Stop Terror & War!

— Solidarity Against War, Moscow

THE WAVE OF terrorist attacks across Russia, culminating in the bloody tragedy at Beslan, has reminded us all that there is a war taking place in this country. Russia’s rulers depict this as the “intervention of international terrorism” and compare it with the events of 11 September 2001.

But none of the talk of “Arabs” and “Negri” [Russian racist slang for people from the Caucasus] who were supposedly among the hostage-takers at the school in Ossettia, can hide the fact that this war started in the north Caucasus; it was stepped up and intensified by the Russian government itself.

It is not the ideas of Islamist militarism alone that cause Chechen women to blow themselves up on airplanes and in the Moscow metro. And it is not abstract fundamentalist slogans that were put forward by the “Shakhidi” [self-described martyr] terrorists at Beslan, but a concrete demand: to end the occupation of Chechnya.

Terrorism, the murder of peaceful civilians — children, even — is insane barbarism. But it has been born in the atmosphere of terror that has been brought to Chechnya by Russia’s rulers, who will stop at nothing in their efforts to sustain their empire’s might.
Combating terrorism needs hands that are clean, not up to the elbows in blood. Since 1994 Russia’s military punishment machine has killed 150,000 people in Chechnya, including more than 35,000 children. About 7,000 children have been orphaned, 40,000 people have been maimed and 4,000 have disappeared without trace.

Every day of “cleanup operations,” extrajudicial punishment killings and violence against the population of occupied Chechnya produces new terrorists, seeking revenge of the most monstrous kind. Their traumatized minds identify the killers and torturers of the Federal Security Service, the ministry of internal affairs and the army with the whole Russian population.

So nobody in the country can feel completely secure — with the possible exception of the elite, in its guarded mansions and armor-plated limousines. And so it will remain, as long as the Kremlin’s policy in the north Caucasus doesn’t change. We can only guess where the next terrorist atrocity will take place, at the cost of hundreds of human lives...

It makes no sense to depend on the Russian state to defend the population from terrorism. The events at Beslan once again demonstrated very clearly the indifference, the brutality, the rottenness and the simple ineffectiveness of the whole military-police apparatus.

The actions of a huge number of the special forces and of soldiers with tanks and helicopters resulted in more than 500 hostages dead or missing. Once again, as in the Dubrovka [Moscow theater] siege in 2002, the chaotic storming of an occupied building unleashed a bloody nightmare.

And once again, the government showed that it was interested not in the rescue of hostages — even when they were children! — but in preventing any kind of negotiations whatever with Chechen separatists, and the suppression of truthful information about what actually took place during the siege.

Now, after all this, the population is being called upon to “unite” with those in power. And they intend to “fight terrorism” by yet again making government more vertical and more bureaucratic: they intend to abolish the election of regional governors, and (by restricting parliamentary elections to candidates from party lists and abolishing single-constituency representation) to create a new party nomenklatura [the Communist-era appointed managerial class]. It’s hard to think of anything more absurd and more cynical!

Only a broad social protest movement — not state-directed rallies with servile nationalist slogans — can put a stop to the wave of terror. To end the terror, what is needed above all is to stop the state terror in Chechnya, which is spreading to Ingushetia and threatens to engulf the whole of north Caucasus.

An end to the state terror would destroy the basis of Islamic extremism, which grows like a parasite on the suffering of the victims of war. So a political solution must be found for the Chechen conflict in which representatives of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, of Chechen and Russian non-governmental organizations and of international organizations take part.

Such a solution will make it possible to deal with the main cause of terrorism — the war that was unleashed in the name of the Kremlin rulers’ imperial ambitions.

Neither the people of Russia nor the people of Chechnya need this war. But Russia’s rulers will never end it of their own free will. So they must be forced — by every possible form of popular pressure from below, by the active boycott of government initiatives, by protest actions, by solidarity campaigns with the victims of war and terror, by the mobilization of public opinion within the country and outside.

This is a difficult aim for a society whose unprivileged majority remains weak, unorganized and passive. But it is the only road to peace and security.

IN THE BUILDUP to the Iraqi war three members of the United Auto Workers Executive Board — Bob King, Elizabeth Bunn and Richard Shoemaker — spoke out against the pending invasion. Yet since the war began the UAW has not taken a position on the war, or even used the pages of its magazine Solidarity to open a dialogue about how it affects UAW members.

THIS STATEMENT WAS issued by the “Solidarity Against War” Campaign in Moscow, September 14, 2004.