Red Is a Colour, Too!

A political movement’s inability to accept contradictions is always the most reliable sign of an intellectual crisis. Thus, the right wing of Social Democracy at the end of the 19th century was so much convinced that the advancement towards socialism would happen automatically that it was overrun by the chauvinism that had seized the masses before World War I. Thus, the international Communist movement of the 1970s believed itself on the road towards victory, thereby overlooking that it was exactly those crises of capitalism it decried that were to generate the energies leading to the collapse of real socialism.

Idealism versus Realism?

Today, the leftist debates of the crisis in Belarus converge in a similar picture. On the one side, there are those enraptured by with the thousands protesting against electoral fraud and repression. What will follow upon the fall of the despot is not mentioned, probably, because it is expected – and rightly so – that the agenda for this scenario has already been laid out, not in Minsk, but in Brussels, Berlin or Washington. On the other side, there are those not taking note of the uprising of the people but seeing “an imperialist conspiracy” and, consequently, drawing attention to the further military encirclement of Russia. 

So, do libertarian idealists stand in opposition to foreign-policy realists?

Contradiction in Reality

Instead of fighting ideological struggles, we should acknowledge the contradiction obviously existing between the desire of democracy and the unwritten laws of international stability, a contradiction manifesting itself not only in the interpretation of events but, most of all, in reality which is characteristic of the complicated times of transition we live in.

The gross national product and living standard in Belarus are comparable to those of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, all of them members of the EU. Thus, it cannot be the prospect of prosperity bringing people into the streets. Obviously, a certain living standard, however modest, fires the aspiration for democracy, putting on the agenda the completion of the bourgeois revolutions halted by the Soviet rule.

Where, then, is the possibility of emancipation, Marx asked in his famous text of 1844, the introduction to his “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right”. He answers that this possibility lies in the emergence of a class which does not only oppose the oppressive political forms but also the economic preconditions of these forms. That is, in a political movement which sets its own agenda in its struggle for democracy and social justice, and which, above all, shapes the course of events.

The solution of the contradiction lies in praxis, a praxis that can only be found in Belarus. Advice from outside cannot help. Still, there is an international dimension and an internationalist responsibility.

“The Russian World”

How does the Communist Left react which still represents a political force, above all in Russia? In a meeting of the Communist chairpersons of Belarus, the Ukraine and the Russian Federation, their president warned that the West intended to destroy the “Russian world”. The “Russian world”! Yet, this phantasm does not warm up any flats in winter nor is it a substitute for democratic conditions.   

It is true, today’s Russia has a right to secure her borders and NATO’s policy of confrontation towards Russia has led to an increasing danger of war in Europe. But we have to be honest: The repressive regimes in the post-Soviet area, refusing their peoples those democratic liberties which have in other regions been achieved by the socialist movement in fierce political struggles before and after World War I also represent factors of instability. An international order built on internal repression is built on sand.  

Our task cannot be any other than opposing any external interference with the political processes going on in these countries. But I do not think that the socialist Left should act conservatively with regard to the belated bourgeois revolutions in the countries of the former Soviet Union. Defending despotisms cannot be the policies of the Left.

We live through rough times. One formula that would be applicable to all comparable situations does not exist. What is required is our concrete assessment of things, our thinking for ourselves while we are taking account of the contradictions.

Apropos “colour revolutions“: “red“ is a colour, too!