For a Socialist Federation of Caucasian peoples!Down with capitalist restoration and bourgeois Bonapartism- for a new Union of Soviet Socialist Republics!
1. The five days war in Caucasus between the Georgian pro-imperialist Saakashvili regime and Russia has not solely a major regional and local importance but world significance.
There are obviously local and regional reasons that cannot be ignored: Georgia’s drive for a forced annexation of Abhazia and South Ossetia, de facto and willingly independent from 1992; the many centuries on-going conflict between Georgian nationalism and Great Russian chauvinism. But all these national problems have to be put in their actual historical context. Today’s international dimension overshadows and determines the other factors. The recent war in Caucasus is the latest -but not last- violent convulsion following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, one more link in the bloody series of imperialist wars in the post Cold War world, from Yugoslavia to Afghanistan and Iraq. The re-integration of the former Soviet space into world capitalism proved to be, far from a linear, peaceful process, the opening of an entire period of zigzag developments, full of sudden crises and imperialist wars, led mainly by US imperialism, to re-establish world hegemony under new historic terms.
After months of building up of tensions, the war in Caucasus started on August 7, with the invasion of South Ossetia by the Georgian troops, the barbaric destruction of its capital Tshkinvali, and mass killing of the civilian population who had to run away or hide in underground refuges; in a few hours, in the morning of August the 8th, the situation changed dramatically with the counter-offensive of the Russian armed forces that destroyed completely the Georgian army, navy and air-force, which were heavily armed and systematically trained by US imperialism and Israel, and then invaded Georgia, divided it into three parts, advanced 40 miles near the capital Tbilisi, surrounded it and cut it from the Black Sea. Saakashvili’s blitzkrieg did not succeed, as he hoped, to rapidly establish a fait accompli by annexing South Ossetia and then Abhazia, expecting that the immediate intervention of the “international community’ i.e. of US and EU imperialism could consolidate these gains; on the contrary, the adventurism of this Georgian-American lawyer acting both as a President of Georgia and as an agent provocateur of imperialism backfired and led to its crushing defeat as well as to a serious setback of his masters in Washington.
The EU imperialists, because of their dependence on Russian oil and natural gas, had to take a certain distance from the United States, tried, from a position of visible weakness and with a lot of hollow French rhetoric of the Sarkozy-Kouchner vulgar type, to “mediate” the crisis and advance their own interests in this strategic area.
The cease fire, declared before Sarkozy arrived in Moscow but later hurriedly agreed by the French and Russian Presidents Sarkozy and Medvedev, was presented by Condoleezza Rice in person to the Georgian puppet who could not but sign it. But neither the cease fire nor the anti-Russian hysteria that followed in the NATO ministerial meeting of August 19 and among the panicked pro-imperialist ruling elites in Eastern Europe can cancel the fact that their interests received a big blow and the configuration of forces has changed in the Eurasian region, and, thus, internationally.
Even the US intelligence, State and private agencies recognize the change post festum. Stratfor’s George Friedman writes on August 12, 2008: “The Russian invasion of Georgia has not changed the balance of power in Eurasia. It simply announced that the balance of power had already shifted. The United States has been absorbed in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as potential conflict with Iran and a destabilizing situation in Pakistan. It has no strategic ground forces in reserve and is in no position to intervene on the Russian periphery” (The Russian Georgian War and the Balance of Power, 12/8/08, www. stratfor .com).
It is openly acknowledged by the defenders of US and world imperialism themselves that a serious setback took place for them. A new stage of international conflicts and explosions has been opened making evebn more chaotic the post Cold War New World Disorder.
2. Although the result of the war in Caucasus came as a surprise to US and world imperialism, the path to the war was opened and carefully prepared, in the previous years and months, with a series of imperialist actions, more and more aggressive, openly targeting the encirclement and suffocation of post-Soviet Russia.
Even in the 90s, when the US was supposedly on good terms with the Yeltsin administration and Strobe Talbott’s friendship policy was running high, the US strove to encircle Russia through a web of alliances in what is known as Russia’s “near abroad”. The establishment of the “Partnership for Peace” alliance, the waiting room for NATO, and the subsequent expansion of NATO to former Soviet republics and Eastern European countries up to the borders of Russia were only the most salient dimension.
GUUAM was the name given to the loose web of alliances that the US entertained with Russia’s southern and eastern neighbours, Georgia, the Ukraine, Uzbekistan (no longer part of the web), Azerbaijan and Moldova. The Afghanistan war, notwithstanding the rhetoric of the “war on terror”, was devised to penetrate former Soviet Central Asia, where thanks to the war the US established, for the first time in modern history for a Western power, military bases. Putin’s acquiesence to Bush’s post–9/11 policies with the aim of covering up his own dirty war in Chechnya was as stupid as Stalin’s reliance on the Molotof-Ribbentrop pact in order to protect the Soviet Union from Nazi aggression.
The encirclement of Russia by the establishment of a series of countries-members of NATO and of the EU in Eastern Europe and the Baltic has been combined by the manipulation of mass discontent leading mobilizations with a clear pro-Western imperialist and anti-Russian orientation, misnamed as “color revolutions”. The Saakashvili regime itself was established by the so-called pseudo “revolution of the Roses” against the Shevardnadze government, which was less pro-West. The same counterrevolutionary forces of imperialism, -NGOs like Otpor, CIA operators like the Greek-American Alex Randos (adviser to George Papandreou, when the current leader of PASOK in Greece was Foreign Minister during the Kosovo War, then engineer of the “regime change” in Belgrade and adviser to Kostunica, and now, the last two years, leading adviser to…Saakashvili), were involved in Serbia, Georgia, and last but not least in the misnamed “Orange (counter) revolution” in Ukraine.
Saakashvili, the darling of the West, has also made Georgia into a Ghurka of US imperialism. After the withdrawal of troops from Iraq by some countries, Georgia was, until the Russian-Georgian war, the third country, after the US and the UK, in terms of troops on the ground A country with a population of less than 5 million, a country whose people are suffering from unemployment and poverty maintained two thousand troops in Iraq! As Saakashvili launched the invasion into South Ossetia, US air carriers managed to transfer back to Tbilisi the Georgian troops to participate into the aggression. It is not the defeat at Russian hands that should shame the Georgian people, but the fact that the country has acted as the hitman of US imperialism in Iraq and in Caucasus! The anti-popular character of this regime was clearly seen last year, when Saakashvili massacred the opposition in Georgia itself, in November 2007, months before massacring indiscriminately the innocent civilians in Tshkinvali.
The war in Caucasus that caused enormous sufferings to thousands of innocent people both in Ossetia and in Georgia, was a catastrophe announced in advance.
In 2008 there was an escalation of US actions menacing openly Russia: the unilateral declaration of “independence” of Kosovo and its transformation into a US protectorate militarily controlled by EU/NATO forces, not only did not take into consideration but it has dismissed with contempt Russia ’s insistence to keep intact the national borders established after World War II; then came the installation of the so-called “anti-missile system” in the Czech Republic extended now, in Poland; the US built up the pressure on NATO, against the reservations expressed by Germany and France and the uncompromising opposition of Russia, to accept as members Ukraine and Georgia; at the same time, with 130 military US advisers in Georgia, along with civilian advisers, hordes of contractors, military training facilities and bases etc. there is no doubt that this “independent” country, even before becoming officially a NATO member, worked as a protectorate and an advanced military base/CIA station of US imperialism in a most strategic area where the oil pipelines from Caucasus and Central Asia pass, very close to the heart of the Russian mainland.
3. The so-called “color” counter-revolutionary mobilizations in the former Soviet Republics came after it became clear that the US are in real trouble in Iraq. Now, the Saakashvili provocation comes when US policy in the Middle East and Central Asia failed to overcome its impasse. These regions are the soft underbelly of the former Soviet Union and at the borders of China, so they are interconnected in the over all strategic calculations of imperialism.
US ambitions regarding the oil and natural gas of the Caucasus and Central Asia in addition to that of the Middle East is the economic basis of this tug-of-war between the US and Russia. The US desires to deprive Russia of the benefits of these regional riches, a policy symbolised by the Baku- Tbilisi- Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline. The political basis of the struggle is the US effort to avoid the rise of rival powers in Asia, in particular Russia and China. The rush for oil and natural gas is itself a means for controlling the rise of these giants as a threat to US domination over Asia and, in the long run, the world.
As the world capitalist crisis is heading towards its climax, the strategic value of oil and natural gas producing areas (Middle East, Caucasus, Venezuela, Bolivia etc.) increases enormously- including the importance of pipelines such as BTC.
A “restructuring” of the US war strategy and its priorities is urgently needed after the fiasco of the neoconservative lunacy, a fact well realized by important circles of the American ruling class and reflected even in this year’s campaign for the US presidential elections. Saakashvili’s humiliating defeat revealed furthermore the flaws in current US strategy and the damages caused by a blind “fuite en avant”. Complacent due to the apparent inactivity of Russia after the declaration of Kosovo’s “independence”, they miscalculated, among other things, Russia’s reaction in Caucasus and its rebuilt military capability. Russia was considered to remain in shambles as in the ’90s.
Despite the enormous resources, the massive intelligence and high technology, a basic principle of military art –“Know your enemy!”-was ignored by the strategists of world imperialism leading them to the present setback. Their current anti-Russian hysteria and neo-Cold War rhetoric demonstrate only their disarray.
4. What is the historical and class nature of the war in Caucasus? This is the only way that the question is posed, first of all, by Marxism. Confusion in relation to that question dominates not solely the bourgeois analysts trapped in their ahistorical view but a great part of the international Left as well, including this part which still calls itself “Trotskyist”( before collapsing, some of them, into a vague ‘anti-capitalist’ reformist swamp).
Two viewpoints are predominant. First, an approach based solely, as previously in the case of the war on Yugoslavia, on the right of national self-determination raised into a metaphysical principle; the second view stresses, in one way or another, the abstract identity of the forces and regimes clashing over Caucasus.
A. The peoples of Abhazia and Ossetia have indeed legitimate national rights. Abhazia had a historical existence separate from that of Georgia for a long time, apart from a period in the Middle Ages (during the times of the “Golden Kingdom of Georgia”) and the years 1936-1992, when Lavrenti Beria exterminated the Abhazian national leaders and forcibly united this small country with Georgia. Ossetia was arbitrarily divided by Stalin into two parts, Northern and Southern, integrating the first into the Russian Federation and giving the second as “a gift” to his fatherland Georgia. The national problem of Georgia itself, its long oppression by Great Russian chauvinism under the Czars, was not solved but exacerbated by Stalin and Stalinism; its is not accidental that one of the major and last battles of Lenin before his death against the rising Soviet bureaucracy and Stalin himself was on the Georgian question. These are not solely issues for historians but unresolved historical contradictions to be resolved by the socialist revolution. When Stalinism collapsed in 1989-91, these unresolved problems re-emerged but in a new historical context and after a long experience living in Soviet times within a vast space where capital had been expropriated. The conditions under which the Soviet Union disintegrated fueled centrifugal forces and, at the same time, prevented a really independent national development of the former Soviet Republics; most of them were transformed into states and statelets ruled by a Mafia and looking for protection to a stronger neighbor or directly to imperialism.
Only a socialist revolution without bureaucratic distortions can open a way out to the Caucasian peoples and their national rights, through a Socialist Federation of the Peoples of Caucasus.
B. To see the Russian-Georgian war over South Ossetia as one between a historically dominant big nation (the Russians) and a historically oppressed small nation (Georgia) is to misconceive its real import. It is equally wrong to see only an abstract identity between the contending parts over Caucasus taking a stand of equal distance reveals only political myopia and a pacifist reformist outlook.
A classical example of the pacifist attitude is the statement issued on August 12, 2008 by the French organization Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire – LCR (which prepares its own liquidation as a Trotskyist organization into a ‘larger, New Anti-capitalist Party’). The statement has the pacifist title “Caucasus: The battles should stop immediately!”; it stresses the similarities between the Russian and the Georgian regimes (“both are ultranationalists, authoritarian and militarists”); it mentions the will of Georgia to defend its territorial integrity, and Russia’s will “to demonstrate to the US and the EU its coming back as an imperialist force of the first order”; it speaks vaguely, in an obvious understatement to say the least, about the “responsibilities of the Westerners” and their interests in this oil-rich strategic region; and it ends by a call equally pacifist as the headline of the Statement “ to build a movement of international solidarity among the peoples”.
But Western imperialism plays a role of a protagonist in the war over Caucasus and not of a bystander who tries only to take some advantage of the conflict of two semi-Asiatic “ultranationalist, authoritarian, militarist regimes” to advance their own interests. The internationalist duty of revolutionaries, particularly in Western imperialist countries such as France, is to speak loud and clear against the class “enemy in our own country” and call the workers for a fight to overthrow him.
The collapse of Stalinism and the open turn to capitalist restoration has opened the gates of the former Soviet space to the “Golden Horde” of international capital. Already in 1929, speaking about the possibility of a capitalist restoration in Russia following a counter-revolutionary overthrow of the October Revolution, Leon Trotsky had accurately predicted that a restored Russian capitalism would have a semi-colonial character under a Bonapartist political regime: “But what would Russian capitalism look like in its second edition? During the last fifteen years the map of the world has changed profoundly. The strong have grown immeasurably stronger, the weak incomparably weaker. The struggle for world domination has assumed titanic proportions. The phases of this struggle are played out upon the bones of the weak and backward nations. A capitalist Russia could not now occupy even the third –rate position to which czarist Russia was predestined by the course of the world war. Russian capitalism today would be dependent, semi-colonial capitalism without any prospects. Russia Number 2 would occupy a position somewhere between Russia Number 1 and India”.”(“Is Parliamentary Democracy Likely to Replace The Soviets?” February 25, 1929, Writings of Leon Trotsky 19129, Pathfinder 1975 p.55).
It is historically false to call Russia a “new imperialism” in conflict now in Caucasus with other old imperialisms. Imperialism is not just a militarist expansionist policy, in the vulgar bourgeois acceptance of the term, but a historical epoch of capitalist development, the highest and last stage of capitalism, as Lenin had said. Did the ruling elite in Russia manage in the last 17 years not only to overcome the problems of transition to capitalism but to advance this capitalism to its highest stage against all the dominant tendencies of our epoch of capitalist decline and imperialist decay?
Developments after 1991 gave justification to Trotsky’s prediction: not only the old USSR disintegrated but Russia itself, its heartland, started rapidly to disintegrate and fall as a trophy to competing Western capitalist predators. Transition back to capitalism came in a belated phase of imperialist decline and crisis of world capitalism. It was that affected by all the illness of the decaying world social system into which the restorationist forces wanted to integrate Russia. The restoration process, started with the IMF “shock therapy” and the biggest theft of public property in History, produced a Mafia- State bureaucracy corruption complex of nouveaux riches, as well as enormous disasters in production and the living standards of the masses. But the contradictions of a transition in crisis were not resolved and the failure of the first stage of restoration was ignited by the explosion of a world capitalist crisis. The international financial maelstrom of 1997, centered in the Asia-Pacific region, precipitated the default of Russia in August 1998 and terminated the Yeltsin comprador regime. Putin’s Bonapartism emerged to stop the falling apart of the country by re-nationalizing key sectors of the economy, attacking by the power of the “siloviki” (the FSB-former KGB) the power of the oligarchs, who were transforming the country into a semi-colony producing raw materials for the West, and using the surplus from the enormous increase of income that the rise of the price of oil and natural gas in the period 2000-2008 had provided to strengthen the State. The growth of the State came as a product of, as well as a resistance to, the disintegrating effects of the unresolved internal contradictions and of the growing pressures of a world capitalist environment facing the first signs of exhaustion of finance globalization. Putin has called the dissolution of the Soviet Union ‘a geopolitical disaster’ but at the same time, he stressed that he opposes a return to the Soviet State. The new “patriotic” Russian Bonapartism tries to secure through State control the transition to capitalism, overcoming the previous failure of the liberals. That creates a new irresolvable contradiction: from the one side, the post Soviet Russian State, that Putin’s Bonapartism wants to strengthen against disintegration, promotes and defends capitalist relations of production- from this standpoint, the former workers’ State had become a bourgeois State but without a stable capitalist social base; from the other side, these same capitalist tendencies in their growth inescapably strengthen the disintegration forces. In a certain point of historical development, particularly if a world depression leads to a fall of the oil prices and a depletion of the State resources mobilized for its survival and defense, this Bonapartism, as an obstacle to historical progress, will fall either under the pressures of world imperialism or by a second October socialist revolution.
In Caucasus a war by proxy is waged by imperialism against Putin’s Bonapartist Russia. As in the dawn of capitalism, a war of Reconquista in the Iberian Peninsula prepared the ground for the emergence of a new world social system, now in the epoch of historical decline of this outmoded system, world capitalism, a new cycle of wars of Reconquista of the vast space where capital had been expropriated after 1917 has been opened.
The tactical victory of the Russian Army has undoubtedly strengthened the Bonapartist -restorationist regime in Moscow. A political regime is interconnected with the underlying economic process that it promotes and defends; but the political cannot be reduced to the economic (and vice versa, the economic cannot be substituted by the political): the strengthening of a political restorationist regime does not mean automatically the resolution of the contradictions of the economic process of capitalist restoration that it advances. In some cases, such as probably of Putin’s, the contradiction between an apparently strong political regime and its socially unstable economic base ridden by contradictions could become sharper, and a source of unexpected explosions.
Putin’s Bonapartism, dedicated as it is to advance the capitalist transformation of Russia, is not an instrument of struggle against imperialism, but its accomplice. The proposal by Moscow for a joint NATO/ Russian meeting to resolve the crisis in Caucasus and its continuing help given to US/NATO imperialism in Afghanistan show the role of the “patriots” in Kremlin… Only a Second October socialist Revolution led by the working class and its Party, on a genuine Marxist revolutionary program and an internationalist perspective can save Russia from dismemberment and colonization by imperialism, defeating all aggressions, provocations, encirclement etc. and overthrowing, as well all the clans of “siloviki”, corrupt “Noviy Russki” nouveaux riches, oligarchs, compradors of world capital and restorationist of all kinds, the real Fifth Column of Yankee imperialism and NATO.
5. The Balkan Socialist Center “Christian Rakovsky” calls to the working and oppressed masses in the Balkans, in the Caucasus, in Russia, in Europe, in the entire region and internationally to mobilize against imperialism’s wars and create conditions to overthrow the regimes and the system that generates wars, social disaster and destitution of the peoples.
US/ EU/ NATO imperialism out from [out of] Caucasus, the Middle East and Afghanistan!
For a Socialist Federation of Caucasian peoples!
Down with capitalist restoration and bourgeois Bonapartism- for a new socialist revolution to rebuild a new Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on new socialist, anti-bureaucratic, and internationalist bases!
The Balkan Socialist Center “Christian Rakovsky”
August 24, 2008