What is going on in Karabakh/Artsakh?
Since December 12, 2022, a group of " eco-activists " organized by Aliyev’s regime started the blockade of Karabakh / Artsakh by protesting at the Lachin / Berdzor corridor. Following their “successful” actions, Azerbaijan established a checkpoint on the road as of April 23, gaining full control over entry and exit to Karabakh/Artsakh, and eventually severely restricting mobility in recent weeks. As a result of 8 months of blockade, serious material scarcity, shortage of gas and electricity, hunger, and lack of access to medical services have created a humanitarian disaster. The limited provision of medicines, food and transportation for patients in need of treatment by the International Red Cross Committee has also been suspended.
From the very start of the blockade, Azerbaijan has disseminated extensive propaganda targeting both domestic and international audiences, asserting that there is no blockade and that people and cargo are being freely transported under the control of Russian peacekeepers. Nevertheless, independent sources of information, social media, as well as the voices of ordinary people from Karabakh / Artsakh, have unveiled the true extent of the blockade. Today this reality is painfully clear: children are receiving only one meal per day, and the health of pregnant women, elderly individuals, and patients is in significant danger.
The result of the blockade that we witness today highlights once again how the distinction between the military and civilian population is gradually disappearing, and that every Armenian resident of Karabakh/Artsakh is the target of total war. The blockade is the most common method of total war used by nation-states. The goal of total war is a total victory, that is, to achieve an absolute victory that includes capitalist interests by deforming the unfinished victory of the 2020 war into a coercive peace in the form and conditions of desired choice of the regime in Azerbaijan.
Then why does Azerbaijan want to achieve total victory? Is it to gain even more approval from Azerbaijanis, or perhaps to integrate Armenians? We think that the actions of Azerbaijan have no purpose of appealing to Armenians or to Azerbaijanis. The collective sufferings of the Azerbaijani people are exploited and instrumentalized by the Azerbaijani state. In order to keep the Armenian community away from living together with Azerbaijanis, predatory tactics such as blockades are applied. We will try to explain the actions of the Azerbaijani state by establishing its hegemony in the country and in the wider region. Be it the blockade of Karabakh/Artsakh, the violence against the people of Soyudlu village, or the organized state terror against the politically active population, it is important to understand that all of these are interconnected and that the real enemy is not the powerless Armenian community, but the dominant and hegemonic state of Azerbaijan. It is no coincidence that the blockade of both Karabakh/Artsakh and Soyudlu appeared at the intersection of the extractivist ambitions of the same Anglo-Asian Mining company and state terror. This parallelism itself is one of the points that unite the collective sufferings of the Azerbaijani and Armenian people, but it is not limited to it.
The sequence of events in recent days reveals the ambitions that have been set. Forcing Karabakh/Artsakh to come to direct negotiations with Azerbaijan not in the territory of the 3rd state, but in Baku and most recently in Yevlakh, thereby ensuring the subordination of Karabakh/Artsakh to Azerbaijan, demilitarization of the region, and removal of Russian peacekeepers that holds a mandate in Karabakh/Artsakh until 2025 aims to take total control. Although it is clear that the army stationed by Russia in Karabakh does not serve for peace, but for its imperial interests, the issue of the safety of the population in Karabakh actualizes its legitimacy.
The distinction between the military and police functions that exercise this control now seems blurred. Thus, two citizens of Karabakh/Artsakh, who were taken hostage in the last week, are accused of committing crimes during the First Karabakh War. Vagif Khachatryan, a 68-year-old citizen, was abducted from the Azerbaijan border crossing point in the Lachin/Berdzor corridor on July 29, when he was on his way to Yerevan for treatment accompanied by the International Committee of the Red Cross. On August 1, 61-year-old Rashid Beglaryan accidentally crossed into the territory controlled by Azerbaijan while drunk and was arrested by Azerbaijani border guards. Sending the message that this control will not be enough with 2 people, Azerbaijan threatens to punish them in the name of establishing transitional justice in order to gain sovereign power over Karabakh/Artsakh. This form of control, which has transformed from a war-one form of state violence, into another form- a police operation, gives the population of Karabakh/Artsakh binary choices: either you must leave Karabakh/Artsakh, or face soft ethnic cleansing.
What is hegemony and why Azerbaijani state needs it?
Dominance does not necessarily establish itself by authority, subordination and coercion. On the contrary, it is a mixture of leadership and rulership, dominance and subordination, consent and coercion, whereby coercion can gain weight when consent is reduced. Considering that capitalist relations are prone to crisis by their nature, then it is needless to say that the emergence of the current situation was inevitable. Long-term regulation of economic crisis and social (class) conflicts can be successful only when dominant capitalist factions or state combined “power block” creates a special dominance mode.
Hegemony can be understood, in this sense, as a special governance form of dominance. Here the dominance of the leading class factions is based not primarily on coercion and violence, but on the active consent of at least some of the governed groups towards the existing order. This agreement, in turn, is realized through ideologies rooted in different value systems. For maintaining a stable state order, it is important for the population to acknowledge the state's monopoly on the use of force as legitimate. Such legitimacy can only be achieved in the long term through political compromises, which ultimately mean real material or symbolic concessions to the dominated groups, along with complying with the interests of the ruling class factions. The crucial part about these concessions is that they should not affect the foundations of the capitalist system and they must not challenge it. In other words, the means of production and power should remain in the hands of the capitalist class. Consent and mass loyalty can only develop through materially and symbolically secured integration of subordinate groups and their acceptance and recognition of the dominant order and its representation in the state as a legitimate one.
Thus, the drawing of borders has mainly an economic function, in addition to uniting people of "one blood" and believing in certain myths in one area. In other words, the phenomenon of national borders or the determination of territorial boundaries of nation-states should be understood as a product of capitalism. Capital accumulation, i.e. the accumulation of capital through investments and profits, is one of the central features of the capitalist system. For this accumulation to be possible, capitalists must have access to markets, resources, and labour. Borders between countries are used to control, manage, and monopolize access to these resources. Legitimate dominance over borders must also be based on the consent of the governed. As a result, the hegemonic class must obtain the consent of the governed for its social project, as well as opposition groups competing for power.
An evident example of this consent was the alliance between the opposition, civil society, and the ruling power in Azerbaijan during the 2020 war. However, this alliance did not limit itself to the war and the nationalism that underpinned it and continued in the form of support for the ongoing hegemonic peace negotiations and violent tactics such as the blockade. As a result, this consent creates favourable conditions for the capitalist interests of the ruling class.
It is vital to consider the blockades of Söyüdlü and Lachin in the same context, both of which are related to the extractivist interests of the "Anglo-Asian Mining" company. As we mentioned earlier, the consent of the population within the nation-state is very important for the stabilization and regulation of capitalism in order to maintain hegemony, because an unstable environment full of conflicts poses a real threat to the realization of capitalist interests. The Soyudlu uprising and its ongoing siege are a clear example of this. There, the Anglo-Asian Mining company saw the instability as a real threat to production; as a result, the state activated repressive apparatus in moments of conflict of interest, in the form of lack of consent. At the same time, the signing of an agreement by the Azerbaijani state with Anglo-Asian Mining regarding three more new mining areas in 2022 increased the importance of the immediate use of the Qizilbulag and Demirli gold mines in Karabakh/Artsakh and prompted the realization of a political move such as the "Blockade of Lachin". The mentioned mines are currently not being used, and it is reported that their use will depend on the decision of the final status of Karabakh/Artsakh. Therefore, Azerbaijan is trying to conclude an immediate "peace agreement" for the sake of these capitalist interests.
In this context, the Armenians of Karabakh/Artsakh are outside of the concept of consent on which the hegemony of the Azerbaijani state will be based. On the contrary, the consent and mass loyalty of Azerbaijanis on the subject of Karabakh/Artsakh, due to the war trauma transmitted from generation to generation, are familiar to the Aliyev regime. For this reason, the consent of the Azerbaijani population to legitimize the blockade of Lachin/Berdzor was unequivocal. Through the blockade of Lachin/Berdzor, the regime uses the rhetoric of "either accept Azerbaijani citizenship or the door is open" and forces more than 120,000 Armenians living in Karabakh/Artsakh to live in misery.
On the one hand, the Aliyev regime blockaded the protesting villagers who complained that gold extraction by the "Anglo-Asian Mining" company in Soyudlu caused environmental pollution and serious damage to nature and the health of the population. On the other hand, the regime uses the "eco-activists" in the Lachin/Berdzor corridor in the background of national identity against Armenians and turns this issue into a political tool for their own interests. The fact that those "eco-activists" in Lachin/Berdzor have maintained their silence regarding the oppression of Soyudlu people until now reveals their true nature. The conclusion is that the ruling class, using the concept of national identity as a tool for its hegemony and using the environmental problem as an excuse, approaches this issue with a double standard due to its capitalist interest: while the population of Soyudlu slows down the process of gold mining with their protests, the status in Karabakh/Artsakh remains unknown, these altogether does not allow the use of the gold mines by the Aliyev regime. As a result, it can be said that neither the welfare of the Armenian nor the Azerbaijani population is of interest to the ruling class. Here, national identity politics are used and instrumentalized for capitalist interests.
The absolute consensus created by the discourse of patriarchal, militarist-nationalist ideologies around war turns the never-ending exploitative interests of the ruling class into an ever-spinning wheel, constructed solely on the suffering of the poor. And now is the real-time to destroy the wheel.
It is time for solidarity!
We are aware that peace is not going to be achieved merely through some agreements signed by the states. Peace dictated from the top down simply serves to stabilize greedy capitalist interests and neoliberal relations, instrumentalizing identity politics for these interests to divide and confront us. As long as capital remains concentrated in the hands of a very small group, nationalism and hatred will continue to be used to justify Aliyev's policies and war. We must now direct our attention to the class struggle against all the atrocities of class society: hierarchical values, authoritarian institutions, and societies based on patriarchal-capitalist values. The emancipatory transformation that includes peace will take place by organizing ourselves locally from the bottom, involving the exchange of experiences that enable the coexistence of Azerbaijanis and Armenians based on class solidarity rooted in feminist thought during a long, multi-stage process that connects us rather than divide us. Social revolution is our response to these existing brutal conditions and power relations.
We demand the immediate opening of the Lachin/Berdzor corridor, the delivery of necessary food products to the Armenians of Karabakh/Artsakh, the reunification of families that have been isolated for eight months, and the creation of conditions for the immediate provision of all necessary medical assistance to Armenians in need!