[Marxism] Kyrgyzstan and the others.

Michael Costello ctcimpex at btconnect.com
Sun Apr 3 01:59:38 MST 2005

The debate on what is really happening in the rose, orange and tulip upheavals and changes of government personnel should be seen in a wider context than only that of the machinations of U.S. imperialism wining through successful conspiracies. What characterises them all is mass involvement of people and action on the streets, defeating the governments which won elections but failed to live up to popular expectations and were thrown out for that reason. However manipulated (would we say "led" if it were going in a left-wards direction?) these changeovers have been, it has been the people on the streets who have forced through the changes and the left has been conspicuous by its absence, out of touch, bypassed and unrecognised. In Ukraine those calling themselves Communists took no position on the contest between Kuchma and Yushchenko, for instance.

I think that the starting point of any analysis we make of these events is that we must welcome them, unreservedly and with the excitement we should feel at the toppling of monstrously corrupt rulers who have all but destroyed social provision, including pensions, free education and health services, the protected minima standards of life and the full employment of the past. Doesn't that all ring a bell about what the rulers in our countries are forcing through? Imagine how we would greet such change in our own countries, the defeat (never final!) of the neo-liberal steamroller whose drivers might think they have an open road in all countries of the world. How much better for imperialism if Yeltsin, Kuchma, Shevarnadze, Akaev and others were still peacefully in power with their pro-imperialist policies. Certainly, the situation is full of conflict and contradictions but, let's see progress when it thrusts itself before our eyes. Not perfect? Get away! When was it or will it ever be? What will follow the popular risings against what are, objectively, neo-liberal policies will depend on many factors, not least the leadership that is given to the people. What we are witnessing is popular revolt against imperialism, whatever colours or flowers it is decorated with. 

Bookish, formalist and politically juvenile estimates of the situation that cannot recognise a mass movement when they see one, nor see the wood for the trees, can only help the forces of U.S. imperialism and their local designees hold onto the reins of power, by encouragng pessimism, one of the great weapons in the armoury of imperialism and their post-modernist ideologists. The debate about conspiracies in the middle of popular upheaval is somewhat like insisting that the significance of Kaiser Germany allowing Lenin's train through to Russia in 1917 was more important than what was then  going on in the streets of Petrograd and throughout Russia. The almost wait-and-see position that some socialists are allowing themselves is an abrogation of political analysis and leadership. Those who have been brought to government in the countries with the recent and continuing upheavals must be pressed to implement policies for which the demonstrators dared come onto the streets against the forces of the state, and who brought the old governments down. It is a great weakness in the battle for leadership, for the direction in which the popular movements will go that in Russia and elsewhere, the Communists, the only organised force with a degree of mass support on the left, place no priority on agitation for extra-parliamentary struggle. They were nowhere in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan and, now, in Mongolia. It is that which should be addressed. Arising from that thought is the critical question - and where are/were the socialists, Communists and other left 'organisers', 'leaders' and what have you? In Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan those calling themselves socialists and Communists were well represented in the parliaments, as they are in Russia, Belorus and Moldova. Where are they giving leadership in terms of drawing the masses of disaffected people into struggle for a better life? Have the attractions of parliamentary immunities, privileges, salaries and status blunted their thinking, in a distorted and exaggerated derivation from the greatest weakness of the Soviet system - its confining and straightjacketing the scope for pressure from below? Is this the explanation for the lack of mass mobilisation of people, the failure to mobilise to act on their grievances? 

One can argue till the cows come home about conspiracies and the use of money and its plethora of C.I.A.- type agencies by U.S. imperialism, all of which, (not forgetting the threat or actual use of military might) are, of course, all present. A question that has dominated this discussion here is: were they decisive and if so, to those who think so, why? O.K., but that is not the main issue, as I have tried to argue. If the answer is "Yes", then that still either avoids the main  issues because it takes us no further or suggests that no mass movements ever can stand a chance. In what way, when discussing mass mobilisation for social change, can the issue of U.S. imperialism's support for one bourgeois set of leaders as against another take precedence over how a situation in which everything is in flux, when the people are demanding change, can be turned to making real advances? After all, that happenss to be a central issue in the political situation of most countries of Western, Central and Eastern Europe today...and perhaps the United States of America and well beyond.

The facts are that, for a whole number of reasons, those who lay claim to be the leaders of the left have done little work among the people, have not, in Russia, for instance, challenged the laws that ban political organisation in the workplaces, have not placed as their priority the need to involve the oppressed in struggle against the manifestations of brutal bourgeois rule. What the peoples of the countries under discussion think of the governments that have fallen is clear - they are not worth defending and are seen as the cause of their suffering, and they are correct. Those governments and their leaders have been relegated to the same dustbin that contains Gorbachev and Yeltsin. I think everyone in this marxism e-mail forum would agree that there is no essential change in economic policy and political alignment between Yeltsin and Putin, Kuchma and Yushchenko, nor among those battling for ministerial portfolios today in Kyrgyzstan. But to state that is not the whole story. It will be true to the extent, and only to that extent, to which this is tolerated and the whther that is so will lie with leadership and struggle. Of course U.S. imperialism (and others) wants a more acceptable face for its allies and compradore rulers in the mentioned countries. The leaders of U.S. imperialism have throughout the piece striven for placemen (and women) who are "cleaner" and more acceptable in the countries they command and whose economies they increasingly own in neo-colonial fashion. It was and is the case through plots and coups in (to mention a few cases out of dozens) Cuba before Castro, South Vietnam, South Korea, in the Philippines, even the Solomon Islands and now in eastern Europe and Central Asia and, dare I mention it, Iraq and Iran, etc., etc., etc. For us to argue only about which latest face on  the posters is better or worse than the others is somewhat to miss the main point. It is one thing to interpret events, another to change things, having done so, to paraphrase Karl Marx. Imperialism requires the rule of law, its law, and however much corruption one might find in it, that is not what it is about. It is for that reason that bourgeois ideologues have been more than content to see mass movements confined to campaigning against corrupt individuals and police brutality, once it has found new "clean" individuals who are more acceptable to the people and who keep their eye on the ball and would perpetuate the rule of the system that is driven by the pursuit of private profit with open doors to imoperialism.

Contrast the upheavals and changes mentioned with those in Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, the mass involvement in Cuba, Haiti, the growing struggles in China and many others. And let us not forget the resistance to privatisation and attacks on social services today in Italy, France and in Great Britain; the leadership on land questions and for social provision being given by the South African Communists. It is not a matter (as clearly demonstrated in South Africa) of relying on keeping support for "our" government in power (I refer to the questions raised about the governments of Moldova and Belorus). It is about securing power, certainly through organisation, not for leaders but for the people to hold, delegating it to no one.

It is here that the left in the countries that were ruled by Communist parties in eastern Europe and in Central Asia, have a great weakness. Its is virtually of a social democratic, "parliamentary" approach to the exclusion of mass activity, relying on the delegation of authority to political machines and is radically different from the socialists' positions in today's Western Europe, in swathes of Latin America and in South Africa where primacy is given to striving to build the confidence of the masses through agitation and involvement of people in struggle. This is something that is singularly missing in the, at best, propaganda activities of their closest (although actually distant) equivalent left leaders in the countries of the once-Soviet Union and eastern Europe. There, the left has not yet found its feet and appears to hope for becoming "trusted", for being granted delegated powers to rule, based on programmatic proclamations at election time. Hence their concentration on electoral battles virtually to the exclusion of all else, with occasional street demonstrations that, to outsiders, look superficially like the demonstrations in long-standing bourgeois countries. In the latter, however, they are not substitutes for agitation and daily, organised struggle, but expressions of the stages reached in them, part and organically related to them.

If any of the above is true, then, while trying to be aware of what is happening in the ex-Soviet Union and its allies, we are brought back to considering how we can give solidarity to the left in those countries, as we do to the progressive forces in any part of the world, and by challenging at every opportunity the might of imperialism, particularly in our own countries. The starting point must be to be alongside the people in their struggles, not to view their actions as that of pawns in a conspiracy engineered by U.S. imperialism.

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