Thursday, 6 March 2014

Ukraine IS Going To The Dogs - Part 5

“But the majority of politicians, while quite properly refusing the Great Powers the right to make any claims on the Balkans, desire at the same time that Russia should help, arms in hand, the Balkan peoples to reorganise the Balkans as these leading political personalities would like the Balkans to be. This hope, or this demand, may become the source of great mistakes and great misfortunes. I say nothing about the fact that this approach to the question transforms the Balkan War into a conscious provocation to a measuring of strength on the all-European scale, which can mean nothing short of a European War. And, however dear to us the fate of the young Balkan peoples, however warmly we wish for them the best possible development of cultured existence on their own soil, there is one thing we must tell them plainly and honestly, as we must tell ourselves: We do not want, and we are unable to put our own cultural development at risk. Bismark once said that the whole Balkan Peninsula was not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier. We too can say today: If the leading parties of the Balkans, after all their sad experience of European intervention, can see no other way of settling the fate of the Balkans but a fresh European intervention, the results of which no one can foreordain, then their political plans are indeed not worth the bones of a single infantryman from Kursk. That may sound harsh, but it is the only way that this tragic question can be seen by any honest democratic politician who thinks not only of today but also of tomorrow.” (Trotsky - On The Balkan Wars pp 153-4)

Trotsky's comments here, should be born in mind by all Marxists in the current and similar situations. We may be powerless to intervene ourselves as an international labour movement, but that does not mean we can simply stand by, whilst today's great powers intervene, let alone should we encourage such intervention. The consequences of our inability to intervene, may be severe as the history of Libya, Syria etc. demonstrates, but the answer to that is to rectify our current weakness as soon as possible. We can at least have the benefit of knowing that by opposing such intervention, the blood spilled is not on our hands. As Trotsky put it,

“To speak of the 'liberation' of Macedonia, laid waste, ravaged, infected with disease from end to end, means either to mock reality or to mock oneself. Before our eyes a splendid peninsula, richly endowed by nature, which in the last few decades has made great cultural progress, is being hurled back with blood and iron into the dark age of famine and cruel barbarism. All the accumulations of culture are perishing, the work of fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers is being reduced to dust, cities are being laid waste, villages are going up in flames, and no end can yet be seen to this frenzy of destruction...Face to face with such reversions to barbarism it is hard to believe that 'man' is a proud sounding word. But at least the 'doctrinaires' have one consolation, and it is not small: they can with a clear conscience say, 'Neither by deed nor word nor thought are we guilty of this blood'” (p 332)

As Trotsky says, such a position may seem cruel and harsh. But, we have no power currently to bring about a more progressive solution. If we did, our duty would not be to protest, but to intervene directly ourselves to bring about that solution. The best we can do is to put ourselves in the best position to develop our forces for the future, and that, as Trotsky says involves us not tainting our hands with blood by failing to oppose the intervention of others.

If something must be done it is that we must rectify the mistakes of the past not continue them. It is that we must double our efforts to rebuild and re-arm the labour movement as a force that can intervene in its own name in such situations.

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