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The West and Intervention

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I read an interesting (but ultimately trivial) opinion piece in today’s Finnancial Times by Chrystia Freeland titled “The new age of authoritarianism.”

There is nothing inherently wrong with the piece as long as people realize that it’s essentially given from the bourgeois viewpoint that the West inherently looks after the good of the world and that free market globalization is something that (while it gives huge profits to Western corporations) is ultimately good for the rest of humanity.

This quote more than sums up her take on the last 20 odd years or so:

the implosion of Soviet communism inspired hundreds of millions of others around the world to embrace freer markets and demand more responsive governments. The great global economic boom of the past 20 years, which has brought more people out of poverty more quickly than at any other time in human history, would not have been possible had the Soviet way of ordering the world not been discredited first.

I’m not going to argue with this point (you all can read my other blog posts to see what I think), it’s just to illustrate her point-of-view.

Most of what we have been reading in the news about the authoritarian regimes of Russia, China, Iran, etc. have been whole heartidly from the view points of those who espouse a liberal bourgeois capitalist mindset (whether they bee slightly left, right, or center) while there has been very little room for the opinions of radical labor organizers, anti-capitalists/globalization organizers, home grown Third World activists, etc.  This essentially gives the reader of mainstream news a very narrow outlook on global affairs and ultimatly stiffle critical thinking as there is much more out there than the capitalist bourgeois mind set and there are more ways to analyze the situation of global affairs (especially when it comes to the South Ossetia conflict).

This piece by Freeland is a perfect example of this mindset that dominates the mainstream media (print and TV).

In it she essentially parrots the views of those who came before in saying that the end of a Soviet dominated Third World brought freedoms to untold millions (I’m no fan of the capitalist degenerated state that was the Soviet Union mind you) and that poverty has been reduced world wide.  She goes along the classical neo-liberal (as supposed to realist) line of authoritarian China and Russia and their imperial endvours around the world and how the West should stand up to them, etc. but does not turn her analysis on the West itself.

One thing I find liberating about Marxian/Marxist political thought (as supposed to Smithan and Ricardian or neo-classical lines of thought) is its grounding in class analysis and how the capitalist class essentially shapes the economy and the world.  With this line of thought we don’t need to look at the world in a Black and White Western imperial adventures = good and non-Western imperial adventures = bad.  We can look at the world in a different light to broaden our analysis.

South Ossetia (in Northern Georgia, of all places) is case and point.  With a neo-classical outlook we look at South Ossetia as a pawn of Russia and Georgia as a country rightfully defended its territory.  We view the E.U. and U.S. as the solution to the conflict and critisize Russia for attacking Georgia.  And, like I said in the begining, there is nothing essentially wrong with this point of view, in fact, in a narrow neo-classical outlook, it is quite correct.  But, instead of this outlook lets analyze it with Marxian colored lenses (Red Oakleys!).

Essentially what is going on here is what has been going on in the region for the past 80 years or so; that is, power plays being taken by U.S. interests and by Russian interests.  The situation between Russia and the U.S. is different than it was in the past.  Russia is now capitalist and America is now the sole capitalist super power (for now); and both countries are major trading partners and pursue a friendly to neutral line of diplomacy.

What Russia is actually doing right now is now different from what Europe and the U.S. did with the Balkans during the 1990s to now.  Certain regional players were trying to bring in rouge elements back into their political control (as Georgia is trying to do with South Ossetia) but outside actors vested in their own interests (despite the high talk of “peace keeping) interfered (rightly or wrongly) with force to prevent this from happening.  Kosovo was one of these interests and recently declared full Independence (it had essentially been independent for a long time, just never officially) from Serbia with the backing of the U.S.  and to the dismay of Russia.  Serb forces tried to prevent this earlier but were thwarted by the U.S. armed forces (and NATO).  South Ossetia, just as culturally and linguistically different from Georgia as Kosovo was from Serbia (give or take), has been nominally independent from Georgia since 1992 and has been seeking full Independence and/or integration with Russia for over a decade.  Georgia has been trying to prevent this for just as long but outside forces vested in their own economic and politcal interests (Russia) have prevented this (recently through force).

Now, in the case of Kosovo the elite classes in the E.U. and the U.S. had vested interests in keeping Kosovo separate from Serbia and Russia had interests in keeping it within Serb control (and thus, under their control).  In the case of Kosovo adn the Balkans in general the Western media fully supported the militaristic adventures of the U.S. and NATO and rallied the public for it.  In the case of South Ossetia there has been an opposite affect (thus further showing how the mainstream media is tied up in bourgeois and elite interests with debate only going so far as disagreements within the liberal and conservative elite).

When looking at this situation with a Marxian outlook we essentially see a disagreement between the capitalist class in Russia and their inherent interests and the capitalist class in the U.S. and their inherent interests.

It is not about the West standing high and mighty in the face of Russian neo-Tsarist/Stalinist imperialism and doing what’s right (as the West has its own neo-imperial interests at stake and acts on the world stage to further fatten its pockets) but rather two allies (all be it a shaky alliance) positioning themselves on the chessboard that is North Asia and its former Soviet Republics.  This conflict is more about both sides carving out territory and spheres of influence to further manipulate their agendas while the prolitariate and peasant classes of these former republics are caught in the middle; with no real alternative other than a Russian dominated government or a Western dominated government.

Image From:
Lenin’s Tomb

One Comment
  1. Sunday, August 17, 2008 6:41 pm

    Chrystia Freeland does a lot of parroting, not to mention likes to hear herself talk. I’ve watched her a few times on the McLaughlin Group — a guilty pleasure of mine — and she comes across as a vapid, wanna-be intellectual who deep down probably wants to have Tony Blair’s love child. A bourgeois, neo-liberal capitalist cheerleader indeed.

    I have to admit, the whole conflict between Georgia and Russia was something I hadn’t really been paying attention to. My boyfriend and I joked how wars are supposed have a lead up to get us ready for them. Of course, there was a lead up to this, it just wasn’t being paid attention to. Thanks for sorting out what’s going on.

    Oh and I think the cartoon is one of Steve Bell’s from the Guardian.

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