Reply to Mac on national self-determination

owen_jones at owen_jones at
Wed Aug 9 18:54:11 MDT 2000


 I think there are several issues at stake here which makes this question more
than complicated. Firstly, I would like to agree with you that the strategy
of Western imperialism has been to surround Russia with proxy states at the
mercy of Western capital, in which the war against Yugoslavia fits into the
context of. However, what I am deadly opposed to is what may be termed "vulgar
anti-imperialism", i.e., abandoning a class perspective and measuring everything
by degrees of anti-imperialism.

 The war in Chechnya was launched by a particularly nasty Russian bourgeoisie
in order to prevent an explosion at home. Its primary purpose was to smash the
rising class consciousness of the Russian proletariat (as demonstrated in the
rail wars and general strike) and tie them to their bourgeoisie with chauvinism.
If I may say so it has had tremendous success, with the oligarchs' man, Putin,
safe in the Kremlin and the ruling class preparing a particularly nasty offensive
with a new Labour Code that is twice as bad as the British ruling class offensive
of the entire 80s rolled into one law.

 In fact the conspiracy against Chechnya is particularly frightening and exposes
just what the Russian bourgeoisie is capable of - just think what they will
do when the working class fight back again. You see, the apartment bombs had
nothing to do with Chechen rebels.

 During the apartment bombings, some understandably nervous residents of an
apartment block found some bags had mysteriously appeared in their cellar. When
they enquired they were told it was sugar. When they discovered their cellar
was actually wired up to explosives which were ready to blow the apartment block
to the next galaxy, the Russia secret services (the FSB) swooped in, removed
the bags, and explained they were just carrying out a test operation. Unfortunately
these residents did not believe them.

 In fact, all the Chechen rebels denied responsibility. One does not carry out
a ruthless bombing campaign and fail to make any political capital out of it.
Indeed, since the Chechens had defeated the Russians they would surely have
known that blowing up apartments would be the perfect excuse to get the Russians
flattening them again, as indeed happened. And in fact, not a single person
was arrested.

 Suspicious? These apartments blocks were exclusively working class. Strikes
plummeted as chauvinism whipped up to hysteria by the bourgeoisie had the workers
screaming about Chechen terrorists instead of facing their class enemies.

 It gets much worse. The other pretext for the Chechen war which happened at
a similar time was the invasion of Dagestan by Chechen rebels. An article a
few months ago by the international finance bourgeois George Soros revealed
his former friendship with the king of Russian oligarchy, Boris Berezovsky.
On one occasion, Berezovsky had boasted that a bunch of rebels under the control
of a rebel were really controlled by him. It was this bunch of thugs that invaded
Dagestan. Naturally, Soros regarded this as deeply suspicious. So he set himself
a test - to see if the rebels would leave on Putin's set deadline. Indeed they
did. This was a major victory for the Putin regime and massively inflated his
previously negigible support.

 In the case of this bombing, the Chechens refused all responsibility and even
sent their condolences. Why go through the trouble of exploding an underground
station, not only refuse to take responsibility and hence take political capital,
and then even send condolences?

 Indeed, this is a very dirty war waged by a frightened bourgeoisie which has
only just stabilised as a class from the old bureaucracy. It is serving extraordinarily
successfully to retard Russian proletarian class consciousness.

 Now, I met the Russian revolutionary socialist working class militant leader
Oleg Shein a few weeks ago. He leads a trade union which is leading numerous
factory occupations. He leads a new communist working class movement forming
from 31 different groups, the Movement for a Workers' Party. He is also the
only Marxist elected to the Russian Duma. And he, UNRESERVEDLY, opposed the
brutal suppression of Chechen self-determination, and said explicitly he said
this whilst acknowledging an clerical-fascist state similar to Iran would be
formed. His support was not only out of solidarity with his Chechen brothers
and sisters, but because he knew the effect this war had had on proletarian
class consciousness. If he had supported the war, he would have completely capitulated
to his bourgeoisie and betrayed the Russian working class. That is the position
of Russia's leading working class revolutionary and one that has more authority
than any of us here.

 Our support for national self-determination has no conditions; it is unequivicol.
Should I have opposed national self-determination for Saudi Arabia on the grounds
it would become a clerical-fascist state and run oil for the West? Should I
have opposed national self-determination for India and the death of British
imperialist control on the grounds that Pakistan would have enslaved its women
as a result and only the good old civilised British would show them how to treat
them? Indeed, we could go further and say that I opposed the right of national
self-determination to all those peoples enslaved by British imperialism on the
grounds that the resulting states would all be capitalist and not dictatorships
of the proletariat? No. For that would be silly ultra-leftism.

 If one wishes to be strictly correct, there is no such as thing as freedom
until there is no state, Mac, but that would be descending into the most obscene
of all ultra-left inanities. A resulting Chechen clerical-fascist state would
oppress women, yes. There will be no freedom. But frankly that is better than
a nation bombed and invaded into liquidation, whose working class has been atomised
to the point of really ceasing to exist because of the war, whose people are
reduced to wandering around rubble in a pathetic existence to be occasionally
taunted by their invaders, or raped, or shot, etc... I don't particularly think
that occupying troops gang-raping Chechen women is freedom for women either,
never mind Islamic fascism. Now the undesirable character of a resulting state
is not part of our equation when we Marxists call for the right of national
self-determination for a nation - although that is different from actually arguing
FOR independence which is a capitulation to bourgeois nationalism.

 Indeed, did the first proletarian state in history not grant national
to those nations formerly enslaved by imperialism in the full knowledge that
the international imperialist bourgeoisie would use these new nations to surround
the first workers' state in history and try to destroy it using them? Was the
workers' state wrong to grant national self-determination to Poland considering
its imperialist-funded armies later invaded the Soviet Union? Of course not.
And what we are dealing with in this case is not a workers' state, but a capitalist
state ruled by a particularly nasty bourgeoisie that is entirely dependant on
imperialist support.

 As Marxists, we tolerate not the slightest violence against any nation. We
defend the right of national self-determination for all nations. Not only that,
and this is particularly the case with Russia, but no people is free if they
oppress another. Indeed, such hatred exists between the [remains of the] Chechen
working class and the Russian working class that a temporary split is necessary
- but temporary it is, and that is how all national splits should be regarded.

 The imperialist bourgeoisie of America and Britain were wholly supportive of
their man Putin's offensive against the Chechens. Blair went to Moscow especially
to say how the Chechens deserved it because Russia had a terrorist problem.
So did Clinton. In fact Blair and Putin have a close relationship going. For
the Putin regime is subservient to imperialism. There is no fight between Russian
and Western imperialism, because Russia has already been enslaved, is on its
knees to Western imperialism, has opened itself to domination by Western capital
- and because Russian imperialism does not really exist. Since the Russian ruling
class is dependent on Western imperialism it is hard to see it waging any form
of fight against it.

 "Islam" is of course reactionary. I am unsure as to why Marxists would disagree
about this. There are working class expressions into Islam, and small-peasant
expressions, as well as bourgeois expressions, hence the different factions.
In the case of Iran, a clerical-fascist regime was put into power and atomised
the proletariat (I hope nobody was suggesting they should be supported for

 Mac, as you know, I have the greatest of respects for you as a sincere fellow
young revolutionary, but you must really develop a class perspective.



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