Earlier this month, on 3rd April, Brunei’s dictatorship provoked outrage in the media when it introduced an anti-LGBT law stating that gay men can now be executed by stoning. This law condemns sections of the LGBT community to be tortured to death.
But pro-LGBT media editorials in the international press conceal an important truth. Although the capitalist class - in Britain and elsewhere - have long paid lip service to LGBT rights issues, the reality is that the British establishment is absolutely complicit in this move, having supported the dictatorship in Brunei and its abuses for decades.
In 2018, Theresa May said that she ‘“deeply regrets” Britain’s historical anti-gay laws that were implemented across the Commonwealth. In 2017, even the Queen supposedly vowed to oppose anti-LGBT discrimination. But these crocodile tears should not fool anyone, since the facts show a very different story.
Brunei is a Commonwealth country which has been propped up militarily by the British state for decades. In 1962, a left-wing political party, the PRB (Brunei People’s Party) won elections in Brunei. The PRB sought to reduce the power of the monarchy and sought full independence from Britain. In the August 1962 elections, the party won all 13 of the elected seats in parliament. The Sultan, however, postponed the opening of parliament so that they could not take their seats.
After the Sultan bureaucratically postponed the opening of parliament, a rebellion – focused on the lack of democracy and national independence from Malaysia – broke out in December of 1962. Yet with help from the British military, Brunei’s police suppressed the rebellion and banned the party.
Ever since then, there have been no elections in Brunei. The country has effectively remained under martial law for the last 66 years.
This attack on the safety of LGBT people is not the first crime of Brunei’s absolute dictatorship and it will not be the last. Supported by imperialism, Brunei’s dictatorship, currently headed by the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah (who is also the country’s Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Defense Minister) has trampled on every possible democratic right since 1962.
In 2013, the Sultan, leaning on Islamic nationalism, already brought in a harsh new penal code, with punishments including flogging, stoning and amputation. This was brought in to deal with increasing social crises in the country - especially an increase in petty theft, drug trafficking and prostitution.
This was only a reflection of the increasing poverty and desperation the masses were finding themselves in. But instead of dealing with poverty, or lifting martial law to allow free elections, Brunei’s dictator - who lives in a 1,800 room palace - instead chose to implement an even crueler penal code.
Despite some international criticism, the severe suppression and unfair legal system within Brunei meant that these laws could not be protested.
The basic right to strike and protest is curtailed in Brunei. Criticising the abuses of the dictatorship could result in arrest and harsh punishment. This is a case in point of the hypocritical moralising of the West. Whilst actively preaching about the wonders of democracy, which often serves as a pretext to imperialist plunder, they have played an active role in the suppression we find today in Brunei.
Brunei’s Sultan is an honorary air-chief marshal of the RAF and an honorary admiral in the Royal Navy. Since Brunei’s independence from the British Empire in 1984, British Forces Brunei, the British army garrison, has remained there at request of the Sultan, subject to a renewable agreement every five years. They are available to aid the Sultan under the continuing, and totally unjustifiable martial law. It has been over five years since 2013 and yet those forces remain stationed in Brunei.
What this shows is that imperialism and capitalism has no real interest in defending any human rights, especially LGBT rights. While political leaders such as Theresa May and Justin Trudeau may claim to care about LGBT rights at home, internationally they shore up dictatorships which repress democracy and treat women and minorities brutally.
Brunei is one example - but there are many others. Saudi Arabia, for example, is a close ally of the British government and buys arms from multiple so-called Western democracies. It is plain as day that Saudi Arabia is a brutal dictatorship where ‘crimes’ such as homosexuality and cross-dressing can be punished by death, torture or life-imprisonment.
As long as we live under a capitalist system, the profits of private companies will always come first. Despite the supposed ‘progress’ that has been made on LGBT rights in Britain, this is merely window dressing.
In order to maintain regimes which are open to imperialist investment, the British state is willing to do away with democracy, and support the murder and torture of minorities. This is the price that must be paid for profit.
At the same time as Britain was introducing anti-LGBT laws across the world, from Uganda to Singapore, communists were already fighting back against this rotten oppression. In the late 19th century, the SPD in Germany supported the first ever petition to legalise homosexuality in Germany. And, in 1917, after the Bolshevik revolution, the USSR became one of the first countries to actually legalise homosexuality.
It has taken Western capitalist countries nearly a century to come anywhere close to what socialism achieved in only a few years.
Basing ourselves on the shoulders of this inspiring tradition, Labour should stand for the rights of the many - not just workers in Britain, but of the whole world - and not for the profits of a few.
Preliminary measures of any socialist Labour government should be to break off relationships with these dictatorships: no arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and no more propping up of the Sultanate in Brunei.
But any attempt by a Labour government to untangle themselves from imperialism will be met with aggression and sabotage from big business and the pillars of the capitalist state, who will see it as an attack on their system of power, privileges, and profits.
Big business fears a socialist Labour government - and they are right to do so. The imperialists and all those who profit from human misery, murder and torture must be shown the door. An injury to one is an injury to all.