The following statement by the Russian Association of Academics of Socialism and the Union of Internationalists was delivered Nov. 23 to a conference on the Chechen war in Paris. Our translation is from the French version.
The barbarous explosions that killed hundreds of Russian citizens have been used by the regime. Once again, exploiting our grief, the rulers have launched a campaign denouncing an external enemy (the Chechens are convenient for this purpose) to distract attention from those who are really guilty.
It is this same Yeltsin regime, which steeped its hands in blood in Grozny in 1994 and Moscow in 1993, that bears the responsibility for the deep crisis in Russia. We have to understand that individual terror has become a response to state terror, that the old bureaucrat gangsters of Russian capital are no better than terrorists.
The rule of these dinosaurs has already created more victims than all the terrorists together. In fact, it is these “veiled terrorists” who are the real masters of the Russian state.
The idea of consolidating the nation around such a state, the attempts of these bureaucratic capitalists to cover up their own crimes with the crimes of others, is not merely an attempt to deceive the workers.
It is also an escape hatch for the Yeltsinites and oligarchs. On the eve of the elections, they are trying to improve their chances for survival, even at the cost of a new war.
Their chances are declining every day. In Russia, the workers are moving from passive protest and purely tactical demands around payment of their wages to an active and offensive struggle.
In Vyborg and Lasnogorsk, in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, they are beginning to establish workers control, to take the first steps toward the transformation of their factories into people’s enterprises. In these conditions, a ‘small victorious war against terrorists” is a necessary whiff of oxygen for the Yeltsinites.
The explosions in Moscow and other cities proved astonishing opportune for diverting attention from the country’s real problems. “Military exploits,” persecution of all those who look as if they might be from the Caucasus, these are the resorts of those who are not dealing with the country’s real problems.
No less dangerous is the tendency toward a union between superpatriots and super free-enterprisers in a single surge of passion against the foreigners. Particularly cynical is the position of the free-enterprise right-wing journalists, who not so long ago were great defenders of human rights and now accept any kind of action against the Chechen people.
The campaign against those who are called “persons of Caucasian nationality” (and this very term is an insult to the multinational Caucasian region) and the war against Chechnya constitutes a very grave threat of a new rise of authoritarianism and witch-hunting. This could become the next pretext, not only for calling off the elections but also for crushing any sort of protest by workers in the name of “national unity.”
We resolutely condemn both great-power chauvinism and nationalism, especially if it takes terrorist forms. But the terrorists cannot be defeated by war and state terror, if they are supported by the people. If the terrorists are despised by the majority of men and women, old people, and children of Chechnya, and other peoples, they will be quickly eliminated.
We think that it is essential for social and political forces to begin to undertake actions against the war with the following objectives:
· An immediate halt to all military actions that cause casualties among the civilian population.
· Halting traffic in drugs, arms, and slaves on the Chechen frontier and opening up this frontier to humanitarian aid.
· An end to the anti-Chechen mass hysteria, as well as propagandistic and physical intimidation of representatives of the Caucasian peoples.
· Support for the actions of the citizens of Chechnya, who are fighting against terrorism by all political and social forces inside and outside of the country.
· Organizing economic, political, and cultural actions for friendship among the peoples of Russia, the Chechens, and other Caucasian peoples in Moscow and in southern Russia.
As the Russian assault on Chechnya reaches a culminating point, with a rain of missiles and artillery shells on the Chechen capital of Grozny, and with hundreds of thousands of Chechens fleeing a country whose total population is less than a million, a Russian antiwar movement is trying to oppose the racist war campaign of the Yeltsin government and the post-Stalinists of all stripes. But so far, the antiwar movement is more isolated than the movement against the first Chechen war in 1995.
Eric Laurent wrote in the Nov. 18 issue of Rouge, the weekly newspaper of the Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire, Socialist’s Action’s French sister organization:
“It is essentially people who have come out of the democratic human rights movement of the Soviet period who are opposing the war. They are represented by the Memorial Association, the Sakharov Center, and the newspaper Express Khronika. By their past, they represent a genuine democratic tradition and are completely foreign to any Great Russian ideology. Unfortunately, these are very small forces, limited to some sections of the intelligentsia.”
Since all of the Russian procapitalist and Stalinist forces are supporting the war, however, the antiwar movement obviously has to start from small nuclei of enlightened and principled people. Recently, socialist academics opposed to the restoration of capitalism have added their voice to that of the veteran human rights activists. -The Editors