Georgia and Historical Farce

Karl Marx once wrote, “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great, world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He has forgotten to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.” He wrote these words in his opening paragraph of a study of the 1851 coup of Louis Bonaparte of France. The essence of the argument made by Marx is that although “Men make their own history, … they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.” (Of course, men in this instance means humanity, not a specific gender.) From where I sit, this argument of Marx’s has proven itself true over and over again.

Regarding the nature of history being made first as tragedy and then as farce, Marx implies that the effects of the tragic interlude leave their mark on the farcical moment that comes later. In fact it is the tragedy that lays the potential groundwork for the farce. This is certainly the case in the latest proof of Marx’s words–the Georgian attack on its breakaway provinces and the counterattack by Russia. Historically, Georgia has always been a recalcitrant part of the Russian empire. First annexed by Russia in the 1800s as a way to protect itself from Persian and Ottoman attacks, Georgia declared itself an independent nation in 1918 during the early months of the Russian Revolution. The Menshevik government than aligned itself with Western capitalist powers intent on destroying the Bolshevik government and was invaded by the Soviet Red Army in 1921. By 1936, Georgia was once again ruled by Moscow and the leader of the Soviet Union was the Georgian Josef Stalin. World War Two began not long afterwards. The Soviet Union suffered incredible casualties while fighting against Nazi Germany in an alliance with the capitalist nations led by Britain and the United States. After the surrender of the Germans, Washington and London restarted their struggle against the Soviet Union and its economic and political systems. This became known as the Cold War.

It was a period of threats, militarization, proxy wars in third world nations and the occasional nuclear showdown. Washington ultimately won when the Soviet Union disintegrated in the late 20th century due to economic and political contradictions that could not be resolved. The role played by Washington was great and its victory provided US apologists for empire with a golden opportunity they called the “unipolar moment.” This historical “moment” was seized by the imperial apologists on both sides of the aisle and brought the world the first invasion of Iraq in 1991, the Yugoslavian wars that culminated in the bombing of Serbia and Kosovo and the eventual installation of US forces in the latter province, the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the establishment of hundreds of US military bases around the world, including in countries that were formerly part of the USSR. Meanwhile, the Russian economy was reforming itself into a harsh capitalist system that saw the destruction of the social safety net created and maintained under Soviet rule. Naturally, this lead to an increase in the number of Russian poor and, conversely, an increase in the number of the very rich. US and other corporations moved into Russia taking advantage of the failure of the Soviet structure and began looting its wealth and resources. On the diplomatic front, Russia soft-pedaled its opposition to the imperialist moves by Washington.

But, Moscow had not gone quietly into the global capitalist night. Elements of its political establishment were rebuilding alliances with various nations, while simultaneously making economic deals for energy products and other goods. Like the bear that symbolizes the Russian nation, the desire for empire had only been in hibernation. The assumption of George Bush and his neocons to the US White House and their militaristic aggression and bombast stirred the bear from its rest. As the US eagle spread its wings further and further around the globe leaving its imperial droppings in nations once thought to be in Moscow’s domain, the Russian power elites found their strength and began to oppose the eagle’s moves. The move by Washington to expand NATO up to Russia’s borders and the refusal by the Western nations to allow Russia into the World Trade Organization are but two of Washington’s moves that riled the bear. That cold war we had hoped was forever gone was coming back. Would Karl Marx be right once again? Will we see the standoff between Moscow and Washington repeat itself as farce?

The events in Georgia do not bode well for a negative response to this question. The stakes have certainly been raised. The sycophantic leader of Georgia–put into place by the CIA and its front organization the National Endowment for Democracy(NED)–looks to Washington for support in his insistence that the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia must remain part of the country he leads. Russia insists on the opposite, just like Washington insisted about the Serbian province of Kosovo in 1999. Naturally, every politician inside the Beltway misses the aforementioned contradiction and agrees with Dick Cheney that the Russians must not be allowed to have their way. After all, it is Washington’s world now and, even if there is hardly a horse’s hair worth of difference between the governments in Washington and Moscow, Moscow can not be allowed to think that it can be Washington’s equal on the world stage.

It is in historical moments like this that the citizen can truly see how little they matter. We have two powerful regimes trifling over a piece of territory that most of the world could care less about. Both of these regimes have proven that they are more than willing to kill thousands of people, destroy hundreds of square miles of land and water, and waste billions of dollars in doing so just so they can establish their position in their battle to control their world. It is their world because no matter how it turns out they will profit and we will pay. That is a scenario that Karl Marx also addressed when he stated, in essence, that it is the regular people that make history.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way The Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground and Tripping Through the American Night, and the novels Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator's Tale. His third novel All the Sinners, Saints is a companion to the previous two and was published early in 2013. Read other articles by Ron.

14 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Michael Kenny said on August 23rd, 2008 at 8:09am #

    A small point. You can’t speak of Saakashvili being “put into place by the CIA and … NED”, any more than you could say that of Tony Blair. In the Council of Europe, member states have to maintain minimum standards of European (NOT American!) democracy or they will be suspended. Equally, they will very quickly find themselves in violation of the European Convention of Human Rights. Blair is perhaps the best parallel. Being slavishly servile to US interests does not mean that a leader was automatically “installed” in power by some arm of the US government. It just means that the voters made a “bad buy”!

    Discussion of Europe would be a lot more credible if we Europeans could actually recognise our own continent in the description given of it and did not have to wonder if the author wasn’t referring to Jupiter’s moon!

  2. ron said on August 23rd, 2008 at 9:40am #

    If you recall, the Rose Revolution was not at the ballot box. It was led by a combination of homegrown democracy advocates and a cynical collaboration of foreign (primarily US) and native commercial and governmental interests. I would say that the democracy advocates were misled once again. Here is an interesting power point presentation by an NED fellow that provides a not-so-generous look at what the Saakashvili government calls democracy. My guess is that his viewpoint is a minority viewpoint inside the Beltway.

  3. heike said on August 23rd, 2008 at 1:13pm #

    You are making a lot of wild, unsubstantiated charges. What proof do you offer that the CIA put Saakashvili into power? What proof do you offer that NED is a CIA front? None whatsoever.

    Your view of history is lacking some basic facts. One of the “capitalist powers” the USSR was aligned with was Nazi Germany. That alignment brought about the Second World War. You do know about the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, don’t you? If you think the U.S. and the “imperialist powers” brought about the wars of the Yugoslav succession, you really have a lot to learn.

    And frankly, who cares about Karl Marx nowadays? The Russians don’t. The Chinese don’t.

    What is your point about the Areshidze presentation? Is he also a CIA agent, since he is a NED Fellow? I do have to complement his prescience in predicting what was going to happen in Georgia this summer.

  4. ron said on August 23rd, 2008 at 2:24pm #

    Whoa! Read the rest of the history book. The Soviet Union fought the Nazis from 1941 on. This was a decisive aspect of the war. As for Karl Marx, just because you and the Chinese and Russian government don’t care about Karl Marx does not mean his viewpoint of history is not relevant to the current situations. I personally don’t care about Herbert Hoover, Leo Strauss, Milton Friedman, John Locke and many other capitalist theorists and politicians but I doesn’t dismiss their relevance to the current situation. Let me refer you to a few places that might enlighten you if you are willing to keep your mind open in regards to NED. BY the way, USIA and USAID are CIA fronts–I know because friends of mine have worked for them.

    My point on the presentation is twofold: that there are those hired by the NED that question the support provided by NED and other US agencies to the current Georgian regime; and that even those on the NED payroll admit that Georgia is not exactly the great democracy proclaimed by Bush and many other US politicians. Let me make this clear–since you didn’t get this from my piece–I don’t support Russia’s invasion, nor do I support the Georgian military action. I am merely pointing out that the people of Georgia and Russia (and much of the rest of the world) are being manipulated by both Washington and Moscow as the two capitals stake out their respective empires. This is what caused WW I–and we all know how great that was.

  5. MrSynec3 said on August 23rd, 2008 at 2:26pm #

    Ron Jocobs wrote:
    “the Soviet Union disintegrated in the late 20th century due to economic and political contradictions that could not be resolved.”

    What were those contradictions?

  6. ron said on August 23rd, 2008 at 2:28pm #

    do some research and come up with your own conclusions. I think some of them had to do with the fact that they were a state capitalist enterprise (and not a genuine socialist) that could not make a profit.

  7. Michael Collins said on August 24th, 2008 at 8:50pm #

    heike, Do some research already. NED is a true mess. Here’s a start for you. Recall that the U.S. Constitution prevents private foreign policy, yet this is just that. Not much true democracy here.

    From right to left the story is well out on NED and the suspicious about links to intel groups are well discussed in various places:

    Allen Weinstein, who helped draft the legislation establishing NED, was quite candid when he said in 1991: “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” In effect, the CIA has been laundering money through NED. — From “Rogue State – A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower” by William Blum

    One of their major funding sources, The Bradley Foundation:

    “The overall objective of the Bradley Foundation, however, is to return the U.S. — and the world — to the days before governments began to regulate Big Business, before corporations were forced to make concessions to an organized labor force. In other words, laissez-faire capitalism: capitalism with the gloves off. ” SourceWatch

    The close alignment of the NEDs activities with US foreign policy interests comes as no surprise, especially when you consider the revolving doorways between the US Government and the NED Board of Directors, some of the most notable of which include: (Kissinger, Albright, Carlucci, Wolfoqitz, Bill Brock Wikipedia

    Unfortunately, the types of substantive projects that NED has promoted may make many people nostalgic for the comparative insipidity of paying for political junkets. On a number of occasions, for example, NED has taken advantage of its alleged private status to influence foreign elections, an activity that is beyond the scope of AID or USIA and would otherwise be possible only through a CIA covert operation. Such activities, it may also be worth noting, would be illegal for foreign groups operating in the United States. As columnist Mary McGrory mused: (more at CATO Institute)

    The place stinks. It shouldn’t be allowed to do what it does under the Constitution (individuals making foreign policy, etc.)

  8. heike said on August 25th, 2008 at 9:25am #

    I’m well aware of NED and what it does. Just because the CIA may in the past have funded some programs which are now funded through Congressional appropriations to NED or other agencies doesn’t mean that NED is a CIA front. Radio Free Europe was funded by CIA in the 1950s and 1960s. It is now run by the Board for International Broadcasting, a body set up by Congress. Does anyone argue seriously that the BIB is also a CIA front?

    Are you really serious about using Blum as a reliable source?

    Ron: you are hallucinating about USIA and USAID being CIA fronts. That’s the oldest slander on the books! I don’t care how many “friends” you can produce. USIA was amalgamated with the State Department in 1999; I guess that means the State Department is now a denizen of CIA, right?

    Michael: read your Constitution. Article I Section 10 prohibits the states from entering into compacts with foreign governments. Thousands of private organizations conduct some aspect of foreign policy and no one except you raises an eyebrow. Several states maintain trade offices in other countries. They can’t sign treaties but they can sign commercial agreements. Foreign policy goes way beyond the scope of government-to-government relations

  9. heike said on August 25th, 2008 at 9:35am #

    You probably were thinking of the Logan Act of 1799; the above link discusses whether Jimmy Carter violated the Act in his dealings with Hamas.

  10. ron said on August 25th, 2008 at 10:13am #

    Ignore what you want about the nature of USAID and USIA–it doesn’t change the historical facts. It does, however, help you make your argument. Of course, it doesn’t help with that argument’s veracity.

  11. Lloyd Rowsey said on August 25th, 2008 at 11:47am #

    I forgive you for the egomania which prevented me from finishing Short Order Frame Up, Ron. You are a master of clear and logical prose. And if you think the loss is the world’s, consider the fiction of Gore Vidal, as fiction.

  12. heike said on August 25th, 2008 at 2:21pm #

    Ron: I don’t have to ignore anything because I am well aware of the facts. You don’t seem to be aware of the fact that USIA hasn’t been in existence for nine years, but that’s a minor detail, isn’t it. (you used the present tense about USIA and USAID being “CIA fronts.” ) So let’s see: is the Fulbright Program or the FLEX high school exchange program also a CIA front?

  13. ron said on August 25th, 2008 at 5:05pm #

    You assume a present tense because that’s how you want to read my statement. I am talking about history–that implies what is past. As for your dwelling on what is a CIA front or isn’t—how does that relate to the fact that the current government of Georgia is (at least partially) acting as a pawn for Washington in an unfolding drama between the US empire and the wannabe Moscow empire? After all, that is the point of my original piece.
    To be honest, I don’t know or care about the CIA’s relationship to the Fulbright program or the FLEX program. I do know that the CIA used USAID and USIA IN THE PAST. Your implication that there is some kind of clear distinction between the various agencies of the US government that is never bridged (and that the State Department is somehow immune to the skullduggery of the CIA and other such agencies shows a naivete that allows the US government to continue its ongoing pretense that it does not operate with a singular intent. This is how so many people can believe that Colin POwell was a good guy when he ran the State Department but was forced to do bad things by the CIA, NSC, and the Defense Department (and Dick Cheney). Sorry, I don’t buy that.

  14. heike said on August 25th, 2008 at 7:45pm #

    BY the way, USIA and USAID are CIA fronts–I know because friends of mine have worked for them.

    That sounds like the present tense to me.

    Your problem is that you seek to tar anyone with the CIA label, which is classical disinformation straight out of KGB HQ. You know so little about what went on in this conflict; you simply take as your starting point an anti-American attitude and everything falls into place.

    Try reading something written by a few courageous Russians on the scene who don’t buy your reflexive “American imperialism” garbage.