Russian internationalists against the war in Chechnya
In WR 231 and IR 100 we published a sticker distributed in Moscow by a group of internationalists opposing the war in Chechnya. In this issue we are publishing an article written by other proletarian elements elsewhere in Russia. Although we don’t agree with all its formulations, we warmly welcome this text as further proof that, despite the Russian bourgeoisie’s efforts to flatten all criticism of its bloody imperialist adventure in the Caucasus under a steamroller of nationalist hysteria, the voices of working class internationalism continue to make themselves heard. The comrades in Russia have asked us to ‘re-translate’ their own hand-written English translation and we apologise in advance for any misreadings and mistakes, especially where Russian names are concerned.
New imperialist war and proletarian class politics
The war in Chechnya is a war of aggression by Russian imperialism. Its goals are to re-establish Russian control over the Northern Caucasus with its links to oil reserves, and, by creating nationalist hysteria, to draw the Russian proletariat into the trap of national unity and so strengthen the bourgeois state in Russia. ourgeois state in Russia.
The terroristic, bandit-like actions of the Russian army and airforce have destroyed Chechen villages, murdered tens of thousands and forced hundreds of thousands of men and women to flee their homes. All attempts to portray these actions as being a response to terrorism and the Moscow explosions are false. They can only increase contempt for these cowardly gangsters and especially for the rapacious, patriotic Russian government which doesn’t even have the courage to rob openly without concocting some provocation. It’s enough to ask who profits from the explosions in Moscow, Buinaksk and Volgodonsk to know who their author was. How can nationalist terrorists profit from blowing up the houses of poor people in Russia? For the Russian bourgeoisie, on the other hand, huge profit can be made because they provide an ideal pretext for the new war in Chechnya. The atmosphere of nationalist panic removed all obstacles to unleashing the war in Chechnya.
It is a mistake to think the war was unleashed only by the Yeltsin regime, by the clique in the Kremlin, an idea common not only in the bourgeois opposition but also among people who see themselves as marxists (see the article by A Lokh, ‘Small victorious war’ in Workers’ous war’ in Workers’ Democracy no. 11, the paper of the Trotskyist Revolutionary Workers’ Party, linked to the Militant tendency in Britain). The main motivation for the war comes not just from the Yeltsin regime, although this clique does make large dividends from the war; it corresponds to the interests of the whole Russian bourgeoisie. This is illustrated by the fact that in contrast to the 1994-6 war, today all serious factions of the Russian bourgeoisie support the war – from the liberals to the fascists, and including the ‘Communists’ who are ever-faithful to the bourgeois fatherland. Even those like the bloc around Moscow’s mayor Lushkov are just annoyed by the fact that the ruling clique has outdone them in patriotic phrasemongering. They merely criticise this or that detail of the war, and they propose as an alternative a more ‘civilised’ version of the war, while calling for new repression against immigrants from Chechnya and the North Caucasus, against workers and small traders from elsewhere in the CIS.
The Russian bourgeoisie has economic and political interests in the war:
- to control the oil pipelines that pass through the North Caucasus, transporting oil from the world’s biggest oil reserves in the 6;s biggest oil reserves in the Caspian Sea and the South Caucasus; to preserve these pipelines from the encroachments of foreign competition;
- to create an orgy of nationalist hysteria, to lure workers away from the path of the class struggle and onto the path of national, inter-class unity, under the patronage of a state which pretends to be above classes; to use the war to sharpen repression against the workers’ movement and strengthen the bourgeois state, its army and police.
The class interests of the Russian bourgeoisie, dressed up as national interests, are at the origins of the war. And as long as the bourgeoisie stays in power, as long as the proletarians, united by the world party of proletarian revolution, have not overthrown capitalism, destroyed the bourgeois state, and established the international dictatorship of the proletariat, wars will be inevitable, and millions will continue to die for oil profits and the fat salaries of secret police generals.
Unlike the war of 1994-96, when there was in Chechnya a partisan movement of the petty bourgeois and proletarian masses, to a large extent uncontrolled by the Chechen bourgeoisie, in this new war only professional soldiers are taking paional soldiers are taking part. The lower classes of Chechen society are not participating in the war. The main reason for this is that bourgeois national liberation movements have lost their progressive character. At the end of the 20th century they are unable to provide any kind of sustainable improvement in the conditions of the masses; they are also incapable of creating independent, progressive bourgeois states. In the 1994-6 war, the lower classes of Chechnya attained an apparent victory – de facto independence for Chechnya. But all the real fruits of this victory went to the upper classes of Chechnya; independence turned out to be in their interests alone. The disillusionment of the lower classes with Chechen independence, at a time when there is no proletarian class movement in the world able to point the way out of this nationalist dead-end and towards the path of proletarian revolution, has led to demoralisation and apathy.
The position proletarian revolutionaries should take towards the Chechen war is the only possible one for revolutionaries towards inter-imperialist conflicts since 1914: revolutionary defeatism on both sides, the call to turn the imperialist war into a civil war, for Russian and Chechen soldiers to tuian and Chechen soldiers to turn their guns on their oppressors. Since the main enemy of the proletariat is the bourgeoisie of its own country, and since in imperialist conflicts the defeat of the strongest imperialism is more beneficial for the struggle of the proletariat, Russian proletarian revolutionaries must view the defeat of the Russian army as a lesser evil compared to its victory.
An appeal to turn the imperialist war into a civil war does not mean aiming at immediate success. The beginning of an imperialist war is always accompanied by a nationalist frenzy. But the longer the war lasts, the stronger will be the feeling of sobering up to all the tricks about the ‘national idea’; the greater will be the abyss between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The guns that replace butter won’t feed the hungry. The bourgeois state, whether it has Yeltsin, Zuganov, Putin or Primakov at its head is and will remain a servant of the masters and enemies of the oppressed. The current change from liberal policies to national-patriotic policies does not and cannot possibly give the proletariat anything but more bloodshed, tears and deprivation. With every new day of war all this will only get worse, provoking hatred, indignation and determination in the proletariat. 1914 was followed by 1917. The agwas followed by 1917. The aggressive war of predatory bourgeois gangs will be replaced by the only just and holy war – the war of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie.
Capitalism brings war just like clouds bring thunderstorms. War is the final means for settling scores between the different bourgeois gangs that call themselves states, and for controlling the class on whose labour and deprivation the capitalist system is based – the proletariat. Only by organising itself into an independent class power, hostile towards all factions of the bourgeoisie, only by dethroning the power of capital and establishing its own worldwide dictatorship can the proletariat finally put an end to wars and their cause – capitalism. Capitalism is a criminal system that has destroyed tens of millions of people in the world wars and local wars of the 20th century, a system that hides its unstoppable, monstrous greed behind the sugar coated facade of ‘democracy’ and ‘humanism’.