Don’t mess with the Tsar

Forget about the smog in Beijing, it’s more interesting to discuss the huge cloud of humbug stirred up by events in the Caucasus. And this is surely proof if proof were needed of the terminal dopiness of ideas of an ethical foreign policy. As any tyro in IR can tell you, a moral conscience is not an ontological attribute of the state. Realpolitik and the pursuit of interests reign supreme. Like Lenin said, you look for the person who benefits.

First off, we need to get past the idea that Georgia is an actual functioning country – the “beautiful democracy” that the egregious Jim Murphy has been slabbering about – rather than what it really is, a loose patchwork of fiefdoms under an alleged government that bears more resemblance to an organised crime syndicate. Which is pretty much the story of Georgia since the twelfth century. And it’s also worth recalling that not very long ago, Mikheil Saakashvili rigged his re-election and clubbed the opposition off the streets. All that really distinguishes Misha from Robert Mugabe is that he hasn’t lived long enough to have accumulated Uncle Bob’s enviable rap sheet.

A particularly large effusion of humbug has come from Emperor George, who has been holding forth on the need to respect the boundaries of sovereign states. Let’s ignore Iraq and Afghanistan for the sake of argument. Is it irrelevant that US-EU diplomacy has recently carved out and supported the mafia-run statelets of Kosovo and Montenegro? Is it unutterably cynical to mention that Washington is currently sponsoring no less than three separatist movements in South America – Guayas in Ecuador, Zulia in Venezuela and the white ranchers in eastern Bolivia – against governments it finds uncongenial? Would it be totally beside the point to ask the Colombian population about how Panama was created in 1903, for the purpose of giving the Yanks a more pliant government in charge of the Canal?

As far as the Kremlin is concerned, well, we don’t need to impute humanitarian motives or to resort to conspiracy theories. The Tbilisi regime has been putting in a lot of effort to get up the Russians’ collective nose, of which more below. And for many years the Russians have been seriously annoyed about Chechen jihadis operating out of Pankisi with the full knowledge and connivance of the Georgian government. But really, it’s sufficient to see the Georgians opening fire on the Russian army as a clear case of peeing on the Dude’s rug.

I actually have quite a bit of time for the Ossetes and the Abkhaz, who seem to have been obscured in all this. These are people who were never part of an independent Georgian state, and certainly never asked to be in Georgia, but who wound up incorporated into the Georgian SSR in the 1920s and 1930s thanks to the imaginative nationalities policy of Stalin, Beria and Orjonikidze. (And isn’t it wonderful how our present-day Cold Warriors are so devoted to Stalin’s borders?) Upon the collapse of the Soviet Union, they figured, not unreasonably, that everything was on the table and there was no reason why Abkhazia shouldn’t go for independence, or South Ossetia join up with North Ossetia. Maybe, back in 1991, things could have been negotiated amicably. But first the extreme chauvinism of the Gamsakhurdia government, then Kitovani’s fascist paramilitaries trying to “liberate” the rebel republics, sans population if necessary, polarised things intensely, and the Yeltsin-Shevardnadze agreement under which Russia was the guarantor of the ceasefires only froze things without resolving them.

Now, although Georgia is certainly a US client state, I don’t buy the idea that this is a proxy war being waged from Washington. There are enough reasonable explanations internal to Georgia. First you have to consider that Saakashvili came to power in one of these “colour revolutions”, and just like the other governments to have so arisen, his government has turned out to be just as useless, corrupt and repressive as its predecessor. Not terribly popular at home, it’s no surprise he’s been beating the nationalist drum.

When Shevy was in power, he would make the odd speech about the lost territories, but never tried to launch a military offensive to take them. And while Shevy would sometimes make noises about Georgian membership of Nato, that was mostly to annoy the Russians and he never made a serious bid. Misha is not as devious. Where Shevy used to go to Moscow and treat with the Kremlin on a regular basis, Misha has cranked up the anti-Russian rhetoric to a hysterical pitch. Misha has actually tried to get into Nato, and come close to doing so. (It’s sobering to realise that, if the Germans hadn’t put up resistance to that bright idea, Nato would now be legally committed to war with Russia.) Misha has asked the Yanks to station troops in Georgia, and has gone so far as to send Georgian troops to join in the occupation of Iraq.

On a diplomatic level, this paid off. Misha has always been treated royally when he’s been in Washington. He even got John McCain to lead a high-powered congressional delegation to Georgia, during which McCain proclaimed that South Ossetia must be under Georgian rule indefinitely, and never mind what the South Ossetians had to say on the matter. But did Misha really go to war on a punt? Did he think the Yanks had given him a nod and a wink? Could he really be gormless enough to pitch his tiny army against Russia and think he wouldn’t get his ass kicked?

It seems so. In fact, from Saakashvili’s frequent TV appearances over the last few days, the man appears to be in an advanced state of paranoia. When he starts making dramatic claims that are then contradicted by his own government, that’s not a good sign. I think Misha’s calculation was that he could take Tskhinval in a short blitzkrieg, and by the time the Russians started to regroup his American friends would protect him. Well, so much for that cunning plan.

This is not, one fears, going to end well for Saakashvili. Even before his gamble he was at the bottom of Tsar Vladimir’s Christmas card list, and there can be no doubt that the Russians would love to be rid of him. But it’s probably not necessary, whatever Bush says, for the Russian army actually to go into Tbilisi and overthrow the government. It’s just as likely that the warlords and gangsters who wield the real power in Georgia will decide that little Misha is now a liability.

Hoch das Bein, treten Sie ein…


  1. johng said,

    August 12, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    The Tomb has come alive in response to this. Check both Seymours postings and the lively debates under each. My own belief is that we are witnessing the return of multi-polar great power politics. Obviously the funniest thing about all this is George Bush complaining about ‘disproportionate’ responses. How we laughed in the Kremlin. But I would also argue that perfectly understandable vicarious pleasure in the scuppering of US hegmonic ambition may lead to a hangover. We need to differentiate this from the kind of imperial policing operations of the last ten years or so. Welcome back to multi-polar great power rivalry. After a brief champagne breakfast to celebrate the end of unilateralism we need to get back to confronting new realities.

  2. Rob said,

    August 12, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    John, to what degree do you think we can talk about ‘imperial policing’? I feel like the claims about US hegemony etc. have always been greatly exaggerated. Equally, I don’t feel like this is the beginning of a new epoch substantially different from before, we certainly won’t be seeing a return to the Cold War politics.

  3. johng said,

    August 12, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    No, I said multipolar rather then bipolar. Its intended as a corrective to widespread beliefs that we live in a unipolar world. By imperial policing I mean the range of operations generally classed under the rubric of ‘humanitarian intervention’ and more recently the war on terror. These are ‘police operations’ in my view essentially. We live in a world both multi-polar and asymmetric, but I do think we are witnessing the breakdown of US grand strategy here, and we are likely to see further fissions in the future. Think for example of growing tensions around limited or extended visions of NATO. The centre cannot hold. Increasingly the way the world looks suggests that those who have explained US foreign policy in terms of the growing relative weakness of US capitalism had it right, as opposed to those who believed that the collapse of the Soviet Union meant an endless US imperium. However this does not rule out the US becoming very nasty indeed as it fights to sustain its position. This is probably the immediate future.

  4. charliemarks said,

    August 12, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    Yeah, anyway, that photo reminds me that I need to write some Putin/Medvedev slash fiction…

  5. harpymarx said,

    August 12, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    Great pic!
    Very 50s Hollywood-esque all bulging biceps and white vest..with a chiaroscuro effect to emphasise form and shape….

    Sorry Splintered…have read your post (I do buy the theory it is a proxy war) but got distracted by pic.

    Charliemarks: Can’t wait for the slash fiction…

  6. Rob said,

    August 13, 2008 at 10:41 am

    John, I don’t disagree that this emphasises we are not living in a unipolar world, however, I tend to think that claims of American hegemony (and Hardt-Negri type claims about Empire) have been greatly overblown. I think WBS summed it up quite nicely here:

    Speaking of the great game… I was intrigued to see the idea that we live in a multi-polar world bandied about again. That’s hardly news to anyone who reads the Guardian opinion pages, let alone Prospect, or Foreign Affairs. And it has been the situation certainly since remarkably soon after the demise of the Soviet Union. While Russia was down, if not out, China snuck in, as has India in a lower key way… and South America and Africa are producing their own local hegemons…

    I think the same goes for the ‘humanitarian intervention’/war on terrorism stuff. Even amongst the great powers there have always been tensions around these strategies, and it seems wiser to ascribe those moments that they did agreee down to very particular sets of circumstances (e.g. 9/11).

  7. Briz Blogger said,

    August 13, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Sorry, I just had to nick that photo:

    I await a call from your legal department ;o)

  8. Phil said,

    August 13, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    A particularly large effusion of humbug has come from Emperor George, who has been holding forth on the need to respect the boundaries of sovereign states. Let’s ignore Iraq and Afghanistan for the sake of argument.

    Apparently more than one state does bad things in pursuit of its interests, and their denunciations of one another are sometimes hypocritical. Who’d have thought it?

    As for lines on the map, I think saying they shouldn’t be crossed is actually a pretty good starting point. You can criticise the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan on those grounds, *and* the bombing of Serbia. Otherwise you end up either defending one country’s violations of international law & condemning another’s (which gets confusing) or retreating to the sidelines with the SPGB (Latest – Workers Of The World Still Screwed).

    Saakashvili came to power in one of these “colour revolutions”, and just like the other governments to have so arisen, his government has turned out to be just as useless, corrupt and repressive as its predecessor

    I prefer Craig Murray’s take on this one. I think you’re right about Saakashvili, though – on his role in the current debacle, his motives and his severely curtailed shelf-life.

  9. Madam Miaow said,

    August 13, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    Har, har! I so love your writing style, Splinty.

  10. splinteredsunrise said,

    August 14, 2008 at 9:08 am

    Phil, not crossing lines on the map works for me as a starting point. Of course, then you get into the arguments about whose lines and whose maps…

  11. Cian OConnor said,

    August 14, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    And the fact that Georgia started this by killing Russian troops and citizens. It was an astonishingly reckless, stupid and illegal act by Georgia. Whatever criticisms one might make of Russia, she didn’t start this war. This fact seems to be heavily discounted in media discussions of the conflict.

  12. John Palmer said,

    August 14, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    Cian – I totally agree on not “taking sides” but the fact are that a week before the Georgian attack into South Ossetia, Georgian villages there (there is a large ethnic Georgian minority there) were subject to a mercilous artillery onslaught. When Tiblisi complained to the Russians they were told that the Ossetian paparamilitary units responsible were “not at present under our control”!! It was clearly a trap to enveigle the Georgians to make a stupid move – which they duly did.

  13. ajohnstone said,

    August 15, 2008 at 5:16 am

    I suppose you could consider the SPGB as being on the sidelines , but as having any sort of influence lets be honest , the British Lefty are just echoes in the wilderness when it comes to having any effect on Russian , Georgian or American strategic planning .

    So far the SPGB has not made an official statement but meantime SPGB party member blog Reasons to be Impossible sums it all up :-

    ” So, for the record – as a socialist I can only aim for one thing from this conflict, immediate peace, irrespective of boundary outcomes. My allegience is with the workers of Ossetia, Georgia and Russia – the wage-slave hired killers sent to die. The famillies slaughtered. The civilians cut down by the pass and fell of warring great powers. All other analysis aside, nation states are units of property – their wars are wars of property, mafia gang-fights for loot. Workers do not benefit from these wars, we only die in them. The only way to stop these wars is to rid ourselves of the property system, and all the conspiracies to murder that are standing armies that stem from it.

    The world for the workers, and nothing less.”

    Yup , we don’t need a news-flash about the workers of the world still being screwed

  14. Cian OConnor said,

    August 15, 2008 at 9:35 am

    Has that actually been confirmed by independent sources, John? At this point I consider the Georgians about as credible as the Iraqis during GWII. They’ve claimed an awful lot, some of which has been true.

    I personally find the suggestion that the Russians planned this (which I’m guessing has been sourced from the Georgians, who really are very very good at PR) pretty unconvincing. It seems to rest on the fact that the Russians had prepared for the possibility that Georgia might attack their troops. Well that and the fact that the Georgians didn’t actually seem to have a plan for taking S. Ossetia (how hard is it to blow a road tunnel up). I’m sure the Russians were delighted that Saakashvili is the stupidest man alive, and attacked without any actual strategy (or rather one which seems to have involved NATO as the cavalry), but nobody plans for that kind of thing.

    On the other hand we have a volatile, unpopular and relatively weak Georgian dictator who has been seriously rattling sabres about S. Ossetia for a while. Prior to the attack there was a very slick and well prepared PR campaign in the US by the Georgians, that rather suggests this had been in the works for longer than 10 days. Hours before the ceasefire the Georgians declare a ceasefire, and attack during the opening of the Olympics when Putin is in China.

  15. John Palmer said,

    August 15, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Cian – Yes, there were numerous media reports (Le Monde among them) of Ossetian irregulars (who have been and still are armed by the Russians) attacking ethnic Georgian villages within Southern Ossetia. The Russian military command disclaimed responsibility when the matter was first raised with them by the Georgian “peace keeping forces) in the region. At that point the Georgian government decided to go for the kill (precisely – in part – because Putin was in Beijing and they (I guess) supposed that Medvedev would vaccilate. Big mistake. Interestingly the US State Department (Rice) warned Saklashvilli off – face to face in Tiblisi. But seemingly he took more notice of speeches by Cheney and others in Washington and went ahead. Yes, big mistake. He may not be long for the top spot with signs of his position being chalenged from even within his own party. But the new Tiblisi government if and when it emerges will not be pro-Russian.

  16. johng said,

    August 15, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    What I find a bit implausible about John Palmer’s response on this is that reports of Georgian refugee’s from Osttetia only really begin to be publicised several days after the Georgian attack. Georgia is a pivotal state for US grand strategy in the region, and I find it very hard to believe, if this was really true, that it would not have been all over the media. That irregulars are now attacking Georgian villages and carrying out reprisals in Georgia proper I can well believe and such things should be condemned. But this is the first time I’ve heard a story about Condeleza Rice having this conversation. Whats the source for this? In Washington beltway talk has it that the big argument going on is that if the US knew about this its very bad, and if they didn’t, its even worse. No concern here of course about bombarding a capital city and villages, killing thousands of civilians and creating tens of thousands of refugee’s, but with the complete miscalculations involved. I think its extraordinary that we have still not recieved any coherent explanation about why Georgia launched this attack and are being encouraged to forget about it.

  17. johng said,

    August 15, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    I also have my doubts about the future political stability of Georgia incidently.

  18. Cian OConnor said,

    August 15, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    I’ve seen reports of Georgian villages being attacked, but they all seem to come from the same sources, the Georgian government. Le Monde reporting on claims by the Georgian government is not the same thing. And even if its true, this kind of thing has been going on for years (and has its roots in Georgia’s own ethnic cleansing operation in S. Ossetia in the 90s).

    Russia is an unpleasant, authoritarian, military bully. Granted. But so is Georgia. The only real difference is that Georgia is Western in its orientation, so it seems better to us. As for S. Ossetia, it should never have been part of Georgia. They wanted to be part of Russia from the outset, and Georgia behaved appalingly when it tried to stop them seceding. Given that their only claim on the place is based upon Stalin’s internal borders for the Soviet Union…

    Anyway its kind of irrelivent now. Georgia made a huge gamble and lost big time. Russia will accept the terms that it likes, and I doubt there’s much anyone can do to prevent this.

  19. John Palmer said,

    August 15, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Johng – Well the sources are both directly from the US State Dept and from the Georgians. According to the International Herald Tribune, The Guardian and others the warning not to act was explicit. And I believe these reports. Why? Well for one reasons the Americans have sweet F.A. available by way of mobilisable armed ward fighting forces. The Wash. Post reported that US military commanders have been warning for months that Iraq, Afghanistan and other “committments” have left the military reserve close to zero (especially given that the potential enemy would be Russia in Georgia). In my view the US is increasingly an economic, political and (to a surprising extent) a militarily busted flush.
    Recognition that we live in a “mutli-polar” not “unipolar” world is the beginning wisdom. But some of the poles look flaky in the extreme. Which is one reason why the left (if it is ever again to be taken seriously) will have to do some new thinking on the “What is to be done” question. By the way the Ossetians certainly have used their alliance with Russia. But historically they have frequently been on the other side in conflicts with the Russian imperium in the Caucasus.

  20. neil said,

    August 15, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    From Asia Times Online

    “It is significant that the United States was fully aware of the risk of conflict. The American Foreign Policy Council in Washington in its Russia Reform Monitor reported on July 11:
    Russia has admitted its fighter jets overflew the breakaway Georgian territory of South Ossetia in a sortie that took place just hours before US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Tbilisi with a message of support … Speaking in the Georgian capital on July 10, Rice said Russia needs “to be part of resolving the problem … and not contributing to it.” However, she also said she had told Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili that “there should not be violence”.

    Now this doesn’t rule out other sections of the US ruling class giving Saakashvilli the green light, Dick Cheney comes to mind. But the current rhetoric going round the anti war movement that the conflict was basically a proxy war planned in Washington is too simplistic and largely ignores the role Russia plays in arming South Ossetian sepratists and increasing the pressure on Georgia in reaction to the Kosovo UDI.
    I was at a Stop the War meeting in London yesterday evening on the conflict and from the way the platform spoke I thought I’d arrived in a parallel universe and the USA had invaded Georgia!

  21. johng said,

    August 15, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    I’m afraid I do not regard either the Georgian government or the State Department as reliable sources. The former have been spouting a torrent of completely insane lies, at the same time clearly having an enourmous amount to conceal, whilst in the relatively more open society in the US the potential shitstorm around this means it would be foolish indeed to take ANYTHING being said at face value.

    But it is surely deeply puzzling. I completely agree that if they did give the green light its the most ridiculous miscalculation since….er last week (joke!). I was thinking that it may have been an attempt by the georgians to force the pace by provoking a crisis (greatly overestimating the ability of the US to step in). As is apparently doing the rounds in Washington (at least according to Sky News) this is pretty much as bad as the US having advised it. If they’re stuck with a proxy that behaves so dangerously its a liability rather then an asset. Its also true though that whilst the US had no interest in the current humiliation, its just possible that they might not have realised that the Russians would react with such vigour. There is a vast overstatement of the dependence of the Russians on US good will, and a kind of bewildered air at the refusal of the Russians to play ball, even with the Bush equivilant of banging a shoe on the podium.

    I have to say I’m entirely unsure what you mean by realistic agency. If you mean that we should all rally around sarkozy I think this is misguided. Its also just true that what is depressing about this is that this very decrying of popular agency is what led people like yourself taking the kinds of positions you did in the first place. Where has it led? Absolutely nowhere.

  22. John Palmer said,

    August 15, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    johng: Whatever or whoever one chooses to believe is less relevent than the facts of the growing impotence of the US as a wannabe global hegemon. But, in case I am misunderstood, let me add that an imperium in decline is often more dangerous than at the apogee of its power. Think of the Brits in the period around Suez in 1956, or the French in north Africa atabout the same time.
    I do not decry “popular agency”. To the contrary without such popular agency no agenda to improve (maybe even save) the world has a cat’s chance. But I openly acknowledge my conviction – which has grown in the many years since the IS tradition and myself parted ways – that such popular agency must have concrete objectives in terms of what is realisable – not a transitional programme, more a transitional politics. This necessarily means some involvement with political and state institutions which have some purchase of real world outcomes. I happen to believe that the political fight to give a progressive orientation to the European Union is one such option. That may be right or wrong. But even the SWP – through Respect, Left List etc etc – seems now to accept that the left has to have concrete, potentially realisable policy objectives short of proletarian socialist revolution (whether to be implemented by the GLA, Parliament or whoever). The past decades have seen a massive decline in the political influence of the revolutionary left (more or less everywhere) and with that decline has come an impotent obsession with purely abstract propaganda. The dwindling forces of the revolutionary left may deride as “centrism” or “left reformism” attempts to grapple with the concrete possibilities but they still have no answer to the question: What is To Be Done?

  23. johng said,

    August 17, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    I agree entirely with you both about the decline of the US hegemon and about the likely consequences. Indeed I think this is what the events of the last eight years have been largely all about. So the same people who bought failure, chaos and destruction to large parts of the globe through the war on terror are now sabre rattling about Iran, are now also trying to drag us into a confrontation with russia to hold NATO togeather under its leadership.

    What I don’t see, concretely, is what your argument means. I think in the end placing ourselves at the centre of mass movements against this new world disorder have proved more effective in the real world then the kind of engagement you advocate (although I must be honest and say I don’t really know what that is). The wave of revulsion against the US’s vision of a unipolar world is genuine internationally and also has real force (the fact that gangsters like Putin try and rhetorically claim it notwithstanding). We played a small but significant part in providing a focus for this, and the British anti-war movement had a global impact elsewhere.

    Now, as is well known, we did not succed in providing an electoral vehicle to reflect this success. Thats our failure and, along with other participants, we need to take responsibility for this. But I do not really understand exactly what you are advocating, and what you are advocating, on occassion, at least on the blogs, seems to have led you to adopt forms of politics which are, to say the least, unhelpful in the current context (I’m thinking in particular of the politics of liberal internationalism).

    What is interesting at the moment is the disarticulation of NATO and Europe as a result of the strains of the US trying to force a confrontation. Germany and France reflect one wing of this, and, very interestingly and disasterously from the US point of view, Turkey the other. I believe socialists should utilize these divisions, but just as we would should not become Russian flag wavers, nor should we become protagonists of old Europe. If there are concrete recomendations or observations you have on the current situation I’d certainly be interested in seeing them.

  24. John Palmer said,

    August 17, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    johng – Thank you for your reasoned response. There is a difficulty about our exchanges which arises fropm the fact that I no longer subscribe to what – in shorthand – I might describe as the Trotskyist, Bolshevik or Revolutionary Marxist approach. I do regard myself as a socialist and an internationalist. Perhaps we could find some common language if I repeat that my approach would look from your vantage pont as a species of centrism or left reformism. If by “liberal internationalism” you refer to my support for the Bosnians or the Kosovars in their struggle – against Belgrade (including their right to exploit links with other powers – as Connolly attempted in 1916) then I am guilty as charged. But you will find a surprising number of socialists broadly accept this approach. When you raise the issue of “engagement” with bodies such as the EU – I would respond that the left should be ready to “raise demands” on such bodies – especially where (as is the case in the EU) they are at least partially subject to (under developed) democratic institutions such as the European Parliament. Yes, I accept that my approach goes well beyond the Left Opposition tradition of a transitional proramme – rather it implies a more holistic “transitional politics.” I have attempted in the past to elaborate this in Red Pepper. I also concede that my approach is influenced by what I see a massive transformation in the class dynamics of capitalist society (this is realy a separate discussion). I do not criticise the SWP for attempting an electoral strategy (but the way they went about it). In the meantime the vacuum left by the implosion of Labourism remains dangerously unfilled by any species of progressive politics.

  25. August 18, 2008 at 11:39 am

    […] already been made very well by writers such as Seumus Milne in the Guardian and bloggers such as Splintered Sunrise, but the continual lauding by the mainstream media of Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili as a […]

  26. johng said,

    August 18, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    I guess my big problem here is that even if one was a left reformist or a centrist in contemporary Europe one faces a choice between the quite large scale opposition, as the Irish referendum demonstrated, between those who see European intergration as a neo-liberal scam, and those who see it as a platform for progressive politics, the only alternative being forms of parochialism and xenophobia etc. Leaving aside the detail of these arguments, it seems myopic to ignore the fact that across Europe popular opposition to neo-liberal policies often takes the form of movements against the EU and provide one kind of forum for far left politics, including electoral far left politics.

    When it comes to Bosnia and Kosova, the reason I utilized the term ‘liberal internationalist’ was that it seems to me such arguments ignored completely the extent to which these operations were couched in terms of a) defending this neo-liberal version of Europe and b) their importance in terms of holding togeather US hegenomy in the shape of NATO. In short such arguments about humanitarian intervention tended to gloss over the geo-political, if you like, realist components of what was happening. Since then these things have become much more visible.

    At the time of Bosnia I shared an office with a lecturer whose main job was with the US armed forces. As you might imagine this was a rather odd experiance (I remember a senior lecturer looking at me apologetically as we passed his class to hear him stating that you did not understand communists till you had faced them ‘mano e mano’ in the Jungle). He was affable enough as an individual but was absolutely clear that it was imperative that any action occur through NATO, and indeed for him, strategically, this was the main issue.

    Its also true that old debates about the wheel and spokes system of economic relations which came to exist between western and eastern europe was the product of shared interests between western elites and whilst drawing on understandable reluctance of eastern european countries about relations with Russia, and equally understandable desires to move closer to the centres of wealth in Europe, produced arm twisting unpleasentness in the shape of the kinds of structural adjustments proposed.

    Much of this is coming home to roost now both in the shape of suspicians amongst populations in western europe about this neo-liberal agenda, and its connection to military strategy in the shape of the relationship with the United States, and on the other hand the revival of Russian great power politics, premissed on the domestic popularity of rejecting and overcoming the kind of shock therapy, wheel and spoke relationship which had been a previous component of US and European geo-politics.

    Of course at present tensions are emerging between Europe (or at least old Europe) and the US complicating the picture considerably, but it doesn’t seem to me obvious that the best bet for socialists is to work within european institutions as opposed to joining the resistance to them. In addition, the fact that Russia clearly quite cynically used parrallels between Ostettia and Kosova for their operation does not obviate the reality of some of those parrallels. Indeed given that one can see the great power logics in operation here, its surely obvious that similar logics were working in the case of the former Yugoslavia.

    Which is why I find your position on this puzzling.

  27. John Palmer said,

    August 18, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    johng: I must say your position of “understanding” for the Russian take on the Caucasus does remind me somewhat of the debate about the North Korean invasion of South Korea. The Stalinists backed Pyongyang of course (under Moscow’s instructions) – the 4FI “defencists” gave critical backing to North Korea, whereas the group which became Socialist Review (then IS and then the SWP) refused to support either side and regarded them as equally suitable for condemnation. Incidentally the SR position was more or less the same as that of Hal Draper and his comrades in the US.
    In Geogia and elsewhere for me the starting point is the right of self determination. I fully supported the Bosniaks and Kosovars. I would also support the right of the Ossetians to merge with the north (if that is what they want) and for the Abkhazians to have their own state. The fact that would be big state hegemons (imperialists) seek to exploit these conflicts for their own interest is besides the point. Hence my reference to James Connolly who sought the support of the Kaiser’s Germany for the rising of 1916. Of course “independence” in the modern world is ultimately meaningless. That is why European integration has helped provide a framework for resolving national/minority conflicts (such as those between the Hungarians, the Romanians and the Slovaks) without recourse to war and hyper nationalism.
    Neo-liberalism: this is a complicated issue. All of the EU states are neo-liberal – but some are much more than others. If you imagine that Swedish or Finnish neo-liberalism is the same for organised workers as the British Blair/Borwn version – I am sorry that bears no realtionship to reality. But the fact is that the only credible defence of workers’ rights, improved social standards, greater regard for environmental sustainability (etc etc) is one which recognises the necessity of winning the EU (and eventually global institutions) to those policies. French social democrats such as Jacques Delors saw that when many of his British comrades were still waving their union jacks in opposition to the EU. I am sorry johng but the essence of opposition to European integration is deeply reactionary. That is why everywhere the anti-EU populists have won, the overwhelming beneficiaries have been the right (mainly the hard right) NOT the left. Yes, that incdludes France, the Netherlands and Denmark (as well as UKania).

  28. johng said,

    August 18, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Ah but you see this is where we have what might be described as ontological differences. I just don’t see ‘global institutions’ as a goer under capitalism I’m afraid (note here my points about the striking absence of any analyses of geo-politics by liberal internationalists: importantly this does not imply a realist view of the international order. just a sensible one!), or perhaps more importantly, likely to lead to the growth of mass democratic politics. As stated I’m on the other side in terms of the contemporary debates about the meaning of all this. However I’m increasingly of the opinion that liberal internationalism is a bit like religion in the 17th century. It doesn’t REFLECT geo-politics it IS geo-politics to misquote a wonderful line by Christopher Hill.

    The remarks on Korea are just a bit odd frankly, and seem to reflect a set of pre-conceptions based around the absurd idea that georgia represents european values as against ‘stalinist’ russia or some such nonsense (its frankly grotesque). This is a useful article in terms of the history of the local ethnic tensions.

    I do find the speedy way in which liberal internationalism degenerates into the most crass stereotyping of whole peoples perhaps the most disturbing of the many paradoxes associated with this way of thinking about the world. Notwithstanding the fact that Beethoven’s 9th is a nice tune. It doesn’t make reality go away you know.

  29. johng said,

    August 18, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    Oh and of course the other interesting thing about the new liberalism (by which I mean not so much its close cousin neo-liberalism, but the normative wing: the armed wing of global governance perhaps) is the sheer lack of interest in any kind of social history. the word ‘irrelevent’ is often flung about. before long you’ve reached the gulag. The ‘I knows what I like’ branch of ethical thinking.

  30. John Palmer said,

    August 18, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    Oh dear johng, you have slipped now from rational discourse to a species of surrealist discourse which I find impossible to follow. What on earth do you mean to say when you remark about my “crass steotyping of whole peoples”, my “neo-liberalism” (what ever that means) “as the armed wing of global governance.” I note that you do not comment on any of the specifics in my last post. You also seem sadly ignorant of the pre-history of the political tendency which (I understand) you support.

  31. johng said,

    August 18, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    “crass stereotyping of whole peoples” serbs, sunni’s, osttetians that sort of thing. the comparison with north korea just seemed very strange as does the genuinely wierd earlier expressed scepticism about atrocities towards osttetians. The article I posted contains references to the long history of such atrocities. Its not a funny idea at all, despite the reality of Russia using ethnicities as wedges. The history of the treatment of Osttitians is long and atrocious.

    I never called you a neo-liberal. I referred to that speices of liberal internationalism which I think is best referred to as the armed wing of global governance. c’mon, even liberal internationalists can surely take a joke. I mean you must admit that such politics has led to a fair bit of the old bang, bang recently.

    don’t know why you imagine I don’t know the pre-history of my own tendency.

    On the specifics of the post, well there didn’t seem a lot of specifics really. You say that all these movements benefit only the right in practice. I say that despite nordic social democracy (having been bought up in sweden i know a bit about this) in practice the EU has strengthened neo-liberalism and thats the track we’re on (and thats also the track the nordic countries are on: I know this from my moaning swedish friends: perhaps though they’re insufficiantly flexible). The argument should surely be about whether we can turn mass movements or whether we can turn EU institutions. I’ll take my chances with the population.

    That seems to be more in line with the pre-history of my tendency.

  32. John Palmer said,

    August 18, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    1/ I expressed no “scepticism” towards attrocities (real) against Ossetians by Georgians or (equally real) by Ossetians against Georgians. Please cite evidence for your charge.
    2/ What “crass stereotyping of whole peoples” have I expressed… where and when?
    3/ On the EU. When the EU passes legislation extending trade union rights, improved rights for “temporary” workers, new rights for women etc, etc (I can cite such cases in detail if you challenge) and the British government opposes the rest of the EU – do you a/support the EU measures b/ back the British government or c/ simply take a plague on both your houses irrespective of the issue at stake?
    4/ I too know the Nordic countries very well. All I can say is that if the British working class had a fraction of the social and welfare rights of the Nordic workers (even when right wing governments try to take them away) it might
    think every day had become Christmas Day.
    5/ Regarding the Korean question and the SRG – I suggest you read back issues of Socialist Review to see my point.

  33. johng said,

    August 19, 2008 at 10:33 am

    Oh and sorry it was you in your paragraph who thought I was referring directly to you. I was not (although I should have seen earlier that this was how you read the original piece, i was initially confused because you thought I was accusing you of being a neo-liberal). It was a reference to the whole ideology of liberal internationalism which has done precisely that in relationship to the military interventions launched in its name, and indeed, have questioned whether its even relevent to discuss what Georgian forces did. I would say though that I can’t find any reference to Georgian villages being shelled (mercilessly or otherwise) a week before the Georgians indisputably did the same to the capital town (which, so peripheral have been reports in western media that its name keeps slipping from my mind, something that does not of course happen in the case of Gori), and instead understood that a number of policeman had been killed by sepratists. On the Korean thing I genuinely apologise. I didn’t realise what you were referring to. I will have to read it. However I still don’t understand the relevence as we are not here dealing with a bipolar world.

  34. David Ellis said,

    August 19, 2008 at 11:40 am

    `However I still don’t understand the relevence as we are not here dealing with a bipolar world.’

    And here is the SWP’s sophistry out in the open. In a bipolar world the major powers fight proxy wars, in a multi-polar world the major powers fight each other directly. This is a multi-polar world, Russia is fighting Georgia therefore Russia is fighting the West. Therefore Georgia can go to hell and we won’t take sides. And why do the SWP peddle this line? Because they have Stalinist friends in the Stop the War Coalition who support this war outright either because they still have some nostalgic or financial relationship to the ultra-chauvinist and ultra-servile Russian Communist Parties or both. Unfortunately the cost of maintaining their alliances will be the complete and utter discrediting of the coalition itself at a time when it needs all its strength to organise against an attack on Iran. It is ironic that the same people who bang on about Cuba all the time support this Russian onslaught as if the Oligarchy who completed the blockade of that island and nearly starved its people to death and who have plundered the people’s property through outright theft or state organised financial scams are capable of anything remotely progressive whatsoever.

    In actual fact, what is happening is that the major powers are redistributing the world between each other, smashing up, betraying, making false promises, pandering to semi-colonial nations, invading them, conceding what they have to to each other. When the redistribution is finished and it is clear who has won and who has lost the most then and only then, due to their own internal contradictions, will the major powers confront each other directly in a full blown, global conflagration. Before that, however, they will have to smash the will of the world proletariat, that spectre which haunts them all but which, in the SWP’s hands, looks more like Casper the Friendly Ghost.

    If you oppose the SWP’s tacit support for the Russian invasion of Georgia you will be called a `liberal bomber’ and an `ethnic cleanser’ which would be correct if you supported direct Western intervention but which, are in fact, a lie. If a direct confrontation between Russia and the USA comes about on Georgian soil then we will be for the defeat of both sides through the self-organised opposition of their respective working classes.

    The reverse arguements are used by the AWL to support Zionism. They are prepared to justify ANY Israeli assault on Iran and anybody who isn’t is an anti-semite and a BNP supporter. Doubtless when Iran is attacked we will get the same arguement about the major powers and the main enemy being at home intended to make us turn a blind eye to what has been done to Iran as the SWP want us to turn a blind eye to what is being done to Georgia. The AWL has handed its organisation over to Zionism lock, stock and smoking barrels. The SWP have handed theirs over to Stalinism.

    Tough negotiations are taking place between the US, Britain, Poland, the Czechs on one side and the Russians, French and Germans on the other on how this conflict will play out in the near future. How far can the Russians take their assault on Georgia, will they finally give the green light to an Israeli/US strike on Iran in exchange for Israeli complicity in their invasion and getting the missile shield moved onto Russian soil where they all agree it would be better placed to confront the `real’ enemy China, possibly the last thing the imperialists will agree on before tearing each other apart.

    The SWP and the AWL are centrist remnants of the Cold War whose theoretical weaknesses stand exposed in their inability to cope with the new realities and in their treacherous and opportunist alliances.

  35. John Palmer said,

    August 19, 2008 at 11:51 am

    johng: I cannot believe you see no evidence for Ossetian attrocities – the evidence is legion (see the Red Cross or the fiercely anti-Bush Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International). More to the point – behind the cordon of Russian troops – Ossetian paramilitaries are continuing their activities in the large swathe or territory occupied formerly by Georgians both in Gerogia proper and South Ossetia marked by Gori and Tshkinvali. Just for the record the artillerly onslaught by the Georgians on that city almost also certainly merits war cimes investigation as well. I fear David Ellis’s charges may be justified. I listened to a tape of John Rose at the STW meeting. His response to the outright pro-Russian propaganda of his STW colleagues (Stalinoids?) was weak and accomodating in the extreme.

  36. johng said,

    August 19, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    Again John I have never said I never saw evidence for osstetian atrocities (why do you do this?). I said that in the week prior to the bombing from the air and by artillary by the actual Georgian military there is no evidence that I have seen that corrobarates that this was a response to a bombardment of Georgian villages by Osttetian forces (a claim you made earlier). This is important because its being offered as a justification for launching the conflict. I have absolutely no doubt that terrible crimes are now being inflicted on Georgians as Russian soldiers apparently state to interviewers ‘let them take their revenge’. But I don’t see the ‘as well’ stuff. The Georgian attack was what detonated this crisis, however well prepared the Russians were to take advantage of it. It is not always, incidently, the main duty of socialists to differentiate themselves from ‘stalinists’ (a term which seems to be being used without reference to peoples actual politics).

    Nor do I, tacitly or otherwise, support Russian troops in Georgia. Simply lies (and as soon as I saw this lie I stopped reading what the comrade was writing. Its pointless). The general method operating here is to suggest that anyone who opposes the US’s depiction of the crisis is pro-putin, an enemy of european values, a stalinist etc, etc. Its an old story and its quite ridiculous that some people on the left are falling for it again. NATO is meeting today, and the country we live in Britain, will be following US orders to try and force through tougher measures against Russia. Its in this perspective that everything must be discussed.

    In terms of my general take on the relation of all this to imperialism here is one i sent earlier (actually in a debate with someone who does, in my view, veer mistakenly towards what I take you mean by a stalinist position):

    Marxists since the 1970s have pointed to the imbalence between the US’s political and military pre-eminance and its relative decline in terms of economic dominance. This is a tension which has sharpened over the last decade as the US relies more and more on its military capacity to ensure its dominance within global capitalism. Thus if we look at the immediate aftermath of 1989 the US was able to impose shock therapy on eastern european countries and Russia without the use of any military mechanisms at all, resulting in the wheel and spoke system between western capitalism and the east. This situation further east has however become considerably more tricky, firstly in the case of China, and more recently in the case of Russia. These rising powers embody different kinds of power, and whilst, as yet, they are not capable of projecting their power globally, and it is quite correct to point this out, their position needs to be understood in relationship to the relative decline of the US.

    I think it is correct to identify these conflicts and tensions as embryonic intra-imperialist ones. On a wider view, intra-imperialist tensions have always embodied a measure of asymmetry. After all German capitalism developed self consiously in opposition to Britain’s ‘Empire of free trade’, List representing perhaps the first economic theorist of protectionism (ironically Hamilton in the US was another), and this was also reflected in an imperialism which looked to the immediate neighbourhood rather then the global stage.

    There are clearly important differences in the situation which I would not deny (not the least to the extent that US imperialism takes a very different form to the days of the British Empire), but its important to remember that the bi-polar days of the cold war were a recent anomoly. Despite the asymmetry of the current system the tensions and pressures towards war cannot be explained unless US imperialism is understood as partly structured by its rival subordinates. As with the British in the first half of the 20th century they are still pre-eminant but have challengers. These challenges are not directed at imperialism, but rather involve a quest for a bigger slice of the pie. Whilst its true that as these challengers get stronger and stronger, the US will run into more and more difficulties, its not true that these are challenges to imperialism per se or indeed its worse excesses.

    These are likely to intensify. Regionally, and to some extent globally, China’s experiments with SEZ’s have been emulated, and despite arguments which try and suggest that the US does not want to see other countries having successful capitalist development, I do not see the US challenging such a model anywhere. To this extent these countries share interests (and indeed neither side can afford the other to fall). But they are still at the same time in competition with each other. We should utilize the splits that occur, but should understand that in attacking US imperialism, we are also often, economically undermining the political challenges of the rival imperialisms.

    The attempt to discern, for example, an anti-neo-liberal model for the world in China’s development strikes me as reliant on distorting spectacles. If you attack neo-liberalism you also attack the Chinese state. The Russians at present share large interests with the US in terms of the war on terror. Its the contradictions of imperialism that will lead them to act against these interests, not any set of principles or alternative visions of the world order. Therefore it is correct to describe the drive to war as one driven by intra-imperialist dynamics, despite the asymmetry, and incorrect to view this as in some sense simply a battle to overcome a unipolar world, with the new challengers being at the front of the lists in a wider battle against US imperialism.

  37. johng said,

    August 19, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    The funny thing about Dave Ellis’s rant is that he thinks there is still such a thing as ‘stalinism’. where?

  38. johng said,

    August 19, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Actually did I understand Dave Ellis correctly? Is he calling on Socialists to ‘support’ Georgia???!!! Its interesting that he accuses us of ‘not taking sides’. Thats exactly right.

  39. John Palmer said,

    August 19, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    johng: The Russians themselves acknowledged to the OSCE (of which they are a member) that “elements not currently under our control” did attack ethnic Georgian villages prior to the offensive by Tblisi.
    If there is any conclusion to be drawn from today’s meeting of the NATO council in Brussels it is that it is a busted flush. There will be “humanitarian aid to Georgia” plus “consultation about rebuilding infrastructure”, words of reproof for Russian overreaction, demands for Russian troop withdrawals and that is about IT. You see they have no available troops, precious little money and deep disagreements between the US (with the UK in partial tow) and the main EU states. This may not be the place to debate the finer points of difference between Stalinism and the Putin/Medvedev regime. I am not sure I would gamble too much on there being a fundamental difference when it comes to policy.state repression, civil liberties and human rights.

  40. johng said,

    August 19, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    I heard nothing about a ‘merciless’ artillary barrage though. Is there a souce for this story? Also is the Russian response to the OSCE available in translation anywhere? I think there are large differences between Putin’s regime and the old Stalinist regime despite the formers authoritarian nature. I doubt though there is much difference between being occupied by Putin and NATO is probably a better way to put it to those who have illusions in Putin.

  41. johng said,

    August 19, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    If thats an accurate account of the NATO meeting thats a good job.

  42. David Ellis said,

    August 19, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    `The funny thing about Dave Ellis’s rant is that he thinks there is still such a thing as ’stalinism’. where?’

    Do I hear the patter of tiny feet? Yes I do its johng:

    I’ve got a mirror you can borrow johng. Johng, the man who has rebranded Putin’s Russian irregular militias as the iron will of S. Ossetian self-determination.

    `Actually did I understand Dave Ellis correctly? Is he calling on Socialists to ’support’ Georgia???!!! Its interesting that he accuses us of ‘not taking sides’. Thats exactly right.’

    Yes johng, I support Georgia against imperialist assault. You support Russian imperialism. Yours is the position of the Russian Communist Parties, i.e. stalinists albeit stalinists who no longer have state power.

  43. johng said,

    August 19, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    No I have nowhere expressed any support whatsoever for Osttetian militias, so once again you begin with a lie.

    I don’t take sides in a proxy conflict between the US and Russia no, and nor do I support a war drive by NATO against Russia.

    So you think our main priority is to oppose the policies of the Russian Communist Parties? What kind of nonsense is this?

  44. johng said,

    August 19, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    Oh and I very much doubt that my position is the same as the Russian Communist Parties anyway. I’m sure they oppose NATO so in that respect I suppose I do agree with them and you disagree with them.

  45. johng said,

    August 19, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    Its interesting that all these attacks proceed from my first post in which I actually begin by warning of the dangers of treating the Putin government as in some sense an ally in the struggle against US imperialism.

  46. John Palmer said,

    August 20, 2008 at 7:38 am

    johng: You can find this summary on The Independent’s web site:

    1 August 2008: The trap is set

    According to the Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer, “a decision was made for the war to start in August. The war would have happened regardless of what the Georgians did. Whether they responded to the provocations or not, there would have been an invasion of Georgia. The goal was to destroy Georgia’s central government, defeat the Georgian army, and prevent Georgia from joining Nato.”

    On 1 August, tensions deepened when six Georgian police officers were attacked, and five badly wounded, by two remote-controlled explosions in South Ossetia. The Georgians, who according to diplomats were spoiling for a fight, say they did not retaliate. However, according to the Russians, the South Ossetian capital and other villages were hit by “massive fire” that night by Georgian forces, causing the first fatalities.

    The next day, six civilians and a Georgian policemen were injured during the shelling of Georgian villages in South Ossetia. According to the Georgian prime minister, it was the first time since the deployment of the Russian peacekeeping mission in South Ossetia that the separatist rebels had used heavy artillery, in violation of accords. The Georgians accused Russia of using the two-and-a-half-mile Roki tunnel, connecting North and South Ossetia through the mountains, to supply the rebels with arms and munitions.

    On 6 August, a foreign visitor who spent two hours with the Georgian president described him as ready for the fight, diplomatically and militarily. He was “not depressed, but under huge pressure”. “He has been calling [Angela] Merkel, [Nicolas] Sarkozy and Rice for months and they have all been telling him to stop worrying, that the Russians won’t do anything, and they’ve basically been ignoring him.”

  47. johng said,

    August 20, 2008 at 8:41 am

    The difficulty is that this can be read in a number of ways and is hardly definitive. The Russians also made the claim that they had been contacting the US about what they were presenting as Georgia’s escalation but were getting no reply. Its also true that the President of Georgia is by now throwing such wild fabrications about (the claim for instance, quickly refuted, that Human Rights Watch reported that the Russians as opposed to the Georgians were responsible for the levelling of the capital) that not a lot from that quarter can be treated with any degree of credibility at all. Many reports now are emphasising that the Russian occupation of Georgia proper is about the only thing keeping Georgians loyal to the current government, and that as soon as, very hopefully, they leave, he will be held to account for his doings in South Osstetia, the whole official position which you recount being widely questioned. Its apparent even from the report above that the ‘merciless shelling’ of Georgian villages by Osttetian irregulars you referred to, targetted Georgian security forces. Thats not to justify these actions but to question the kind of account which seems to be coming from both the Georgian government and the US. An account increasingly questioned in Georgia itself (without, very obviously, being at all friendly towards the Russian position). The air of panic about discussions of this subject officially are quite noticable.

  48. John Palmer said,

    August 20, 2008 at 10:38 am

    johng: No – no panic. Just being clear about what happened and needing to give chapter and verse for what I have been reporting throughout these exchanges. I hope you agree that my account of what transpired at NATO is reflected more widely. I guess the point is that the strategic weakness of the UK (and its Ukanian adjunct) is more and more determining the course of events. Ukraine is more and more of a really dangerous flashpoint. The local Russian mafia is meanwhile consolidating its grip on Trans-Dniestra (Moldova). I all along thought that Saakashvilli would get his come uppance from the liberals in the opposition and among his allies. Russian arrogance is meanwhile alienating the usually friendly Armenians (which may account for why Azerbaijan has said nothing critical about the Russian campaign – thinking no doubt about Ngorno-Karabakh.
    At the end of the day I fear the SWP position is drifting to a kind of indirect apologia for the Russians (as much for what they do not say, as for what they do say). This cannot be justified by revulsion at the creepy but (thank goodness) increasingly bankrupt Bushites in Washington. SR refused to lean to Moscow when it had some rhetorical claim to be a “workers state” – the SWP should take the same stance vis a vis mafia/capitalist Putin’s Russia.

  49. johng said,

    August 20, 2008 at 11:47 am

    But I don’t understand where all this stuff about ‘leaning to moscow’ comes from (unless this involves tastelessly disagreeing with the analyses put foward in our media). I would re-iterate, go to the top of this discussion, and read my first comment, a deliberate intervention designed politically to critique those who thought that because US imperialism suffered a knockback (it has) this means that the Russian state are in some sense our allies. I have also, posted above, presented an analyses of contemporary imperialism (well, a few impressions) which both recognises the asymmetry in the situation, but at the same time is explicitly designed to refute the idea that socialists should side with Russian great power manuevering. Politically all this is completely clear in everything I have said. The objection as far as I can understand it, seems to be that I don’t accept the US and Georgian position on the question, and that I think US involvement has been a large factor in shaping these great power tensions. Other then that I think these disagreements between us probably reflect prior disagreements about the nature of both the war on terror and the stop the war movement. I can’t see any evidence that either myself or the SWP is ‘leaning towards Moscow’ anymore then the nonsense idea that we sided with al qaida. I think many arguing here are leaning towards Washington, and perception of lean is rather relative.

  50. John Palmer said,

    August 20, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    johng: I guess we are approaching the natural end of this conversation. But I cannot but help note that while you refer frequently to “USD imperialism” you only speak about “the Russian state” or “Russian great power manoevring.” Would you have a problem of using the designation “Russian imperialism?” For what it is worth I think all the imperia have a hollow sound. The issue is how “democracy from below” is to be best focussed on a politics which openly advocates a global, supra-national democratic order. This is not a question of pie-in-the-sky utopianism – but a very immediate framework of demands that not only touch on war – but also economic crisis, climate change etc.

  51. johng said,

    August 21, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    Well the contrast is between a regional great power and the top dog of global capitalism. I would argue that it is not really possible to ellide this distinction. But as I actually argue in the piece I put up here, against those who think the term imperialism cannot be utilized about china and russia, parrallels with smaller, but nevertheless important, imperialisms of the past mean that these asymmetries do not rule out the use of this terminology. its not unusual in political polemic to alter ones language depending on which argument one is attacking. but you’ve had the dubious privilage of being attacked by me, but me including pieces written diametrically opposed positions. What holds these things togeather is I suspect disagreements about the nature of global imperialism today. The position I outlined earlier about a weakening dominant power and new challengers seems to me to be the best point of departure in what is, I would suggest, a rapidly evolving situation which is likely to shake most established frameworks. Incidently did you see this by a Russian socialist?

    and this by eastern european socialists:

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