Chechnya and Kosovo: Alliances with Islam and the collapseofRussian Influence

Chris Burford cburford at
Mon Jan 3 15:45:41 PST 2000

Although my position is not identical with Nathan's, I certainly share a vigilance about anti-islam prejudice.

I was rather shocked by Wojtek's first reply which seemed ready to see islam as a threat to "our" democracy. The alien threat.

I frankly find islamic culture unfamiliar and a bit threatening. That is why I consider it a touchstone of an internationalist approach consciously to guard against that.

The record is that christendom has treated islam far worse than the other way round.

Nathan is right to pin point the racism and the fascist miasmas around hostility to islam in Kosovo and in Chechnya. Besides as islam goes, their version is very mild.

>And the justification of the attacks on Chechyna citing the latter's Islamic
>character is exactly the dictatorial method one should fear. That Putin,
a man
>of the security services, is riding the issue to the Presidency is a classic
>authoritarian fascist tactic. Notably, in neither Kosovo or Chechnya is
>an identifiable Feurer-style figure, but in both Serbia and now Russia, there
>are singular leaders who used attacks on a religious minority to stabilize
>power. Just as Weimar social democracy gave way to racist scapegoating and
>war, so too did formerly socialist-minded Yugoslvia and the Soviet Union give
>way to racist scapegoating in Serbia and Russia. These latter
developments seem
>much more alarming revivals of fascism than anything in the Islamic world.

Nathan is correct that the readiness of right wing forces in the capitalist countries to applaud the attack on Chechnya should make us vigilant. The Conservative shadow foreign secretay in Britain has just stated that the best thing that can happen to Chechnya is that the Russians win quickly. It is shameful but almost certainly the case that a significant number of left wingers in marxism space hold the same view.

I think it is true that Clinton has a more sophisticated policy towards islam than Yeltsin, but I would emphasise that this policy also is imperialist. Clinton has a "both" policy towards China (his way, I think, of saying a dialectical policy - that China is both potential ally and a potential rival). The same is likely of his analysis of islam

It think Clinton is genuinely promoting a peaceful settlement of the armed conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, between Israel and Syria, and between Greece and Turkey.

This is qualitatively different from just unscrupulously playing them off against each other. However of course the aim is that the US should preside over a peace tilted in favour of US imperial intersts.

But the negative side of the policy is to do everything to prevent islam developing confident militant anti-imperialist leaders. US policy in Kosovo was motivated as much by trying to prevent the KLA emerging as independent defenders of their population, as by the desire to humiliate Milosevic. Similarly it never strongly backed the muslims of Bosnia. The USA has handed Ocalan over to Turkey.

The USA has gone soft on Putin's war policies against Chechnya. Indeed this is also part of their imperialist policy: they have the ideal compromise at the moment. Russia is goofing it up comprehensively with the islamic nations of central Asia. The US has made critical enough noises to reap the credit, while insuring that oligarch capitalism remains in power in Russia and is not defeated by a more radical nationalist backlash against US interference.

This collusion with the corrupt war party of Russia is as much imperialist in nature as the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia was. Neither was a principled response to the national oppression going on in both countries.

Chris Burford


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