The former Soviet Union
A former leader of the left wing of Solidarnosc, now living in France, talks to Martin Thomas about Gorbachev's reforms in the light of the Polish experience, and about the basic problems of the Stalinist societies. Click here to download pdf.
At the time of writing, the official death toll from the ethnic violence which broke out in the Kyrgyz cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad in the night of 11/12 June stands at over 200. With so many corpses still to be recovered, the real figure is doubtless a lot higher, and possibly as high as 2,000.
Some 400,000 Uzbeks, the ethnic minority which has been the target of the violence, have fled from their homes. Around 300,000 are internally displaced within Kyrgyzstan, and the other 100,000 have fled across the border into Uzbekistan.
December: USSR invades Afghanistan, where it fears that the pro-USSR government is about to be defeated by traditionalist and Islamist rebellion. The invasion becomes “Russia’s Vietnam war”.
Mass workers’ movement, Solidarnosc, erupts in Poland. It is banned after a military coup in December 1981, but continues to exist underground.
It is 20 years since the destruction of the Berlin Wall by the people of then divided Germany signalled that Russia’s control over Eastern Europe was collapsing. Russia had held Eastern Europe in a brutal grip for four and a half decades, since the end of the Second World War.
It had used the most brutal and bloody methods of imperialist control to maintain that grip. In East Germany in 1953, in Hungary in 1956, and in Czechoslovakia in 1968 it used as much military force as was required to beat down revolt against old-style Stalinist, and Russian, rule.
The system Stalin built in the old Tsarist empire has collapsed irretrievably. The USSR is collapsing, too: most of its republics have now declared themselves independent. In most of those republics the “Communist Party of the Soviet Union” has either been banned outright, or banned from activity in the army and the KGB, and in factories.
Immediately after the August coup in Moscow, Boris Yeltsin and his friends turned the Russian parliament into a veritable revolutionary committee which, backed by the people, took measures it had no legal power to take, to break up the old order.
What is happening in the former USSR now is a grotesque triumph of unreason. In its destructiveness and senselessness, it will rank in history with the carnage of the First and Second World Wars as an almost inexplicable piece of 20th century madness.
At the behest of men like Boris Yeltsin and other ex-Stalinists, men who have been through their whole lives members of the corrupt old Stalinist ruling class, nearly 300 million people are now being pitched into the maelstrom of deliberately created or intensified economic chaos.
“In lawlessness, in the committing of crimes, the point must be remembered at which a man becomes a cannibal!” Statement of A. I. Solzhenitsyn in defence of Zhores Medvedev, June 1970
To date Russian troops remain in Georgia very close to the capital Tbilisi. As western diplomatic pressure on Russia gets stronger, Russia appears to want a semi-permanent presence in the de facto mini-states within Georgia’s borders — South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Parliamentary elections took place in Ukraine on 30 September; western pundits are proclaiming these may “have saved the Orange Revolution”, of 2004. The elections were an effort to resolve the political crisis in Ukraine, triggered by by President Viktor Yushchenko’s decree on 2 April dissolving parliament, after a protracted power struggle between rival blocs.
By Tom Unterrainer
The past few weeks have seen courageous actions by gay communities in Russia, Latvia and Poland. For the second year running their efforts to celebrate gay identity and organise a movement that will fight for gay rights have been met with violent opposition from the state, religious and far-right groups — more often a combination of all three.
A collection of articles
A collection of articles on solidarity with workers in Eastern Europe before the revolutions of 1989, and on those revolutions and the prospects they opened up
By Sean Matgamna
"The revolution... made its first steps toward victory under the belly of a Cossack’s horse", wrote Leon Trotsky, describing the start of the Russian Revolution of February 1917.
Women workers persuaded the Tsar's Cossack soldiers not to fire on the rebellious people on the streets, and in the course of doing it crawled under the bellies of the soldiers' horses to get to them.
British workers and the Stalinist state 'unions'
Workers' Action 182, March 1981
[At the head of the article stand two news clippings]:
From the Financial Times: Soviet union leader 'poorly'
The leader of the Soviet Union's first independent trade union, Mr Vladimir Klebanov, was reported yesterday to be in poor physical condition after treatment with strong behaviour modification drugs in a special psychiatric hospital in Dnepropetrovsk.
Sectarian lessons from afar
By Martin Thomas
Genuine socialists in Russia face hard times. All the traditional phrases and slogans of socialism are discredited by decades of Stalinist abuse; almost every-one looks to free-’market economics; the working-class movement is extremely weak.
Click here for pdf.
[Editorial introduction to the symposium, WL16]
The Russian socialist revolution is dead? It died long ago!
It died not in December 1991, when the USSR formally ceased to exist, nor in August 1991, when the failure of the attempted coup finally broke the back of what power the "Communist Party" had left.
The left's verdict on the USSR: was August 1991 a capitalist counter-revolution against a workers' state?
By Martin Thomas
In the new Workers' Liberty magazine [no.16], a wide range of socialists offer their responses to the collapse of the USSR. This article by Martin Thomas surveys the responses from a narrower spectrum of the left, the Trotskyists.
Market madness in the ex-USSR: the triumph of unreason
Editorial, Socialist Organiser, 9 January 1992
What is happening in the former USSR now is a grotesque triumph of unreason.
In its destructiveness and senselessness, it will rank in history with the carnage of the First and Second World Wars as an almost inexplicable piece of 20th century madness.
Why the workers want to restore capitalism: the legacy of Stalinism
By Sean Matgamna
Socialist Organiser 497, 29/08/91
Socialists like ourselves, watching the replacement of the Stalinist state economies not by socialist workers' power and a democratic collectivist system, but by capitalism, are in a position roughly similar to the pioneering Marxists George Plekhanov and Karl Kautsky when they watched the Russian workers take power although their dogmatic expectation was that only the bourgeoisie could replace the Tsar.
Stalin's system collapses
Socialist Organiser 497, 29/08/91
Last week the system Stalin built in the old Tsarist empire collapsed irretrievably.
The USSR is collapsing, too: most of its republics have now declared themselves independent.
In most of those republics the so-called "Communist Party of the Soviet Union" has either been banned outright, or banned from activity in such institutions as the army and the KGB, and in factories.
Hugo Chavez has made another friend on his international tour - none other than Aleksandr Lukashenko, president of Belarus. The latter is widely credited as "Europe's last dictator", his regime suppressing the press, rigging elections and using death squads against its opponents.
Dion D’Silva reviews “How to plan a revolution”, BBC2
Azerbaijan is situated alongside the Caspian Sea, and sandwiched between Russia and Iran. It is ruled by a brutal crypto-Stalinist regime.
Following a crackdown on independent universities some students are now on hunger strike. News from Azerbaijan is hard to come by in the western media. One exception was this BBC documentary following Murad and Emin, two young opposition activists, as they organised before the general election last November.
“The role played by the young Ukrainian socialist movement is most significant. This movement has connected the national liberation question to all the problems of the liberation of the working class: it has raised this question to the level of those political problems which can be solved by no other means but democratic struggle, by the development of class conflict in Ukrainian society.
Read part 1 here.
Part 2: Restoration and decomposition of the ruling class
The ‘Orange revolution’ in the mirror of history, by Chris Ford
Stan Crooke looks at the background to the recent slaughter of up to 500 people by the Uzbek government during demonstrations in the eastern city of Andijan.
While George Bush hypocritically rails against nuclear proliferation in Iran, the US and Europe are colluding in extending nuclear energy in the countries affected by the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. This survey — we have edited it slightly for reasons of space — was published recently on the Schnews website.
The former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan is standing against Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in Blackburn. He was sacked after making complaints about the UK goverment using information obtained under torture by the Uzbekistan government. Stan Crooke reviews a new book by Shahram Akbarzadeh, Uzbekistan and the United States - Authoritarianism, Islamism and Washington's Security Agenda (Zed books). It won't he says, answer all your questions about this former Soviet republic.