Sinking of the Kursk: Cynicism of the bourgeoisie

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Revolutionaries are anything but indifferent to the atrocious end of these young conscripts, trapped in a steel coffin at the bottom of the sea, just as they are not indifferent to the tragedies which are unfolding all over the planet, the massacres and famines, the death of refugees by drowning or asphyxiation, or all the other manifestations of the barbarity of dying capitalism. But they are also required to keep a cool head in order to understand the messages which the bourgeois media try to instil in the minds of the exploited, messages aimed at getting them to accept this barbarity. In particular, they have to denounce the attempt to convince the workers of the most advanced countries that they are in many ways lucky because "it’s much worse elsewhere, and above all in the former ‘socialist paradises’".

Here are just some of the messages they have broadcast this ages they have broadcast this time.

First message: "The Russian fleet constitutes a huge threat to the environment. This is further proof of the chaotic and criminal character of the ‘socialist’ regime which used to run Russia".

Quite so, but it’s not just the Russian navy that’s falling apart. The British navy has at least 11 nuclear submarines waiting to be decommissioned, rusting away in the Rosyth and Devonport dockyards. It must wish it could use the old method of decommissioning used in the 50s and 60s - that of scuttling them off the coast of Japan and leaving them to rot on the ocean floor! Indeed, the whole nuclear industry internationally has been one disaster after another, from Three Mile Island in the US, to Sellafield in Britain, to the recent accident in Tokaimura in Japan. There can be no greater testament to the destructive and wasteful nature of decadent capitalism than the use of nuclear technology.

However, these nuclear submarines, stuffed with radioactive materials and falling into decay, are just a caricature of a system which is incapable of averting catastrophes. Russia has indeed had its fair share of disasters, from Chernobyl to the recent fire in the Moscow TV tower, but the long-term damage to the but the long-term damage to the environment, in particular the greenhouse effect and the hole in the ozone layer, is largely down to the most advanced countries, beginning with the USA. We can see how concerned the advanced countries are about the effects of their military adventures on the Iraqi or Yugoslav populations who ‘benefited’ from their bombs and their low-grade uranium shells in 1991 and 1999. The NATO bombing of Yugoslav oil-refineries and chemical plants has left the river Danube as one of the most polluted in the world, constituting a menace to many other Eastern European countries.

Second message: "The inability of the Russian authorities to rescue the sailors trapped in the submarine shows how little they care for human life. It’s different over here".

To support this idea, there was much stress on the fact that it was Western divers who succeeded where the Russians failed – in entering the Kursk. On French television there was an interview with a French submariner who explained how he and his comrades would have been able to save themselves if the same accident had happened in their ship.

It’s true that the Russian authorities don’t care a jot about the lives of the young workers in uniform mobf the young workers in uniform mobilised to ‘defend the motherland’. The example of Chechnya illustrates this quite clearly. But they are by no means alone in this. After all, the British and Norwegian divers who went down there are not military men specialising in looking after the safety of the sailors of the war fleet, but employees of an enterprise which specialises in the maintenance of oil platforms, an enterprise which equips and trains them in the interests of profit. For their part, the French authorities didn’t express a great deal of compassion when in January 1968 and March 1970 the sinking of the submarines Minerva and Eurydice left a total of 108 dead.

Third message: "The Russian authorities have shown in this affair that they are having a hard time breaking with the methods of secrets and lies inherited from the ‘Communist’ period. It’s totally different in the truly democratic countries".

On British television there was an interview with a member the British rescue team who explained how they could have saved lives if it wasn’t for the delays caused by the secrecy of the Russian military. This takes the biscuit. The culture of secrecy is not at all exclusive to the Russian leadership or the former ‘Red Armyor the former ‘Red Army’. It won’t be until 2018 that the results of the inquiries into the above two French submarine disasters will be released! This secrecy is typical of all military institutions, whether they belong to ‘totalitarian’ or ‘democratic’ states. Do we have to be reminded of the flood of lies which washed over us at the time of the Gulf war in 1991? This was supposed to be a ‘clean war’ with its ‘surgical strikes’, but in fact this was a very dirty war in which thousands of Iraqi soldiers were buried alive, a war which experimented with weapons even more cruel than the gas used by Saddam against the Kurds. This time it was the turn of the NATO military to experiment on their own troops as well. The investigations into ‘Gulf War syndrome’ have also come up against military secrecy and so far the cause of the syndrome still remains a mystery.

On the question of military ‘accidents’ we give the floor to a NATO general following the bombing of Yugoslavia in the spring of 1999: "For the cock-ups, we had a rather efficient tactic. Most often, we knew the exact causes and consequences of these errors. But in order to anaesthetise opinion, we said that we would carry out an inquiry and we only revealed the truth 15 days later, when they no lo15 days later, when they no longer interested anybody. Opinion can be worked upon like anything else" (Le Nouvel Observateur, 1/7/99). What the Russian authorities have shown is that they have a lot to learn from the leaders of the great democracies, who are specialists in the manipulation of public opinion.

The cynicism, cruelty and barbarity revealed by the Kursk affair are not the monopoly of the regime which presently governs Russia, which is indeed a worthy heir of the one which ran the USSR before 1990. They are characteristics of the whole of present-day capitalist society, a society in open decomposition, subject to growing chaos and posing an ever-greater threat to the survival of humanity. Fabienne.