Friday, 8 August 2008

Georgia and Russia Out of Ossetia

When I wrote my blog this morning the TV screens were full of pictures of Georgian armour and artillery engaged in murderous attacks on Ossetian towns, villages and citizens. It was obvious that under those conditions Russia would come to the rescue of the Russians of South Ossetia. They have now done so, and given that Georgian armour has now occupied the Ossetian Capital a military conflict between Georgia and Russia looks inevitable as Russian tanks make their way to the same destination.

When the USSR broke up a procedure was put in place for dealing with such situations. Every region was to have a referendum to decide whether it wanted to remain with Russia or to separate. That should have happened with South Ossetia and with Abkhazia. But Georgia having gained its own independence failed to allow the Ossetians and Abkhazians their referendum, then claiming that the desire of the Ossetians and Abkhazians for separation constituted just a separatist movement!

The difference in the attitude of western imperialism to Ossetia and Abkhazia compared to their attitude to Kosovo is stark. Both Ossetia and Abkhazia have at least as good a claim to the right of self-determination, and thereby to attach themselves to Russia rather than Georgia as did Kosovo to separate from Serbia. Yet whilst the imperialists have gone over board to separate Kosovo from Serbia, and have stationed imperialist troops there, they refuse to recognise the right of self-determination for the Ossetians and Abkhazians.

Given the horrendous shelling and attacks that the Georgian forces unleashed overnight against Ossetia the claims now of the Georgians that they are facing nothing less than an invasion from Russia similar to Nazi Germany’s attack on Czechoslovakia is ridiculous. The Georgian attack was timed deliberately. Not only did it coincide with the opening of the Olympics, but it also more importantly coincided with joint military manoeuvres taking place inside the country with US forces. Georgia has been applying to join NATO, and insisting that the US give it greater diplomatic and military support. In effect Georgia is saying to the US put your money where your mouth is come to the aid of your ally.

It is also undoubtedly the case that a resurgent Russia sees the opportunity in the Georgian attack to further its own aims by responding strongly to that attack. It is almost inevitable that the same nationalist sentiment will now arise in Abkhazia and other regions of the former USSR, and that Serb minorities in Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo etc. will also demand independence turning the entire region into a powder keg. Those that have fostered bourgeois nationalist sentiment including those on the Left bear ultimate responsibility for the current situation.

Referring to such a situation Lenin made the position of Marxists clear. He gave the example of a small state seeking to overthrow a Monarchy and install a democratic Republic. However, he said if such a struggle risked bringing into conflict two large neighbouring states, Marxists could not support the legitimate democratic demands of the small state at the cost of the consequences of the working class in the two larger states who would be forced into a war. The position for Marxists flows clearly from this. We are in favour of the greatest possible unity of the working class. All bourgeois democratic demands including the right of self-determination are subordinate to that. We only advocate that right where its advance can be fought for by a unified working class movement across national divides. In almost every instance then Marxists advocate not self-determination and the division of the working class, but a unified workers struggle for consistent democracy within the given state. That should have been Marxists attitude to Kosovo, it should be the position in Tibet, it should be the position in Palestine, and it should be the position now in Ossetia and Abkhazia.

But, such a solution cannot be achieved under conditions now threatening Ossetia. The Labour movement should demand the withdrawal of both Russian and Georgian troops from South Ossetia. We should encourage the workers of Georgia, Ossetia and Russia to organise a struggle for basic democratic rights not just in Ossetia, but in Georgia and Russia too, including the right for considerable regional autonomy and self-government. The democratic rights of Ossetians cannot, however, override the concern for the interests of the working class internationally, in a situation that could escalate out of control up to and including the possibility of global war if the US does come to the assistance of Georgia as part of its overall strategic plan for the region, which has been unfolding gradually in the Balkans, in Iraq, and in Central Asia. Those like the AWL that believed that imperialism actions in Iraq, and now in Iran could be taken each on their own and analysed not in Marxist class terms, but in their new found love of bourgeois democratic theory, and bourgeois strategic science – as Dave Broder has said before now, much of the AWL’s analysis looks like nothing more than big power politics that treats the players as nothing more than pieces on a chess board – have been shown for what they are.

The Labour movement has to mobilise now against the overall imperialist ambitions of the US and its allies by demanding a withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, no to an attack on Iran by the US or its proxy Israel, remove the US warships from the Gulf. The world has all the hallmarks of the situation that developed in the run up to World War I, but the politics of the left are if anything worse than those of the Second International at the time.


Laurene said...

Your article is very interesting. I´ll save it on my blog. I also guess that Putin programmed the attack today to the same time of the olimpic plays. What do you think about it?
Bye, best wishes
Lúcio Jr

Boffy said...

Actually, no. I think Georgia planned its invasin of ossetia to coincide, hoping that it would establish its control before ussia could respond, and also with US troops engaged in joint operations in Georgia ithoped to use it to put the US on the spot demand it support georgia as an ally against Russia - which it now demanding more vociferously.

I think Russia was simply forced to respond quickly to that. Although Russia is attacking Georgian military targets outside Ossetia, hich it has to do to stop Georgia reinforcing its positions inside Ossetia - there does not seem any attempt to annex Georgia or even overthrow the Government. Russia has good reason for both Ossetia and Abkhazia remaining as autonomous thorns in the side of Georgia rather than their separation.

But, whatever the rights or wrong or who shot first, for Marxists these questios are not decisive. Our concerns are only with the interests of the international working class, and immediately the workers of Ossetia, Abkhazia, Georgia and Russia. Those interests are not served by War.

See my latest blog: Whoop Ass and Class Politics