No 1248 September 14th 2004
The "natural" instinct to think of stopping any more Beslan-type outrages by stopping the terrorists is ignorant, cowardly, and doomed. Such tragedies can only be stopped by the revolutionary overthrow of the Western imperialist system. As civil-war acts of all kinds proliferate, it is a sign of monopoly capitalist class society disintegrating and a clear summons to conscious revolutionary theory. Revisionist nostalgia trying to justify Putin's neo-imperialist stance is only cementing the USSR's death from Stalinist theoretical deg-eneration. Combined with "condemnation" of terrorism, it plays right into the hands of the dedicated anti-communist "left" press. US atrocities, driven by fear of defeat, remain the real talking point, not the CIA gloss about imminent Middle-East victory for the American Empire in all fields of endeavour. Is it as debt-junkies who know they are going to their doom that the neo-cons are still mindlessly claiming "certain triumph"???
Under the cover of pro-Soviet nostalgia, much sloppy and irrational thinking is continuing about "terrorism" which could play into imperialism's hands as disastrously as the Revisionist mental paralysis which took the USSR to its doom in the first place.
From a revolutionary anti-imperialist point of view, it has always been not only pointless but self-damaging for serious socialists to get diverted by lurid speculation about the "inhuman barbarity" of the terrorism or its alleged "sick motivation".
Marxist philosophy proceeds from the notion that the world is what it is, — including every political, social, and psychological phenomenon within it,— ENTIRELY due to its TOTAL domination by the bourgeois-imperialist class system.
Independent struggle and thought never ceases, it can only thrive on correcting its own mistakes, and eventually it will completely dominate the Earth as the international socialist revolution.
But beyond conscious, detailed, and genuinely Marxist-Leninist polemics, every other phenomenon is first of all a responsibility of the crisis-ridden imperialist system, and invariably a damning black mark against it.
The fact of "terrorism' illustrates this materialist philosophical reality exactly.
Why does it exist at all?? Why is it now such a frequent and widespread occurrence, especially "suicide terrorism"???
Why is 99% of it historically associated with desperate injustices or desperately unequal struggles???
Why does it seem to be building up towards a crescendo at this moment in time???
Either the answer is the crisis of the imperialist system, dominating the lives of everyone on Earth. Or evolution has taken a wrong turn and set mankind back, especially the vast majority of mankind in the poorest or most frustratingly disadvantaged and benighted areas of the world, to suffer a repeat of a lemming self-destruct phase of development regression.
But having established that fundamentally, the reality of imperialist tyranny ALONE is the background for the existence of the now widespread phenomenon and regular historical routine of terrorism, then certain unavoidable implications follow from this.
It makes no sense whatever to BLAME the terrorists for ending up in this desperate, hate-filled, and frequently suicidal frame of mind. (The argument about whether the conscious perspective for the socialist revolution should engage in or "approve of" acts of terrorism IS A DIFFERENT QUESTION ENTIRELY — see Lenin quotes).
It makes even less sense to "condemn" the phenomenon of terrorism taking place.
Society is heading for TOTAL CIVIL WAR. Vastly more elements will be caught up in or actively engaged in this civil war than just the Marxist-Leninist party of revolutionary theory.
Indeed, it is most likely to be the case, as it has been in history so far, that whenever the civil war has finally spontaneously broken out, the serious revolutionary party has at that point no more than the tiniest of tiny minorities among the huge social forces initially spontaneously going into battle. But as Lenin makes crystal clear in his remarkable 1906 article on Guerrilla Warfare, the Marxist revolutionary spirit ALWAYS is in sympathy with any civil war activity, and ALWAYS hostile to all "condemnation" of acts of civil war, however anarchic the terrorism.
To those so-called "communists" and "revolutionaries" and "socialists" who capitulate to the immense social-conformity pressure of a modern bourgeois state to "condemn terrorism", Lenin says: "I am hurt by this degradation of the most revolutionary doctrine in the world.":
Marxism demands an absolutely historical examination of the question of the forms of struggle. To treat this question apart from the concrete historical situation betrays a failure to understand the rudiments of dialectical materialism. At different stages of economic evolution, depending on differences in political, national-cultural, living and other conditions, different forms of struggle come to the fore and become the principal forms of struggle; and in connection with this, the secondary, auxiliary forms of struggle undergo change in their turn. To attempt to answer yes or no to the question whether any particular means of struggle should be used, without making a detailed examination of the concrete situation of the given movement at the given stage of its development, means completely to abandon the Marxist position.
The phenomenon in which we are interested is the armed struggle. It is conducted by individuals and by small groups. Some belong to revolutionary organisations, while others (the majority in certain parts of Russia) do not belong to any revolutionary organisation.
The usual appraisal of the struggle we are describing is that it is anarchism, Blanquism, the old terrorism, the acts of individuals isolated from the masses, which demoralise the workers, repel wide strata of the population, disorganise the movement and injure the revolution. Examples in support of this appraisal can easily be found in the events reported every day in the newspapers. But are such examples convincing?
The fact that "guerrilla" warfare became widespread precisely after December, and its connection with the accentuation not only of the economic crisis but also of the political crisis is beyond dispute. The old Russian terrorism was an affair of the intellectual conspirator; today as a general rule guerrilla warfare is waged by the worker combatant, or simply by the unemployed worker. Blanquism and anarchism easily occur to the minds of people who have a weakness for stereotype; but under the circumstances of an uprising, which are so apparent in the Lettish Territory, the inappropriateness of such trite labels is only too obvious. The example of the Letts clearly demonstrates how incorrect, unscientific and unhistorical is the practice so very common among us of analysing guerrilla warfare without reference to the circumstances of an uprising. These circumstances must be borne in mind, we must reflect on the peculiar features of an intermediate period between big acts of insurrection, we must realise what forms of struggle inevitably arise under such circumstances, and not try to shirk the issue by a collection of words learned by rote, such as are used equally by the Cadets and the Novoye Vremya-ites: anarchism, robbery, hooliganism!
It is said that guerrilla acts disorganise our work. It is not guerrilla actions which disorganise the movement, but the weakness of a party which is incapable of taking such actions under its control. Being incapable of understanding what historical conditions give rise to this struggle, we are incapable of neutralising its deleterious aspects. Yet the struggle is going on. It is engendered by powerful economic and political causes. It is not in our power to eliminate these causes or to eliminate this struggle. Our complaints against guerrilla warfare are complaints against our Party weakness in the matter of an uprising.
What we have said about disorganisation also applies to demoralisation. Condemnation and curses are absolutely incapable of putting a stop to a phenomenon which has been engendered by profound economic and political causes. It may be objected that if we are incapable of putting a stop to an abnormal and demoralising phenomenon, this is no reason why the Party should adopt abnormal and demoralising methods of struggle. But such an objection would be a purely bourgeois-liberal and not a Marxist objection, because a Marxist cannot regard civil war, or guerrilla warfare, which is one of its forms, as abnormal and demoralising in general. A Marxist bases himself on the class struggle, and not social peace. In certain periods of acute economic and political crises the class struggle ripens into a direct civil war, i. e., into an armed struggle between two sections of the people. In such periods a Marxist is obliged to take the stand of civil war. Any moral condemnation of civil war would be absolutely impermissible from the standpoint of Marxism.
We fully admit criticism of diverse forms of civil war from the standpoint of military expediency and absolutely agree that in this question it is the Social-Democratic practical workers in each particular locality who must have the final say. But we absolutely demand in the name of the principles of Marxism that an analysis of the conditions of civil war should not be evaded by hackneyed and stereotyped talk about anarchism, Blanquism and terrorism, and that senseless methods of guerrilla activity adopted by some organisation or other of the Polish Socialist Party at some moment or other should not be used as a bogey when discussing the question of the participation of the Social-Democratic Party as such in guerrilla warfare in general.
The argument that guerrilla warfare disorganises the movement must be regarded critically. Every new form of struggle, accompanied as it is by new dangers and new sacrifices, inevitably "disorganises" organisations which are unprepared for this new form of struggle. Our old propagandist circles were disorganised by recourse to methods of agitation. Our committees were subsequently disorganised by recourse to demonstrations. Every military action in any war to a certain extent disorganises the ranks of the fighters. But this does not mean that one must not fight. It means that one must learn to fight. That is all.
When I see Social-Democrats proudly and smugly declaring "we are not anarchists, thieves, robbers, we are superior to all this, we reject guerrilla warfare", — I ask myself: Do these people realise what they are saying? Armed clashes and conflicts between the Black-Hundred government and the population are taking place all over the country. This is an absolutely inevitable phenomenon at the present stage of; development of the revolution. The population is spontaneously and in an unorganised way — and for that very reason often in unfortunate and undesirable forms — reacting to this phenomenon also by armed conflicts and attacks. I can understand us refraining from Party leadership of this spontaneous struggle in a particular place or at a particular time because of the weakness and unpreparedness of our organisation. I realise that this question must be settled by the local practical workers, and that the remoulding of weak and unprepared organisations is no easy matter. But when I see a Social-Democratic theoretician or publicist not displaying regret over this unpreparedness, but rather a proud smugness and a self-exalted tendency to repeat phrases learned by rote in early youth about anarchism, Blanquism and terrorism, I am hurt by this degradation of the most revolutionary doctrine in the world.
It is said that guerrilla warfare brings the class-conscious proletarians into close association, with degraded, drunken riff-raff. That is true. But it only means that the party of the proletariat can never regard guerrilla warfare as the only, or even as the chief, method of struggle; it means that this method must be subordinated to other methods, that it must be commensurate with the chief methods of warfare, and must be ennobled by the enlightening and organising influence of socialism. And without this latter condition, all, positively all, methods of struggle in bourgeois society bring the proletariat into close association with the various non-proletarian strata above and below it and, if left to the spontaneous course of events, become frayed, corrupted and prostituted. Strikes, if left to the spontaneous course of events, become corrupted into "alliances" — agreements between the workers and the masters against the consumers. Parliament becomes corrupted into a brothel, where a gang of bourgeois politicians barter wholesale and retail "national freedom", "liberalism", "democracy", republicanism, anti-clericalism, socialism and all other wares in demand. A newspaper becomes corrupted into a public pimp, into a means of corrupting the masses, of pandering to the low instincts of the mob, and so on and so forth. Social-Democracy knows of no universal methods of struggle, such as would shut off the proletariat by a Chinese wall from the strata standing slightly above or slightly below it. That being so — and it is undoubtedly so — the Social-Democrats must absolutely make it their duty to create organisations best adapted to lead the masses in these big engagements and, as far as possible, in these small encounters as well. In a period when the class struggle has become accentuated to the point of civil war, Social-Democrats must make it their duty not only to participate but also to play the leading role in this civil war. The Social-Democrats must train and prepare their organisations to be really able to act as a belligerent side which does not miss a single opportunity of inflicting damage on the enemy's forces.
This is a difficult task, there is no denying. It cannot be accomplished at once. Just as the whole people are being retrained and are learning to fight in the course of the civil war, so our organisations must be trained, must be reconstructed in conformity with the lessons of experience to be equal to this task.
We have not the slightest intention of foisting on practical workers any artificial form of struggle, or even of deciding from our armchair what part any particular form of guerrilla warfare should play in the general course of the civil war in Russia. We are far from the thought of regarding a concrete assessment of particular guerrilla actions as indicative of a trend in Social-Democracy. But we do regard it as our duty to help as far as possible to arrive at a correct theoretical assessment of the new forms of struggle engendered by practical life. We do regard it as our duty relentlessly to combat stereotypes and prejudices which hamper the class-conscious workers in correctly presenting a new and difficult problem and in correctly approaching its
The Bolshevik Social-Democrats are often accused of a frivolous passion for guerrilla actions. It would therefore not be amiss to recall that in the draft resolution on guerrilla actions (Partiiniye Izvestta, No. 2, and Lenin's report on the Congress), the section of the Bolsheviks who defend guerrilla actions suggested the following conditions for their recognition: "expropriations" of private property were not to be permitted under any circumstances; "expropriations" of government property were not to be recommended but only allowed, provided that they were controlled by the Party and their proceeds used for the needs of an uprising. Guerrilla acts in the form of terrorism were to be recommended against brutal government officials and active members of the Black Hundreds, but on condition that 1) the sentiments of the masses be taken into account; 2) the conditions of the working-class movement in the given locality be reckoned with, and 3) care be taken that the forces of the proletariat should not be frittered away.
Gerrilla warfare Proletary. No5. SEPTEMBER 30,1906
While not the revolution itself (in fact, frequently nothing like it and often a hindrance to it), Lenin nevertheless abundantly makes it clear that he "takes the stand of" the civil war activists , — all of them and any of them.
Society under capitalism is disintegrating, "so let it happen" is the revolutionary's response.
Only petty-bourgeois minds with an incurable attachment to piecemeal improvements that feeds into and is fed by a natural not-properly-thought-through optimism that "things always get better", stick to the treacherous reformist opposite which "condemns" such messy civil-war breakdowns as Beslan and such international "outrages" as 9/11(which equally signal a disintegrating world).
The appalling tragedy of the Caucasus school massacre IS A REALITY OF LIFE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF THE IMPERIALIST SYSTEM, and another such pitiable disaster will be along in a week or two somewhere on Earth, and more and more frequently.
Only imperialist tyranny and deluded reformists think "this has got to be stopped",
damning the act of terrorism.
Revolutionaries think "this has got to be stopped", striving harder than ever to see a way that the defeat, overthrow, and crushing of the imperialist system, every scrap of it, can be achieved.
With every new "appalling outrage", the unthinking majority forgets that the snarling imperialist threats of "we'll get them for this", universally applauded, are exactly what the imperialists said last time. And has this programme of blitzkrieg brutality led to the diminishing of terrorism???
No, it has only led to its dramatic worsening, exactly as the EPSR from the start has explained was inevitable.
As usual, there are claims that the Chechen situation is different entirely" and "not supportable in any way".
First, it is continued pure ignorance to see this Leninist scientific analysis as "supporting" all terrorism, simply because it refuses to condemn it and blames imperialism instead.
It is a failure of basic logic. It is the phenomenon of the imperialist system disintegrating which M-L sees as the historically positive continuity. The tragic details of HOW it is falling apart, of which Beslan is just a tiny part of a vast horror story in which 40 million children die painfully, prematurely, and needlessly every year around the world, are 100% the responsibility of the giant imperialist powers alone that no-one or nothing can stop them perpetrating EVERY year for as long as the capitalist system rules — EXCEPT the world socialist revolution.
Marxism-Leninism has always demonstrated its GREATER sympathy with human suffering, and its GREATER courage in trying to do something about it, in this way. The historical record of poverty-stricken and tragedy-stricken countries TRANSFORMED by socialist revolution is unequalled in the whole record of humanity.
In this as in everything, clear rational thinking is the highest expression of civilised development, not emotional day-dreaming.
And it is nostalgic sentiment which has got the better of rational thought over Russia's involvement in this Beslan tragedy.
Until Putin or Russia start actual steps towards the restoration of SOVIET economic relations between all the peoples of the Federation, then every act of "greater law and order" under present circumstances can never amount to anything other than MORE IMPERIALIST TYRANNY.
The outpourings from pro-Soviet Revisionism all fail to avoid the most monstrous reactionariness and deceitfulness.
a) it is just grotesque fantasy to write about Chechen-Russian relations as though they still are. the same as under the Soviet Union, or else should be.
b) as a result, the expectation or understanding of firm "Soviet" action being taken is nothing but an apology for Russia to mimic the most barbaric American imperialist repression measures, and get away with it.
c) if Putin doesn't halt Russia's economic course ever-closer towards imperialism, then Chechen separatism is not "invalidated" by any amount of neo-con/CIA subversion stirring things up. It would be absolutely normal, and therefore unobjectionable imperialist-world behaviour.
d) and if the claim is to be believed that all "Chechen" activities are in fact only al-Qaeda activities, then why would the neo-cons be allegedly dismissing all suggestions of an al-Qaeda involvement in order to continue to stir apparently "non-existent" Chechen separatism??? Why would not Russia's giant military manpower be welcomed to join fully in the "international war against terrorism"???
e) and, supposing that all the Revisionist daydreams came true, a "Soviet" Putin justifying an American Empire "war against international terrorism" would only take the world back to the darkest days of Stalinist Revisionist confusion which "peacefully co-existingly" put the Moscow bureaucracy on the path of destroying the Soviet workers state in the first place.
These sad Revisionist apologetics are almost as bad as some capitalist press campaigning which has gone to the silliest fascist-propaganda lengths to try to keep Russia in the imperialist camp while continuing to screw it rotten over oil, etc, etc, etc).
The disastrous colonial mess of Putin's making is ignored by means of emphasising the personal delinquency of an individual terrorist leading the Beslan raid.
"How a repressed village misfit became the butcher of Beslan" roared the Sunday Times headline.
In two massive pages of deliberate confusion which followed, trying to block out political insight with exhaustive detail about the school siege, the only truth emerging was that the terrorists were all Chechens steeped in separatist traditions, and that history has to be stood on its head in order to pretend a sensible pattern to this imperialist bullshit.
"As far back as the 19th century, Chechen warlords had won the admiration of the West for the tenacity and skill with which they humiliated superior Russian forces," it reads.
"Last week, any vestiges of sympathy had evaporated in the rubble of middle school No 1. An increasingly nihilistic rebellion had reached new depths of depravity with the slaughter of innocents" the ST continued.
The reality, of course, is that anti-imperialist resistance in the 19th century was invariably as barbaric as the colonial repression which provoked it, — i.e. extremely barbaric indeed.
And the West was only cheering on the Tsarist Empire's embarrassment and difficulties because of the 'Great Game' rivalry for control of Central and Southern Asia. Putin's embarrassment is not similarly cheered on here because this imperialist propaganda shares one Western view that it is worthwhile recruiting Putin completely into the Western imperialist camp before Russia gets economically screwed rotten by the West. (It is a rival Western view which has ridiculed Putin over his Chechen difficulties because it feels that Russia is safely inside the monopoly-capitalist camp already.)
It is the confidence of the dedicated anti-communist wing of the "free press" which has felt it safe to print more of the objective reality about Russia's neo-imperialist tyranny on the Chechen separatist question:
Of course there can be no denying the direct link between the Beslan tragedy and the war in Chechnya. The president of North Ossetia, Alexander Dzasokhov, made it clear that the terrorists' only demand was an end to the war in Chechnya and the withdrawal of all the Russian forces from our country.
For the past five years that has been the sole concern of the Chechen nation, led by its legitimate, elected president, Asian Maskhadov: to end the fighting and force Russian troops to leave Chechnya.
Ten years ago Chechnya had a population of 2 million. Today it is 800,000, and Vladimir Putin has an army of what we estimate to be up to 300,000 Russian soldiers in Chechnya inflicting a regime of terror. Many Chechens are refugees and many others have simply disappeared, often in the night. At least 200,000 Chechen civilians have been killed by Russian soldiers, including 35,000 children. Another 40,000 children have been seriously injured, 32,000 have lost at least one parent and 6,500 have been orphaned. These are figures supported by reports of human rights organisations such as Amnesty International, and we believe they are conservative. This is how Putin's soldiers treat Chechen civilians.
We feel trapped on a treadmill which is not of our own making. In 1990, at the height of Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika, we were told that our republic would be put on an equal footing with others in a renewed Soviet Union. But the Soviet Union collapsed and in 1993 Russia decided that if it was to recreate its empire within the former frontiers, it could start with us. There was no justification for Russia invading Chechnya either in 1994 or in 1999.
In 1993, four years after our declaration of sovereignty, Russia arbitrarily included the Chechen Republic as part of its territory in the new constitution of the Russian federation. It did this in spite of the way things were, de facto and de jure, for Chechnya and its neighbours. Unlike other formerly autonomous Soviet republics, the Chechen republic did not give in to the many threats intended to force it to sign the federal treaty with Russia.
When Putin unleashed the dogs of war on Chechnya in order to occupy it for a second time, he christened his attack a "counter-terrorist operation in the northern Caucasus".
Many of us did not realise the significance of that then. Now, with hindsight, we can see that the idea was to discredit the very notion of statehood for Chechnya. While a minority of Chechens regarded Putin's onslaught against us as justified, the majority of the nation has kept faith with its elected president, Maskhadov.
Five years have passed since then, and little has changed. Especially since September 11 2001, President Maskhadov's government has systematically disowned any links with international terrorism. Such assurances, however, have not been enough: the lack of any evidence of links between us and any international terrorist network has failed to dent the firmly held views of Putin and his friends.
Putin has been blaming every act of terrorism in Russia on the Chechens and by his linking our efforts to achieve freedom with monstrous acts of terrorism, each more terrible than the last, Putin and his government are trying to force us to renounce any claims to independence. The Kremlin will not, however; succeed. Freedom for Chechnya is in our blood and in the struggle that stretches back for centuries. President Maskhdov and his supporters, including myself, will never endorse or support terrorism to achieve this independence. Our aim is to strive for a peaceful resolution to an end to the barbaric injustice that is being dealt out to the Chechens by Russia's government.
Putin is keen to get the international community to see the situation in Chechnya as part of the war on international terror. He hopes the outside world will leave him alone to inflict his regime of terror on the Chechens.
Ahmed Zakaev is Asian Maskhadov's representative and was deputy prime minister in the Chechen government elected in 1997. He was granted asylum by the British government in 2003
It is the morning of September 1. Reports from North Ossetia are hard to believe: a school in Beslan has been seized. Half an hour to pack my things as my mind works furiously on how to get to the Caucasus. And another thought: to look for the Chechen separatist leader, Asian Maskhadov, let him come out of hiding, let him go to the hostage-takers, and then ask them to free the children. Then followed a long evening at Vnukovo airport. Crowds of journalists were trying to get on a plane south, just as flights were being postponed. Obviously, there are some people who would like to delay our departure. I use my mobile and speak openly about the purpose of my flight: "Look for Maskhadov", "persuade Maskhadov".
We have long stopped talking over our phones openly, assuming they are tapped. But this is an emergency. Eventually a man introduces himself as an airport executive: "I'll put you on a flight to Rostov." In the minibus, the driver tells me that the Russian security services, the FSB, told him to put me on the Rostov flight. As I board, my eyes meet those of three passengers sitting in a group: malicious eyes, looking at an enemy. But I don't pay attention. This is the way most FSB people look at me.
The plane takes off. I ask for a tea. It is many hours by road from Rostov to Beslan and war has taught me that it's better not to eat. At 21:50 I drink it. At 22:00 I realise that I have to call the air stewardess as I am rapidly losing consciousness. My other memories are scrappy: the stewardess weeps and shouts: "We're landing, hold on!"
"Welcome back," said a woman bending over me in Rostov regional hospital. The nurse tells me that when they brought me in I was "almost hopeless". Then she whispers: "My dear, they tried to poison you." All the tests taken at the airport have been destroyed — on orders "from on high", say the doctors.
Meanwhile, the horror in Beslan continues. Something strange is going on there on September 2: no officials speak to the relatives of hostages, no one tells them anything.
The relatives besiege journalists. They beg them to ask the authorities to give some sort of explanation. The families of the hostages are in an information vacuum. But why? In the morning, also at Vnukovo airport, Andrei Babitsky is detained on a specious pretext. As a result, another journalist known for seeing his investigations through to the end and being outspoken in the foreign press is prevented from going to Beslan.
Word comes that Ruslan Aushev, the former president of Ingushetia, rejected by the authorities for advocating a settlement of the Chechen crisis, suddenly walked into negotiations with the terrorists in Beslan. He walked in alone because the people at the special services headquarters responsible for the negotiations were unable for 36 hours to agree among themselves who would go first. The militants give three babies to Aushev and then release 26 more kids and their mothers. But the media try to hush up Aushev's courageous behaviour: no negotiations, nobody has gone inside.
By September 3, the families of hostages are in a total news blackout. They are desperate; they all remember the experience of the Dubrovka theatre siege in which 129 people died when the special services released gas into the building, ending the stand-off. They remember how the government lied.
The school is surrounded by people with hunting rifles. They are ordinary people, the fathers and brothers of the hostages who have despaired of getting help from the state; they have decided to rescue their relatives themselves. This has been a constant issue during the past five years of the second war in Chechnya: people have lost all hope of getting any protection from the state and they expect nothing but extra-judicial executions from the special services. So they try to defend themselves and their loved ones. Self-defence, naturally, leads to lynching. It couldn't be otherwise. After the theatre siege in 2002, the hostages made this harrowing discovery: save yourself, because the state can only help to destroy you.
And it's the same in Beslan now. Official lies continue. The media promote official views. They call it "taking a state-friendly position", meaning a position of approval of Vladimir Putin's actions. The media don't have a critical word to say about him. The same applies to the president's personal friends, who happen to be the heads of FSB, the defence ministry and the interior ministry. In the three days of horror in Beslan, the "state-friendly media" never dared to say aloud that the special services were probably doing something wrong. They never dared to hint to the state duma and the federation council — the parliament — that they might do well to convene an emergency session to discuss Beslan.
The top news story is Putin flying into Beslan at night. We are shown Putin thanking the special services; we see President Dzasokhov, but not a word is said about Aushev. He is a disgraced former president, disgraced because he urged the authorities not to prolong the Chechen crisis, not to bring things to the point of a tragedy that the state could not handle. Putin does not mention Aushev's heroism, so the media are silent.
Saturday, September 4, the day after the terrible resolution of the Beslan hostage-taking crisis. A staggering number of casualties, the country is in shock. And there are still lots of people unaccounted for, whose existence is denied by officials.
All this was the subject of a brilliant and, by present standards, very bold Saturday issue of the newspaper Izvestia, which led with the headline "The silence at the top". Official reaction was swift. Raf Shakirov, the chief editor, was fired. Izvestia belongs to the nickel baron Vladimir Potanin, and throughout the summer he was trembling in his boots because he was afraid to share the fate of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia's richest man, who has been arrested on fraud charges. He was doubtless trying to curry favour with Putin. The result is that Shakirov, a talented newspaper manager and a generally pro-establishment man, is out of the game, a latter-day dissident — and this for deviating ever so slightly from the official line.
You might think that journalists staged an action of protest in support of Shakirov. Of course not. The Russian Union of Journalists and the Media Union kept mum. Only a journalist who is loyal to the establishment is treated as "one of us". If this is journalists' approach to the cause that we serve, then it spells an end to the basic tenet that we are working so that people know what is happening and take the right decisions.
The events in Beslan have shown that the consequences of an information vacuum are disastrous. People dismiss the state that has left them in the lurch and try to act on their own, try to rescue their loved ones themselves, and to exact their own justice on the culprits.
Later Putin declared that the Beslan tragedy had nothing to do with the Chechen crisis, so the media stopped covering the topic. So Beslan is like September 11: all about al-Qaida. There is no more mention of the Chechen war, whose fifth anniversary falls this month. All we have left is the internet, where information is still freely available. For the rest, if you want to go on working as a journalist, it's total servility to Putin. Otherwise, it can be death, the bullet, poison, or trial — whatever our special services, Putin's guard dogs, see fit.
Anna Politkovskaya is a journalist on the Novaya Gazeta newspaper; she has won numerous awards for her reporting of the Chechnya conflict, and was involved in negotiations with the gunmen who stormed the Dubrovka theatre in October 2002
And the nostalgic Revisionists, still apologising for Putin, are only aiding the anti-communism industry as well as helping imperialist ideological confusion to thrive on its "anti-terrorist" histrionics.
The counter-revolutionary Weekly Worker uses its anti-Beslan moral posturing to slither across into its most vicious anti-communist routines in which the whole epoch-shattering and civilisation-creating history of the Soviet workers state can be blanked out as never having existed, effectively.
First, some easy scoring around the fake-"left" with some vintage petty-bourgeois "condemnation" of terrorism:
"Such acts of brutal terrorism are antithetical to our communist morality. The cause of human emancipation demands winning the masses, and cannot be advanced through acts of wanton cruelty.
Hence it follows that communists and socialists will have no truck with any attempt to paint the grim events in Beslan in the light of 'anti-imperialism' or 'national liberation'. The Beslan terrorists have brought nothing but grief and bitterness to ordinary Ossetian and Russian citizens.
Clearly, by this disgusting and stupid act the hostage-takers played straight into the hands of the current Russian administration.
- and will gain even less sympathy from the minority in Russia which instinctively supports national self-determination and opposes oppression.
So that's a 'No' to all acts of guerrilla sabotage, presumably, — for all time and in all situations. They have always invariably alienated public opinion in the colonising metropolis.
Then it's easily on to the historical stitch—up of the Soviet workers state's entire existence, effectively:
Chechnya was forcibly incorporated into the Russian empire in 1859 and still remains under duress within the Russian federation. Forced unity has nothing to do with internationalism and can do nothing but fan the flames of nationalism: on the one side an increasingly irrational and fanatical Chechen nationalism, and on the other a Russian nationalism that not only oppresses minorities, like the Chechens, but oppresses the Russian people themselves with anti-terrorist laws and other such draconian emergency measures.
Of course, there is nothing new about this. Indeed, for most of the Soviet period, from J V Stalin onwards, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union — in theory committed to socialist internationalism — was in fact suffused with that Great Russian chauvinism.
Stalin — ironically the Bolshevik's first commissar of nationalities — was more guilty than most of reviving old tsarist ways. But what was a scratch in 1920 had by World War II turned gangrenous.
So cockily glib is the anti-communist rhetoric by now that not a single word of explanation is thought necessary for accommodating this next contradictory leap in "logic":
Of course, like the others, the Chechen-Ingush republic had no real autonomy whatsoever. It was, in essence, a colonial possession of the bureaucratic Soviet state. But, so long as the Soviet Union existed, it served to suppress — though not eradicate — non-Russian, non-Soviet nationalism.
The collapse of bureaucratic socialism in the USSR unleashed all these forces. Not only did the Soviet Union break up into its 15 component parts; there was the danger of Russia itself, which still contains many different minority nationalities, going the same way. The Chechen-Ingush republic within the Russian federation cleaved down the middle and saw the Chechen half declare its independence from Moscow.
But how and why did Chechen separatist hostility go onto the back-burner "so long as the Soviet Union existed"?????
And equally, how and why was it that the "collapse of bureaucratic socialism in the USSR unleashed all these forces" of national separatism once again???
It is not purely due to the ideological chaos caused by the bourgeois-imperialist ideological stunt of "condemning terrorism" that this vicious anti-communism can be got away with, — but such muddled anti-Leninist times certainly make it easier.
Revisionist nostalgia only continues the tragic consequences of Stalinist theoretical degeneration.
Other capitalist press diversions for sparing Putin's macho-imperialist humiliation over Beslan, — such as rehashed hypocrisy querying "voyeuristic media intrusiveness into human suffering", etc, — seems to reflect more perceptive bourgeois doubts that this pandemic now of "terrorism" can forever just be dismissed as "the disgusting and stupid acts.... of repressed village misfits", etc, etc, etc.
These bourgeois doubts reflect uncertainty that anything plausible CAN be said in future in a pro-Western imperialist direction to account for the ever-growing phenomenon of terrorist violence against the current international status-quo. And although the Weekly Worker's scribblers will still be there to help the bourgeoisie out with some more counter-revolutionary invective, it would be good if pro-Soviet Revisionist nostalgics could start to see sense.
Meanwhile, the Murdoch press seems to have embarked on a major new "save Bush and Blair" campaign by some told "reporting" that the Afghani resistance to imperialist military occupation and stooge-government building around Karzai has all but collapsed completely, and that the American Empire's stooge in Iraq, Allawi, is now driving forward confidently to his own "democratic election" as well.
It is the suddenness of these remarkable achievements which sticks out so oddly, indicating international CIA coordination.
Because elsewhere, the pro-imperialist media has admitted that anti-American resistance seems to be growing stronger than ever, and the real talking points are much more likely to be the latest accusations against imperialist blitzkrieg brutality or the torture outrages at the Empire's numerous NAZI-style concentration camps:
The heaviest fighting for months erupted in the centre of Baghdad yesterday, only a brief stroll from the office of the prime minister, Ayad Allawi. Witnesses said at least 13 Iraqis were killed and 55 wounded after US helicopters attacked a crowd of unarmed demonstrators dancing round a burning Bradley armoured vehicle.
Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, a Guardian journalist who writes a fortnightly column for G2 and contributes to the main paper, had stitches to his head after being injured in the violence.
One of those killed was the correspondent for the Arabic channel Al Arabiya, Mazen al-Tumeizi. Al Arabiya yesterday broadcast videotape of the correspondent doing his report for the camera.. Suddenly, an explosion occurred behind him and he doubled over.
A Reuters cameraman, Seif Fouad, recording the scene, was also wounded in the blast. "I looked at the sky and saw a helicopter at very low altitude," he told Reuters. "Just moments later I saw a flash of light from the Apache, then a strong explosion. Mazen's blood was on my camera and face," Mr Fouad said from his hospital bed. He added that his friend screamed: "Seif, Seif! I'm going to die. I'm going to die."
Yesterday's violence in the capital appeared to be a coordinated assault: resistance fighters lobbed dozens of mortars into the Green Zone, the fortified compound housing Mr Allawi's interim government and the US embassy. The crackle of gunfire echoed for several hours in central Baghdad. Insurgents then used a car bomb to attack an American patrol that went to investigate, and the US helicopters fired into the crowd.
In a statement last night, the US military said: "As the helicopters flew over the burning Bradley they received small-arms fire from the insurgents in vicinity of the vehicle."
Earlier, the US military had said a helicopter destroyed the vehicle "to prevent looting and harm to the Iraqi people", after four US soldiers were wounded in the attack on the Bradley.
Reports put the death toll across Iraq yesterday at between 60 and 100. The health ministry said the worst casualties were in the capital, where 37 were killed, and in Tal Afar, near the Syrian border, where 51 people died after US troops mounted a large offensive.
Three Polish soldiers died and three others were wounded in an ambush near the Iraqi city of Hilla. "We've seen a tremendous increase in the number of attacks," Brigadier General Erv Lessel, a US military spokesman, told the Reuters news agency.
In an acknowledgement of the extent of the insurgency, which has led to loss of control of at least three towns, including Falluja, Mr Allawi pledged at the weekend that the January election would go ahead even if some Iraqis could not vote.
Islamist militants in Iraq are strengthening their grip on the insurgent stronghold of Falluja, four months after American commanders struck a ceasefire deal that was supposed to pacify the city and return it to government control, residents said yesterday. Militants have imposed religious law on communities, issuing edicts and executing those accused of spying and even stealing.
US patrols no longer enter the city, 40 miles west of Baghdad, and the Falluja Brigade, a government force established in May to maintain security, was disbanded this week. Large areas of Falluja are now entirely under the control of the insurgents, while other parts are patrolled by police units that sympathise with the militants.
A mujahideen shura (council) has been established, bringing together about 20 leaders from various insurgent groups, often with different aims and tactics. Together, they organise guerrilla tactics against US troops and enforce a hardline Islamic rule of law.
"Nobody can say they are controlling Falluja," said Muhammad Hassan al-Balwa, a businessman who was the head of the city council until he resigned when the US launched a major military operation against Falluja in April. "There are many sectors of power and there is nothing in common between their aims and their slogans."
"I told the Americans, 'If the people do not see any change then the resistance will become bigger and stronger'."
He said the insurgents were divided into three groups: the largest comprises Islamist militants, some following an extremely hardline vision similar to the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan, in which they seek to establish an Islamist caliphate, a second group contains former Ba'ath party members, particularly from the military and elite security forces, and the third is made up of tribal nationalists fighting military occupation.
All three agree they want the US military to withdraw from Iraq, but their visions of the country after occupation are unclear and often at odds with each other.
Other towns have gone the same way as Falluja. US troops no longer patrol in Ramadi, 20 miles to the west, nor in Tal Afar, a small town just west of Mosul in the north. US troops entered Samarra, just north of Baghdad, only on Thursday for the first time in weeks after an agreement with local officials.
To accompany their growing position of strength, Falluja's militants have released a macabre video disc, sold in markets in Falluja and Baghdad, showing prominent captives of the insurgents.
One scene shows the sobbing resignation of the provincial governor, Mr Birjis. However, the most disturbing scene, presented by a hardline group said to be run by Mr Zarqawi, shows the execution of an Egyptian man who gives his name as Muhammad Fauzi Abdul Aial Mutwali.
He admits spying for the Americans in Falluja and says he was given 45 computer chips that he was told to place in target houses to direct US airstrikes. For each chip planted, he was paid $150 (£83).
FIVE months before the general election upon which Iraq's future hinges, escalating violence and kidnappings have left the Iraqis in charge of the ballot unable to move freely round the country.
Selected and trained by the United Nations, Iraq's independent Electoral Commission is still virtually confined to Baghdad's high-security Green Zone, with senior officials sent out of the country for UN training.
So dangerous is it for the nascent body's seven commissioners to travel in a country where all government, US or UN-backed officials are assassination targets that some — at huge risk — occasionally abandon their armed bodyguards and travel incognito.
But the overwhelming concern is security, with many doubting that elections can be held in towns such as Fallujah and Ramadi, which remain intensely hostile to US and Iraqi government forces.
Elsewhere, key roads south and west of the capital are plagued by kidnappers and bandits while Baghdad's vast Sadr City slum, a stronghold of the renegade cleric Hoja-toleslam Moqtada al-Sadr, is a war zone-in-waiting with roadside booby traps on every corner to ambush US and Iraqi government forces should they decide to move in on his Mahdi Army militia.
THE United Nations began removing staff from the western Afghan city of Herat yesterday after they were attacked in riots sparked by the sacking of the provincial governor. Mobs attacked and burnt three UN offices in protest at President Hamid Karzai's dismissal of Ismail Khan, the powerful warlord who has ruled Herat as his fiefdom since the fall of the Taleban three years ago.
The UN staff escaped without injury after being helped to safety or taking refuge in a bunker, but at least seven people were shot dead by security forces and the offices and several vehicles were destroyed. Dozens of workers from the offices headed to the airport for evacuation to Kabul yesterday, having spent the night at a US military base in Herat
They were joined by about 50 aid workers from other organisations who also decided to leave, fearful that the violence could grow worse as next month's presidential elections draw closer.
The UN withdrawal could scarcely have come at a worse time as its staff were scheduled to help to organise the October 9 elections in Herat. There are similar concerns in parts of the southeast of the country where efforts by the Taleban to disrupt the elections have made the security situation precarious.
Already warnings are being issued about the danger to the elections by Taleban militants and by the many militias commanded by regional warlords. Observers fear that if elections cannot be held in all parts of the country they could prove more divisive than unifying.
Weekend violence in the western city of Herat is a reminder of how volatile the situation in Afghanistan remains, three years after the US overthrew the Taliban and less than four weeks before presidential elections there.
George Bush described Afghanistan last June as "the first victory in the war on terror". A year ago, the US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared that major combat operations were over and an era of stabilisation and reconstruction had begun.
But despite some progress in education, health and infrastructure, Afghanistan remains far more unstable than western leaders care to admit. Afghanistan is a nation-building challenge to which even Iraq pales in comparison.
Attacks attributed to a resurgent Taliban and its al-Qaida allies have claimed more than 1,000 lives in the past 12 months. Low-level conflict in the south and east has become the norm. Foreign aid workers have been repeatedly targeted, as in Herat on Sunday. Much of the country beyond Kabul is considered insecure.
Major General Eric Olson, the operational commander of US forces, admitted at the weekend that his troops were "not even close" to defeating the insurgents. The 14,000-strong Afghan national army, prone to high levels of desertion, is struggling to make an impact.
Parallel efforts to disarm Afghanistan's more numerous mujahideen militias — a precondition for elections, according to the 2001 Bonn accords — have stalled.
US forces in Afghanistan total 18,000, compared with 130,000 in Iraq. Up to 10,000 Nato troops are attached to the separate international security force, Isaf. For some, that disparity suggests a lack of US commitment.
The previously delayed elections, due on October 9, are beset by similar concerns. Over-stretched western forces cannot possibly guarantee a safe and fair poll nationwide.
Fraud and intimidation are also potential problems. Only a few hundred foreign observers will be on hand to monitor 25,000 polling stations.
Western governments are nevertheless keenly anticipating a democratic triumph in Afghanistan next month — and are likely to declare one, almost whatever happens.
Western leaders are also counting on a victory for Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's pro-western ethnic Pashtun leader and the man they installed after 9/11. That remains the most likely result, possibly after a second round of voting.
Should he win, his main task will be to extend his power beyond Kabul by curbing the mujahideen.
This is the key to stamping out corruption and the multi-billion dollar trade in opium poppies; and to moving on successfully to parliamentary elections next spring.
And this, in a symbolic way, is what Mr Karzai's weekend removal of Ismail Khan, the warlord governor of Herat, was all about. The violent reaction there may be a sign of things to come.
Since 2001, the US has followed an improvised political strategy in Afghanistan, ostensibly promoting national self-determination while maintaining ad hoc alliances with the mujahideen.
The challenge facing Mr Karzai is thus how to wrest control of his country not only from warlords and insurgents, but also, ultimately, from the American puppet-masters who have manipulated both them and him.
The penalty for failure is a descent into renewed Islam-ism; or into what one analyst, Kathy Gannon, calls a failed "narco-state", spinning rapidly out of control.
More and more international aid agencies say that they may have to abandon Iraq just as many have already abandoned Afghanistan because of the DETERIORATING security situation i.e. growing anti-imperialist resistance. The CIA's "we are winning" gloss might make more sense if linked to this strangely edgy admission, which also appeared in the Times, indicating that US Government amassing of mind-boggling debts might be due to continue, REGARDLESS OF THE CONSEQUENCES:
The silence over America's ballooning budget deficit is deafening.
Washington's seemingly inexorable slide ever deeper into the red was made all too plain only last week when Capitol Hill's non-party Congressional Budget Office unveiled its latest projections for US government borrowing. The scale of the numbers is dizzying: this year's deficit is on course to reach a cash record of $422 billion (£234 billion), according to the Congressional Budget Office — more than 4 per cent of America's annual national income. And from 2005 until the end of 2014, the CBO forecasts cumulative extra borrowing of almost $23 trillion.
Yet this 14-figure symptom of fiscal stress in the world's biggest economy scarcely registers in the contest for the White House. Despite its profound implications, it hardly resonates with the US electorate.
Discussion is drowned out by the concentration of debate on Iraq and the War On Terror. It is one of the ironies of this election's emphasis on US national security, that this comes at the expense of attention to economic security, even though America's strength rests so heavily on its financial muscle.
The speed, as much as the scale, of turnaround in the US fiscal position is startling. Between 1998 and 2001, the federal Government was in the black. In only four years, it has moved from a surplus of 2.4 per cent of GDP to a deficit of 4.2 per cent — a swing of 6.5 per cent of national income.
This short road to fiscal purgatory has been paved with rosy projections. But these were fantasy forecasts, based on unreal assumptions that federal spending would remain static even as the economy grew.
But a fiscally toxic combination of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the blow to revenues from Wall Street's bear market, and a combination of steep spending increases and substantial tax cuts has seen this evaporate.
But the big worry is that much of the deterioration in the deficit appears to be structural or discretionary, rather than merely a cyclical phenomenon which will disappear as the economy accelerates.
Even now, and despite its 14-figure forecast for the ten-year deficit, the CBO's projections remain as hopelessly optimistic as they are unrealistic.
Unfortunately, the CBO's sums recall the branches of arithmetic as defined by the Mock Turtle in Alice in Wonderland: "ambition, distraction, uglification and derision". The figures remain based on implausible requirements imposed on the forecasters by US law.
To reach a more accurate view it is necessary to adjust the numbers to reflect the likelihood that the Bush tax cuts will be extended by a Republican Congress whoever wins in November.
A more plausible forecast would also show spending rising sharply, rather than in line with inflation. In recent years, US federal spending has climbed by an average of more than 7 per cent a year. And both the President and his Democratic challenger, Senator John Kerry, have made campaign promises likely to reinforce this trend.
Together, independent analysts think that these factors could add $5 trillion or more to the cumulative ten-year deficit.
All of this matters more than ever because the long-term pressures on the US budget are set to intensify sharply as the 70-million-strong baby-boom generation starts to reach retirement age in the next few years. A widely noted study for the conservative American Enterprise institute by two leading US officials, Jagdeesh Gokhale and Kent Smetters, found that the funding gap between future US tax revenues and spending commitments amounts to $44 trillion.
Without action, the US can no doubt muddle along in the fiscal mire for a time, relying on foreigners' willingness to purchase dollar assets to fund the current account deficit which is the counterpart of its domestic indebtedness. But some sort of reckoning is inevitable.
Could this mean an understanding that deficit spending will be allowed to "win the war on terrorism" even if it bankrupts the US-dominated world economic system???
Everyone knows that the "war on terrorism" is just a euphemism for generalised American military aggression PLANET-WIDE to ensure that the USA is never challenged as the world's dominating armed gendarme, to ensure that no "rogue states" who disrespect Washington's domination should ever flourish, and to ensure that in the ever-deepening "overproduction"-crisis trade-war difficulties (see EPSR box), American interests will prevail by hook or by crook.
Under normal financing, such a vast world-control programme would be impossibly expensive.
Is it the American ruling-class resolve to bust the system rather than contemplate losing its worldwide power, the mightiest empire that has ever existed???
The threats continue to build against Iran, Syria, Sudan, and North Korea, four more targets on Washington's "rogue state" list.
Imperialist "over-production" economic crisis has only ever meant one thing in history, — a return to generalised total warmongering. Revolution is the only alternative. Build Leninism. EPSR
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