Marxists cannot but have indulged in a wry smile at the public humiliation and resignation of Eduard Shevardnadze – one of the principal architects of the dissolution of the USSR and a close collaborator of Mikhail Gorbachev – from the Georgian presidency on 23 November. Very few people are so deserved of the label ‘arch-reactionary lackey of imperialism’ as Shevardnadze. Having joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1948, he patiently and quietly went about the business of undermining Soviet socialism. He was rewarded for his efforts in this regard in 1985, when he was made Foreign Minister under Gorbachev. Upon the tragic dissolution of the USSR, Shevardnadze made his way back to his native Georgia, where he ‘served’ as President for 12 years. Predictably he played the role of US stooge, kicking off his ignominious presidency by opening up the Georgian economy to the US multinationals and allowing the solid infrastructure and high standard of living developed during the days of the Soviet Union to rapidly and heartbreakingly deteriorate.
In the three weeks leading up to Shevardnadze’s resignation, there had been sizeable protests in the Georgian capital, Tbisili, at his having allegedly rigged October’s parliamentary elections. With the threat of civil war looming, and wanting to avoid further embarrassment, Shevardnadze stood down. Former parliamentary speaker Nino Burdzhanadze will be interim President until elections take place on 4 January.
Who were the protestors?
The news items talking of the “enormous demonstrations”, “street protests” and the like inspired, of course, tremendous hope that the working class and peasantry of Georgia had reached the end of their tether and, fed up with the dramatic fall in their standard of life and the humiliations being forced upon this proud nation once considered the fruit basket of the mighty USSR, had unceremoniously kicked out Shevardnadze with a view to installing a popular revolutionary government.
Such hopes were, unfortunately, short-lived. It soon transpired that what had taken place was effectively a US-funded and orchestrated coup, albeit given some legitimacy by a population thoroughly fed up with Shevardnadze’s extraordinary misrule.
For a start, it is fairly telling that there were a large number of US flags in the crowds being waved alongside the Georgian ones (with no hammer and sickles to be seen!). The US State Department had openly commented that the official election count (announcing Shevardnadze as the victor) did not appear to reflect the will of the Georgian people. Furthermore, there is considerable evidence that the influential billionaire financier George Soros had a hand in the coup – many of the organisations involved in the coup receive funding from Soros, including the opposition National Movement party and the anti-Shevardnadze Rustavi-2 television station.
As if to quell any doubt as to what the US administration thought about the coup, leading US hawk Donald Rumsfeld flew to Tbilisi on 5 December to met with opposition leader Saakashvili and acting president Nino Burdzhanadze.
Why get rid of Steady Eddie?
It seems odd that the US administration would actively support a coup against Eduard Shevardnadze – always a staunch ally of the US and something of a legend in the circles of hysterical anti-communism. Despite his fervent enthusiasm for serving US imperialism, it would appear that he had become a bit of a liability. The extreme levels of corruption and incompetence that characterised his administration, possibly coupled with a not quite firm enough stance taken against Russia and the various breakaway nations within Georgia, caused Washington to lose confidence in him and put its faith in Mikhail Saakashvili, leader of the National Movement party, former Justice Minister under Shevardnadze and by far the most likely candidate for the Presidency. Saakashvili, who was educated in the US as a lawyer, has made several trips to Washington over the past two years (The Guardian, 6 December 2003), receiving a hearing from some top level government officials.
Georgia – who’s interested?
Why all the interest in a little country like Georgia? A quick glance at the map gives an indication as to Georgia’s central significance in the eyes of foreign capital. Lying on the Caspian with Russia to the north and Turkey to the south, it is crucial in terms of both geostrategic position and the transit of oil, mineral and natural gas. Of particular interest is the recently built BP trans-Georgian oil pipeline linking the Caspian basin with Europe and bypassing Russia and Iran (‘Outside Influences’, The Guardian, 25 November 2003) – two countries demonstrating increasing political hostility to the US and Britain. Such is Georgia’s importance to imperialism that it currently receives more by way of US handouts per capita than any other country save for Israel.
Capitalism no good for Georgians
Known in Soviet days as the “fruit basket of the USSR”, rich in agriculture, industry and mineral wealth, Georgia is now a very different place. Despite the large amount of money received from the US, the economy has been in crisis for over a decade, foreign debt stands at $1.75bn dollars, crime is rife, unemployment is high and life is tough. As in all the former Soviet and Eastern Bloc countries, the population are realising that the standard of life was considerably better under socialism, even the distorted socialism of the revisionist era. The Georgian people will soon come to realise, if they have not done so already, that no change of capitalist government, no mere change of personnel, is going to improve their conditions of existence. Only once the banner of communism is taken up once again will the Georgian masses be able to hold their heads up high and lead a dignified life. We are sure that they will do just that, drawing inspiration from that greatest of Georgians, Joseph Stalin.
[NOTE: As expected Mikhail Saakashvili has won a resounding victory in the presidential election so carefully orchestrated by US imperialism]