The war in Chechnya, ruthlessly conducted by Russia’s new capitalist rulers, has been a human, economic and environmental catastrophe. Thousands of civilians are being massacred. There are over 260,000 refugees in Ingushetia alone. Thousands of young Russian conscripts are reported dead or ‘missing’. Once again workers are paying the bill for the Russian elite’s cynical quest for political and economic power.
Russian military commanders have captured the capital Grozny. However the rebels are regrouping in the mountains. Like the last Chechen war this conflict is likely to drag-on at enormous cost to both sides. Putin will find that the national issue cannot be drowned in blood; it will be a continuing sore for the gangster-capitalists ruling Russia. The military want to avenge the humiliation of the 1994-1996 war, which caused a bloodbath and led to the Russian army’s withdrawal. They tried to copy NATO’s tactics in the Balkans last year; heavy reliance on air power. But after some weeks Russian commanders were forced to put troops on the ground at huge costs. The long history of oppression guarantees that the Chechens will fight for every inch of ground.
The war has been used by Putin to build his popularity. After years of economic disaster, mass unemployment, unpaid wages and poverty, the massively unpopular ruling clique needed a propaganda offensive to hold onto power. Contrary to the West’s promises, the return to capitalism and the market economy, after decades of Stalinist totalitarianism, has been an absolute disaster for the masses. According to the World Bank poverty levels are officially over 50%. Life expectancy has plummeted from the 72 years to 59 years in less than 10 years.
New evidence is emerging that strongly indicates sections of the Russian State apparatus were behind the terrible bombings of apartment blocks last year in Moscow and other cities. This was used as a pretext to whip up anti-Chechen feelings and for the assault against Chechen separatists.
Why did Russia go to war?
Chechnya is crucial for the control of the rich oil supplies of the Caucuses. Recently western powers have tried to expand their influence in the area. The new Baku-Supsa pipeline and the planned Baku-Cayhan pipeline create a route for oil from central Asian countries outside Russian control.
The increase in world petroleum prices has given the Russian budget a windfall increase of $1 billion a month, and has been used to pay for the present war to defend the strategic and economic interests of the ruling elite in the region.
Putin also wants to send a clear message to all those nationalities inside the Russian ‘federation’: this is what happens if you exercise self-determination and try and break away from Russian domination. The ruling Russian capitalist elite wants to hold onto as much territory as they can and by any means, to exploit markets and resources.
The response from the western powers has been the usual display of hypocrisy. Blair and Clinton call for an end to the war yet fought their own one sided war in the Balkans to protect their own imperialist interests. In fact, that conflict was one of the factors that led to Putin’s Chechen war: he wants to assert Russian imperialism as NATO extends its membership and operations eastwards.
The Western rulers felt they had no choice but to stand and watch the Chechen war, sending lame ‘verbal and written’ protests. Milsoevic faced the armed might of NATO for similar policies to Putin’s. But the western powers fear that completely turning against Putin and cutting off all financial ‘aid’ would lead to turmoil in the volatile, nuclear-armed state. They also fear provoking a social revolt of the masses.
NATO’s war last year and Putin’s new Chechen war have massively increased tensions between the capitalist powers. Inter-imperialist competition and conflicts, on a regional and global scale, are inevitable in this period of capitalist crisis.
Self-determination for Chechnya
Socialists call for the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya.
The people of Chechnya should have the right to decide their own future. We stand for the self-determination of Chechnya.
Socialists must at the same time defend the rights of Russians and other minorities in Chechnya.
The only real solution is for a socialist confederation of states in the Caucuses and Russia, on a voluntary, equal and democratic basis. Only the working class of Chechnya, the Caucuses and Russia, with their own independent class organisations, can overthrow the local reactionary regimes and fundamentally change society. Internationally socialists should give full support and aid to the struggle to build independent workers’ organisations in the region.
The Chechen separatists
No support whatsoever can be given to the leaders of the Chechen nationalist movement, or the Chechen ‘government’.
The last ‘elected’ Chechen regime and the leaders of the fighters are right-wing reactionaries, opposed to the interests of the working class. They support the market economy. They want a Chechen state which they rule over and by which to exploit the masses. Many fighters’ leaders say they want to impose reactionary Islamic laws.
Of course, many Chechen workers and villagers have joined the fighters for self-defence and to expel the Russian armed oppressors. Socialists support the right of the Chechen people to defend themselves, and call for democratically controlled workers’ forces. These forces could make a class appeal to the young working class Russian conscripts, and paralyse and divide the invading forces on class lines.
A socialist solution
Since the collapse of the bureaucratic Stalinist regimes in Russia, the Caucuses and the Balkans, and the re-introduction of capitalism during 1990s, workers have endured mass impoverishment, unemployment and wars.
Stalinism snuffed out all workers’ democracy. Nationalities such as the Chechens suffered terribly. Yet despite the Stalinist bureaucracy, the planned economy provided free health care, jobs and cheap rent. All this has been destroyed by the new Mafia-capitalist ruling elites, and these societies have been returned to the Middle Ages.
The Socialist Party argues that a socialist solution is needed to resolve the problems that plague the region. Only a socialist economy, democratically controlled by the working class and rural workers in the region, can take society forward.
Such a society would allow all peoples of the region to decide their future, and in a socialist confederation of states, the rights of all peoples would be guaranteed.
The Socialist Party says:
- Stop the war!
- Russian armed forces out of Chechnya!
- For workers’ action to overthrow Putin and the ruling capitalist elites of the region.
- For the right of the Chechen people to self-determination.
- For a socialist confederation of states in the Caucuses and Russia, which would guarantee the rights of all peoples in the region.
The SP is part of an international socialist organisation, the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI). We have comrades in over 34 countries, including ‘Workers’ Democracy’ in Russia, Kazakstan, and the Ukraine.
If you would like to find out more information/join the socialist party please contact us:
Socialist Party, PO Box 24697, London, E11 1YD. Tel: ++ 44 20 8988 8777