Reading about the Skripal poisoning case is like experiencing a bad dream. Nothing makes any sense, and nothing anybody says can be trusted. There is only one concrete and undeniable fact available and that is that it is not yet known how the poison, assuming it was a poison, was administered, or even when or where.
It therefore follows from this that the anti-Russia hysteria emanating from the government, the vast majority of other bourgeois politicians and most of the bourgeois media, and their allegations that the Russian government is the culprit, have to be straightforward lies.
Former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray pointed out on his website on 14 March:
“As recently as 2016, Dr Robin Black, head of the detection laboratory at the UK’s only chemical weapons facility at Porton Down, a former colleague of Dr David Kelly, published in an extremely prestigious scientific journal that the evidence for the existence of Novichoks was scant and their composition unknown.
“‘In recent years, there has been much speculation that a fourth generation of nerve agents, ‘Novichoks’ (newcomer), was developed in Russia, beginning in the 1970s as part of the ‘Foliant’ programme, with the aim of finding agents that would compromise defensive countermeasures.
“Information on these compounds has been sparse in the public domain, mostly originating from a dissident Russian military chemist, Vil Mirzayanov. No independent confirmation of the structures or the properties of such compounds has been published.’ (Robin Black, Development, Historical Use and Properties of Chemical Warfare Agents, Royal Society of Chemistry, 2016)
“Yet now, the British government is claiming to be able instantly to identify a substance which its only biological weapons research centre has never seen before and was unsure of its existence. Worse, it claims to be able not only to identify it, but to pinpoint its origin. Given Dr Black’s publication, it is plain that claim cannot be true.” (The novichok story is indeed another Iraqi WMD scam)
This is further confirmed by the refusal of the government to hand over a sample of the poison allegedly used either to the Russian government, which has offered to use its best endeavours to ascertain whether the poison did indeed originate in Russia and to try to track down its source, and its delay in involving the UN’s Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to which the UK is treaty bound in a timely manner to supply samples of any suspected nerve agent used on its territory.
Because this obligation was not immediately complied with, and because Russia was asked to provide evidence within 24 hours that it was not responsible for the poisoning (without, however, being provided with a sample that could help establish the facts one way or another), not only has the British bourgeois response to the events been manifestly untruthful but, as false flag operations go, it has been remarkably cack-handed.
Of course, we cannot say at this moment whether or not the poisoning, assuming it was a poisoning, was a false flag operation, as we do not have sufficient facts at our disposal – we merely point out the obvious fact that the hysteria that has been whipped up amounts to the planting of a false flag over whatever events have occurred.
Moreover, in a further article, Craig Murray was able to provide some inside information:
“I have now received confirmation from a well placed FCO [Foreign and Commonwealth Office] source that Porton Down scientists are not able to identify the nerve agent as being of Russian manufacture, and have been resentful of the pressure being placed on them to do so. Porton Down would only sign up to the formulation ‘of a type developed by Russia’ after a rather difficult meeting where this was agreed as a compromise formulation.
“The Russians were allegedly researching, in the ‘Novichok’ programme, a generation of nerve agents which could be produced from commercially available precursors such as insecticides and fertilisers. This substance is a ‘novichok’ in that sense. It is of that type. Just as I am typing on a laptop of a type developed by the United States, though this one was made in China.
“To anybody with a Whitehall background this has been obvious for several days. The government has never said the nerve agent was made in Russia, or that it can only be made in Russia.
“The exact formulation ‘of a type developed by Russia’ was used by Theresa May in parliament, used by the UK at the UN security council, used by Boris Johnson on the BBC yesterday and, most tellingly of all, ‘of a type developed by Russia’ is the precise phrase used in the joint communique issued by the UK, USA, France and Germany yesterday: “‘This use of a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the second world war.’
“When the same extremely careful phrasing is never deviated from, you know it is the result of a very delicate Whitehall compromise.” (Of a type developed by liars, 16 March 2016)
The government’s prevarication has been compounded by the fact that the supposed ‘evidence’ available to it has not been shared with the leader of the opposition, as would be usual.
On 16 March 2018, the Times published an article sneering at the Morning Star for not having dealt with the Skripal case. On this occasion, we entirely sympathise with the Morning Star’s position. It has no explanation for what has happened, and therefore, what is there to say?
In the meantime, the whole case is seething with unanswered questions. It now appears that this ultra-deadly nerve poison, supposedly heedlessly released in a public place and endangering all innocent bystanders, has only affected three people – Mr Skripal, his daughter and one policeman.
The policeman affected supposedly by this deadliest of deadly nerve poisons is recovering. If it is indeed the case that this lethal poison only affected three people, how was this result achieved? (Dozens of bystanders were sent to hospital apparently when Mr Skripal and his daughter were discovered in Salisbury shopping centre, but the hospital has confirmed that none of them was suffering from poisoning.)
Skripal is more likely to have been a victim of imperialist intrigue. There are the dirty-tricks brigade at the CIA and MI5, with rumblings going on in the background that Skripal was closely tied up with Christopher Steele, a security consultant hired by the Clinton campaign to compile the famous Trump dossier intended to spill the dirt on Trump’s alleged indiscretions in Russia and undermine his election chances.
There is speculation that Skripal may, therefore, have known more than was good for him and been looking for a buyer for that knowledge. It is also becoming clear that in the course of the destruction of the former Soviet Union’s chemical weapons stockpiles, US imperialism was very much involved and was certainly in a position to lift information for its own use. (See Craig Murray, op cit, 14 March 2018)
Then there are the Russian oligarchs, any one of whom could bear a grudge against Skripal, or who might be interested in making life difficult for Putin, and some of whom may have been able to get their hands on lethal poisons that became available on criminal networks in the chaos that accompanied the collapse of the Soviet Union, as was pointed out by Seumas Martin in the Irish Times:
“London has become the city of choice for those who have made vast fortunes following the fall of the Soviet Union, and not all of them have been squeaky-clean model citizens. Boris Berezovsky, for example, who employed Litvinenko, had been a prime suspect in organising the murder of American journalist Paul Klebnikov.
“Forbes magazine, Klebnikov’s employer, continues on its website to point the finger in Berezovsky’s direction. A former British diplomat has told me in private that giving Berezovsky asylum was considered a major mistake in UK diplomatic circles.
“The anti-Putin Berezovsky died in mysterious circumstances not long after he had lost a court case against pro-Putin oligarch Roman Abramovich, owner of Chelsea FC. British police ruled that his death was suicide, but there are those in Britain who believe, or want to believe, he was murdered.
“The oligarchs have been welcomed in London financial circles because of the amount of their money. They have been welcomed too by May’s Conservative party, which, according to recent reports in the London Times and Daily Telegraph, has received donations of £820,000 from Russian sources. Chancellor Philip Hammond has refused to return the money because he did not want to tar the oligarchs ‘with Putin’s brush’.
“Perhaps it is time to realise that if your country becomes a haven for dodgy people like Berezovsky then dodgy things are likely to happen.” (Unlikely that Vladimir Putin behind Skripal poisoning, 14 March 2018)
It is also, of course, extremely convenient for the British ruling class to divert the attention of the masses in Britain from the hardship and deprivation that arises from the functioning of the capitalist system.
The resistance of the working masses increases the desperation of the bourgeoisie to find solutions that don’t exist. British imperialism, which used to lord it over the world and took great pride in the relatively high standards of living enjoyed by the British working class following the second world war (albeit that these were undoubtedly granted only to ward off the threat of another proletarian revolution to rival that of Russia), is now facilitating the gradual dismantling of the NHS, while free university education has been abolished and state-funded schools are finding themselves so short of money that they are now not only increasing class sizes but are also reducing the number of classes taught.
On top of that, local authorities are going bankrupt. Northamptonshire has already announced its insolvency, but several others are also on the skids, meaning that they are unable to provide the social services that have traditionally been entrusted to them.
All this is a reflection of the way in which big business is trying to maintain its profits at the expense of the working class. In the circumstances, for British bourgeois politicians to present themselves as great defenders of the masses against mass poisoning must seem to those politicians a wonderful wheeze.
An interesting mystery is why prime minister Theresa May, unlike her clown of a foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, was initially slightly cautious about blaming Russia without evidence, yet, without any further evidence being produced, suddenly leapt to the front row of the Russia bashers.
One cannot but wonder if she was not dragged on message by the US who are said to be contemplating direct military deployment of their forces in Syria, having, according to Russian sources, equipped jihadis with significant quantities of chlorine gas so that they can stage a false flag chemical gas attack to blame on the Syrian government.
Might it be rather important to our ‘American friends’, who Theresa May is definitely hoping will help British imperialism overcome the worst setbacks likely to be caused by Brexit, to soften a cynical public opinion in support of imperialist war with nightmare tales of Russians deploying deadly poisons in quiet towns in rural Britain?
But why the false flags – why demonise Russia?
Why are we being asked to believe that Russia is bad and Putin positively leaves Beelzebub in the shade? What is it our political masters and ruling class have against them?
Marxists are frequently accused by bourgeois academics, who generally know nothing about the subject, of being ‘economic determinists’ when they state that, in the ultimate analysis, human society is governed by underlying economic causes. And it is our considered view that this is certainly the case when it comes to understanding what lies behind the anti-Russia hysteria.
Everybody understood at the time of the Soviet Union that the hatred of the capitalist countries towards the Soviet Union was based on the Soviet Union’s ability to demonstrate in practice the superiority of the socialist planned economy over the anarchy and chaos of the profit-driven capitalist market economy. But now that Russia has succumbed to capitalist restoration, why the virulent hatred? Why the talk of a new cold war?
The crisis of imperialism is driving the system to war as the only way out, even if this carries great risks for the future of the imperialist system itself. In addition, imperialism seeks domination. As such, any country or government that takes an independent stance is an obstruction to this domination and thus becomes a target of imperialism’s destabilisation and regime-change agenda. (See Joti Brar, The Drive to War Against Russia and China, 2017)
When the Soviet Union and the east European bloc of socialist countries collapsed, triumphant imperialism hastened to expand its market into the territories that had formerly been closed to it. The countries belonging formally to the socialist camp, as well as some former republics of the USSR itself, such as Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, fell under the tutelage of US imperialism. Even the Russian Federation, under the weak and treacherous stewardship of Boris Yeltsin, the notorious drunkard, for a number of years did US imperialism’s bidding.
Taking advantage of Russia’s weakness, imperialism quickly incorporated the former socialist countries of eastern and central Europe, and even the Baltic republics, into the warmongering Nato alliance, for the sole purpose of encircling Russia. After the departure of Yeltsin and the ascendancy of Vladimir Putin, the latter has called a halt to this onward march of Nato and its continuous war provocations.
Russia gave notice of its intention to oppose further encroachments by Nato through the Russia-Georgia war of 2008. Since then, thanks to Nato interference, Ukraine has been destabilised, and its economy is in a shambles.
Russia has done nothing other than to take steps to defend its legitimate interests, particularly in relation to the sale of Russian gas to Ukraine and the transmission of Russian gas to many European countries through Ukrainian territory.
When the Crimean enclave decided overwhelmingly in a referendum to join Russia – a country of which it had been part for 300 years – the Duma accepted Crimea’s application to join the Russian Federation. This provoked outrage in imperialist circles, for, through this arrangement, Russia had secured the safety of its naval fleet, which was stationed in the Crimean peninsula. (See Crimea goes home, Proletarian, April 2014)
Then came Russia’s entry into the Syrian war in September 2015, at the invitation of the legitimate government of Syria. Russian air support for Syria’s armed forces turned the tables on the imperialist proxy war, waged since 2011 to overthrow the independent and legitimate government of Syria. By helping the Syrian government, along with other allies of President Bashar al-Assad, such as Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah, to defeat the jihadi attack dogs of imperialism, Russia has managed to strengthen its own influence and prestige in the middle east at the expense of US-led imperialism.
Imperialism’s impotent rage can only have been further stoked when, on 1 March, in his State of the Union address to the Russian people, Vladimir Putin made it clear that Russian defences had been so effectively shored up that its enemies could no longer dare attack it militarily. Adam Taylor of the Washington Post summed up the essence of the speech:
“Putin used his annual address to announce new weapon technologies that he dubbed ‘invincible’, including nuclear-powered missiles that would be difficult for conventional missile defence systems to combat.” (Putin says he wishes the Soviet Union had not collapsed. Many Russians agree, 3 March 2018)
What must be most galling is not only that the missile defence systems that were intended to allow imperialism to attack Russia and China with impunity have effectively become worthless, but on top of that all the billions of dollars spent on installing them have been utterly wasted, while the Russian defence budget still remains a fraction of that of the United States and its allies.
One has only to think about this to realise that it is no wonder that the political leaders of imperialist countries appear to be losing their grip on reality.
This is a sufficiently long list of anti-imperialist actions undertaken by Russia under the leadership of Vladimir Putin for understanding why it should have become the target for imperialist demonisation.
Russian actions, while strengthening and emboldening the anti-imperialist forces in the middle east and elsewhere, have weakened imperialism and seriously dented its prestige and influence. The working class in Britain ought, instead of joining the chorus condemning Russia and Putin, to be condemning imperialist provocations.
In this context, the false, baseless and hysterical accusations levelled by prime minister Theresa May, her buffoonish foreign secretary Boris Johnson, and her pipsqueak defence secretary Gavin Williamson need to be condemned in the strongest possible terms and exposed for the lies that they are.
Also must be condemned several members of Labour’s parliamentary party, including some members of the shadow cabinet, among them the alleged ‘Marxist’ John McDonnell, who have joined the anti-Russia chorus, and even gone to the extent of dissociating themselves from the perfectly reasonable questioning to which their leader Jeremy Corbyn subjected the government’s assertions.
These are not people who can be relied upon to work in the interests of the working class.