The Tragedy of Chechnya

By Francisco Brotons, Communist Party of Spain (Reconstituted), NorthStar Compass, October 2004

When only a few years ago, the regime of the, Soviet revisionists headed by Gorbachev collapsed shamefully, nobody could imagine that very soon the imperialist powers, which have helped the new Russian bourgeoisie to emerge from its ashes, would demand it accounts in return for all of their services. In order to achieve this, they placed Yeltsin at the head of this State and always supported him until the end; and for the same reason they have put another puppet of the same sort in his post. At the same time, they besieged the remains of the former territory of the USSR to prevent whatever could happen in the future. Nowadays, the US-NATO military siege around the Russian Federation is an accomplished fact and the imperialist powers do not even hide their true plans of complete dismemberment and subsequent sharing of Russia. However, this undeniable fact cannot be used as an excuse to justify, or even less to defend, the policy of all oppression, plundering, siege, annihilation carried out by the new Russian imperialism in the Caucasus, especially against Chechnya. Imperialist character of all this aggression must be denounced now and revealed, just like we have done with the war against Yugoslavia by NATO. In fact, there is a tight relationship between these two aggressions: they are nothing else than preparations for the outbreak of a much more generalized conflict among the imperialist powers for a new sharing of the world.

The new Russian bourgeoisie, fascinated by the cake that has fallen into its hands, has taken a long time before reacting to the unaccountable rapaciousness of all the Western “allies”; but, as could be expected, in the end it has got ready to hold its prey, even threatening to use the nuclear weapons that it still owns, if necessary. This is a first explanation—certainly a bit simpler, although not less true for the brutal intervention of the Russian Army. in Chechnya, a small country.. ‘that inflicted a severe defeat to the Russian Army in 1994, winning through the arms and the lives of thousands of patriots its right to independence. From our point of view, there is no reason to justify the attack of the new great ‘Russian imperialism on the Chechen people. The right of all nations and all people to self-determination and independence must be admitted without reservations, and even more as regards the peoples and nations that voluntarily formed part of the former Soviet Union. In this point there is no place for ambiguity using as an excuse either the present “reactionary” character of their social regime or the accusation of “terrorism” that the Kremlin butchers have made in order to justify the aggression and the slaughter that they are perpetrating, taking advantage of the superiority of their military forces.

It is necessary to ask what interests and rights is the Russian Army now defending in Chechnya? Undoubtedly these are imperialist interests of the new Russian bourgeoisie, the “rights” of the Russian capitalists to plunder the wealth of the Chechens and of the Russian working people. When the social-chauvinist Zyuganov of the CPRF talks about the defence of the “Russian Motherland”, that “motherland” has nothing to do with the former Soviet Union nor with the interests of the workers, but it is the motherland of the Mafiosi who hold power in Russia for their own benefit. The Russian workers and youth are being used again, as in the time of the Czars, as cannon fodder for the published defence of the “motherland” of that handful of rich Mafiosi who now have dragged the honour of their country in the mud so many times, and that have snatched—with the help of the rest of the imperialist sharks and birds of prey all the rights, revolutionary achievements and collective cultural and material good which had been achieved at the cost of blood and immense sacrifices. These criminals do not represent the heroic Soviet people and must be combated resolutely, even by turning the guns against them.

Nowadays, the Russian Federation is nothing but a conglomerate of peoples with no more links than a past of unity which has been broken by the capitalist restoration — and the force that the new Czars try to impose from Moscow. To sum up, Russia is another capitalist power, and unfortunately a “prison of peoples” that, although weak and threatened by the other powers, tries to re-establish some order in its “backyard’. And it does this with the same ferocity used repeatedly by the power of USA in its “interventions” in Santo Domingo, Guatemala, Panama, Chile, Grenada, etc. Not to consider the affairs of the current Russia from this point of view would lead us to justify and to become accomplices of each and every one of the aggressions that any world imperialist power has perpetrated and will perpetrate in the future.

Chechens, as well as many other peoples and nations, had freely acquired a historic genuine “compromise” of unity within the former Soviet Union, and its people counted with the fraternal help of the State and the rest of the peoples of the Union to defend itself from exploiters and national traitors; once the USSR disappeared and the power was usurped by the bourgeoisie, there are. now no political, moral, economic or even geo-strategical compromises that compel the people of Chechnya to continue united to the Russian state. Therefore for the very interest of the socialist revolution and proletarian internationalism, it is now necessary to advocate the right to self-determination and independence of Chechnya. It is especially necessary now to highlight that, nowadays, as a nation within a world of capitalist nations, the Chechen people have the right to govern themselves as they wish to, to have their own independent State and even to sell themselves to the highest bidder, in the same way as only they have the right and can square up with their leaders and change their social regime .if the present one become an unbearable charge for them.

All this is a product of the ongoing conflict in Chechnya, a region of Russia which declared its independence back in 1991, at the time of the collapse of the former Soviet Union. In 1994 Yeltsin sent in troops to bring back Chechnya under Russian control, but by 1996 the Russian army was clearly showing its limitations and suffered a serious defeat and in 1997 withdrew.

Such are the fissures within the Russian state in Chechnya that there can be nothing but terror and lawlessness. The Kremlin is neither in control of its generals or of Khadirov's army, which is run by Ramzan Khadirov, the well-known violent bully that Moscow in words gets on with. However, for its part Moscow bases itself on the Ministry of Internal Affairs, (thus Alkhanov, its former chief in Chechnya), and the FSB, better known by its Soviet name — KGB, (which Putin was the former head of in Russia).

These tensions are made more volatile because the Russians do not trust the Chechens and vice versa, Khadirov began his political career as an Imam who sided against the Russians in the first war from 1994-6. As President, Khadirov threatened to kill the families of Chechen independence fighters if they did not capitulate, then amnestied former allies that did give up, and gave them plum jobs even though they neither regretted their past struggle against the Russian state or criticised those who are still at war with Russia. The Russian army chiefs disagreed with this policy, and have the view that the Chechens cannot be trusted to be tough in fighting other Chechens. In turn, pro-Khadirov Chechens argue that Russia is provoking the war in its own interests, and could end the war if it wanted to.

As is well known Putin was first elected President on the back of the second military campaign in Chechnya. Now the threat (and consequences) of Chechen terrorism in Russia undeniably prop up his ratings and his call for tighter security. It's true that sometimes it is inconvenient for him to be reminded that he has not delivered on his promises to restore order to Chechnya, but since he controls the media this small detail can largely be ignored. Equally the conflict serves the interests of the Khadirov faction, even if it puts their lives at risk, because it is the source of their power.

Neither of the cliques that rule in Russia or in Chechnya are honestly concerned with peace or the welfare of their people but with their own interests, wealth and prestige. In both cases power is wielded in the hands of small groups of people, isolated from the rest of society, who use the pretext of the war and rebuilding Chechnya to embezzle billions of roubles every year. According to the government audit over 2bn roubles (nearly $100m) was unaccounted for last year: After all a bureaucrat can argue, “the money was spent on the bridge it was allocated for, but the bridge was then destroyed.” The real figure is no doubt much greater.

This morass could drag on for years. On a capitalist basis there is no solution. As long as the resources and industry’ of the region are in the hands of corrupt and bankrupt cliques the people will be stamped underfoot in the charge for plunder. But it could also become part of a wider conflict in the Caucasus, an area that is” now the scene of competition between Russian and US imperialism for control of the oil and gas resources of central Asia and the Caspian Sea. Chechnya borders Georgia, which has been involved in border clashes with Russian troops in south Ossetia.

In fact it is possible that the latest terrorist attacks are actually a further example of how fundamentalism has been superimposed onto the Chechen war by the fundamentalists and the state propaganda. It is clear that there must have been a motive of religious fanaticism but it has not been proven that the alleged suspects, Amanta Nagaeva and Satsita Gebirkhanova, were in any way connected with the fundamentalists. Therefore there has been some speculation that it may be possible that they were not the terrorists and do not provide an organic link between the resistance of Chechen people and the turn towards fundamentalist terrorism. Instead of showing a relationship between the fundamentalists and the Chechens they may have been used as pawns by terrorists, killed for their documents so as not to betray the terrorists' new false identities. That is one interpretation. Admittedly it is difficult to identify visually bodies that were at the centre of an explosion but it is possible to conduct DNA tests, which they haven’t done yet.

For a new October!

What the rulers throughout the world fear more than international terrorism is the unity of the working class. Acts of individual terrorism against civilians in Russia playa reactionary role because they cut across the’ revolutionary unity of workers in Russia and in Chechnya. Given the size and power of Russia, Chechnya would not be able to achieve and maintain independence without this revolutionary unity. And this is impossible as long as Russia remains a capitalist state, ruled by a parasitic clique of state apparatchiks and oligarchs who greedily gaze at the mineral wealth on their doorstep.

Marxists condemn Russian imperialism in Chechnya and we defend the right of the Chechen people to govern themselves if they so wish. We support the call for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechen territory. However, we also have to explain to the Chechen people that on a capitalist basis, given the present conditions of imperialist rivalry in the Caucasus there is no possibility of genuine national independence for Chechnya, or any other republic. In practice freedom from Russia would mean being drawn into the American sphere of influence, repeating the example of Georgia.

The collapse of the Soviet Union has been a nightmare for all the peoples that have had to live with new poverty, want and national antagonisms. It is time to stop this madness of capitalism and war! It is necessary to link the desire for national liberation in Chechnya with a new socialist revolution in Russia and throughout the former Soviet Union!

Under capitalism the more developed level of industry and communications today sharpens the imperialist rivalry between nations, which need more and more raw materials and markets for the profits of their multinationals. But this greater level of development also brings with it tremendous possibilities that only a socialist plan of a federation of socialist states can realize. Without being plagued by the peasant backwardness of the Russia of 1917 there would be no stopping the working class from forging a new and voluntary federation of socialist republics that this time would spread through Europe and Asia and the whole world.