Against the Imperialist War in Chechnya
The Russian Workers must break with their Bourgeoisie and fight against the War by reviving the daily Class Struggle in the Factories, the Cities and the Country!
(«Proletarian»; Nr. 1; February 2002)
The very seriously ill and crippled Russian bear showed its claws: since August ’99, it has been leading an endless war against the Islamic fundamentalists’ guerrilla war in Daghestan, then in Chechnya.
Surrounded on all sides by the rival imperialist powers and more especially by the USA which opened wide breaches in the Russian defences with NATO’s help (who extends «protection» up to Ukrania, Azerbaidjan, Georgia and Moldavia, so up to the Southern Caucasus), Russia risks losing all control on oil-producing territories which surround the Caspian Sea. Oil is always the most important raw material for the capitalist economy, in peacetime as in wartime, and it is not surprising that, at the four cardinal points of the world, the capitalist powers launch all kinds of economic or military schemes not to mention the distant expectation of the Third World War to seize it.
The war started by Russia in Chechnya answers first of all the vital necessity for the Russian imperialist «tooth and nail», (there is no mistake about it, owing to the desperate resistance of the Chechens) its loss of domination in some economic spheres of outstanding importance would bring about a new weakening of the country and would render more powerful the opponents who could seize it. In the competition where imperialism is practised constantly, nobody concedes easily and peacefully their own defeat.
Moreover, the Russia or Yeltsin, of Putin or of anyone else will take the place of the latest, will never abandon the common aim of all the bourgeois countries: to develop where possible their national capitalism in order to ensure that production of the masses is always in consideration of profits and to defend its region by any means. It does not matter much whether the national capitalism is managed by an openly dictatorial or an openly democratic government, it does not matter much if it is a monarchical, a republican or a military government: the government method is determined not only by the history of the country but also by the requirements of development and defence in the international market of the national capitalism.
Finally, as the general economic situation is especially critical for the majority of masses, not only proletarian and peasant but also petty-bourgeois, the ruling class needed and needs to concentrate the masses’ discontent and anger towards easily identifiable aims: the war against the «Islamic terrorism» and its organisers is the result of these politics, all the more efficacious because it is accompanies massive doses of Grand-Russian chauvinism. The nationalism gets reinforced, even if the war in Chechnya, instead of lasting a few weeks, may last several years.
These are underlying economic reasons which are at the root of the war in Chechnya: «If the war in Chechnya did not exist, it would have to be invented» – affirms a Russian economist (1) – «The conflict is a good thing because it is stabilising the payments balance in the most modern industrial sectors».
Internal political reasons in relation to the proletarian and petty-bourgeois masses crushed by an economic crisis which has lasted for ten years and potentially outraged by a generalised corruption and delinquency, or in relation to the political competition of the different parties: the war allowed the president’s party (obscenely called «Unity») to win an electoral success at the Duma (the Parliament), and gently install Yeltsin’s substitute to create the conditions of his victory in the presidential elections behind the National Union flag.
And finally some imperialist political reasons: Moscow cannot give way facing the pressures and the desires of the opponents of Washington, Berlin, London, Rome or Paris, without losing any possibility of continuing to be respected by the G7 imperialists (group of the seven richest – most rapacious – countries in the world) as a power with whom it is necessary to count for the sharing and the new sharing of the areas of influence. It is for the same reasons that Moscow must intimidate the Republics which form part of the Russian Federation (just like the independent States born from the ashes of the USSR) by proof of its military force to dissuade them of all idea of escaping from the Kremlin’s domination. Moreover it is not a simple threat but already a reality: at the same time that it was launching the war in Chechnya, Moscow was sending troops in Abkhasia (secessionist province of Georgia which has been searching for Russian protection), in Cherkesia, in Ossetia and in Dagestan (2).
So concerning a bloody war, the pictures and reports which appear in the Western press are there to demonstrate it. It is not the question of the «clean» war that the propaganda described during the bombing of Kosovo (before the statements increased on the random precision bombing or the radioactive pollution of the bombarded areas); it concerns the modern bourgeois war according to its classical methods; before occupying a territory a clean sweep is made and so there is no problem in taking prisoners seeing that among so many slaughtered civilians, there will certainly be some enemy combatants!
In Russia it does not seem that there are demonstrations against the war and we do not know if in Chechnya there were any movements with a proletarian character against the fundamentalist guerrilla troops and against the Russian invasion. In a situation of exacerbated nationalism, with lack of class struggle and proletarian class organisations in Russia and in the Republics which belong to it, it is difficult to imagine that some proletarian sectors could not be born over night under the action of a well-chosen agitation watchword. It just could be born by the resumption of the immediate class struggle, i.e. emanating from the terrain of the defence of working and living conditions and of the class organisation of this defence.
The proletarian solidarity between Russian workers and Caucasian workers can base their argument on the rupture of the Russian working class with its bourgeoisie: rupture of the industrial peace, rupture with the classes’ collaboration, rupture with the ties that bind the proletarians to their capitalist exploiters, that these ties are political, institutional, associative, ideological (racist, nationalist, religious). It is only by the clearest rupture of the Russian proletarians with their bourgeoisie and its aims that the proletarians of the Caucasian countries could believe in their solidarity and follow their example, breaking off also the nationalist ties which join them to their respective bourgeoisie.
Self-determination of the peoples?
With respect to this war, some people have been puting forward the self-determination of the peoples as the revolutionary answer to the Russian military oppression in Chechnya. The question is actually more complex. The problem is not to find, here in Europe, at a desk or before a computer, the right watchword that the Russian and the Chechen proletarians must find on their own. On the contrary, it is a question of linking up to an historic analysis and to the fundamental positions of Marxism which never can confine themselves to a simple claim, especially immediate.
Eighty years after the Bolshevik revolution, 70 years after the capitalist development of the ex-USSR’s Republics, it is beyond doubt that the realisation of the democratic bourgeois revolution is no longer the order of the day in Chechnya, in Georgia, in Azerbaidjan or anywhere else. This revolution, owing to the victory of the proletarian revolution in 1917 which assumed the economic tasks (development, controlled during the first years, of the capitalist economy in industry and in agriculture) and the political tasks (self-determination, republic, etc…) was established. Unfortunately for the European working class like the Russian and the Caucasian working classes, etc…, it was not followed by the Communist Revolution in Europe; and, isolated, the proletarian forces which had conquered power in Russia, succumbed and allowed a new Russian, Caucasian, etc… bourgeoisie to regain the control of the society. And in this way, instead of going toward the voluntary and free fusion of nations as the programme of the proletarian dictatorship dictates it, the working class fell again under the thumb of bourgeois nationalism of the dominant nations and the dominated nations.
The main question is not therefore the self-determination of Chechnya, but the existence or not of revolutionary forces in Russia and in Chechnya on Marxist positions, which defend and represent the proletarian internationalism; it is from this point of view that Lenin led his long battle, including among the revolutionaries, on the question of self-determination (3).
The aim of communists is to surmount the obstacle that bourgeois nationalism constitutes to the union of the workers of different nations. Struggling against all forms of oppression, the communists struggle also against the oppression of a people by another people.
But the struggle against the national oppression can be a bourgeois struggle or a proletarian struggle. It is a bourgeois struggle when it subdues the working class to its own bourgeoisie’s nationalism, when it combats all the nationalisms. Lenin was asserting that the communists’ policy in the national question includes two ways to apply to the involved workers: one towards the dominant nation’s workers and the other towards the dominated nation’s workers, with both joining in proletarian internationalism. The proletarian answer is not therefore one only and it is limited still less to a democratic bourgeois claim.
With regard to the concrete example of Poland, then oppressed by Russia and Germany, Lenin explains: «And what follows, obviously, is that internationalist propaganda cannot be the same for the Russians and the Poles if it is to educate both for «united action». The Great-Russian (and German) worker is duty bound unconditionally to insist on Poland’s freedom to secede: otherwise he will, in fact, now, be the lackey of Nicholas II or Hindenburg. The Polish worker could insist on secession only conditionally, because to speculate (…) on the victory of one or the other imperialist bourgeoisie is tantamount to becoming its lackey.» (4). It means that the condition is not to follow any imperialism, but to wage an anti-capitalist struggle against its own national bourgeoisie, however oppressed by another dominant bourgeoisie.
Lenin affirms besides that the point is to recognize the right to the separation and not to advocate the separation in itself: «If we claim the freedom of separation for the Mongols, the Persian, the Egyptians and for all the oppressed nations and wronged in their rights without exception, it is because we are for the bringing together and fusion, by free will, and not under pressure. Only for that!» (5)
It is the unity and fusion of the workers of all nationalities and the victory of the proletarian revolution which will lead the nations to their voluntary unity and fusion. On the way of unity between the workers of the world stand the barriers raised by nationalism and economic competition provoked by the bourgeois system which divides the workers against themselves. Therefore the task of the communists is to combat these barriers, to educate the workers to the class solidarity, to the internationalism, and first of all the workers of the most powerful countries which dominate the world.
If they don’t want to be the lackeys of the great Russian capitalists in their war of rape, the Russian workers have must remember and satnd by their tremendous classist tradition: they must break with their bourgeoisie and with Russian nationalism, they must break with the interclassist collaborationism and the industrial peace. It is during the bourgeois peace that the dominant class prepares its wars; in both situations the stakes in the game are exclusively bourgeois. The Russian workers have behind them a history of struggles and revolutions that is second to none. Lenin and the Bolsheviks were turning towards the sources of Marxism in Europe, as the imperialist West’s workers turned towards the victorious proletarian revolution in Russia. But the deadly virus of democracy and nationalism overthrew the Western working class and consequently it overthrew too the valorous Russian working class.
The struggle against bourgeois democracy - the most pernicious form of bourgeois domination because it is based on class collaboration - against nationalism - finished expression of this class collaboration - is a common struggle of the workers of all countries. But who knows if one more time the spark of the world-wide revolution will not arise in the East, if the proletariat of Russia, the weak link in the world-wide imperialist front, could not set the tone of the general renewal of the revolutionary class struggle?
«Le Prolétaire» n° 452 January-February-March 2000
(1) «L’Unità», 13/12/99.
(2) «Libération», cited by «L’Internationale» no. 314 17-27/12/99.
(3) See for instance «The question of the self-determination in the Balkans», in «Le Prolétaire» no. 449.
(4) Lenin: «On a caricature of the Marxism and with regard to imperialist economism» (Aug.-Oct.. 1918) Works, Vol.
International Communist Party