or their work is so undignified that parents can barely support their children on their salaries. There are strongly conservative regions where clerical nationalist political tendencies have made their base. However, working people suffer there as much as those in Bratislava, Žilina or Košice. This is despite the fact that Pride is alien to them, or they are apathetic towards it.
As leftists who know the nature of the problem in capitalism, we see the potential in both the working man who tenaciously supports gay rights and the proletarian who is indifferent to the issue. For the reason that disagreement on 5% of the issues is nothing compared to our views on other Slovak problems. There are intersections at which we can unite working people and act together against capitalism – our real source of oppression. Let’s make every union protest a Pride and every Pride a protest for economic freedom! Let’s form a coalition of queer and working people, supporting each other visibly through personal participation! Only this way we will prevail!
That is why it is essential to grasp the question of the protection of gay rights and of economic liberation in a correct, scientific and class-oriented way. Only in this way we can reach the correct answers. Socialist Cuba, where a democratic referendum voted for the equality of all families, succeeded in doing this. It was done without, or in spite of, external pressure. The decision came about as a result of the quality education of the population and the absence of the divisive rhetoric of the bourgeoisie. Unlike us, the Cuban people are as free as possible not only from the oppression of exploitation but also from various forms of bigotry.
leading member of the LYFS