Nationalism in the Caucasus
Hnchak, 1905 (July), Issue no.7
It is now an indisputable fact that Nikolay’s cowardly government is endeavouring, through savage, sly, violent or deceptive means, to provoke, antagonise and make the various nations in Russia massacre one another. In this way, it is attempting to triumph over the widespread tide and unfailing offensive of the revolution. This government policy has been implemented here in the Caucasus in particular. However, what is new here is that the government, which has hitherto tried to conceal its insidious policy, now sees this as an excessive luxury and is cynically giving reasons as to why it needs to resort to “any means at the government’s disposal to uphold peace against the rebellious assaults by riotous peoples”. With that logic, it turns out that getting Armenians massacred at the hands of Persians and having Jews massacred by ignorant Russian masses equates to the “government upholding peace”. That logic, and the arguments that underpin it, is proof that the government only exists in the imagination, that it no longer sees itself as being capable of upholding peace. And by provoking nations against one another, it wants to form towers and mountains from their bones, from which, of course, peace will descend and the Tsarist monarch will reign like an owl.
However cynical the admission of the criminal argument of “any means” may be, another aspect of that same policy is hidden, even if it demonstrates the bankruptcy of Tsarism, it nevertheless accounts for the cowardice of the bourgeoisie and the ruling classes of various nations. Isn’t this criminal argument just a way for the government to instil the nobility and bourgeoisie of the Caucasian nations, as their representative intelligentsia, with fear, and to do the same to the popular, obscure classes?! Solidarity and cooperation between nations is a principal danger for Tsarism, whether it is revolutionary or simply under the guise of resistance. It is now evident to everyone that Tsarism is endeavouring to sow that link and to create a maze of national conflicts out of the life of those nations. If we take a closer look at this problem, we will see that Tsarism is already bearing the fruits of the seeds it has sown.
If we focus on the Caucasus, we can see that the nobility and bourgeoisie in that country, while not being revolutionary, are forced, as a result of recent events, to organise on the grounds of resistance against the government - grounds that represent their class’ economic and political interests. Likewise, as a result of the revolutionary developments, which were initiated and implemented by the proletariat and by the working people in general, the above-mentioned bourgeois class were again forced to reluctantly resist and lean towards the side of democratism. Because, on the one hand, they are terrified of the popular quagmire, which is rising with the stormy revolutionary tide, and on the other hand, they are unable and too powerless to achieve the implementation of their “reforms” without the popular, revolutionary struggle, which they are thinking of using to serve their class goals. This matter becomes even more complicated because of the fact that the bourgeois class presents itself as nationalist. That “petition”, which our “popular delegation” of the Armenian bourgeoisie has “presented” to the government, has also been presented by the Georgian nobility as well as the Persian bourgeoisie and clergy. Each one acting separately and against one another, in the name of their “national demands” and, indeed, in the name of their “people”. They are historical proof of the national discrimination and antagonism that the bourgeois class is instilling in their nations. They are historical proof of the infectious nationalist spirit with which those classes are imbued.
The course hitherto taken by those classes of the Caucasian nations has opened up a wider space for nationalism, which has pushed those nations into national conflicts. It has misled the simple-minded with deceptive, nationalist illusions. It has poisoned the snatched hearts of the youth. It has taken the unconscious popular masses captive with its venal and disastrous influence. It has introduced fundamental barriers to the considerable task of solidaristic cooperation, which the social democrats have continuously been working on and making efforts towards, bringing the Caucasian nations, as embodied by their working masses, closer to one another.
Our bourgeois classes indubitably benefit greatly in the environment of the dark kingdom of the nationalist spirit. It is by the instigation of that class interest that they have made a special monopoly for themselves of the sparkling and dazzling crown of “patriotism and national self-defence”, woven, however, in metal from the golden calf. The respective bourgeoisie of those nations benefit, firstly, from separating their proletariat from the proletariat of other nations. They paralyse the collective, proletarian cooperation of all nations. They push the working classes under their “custody” and influence. And so, they benefit from forming a national base under the feet of those classes and sever their ties with, and antagonise them against, the working classes of other nations. They thus use their nation’s proletariat to destroy another nation’s proletariat’s economic and political work, power, significance and consciousness. From that perspective, the bourgeoisie of the Caucasian nations are nationalists par excellence. Thirdly, the bourgeoisie benefits from paralysing the proletariat, which it exploits economically. It paralyses its great enemy and it now, simultaneously, directs the popular, revolutionary force, which is in struggle, towards the nationalist course. It exploits the proletariat and makes them serve the bourgeoisie’s current political aims. The nationalist course of the Caucasian nations’ bourgeoisie is reaching the point where the Caucasian nations, instead of uniting, are creating an enormous gap between one another, thanks to the efforts of Tsarism, and which is being flooded with the blood of those nations and scattered with the corpses of their children.
This is the dangerous and reactionary role that nationalism is now playing in the Caucasus, embodied by the nobility, bourgeoisie and clergy. Embodied by the intelligentsia, which is the servant and expression of those classes, represented by those megalomaniac, conceited, foolish Georgian and Armenian parties, which are concealing their regressive work and role under the labels and hats of “revolutionary” and “socialist-revolutionary”.
In the context of these nationalist “figures”, here we have an article in the eighth issue of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party’s workers’ newspaper “The Social Democrat”:
“Neither Turkish nor Armenian figures are trying to come out of their nationalist nest and take the two oppressed peoples out of the conflict onto a common ground. There is only one path towards such unity between nations - that of the social democrats. Only the social democratic flag represents an international flag and its followers do not recognise splits along national lines.
The author of the article opines that the Armenian nationalist parties have “constrained the consciousness of Armenian peasants to such an extent that they do not participate in the general revolutionary movement in any way. That national egoism is born out of the bourgeoisie and because most of the Armenian nationalists emanate from that class, what good can we expect from them with regards to the Armenian peasants and workers?”
“The Social Democrat” brings its article to a close with the following words: “In sum, most of Transcaucasia is playing not a revolutionary role, but a regressive one. That rupture and split between Armenians and Turks is reinforcing the monarchy’s power and weakening social democracy. This is the most onerous issue in our country and we are drawing the attention of our comrades to it. Until the Turkish and Armenian peasants and workers join the social democrats of the Caucasus, there will be no end to the national conflicts and social democracy will not be able to triumph. Nationalism can do nothing to resolve that pain because that pain emanates from nationalism itself. Only social democracy can reconcile and unite the working people of all nations. Nationalism is working against that. The Georgian nationalists are demanding rights for themselves, the Armenian nationalists are doing likewise. It is as if they are living completely separate lives, divided from one another and from others. It is as if they are rulers of separate national territories with geographic borders. They have not managed to grasp the fact that all the peoples of the Caucasus have to move forward hand in hand, they have to struggle for the same, common demands and live in solidarity with one another. They do not want to see anything beyond their own garden and they are preparing the grounds for all kinds of national divisions and conflicts.
This is how our comrades among the Caucasian social democrats think. We bring our article to a close with the same great pleasure, however much it reflects our perspective, which we have had the opportunity to express on multiple occasions in the Hnchak press. We would like to end our statement with the following conclusion from the article in “The Social Democrat”: “It is the mission of social democracy, especially for us in the Caucasus, to struggle continuously against nationalism and annihilate it from its root”.
Yes! To struggle against nationalism, against its every shade and type of expression, to struggle in the name of solidarity and cooperation among nations, with the aim of overthrowing Tsarism, to struggle in the name of the people, the proletariat and socialism!
The link to the original article: https://tert.nla.am/archive/NLA%20AMSAGIR/Hentchak/1905/1905(7)_ocr.pdf
Translated by Leon Aslanov