Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 2 September 2008


Russia / Georgia war exposes limits of West

LESS THAN a decade ago US imperialism believed that, like a colossus bestriding the globe, it could act as an all-powerful, lone, global super-power. The Socialist explained at the time that despite its vast military strength, US imperialism would not be able to create a unipolar world and would quickly find its power checked and its authority undermined.

The nightmare and lies of the Iraq invasion and occupation left the authority of US imperialism severely dented. Now the 'five day war' between Russia and Georgia has again demonstrated the limits of US power and the increasingly unstable nature of relations between the major world powers.

Following the collapse of the Stalinist regimes that existed in the USSR and Eastern Europe in the late 1980s/early 1990s, capitalist political leaders claimed they would create a 'new world order' of peace, democracy and prosperity.

Instead, nearly two decades of unrestrained capitalism in the former 'soviet bloc' brought an unprecedented collapse of industry (with later some recovery), an unparalleled gap between rich and poor, an unfolding economic crisis and an increasing number of military conflicts.

Stalinism was not genuine socialism but a grotesque and undemocratic caricature of it. Nonetheless, the Stalinist states were based on planned economies, albeit controlled bureaucratically, and represented a threat to capitalism as an alternative economic model. As a result the existence of Stalinism tended to be a 'glue' pulling the different capitalist powers together in opposition to 'communism'. The dissolving of that glue has not led to peace but to the tensions between the major capitalist powers coming to the fore.

It is the world's working classes and poor masses that are paying the price for the ratcheting up of nationalist tensions. The military attacks in South Ossetia and Georgia by both sides in the conflict have led to widespread destruction, including many civilians being killed and wounded.

In the jockeying between the major capitalist powers, so-called democratic principles are entirely secondary to enhancing the national interests of each of the rival powers. In the current conflict both US and Russian imperialism are attempting to claim the mantel of defending the 'weak and the just'. In both cases it is utterly hypocritical.

The Russian regime's support for the rights of nationalities to self-determination is exposed for the sham it is by the two brutal wars it has carried out in Chechnya, where many thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands have become refugees. And for Bush to attack Russia for brutally invading Georgia after the US's vicious subjugation of Iraq, is seen by millions around the world as blatant double standards.

Historical factors

The current conflict in Georgia escalated as a result of a number of factors. A key turning point for the Russian government was the recognition of Kosovan independence in February this year. This was a blow to Russia's perceived interests in the Balkans as it saw an openly pro-US Kosovan government granted recognition against the wishes of Russia's historical ally and 'fellow Slavs' in Serbia.

This took place after a period in which US imperialism - under Clinton and then Bush - has, in an extremely short-sighted way, attempted to take advantage of capitalist Russia's weakness in the aftermath of the collapse of Stalinism, by trying to expand the US' 'sphere of influence' right up to the borders of Russia. Russian capitalism, however, while weakened industrially, has now emerged as an energy super-power (at least while oil prices remain high) and is not prepared to accept this process continuing unchecked.

Military exercises near Tbilisi (Georgia's capital city) in July this year involving over a thousand US marines, Georgia's continued attempts to join NATO and Georgia's open support for the US missile defence system based in eastern Europe, all played a role in bringing the conflict closer, prior to Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili, sending troops to seize South Ossetia.

The end result has been a disaster for Saakashvili. The Russian regime has now recognised both South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent nations. Both have been recognised as autonomous regions since 1810, and are linguistically and historically distinct. Nonetheless, Russia's motive in recognising them as independent and providing Russian troops to enforce it, is not support for the national rights of the South Ossetians and Abkhazians, but a desire to cripple the Georgian regime.

There are widespread divisions between and within the US and the European powers on how to respond to the situation. Their uncertainty stems primarily from their lack of effective means to intervene and from fear of the effect on supplies of Russian oil and gas.

It was ruled out for any of the western powers to back Georgia by direct military means. To do so would have opened the door to serious military conflict between countries with unimaginable amounts of weaponry, including nuclear weapons. This would have been the case even if Georgia had joined NATO, even though membership of NATO is supposed to guarantee other NATO members coming to a country's defence.

Nor are sanctions against Russia a serious possibility in the aftermath of the conflict. Many countries of Europe, including Britain, rely on Russia for a large percentage of their oil and gas. In contrast, the Russian elite relies on Britain only for 'life's little luxuries'. This was summed up by Tory leader David Cameron, when in arguing for sanctions against Russia, he suggested that it would "stop them shopping at Selfridges"!

Of course, serious sanctions from other western countries could have a devastating effect on the Russian economy, but Russia only has to threaten to go on an oil and gas strike to create a crisis in the rest of the capitalist world.

Instead the European Union has limited itself to postponing talks on a Russia-EU partnership deal. The US has not come up with anything more effective. Nonetheless, these events mark a turning point. The coming years will see a major increase in conflict between the major capitalist powers - including the development of more frequent proxy wars. Russian capitalism will be more likely to publicly oppose US imperialism on different foreign policies, such as Iran.

Meanwhile, none of the problems of the masses in Georgia and South Ossetia have been solved. As genuine socialists, we defend the right to self-determination and fight against all forms of national discrimination and oppression, through working class and international solidarity. We support a genuine right to self-determination based on the rights of the working class and poor in society to decide where they wish to live.

When capitalist leaders talk of self-determination, they do not mean self-determination for the working class and poor, just for those who have armies and powerful friends.

As Kosovo and South Ossetia demonstrate, under capitalism there is no possibility of such nations being genuinely independent. But seeking the support of one or another imperialist power is no solution for the working people in those areas.

Developing independent working class forces capable of challenging and overthrowing capitalism - nationally and internationally - is the only way to guarantee the right to self-determination, whether it is autonomy or independence that is desired.

Socialists do not automatically and always support separation, but when we do, we still work to build solidarity between the working classes of all nationalities. And we argue for autonomous or independent areas to be part of a socialist federation or confederation, to enable socialist planning of production and resources for the benefit of all peoples.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 2 September 2008:

'Them and us' economy hits the rocks

Inequality - the world's deadliest disease!

Socialist Party editorial

Russia / Georgia war exposes limits of West

Socialist Party workplace news

Trades Union Congress: Building a real leadership against the bosses

John Mc Donnell MP protests at Unison witch-hunt

London buses: Strikers pack picket lines

Fight threat to Ford Transit plant jobs

Coastguards strike over bank holiday in pay protest

Socialist Party feature

Building a new workers' party: trade unionist initiative needed

Building industrial militancy

International socialist news and analysis

Poland: Biggest workers' demo since the 1990s

Socialist Party campaigns

Terry Fields memorial meeting

Arrested for selling The Socialist

Opposing the far right

Winners and losers at the Beijing Olympics

Water quality threat to health

Adding colour to The Socialist

Socialist Students

School and college students fighting back!

Socialist Party review

Inside Egypt: the land of the Pharaohs on the brink of a revolution

Socialist Party NHS campaign

NHS: Save our casualty unit!

NHS 'surplus' = cuts in care

Swollen profits, suffering patients


Home   |   The Socialist 2 September 2008   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleSolidarity messages needed for US prison reform activist

triangleUS prisoner activist facing violent retaliation

triangleConflict in Georgia - independent position needed

triangleGeorgia - Russia conflict: Disaster for working people

triangleStatement on South Ossetia from the CWI


triangleWaltham Forest Socialist Party: Russia's October 1917 revolution

triangleTrotsky's "insightful and frank examination" of revolution out soon

triangleProtests against state repression in Russia and Kazakhstan

triangleRussia 1917: how art helped make the revolution


triangleSwansea Socialist Party: Mother Jones - A US labour pioneer

triangleJoin the Orgreave Halloween rally

triangleTheresa May, Frida Kahlo and turning women into wares


triangleThe fight against racial discrimination is tied to fighting against capitalist austerity

triangleIMF helps cause inequality it slams


triangleChe Guevara 50 years on - revolutionary socialist and fighter


triangleSolidarity with Catalonia - the people have the right to decide





Catalonia: Workers can finish what Puigdemont won't



Solidarity with Catalonia - the people have the right to decide



Eyewitness: Irish socialist MP participates in events



Exemplary resistance by the people of Catalonia



Germany: Election results in political earthquake



Strike against Madrid's 'state of emergency'!



German elections: rise of the far right and right-wing government will provoke resistance



French Labour reform protests



Catalonia: Student strike called



Brutal repression of Rohingya people sparks massive humanitarian crisis



Solidarity with Catalonia in the Spanish state



Berlin hospital strike



Korean peninsula: is nuclear war likely?



Interview with leader of students' union in the Spanish state: "When we fight, we win!"



Hurricane Harvey: A tragedy made far worse by capitalism

triangleMore International articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party out the Tories

triangle11 Oct CWU fights court attempt to stop national strike

triangle11 Oct The fight against racial discrimination is tied to fighting against...

triangle11 Oct Catalonia: Workers can finish what Puigdemont won't

triangle6 Oct Boeing bust-up threatens thousands of skilled jobs

triangle4 Oct The nasty party turns on itself... but the Tories must be driven out

More ...

triangle17 Oct London: TUC lobby & rally; and London march

triangle18 Oct Warrington & St Helens Socialist Party: 1917-2017; the October Russian Revolution

triangle18 Oct Hackney Socialist Party: 100 years ago - the Bolshevik-led revolution

triangle18 Oct Tower Hamlets Socialist Party: Capitalism in Crisis - is Corbyn the answer?

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017





















Platform setting: = No platform choice