Self-Determination and its Value
by Israel Shamir on 03 Nov 2008 0 Comment

We gather in fateful, wonderful times. The great financial crisis is leading to a collapse of hegemony; the nets they made to catch us are being undone. We are like prisoners who notice that their jailers are in terrible commotion and confusion. Our first response is fear: maybe they will not deliver soup for our lunch, maybe our small privileges we accumulated and saved will be gone. No regrets, no doubts, no fears - we are on the way to freedom: the walls will fall, the jailers will run away, and we shall be set free! 

Jailers and their junkies try to convince us to support them. Otherwise, they say, they would not be able to rule as they have until now - there will be anarchy, no work, no pay. They promise to improve our conditions if we play ball. Refuse them. No support for the jailers! Maybe we'll miss a helping of their soup, but the whole world will be ours. The melting stocks and bonds are just worthless paper, the real economy will remain untouched. If all the dollars should vanish, we working people will survive, like the Russians survived the vanishing Rouble, and the Germans survived the melting of the Mark.

Now we may shake off the cultural hegemony of the Core; the semi-colonial dependency of the East will be over. In the new world we shall need a new, equality-based system of international relations. For the past two hundred years, Western hegemony has relentlessly fragmented the East, breaking bits and pieces off it. Now we may begin the opposite process, that of integration. Our values were undermined by their hegemony, now our interests and values will prevail. Even a year ago, this would be an empty dream. Today, thanks to the financial collapse, it is possible.

National self-determination is a key issue in the centuries-long dialogue between East and West, the one they speak at cross-purposes on, even - or especially - when they use identical terms. The very term national self-determination has two meanings, as different as the root of a tree in a square and a square root. We may refer to Political Self Determination (PSD) and System Self Determination (SSD).
- SSD is old; as old as mankind.
- PSD is a newish invention of Woodrow Wilson. 

SSD is close to the concept of sovereignty and is described as the right of a nation (meaning: state) to freely choose its political, economic, social and cultural systems - to live its own way according to its own values.

PSD is the right of a people (meaning: ethnic cultural unit) to create, secede from or join a state.

Both are enshrined in the UN Charter (Article 1, Paragraph 2; and Article 55, paragraph 1), but their applications are quite different.
1) Political self determination 

The right of nations to Political Self-Determination (PSD) is an integral part of the modern paradigm; it was upheld by the West as part and parcel of a national-romantic trend, and was used to tear the Balkans and the Arab world away from the great Eastern commonwealth of the Ottoman Empire. Coincidentally, the territories that realised their "self-determination" became British colonies, protectorates or dependent territories, and eventually passed into the Pax Americana. Realisation of PSD at the breakup of the Ottoman Empire caused massacres and ethnic cleansings on a scale previously unheard of. Smyrna and Salonika, Greeks and Turks, Armenians and Kurds, and later Albanians and Serbs were victims of this Weapon of Mass Destruction. 

The West upholds the application of PSD to the East, and often invokes it in supporting independence for Tibet, Kashmir, Chechnya, Baluchistan, Wasiristan, Kurdistan and what not. Full implementation of this principle would have the East fragmented into hundreds of statelets, but with all of them embracing the same liberal Western system of values.

Irony of history: in the 19th century, the West was divided into nation states, while its adversary the East was organized by big supranational territorial units, the commonwealths of Ottoman Turkey, Austro-Hungary, Russia, China and India. The West fought against the East not only with weapons of steel and fire, but also by brandishing the concept of national (read: ethnic) identity and of the desirability of such identity’s self-determination through secession and independence. In the 21st century, after almost two hundred years of applying these principles, the West is united in two large supranational territorial units of the USA and EU, while the East is fragmented into dozens of states, and the fragmentation tendency is not over yet. In other words, the West and the East traded places; entrenching the West’s superiority.

This change allows us to recognise political self-determination as a potent weapon of ideological warfare, a Western device created in order to undermine and colonise the East. The dissolution of the Soviet Union was caused – to an important extent – by activation of this device, an ideological long-term “sleeping mine” incorporated in the Soviet structure by the Communist Party for historical reasons. The Russian Marxists inherited this principle from the European Marxists for whom this was part and parcel of their Euro-centric point of view. Lenin’s Party minimised its application but did not exorcize it completely. In 1991, it was used to break up the Soviet Union and caused great damage to millions of Soviet citizens. Millions became refugees; even more millions lost their right to use their native tongue or even their basic citizen rights. 

This false and damaging “right” should be stricken out of the books and vigorously denied, as its very presence causes damage and bloodshed. The East (meaning the Eurasian lands east of the core Western European countries) can then return to its roots – or, in other words, utilise the European integration experience and reconstitute the large commonwealths uniting its population. 

All big Eastern nations need it: 

China: It is impossible to agree to the secession of Tibet, for it would make two million Tibetans (or rather their monastic elite) the owners of millions of square miles of territory, while two millions of non-Tibetans living there would lose their rights or even their lives. The PSD of Tibet would cause a vast ethnic-cleansing wave, it would undermine both China and India (as parts of historic Great Tibet belong now to India) and it would create a new Western military base in the very heart of Eurasia. 

: Kashmiri secession is equally unacceptable. The independent Muslim Kashmir would not be able to keep two thirds of its territory, for the Buddhist Ladakh and Hindu Jammu, now parts of the Jammu and Kashmir State, will not follow Srinagar. Meeting waves of Muslim refugees from Ladakh and Jammu and Hindu refugees from Kashmir proper would ruin the country for ages, even if it doesn’t cause renewed hostilities between India and Pakistan. Instead of that, a large integration project could be undertaken to revert the fateful Partition of the Raj and the partition along the Durand Line. 

Russia: It is doubtful whether the 1991 application of PSD on the former Soviet territory will have a lasting effect. The secession of the Ukraine bore bitter fruit: the pro-Western regime of Yushchenko banned the Russian language, the first tongue of majority of Ukrainian population. People are not allowed to use Russian; even the works of the greatest Ukrainian writer Gogol are being classified as “foreign literature,” for they are written in Russian. Yushchenko supplied modern weapons to Georgia and intends to bring his country into NATO, turning the Ukraine into an enemy of Russia. Georgia is a criminal basket-case: half of the Georgian population moved to Russia in order to escape Saakashvili and his “independent” regime.

The dubious “right to PSD” should be counter-balanced by two more fundamental principles: that of forbidding discrimination, and that of avoiding bloodshed. Creation of new states on ethnic, religious or cultural basis unavoidably causes bloodshed and discrimination. For instance, the creation of independent Estonian, Latvian and Georgian states brought forth brutal discrimination against non-Eestis, non-Letts, non-Kartvels who constitute almost half of these countries’ population. At the first post-Versailles attempt to tear these areas away from Russia and make them independent, the local elites expropriated and expelled the Germans from Estonia and Latvia, and Armenians were expelled from Georgia. At the second attempt in 1990s, they victimised the Russians in Estonia and Latvia and the Abkhazians and Ossetians in Georgia. This caused chain reaction: while the expelled Germans of the Baltic States gave support to Hitler’s militarism, Ossetians and Abkhazians have created a new problem, that of Georgian refugees from these regions.

We know that marriage may fail; but a divorce may fail, too. The 1991 divorce of the Soviet republics failed. The way out lies through reintegration of the post-Soviet area, followed by the reintegration of other large Eastern commonwealths (“Empires”). Re-integration of the Muslim and Orthodox lands formerly united in the Byzantine or Ottoman Empire in one Commonwealth of the East, under auspices of Russia and Turkey, could reverse the process of fragmentation which created a dozen Balkan states, broke Iraq into three statelets, tore Lebanon off from Syria and Kosovo off from Serbia. Instead of allowing Kashmir to secede, India and Pakistan could reintegrate. Re-integration is the way to stop discrimination, pauperisation and submission to the West for all the nations of the East. The present collapse of the Western finance system makes such a move possible and desirable.

The priority of non-discrimination over self-determination should be proclaimed and established in the Middle East. The Jewish State is a pilot Western project; created by breaking off a slice of Syria for implementation of the Political Self-Determination “right” of the Jewish people. It became a constant source of discrimination, it encourages secession and separatism, it is a military base for the West, it is a state with long history of aggression against neighbours, a potential aggressor against Syria and Iran, and a transgressor against the nuclear non-proliferation protocol. This can all be cured by the reintegration of Palestine into one non-discriminatory state. As the 29 November 1947 UN Resolution was not implemented, and as a separate Palestinian state was not created due to the intransigence of Jewish elites, this project should be abandoned, cancelled and an integration project should be substituted. The creation of a non-hegemonist, non-discriminatory state of all its citizens in place of and instead of the Jewish State could become the turning point for transforming the East from fragmentation to integration.

2) Hegemony and Self Determination

The way of nations’ SSD - the way of their right to live in accordance with their values - is blocked by Western hegemony. This hegemony is not only material, as expressed in conquests and colonisation, but cultural as well. This cultural hegemony has ancient roots beginning with the old claims of the Pope of Rome to his primacy over all the Patriarchs. That hegemony is connected but not identical with Euro-centric world-view. Euro-centrism is basically a parochial view of people who are not sufficiently aware of the rest of the world, and thus sinning against political correctness. But Western hegemonism reaches far beyond the parochial Euro-centric view. Edward Said correctly noted the drive for political and ideological dominance behind the cultural Euro-centric view. 

Dr. J.C. Kapur quoted the Macaulay Minute document to the same effect: “We (the British) can’t ever conquer India, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage. If the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.” This is not an exact quotation but rather the gist of Macaulay’s speech. In other words, cultural hegemony is a prerequisite for lasting political and economic dominance, in Gramscian terms. 

In the last quarter of 20th century, hegemony shifted; its power base narrowed considerably. First, it became US hegemony; later, it became the hegemony of the finance-based and heavily Judaised American elites. This is not Western hegemony any more, but hegemony against the West as well as against the East. The hegemonic liberal paradigm is a hostile force standing against the peoples of the West as well. The long truce between the hegemonists and the people of the West is over.

? Hegemonists deny the right of systemic self-determination.
? They deny the right of Iranians to live in accordance with their religious views and under guidance of their spiritual leaders.
? The right of people of North Korea and Cuba to stay Communist.
? The right of Palestinians to elect the religious and solidarist Hamas government.
? The right of Malaysians and Russians to keep their TV under national control.

Moreover, they deny
? The right of the Austrians to elect a right-wing government.
? The right of Americans to ban abortions and celebrate Christmas openly.
? The right of French and Germans to disprove the Judaic world-view.
? The right of the Swedes to limit immigration and cultural diversity.

In short, hegemonists deny the right of nations to choose their political system and to live in accordance with their own values. They claim there is only one acceptable and permitted system of values, the Western, liberal, secular, civilised one, while other systems are inferior, erroneous, criminal and defective. 

The nations of the West are still subjugated and do not dare to rise in open revolt against the hegemonists. The East has a different attitude: nations and civilisations are entitled to live their own way. The West is entitled to break with this hegemony, or to accept it, as it finds fit. The East claims the same right for its many ways. 

This was proclaimed by the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in his call for multi-polarity. This doctrine of multi-polarity is not limited to multiple power structures, as some people claim. It goes well beyond that: it is recognition of many different political and value systems, or recognition of the right of system self-determination. 

The hegemonists theoretically accept this right as it is stated in the UN Charter, but practically speaking they deny it, and carry on their fight against any other value system, while demanding submission to their hegemony on the civilisational level.

Now we may revaluate the Cold War. It was not an ideological war of two equal political systems, but rather a war of the East to live in accordance with its own values. The Communist East did not try to impose its values on the West, while the West denied the right of the East to live its own life the way it wants.

Noam Chomsky tried to reduce this question of hegemony to its economic factor. He wrote that the US as the carrier of Western hegemonist spirit seeks “only” access to markets and resources of other countries - the “right to rob”, in his words. That would be bad enough, but the hegemonists are not satisfied with sheer robbery; they now need not only your money and labour, but your soul as well.

For this purpose they built up a system of single civilisational control over the world; they utilise the UN, International Tribunals, World Court, IEAE, Tolerance-imposing bodies and other agencies. The leaders of the East still did not understand that these agencies are kept in the hegemonists’ hands and they undermine the civilisational independence of the East.

Many nations recognise that the Western hegemonists are not satisfied with financial prey; that they demand submission to their cultural diktat. That is why all Russian post-Soviet leaders (including Mr. Medvedev) swear that they subscribe to the hegemonist value system, though they try and defend their natural resources. They agree to go to various Auschwitz-related events, build tolerance museums and denounce the spurious offences of racism and anti-Semitism. They do it in order to be kept off the shortlist of the enemies - the Axis of Evil. 

But Russia - like other non-Core lands - does not really submit to the liberal paradigm, and therefore it remains an adversary, despite its leaders’ claim to the contrary. A value system is a system of sins and virtues, which do not coincide for all civilisations.

Under hegemonist rule, Mankind not only switched from the carriage to the motor car, and not only gave up pleasant conversation in salons and in the gardens for watching CNN and MTV. The most advanced and progressive part of Mankind also forged the old sins into new virtues: A glutton becomes a sought-after restaurant columnist; a lecher parades his pride along the city streets; a wrathful man calls for the righteous bombing of Teheran; sloth is promoted to a way of life. Greed has become the highest quality of the new man. 

Our systems are divided by different attitudes towards God and to the Majority. The East - as well as traditional West - prefers solidarity, loves God and rejects greed; while the hegemonist liberal paradigm celebrates individualism, approves of greed as a supreme virtue and leaves for God a modest place among the personal belongings of the faithful. The Gospel-stated choice of God or Mammon has never been so obvious or so valid.

Now, as the Mammon-built card palaces collapse, the illusion of the Market as the only true measure of things is being swept away. Greed necessarily destroys societies. The societies that choose God are wiser than those who chose Mammon. 

In the West, the believers are being persecuted; in the US it is forbidden to even give Easter or Christmas greeting. Teachers are being sacked for such celebration. On the other side, the East is still full of faith. In Russia, the churches are full, street signs celebrate church feasts, and the demand for solidarity is as high as ever. The same tendency is apparent in Palestine, Turkey, Iran where people prefer faith-based solidarity to cold and rational secular nationalism. It could be the same in the West, if the great spiritual teachers of the past century, Simone Weil and T.S. Eliot, were only heeded. Their defeat caused the rise of liberal hegemony. Only after the defeat of hegemony will the civilisations be able to respect each other and carry out their dialogue, while respecting each other's systemic self determination. Now we have the chance to fulfill this dream. 

(Speech at the Rhodes World Public Forum of Dialogue of Civilisations, 12 October 2008)

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