Craig Murray, a whistleblowing UK Ambassador who was then fired from UK’s Diplomatic Service and became instead a great independent investigative journalist specializing in foreign-policy issues, has one of the most-read blogs on the internet (if not the most-read of them) dealing with international relations, generally from a progressive political standpoint, but occasionally from a liberal standpoint (mixing progressivism with conservatism) instead. Even when I disagree with him (because I reject liberalism and am 100% progressive), the issues he raises are extraordinarily potent, because of his uncompromising honesty, which places him amongst the real trailblazers regarding global issues.
A blog-post from him on December 19th stirred me to vigorous objection against his liberal standpoint concerning national separatism-issues that intensely affect many countries and regions, such as Israel and Palestine; and also Russia and many of its regions such as Crimea and Chechnya; and also China and Tibet. I posted there my thoughts disagreeing with his posistions on some of the instances he cited, but especially on the thought-proocess which guided his allegations there. I present below both his blog-post and my string of responses to it, so that readers here may consider the deep national and international issues which Murray was trying to tackle, and which I, in my responses to it, argue that he dealt with from a liberal instead of a progressive perspective, and that he addressed with false assumptions. (I highlight in boldface the passages in Murray’s article which had immediately struck me as being either, at least, questionable, or else particularly important and truthful; but, in either case, quite striking and thought-provoking.)
19 Dec, 2019
This blog was defending the human rights of the Uighurs a decade before the neo-conservatives for whom they are now a fashionable cause even knew of their existence. The Uighurs are the closest linguistic and cultural cousins of the Uzbeks, and the populations are contiguous. (China is not contiguous with Uzbekistan but Osh and the eastern Ferghana Valley in Kirghizstan are Uzbek majority areas).
The dynamic spread of Islam northwards and eastwards under the Abbasids, (much less commented that the expansion of its early centuries) and the temporary patronage of Islam by the Mongol Yuan conquerors of China, left very substantial Islamic populations throughout Eurasia, which later became subsumed into non-Muslim polities, including by the expansion of the Chinese and Russian empires. The persecution of the Uighurs is a historic continuation. For decades from the mid eighteenth century they were subjected to one of history’s most sustained and organised campaigns of mass rape of the female population by Chinese occupiers. In a historical perspective, it was the period of comparative tolerance that preceded the current massive attempt at cultural genocide which was the aberration.
I do despair of those on the left who excuse the mass imprisonment of hundreds of thousands and the extrajudicial killing of thousands, because it is China doing it and not a CIA aligned power.
The Uighurs are a people with the right of self-determination. They are not Chinese; their language, culture and religion are completely different. They have a clearly defined territory they have occupied continuously for many centuries. One of the problems with the British is that as an island, we tend to only think of colonies as places you sail to. Colonies you walk to is a concept we have not grasped. That is one of the reasons the left in the UK have such difficulty recognising that China is an Empire and Kashgar is a colony. The other reason is that whole “West Bad, Opponents Good” thing.
It is excellent to recognise that the Western powers have done a huge amount of evil in the world. It is a completely illogical step to assume from this revelation that they have a monopoly on evil. All major governments do evil.
Kashmir is the other pressing issue of a Hindu minority population under pressure. Six years ago I annoyed rather a lot of people when I warned that my personal experience of living then some months in India was that it was changing into an an “increasingly oppressive and rabidly conservative Hindu society”. I have viewed the rise of Modi and his Hindu nationalists with great concern, while Western governments have been much more concerned with seeking to benefit from India’s economic boom.
The revocation of the autonomous status of Kashmir and Jammu was a reckless and aggressive act of centralisation that was grossly insensitive to both the population and the history of the region – and I write in full awareness that there have been not only Muslim but also many Sikh victims of intercommunal violence over the years. The incorporation of Kashmir into India was a dreadful British error, semi-apologetically enshrined in its special constitutional position, now destroyed by Modi. It is only the statesmanship of Imran Khan which has averted a hideous war.
The Supreme Court of India’s firmly anti-Muslim ruling in the Ayodhya dispute, and the new immigrant citizenship law excluding Muslims (which has outraged the remnants of liberal India), are evidence of intercommunal policy which is all pushing in an anti-Muslim direction. Modi has been portrayed in the West as a moderniser. This is a fundamental error – he is just a populist in the Trump and Johnson mode who succeeds by stirring up feelings against the “other” in the population. The situation in India is destabilising and I fear more violence against the Muslim population is bound to ensue.
The Muslim populations of Central Asia now live in autonomous republics, none of which has transitioned to effective democracy, all of which have been more or less looted by oligarchs, all have continuing serious human rights problems, and all are increasingly under the economic sway of China (which is not, in itself, a bad thing). China remains something of an enigma. Its economic success continues to be staggering, if severely pollution creating. As I frequently assert, there has never been a power in the world of such economic dominance which has shown such a comparatively tiny appetite for military dominance. If you compare China to the USA in this regard the difference is striking. China has very few military bases outside China, the USA has eight hundred.
But the Central Asian “stans” only contain a minority of the Muslim colonies in Eurasia which Russia acquired in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, simultaneous with the expansion of the British Empire. Many of these colonies, with their overwhelmingly Muslim populations, remain part of the Russian Federation which – make no mistake about it – is still an Empire.
The Tatar are the most widespread of the colonial peoples within Russia. Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Cherkessa, Kabardino Balkaria and Karachai are all areas of Russia where I believe the original Muslim population, absorbed into the Russian Empire by conquest, will in the fulness of time achieve independence, in addition to the better-known Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia. The astonishing brutality of the Russian repression of the perfectly justified Independence movements of the latter countries cannot hold back the tide of decolonisation forever. Crimea, of course, should belong to the Tatars who were deported from their land by Stalin. Not Russia, not Ukraine, but Krim Tatar.
As I said earlier, even though Russia’s colonies were colonised contemporaneously with the British ones, and even though the indigenous populations are Muslim, we in the UK have difficulty perceiving them as colonies because they are contiguous with Russia by land and have been institutionally absorbed into the metropolitan. It is also worth noting that, largely but not entirely as a result of the Soviet period of running its Empire, Russia did a much better job of providing education, health and other public services to its colonies that the British ever did.
It is important to state that these colonised peoples are not Russians but separate peoples in the sense of the UN Charter, with very distinct cultures, histories, languages and religion, and thus they do have the right of self-determination. I do not deny that at present, outside the colonies of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, there is little evidence of separatist desire. But I expect that to change over historic time.
It is of course a personal irony that I am very often accused of being a Russian agent because I debunk ludicrous anti-Russian scares like the fake Skripal narrative, or the totally unfounded narrative that Russia has any desire to attack Western Europe. These scare stories about Russia are of course essential to the profits of the western military-industrial-security complex, and I debunk them because they are nonsense, and because of their propaganda power in controlling western populations. But while I have a deep-seated love for Russia, its culture and people, I know of no other commentator who calls for the Russian Federation to be divorced of its internalised colonies, an opinion the Kremlin would find outrageous.
The Eurasian Muslim populations were overtaken by history from around the seventeenth century and, Islam having expanded itself in Eurasia by conquest, the Muslims were generally themselves absorbed into larger Empires by conquest. In Central Asia they have in the last thirty years regained a kind of independence, but are still dominated by foreign imposed institutions and the colonial subordinate administrative and political class. In China and India the conditions of Muslims are worsening markedly. In Russia the brutal crushing of Independence attempts in some areas has led to the current position where the colonial status of the Muslim sub-polities within the Russian Federation is shunned by the entire world as a Pandora’s Box.
This is of course not in any sense a comprehensive survey. But sometimes it is useful to step back and try to see current events in a broader perspective, both historically and geographically. I do hope this gives some food for your own thoughts. I do hope that some of those thoughts are more profound than the notion that Russia and China, as diplomatic opponents of the West, are beyond criticism.
Though I know of no one with whose political and ideological views I agree more than I do with yours, Craig, I disagree with some of the views that you have expressed in this article. Your idea that any Tatars in Russia who descend from Tatars in Crimea should be forcibly relocated to Crimea strikes me as stupid. “Crimea, of course, should belong to the Tatars who were deported from their land by Stalin. Not Russia, not Ukraine, but Krim Tatar.” What about Russian Tatars who don’t want to, and refuse to, relocate to Crimea? Just consider: https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/aljazeeraworld/2012/05/2012517132318999379.htmlsays “In 1944, Stalin deported 218,000 Crimean Tatars to Central Asia .” The entire 2013 population of Crimea was 1.967 million. You want all descendants of the 218,000 Crimean Tatars of 1944 to be forced to relocate to Crimea and to take control of Crimea’s government and of the existing two million Crimeans? That’s just one example of the low intellectual level of this article from you, and I was shocked to read it. While I agree with some of the allegations in this article, the thought-processes it displays stunned me.
December 19, 2019 at 13:31
Furthermore: The October 2011 Gallup poll of Crimeans showed 8% self-identifying as “Crimean Tatar,” 28% as “Crimean,” 14% as “Ukrainian,” and 45% as “Russian.” In Gallup’s May 2013 poll, the percentages were 15% as “Crimean Tatar” (pehaps because oif the hea vy pressures then in Ukraine to join the EU and leave association with Asia), 24% as “Crimean,” 15% as “Ukrainian,” and 40% as “Russian.” ( See page 8 of this for both poll-results: https://web.archive.org/web/20190726020220/http://www.iri.org/sites/default/files/2013%20October%207%20Survey%20of%20Crimean%20Public%20Opinion,%20May%2016-30,%202013.pdf ). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tatars says that “The number of Crimean Tatars is estimated by UNPO to be between 240,000 and 300,000. The Crimean Tatars emerged as a nation at the time of the Crimean Khanate (1441–1783). The Crimean Khanate was a Turkic-speaking Muslim state that was among the strongest powers in Eastern Europe until the beginning of the 18th century.”
December 19, 2019 at 13:39
I therefore ask you, Craig: Would you really want the roughly 10% of Crimeans who consider themselves to be “Tatar” to be ruling over the roughly 40% of Crimeans who consider themselves to be “Russians” and over the roughly 25% who consider themselves simply “Crimeans” and over the roughly 15% who consider themselves to be simply “Ukrainians”?
December 19, 2019 at 13:45
The more that I think about this article from you, the more you are seeming to me to be a liberal (placing inter-ethnic conflicts above inter-class conflicts) and the less you are seeming to be a progressive (placing inter-class conflicts above inter-ethic conflicts) in determining your recommendations for governmental (political) policies. So, I now doubt whether I agree with your basic view, because I am progressive, not liberal.
craig Post author
That is a peculiar and deliberate mischaracterisation. I have nowhere advocated moving anybody compulsorily. Unlike you, I know quite a lot of deported Tatars personally and many are very keen to return to their ancestral lands.
It amuses me that people who are very keen that the British should, for example, restore the Chagos islanders to their land, are opposed to restoring the Krim Tatars to theirs. Such people do not actually care about human rights, they have just chosen a different big government to cling to.
I therefore again ask you, Craig: Would you really want the roughly 10% of Crimeans who consider themselves to be “Tatar” to be ruling over the roughly 40% of Crimeans who consider themselves to be “Russians” and over the roughly 25% who consider themselves simply “Crimeans” and over the roughly 15% who consider themselves to be simply “Ukrainians”? and: What about Russian Tatars who don’t want to, and refuse to, relocate to Crimea? Since Tatars never were anything close to being a majority of residents of Crimea, how do you operationalize your “Crimea, of course, should belong to the Tatars who were deported from their land by Stalin. Not Russia, not Ukraine, but Krim Tatar.”? Wouldn’t that necessitate ALL of the descendants of Stalin’s 1944 relocated-to-Siberia Tatars to be relocated into Crimea? If not, then in what way would your plan NOT demand that the two million Crimeans would be ruled by just a very tiny minority of Crimeans who are Tatars?
It seems to me that in order for democracy to be able to function, at all, there needs to be a majority of the population that are actually in control over the given land-area. The rights of minorities — i.e., of individuals who disagree with the majority — need to be respected so that the same laws apply equally to each individual. Ethnic (including religious) minorities should be counted in censuses only in order to be able to tabulate whether or not there might be prejudicial enforcement of the laws, but for no other reason than that; and individuals who disagree with any given law need to have uninhibited freedom to engage politically in changing or eliminating any law. This is what democracy means — it is rule by the majority, but only with equal application of the laws to each and every individual (regardless whether majority or minority).
Another function of ethnic issues in politics is to distract the public from class-issues, which the billionaires who fund national politicians’ careers always want the voters not to be paying attention to. After all: if voters will try to avoid voting for politicians who are funded by billionaires, then the corruption of democracy, to turn it into ‘democracy’, will become much more difficult to achieve.
Every magician’s trick succeeds by getting the audience to pay attention to the wrong things. When a democracy degenerates into that type of operation, it become fascism. This used to be called “feudalism,” but it’s the same thing in any era: rule by the wealthiest. It might be right-wing populism, or left-wing elitism, but it is rule by the wealthiest, either way. (During the feudal era, it was always just right-wing elitism — the ‘nobility’.)
What appears to me to be the basic defect in Craig Murray’s article is his internationalizing what actually are intrinsically local instead of international issues. I have elsewhere addressed, from a progressive (i.e., pro-democracy) standpoint, what “democracy” means when applied internationally (as a global democracy of nations), and also the reasons why the “Responsibility to Protect” or “R2P,” in an international context, belongs ONLY to the United Nations to determine and legislate and not at all to any individual nations; nor can international corporations participate in the relations between national governments except in an intrinsically corrupt manner that’s fundamentally fascist and destructive both of national and of international democracy; but this article by Murray crossed and confused boundaries between, on the one hand, issues that only individual nations should have authority over, versus, on the other hand, issues that only the U.N. should have authority over. In addition, of course, his article’s focus on sectarian issues as being the basis for rights and obligations, is neither equalitarian nor class-focused, and therefore distracts from the actual issues.
Regarding, specifically, the question of whether the residents of Crimea should have the authority to determine whether to be ruled by the national Government of Ukraine, the national Government of Russia, or instead to be an independent nation, I have addressed that question here (arguing that though a libertarian would say that the Government of Ukraine should rule the residents of Crimea, a democrat — a person who is committed to democracy — would say that only the residents in Crimea should rule the residents in Crimea). A progressive, being a supporter of democracy, would not frame that issue in a libertarian way, as Barack Obama did there. (Craig Murray’s view makes no sense from either a libertarian or a progressive standpoint. His view, instead — as expressed on December 19th — is minoritarian and ethnocentrist. It’s the opposite both of majoritarian, and of equalitarian, and it also isn’t libertarian. It grants special rights and obligations to a particular minority — Russia’s Tatars who descend from Crimea.)
Murray’s view also ignored that the U.S. Government, in June 2013 — well before Ukraine’s Maidan demonstrations started, and before the consequent breakaway of Crimea from Ukraine — published a request for proposals (RFP) from U.S. contractors to reconstruct a building in Crimea for a U.S-planned takeover of Russia’s naval base there and transformation of that base into yet another U.S. naval base. In fact, Murray’s view ignored the uniquely rogue nature of today’s U.S. Government and its craving to control the entire world. So, Murray’s article ignored much of the most relevant recent history regarding Crimea, and — more broadly — regarding many of the other issues that his article dealt with.
So: back to the original question here, “Which are more important — ethnic or class-differences?”: ethnic conflicts (and this includes religious ones) are used by the aristocracy in order to expand their empire while exploiting their nation’s mass as soldiers and taxpayers to serve them militarily in expanding the economic and political empire those aristocrats control. Or, at least since 26 July 1945, the U.S. aristocracy has been functioning this way. (On that date, effectively, the owners of America’s giant armaments-firms — the individuals who control America’s Military-Industrial Complex — took over the post-FDR White House, in the persons of both Truman and his immediate successor Eisenhower, and thus made impossible FDR’s vision of international law emerging from the U.N., and continued instead the pre-FDR might-makes-right imperialistic order, which would have FDR spinning in his grave.) And this means that the basic distinction is class, not ethnicity. The cause of all these wars — not only international but also civil conflicts — is the unlimited greed of the wealthiest. Ethnicity is merely used by them in order to expand their own wealth.
^5000The mainstream imperialist media lie CONSTANTLY. Literally 24/7. And it's getting worse. All of them do it: radio, tv, the newspapers, the movies. The internet. No exceptions. The corporate Big Lie is pervasive and totalitarian. CBS does it. NBC does it. ABC does it. CNN does it. FOX does it. NPR does it. And of course the NYTimes and WaPo do it. Thousands of "diverse" voices telling you the same lies. Enough to convince anyone.
^5000The mainstream imperialist media lie CONSTANTLY. Literally 24/7. And it's getting worse.
All of them do it: radio, tv, the newspapers, the movies. The internet. No exceptions.
The corporate Big Lie is pervasive and totalitarian. CBS does it. NBC does it. ABC does it.
CNN does it. FOX does it. NPR does it. And of course the NYTimes and WaPo do it.
Thousands of "diverse" voices telling you the same lies. Enough to convince anyone.