Beacon of democracy has gone

Georgia at the crossroads
By Temur Pipia, Executive Secretary of Peace Committee of Georgia
Temur Pipia
The general crisis of capitalism is directly reflected upon Georgia. All main contradictions of globalizing capitalism have their concrete and direct consequences on the processes developing in Georgia and orient these processes towards the certain riverbed.

Is Georgia the «Beacon of Democracy» or an oasis of neoliberal dictatorship?

The USA poses Georgia as a successful American experiment, an example for imitation, having proclaimed it the "Beacon of Democracy." So-called “neoliberal reforms” that were carried out in an uncompromising and a specially aggressive way in Georgia, came to their logical end. Privatization of all spheres of economy and social infrastructure is complete. All plants and factories, which functioned at the very least, have found themselves in private hands. All power supply systems, the hydroelectric power stations, almost all city services including systems of electricity transmissions, natural gas and water supply, are privatized. Natural resources, the woods, seaports are privatized.

The process of total privatization implied simultaneous concentration and capital centralization in hands of several leading figures of the ruling clan. All main flows of the income are monopolized. All the import and export is monopolized. They became especially important, effective sources of fast enrichment of the local oligarchical clan. Enrichment by means of monopoly of the right on the appointment of prices for imported goods is accompanied by total elimination of internal production, the whole fields of industries and rural agriculture. Besides, it occurs in full accordance with the demands of the International Monetary Fund.

Ultra-quick and fantastic enrichment of scanty minority is accompanied with a sharp fall-down of the standards of living for the vast majority.

Neoliberal reform destroyed all social guarantees of workers. Objects of healthcare found themselves in private hands. Education of a good quality can be received only for the large sums of money and only in private educational institutions. The labour legislation in reference to labour forces is one of the most discriminative systems all over the world.

In Georgia today there maintain their proper functioning only the establishments of healthcare, education, power supply, establishments of the central and local governance, and the banking system. Banks don't credit the production sphere. Being engaged in usury, they became the powerful lever of suffocation of the so-called "small business" and the accelerator of aforementioned centralization and monopolization. Well-paid army and police faultlessly protect the established internal order. That is, in the country there only function those systems which are absolutely necessary for the life support of any society in general. The state keeps to itself only the function of servicing of the emerged private-capitalist neoliberal system.

At the same time, unlike all or nearly all post-socialist states, at the lower level the bribery is destroyed, bureaucratic barriers are maximally cleaned when obtaining different references and documents. Gangsterism and theft, flourishing in the beginning of the 90-ies of the last century, are conquered. This aspect of restoration of capitalism is presented as a national achievement, though the establishment of order in this area was also caused by the needs of the capital as a whole. The capital needs minimization of problems at a lower level without the damage of principal interests of the ruling elite.

In a word, there is created some kind of a classical system of neoliberal capitalism in Georgia. It is not accidental that the ruling elite of Russia cites as an example some aspects of the "Georgian reforms", and other post-Soviet countries which, unlike Russia, have such opportunity, regularly study "experience" of "achievements" of Georgia, sending high governmental delegations over and over again to this Caucasian country of dictatorship of neoliberalism, which is the paradise for all oligarchical elite.

But let’s continue our subject! Any dictatorship needs a certain order, means and methods of self-preservation.

Against the background of accruing social contradictions excessive expansion of the rights of the Georgian police doesn't cause surprises. One of the functions of police, namely, that of political prosecution is especially strong.

In prisons there are created intolerable conditions where it is possible to beat with impunity to death, to suppress morally, to eliminate physically or to destroy by an illness any opponent objectionable for the present powers who has found himself/herself in prison. Even the European Parliament, traditionally loyal to the authorities of Georgia notes the abnormal situation in prisons of Georgia, urging to correct the situation. It is characteristic that in 9 years of neoliberal dictatorship the number of prisoners from 6 000 people in 2003 grew up to 25 thousand people in 2012, that is, four times! The judicial system passed to frankly cynical, impudent and unprecedented practice of imprisonment of the persons objectionable for the authorities. Today in Georgia nobody is insured from such punishment. Number of verdicts of ‘not guilty’ in Georgia is record-breakingly low: 0.084 (an average value across Europe amounting to 0.2, that is 20 %).

One political party rules the country calling itself United National Movement. It supervises exclusively all the spheres of public life. Anticommunism, antisovietism, the anti-Russian hysteria and social demagogy are raised to the rank of the state ideology. The ruling powers conduct the interests of the most reactionary representatives of the international capital: the American imperialism. There are present all the principal signs of fascism. In Georgia there is created approximately the same system of capitalist dictatorship, which was created in Chile by Pinochet.

But the neoliberal capitalist system starts to devour itself. The policy of total privatization of economy and social system accompanied by the absolutely destructive foreign politics drove the country to full economic crash. Losing of the traditional sales market for the Georgian goods - the Russian market - led to complete disorganization of the production sphere. The population lives only at the expense of emigrants working abroad. For example, in 2010 wire transfers from Russia were only 4 % less than the gross volume of investments into Georgia from the rest of the world, respectively: 530.2 and 553.1 million US dollars. Today Georgia is one of those few countries, which has more citizens employed abroad than within its own territories (with at least 30% of difference). The unemployment rate makes 67 % (according to official figures, just 15%).

It is evident the deep social crisis that pours out into the political crisis at any favourable possibilities.

Need of a turn to the left even if solely within private-capitalist system became so obvious that bourgeois parties of frankly right sense start to shout about it. Without such a turn the system will fail under its own weight as exhausted and paralyzed to death. Therefore, folding of neoliberal madness became an urgent need for the dominating clans, too.

There has occurred a split in ruling oligarchical elite. There was created the powerful bourgeois opposition, ready to soften policy of neoliberalism and to pursue more moderate foreign policy.

The opposing group understands that without any sensible changes both in the internal and in the foreign policies it is impossible to cope with the deepest stagnation. Moreover, taking into account special conditions of formation of post-Soviet capitalism in Georgia continuation of the present policy will lead to the crash of sovereignty and statehood in general. By special conditions we imply the international conflicts and civil chaos, from which there was born the “Beacon of Democracy,” the modern neoliberal order of Georgia, stepping out of the torments and permanent tragedies of the people thrown by directors of "the grand politics" to both sides of the barricades.

Some aspects of present regional relationships and Georgia

In our opinion, to the characteristics of an internal situation of the country there should be added the description of some aspects of very complex contradictions which are tearing apart the region of the Caucasus. Georgia is the integral, organic link of the most complex chain of regional relationships.

The Caucasus and, first of all, Georgia, owing to the geographical arrangement, are the arena of geopolitical collisions, generally between Russia and the USA. Especially important is an outcome of this collision for Russia in connection with the aggravation of situation around Iran. Loss of the influence in the Caucasus and, above all, on Georgia is fraught with the most serious problems in the North Caucasus that again will lead to the most dangerous crisis for the statehood of Russia, dropping it back into the 90-ies. In case of the fall of Iran, without reliable ensuring support of Russia’s military-political interests in Armenia, the Caucasus will be lost for Russia. Such support in conditions of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia will be possible only through the territory of Georgia. As we see, the relations of the Russian Federation to the internal problems of Georgia, generally connected with its territorial integrity, will depend on the position of Georgia in the solution of the above described problem. Below we shall discuss one of these internal problems.

Direct presence of military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia granted Russia a temporary respite. The purpose of recognition of independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia was legal support of the open military presence of Russia in these regions. Both Georgia and Russia were getting ready for the war in South Ossetia and by all means both were heading to such outcome. Moreover, support given by Russia to the frankly pro-American revolution in Georgia of 2003, its pacifying role in Ajarian crisis of 2004, unconditional withdrawal of military bases from Georgia - in short, purposeful, quiet and sure surrender of positions in Georgia by Russia suggests that the scenario of the crisis of August, 2008 already then was prepared in a lobby of the Russian authorities aiming at the justification of the recognition of independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Recognition of the state independence of two separate regions legally provided restoration of military presence of Russia in the territory of Georgia. Respectively, the Russian side, too, was interested in the conflict in South Ossetia. The interests of the Georgian political management, also surely, step by step moved to obviously perilous military solution of South Ossetia problem, and this is a subject of the separate analysis. It is possible to assume almost unmistakably that one of the main motives of the Georgian political management was to conceal corruption in the military sphere, after all, Georgia had received the multi-billion low-transparent military help from the West. Without extending on this subject, it is enough to note the main feature: military collision in South Ossetia and, especially, the role of an attacking party didn't fit in any way into the interests of the Georgian people. Ossetians and Georgians de facto restored joint peaceful life for the short period, practically for 10 years, having overcome gloomy consequences of bloodshed of the beginning of the 90-ies.

But time for the respite comes to an end. Despite incomparably more stable military and political situation in the Southern Caucasus which Russia got as a result of the conflict of August, 2008, the Iranian problem aggravates again the question of influence in the Caucasus. Here it is necessary to note that even if we build abstractions from still hypothetical Iranian crisis, Russia will undoubtedly try to pull out the bone from its throat. That is, in long-term prospect it can't reconcile to the antagonistic relations with Georgia.

On the outcome of crisis in Syria there depend features of succession of events around Iran that, in turn, again will bring (and they already set) in motion a secret leverage of influence of the USA and Russia on the Southern Caucasus. Nowadays there are observed unexpected and strange at a first glance short-term bursts of Azebaijan-Armenia conflicts. They represent symptoms of revival of the secret competition of the USA with Russia for the influence in the Caucasus against the context of prospects of opposition of Iran and the USA.

Outcome of nowadays aggravated political crisis in Georgia, on the one hand, and development of events around Iran, on the other, can become the reasons of the new conflict between Russia and Georgia. Russia and Armenia are strategic military-political partners connected by the relevant agreements (by the way, there exists also a contract regulating question of military mutual aid between Russia and Iran, signed in 1921). Renewal of the Azerbaijanian-Armenian conflict can become a convenient reason for Russia to organize a land corridor to Armenia through the territory of Georgia which, in turn, can become the reason of the new conflict between Russia and Georgia. But this question can be solved peacefully if, as a result of political changes in Georgia, the new powers come to role Georgia, with which Russia will be able to talk.

There is observed the complication of situation in Javakheti, in the southern region of Georgia occupied generally by ethnic Armenians. There is manifested, on one hand, anti-Armenian, and on the other, anti-Georgian nationalism. In Russia there is officially registered the organization called Javakhk, calling for the separation of Javakheti region from Georgia.

In short, in Georgia, and in the Caucasus as a whole the situation is extremely heated and it can be poured out again into the tragedy of a regional scale at any time.

The task of all progressive forces of the countries of the Southern Caucasus is the deep and concrete analysis of occurring processes and development of the corresponding general plan of actions to oppose it to the interests of NATO and, as a whole, to the interests of the international capital in the Caucasus. As an alternative of especially dangerous aggressive interests of the USA in the Caucasus there can serve objectively comprehensive integration of counties within the territory of the former USSR. In this framework and by means of this integration there also should be solved interstate and international contradictions that are abundant in our region. The united economic space in the territory of the former USSR got concrete contours. It is necessary to develop further the processes of integration and not to insist on the interests of the large capital of mining industries that won their grounds in Russia as well as in a number of CIS countries and whose interests do not foresee further merging and integration of the countries on equal rights.

After all, Russia should play the leading role in this regard. But the political power of the oligarchical capital of Russia is unsuitable for an effective integrating role. Russia serves itself as a source of aforementioned contradictions in the Southern Caucasus. To hold influence, Russia concentrates efforts more on oppositions and contradictions of the people of the Caucasus: she plays the game which is imposed to it by Americans. Such behaviour is counterproductive and concrete effects can be brought only in short-term prospects and at the expense of tragedies of the peoples. That is why for Russia there remain only military levers of the solution of the geopolitical problems in the Southern Caucasus in critical, turning points.

Under the conditions of obvious weakening of the left, anti-imperialistic public forces in Georgia at a present stage there can appear as their practical task to support coming to the power of relatively moderate political forces with simultaneous criticism of their bourgeois, vague essence.

Folding of neoliberal policy within the country as well as folding of the policy of frank opposition with Russia in the external direction are vital necessities both for Georgia, and for the Southern Caucasus as a whole. In that case Georgia can play a very effective stabilizing role in the region, evenly considering interests of neighbours, interests of all warring parties of the most difficult and slowly decaying conflicts of the Southern Caucasus.

Some data illustrating results of the decade of practice of neoliberalism in Georgia:

- The external debt of Georgia makes 10.5 billion US dollars against the background of planned budgetary receipts in 2012 that to 5.2 billion US dollars;

- During all the last nine years the balance of the external trade is negative. On the basis of the data of National Service of Statistics the negative balance of the country during the last 5 years makes 3.1 billion US dollars on the average that equal on the average 26 % from the Cumulative Internal Product;

- The living wage (minimum of subsistence per month) in 2012, according to official figures, makes approximately: for an able-bodied man, 90 US dollars; for the families consisting of 4 members, 165 US dollars;

- The minimal pension makes 50 US dollars; in the country there are 826.8 thousand pensioners; to each pensioner there correspond 0.75 employed people, whereas the optimum value for this ratio would be 3. The retirement age the highest in the Southern Caucasus, and the volume of average pension, the lowest;

- The average nominal salary makes 426 US dollars; the Average nominal salary of women makes 260 US dollars; according to the International Labour Organization, the average salary Georgia is on the 59th place from 72 countries; here also we would like to draw attention of the reader to the fact that the salary in Georgia is received by 33-35 % from the active population even by the most optimistic calculations. It is known that the share taken on hiring among all economically active population (taking into account migrants as well) makes only 22.5 %. It is necessary to consider also a large difference in salaries depending on fields of activity and on the positions of the workers. For example, the average salary of doctors makes about 200, and that of the teachers, 170 US dollars. They are much lower on the comparative scale than the above-stated general indicators for the salary;

- According to obviously underestimated data of National Service of Statistics of Georgia 9.2 % of the population is below the line of poverty; though, according to Social Service Agency of Georgia, which is an official establishment, in the united database of poor families (necessitating the aid) there are registered 1 623 233 persons (514,102 families). It is half of the population actually residing in Georgia, according to our data; and if we rely upon the official data regarding the number of population in Georgia, then, at least, it will make more than one third of the resident population;

- About 1 million citizens of Georgia are abroad as migrants that makes about 22 % of the total population of the country, according to official figures. If we compare this indicator to the size of real population of Georgia, the percentage of migrants shall then equal not to 22 %, but to 33 %; 70 % of natives of the country left Georgia with the aim to find work abroad. 85 % from the emigrated people belong to the age category of 20-50 years whereas the share of this category in reference with the overall population makes less than 40 %;

- If we calculate per capita, on healthcare in Georgia there is spent 35 US dollars. This indicator rates Georgia together with Yemen, Togo (Togolese Republic) and Eritrea, occupying 149th -152nd places among 170 countries of the world;

- Georgia occupies the 164th place according to the birth rate indicator among 190 countries of the world;

- According to the report of the Program of development of the United Nations, average annual reduction of the population of Georgia in 2011-2015 will make 0.7 % whereas during the same period monthly average growth rate of the population of Armenia will make 0.3 %, and that of Azerbaijan, 1.1 %;

- The country is considered grown old if the share of the population which is older than 65 years exceeds 7 % in it. In Georgia this indicator makes 14.4 %;

- The mortality indicator, especially among babies is very high. On each 1000 new-borns the mortality is as high as 25 cases (in the developed countries this indicator doesn't exceed 3.0 or 4.0);

- According to World Health Organization Georgia got into a rating of those countries where is suicides happen most often than elsewhere, and the so-called “index of happiness” practically doesn't exist in Georgia. That is, the majority of the population feel themselves unfortunate;

- on 100 thousand people in Georgia, 539 are prisoners. For comparison: in the developed countries this indicator varies between 70 and 80 prisoners on 100 thousand citizens. With the number of prisoners per capita Georgia takes the 4th place among the countries of the world.

Data from the following sources were provided in the article:

- National Service of Statistics of Georgia;
- Joseph Archvadze, report: «Modern Demographic Situation of Georgia, the Hostage of Political and Economical Conditions»;
- Human Rights Centre, Georgia;
- World Health Organization;
- Analytical printing editions

October, 2012