Stop the Destruction of Chechnya!

Against the Current, No. 86, May/June 2000


[The following appeal was issued by the Editorial board of the anti-fascist newspaper Chelovechnost in Moscow.  We present it here both for the information of our readers and to salute the courage of Russian internationalists who dare to speak out against the destruction of a people-eds.]

As we enter the 21st century, Russian society is confronted with the shameful fact of the bloody colonial war in the north Caucasus.

The whole might of the “democratic” Russian state has been thrown into subjugating a small people that volunteered to join neither the tsarist or Stalinist empires nor Yeltsin’s “federation.” Tens of thousands killed or physically or spiritually maimed; masses impoverished or turned into refugees with no rights; towns and villages reduced to ruins-this is the price paid to satisfy the political ambitions of a Russian ruling class bent on reinforcing and redoubling its dominance.

This war, cynically presented as an “anti-terrorist operation,” is in fact an act of state terror on a grand scale by Russia’s rulers, which, in its turn, will lead to armed revenge by desperate Chechen people who have been deprived of everything they had and lost relatives and friends.  The federal armed forces, ravaging and burning everything in their way, are not “rooting out fundamentalism” but plunging Chechnya socially and economically into the middle ages-and thus creating the conditions for reactionary radical-Islamic political forces to gain influence.

The aggression mounted against Chechnya, the genocide against its people, brings to the people of Russia itself the threat of military-police regime, the repression of civil rights and the prospect of living in something like Lukashenko’s Byelarus or a Latin American dictatorship.

“A people that suppresses another people can never itself be free”-these words of Friedrich Engels take on real meaning today.  This war is fraught with no less catastrophic consequences socially and economically.  Waging war and installing a regime of occupation requires vast resources-and these can only be taken from the working people, who even without this have been condemned to crushing poverty.

While many millions live in want, tens of billions of rubles are spent on murder and destruction.  Truly the cynicism of the ruling class and its political representatives-all the Putins, Chubaises and Ziuganovs, competing with each other to play the hangman-knows no bounds!

The crimes of Russian imperialism against all the peoples who have been drawn into its military adventure must be stopped, before it is too late. We call for:

  • An immediate end to military operations and the withdrawal of occupying forces from Chechen territory;
  • For the Chechen’s right to decide independently their future, the status of Chechnya must be freely decided by its own population, observed by international human rights organisations;
  • The payment of sufficient compensation to all victims of the war, regardless of their nationality, out of the money set aside to fund the war;
  • The punishment of war criminals at all levels.

We cannot count on Russian politicians’ good will. And it would be equally naíve to rely on the ruling circles in the west-who condemn the Russian military machine’s actions in words only, and have never upset their own plans or their partnership with the Russian establishment for the sake of defending the lives, and rights, of those who are suffering.

Military barbarism can be stopped only by the growth of a social movement of protest in Russia itself.  A democratic solution to the conflict in north Caucasus will be achieved only by means of popular action from below.

To start such action, and do everything to help it develop, is the duty of all democratic and antitotalitarian left-wingers, who take a principled stand-in pursuit of the ideals of freedom, social equality and respect for every human being-against the exploitative and great power interests who are running this war.

We call on all people of progressive convictions, good will and common sense to do all that they can to give help, including material help, to the victims of the imperialist adventure in the Caucasus, and to take part in a campaign of practical solidarity with the Chechen people-a campaign against the war.

The alternatives for our future are simple: Either humanitarian civil society declares itself in Russia, or we will be left with a great-power police state, ready to make new wars and capable of the most monstrous crimes.  It’s time to make a choice!

Those who wish to join our campaign are asked to write to us. Fax (011 7095) 292 6511, Box 385.  Postal address: The Praxis Centre, Box 32, 127434 Moscow.

ATC 86, May-June 2000