Friday, 8 August 2008

South Ossetia Victim of the Rise of Bourgeois Nationalism

The immediate problem facing the Russian people in South Ossetia is the murderous attacks being launched against them by the armed forces of Georgia. The real problem they face is due to the rise once again of bourgeois nationalism, which in turn has occurred due to the failure of Marxists to provide a socialist solution to the problems of people’s around the world suffering from various forms of oppression. Indeed, the Left itself has largely abandoned class politics when it comes to the National Question collapsing completely into bourgeois nationalism. On the one hand we have a large section of the Left which uncritically gives its support to bourgeois forces of varying degrees of reactionary politics, in the name of “anti-imperialism”, and on the other hand we have other sections of the “Left” like the AWL, which advocate bourgeois nationalism for Kosova, Tibet and Palestine etc. without any thought of framing this within the context of a struggle by workers, and the need to maintain and further working class unity.

The fundamental requirement for any Marxist should be to build the maximum unity of the working class. Without that unity the bourgeoisie has won. That is why the bourgeoisie attempt to foster division within the working class – the oldest form of bosses tactic is divide and rule as my old man used to tell me. They use sexism, racism, homophobia, nationalism or any other means of dividing worker from worker, and if possible tying workers to the bosses themselves. The other fundamental requirement for a Marxist is that the solutions to the problems humanity faces can only, and should only be resolved by the agency of a working class, which organises itself to resolve those problems, because if it does not the bourgeoisie will only provide solutions to those problems at the expense of workers, and in the case of the national Question or national conflicts that cost is often millions of workers lives. But, much of the Left have lost faith in the working class. That is certainly the case with all those tendencies that adopted the perspective of the “Third Camp”. As I demonstrated in my posts on Glotzer and Israel the basic line of argument can be identified. “Here is our moral imperative. The workers are too weak to achieve it, so what other force can do so.” For one section of the Third Campists such as the British SWP that means jumping into bed with clerical-fascists and other unsavoury characters, for the AWL and others it means an undisclosed Popular Front with bourgeois democracy or democratic imperialism, even to the extent of justifying wars launched by such powers, for example saying that an attack by Israel on Iran would be “good” as the AWL have done. Of course, the AWL as the consummate heirs of Pontius Pilate draw back from taking responsibility for the negative results of the actions which they hope imperialism will undertake like the hundreds of thousands killed in Iraq. They are like Proudhon whose version of the dialectic was criticised by Marx because he simply proposed actions from which he wanted to cut out the “bad” aspects leaving only the good, without realising that the whole essence of the dialectic is that the “good” and the “bad” are an inseparable part of the whole.

When the Right of Self-Determination is raised in relation to say Kosovo or Tibet or Palestine what is meant is the creation of some new class state on the bones of workers. Often such demands are fostered by one bourgeois power in order to weaken some other bourgeois power in the region. It is a good way of imperialism keeping states divided in a region over which it has some interest. It is, for imperialism part of what was once known as “The Big Game”. As Lenin pointed out Marxists have no interest in creating new class states, new opportunities for the working class to be yet further divided, and so facilitate their own exploitation by the bosses. They should he said be advocated only in the most exceptional of cases. Yet, we see the Left, not just those like the AWL that have collapsed into bourgeois Liberalism” taking the opposite position. They take the correct policy developed by the Comintern of support for the “Right” of nations to self determination, and turn this into an automatic OBLIGATION for Marxists to propose it as a solution to national oppression. But again, as Lenin pointed out, the Right of self-determination as a bourgeois right does not and cannot for a Marxist stand above our duty to maintain and develop the greatest possible workers unity. It is subordinate to our socialist program and objectives. That is why he argued that Marxists should only advocate it in the most exceptional cases. Marxists defend a nation’s right to separate, we do not recommend they do so. On the contrary Marxists seek to address the problems of national and other forms of oppression by building workers unity within the existing state to deal with that oppression, which at root is just a symptom of a class society. They seek to build joint workers struggle for consistent democracy as a solution to those problems, including the development of the maximum regional autonomy of such groups within the given state. They oppose the idea of a single language etc. IN short they seek to accommodate all of those national and cultural peculiarities of groups within the varying regions of the State as a means of maintaining the integrity of a given State as the best way of maintaining working class unity. They fight for that through means of joint working class struggle. And because the workers organisations themselves should forge the greatest possible unity and attempt to subsume those various differences within a single working class culture and identity the workers own organisations should make no concessions to such divisions, but must forge a single unified force. That is it should not as the Austro-Marxists advocated make concessions to national-cultural autonomy. That is why the Bolsheviks opposed the demands of the Bund to form a separate grouping within the Party.

And on the basis of such working class unity, on the basis of such struggle for consistent democracy by the workers organisations the basis is laid should ultimately the need for one region of the State to secede for such to be undertaken on the best terms possible for maintaining workers unity. It means the workers throughout the State saying, “We have attempted to address your needs within the current State, but we have failed. We recognise your needs can only be met for now in a separate state. We will support your separation, and mobilise to stop our State using force to prevent you.”

The Left has completely gone way off-beam in relation to the National Question which they also confuse with the Colonial Question as though they were the same thing. Instead of having at the forefront of their minds that need to build working class unity, that need to always frame solutions in terms of action to be undertaken by the working class instead they are unable to see beyond the bourgeois democratic demand. Compare the demands today for “Free Tibet”, which makes no statement whatsoever about the class content of this Free Tibet, and which in truth means a return to a medievalist Tibet – remember that Lenin said that the truth is always concrete – with Trotsky’s demand for a Free and Independent WORKERS Ukraine. See: “The Problem of the Ukraine” – Writings 1939, and Independence of the Ukraine and Sectarian Muddleheads where Trotsky argues precisely in terms of framing the solution not in terms of some abstract freedom or independence, but in terms of a workers struggle for a workers Ukraine.

Some months ago I wrote that the decision to separate Kosovo from Serbia would stir up a whole can of worms that would not presage well for the working class. In Kosovo itself the Serb Minority is demanding its own right of secession. Throughout the Balkans Serb and other Minority groups are arguing quite consistently that if Kosovo can break away then so can they. In the Caucuses that resumption of bourgeois nationalism has now set alight nationalist feeling and demands in South Osssetia soon to be followed on Abkhazia with the possibility of that spilling over into a much more serious war between Russia and Georgia, and given the numerous national divisions in that region, and down through Central Asia – a region now at the centre of imperialist, and Chinese and Russian strategic interest – the possibility of a widespread serious conflagration is higher than it has been for many years. At the same time a flare up in the Balkans now would be likely to spill over into further adventures by Turkey into Iraq, and conflict between Turkey and Greece. But instead, of presenting a workers solutions to these problems the left has stood purely on the grounds of bourgeois nationalism PROMOTING further separation and division amongst the working class. It is no wonder that when workers and other oppressed sections of the population look for leadership they then go straight to the real bourgeois nationalists rather than their pale kitsch imitations.

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