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Class Line in the Caucasus

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Most of the revolutionary left has responded to the war in the Caucasus with a dual defeatism of the imperialist blocs on both sides. However, Yossi Schwartz of the RCG in Israel has circulated his groups position on the war between Russia and Georgia. He takes the classic Leninist position that Russia is an imperialist oppressor while Georgia is an oppressed semi-colony, therefore it is necessary to defend Georgia and defeat Russia. [See Yossi’s post below]. For this position to be correct then not only must Russia must be imperialist and Georgia a semi-colony, but the defeat of Russia should have the purpose of advancing the right to self-determination of the Georgian people from all imperialist oppression. Let us see.

First, is Russia imperialist?

Lenin thought so in 1917 when the Tsar was overthrown even though its ‘imperialism’ didnt really match up to the definition of imperialism as the export of capital he developed. Lenin considered Russia imperialist because it was a “prison house of nations” and extracted tribute if not super-profits from its political protectorates. In that sense, Russia was an awkward imperialism in transition from a feudal empire to capitalist imperialism, though dominated by French and German imperialism. Anyway, it is clear that Lenin thought that the workers’ revolution ended the Tsarist empire.

Is Russia imperialist today?

Yossie thinks that the SU became imperialist in 1939 so therefore it must be so today. At that time Russia’s state capitalist economy which had been ruled by the working class was finally taken over by the bureaucracy as a new Russian bourgeosie. Because the the SU included many republics and and autonomous republics, and becuase it was expansionist into the Ukraine, Poland and Finland, Yossie thinks that the SU was capitalist AND imperialist in 1939.

We do not agree. The SU as a workers state retained elements of the market alongside its economic plan. Lenin and the Bolsheviks were pragmatic about using market techniques of prices to boost the economy, always aware that too much market would bring with it the restoration of capitalism. The Stalinist bureaucracy failing to increase labour productivity by any other means than repression, always looked to find a way to the capitalist market to borrow the more advanced techniques that would allow an increase of labour productivity. But until the 1980s the bureaucracy always failed in this quest. At that point the planned economy was almost defunct with massive waste and inefficiencies leading to huge shortages. Perestroika was a deliberate policy of restoring capitalism as the only way that the bureaucracy could rescue the economy and their own existence as a parasitic caste. They welcomed the opportunity to privatise workers property and turn themselves into a new bourgeoisie. By 1992 the SU was breaking up and the law of value replaced the plan as the means of allocating economic resources.

If capitalism was restored in Russia in 1992 has Russia become imperialist since?

We can ignore the right wing idea that Russia has restored a pre-Bolshevik Great Russian Empire. The law of value dominates in the former SU not feudal tribute. To qualify as an imperialist country today Russia would have to be exporting capital and importing super-profits. It doesnt matter how much of a bastard Putin is, how murderous the Russia army is, or what sort of ‘great Russian’ ideology flowers to spur Russia on to domination of the republics and autonomous regions of the former SU. The only thing that counts is if Russia is extracting super-profits from these countries, in the same way that France, Germany, Britain, US, Japan etc extract superprofits from their colonies and semi-colonies.

I would say that Russia is clearly extracting huge super-profits from its oil interests in what are now the formally independent nations in Central Asia. In that sense Russia today is an imperialist country motivated to increase its imperialist control over the resources of Central Asia in particular of oil and gas. So what motivates Russia today, is the return on its capital investments in the production of oil and gas, not any political or ideological set of interests. Certainly it has no interest in defending the national rights of its semi-colonies other than to retain them as semi-colonies.

How are Russia’s imperialist interests expressed in this war?

Its obvious from what has been said above that Russia is motivated in its war against Georgia to defend and extend its imperial control of the Caucasus against its imperialist rivals. Russia is allied economically with France and to a lesser extent Germany because it supplies these states with gas. It is hostile however, to the US, Britain as imperialist powers that are contesting Russia’s dominance in Central Asia. It regards the US/UK oil pipeline that runs through southern Georgia and Turkey and eventually Israel, as an extension of US intervention in its sphere of interest. It sees the US policy of including promoting ‘color’ revolutions in the Baltic states, and the Ukraine and Georgia as clear evidence of the US creating new protectorates or semi-colonies in the region. Russia opposed the Sheverdnadsi and Saakashvili regimes deals with the US to remove Soviet era bases and establish US bases and to join NATO as direct attacks on the security of its border. It has worked hard to create majorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia to create a buffer zone between Russia and a now US client state in Georgia. So when Georgia invaded South Ossetia Russia took the opportunity to invade Georgia and militarize the buffer zone.

Can we oppose Russia’s invasion without defending Georgia?

Yes. While Russia is an imperialist power motivated in its war to defend and extend its control of resources in the region, and Georgia is a semi-colony of the US and EU, there is no obligation to defend Georgia from Russia. This has nothing to do with the unpopularity of Saakashvili (which is true) or its invasion of South Ossetia. These by themselves would not change the political character of Georgia as a semi-colony.

What is decisive in this situation is the fact that Georgia as a semi-colony is also a client state under the direct control of the US and is acting as a US proxy in its relations with Russia. To defend Georgia against Russia would not demonstrate to the Georgian workers that we are against their national oppression. It would mask the fact that Georgia is already oppressed by the US. It would not make it clear that the people of Georgia are being used by both its client Saakashvili regime and its imperialist masters as pawns in an inter-imperialist war for oil. How could we defend Georgia from Russia without also defending it from the US/Israel specialists, advisors, military, and those who were clearly acting behind Saakashvili in the bombardment of South Ossetia? Not to do so would fail to show how Georgia’s national sovereignty is already sacrificed to the interests of the US in its rivalry with the EU and Russia.

To be more specific. Georgians have been ethnically cleansed from South Ossetia and Abkhazia. While Russia is also responsible for this and gains a buffer zone in which Russian nationals dominate, the US is the main beneficiary. The US will now extend its military base near Tbilisi and militarise the south of Georgia to defend the oil pipeline. So the US has intervened in Georgia to split the country and its national sovereignty to further its oil interests. Further, the US is working on the other former members of the Soviet bloc, Poland and Ukraine, to expand NATO and to ring Russia with forward missile sites. Poland has agreed to do so, and the membership of NATO by Ukraine is being fast forwarded.

To conclude, by defending Georgia against Russia we would not be defending the national rights of Georgia. Rather we would be providing cover for the US (and NATO) to present its opposition of Russia as a defence of the national rights not only of Georgia but also the Ukraine and all the other former members of the Soviet bloc that are now US and EU semi-colonies as part of the “new Europe”.

The correct position is defeat on both sides and defence of the national rights of the oppressed countries in the region

The only way then to show to workers in all of these former Soviet bloc countries that their fate rests with breaking from both Russian and also US and EU imperialism, is mutual defeat in wars between the imperialist blocs, along with defence of the rights of all the nationalities to self-determination. While Yossi argues that Lenin’s position is consistent with his own position, I would argue that Lenin’s method was to prove to workers in oppressed countries that the workers of oppressor countries would side with them to gain independence from the imperialist ruling class. In the current case, this purpose would be defeated if we opposed only Russian oppression and ignored US oppression in Georgia. Therefore, I consider dual defeatism to be more consistent with Lenin’s method than Yossi’s.

Thus, we are for the right of Georgians to self-determination against all regional powers including US military occupation. We are for the right of South Ossetians for independence from Georgia and voluntary association with the Russian Federation. The same goes for Abkhazia. However, since all of these countries must break from imperialism to win their independence this can only result from socialist revolution based on workers councils and militias, and led by revolutionary Marxist parties, the forming of workers governments, and voluntary membership of a federation of socialist republics in Eurasia!

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yossi schwartz said, on August 16th, 2008 at 1:58 pm (Edit)

Many years have passed since Lenin raised his revolutionary slogan:” the less evil is the defeat for imperialist Russia. He did so because even though other countries on the other side were imperialists, he lived in Russia and the enemy first of all in an imperialist country at home.

The war of Russia against Georgia is a clear indication of an end of a period when the US was the only super power of the world. Many supporters of the US “new order” are now in tears.
Those who fail to see that imperialism is a stage of the advanced capitalist states that include Russia, Japan , Australia –New Zealand Europe and Israel in addition to the US and not simply the US, must well come the victory of Russian imperialism as a step in the right direction. For those of us who are Leninists the defeat of Russia in this conflict with the non imperialist state- Georgia is the only correct line.
Most of the left groups correctly do not side with Russian imperialism in the war. However, wrongly they do not side military with Georgia because of its right wing regime in alliance with the US. Confusion between regime and a state leads to reformism . For example siding with Western imperialism against Nazi Germany rather than struggling for a defeat for both as imperialists was already during WWII a symptom of reformist pressures.
To have the correct position from a Marxist perspective: siding military with Georgia against Russian imperialism without any political support for Georgia, Marxists have to differentiate between military and political support.
Lenin in 1917 did differentiate between the two when he defended Kerensky’s government military but not politically.
Would US and NATO step in and fight Russia our position will change to revolutionary defeat for all imperialist sides. This in essence will be the beginning of WWIII.
However mean time the US and NATO are not involved directly and for this reason most people who support US imperialism are in shock.
It is a reformist mistake not to take the position of Revolutionary defeat for Russia and Revolutionary defense for Georgia.
To understand this question even in a more clear way is to remember Iraq. Sadam was the instrument of US for many many years including in his war against Iran. He tried to occupy Kuwait with the assumption the US gave him green light. He was wrong. Now in the war of the US against Iraq the revolutionary position was and is Revolutionary defeat for the US Revolutionary defense of Iraq.
Georgia has been acting for many years as US instrument against Russia, yet in this war the US deserted Georgia and so is Israel.
There are many implication for the desertion of the US its weak ally-Georgia. It means among other things that If the Israeli ruling class want to attack Iran they are not likely to get the US actively on their side.

RCG
YOSSI

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Written by raved

August 17, 2008 at 10:00 am