What to do when history repeats itself ?

Liberation campaign or quarrel of predators? How does the Left assess current events?
Konstantin Tulin 4 March 2022

The ancient Greek historian Thucydides wrote that the task of history is to give "a clear idea of the past, which, by the nature of human nature, can be repeated sometime in the future in the same or similar form." Indeed, a careful study of the past helps to understand the events of today, their background and driving forces.

A little over a hundred years ago, little Serbia found itself at the center of European and, more broadly, world politics. Only recently freed from Turkish rule, it faced a new threat from Austria-Hungary. The culmination of the brewing conflict was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the infamous "July ultimatum" put forward by the Habsburg Empire to Serbia. This was followed by the invasion, which resulted in the death of more than 700 thousand Serbs - one in eight inhabitants of the country.

But the conflict between the two states, which was openly predatory on the part of Austria, and national liberation on the part of Serbia, turned out to be built into much more complex and large-scale processes. Two blocs of imperialist countries - the Entente and the so-called Central Powers - took advantage of this as an excuse to start an open struggle for the redistribution of colonies and markets. Germany immediately supported Austria-Hungary. “Serbia is a gang of robbers that must be punished for murder,” Emperor Wilhelm II declared.

But the Entente countries that stood up for Belgrade, in fact, did not care deeply about the Serbian people. This was proved by the events preceding the First World War. Thus, the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by the Habsburg monarchy in 1908 was facilitated by secret negotiations between the Foreign Ministers of Austria-Hungary and Russia. Representative of St. Petersburg A.P. Izvolsky agreed to the seizure, in exchange for assurances of support for the opening of the Black Sea straits for Russian warships. Further events developed in the logic of unprincipled bourgeois diplomacy. Having made the annexation, Austria-Hungary ignored the issue of the straits. They were in no hurry to support Russia and its closest allies at that time - England and France. As a result, the Russian leadership was forced to "wipe off", not only recognizing the rejection of Bosnia, but also forcing Serbia to agree with it.

Thus, in 1914, behind the moaning about the "suffering of the Serbs" - suffering really great - hid the cynical calculation of foreign powers. England and France sought to eliminate a competitor in the person of Germany, Russian tsarism wanted control over the Black Sea straits and a foothold in the Balkans.

These overt and covert processes were analyzed with remarkable clarity by V.I. Lenin. Speaking about the Serbian-Austrian conflict, he noted that "in Serbia and among the Serbs, we have a multi-year and millions of" masses "embracing the national liberation movement, the" continuation "of which is the war of Serbia against Austria." “We cannot be against national liberation wars,” Lenin added. “If the Serbs were alone against Austria, wouldn’t we be for the Serbs?”

But the Serbs were not alone against Austria. Their just war of national liberation was not isolated, but – again, to quote Lenin – “is connected with the general European war, with the mercenary and predatory goals of England, Russia, etc.”

In other words, Serbia and similar countries were a bargaining chip in the squabble between packs of predators, and no one seriously thought about the interests of their inhabitants. “... the imperialist war will lead to the strengthening of one or another of the three strongest imperialist powers - England, Germany, Russia, and at the expense of the weak ones (Serbia, Turkey, Belgium, etc.), and it is quite possible that all these three robbers will become stronger after the war, dividing the loot (colonies, Belgium, Serbia, Armenia), and the whole dispute will be only about the proportions in which to divide this booty, ”concluded Lenin.

Having returned from the turbulent centuries-old past to the no less turbulent present, let us think: is there anything in common between them? For a long eight years, we have observed the heroic resilience of the people of Donbass. By rebelling against the pro-fascist forces that came to power in Kyiv, they paid for their freedom with thousands of lives. Their feat is great, and the struggle is fair.

Proceeding from this indisputable fact, many, not excluding the left, support the Russian military operation that has begun. The authorities support this linkage with all their might. Speaking about the DPR and LPR in his address on February 24, V.V. Putin said that "it is impossible to look at what is happening there without compassion." “Tolerate all this was already simply impossible. It was necessary to immediately stop this nightmare - the genocide against the millions of people living there, who rely only on Russia, hope only on us. It was these aspirations, feelings, pain of people that were for us the main motive for deciding to recognize the people's republics of Donbass, ”he assured.

Continuing the theme of historical analogies, one cannot but pay attention to the similarity of Putin's address with the manifesto of Nicholas II of July 20 (August 1), 1914. “Following its historical precepts, Russia, united in faith and blood with the Slavic peoples, has never looked at their fate indifferently. With complete unanimity and special force, the fraternal feelings of the Russian people towards the Slavs have awakened in recent days, when Austria-Hungary presented Serbia with demands that are obviously unacceptable for a sovereign state, ”it said. Hiding behind the need to defend Serbia, the tsar added more frankly: “Now we have to stand up not only for the unjustly offended, kindred country, but also to protect the honor, dignity, integrity of Russia and its position among the Great Powers.”

Putin's February addresses are built according to the same scheme. Calls to protect the Donbass were followed by demands to reckon with Russia's interests on the world stage. “We unshakably believe that all our faithful subjects will unanimously and selflessly stand up to defend the Russian Land,” the tsar called. “I believe in your support, in that invincible strength that our love for the Fatherland gives us,” the president echoes with him.

Let's be frank. The ruling class of modern Russia "worries" about the common people of Donbass in the same way as the tsarist elite "worries" about the Serbs. Both have absolutely the same attitude towards their own working people - as towards an oppressed mass that ensures their prosperity.

The forces that came to power as a result of the Russian Maidan in 1991 and finally established themselves as a result of the bloody coup in the fall of 1993 are capitalist forces. And no matter how much someone would like to distinguish between the foreign bourgeoisie and the "national" bourgeoisie, whitewashing the latter, its essence is no different from its foreign class brethren. It is driven by the same forces - the desire for maximum profit, profit at all costs.

In the 1990s, this goal was achieved by subordination to foreign capital. Having received from him help in gaining power and suppressing popular resistance, the young Russian bourgeoisie was content with a dependent role.

But time passed, and the young predator began to "itch his teeth." Without questioning the dominant position of Western "partners", the strengthened capitalist class of Russia nevertheless began to look around in search of "food" for erupting fangs - their own markets, their own sphere of influence. The ideological manifesto of this turn was Putin's notorious "Munich speech" of 2007, which is portrayed in official propaganda as a "turn towards national sovereignty."

But the process of reclaiming its "place in the sun" inevitably reproduced the features characteristic of the Russian bourgeoisie itself. A characteristic feature of "our way capitalism" is the stake on raw materials industries to the detriment of the almost destroyed manufacturing industry and science and, as a result, dependence on foreign markets. The parasitism of the oligarchic system, its unfruitfulness affected everything. Modern Russian culture reproduces the worst examples of Western culture with its cult of consumption, selfishness, violence, and perversions. The education system has been built according to Western patterns, while the unique Soviet developments have been discarded. The list goes on…

The same can be said about foreign policy. Unleashing dirty "meat" and "milk" wars against the closest ally - Belarus - the Russian ruling class silently watched the expansion of NATO for many years and did not even remember some of the guarantees given once. All activity in the Ukrainian direction was reduced to supporting “friendly” oligarchs and figures like Yanukovych, despite the fact that the nationalists lured by the West were raising their heads higher and higher. Similar processes took place in Kazakhstan and Central Asia.

And what could the "new Russia" offer its neighbors? What attractive, progressive ideas? In terms of economic weight, it is inferior to more powerful powers. And its cultural and ideological "matrix" is the same as that of the rest of the capitalist world, and Moscow cannot address the working people over the heads of bourgeois governments, as the Soviet government did. Russia is the same capitalist country, an oligarchic fiefdom, and all that its ruling class wants is to achieve a certain independence within the framework of the capitalist world. “Give us a territory where we can feed freely!” - these are the requirements of Russian predators to global predators.

Nothing has really changed since 2014. Having returned the Crimea and provided assistance to the republics of Donbass, Moscow at the same time did not recognize the referendums held there. On the other hand, she recognized the Kiev authorities and for eight years watched the atrocities of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on the line of demarcation.

For many, this bitter truth may seem unacceptable, but the DNR and LNR, like the rest of the post-Soviet space and the same Syria, are for the Kremlin bargaining chips, bargaining items with the United States and the European Union for more advantageous positions for Russian capitalism, i.e. for the Russian "pipe" and Russian oligarchs.

From the same point of view, recent events should be considered - from the ultimatum to NATO on "security guarantees" to the military operation in Ukraine. Indeed, it is naive to think that the Kremlin is outraged to the core by manifestations of fascist ideology. Of course, Russia has not yet reached the glorification of Vlasov and the “march of ROA veterans,” but monuments to Hitler’s henchmen like Ataman Krasnov are being erected, streets are named after them, Solzhenitsyn’s works are included in the school curriculum, and Ilyin, an admirer of fascism, is breathlessly quoted by the country’s top leaders.

And most importantly, the Russian government deliberately hides the closest relationship between capitalism and fascism, while the "struggle" with the second while remaining faithful to the first is an ordinary profanation. Under these conditions, there will be no “denazification” in Ukraine and there cannot be. Real denazification can only be carried out by forces that reject capitalism, since it is precisely capitalism that in crisis conditions gives rise to the monster of fascism. But the Russian ruling class, of course, will never agree to this.

There is another important point related to this. To welcome the destruction of the Bandera regime, while hushing up the true motives of the Russian operation and the essence of the system existing in Russia, means to be hypocritical and betray the really important cause of the anti-fascist struggle. Its fight against the Kiev regime cannot give any indulgence, any "absolution" to Russian capital. To the left, this should be as clear as the fact that the reactionary nature of the Taliban regime did not undo the imperialist nature of the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and subsequent occupation.

It is possible that the Kremlin was nevertheless given certain guarantees from the West, which were publicly rejected, and Russian capital received some freedom of action along the perimeter of its borders. At what price and in exchange for what, someday it will become known. The deepening social and economic crisis gave courage to the Russian bourgeoisie. A monstrous depopulation, declining incomes of the population are pulling down the rating of power, and the possibilities of the “Crimean consensus” to cloud the consciousness of citizens have been exhausted. Under these conditions, the "small victorious war" is a proven and simple means.

This situation is far from unique. In the context of the crisis of the globalist capitalist system and the erosion of American hegemony, the “new bourgeois predators” are raising their heads higher and higher. Erdogan's Turkey, for example, does the same. By sending troops to Syria, Iraq, Libya and Transcaucasia, demanding for itself "fat pieces" of the Mediterranean shelf, it promotes the interests of its own bourgeoisie and at the same time distracts the population from internal problems. Of course, the authorities do not speak directly about the imperialist claims, covering up everything with words about "defending fraternal peoples", "historical justice", "fighting terrorism". But it doesn't change the essence.

Let us repeat that in order to recognize the reactionary nature and criminality of one's own, "domestic" capital, one needs not only knowledge, but also courage. Not everyone is able to repeat the act of the Bolsheviks - members of the IV State Duma, who in 1914 refused to vote for war loans, were arrested and exiled to Siberia.

Fortunately, not all leftists are bound by obligations to the ruling regimes, and a clear class analysis of recent events is still given. A joint statement by 25 communist and workers' parties indicated that the conflict in Ukraine was the result of the overthrow of socialism and the collapse of the Soviet Union and was linked to the plans of monopoly capital to gain control over markets, raw materials and transport networks. To do this, the Euro-Atlantic forces used the reactionary political groups inside Ukraine, pandered to the activities of nationalist and openly fascist forces.

But, as the document emphasizes, Russia's motives are similar. “The decision of the Russian Federation to first recognize the independence of the so-called people’s republics in the Donbass, and then conduct a Russian military operation under the pretext of Russia’s “self-defense”, as well as the “demilitarization” and “defashization” of Ukraine, was taken not to protect the peoples of the region and the world, but to promoting the interests of Russian monopolies on the territory of Ukraine in their fierce competition with Western monopolies... The peoples of the two countries, who lived peacefully and did great things together within the USSR... are not interested in taking the side of this or that imperialist, this or that union serving the interests of monopolies,” the document says.

The left-wing parties called unacceptable the anti-communist rhetoric "used by the Russian leadership to justify its strategic plans in the region" and called for fighting the propaganda of bourgeois forces on both sides of the conflict, which is pushing peoples "into the meat grinder of imperialist war under various pseudo-pretexts." At the end of the appeal, it is noted: “It is in the interests of the working class and the popular strata to approach the analysis of events on the basis of class criteria, outline their own path of struggle against the monopolies, the bourgeoisie, for the overthrow of capitalism, intensification of the class struggle against the imperialist war, for socialism, which remains relevant more than ever. and necessary."

Often these days one could hear that the "anti-fascist operation" would push Russia itself towards a "leftward" movement, a more just social order. A delusion as unfounded as it is dangerous. The "Russian Spring" and the "Crimean consensus" turned into a deepening of the reactionary, anti-people essence of the Russian bourgeoisie. This was proved by the pension reform, the strengthening of anti-communist rhetoric and the optimization of the social sphere, which had such a detrimental effect on pandemic preparedness. The peripheral character of Russian capitalism has not changed either. No technological breakthrough has occurred in eight years, the economy's dependence on raw materials has only intensified.

There is no doubt that these birthmarks of Russian capitalism will only grow. The “national bourgeoisie” compensates for the restriction of freedom of action abroad by increasing exploitation at home. The inevitable growth of discontent will be stopped, on the one hand, by the tightening of the political regime, and on the other hand, by the intensification of the indoctrination of citizens, with speculations on the themes of "patriotism", "resurgent empire" and "besieged fortress". At the same time, anti-communist, anti-Soviet propaganda will sharply increase, which is already manifested in the rhetoric of the authorities. The sympathies of the majority of working people for socialism are deadly for the ruling class and must be neutralized. Decommunization with all the ensuing consequences may become a reality in the very near future.Under the slogans of "denazification" of Ukraine, we can get "Nazification" of Russia .

But no matter how tough the actions of Russian capital may be, it remains a weak link in the world bourgeois system. Its initial contradictions and distortions will make themselves felt more and more strongly. It is therefore possible that today's Russia is experiencing its own August 1914, and the first victories and jingoistic frenzy hide the beginning of the slide into the abyss. And only one question is really important here - will there be their own Bolsheviks and their own Lenin in the country at the time of the catastrophe.


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