Saturday, 9 August 2008

Whoop Ass and Class Politics

It would be very easy to look at the current events in South Ossetia like an episode of the “A” Team. A couple of years ago I was walking home from the gym when three youths in their early twenties decided to throw a conker case at me after I’d gone past. I confronted them offering to give them the item back personally. After first thinking that because their was three of them they were on to a winner they soon backed down when they began to realise that numbers are not necessarily everything when you are up against an experienced martial artist. What amused me, and I see it frequently is that there seems to be an impression that has gained ground that people can engage in various forms of anti-social behaviour without any kind of consequences, and that when those consequences materialise those that provoked them invariably portray themselves as the injured party. As the three youths above slunk off to their mommies they complained that I should not have forced them to look like wimps, because a normal person would have let them get away with their aggression!

It would be tempting to view the situation in South Ossetia and Georgia like that now. Georgia launched a murderous attack on the inhabitants of South Ossetia, and having as a result opened up a whole can of whoop-ass now complains that the Russians have responded, and calls on its Mommy in the US to come to its assistance – which in fact was probably Georgia’s aim in the first place. At least when Serbia attacked Kosovo provoking a similar response from the US and its allies as Russia has now unleashed, it was in response to a sustained campaign of ethnic cleansing and terrorist attacks by the KLA against the Serb Minority in Kosovo, the South Ossetians were responsible for no such campaign against Georgians.

But wars are not at all the same as personal conflicts or episodes of the ‘A’ Team. As Lenin pointed out the first question a Marxist asks in a war situation is – “What class is waging this war, and for what purpose”. Marxists are not concerned by what type of Government is in power in such war, but by which CLASS is in power. As Lenin and Trotsky pointed out fascism and bourgeois democracy are merely masks, which hide the nature of the bourgeois class dictatorship. In the imperialist epoch they are both reactionary, and the bourgeoisie will sweep away the mask of democracy in favour of fascism when it suits it. Consequently, Marxists do not support wars fought by one bourgeois state against another whatever the rights and wrongs of the dispute between them. In such conflicts Marxists are not concerned with which set of bandits had “good reason” to launch such a war, but are concerned only with the fate of the working classes of both states, whose fight this is not. Similarly, in a fight between an imperialist state seeking to dominate a colonial or semi-colonial country Marxists will support the latter even if it has a fascist government whereas the former wears the mask of bourgeois democracy.

The position in South Ossetia ow should be clear. No support for either Georgia or Russia. Both should remove their troops from South Ossetia. The Ossetians have the right of self-determination, to join with Russia if they choose – actually Russia supports autonomy for Ossetia, but does not support secession, though probably for its own wider reasons – but Marxists should advise against such an option in favour rather of developing a joint working class struggle with the Russian and Georgian workers for basic democratic rights, including national rights for all minorities, as part of a socialist programme for the establishment of a Workers Ossetia as part of a Workers Federation of Russia and the Caucuses. In the West the labour movement should insist that US imperialism and its allies, whose encouragement of bourgeois nationalism has helped provoke such situations, keep their noses out.

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