Background considerations on the Yugoslav Civil War

Lorenzo Peña

Originally posted on the Marxism Distribution List
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Table of contents

  1. Historical Background
  2. The Tito Period
  3. The Right to Secede
  4. The Anti-Serbian Coalition
  5. Reflections on Bryan Alexander's comments. # 1: International Law
  6. Reflections on Bryan Alexander's comments. # 2: the class-struggle view-point
  7. Reflections on Bryan Alexander's comments. # 3: Do Milosevich's Misdeeds Justify Secession?
  8. Reflections on Bryan Alexander's comments. # 4: Serb Aggression?
  9. Reflections on Bryan Alexander's comments. # 5: Serbian Fascism?
  10. Reflections on Bryan Alexander's comments. # 6: The Force of Habit and Economic Overdetermination
  11. Reflections on Bryan Alexander's comments. # 7: Muslim Troops Sent from Abroad

§1.-- Historical Background
Countries are fuzzy entities. Some territories belong to a country to a higher extent than others. `Yugoslavia' in the present context is understood in its etymological sense, as the Southern Slavia, the Balkanic Slavonic Land; but mainly as the land inhabited by people speaking the main Yugoslav tongue, namely the Serbo-Croatian language, closely related to, but nevertheless different from, two other southern slavonic languages: Slovenian and Bulgarian -- (`Macedonian' being a dialect of the latter).

The origins of the Yugoslav conflict originated with the Austrian policies in the 18th Century. The decline of the Ottoman Empire began immediately after its last great attempt at expansion, with the last siege of Vienna (1686), which was defeated by the Poles. The Bourbon king Louis XIV continued the policy of the French monarchs even since Francis I at the beginning of the XVI century by establishing a de facto alliance with Turkey against the Empire. Despite under-cover French backing, the Porte was vanquished, and a flourishing, re-invigorated House of Austria launched a counteroffensive which, thanks to the great Austrian general, the French-born Prince Eugen of Savoy, resulted in the liberation of Hungary and even of large parts of Yugoslavia. However, shortly afterwards, Austria began its own decadence. After being defeated by France in the Warof the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), the Austrian monarchy lost its regained dash and became paralysed. It yielded to despair as regards its own mission. Among the factors which led to such a result, the three main ones were: (1) fear of Russian expansion; (2) religious intransigence; and (3) economic calculation.

(1) Austria had in a number of cases the real possibility of further expanding into the Balkans, unifying Yugoslavia under its own authority, and in fact putting most of the Balkan peninsula under its sceptre, on condition of allowing Russia to seize Constantinople. The latter prospect was regarded with such a concern by the Austrian court that it preferred to waive any further Austrian expansion.

(2) Although at the beginning of the 18th century, the hatred between Catholics and Protestants having meanwhile subsided, Austria little by little embarked on a policy of relative tolerance towards its Protestant minority, and even though no comparable enmity had ever existed between Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians (i.e. those of Byzantine obedience), the Vienna court was afraid of increasing the number of the Emperor's subjects who were not loyal to the Roman-Catholic faith, however minor the dogmatic differences (which hinged around the `filioque' issue).

(3) The Austrian statesmen thought that annexation of underdeveloped territories then under the Turkish yoke could be economically damaging rather than beneficial. Accordingly, Belgrade was given back to the Turks, while the north-western part of the Yugoslav territory (the region which was called `Croatia' on the ground of some late-Medieval denomination) remained subject to the Habsburg dynasty.<1>Foot note 1

After the French revolution, the Austrian policy of supporting Turkey against the subjugated Balkanic nations was even reinforced and pursued in accord with England and France. Even Russia for a moment acquiesced in such a policy. The support and succour granted by all European monarchic powers to the Ottoman Empire spread beyond the confines of so-called Europe. In 1839 the Egyptian khedive, Mehmet Ali, upon throwing off the Turkish yoke, took control of Syria. Since Austria, England, France, Prussia and Russia gave their full backing to the Porte, the Sultan crushed the Arab national uprising in Syria and Egypt. The European monarchies constrained the khedive to come back to his humiliating vassal status under Turkish suzerainty and to surrender the liberated Arabic lands. (The English did not plan to seize the Sultan's Arabic possessions until the period of World War I.)<2>Foot note 2 The same pan-European politicy enabled the Sultan to keep under his power most of the Balkans, despite a late European intervention in support of a tiny independent Greece.<3>Foot note 3

An autonomous principality of Serbia was then created, thanks to Russian support. In the event the principality became an independent kingdom, the only state in the Balkans (except Albania and Montenegro) to have never submit to a Western-European dynasty (all the other new kingdoms -- Bulgaria, Rumania, Greece -- were compelled to obey to monarchs imposed by the great powers, all of them belonging to Germanic houses).<4>Foot note 4

However, at the end of the 19th century, Austria occupied the southern half of western Yugoslavia, the region which had been called `Bosnia' by the Turkish overlords. The only difference between the Yugoslav regions was that, mostly as a result of the identity and religious imposition of the respective dominators, Croatia was the part of Yugoslavia placed under Austrian rule since the late 17th century and in which the Roman Catholic religion was prevalent; Bosnia was the part of Yugoslavia which remained under Turkish sovereignty de iure until the beginning of the 20th century (although in fact it was placed under Austrian occupation since 1878) and in which the Sultan's satraps had been able to (more or less forcibly) convert to the Mohammedan faith about half of the population; while Serbia was the part of Yugoslavia in which the majority always kept the Christian orthodox faith and which first developed a national conscience which lead to the anti-Turkish uprising and the formation of the only truly independent kingdom in the Peninsula.<5>Foot note 5

For decades a pan-Yugoslav movement in the Austro--Hungarian Empire challenged the Kaiser's rule by demanding either a certain Slavonic autonomy within the dual monarchy or, preferably, a reunion with Serbia. That movement was the cause of the Sarajevo murder of the Austrian Kron-Prinz and the outbreak of World War I.

The Sultan was unfortunate enough to align himself with the Austro-Germans against England and France during the World War I. For the first time ever the Porte was combatting both the English and the French. Austria could not win the war even with German support -- or, more accurately as regards the later period of the war, under German supremacy. The Allies formed a formidable coalition, even after Russian defection, comprising France, the UK, the US, Japan, China, Belgium, Portugal, Italy, Rumania, Greece, Serbia. Only Bulgaria was foolish enough to cast in her lot with the doomed coalition of the `Central Empires'.

At the beginning the Allies did not want to dismember the Habsburg monarchy, but such wars produce outcomes which even the victorious contender could not foresee. The calamitous splintering of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was preceded by the Corfu agreement of 1917, a joint declaration by the Serb and Croat representatives (unelected, of course, but whose representative entitlements were plain to everybody).<6>Foot note 6

France, a long-standing ally of Serbia, thus managed to convince the other Western allies -- under the effect of the Wilson doctrine of national self-determination -- to accept the Yugoslav unity by recognizing at the Versailles conference the united Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. All the Yugoslav-speaking population, whether orthodox Christians or Muslims or Roman-catholics, were then united within the Yugoslav kingdom, with the Serbian king as its sovereign. No open resistance to the union was voiced, even if there were disputes over the future structure of the new-born kingdom.

However, the German establishment could not reconcile itself to such a situation. Revenge on the Western allies were then out of the question (despite the de-facto under-cover half-alliance between Germany and the Soviet Union until 1933). Yet, a renewed German militarism was bent on undoing as much as possible the work of the Versailles conference. Already in october 1932 the German large industrialists were planning to destroy the Yugoslav kingdom by provoking the secession of the Western regions of Croatia and Bosnia. Yugoslavia or Serbia would then be confined to a territory east of the Drina, as had been the case between the Serbian independence and 1918. In 1932 King Alexander of Yugoslavia had just been forced by Mussolini's support for the terrorist Ustachis -- a support aimed at furthering Italian expansionist targets -- to impose a non-federalist political structure. Then the MWT (Mitteleuropaeischer Wirtschafttag, or Economic Congress for Central Europe), chaired by Baron von Wilmowski, head of the Fried/Krupp concern in Berlin, planned to exploit those Yugoslav inner conflicts in order to dismember Yugoslavia: `Yugoslavia was to be cut back to what was formerly Serbia and Montenegro, and the broken-off parts were to form in independent state of Croatia and Slovenia... [a]long the ancient frontier line between the West and East Roman Empire following the rivers Drina and Save'<7>Foot note 7 (The MWT, almost the real power-holder in the last years of the Weimar Republic, was preparing the National-Socialist accession.) The plan aimed at forming a German sphere of influence in the Danube region but was made obsolete by French and British opposition.

Germany was able to implement its plan during World War II. Again she has imposed it in 1990, after securing French, American and English approval. It was the doom of the Yugoslav national state, the ruin of the triumph of a hard, harsh, centuries-long, courageous struggle of the Yugoslav (Serbo-Croatian) nation against foreign dominators and for national unity, a unity above religious and cultural diversities, such as exist everywhere.<8>Foot note 8

§2.-- The Tito Period

March 27, 1941: the pro-fascist Cvetonich government in Belgrade is overthrown (perhaps largely as a result of British secret-service activities) and the Prince Regent is replaced by the heir to the throne, King Peter. The new Prime Minister, general Dusan Simovich, immediately decrees Yugoslavia's withdrawal from the tripartite Pact, to which shortly before Cvetonich had adhered. At the same time, Simovich commits himself to close links with the Soviet Union, just as Hitler was preparing his operation Barbarossa against Russia.

Hitler's reaction was quick and prompt: `It is important that the blow against Yugoslavia be carried out with merciless harshness and that the military destruction be done in Blitzkrieg style'.<9>Foot note 9

Hitler's orders were obeyed. On april 6, 1941, 17 thousand civilians in Belgrade were killed by the German aerial slaughter (Yugoslavs from other towns and villages had come to their capital to celebrate Palm Sunday).<10>Foot note 10

As a result of Hitler's policies (with the help of the Vatican, Mussolini's Italy, Horthy's Hungary, and the Bulgaria of the Generals), `more than a million and a half Yugoslavs were also killed'<11>Foot note 11 in 1941-45. Many (most?) of them were Serbs who perished as a consequence of the massacres perpetrated by the German puppet in Croatia, the `Poglavnic' Ante Pavelich. The Serbs would never forget or forgive such a terrible genocide. Recent killings of Croats and Islamo-Bosnians have been termed a `genocide' by German and Western propaganda media (and of course the present German establishment is the same as the one which benefited from Hitler's appalling regime). However, terrible and unjustifiable thogh such crimes are (as unjustifiable as the slaughter of Serbs by pro-Western Croato-Mohammedan militia-men), they cannot reasonably be called `genocide' unless all sense of the words is lost. To commit a genocide is to kill a huge part of a population in order to wipe out that population, i.e. to eliminate all the people belonging to a certain ethnia, or to a certain culture. There is strong evidence to the effect that the national-socialists tried to commit such a genocide against many Slavonic nations, against Gypsies, against Jews.<12>Foot note 12

Thus, unlike other cultural communities within the Yugoslav nation, that of orthodox Christians (`Serbs') has been a victim of genocidal slaughter and is entitled to be afraid of a political situation potentially fraught with the return to power of people or groups which, directly or indirectly, are linked with the genocide. Of course, the Croato-Bosnian secession is such a situation.

Everybody knows that the Yugoslav people, the Serbs in particular, rose against Hitler's regime of terror and its tools (the Italian annexation of Slovenia, the Poglavnic in Croatia, etc). Two main forces were organized. The communist-lead partisans headed by Josif Broz Tito and the royalists, who were eventually eliminated. Milovan Djilas reported that Stalin had advised, towards the end of the war, a temporary restoration of the Karageorgevich dynasty, an advice which Tito spurned.

Possibly Stalin's plan entailed some sort of legal return to the ante-bellum situation, from which a more cautious take-over of the country by the communist party could be attempted. If such was the case, Stalin may have envisaged a post-war Yugoslavia much unlike the federal system Tito was to devise. Remember that the Yugoslav kingdom had rapidly become a unitary, non-federal state. Or perhaps Stalin was thinking of a different kind of arrangement, wherein really different nations, like West-Bulgarians (`Macedonians') and Albanians, could be recognized as such. Tito's hodge-podge of milked-coffee for everybody, raising different Yugoslav regions solidly inhabited by people of the Serbo-Croatian nation to the status of federated republics on a level with Macedonians and Slovenians (while at the same time denying Albanians any similar status) probably reflected his own regionalistic parochial prejudices, instead of stemming from an objective analysis of the ethnic situation in Yugoslavia.

Who was Tito, after all? How had it come to pass that he was at the helm of the Yugoslav CP? I think that, considering the troubled history of that Party which had begun its existence as a very promising force which commanded a wide respect from the working class -- in Serbia, anyway -- it is difficult not to surmise that the Komintern erred in his dealings with the Yugoslav party, promoting unworthy new-comers at the expense of experienced and proletarian-minded leaders, such as Markovich and Miloikovich, founders of the Yugoslav CP.<13>Foot note 13 The latter denied that Serbs, Croats and Slovenes were different nations and maintained that all that was needed was a revision of the Yugoslav constitution.

In the mid twenties, a new-fangled left wing was created in the Yugoslav CP, which, thanks to the support of the Komintern, evicted the Markov team, charging it with the accusation of a right-wing deviation. The disagreements concerned at least two points. One was the attitude towards the so-called Croatian republicans, who for a time flirted with the Komintern-sponsored International Peasant Union. The other disagreement was about whether or not the Yugoslav communists were going to demand the right of secession for Croatia and the other regions incorporated into the Yugoslav state in virtue of the Versailles treaty.

The left wing argued that Croats and Slovenes were nations different from the Serbs and -- with the harsh polemic tone so fashionable then -- portrayed Markovich and his friends as supporters of Great Serb Imperialism.

Partly as a result of such a new line, which led the new CP leadership to an uncompromising insurrectional opposition to the pacifist-democratic government headed by Prime Minister Davidovich, the latter was overthrown (6 november 1924) and replaced by an extreme-right militarist clique. Oddly, shortly afterwards the so-called Croatian Republicans deserted the opposition and joined the new reactionary government. Thus they jilted the communists, ruining the ground of the anti-Markovich line. Nothing good came from the left-wing anti-Great-Serbian radicalism which had led the Yugoslav CP to advocate `self-determination and the right of secession for Croats, Slovenes, Macedonians and Montenegrins, the ultimate goal being a federation of worker-peasant Balkan Republics' -- including, as other `nations', Thracia, whereas Macedonia would comprise parts of Greece.

What had prompted the Komintern leaders to such an ill-advised assessment? Several causes.

(1) One was that no clear distinction had been made by either side in the dispute between the two separate cases of Croats and Slovenes -- a people which speaks a different language from Serbo-Croatian. Of course, it may be contended that Slovenian is so closely related with Serbo-Croatian that in fact there is only a dialectal difference. Such boundaries are always fuzzy. Yet, in the case of Serbo-Croatian the sameness of the language is commonly accepted by everybody, including Serbs and Croats themselves.<14>Foot note 14

(2) Another ground for such a mistaken policy was dictated by the international situation. As a result of the Brest-Litovsk treaty Russia had lost many territories, only a part of which was she able to gain back after Germany's defeat. Thus, she found herself in some sort of revisionist agreement with other frustrated countries, such as Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary and Turkey, whereas Greece, Yugoslavia and Romania had been enlarged (in the case of Yugoslavia in some sense created) by the Versailles treaties. Such a situation led Russia to support revisionistic (peaceful) proposals, one of which was the Balkan federation which would follow the breaking-up of united Yugoslavia.<15>Foot note 15

(3) A third reason was blind, uncritical imitation of the Russian experiment, a very serious mistake which caused tragic consequences, then and later (in Spain, in China, and so on).

(4) A fourth reason was the momentary possibility of a covenant with the Croat nationalists -- a possibility which, as we have seen, vanished very soon.

The wrong political line then adopted by the Yugoslav CP led to its lost of prestige and to a succession of short-lived leadership teams, the last of which was the one headed by Tito. How did Tito reach such an enhanced position? Unfortunately, the evidence points to a squalid reason, namely that it was the outcome of the witch-hunt unleashed under Iezhov in the 30s both in the Yugoslav CP and in the Komintern as a whole, as a consequence of similar events in the USSR. I am not asserting that Tito fingered his party bosses or comrades. I have no proof that such was the case. What is certain is that he profited from the purge.<16>Foot note 16 Those who scream louder triumph over those who are right and try to argue in a sedate way.

Be it as it may, I think the unfortunate events of recent years show that Tito was a very bad statesman for Yugoslavia. His federal constitution was misconceived, and uncritically repeated the gross, glaring mistakes of the Komintern in the mid 20s (without the excuses we can now find for the Komintern). His later instituting a `Moslem nation' in Bosnia was a case of reactionary `culturalism'.<17>Foot note 17 His market-socialism does not seem to have been a good idea, either.<18>Foot note 18 Even though it is difficult to apportion the blame with accuracy and neutrality as regards his quarrel with main-stream communism in the late 40s and his later political orientation towards the West, he at least can doubtless be charged with lack of suppleness, of savoir-faire, of diplomacy.<19>Foot note 19

We can guess (just guess) that under another, subtler, leader post-war Yugoslavia would have followed a more reasonable pattern of development, which would have prevented the tragedy of recent years. Whether socialist or not, a different government, more deeply rooted in the tradition of anti-imperialist struggle of the Serbo-Croatian nation, less simplistic and mechanic, less prone to imitating foreign models, less abstract in its approach to the peculiar national problem in Yugoslavia, less disdainful of alternative views, less megalomaniac, could have been more beneficial for the further preservation of the historical achievement of the Serbo-Croatian national struggle, the independence and unity of Yugoslavia.

§3.-- The Right to Secede

The current war in Yugoslavia is a civil war. It is not a war between nations. The Yugoslav people (namely the set of inhabitants of the Balkanic-Slavonic land who speak the Serbo-Croatian tongue as their only language) constitutes a single nation.

It is customary to define a nation as a set of people who inhabit a common territory, speak the same language, are united by economic and cultural links, share a common tradition and history. Of course such a list of features gives neither necessary nor sufficient conditions in a clear-cut way. For one thing, each of those features comes in degrees, infinitely many degrees in fact. For another, the list can hardly be regarded as exhaustive -- but on the other hand no unique answer is available to the question of what list would be complete: different additional features can be added part grounded in how things are, in what motivates people's lives, and enduring attitudes. Most of all, the relative weight of each feature is subject to a number of factors and may change over time.

We now think that the 18th century Italians constituted a nation, even if they lived under different states. Garibaldi's struggle, the Risorgimento, is now generally looked upon as a justified movement aimed at reshaping the political structures in accordance with national reality. But, needless to say, Italians did not then share a common political history, or a common political tradition -- except in a loose sense. Nor were they united by strong economic links (many Italian provinces were more closely related to foreign countries than to other Italian provinces -- that may still be the case, and one of the grounds of Northern lighismo).

What makes a struggle for national independence and unity just? For Marxists, it is the fact that a national state is the best framework for economic development and class struggle. I do not know whether they are right or not. One of the reasons of my skepticism in this connection is that I do not believe we can do without a caeteris paribus clause, which makes such comparative assertions practically meaningless or at least unverifiable. Be it as it may, I submit that Marxists ought to put their point in a quite different way. They are entitled to think that the ultimate determinant cause is economic, but, since economic causes bring about their effects through a multiplicity of intricate causal chains, directly invoking an economic usefulness can hardly count as a relevant motivation for deciding whether or not a political course of action is to be justified.

Rather, you ought to say that doing what is just is, in the long run, advantageous for the furtherance of economic and social progress -- perhaps because it makes more difficult for the ruling class to stir dissensions within the oppressed class. But then it would be circular to define `justice' as that which furthers economic development or makes more difficult for the ruling class to stir dissensions within the oppressed class, or anything like that.

From a utilitarian view-point, than is just which enhances people's happiness (or, less bombastically, well-being). From a natural-right perspective, justice is to give everybody what is `naturally' theirs, in accordance with their merits (in a broad sense).

Whatever notion of justice we embrace, and regardless of whether or not we think that we must do what is just because by doing so we promote further economic and social progress, I think we can debate the issue of whether national self-determination is in general a just principle, whether nations have a right to self-determination. Marxists have not always been of a mind on that issue. Lyenyin's views in support of self-determination were spurned by Rosa Luxemburg and by a great lot of other distinguished Marxists. Lyenyin himself always subordinated national self-determination to other principles. He looked upon national self-determination as a bourgeois-democratic principle along with freedom of the press and the like, which as a rule ought to be complied with in the new proletarian state but only in so much as they do not seriously hamper the further consolidation of that state and the social and economic progress it alone can achieve. Thus, occasional infringements of political liberties, including national self-determination, were to be envisaged and in some cases even [morally] mandatory.

A different tradition, perhaps much more individualistic than Lyenyin's, regards national self-determination as a bogus, something quite unlike individual freedoms and rights. One of the thinkers who have voiced such a rejection is Sir Karl Popper. The rejection obtained currency and prestige owing to Hitler's proclaimed national ends, which led to World War II. At the beginning Hitler was apparently following in the steps of 19th century nationalism by demanding that all territories contiguous with the German state and inhabited by German-speaking people were given the right to join the German common state.

Popper's qualms about national self-determination are rooted in a long tradition of unenlightened conservative political thought. But, enlightened or not, progressive or not, shortsighted and narrow-minded or not, the misgiving has a point. Very often any political turmoil caused by the very idea of national self-determination is much worse than anything caused by the previous status quo. Whenever and wherever promoting the idea of national self-determination is likely to bring about wars and suffering, it may be better to accept prevailing political conditions.

Moreover, even if I am confident the communitarian view is closer to the truth than liberal or libertarian individualism, even if no person can be taken in isolation from a community to which she belongs (in fact a set of such communities, which partly intermingle or overlap, partly are separate or even sometimes clash), no particular community can have as much right to existence, enjoyment, or prosperity as the individuals who constitute it, for the very simple reason that each individual belongs to different communities, is constituted by those different belongings, which are sometimes in mutual conflict. Of course the community of the species is a different matter altogether -- although even there, there may be morally relevant conflicts, due to the fact that we belong to larger kinds than the human species, and have obligations towards other animals.

Outside Europe -- with the exception of the Arabic national movement, which can be compared with the 19th century national movements in Europe -, the principle of national self-determination has often been either given a new sense (as a self-assertion of a colony against its overseas masters), a sense which was very different from that of European 19th century nationalism, or else altogether rejected. The Chinese, for instance, have almost always rejected the idea that states could be broken up in accordance with ethnic (national) lines and/or those different ethnic populations' wishes. They have (almost) always regarded state boundaries as sacrosanct and unshakable. Their legalistic stance was that China was an independent country which had legally the right to be treated as such. Of course, anti-imperialism could not in general be grounded on such a legalistic approach, since India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Algeria, and so on were `legally' (?) colonies.

The new independent states in America, at the beginning of the 19th century, and in Africa, in the 1960's, chose to take pre-independence boundaries as defining their `nations'. Within such a context, the very word `nation' gets a new sense. If modern Mali is a nation different from modern Senegal, etc, if modern Ecuador is a nation different (and separate) from modern Peru and Colombia, while there is no common language shared by all the nationals nor any linguistic frontier between that `nation' and neighbouring `nations', we seem to lack the most vital and decisive feature among those which jointly constitute the fuzzy cluster of conditions relevant for nationhood. Yet, even so, perhaps in a loose sense we can still speak of nations. (In fact the boundaries among languages are fuzzy, too: what counts as a different language or as a mere dialectal variation depends on cultural and psychological factors to a very large extent.)

From a legal point of view, the principle of national self-determination has no basis at all. No right to secede is recognized by international law to territories belonging to a state even if their inhabitants want to secede. The only exception (which belongs more to universal conscience and moral culture than to law proper) is the right of peoples under colonial rule to achieve independence, on account of the fact that those territories are (were) not regarded by the states vested with sovereignty over them as parts of their own national land (a ground which no longer held in the case of some late colonialisms such as De Gaulle's 5th Republic or Salazar's assimilationist regime).

In fact secessionist movements have almost always been condemned by the UNO and the `international community'. Only in a few cases have they been allowed to succeed (e.g. in the Eritrea case, which cannot be taken as a national self-determination, but which is based on facts of colonial history -- although the real reason for the great powers to encourage Eritrean secession are quite different). Somaliland's secession from Somalia (also based only on facts of recent colonial history) is tolerated but not recognized. Officially northern-Cypriot Turkophone secession is condemned (but in fact secretly, although unlawfully, encouraged). Biafra's secession was bloodily crushed, at the price of (reportedly) hundreds of thousands of human deaths.

Thus, from a legal point of view, in accordance with international law, neither Croatia nor Bosnia (nor even Macedonia or Slovenia) had a right to secede from Yugoslavia.

From the point of view of justice, it seems to me entirely problematic that they had such a right. For one thing, they are not separate nations. They constitute an integral part of the Yugoslav nation, the serbo-croat ethnia. No ethnic division there. Only in a wishy-washy sense can it be said that they constitute different nations, because of different religious traditions and some other minor factors (such as where the state boundaries were laid at this or that period in recent history and so on).

But even if -- let us grant it for the sake of the argument -- there are three `nations' there, one Serbian, another one Croatian, a third one Bosnian (or rather `Muslim'!), even if they -- let us assume -- spoke different and unrelated languages, had different ethnic features (with a cleavage like that between hutus and tutsis, for instance), even so it would have remained extremely dubious that, under the conditions, they had a right to secede. For they were living together peacefully, harmoniously, mixing among themselves. Nor was Milosevic's flamboyant nationalism a threat for the lives of members of the Serbo-Croatian nation (unlike perhaps what may be the case as regards other ethnic populations like the Albanese in Kosovo). There were within the Yugoslav constitution means of combatting such outbursts -- outbursts which would have probably issued in no real tragedy were it not for the secessionist movement. Secession is to be condemned, and prevented, whenever and wherever: (1) the secession is likely to bring about greater evils than those for which it is meant to be a cure; and (2) all other means for redressing those real or alleged evils have not been exhausted. Now, what is to be prevented is, to such an extent, not right or just. What is unjust is such that people are not rightly entitled to do it. Consequently, neither the Croats nor the Bosnians had a right to secede.

But suppose they had such a right. Suppose they constitute different nations from the Yugoslav nation, and assume that each nation has a right to secede, come what may. Then, for the very same reason, the Serbs (i.e. the people belonging to the Orthodox religious tradition and culture) in Bosnia and in Croatia had a right to secede. The same right? A stronger claim? A lesser right?

I think a stronger right. For one thing, they had something to fear (a repetition of what happened in World War II in Croatia and the rising of Islamic fundamentalism in Bosnia). Even if such a fear was groundless (which can hardly be maintained on the basis of recent experience), the fear was real and understandable. For another, since in fact such ethnic lines did not exist at all, the only ground for secession was religious and cultural; but then they, after living together with their brethren in Serbia proper for many decades, had a legitimate claim not to be separated from them and not to be subjected to states whose only reason was a religious-cultural demarcation line, and which accordingly would reasonably be expected to enforce cultural policies contrary to their wishes.

But most of all, by seceding from the unjust secession, the Serbs tried to keep what little could be savet of a united common Yugoslavia: some form of common state or federation uniting as most of the Balkanic land inhabited by the Serbo-Croatian nation as possible.

Suppose that one day the secessionist lighismo in Northern Italy manages to wrench a large part of the Italian Settentrione from the motherland, but that then many people choose to secede from the secession. (Or remember West-Virginians seceding from secessionist Virginia at the beginning of the American civil war.) Perhaps no one is [totally] right in such issues, but those who have provoked, declared or favoured the secession in the first place are also those who are most to blame.

The secessionist movement in Croatia and Bosnia was the result of imperialistic intrigue aimed at weakening the peoples which do not belong to the Western tradition. Germany, Austria and the Vatican were partly instrumental in first surreptitiously stirring secessionism, in obtaining a hasty, quick international recognition at the beginning of the secession, and last in giving succour to the fledgling Croatian and Bosnian armies.

(To what extent Germany was instrumental in stirring secessionism I do not know. I have no access to German secre service papers. It seems to me clear that the rapid and prompt journalistic orchestration immediately upon the outbreak of the unfortunate events is some sort of proof my guess -- or at least a [fallible, of course] evidence in support of it --, namely that the whole affair was long premeditated, concocted and carefully prepared by Western secret services, specially Germany's.)

Moreover, the Western powers have thus (killing two birds with one stone) profited from the Islamist movement and managed to strengthen the under-cover links between such a movement and the Western powers (links which were established in the Afghan war against the moderately progressive government lukewarmly supported by the Russians; links which have been amplified by the role performed by the pro-Western petro-Monarchies in financing the Islamists almost everywhere; links evidence for which is increasing -- e.g. in the granting of refugee status to a number of fundamentalist Algerian leaders in Western Europe, whereas thousands upon thousands of Arabic and black immigrants are cruelly deported, even in cases wherein their condition as political refugees is obvious and their compulsory return carries a serious risk for their lives, which happens with people from Morocco, Zaire etc).

In such conditions, seceding from the secession was a legitimate right for the Serbs. Even so, it gave them no right to resort to blind violence or of inflicting a cruel treatment upon innocent civilians (nor upon militia men either, since soldiers are also humans). Hitherto there is no available reliable account showing what side in the conflict has committed more widespread or more serious atrocities. Western propaganda from the beginning has unilaterally emphasized Serbian crimes. Pending a neutral, impartial, objective assessment, what seems clear is that all parts in the conflict have resorted to blind, merciless and even unnecessary violence.

Even in juster wars such a blind violence was not unknown (the French revolution, the Russian revolution, the Spanish resistance against the fascists in 1936-39). Such violence has to be resolutely and downright condemned. On no account rape or torture is to be condoned (not even if all human life could be saved by forcing, through torture, a terrorist to confess his malicious device). It is also possible that out of two sides, the one whose cause is juster or less unjust may become the more evil-doer and so in the end deserve a greater blame or condemnation, on account of resorting to evil means more than his adversary does. That is possible. The pro-Western propaganda contends that the Serbs are those who are to blame the most in this conflict because they have perpetrated more crimes. But of course Western media cannot be trusted. They hardly count as serious researchers (in this field or in any other field). They are just propaganda means.

Nor is it reasonable to claim -- as those supporting the Bosnian secession do -- that a `multi-ethnic' Bosnia would be the best choice. For one thing, that is impossible unless a strong immigration of people from other nations takes place, since there is no national cleavage between Mohammedans and Christians (as there was none between huguenots and Catholic in 16th century France). For another, if after what has happened that prospect of `multi-ethnic' unity remains a real possibility in Bosnia, why not in Yugoslavia, embracing all the Serbo-croatian nation?

Unless and until real objective, impartially assessed evidence emerges concerning a much much greater cruelty on the part of the Serbs -- which would compensate their initial greater right, or smaller unright, in the conflict -- we seem lead to the conclusion that, once more, the imperialists have embraced and supported the worse cause, and have powerfully contributed -- at the cost of thousands of human lives and much suffering -- to impose a solution which may be convenient for their interests, but which runs against justice and in particular against the historically justified right of the Serbo-Croatian nation to enjoy a unified political framework. In other words to the national liberation they secured in 1918 with the creation of the united Yugoslavia under the Karageorgevitch dynasty.

§4.-- The Anti-Serbian Coalition

No one can know for sure what other people's motivations are. Probably a person's own deep reasons are often half-hidden to them. However in many cases we can put forward reasonable guesses, based on the context of people's behaviour, on what gives a minimum of coherence and sense to their actions.

The powers united in the anti-Serbian coalition allege that their only motivation in taking sides in the conflict are humanitarian reasons. Is there any evidence for or against such a claim? If there is positive evidence, does it contribute to showing that the anti-Serbian coalition is right? If the evidence is negative, does it undermine the anti-Serbian coalition's cause?

This posting argues that it is unbelievable that the anti-Serbian coalition acts out of humanitarian reasons, and that accordingly sinister motivations can legitimately and reasonably be conjectured. Therefore, the coalition's formation can be plausibly attributed to malignant, sordid ends. Thus, whether or not the Serbs are partly or totally justified in their struggle against the Catholico-Mohammedan secession, what is certain is that NATO is entirely unjustified in its intervention, particularly in the aerial bombings.

My argument in support of my thesis is quite simple: if the powers were motivated by humanitarian concerns, they would be similarly worried in other cases, and so would likewise intervene there in order -- as they claim -- to protect the weaker side; or at least they would do so when the stronger and more merciless side in a conflict (which purportedly would be that of the Serbs in the current Yugoslav civil war) were not militantly anti-Western, or anti-capitalist. Now, no such concern appears to exist at all. Hence, the anti-Serbian coalition's motivations are not humanitarian. They must arise, in the main, from imperialistic goals. The only alternative explanation of the difference in conduct would be sheer racism.

Suppose the anti-Serbian coalition acts out of humanitarian concern. What then, in accordance with the assumption, prompts its members to intervene in Yugoslavia against the Serbs is the fact that the Serbs have massacred many innocent unarmed people (supposedly -- as the Allies know through some sort of inspiration or intuition -- to a higher extent than their enemies have done). It is the loss of human life, the shedding of human blood, the sufferings and misery resulting from the conflict, which have motivated the Allies to send troops to Yugoslavia and to militarily back the Croato-Bosnian federation formed under US auspices.

That story is what the Western media convey day after day. (How many million hours have been devoted by Western Radio and TV to the Yugoslav conflict in order obsessively to convince us that their side is right, that the Serbs are monsters, while all Croato-Bosnians are angels or saints, poor, harmless, almost unarmed innocent civilians, the victims of the Serbian demons?)

I have assumed it true. Hence, those Western supporters of the anti-Serbian forces act out of humanitarian concern. Since humanitarian concern is the same as regards human suffering regardless of the causes, the same readiness would be displayed by those powers in order to help other victims of mass-killing elsewhere, as well as people who suffer from lack of power- or water-supply, like those of Sarajevo, whatever the cause of such a lack.

Now, hundreds of millions in the planet suffer to some extent or other from such a lack. Perhaps even thousands of millions, I'm not sure. Not total lack of water (life would then become impossible, and people would simply die), but lack of water-supply in any usual sense; and of course lack of power supply, too. (Figures in Guatemala, for instance, make me shudder.) Is the West pouring billions of dollars in order to relieve such sufferings? No, it isn't. Just think of the meagre 0.7 % which has been asked for and which stingily they refuse to grant.

Well, perhaps my objection is wrong, because in such cases the suffering is caused by backwardness, economic failure or mismanagement, lack of entrepreneurial capacities of initiatives, or the like. Whereas in a war such as Yugoslavia's the cause of the suffering is armed actions by human armies.

The answer seems to me wrong. For, if the motivation is the desire to alleviate human suffering, about the same amount of money and resources would be spent in order to assist the victims of backwardness, earth-quakes, geographical or climatic difficulties, etc, as is spent to [purportedly] help victims from war. Human suffering is the same.

However, let us grant -- for the sake of the argument -- that the cases are different, and that, rightly or wrongly, the West thinks that victims of war are to be helped to a much higher extent than victims of natural catastrophes or of economic failures or of backwardness, be it because in such other cases suffering is not man-made or because, on the contrary, up to a point the victims are also to blame, whereas victims of wars are entirely blameless.

Even if such a peculiar line of thought were followed by the Western powers' establishment, there would be no shortage of opportunities for them to relieve millions upon millions of victims.

I am not going to speak about civil and other wars in which the West is obviously interested in the victory of one of the contenders, the one that follows the WB/IMF line, or supports US and other Westers presence, or is closely linked with Western investors. What is more, I am going to refrain from mentioning wars of the past, those which took place at a time when the West may be claimed to have been obfuscated by the Soviet `threat', real or imaginary. Thus, I am not going to adduce cases such as those of Indonesia, Mobutu's mass killings (with US, French and to a lesser extent Belgian support) in the several civil wars which have plagued the Congo (`Zaire'), or mass terrorism inflicted on the populations of Angola and Mozambique by bands armed either by the US or by the former pro-Western South African regime, or the mass killings in East Pakistan which led to the Bangladeshian secession, or the slaughters in Guatemala, or the thousands of deaths caused by the Islamist uprising against the former, purportedly pro-Soviet, regime in Afghanistan. Even if we leave such cases aside, there are others.

-- Liberia. The civil war begins in 1990. Less than 3 million inhabitants. As a consequence of the war, about 750,000 refugees (according to the CIA world report). Apparently hundreds of thousands of human deaths. No side in the conflict is openly anti-capitalist or even anti-imperialist. Foreign intervention has consisted mainly in an expeditionary army sent by the Nigerian harsh military dictatorship in support of remnants of the Doe regime (with the ancillary presence of troops from other West-African countries). Despite the fact that the US is the founder of the Republic of Liberia and that for decades real power was to a large extent in the hands of American representatives, who followed orders from Washington, the US have refused to help the Liberian population in this conflict. Living conditions in Monrovia have been worse than those in Sarajevo.

-- Rwanda: 8.5 million inhabitants. The civil war began around 1989-90. It was ethnically based. Already an ethnic cleansing had been committed against the tutsi minority by the hutu one-party regime. On april 1994, after the President's death in an air crash (whether as a result of a sabotage or not), the regime perpetrated a genocide. Some (probably unreliable) sources put the number of deaths at more than a million. Anyway what is true is that the aim was extermination of the tutsi minority (less than 10% of the population even before the massacres), which used to dominate the country until the independence from Belgium in July 1962. What is less commonly known is that the regime tried also to exterminate the (Pygmoid) Twas, people who have dominated nobody and could not pose any threat whatsoever either for the government or for anybody else. The Twas constituted 1 % of the population. The West media have chosen to remain silent about their fate. The only non-African intervention in the Rwandan conflict was France's in support of [remnants of] the genocidal regime. However if there is a place in the world where a foreign intervention would be justified, that place is Rwanda (and Burundi), since there ethnic hatred reaches such a pitch that, regardless of who prevails in civil war or in political struggle, mass-killings may be renewed at any moment. (And, since Western colonialism has been involved there and even has reportedly encouraged ethnic strife [divide and conquer], the West cannot decently shirk its responsibility.)

-- Burundi. A situation which in some respects is similar to Rwanda's (although there are also lots of relevant differences). An ethnic catastrophe may be unleashed at any moment, even one which would be much bigger than Rwandas's. After murdering President Nadadaye in a bloody coup d'Etat, the tutsi-dominated army in fact controls the government once again, under a mask of hutu-preeminence and constitutional order. The oppressed hutu labourers may, fearing for their lives, rise against the power system which would cause a new tragedy (not the first one since independence, unfortunately; there have already been many bloody clashes and ethnic massacres leaving tens of thousands of human deaths).

-- Ceylan. 17 million inhabitants. The civil war began in 1984. Several hundreds of thousands of refugees. Possibly tens of thousands of human deaths. The Tamil separatists allege that the Tamil people -- who speak a south-Indian tongue unrelated to the official language, Sinhalese -- are oppressed within the Republic of Sri-Lanka. The current government is bent on a policy of concessions and conciliation, but hitherto it has failed to secure the Tigers's cooperation or even a durable cease-fire. The Tamil separatists have attacked members of the Muslim community -- no one calls them a `nation' there --, even though many of those Muslims are also ethnic Tamils (the main religion among Tamils being hinduism, whereas most Sinhalese are Buddhists -- but there are also Christian Sinhalese, who reportedly support the quasi-official status of the Buddhist religion, as a constituent of Sri-Lankan identity). We thus encounter a mixture of -- partly overlapping, partly clashing -- ethnic, cultural and religious denominations; a situation far more complex than Yugoslavia's (in Yugoslavia all linguistic communities except Albanians speak languages of the same famuily; even Albanian shares the common Indo-European origin with Slavonic).

-- Sudan. 30 million inhabitants. The southern population has been for centuries (or even thousands of years) victimized and even enslaved by the Northern rulers. (There is no ethnic or cultural or linguistic similarity of any kind between North and South, except the bond of belonging to the human family plus that of inhabiting a territory artificially demarcated by colonialism). As a result of the imposition of Islamic Law, a guerrilla warfare has been raging in the South for many years (it used to be supported by the former Marxist government in Ethiopia, headed by Menghistu Heile Mariam). For the years 1983-88 the number of civilian casualties is evaluated at 259,000. However, the most bloody stages of the war have taken place after 1988.

Since the West has remained indifferent towards those conflicts (which have at most received a fraction of 1/100000 or so of the radio and TV time devoted to the Yugoslav civil war), the hypothesis of humanitarian concern in incompatible with the available evidence. The West cannot be moved by humanitarian concern.

Perhaps it is moved by concern over white people's suffering only. Liberians, Rwandans, Burundians etc are black. Sinhalese and Tamils are, well, non-white (supposedly Europeans are `white'). Although admittedly there is a powerful racist trend in the attitudes of our establishment, I do not think it is as powerful as that. Race cleavage alone would explain less of an active interest in the sufferings of blacks, but hardly no interest at all. I confess, though, that this argument is weak. I am entirely convinced that in fact racial difference alone cannot furnish the whole explanation of so very different attitudes, but for the time being I can back my claim with no clinching argument.

Is there any alternative explanation?

1) France was at first reluctant to embrace the secessionist cause. After all united Yugoslavia had been to a large extent a product of French diplomacy (and even in a few cases military intervention) at the end of World War I. In the early ninety's German open interest in putting the recently seceded lands under her influence may have been disliked in Paris. However several reasons did in the event lead to a change of attitude. (1) Ever since the beginning of the 16th century -- with only a few exceptions -- France has kept a constant alliance with Turkey. (2) France strongly depends on German support for rescuing the Franc exchange rate and for the pursuance of its military presence overseas, out of any proportion with its economic might.

2) The UK. Also a traditional ally of Turkey since the 17th century. The UK was never as enthusiastic as France was about the formation of united Yugoslavia at the end of World War I. One of the main lines of foreign policy in London now is promoting the expansion of the European Union (and of NATO, too) towards the East, thus isolating Russia. (Queen Victoria's testament pinpointed Russia as England's enemy.) Although nowadays there is no longer any Indian Raj or any British Empire worth defending, some lingering obsession about Russia is clearly present in the mind of the British establishment. Moreover, Russia's return to communism or the rise of anti-Western nationalism or neo-collectivism is a serious matter for concern. Most of all, though, the incorporation of as much as possible of Eastern Europe to the EU is looked upon as a means of counterbalancing German ascendancy. Yugoslavia is deemed a bad guy (all peoples belonging to the Christian-orthodox tradition are regarded with deep suspicion in the West, although Greece exceptionally was admitted to the Western club when she was a soldier aligned against communism).<20>Foot note 20 Thus, the secessionists in Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia and Bosnia are to be encouraged and supported.

3) The Vatican is mainly concerned with the defeat of the schismatic Byzantines and has launched a crusade against the Orthodox Church even in Russia, ruining the prospects of understanding and reconciliation. Strengthening an independent Croatia is part and parcel of that policy. And to do so by defending a Muslim government is a clever ploy, since the Catholic Church has often been accused of contempt towards all other religions.

4) The US. Besides a general need for constant military presence and action in order to keep its overwhelming superiority over all the other countries in the world taken together, as well as a need to justify huge military expenditures which are beneficial for the dominant industrial lobby,<21>Foot note 21 the US concurs in the general line of looking upon the Eastern Orthodox Christians as `they' and regarding Catholico-Croats as `us'; the Mohammedans enter the scene as subsidiary allies of the latter (no other power having exerted so strong a pressure as the US has in order to bring about the Croato-Islamic federation). Perhaps also the Croatian lobby has to be mentioned. But perhaps the strongest reason is concern for Turkish interests: Turkey has remained the most vital instrument for American supremacy in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, as well as previously against the Soviet Union and perhaps in the future against a new nationalistic or neo-collectivistic Russia.

5) Italy. A very minor role. Perhaps nostalgia for the times of yore. Anyway post-bellum Italy has been very docile to the US and the other allies.

6) Spain. Any Spanish government, of whatever party, will always try to show that no other country in the world in more dependable or staunch in its commitment to whatever policy the Western coalition may have chosen. An obsessive fear of being left outside the club has gripped the mind of the Spanish establishment.<22>Foot note 22 Moreover, the Spanish establishment is of course the same as the one which ruled over Spain for 40 years through the tyrant Francisco Franco, the Spanish poglavnik (caudillo), an old-time ally of Hitler, Mussolini, Ante Pavelic, Pius XII, Horthy, Petain, Tiso, Antonescu, etc.<23>Foot note 23

7) Turkey. She tries to regain a foothold in a region which was officially under Turkish sovereignty until the early 20th century. With the help of an independent muslim-dominated Bosnia and a friendly Albania,<24>Foot note 24 Turkey can exert an increased pressure over Greece and thus advance her own designs (keeping Northern Cyprus under her control; securing what she claims in the Aegean see off the Greek islands; and thus pursue without disturbances her military campaign against the Kurd irredentists).

8) The Islamic Conference Organization has become one of the (under-cover) main supporters of the Sarajevo regime and war-effort. From Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, etc, a stream of weapons and money has flowed into the areas controlled by the Islamo-Bosnian secessionists. The reactionary islamic rulers thus try to outmanoeuvre their own die-hard islamists by showing themselves as committed defenders of the faith against the infidels. Occasionally they blame the West for not doing enough against the Serbs (perhaps obliterating Belgrade would satisfy their demands).

Yugoslavia again. Reflections on Bryan Alexander's comments. # 1
International Law

Due to some glitch or to some mistake -- I do not know what is the reason -- I had missed digests 2#56, 2#57 & 2#58. Thus it is only now that I read Chris Burford's comments. (Let me say I would be against any secession from the `US-dominated' list. Our current culture becomes more and more global each day.) Chris, I promise you I am going to carefully ponder on your critical remarks.

Bryan Alexander raises very important issues, which must be addressed and clarified. In this posting I discuss one of those points, namely that of Legal vs moral view-point.

The breaking-up of the Yugoslav Federal Republic and the series of secessions which have triggered the current civil war can be envisaged from several perspectives. One is legal. Another one is moral. Perhaps Bryan would want to say that his own perspective is neither, that it is a `Marxist' perspective stemming from considerations which are neither juridical nor ethical but rooted in class-struggle -- let's say a `revolutionary' or a `proletarian' view-point. For the time being, let me assume the only relevant view-points are the moral one and the juridical one (I must confess that I do not understand -- pending an explanation -- what a `revolutionary' view-point would be which would consist neither in legal nor in moral considerations.)

I believe I have shown sufficiently clearly that there was no legal or moral basis for a Croatian or a Bosnian secession. From a juridical view-point, no integral part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had any right to secede within the framework of international law.

From a moral view-point, Marxists have long disagreed on the issue of national self-determination. What I suggested was that:

(1) There are good reasons for us to refrain from fully and unconditionally accepting Lyenyin's principle of national self-determination (Lyenyin himself did not espouse it as whole-heartedly as it is often assumed, since he always subordinated any `democratic' demand to the far-reaching interests of proletarian revolution); that in fact such a principle is fraught with enormous dangers which have been all too painfully realized in recent history; and that many followers of Lyenyin's revolutionary ideas have (wisely, to my mind) refrained from fully implementing such a principle;

(2) Anyway Lyenyin's principle of national self-determination does not apply to the Croats and the Islamo-Bosnians, who constitute cultural communities, not different nations, since they speak the same language as Serbs. Rather, if the principle of national self-determination is to be applied here, it points to a right of the Serbo-Croat nation as a whole to its independence and unity, in the same way as was the case with the other European nations which achieved a national state in the 19th century (Germany, Italy, Romania, Greece and so on). The unity of an independent Serbo-Croat or Yugoslav state is in fact the achievement of a long struggle against foreign oppressors who had conquered and submitted different parts of Yugoslavia and had used religious divisions in order to hamper the unity of the Yugoslav nation.

Now, Bryan challenges the relevance of juridical considerations, since international law is a tool of the imperialists. However I contend that no political change is possible, let alone desirable, which brings about a total break with the current juridical state of affairs. No revolution has ever been carried out which has not tried to secure some form or other of juridical backing and legitimization even in the institutions of the former regime, or at least in some of them; some link with the past. The Bolshevik revolution adopted the slogan of the Soviet power, while the Soviets had already been recognized by the Provisional Government as a legitimate institution to be integrated into the Russian juridical system. What is more, Lyenyin initially convened the constituent assembly, although he immediately proceeded to its dissolution owing to the assembly's counter-revolutionary majority. Mao Tse-tung also tried to secure some sort of juridically justifiable basis for the Chinese CP's take-over. And such has been always the case. (Which by the way shows that revolutions are less revolutionary than some revolutionaries fancy to dream.)

As regards international law, a still more pronounced conservatism is clearly at work in the dealings of all revolutions. Remember for instance the anti-war slogan of the proletarian revolutionaries during WWI: a peace without compensations or annexations. Although the meaning of such a phrase could be taken in divergent directions, its most plain sense is a return to the status quo ante. In fact, when the Brest-Litovsk treaty-project was discussed in Russia, what almost everybody took for granted was that a peace without annexations meant coming back to the 1914 boundaries; that's why the new borders imposed by German imperialism meant a peace with annexations, which Russia could accept only temporarily, waiting for a favourable circumstance.

What is more, Lyenyin's ideas about peaceful coexistence between Soviet Russia and the rest of the world, then under capitalist rule, meant that the triumphant proletarian revolution in one country must abide by international law, even if such a law has been devised by the imperialist brigands. What a revolutionary power must do is to advocate a progressive revision of such a juridical system, using what is good and valuable in it to convince public opinion of the need for a number of changes. Such a practice was what secured after WWII one of the two hugest political changes of the last millennium or so after -- the other one being the abolition of slavery --, namely the independence of the peoples submitted to the colonial yoke, which could at last escape their situation of half-enslavement (forced labour was extensively imposed by the European colonialists in Africa until the fifties!).

By the way, some people in this list have recently claimed that the so-called irreversible advances of the Russian revolution have been reversed. Not so. The welfare state in the industrialized capitalist countries was started as a response by the ruling class to the Russian revolution and still more to the prestige of the CP's after 1945. More importantly, the emancipation of the third world was made possible only by the very existence of the communist block. And mind you, the official abandonment of racial discrimination in the US was also a result of such trends in the world's political arena and public opinion.

There is a powerful reason for anticapitalist revolutionaries to critically adhere to international law, namely that the revolution cannot be triumphant straight away in all countries (that is an understatement); thus either international law is complied with or else the revolutionary states will be unmercifully crushed in a Hobbesian state of nature, the war of all against all. And of course there is a more straightforward reason indeed: a proletarian revolution would be meaningless should it waive the most cherished aspirations of the human heart, the drive to fraternity and happiness or well-being, which entails peace. Pending a new juridical order -- which can be established only through a gradual evolution --, the existing international law is, despite its many flaws, an instrument for the suffering poor masses in the world to at least enjoy a minimum of peace.

Give up the principle of respect for international law and you will lose any leverage to oppose imperialist aggressions and atrocities. (One of them is precisely the current intervention in Yugoslavia with the bombings carried out by NATO against a people which defends its independence and national unity against the religious-based secession stirred and kindled by the imperialist powers and supported by the reactionary, cruelly oppressive, Islamic states.)

By the way, I am not claiming that all transgressions of international law are to be condemned. Still less that they all must be condemned totally and unconditionally. In fact international law is fuzzy, and many situations are only to a small extent in conflict with it, while they can be justified from a higher moral view-point. Take for instance Russia's repudiation of the Brest-Litovsk treaty upon Germany's surrender on November 11, 1917. Juridical matters are always tricky, but even if it were true that such a repudiation was in break of international law, it would remained morally justified. In such situations, a higher `natural-law' set of principles can be invoked which undermine the juridical legitimacy of existing treaties. That is not to say that we can adopt Bismarck's cynic claim that any treaty contained an implicit clause of `rebus stantibus' (i.e. `while things remain as they stand at this stage' ...). That would ruin any civilized coexistence. But precisely under such circumstances as a glaring, outrageous injustice has been committed (as had been the case at Brest-Litovsk), the wronged party had a right to redress the situation as soon is it was able to do so. (There are many other examples but I don't want to elaborate.)

I hope all people interested in Marxism, whether Marxists or not (I do not consider myself a Marxist), agree that all forms of nationalism must be in the long run superseded, that we are heading for an Earthian Republic wherein every human adult is free to travel and settle anywhere, being enclosed or confined by no boundary. But what is the way to attain that goal? Not -- I contend -- through the military imposition of the self-declared world police forces (UNO and NATO), which are instruments of intimidation, oppression and domination of the majority of the planet's population by the great imperialist-capitalist powers, but by encouraging and supporting resistance to NATO aggression and intervention.

Yugoslavia again. Reflections on Bryan Alexander's comments. # 2
The Class-struggle View-point

Bryan Alexander claims that my analysis of the Yugoslav crisis misses the class-struggle dimension. He may be right. But let's carefully consider what he has to say in this connection.

Bryan seems to claim that Milosevich represents the old state-capitalist elite which in the meanwhile had embraced the cause of full-fledged capitalist restoration (he would have a power base among `the leftover upper class, and the growing bourgeoisie'), which would explain his crushing the labour unrest, whereas the anti-Milosevich secessionists, at least in Bosnia, are, at least partly, prompted by a desire to keep some of the working-class conquests which had ben implemented in former socialist Yugoslavia. (He does not put it that way, but I guess that's what he means through several not very explicit sentences, such as `But the BiH state is very mixed, and not clearly at war against the working class' or `Bosnia is more or less hankering for some sort of state capitalism' -- `state capitalism' being Bryan's characterization of the social system under what he calls `Stalinist masters').

In several postings Bryan insists that a class-struggle analysis is needed, one -- I suppose -- which discloses the class nature of each contender in the present war, and through which we could reach the conclusion he offers us, namely that `we find in Milosevic a bloodstained gothic nightmare of Marxist proportions', which -- within the context -- seems to imply that from a Marxist class-struggle view-point he appears as the main culprit, the villain of the story.

As Jim had guessed I agree with Bryan in condemning both the social injustices of the Tito regime -- and the privileges enjoyed by the Communist-League elite) and the nascent bourgeoisie. I deplore the capitalist restoration and the establishment of a `free-market' economy.

But what escapes my understanding is how we can envisage as a class-struggle that which opposes the secessionists to the defenders of Yugoslav unity. Admittedly the Serbian government (or the rump Federal Yugoslavia) is not one which can be regarded as representing the interests of the proletariat. They are either capitalists or pro-capitalists. But what about the other contender, the Croato-Bosnian confederates? They are more obviously pro-capitalist still.

There are some people both in Serbia (and Montenegro) and in Bosnia (and elsewhere) who `hanker for some sort of state capitalism', i.e. for a return to some of the social advances of Tito's Yugoslavia. The same happens everywhere in Eastern Europe. The crumbling of communism has given rise to wild capitalism, when wild capitalism does not exist any longer in Western Europe. They had been promised a welfare state plus political liberties. As political freedom is concerned, they have more than they used to have, the price being the almost complete lost of previous levels of state welfare and relative social equality. (Relative, yes, but most things in this world are relative.)

That some people here and some people there hanker after some return to some of the good (or less bad) things of the past does not show that as a whole one of the contenders stands for such things -- let alone for better things -- while the other alone is a nasty capitalist or pro-capitalist. They are on a par.

Or perhaps not exactly on a par, after all. The Serbian ruling party is one of the ex-communist governing paries in Eastern Europe, and the Western masters are bent on wiping them out. Admittedly their present policy is pro-capitalist, and the prospects of them coming back to any form of socialism are almost groundless. But who knows? While they have not been utterly destroyed, those parties remain a symbol of what was once dreadful communism, a banner for people to rally around and proclaim -- if and when they grow more frustrated with unemployment -- their adherence to the ideas of the former regime. The possibility of an alternative leadership wavering such a banner is, although small, not an absurd nightmare to be dismissed out of hand. (Milosevich's own wife is said to spurn his nationalism and preach an anti-capitaist non-nationalist outlook.)

IF there is a class-struggle related difference between the defenders of Yugoslav unity, on the one hand, and the secessionists, on the other, I think those who are more assuredly and obviously against the interests of the world proletariat as a whole are the secessionist. No conflict takes place in a vacuum. The context here is provided by the international alignments. The Croato-Islamic secessionists constitute a puppet at the hands of the international bourgeoisie, whereas -- by dint of being compelled to oppose the NATO intervention and aggression -- the Serbs are constrained to oppose the grand capitalist coalition and to become the unwilling allies of those who, for quite different reasons, also oppose the capitalist established disorder: revolutionary struggles in Latin America, anti-WB/IMF movements in Africa, anti-Yeltsin forces in Russia, Arab non-islamist nationalism, pro-Third-World organizations in NATO countries, etc.

That seems to me the genuine class-struggle-related context within which the Yugoslav civil war is to be considered. The current class-struggle is world-wide.

A last comment. Not every struggle carried out by workers is in the interests of the working class. The CIA is known to have brought down progressive governments by inciting working-people's unrest (Guyana, Chile, Nicaragua, perhaps Zambia and other African states; up to a point, India, too; and similarly CIA-supported strikes may have taken place against anti-Western governments in many other countries, such as the April-revolution Portugal, Nepal, Peru at the time of General Valesco Alvarado's lukewarm reforms, etc). Thus we cannot jump from the mere fact that labour unrest has been dealt with in a more or less repressive way by a government to the conclusion that the struggle between that government and its enemies is that which opposes the bourgeoisie to the proletariat, or anything like that. In some cases the worst enemy of the proletariat's interests is the group fomenting labour unrest.

Yugoslavia again. Reflections on Bryan Alexander's comments. # 3
Do Milosevich's Misdeeds Justify Secession?

Bryan Alexander contends that the Croato-Bosnian secession was prompted by a series of repressive actions carried out by the Milosevich government in Yugoslavia, specially those targeted at the Albanian minority, plus intimidation against Montenegro etc, as well as by the fact that Milosevich was able to block any deep constitutional reform through his control of half the collective presidency -- an effective veto thus being exerted by his group. The Croato-Bosnian secessionists considered themselves under some sort of threat, finding the Milosevich regime unbeatable, and seceded.

If such an argument could justify the secession, almost every country in the world would be shattered and splintered into pieces. Most, almost all governments in the world have carried out repressive actions against strikes or demonstrations, or have imprisoned some political dissenters, whose opposition they have regarded as subversive, even it such dissenters or dissidents were not resorting to armed struggle (although perhaps some of their words could be takes to mean an implicit apology for some sort of armed or unarmed resistance to the established political order).

Many other regimes have exerted other forms of repressive discrimination against political dissidents (Germany for instance bars them from holding public `office' positions, including that of dust-cleaner). Among such governments we can find those of Spain, the US, the UK, Mexico, Brazil, Egypt, not to speak of more blatant cases such as Morocco, Zaire, Thailand, South Korea, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, etc. Milosevich's repressive actions (before the secession anyway) are child play in comparison with those of Turkey, Syria, Iran, Kuwait, Yemen, Pakistan, Indonesia etc.

At the time of the secession a multi-party democratic system existed in several regions of Yugoslavia; a leverage could be exerted in order to further change the political system; any initiative on the part of the Milosevich group aimed at abolishing the constitution could be successfully thwarted by precisely the same means Milosevich himself used to impede or obstruct constitutional change, namely by paralysing the collective presidency (some sort of `presidential filibustering', so to speak). The political change which had recently occurred in Yugoslavia could be extended by resorting to peaceful political pressure.

Now, even in cases of extreme reactionary tyrannies, like Francisco Franco's in Spain (1936-1975), secession is not to be resorted to as a means of combatting the reactionary central government unless there are independent good justificatory reasons in favour of regional secession. In the case of Yugoslavia some such reason could, under different circumstances, be found for non-Yugoslav regions such as Western Bulgaria (Macedonia) or Northern Albania (Kosovo). None such could be found in the cases of Croatia and Bosnia, two regions inhabited by people of the same Serbo-Croat (Yugoslav) nation as the Serbs -- not to speak of the fact that even culturally a great number of inhabitants of those regions belong[ed] to the Christian-Orthodox tradition, i.e. to what is called the Serbian community.

What is more, even if in a few exceptional cases secession can be partly justified on account of the central government carrying out a repressive policy (provided the seceding regions have national particularities of their own -- a quite different national identity and language to start with -- which entitle them to a reasonable claim to separate statehood), such a situation is only a necessary condition, not a sufficient one for the secession to be justified enough. Other conditions are: (1) that there is really no available alternative, any other way of redressing the wrongs which prompt the secession; (2) that there are reasonable prospects of the secession leading to the establishment of a more progressive political structure; (3) that the evils which reasonably can be expected to arise because of the secession are smaller than those which are entailed by the current state of affairs; (4) that the process of secession is one which can be reasonably agreed upon by the overwhelming majority of the seceding region's inhabitants.

NONE of those conditions existed in Croatia and Bosnia at the time of secession.

The secession process was hasty, and failed to be conducted in a way which offered everybody the right to put their case. The Serbs boycotted the secession plebiscite in Bosnia. No such huge constitutional reform can be regarded as legitimate if it is imposed by a simple majority in a consultation which has been rejected before-hand by almost half the population. (Nothing to do with Quebec's referendum, neither as regards the content nor as regards the form.)

As for the degree of progressiveness or otherwise, Croatia, with her partial rehabilitation of the Poglavnic and his bloody cohorts, seems to me a particularly nasty regime, by no means better -- from a social view-point -- than Yugoslavia's political system.

But even in cases wherein the seceding region would follow a social progressive policy, that alone does not justify secession. Take for instance the case of West Bengal, which for many years has had a regional government headed by the communist party of India (marxist), doubtless a more progressive organization than the successive governing parties in the Republic of India. Bengal has a national character of its own, with a language which, while belonging to the common Indo-European family, is entirely distinct from Hindi. However the CPI(m) has never ever advocated secession for West Bengal. Not that the Indian government has not supplied opportunities for a possible secessionist movement to allege that their legitimate claims were being denied through force, coercion and repression. But the Indian communists are interested in the common good of all Indian working people, whether Hindi, or Tamil or Bengali, not in becoming the chieftains of a separate fief.

Moreover, what does independence for Croatia and Bosnia practically mean, even if the Orthodox-Christians in those regions would not have risen against the secession? What it means is that Croatia and Bosnia are going to become parts of the European Union (sooner or later, maybe rather sooner than later), which is encircling itself with a iron curtain. I am not inventing or exaggerating anything at all. The Spanish enclave of Ceuta in Northern Morocco is being enclosed by barb-wire (I do not know whether the barrier is going to be electrified) in order to stop so-called illegal immigration by economic and political refugees from Africa. Imagine people of the Serbo-Croatian nation (and even belonging to the same religious tradition in a number of cases), after living for several generations in a common state shared with their fellow-nationals, to be secluded and separated from them by a new iron curtain! Families taken apart, and broken forever, because at the time of the secession one member lived in Belgrade and was practising the Christian religion whereas another member lived in Sarajevo and believed in Islam!

Yugoslavia again. Reflections on Bryan Alexander's comments. # 4
Serb Aggression?

Both Bryan Alexander and Chris Burford have repeatedly argued that the Serbs perpetrated aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and that their aggression was that of a fascist, or social fascist, regime. Sometimes it seems to me that it is the would-be aggression itself which is thus looked upon as fascist. At other times it is the Belgrade regime which is being called `fascist', whence its aggression is, by extension, also regarded as such. I'll comment on so-called Serbian fascism in my next post.

I fail to see how the Yugoslav troops could perpetrate any aggression in Bosnia or in Croatia, which are legally, in accordance with international law -- and particularly in virtue of long-standing international treaties agreed upon by all the countries in the world --, integral parts of Yugoslavia, and which, from a moral view-point, can hardly claim any valid right to separation since they are solidly inhabited by people belonging to the Yugoslav (i.e. Serbo-Croat) nation. If British troops operate in Birmingham they are not committing any aggression there.

When the Southern states illegally seceded, thus triggering the American civil war, did US troops commit aggression against the secessionists by attacking them? You only can call such an attack an `aggression' if you assume the right to secession. The Southern states had no such right either from a moral or from a legal view-point.

Of course there are dubious and complex cases and also intermediate degrees. At the time of the Indian independence did Indian troops or Pakistani troops commit aggression against Kashmir? The diplomatic and politic imbroglio created by the departing English colonialists was such that many interpretations are partly grounded (from a legal view-point India was probably right, from a moral view-point the matter was more difficult).

When the Korean war began the Western propaganda media spoke of North-Korean aggression against the South. Yet it seems to me odd -- to say the least -- that Korean troops commit aggression while not leaving the Korean territory, i.e. while not crossing the Korean international boundaries. The Pyongyang regime may have been wrong in starting what they viewed as a liberation movement aimed at the reunification and independence of their country; their triggering of hostilities may have been ill-advised or ill-fated. What it definitely was not was an act of aggression. Nor could the South-Koreans commit aggression against the North. Nor do the Burma rebels commit aggression against the zones occupied by the Rangoon regime if or when they start a new counteroffensive operation. Any such operation may be justified or unjustified, good or bad, praiseworthy or blameworthy, reasonable or unreasonable. `Aggression' applies only to the sending of troops which forcefully invade a foreign country, crossing established international boundaries previously agreed upon through legal treaties.

It is NATO which has perpetrated aggression against the Yugoslav people by intervening in the Yugoslav civil war.

Yugoslavia again. Reflections on Bryan Alexander's comments. # 5
Serbian Fascism?

One of the main charges against both the Belgrade regime and the Christian-Orthodox rebels in Croatia and Bosnia -- rebels who more or less openly want to join the Yugoslav republic in some way or other -- is that they are fascists, or social-fascists. Their alleged fascism would justify foreign intervention against them, since fascism is supposed to be the worst possible thing in the world.

Now that this list has started a cyber-seminar on fascism let me put forward some considerations addressed mainly at Louis Proyect and those who have embarked in the fascism seminar.

Louis, you draw a list of books on fascism. I gather you think those books are relevant for the subject. You do not want to take a pre-established definition, I suppose, but rather to reach a better grasping of what fascism is through a combined historical and sociological account of social phenomena associated with ... With what? Well, with fascism. I feel a doubt about the adequacy of such a procedure. In order to study the phenomenon you must previously know what you are speaking about; you need a previous definition of `fascism', even if it is fuzzy. Unless of course you draw your list taking as your guideline only the titles of the books -- you search for whatever books bear a title with the words `fascism' or `fascist' in it.

There are words, and concepts, which have their time. One of them is `fascism'. As a descriptive characterization, it seems to me of little or no value. It has been applied to Hitler, Stalin, Trotsky, Helmut Kohl, Ronald Reagan, Willy Brandt, Silvio Berlusconi, Leonid Brezhnev, Lin Piao, Haya de la Torre, Getulio Vargas, ... Well, admittedly, nobody applies the word to all those people, or else the term would become empty. Yet what's the good of cleaving to a so devalued term?

Look, was Pope Gregory XVI, in the middle of XIX Century, a fascist? He tried to destroy any form of communism (the word `socialism' was just beginning to be used, but `communism' was already well-established, with a clear meaning: advocating common ownership instead or private property); he also tried to annihilate, through police repression, any form of liberalism; he banned railways and anti-variolic vaccination; he exerted power in an important independent state in Central Italy, comprising the cities of Rome, Bologna, Ancona, Rimini, etc. Since he was not advancing any form of social verbiage, you may refuse, on that account, to regard him as a fascist.

Yet, if social humbug is an integral part of fascism, then Franco was hardly a fascist, at least in the early stages of his uprising. What he promised was the destruction of gutters or ditches so as to make life for the poor hard in order for them to be decimated, which would have precluded the development of communist organizations amongst workers. (I am inventing nothing: read Paul Preston's biography.) Hardly a social reformer, that general! (Later on, he adopted a number of symbols and a little social gibberish borrowed, through his Phalangist supporters, from his German and Italian protectors.)

If being an extremely repressive ruler who represents the interests of privileged reactionary classes is enough to qualify as a fascist, was Louis XIV a fascist, too? What about Henry VIII, Gengis Khan, William the Conqueror, Assur Banipal? Are such questions meaningless? Well, perhaps they are. It may be claimed that the category of `fascism' only can be sensibly used in the context of the modern social structures and as an expression of radical bourgeois reactionary tendencies. Then perhaps only after the middle of the 19th century would we be entitled to ask whether or not a ruler is a fascist. (Even so I'll ask about dictators Rosas in Argentina, Francia in Paraguay, Garcia Moreno en Ecuador, Porfirio Diaz in Mexico, Czar Alexander III, Ataturk, etc.)

Since the descriptive content of the word is so hard to grasp and the term conveys no clear information -- except as regards the subjective attitude of the utterer against those whom he calls `fascists' -- why continue using the word?

Or rather, let me make a proposal. I propose to use `fascism' as a historical term applying primarily to Mussolini's movement and by extension to similar and related tendencies in other countries in the 20's, 30's and 40's.

What is now termed `fascism' has little to do with Mussolini's movement. Fascist parties tried to appear as somehow socially enlightened, sharing the main cultural values of society. (Upon Hitler's accession the Reich enacted laws to prevent cruelty against nonhuman animals and for the protection of nature. Initially the extermination plan was not announced -- well in fact it was never publicly announced.) With the exception of communism and a few other unpalatable `aberrations', all other components of European culture were purportedly going to be taken account of.

What is now usually called `fascism' is extremely virulent political crime. As was fascism in the 20's and 30's, today's neo-`fascism' is also linked with the maffia, the bankers and the police. But today's `fascism' does not aim at seizing power; only at doing the dirty work for the ruling class. Accordingly, it needn't bother to put a decent, enlightened or socially-progressive face. Nowadays `fascist' thugs do not smash and kill mainly communist sympathizers, but the poor elderly, the immigrants, youths who do not comply with the skinned-head standards, alms-takers, unemployed, homeless people. Their exterminating goal is undisguised. They enjoy the benevolence and toleration -- if not the undercover support -- of the police, the bourgeois governments of every tendency, from social-democracy to conservatism. They receive generous contributions from the wealthy.

The phenomenon is so different from what used to be called `fascism' seventy years ago that I do not think it reasonable to continue using the same word. This new `fascism' as I have just described it may fail to be as strong is other countries as it is in Spain. Yet in Spain at least I think to call them `fascists' (without inverted commas) would be to slander the phalangists, who were bourgeois and upper-middle class hooligans and rascals but not necessarily gory sadistic hoodlums. On the one hand, phalangism contained no racist element in its dismal, hollow, turgid phallocratic and militaristic ideology. On the other hand, to kill blacks, moors and `Sudakas' (Latin-Americans who speak Spanish) is about the only dream of the new Spanish `fascists'.

As for the Serbian government, I fail to see any reasonably relevant analogy between their policies and those of fascism or neo-`fascism'. Admittedly Milosevich is not a good man. He is no advocate of common ownership or of egalitarianism or of human fraternity or of gentle treatment of nonhumans. He is a bigoted narrow-minded nationalist. Yet his policies are by and large similar to those of tens or hundreds of other governments. To call him a `fascist' as if a superficial comparison with some repressive features of fascistic regimes could bear out the assimilation is to resort to an improper use of the words which can serve no useful purpose -- except that of justifying at whatever cost the Western intervention in support of the Catholico-Mohammedan secession in the Yugoslav regions of Croatia and Bosnia.

Yugoslavia again. Reflections on Bryan Alexander's comments. # 6
The Force of Habit and Economic Overdetermination

One of the objections Bryan has kindly raised against my series of posts on Yugoslavia reads as follows:

First, the sense of history is curious. Often Lorenzo's history is weirdly determinist - not in the Marxian or even Hegelian sense (see below), but in a war of memory sense. Serbs commit crimes in revenge for WWII... France opposes Serbia because it upheld the Turks briefly in the 17th century... What this ignores is of course the economic overdetermination which is at work here, but also the fact of persons making certain choices for policy effects now, on the ground. In this sense, Lorenzo's history is an evasion, an excuse... And for Serbs!

Well, Bryan, I am no Marxist. On that point you are right. I am sceptical about economic overdetermination (HM, historical materialism). It is not just that I am not sure whether the doctrine is true, but that its very meaning seems to me obscure. Of course there are valuable attempts to make sense of it, like G.A. Cohen's Karl Marx's Theory of History: A defence (Clarendon, 1978), which would deserve a serious discussion in the marxism list. Yet you know there are lots of difficulties with Cohen's brilliant construal. Perhaps a more promising idea would be to implement an interpretation of HM in terms of supervenience: there cannot be two societies which are similar in economically relevant respects but [relevantly] different in other respects (the `superstructure'). I propose people interested in HM to discuss such a proposal.

But do we need to agree on HM in order to debate over the motivations of political agents who have intervened in the Yugoslav civil war? I doubt it. Surely, Bryan, if your arguments are good enough, you'll try to convince anybody who is interested in such burning issues, whether an advocate of HM or not.

Moreover, HM surely does not replace usual explanations of human behaviour, but tries only to add a further, deeper explanation dealing with more profound issues and causes. (What is far from clear is what to make of any such attempt, like Engels's `last resort' formula.)

Now, habit is one of the most common-sensical and usual explanations of our acts. Of course it is no `ultimate' explanation. It in turn calls for further explanations. Yet, within limits, and up to a point, it gives a satisfactory account of many of our acts. A French cyclist was recently asked why he had sprinted when he was leading the general race, to which he replied: `I've always been a sprinter'. If you have been in the habit of getting up at 6 am each morning for 20 years, that's a very good reason why tomorrow you'll get up at 6 am, isn't it?

But of course my argument was not that France had -- after some initial hesitation -- joined the anti-Yugoslav coalition because she `upheld the Turks briefly in the 17th century'. No, as I have shown in early posts, France has been an ally of Turkey for half a thousand years with a couple of short interruptions (namely the wars of the French revolution and Napoleon and WWI; even then there was almost no military confrontation between France and Turkey; the Gallipolli attack was a British [bungled] affair; France became an under-cover ally of Ataturk's nationalist Turkey immediately after the war, even at the price of giving up Cilicia, in order to check the British superpower in the Middle East).

Not many people in the world have a sense of their history as the French do. When a French historian speaks about events not just in the 17th century but even in the 10th century she is likely to say `nous fumes defaits ici ou la' (we were vanquished). That use of `we' applying to their ancestors of 30 or 40 generations ago seems very odd to people of different cultures (I can hardly imagine any Spaniard seriously engaging in any such talk; anyway it would cause smiling if not worse). However in a less sincere, more hidden way, most people in the world do to some extent share such attitudes. The collective memory is well alive and nourishes our feelings, hopes, and thoughts.

But whatever other people do, I am sure the French are quite aware of their past history and take it into account. The habits of long-standing, ingrained political sympathies and enmities constitute one of the motivations behind the Quay d'Orsay's choices -- which are usually shared by the whole political class in France.

Furthermore you know, Bryan, I am not saying that such a habit is the sole cause of France's choice. I put forward a number of reasons. The French case is particularly interesting because France only somehow reluctantly rejoined the Anti-Serbian coalition, even if at times she has tried to portray herself as the staunchest champion of the Muslim (but not the Croatian) cause, purportedly on account of the French revolutionary ideals. I think I have shown there are other reasons behind the Paris government decisions. Some of them are sinister. Many of them may be seen matter-of-fact after all. To try to play an important role in international politics is understandable and perhaps legitimate, up to a point. When it is done by means of aggression and injustice, as in the present case, such a feat is not be one people will remain proud of for long (as nowadays not many people are proud of France's colonial wars in Indochina or Algeria or of the 1956 Anglo-French attack against Egypt).

Now, the determinism issue. Look, Bryan, whether or not determinism is true, surely we are in any case entitled to resort to our usual, common-sensical, `folk' explanations of our behaviour (or other animals', since humans constitute just one among many mammal species). Libertarians will claim that all those explanations display probabilistic, nondeterministic causes, or elements which tend to prompt people's decisions but do not compel them. Determinists will say that there is no free-will except in the sense that the causal effect of such factors is done only through human decisions (free-will thus being from a compatibilist view-point something like the conformity between decisions and intentions -- or decisions to take decisions), or the like. Such a fascinating philosophical discussion is of course worth pursuing. Yet you cannot refute any argument of the usual sort on any political issue by pointing out that you believe in free-will or that you are a determinist (or that being comes before thought or that ...)

Yugoslavia again. Reflections on Bryan Alexander's comments. # 7
Muslim Troops Sent from Abroad

On Sun, 15 Oct 1995 Bryan A. Alexander wrote:

I've never argued for NATO airstrikes. I do in fact believe that a combined-arms NATO - heck, US - offensive would have crushed the Serbs back in '92. I've never said that I would have supported such "uncritically." I'd rather see workers in all 8 former Yugoslav units unite to wipe out their capitalist and Stalinist masters. I'd also probably support Muslim troops sent from abroad, if I thought it would lead to a better outcome. I don't think NATO or the UN is structurally capable of this. I've said that before.

Muslim troops sent from abroad?

(1) On account of what? Just because many (or most) inhabitants of the Yugoslav region (or province, or `republic' or whatever) of Bosnia-Herzegovina are Muslims (in a loose sense many of them)? Does that constitute a serious ground in our century for an intervention by foreign people of the same religion to be justified? Was Franco right when he appealed to Mussolini, whose Corpo di Truppe Volontarie (about 250,000 men) was sent to overthrow the Spanish Republic? They were Christians, nay Roman-Catholics, as about 90 percent of Spaniards are (even today) [well, at least they say they are]. The CIA help to those who overthrew Arbenz can be justified on similar grounds. And so on (not to mention foreign intervention in Afghanistan, on which I know we deeply disagree).

Some foreign interventions can be justified, under certain circumstances. None of those conditions is nowadays admitted to be that of religious adherence. We are no longer in the 16th century (even the so-called 30 years war was even at that time, in the early 17th century, declared to be political, not religious; that was Richelieu's justification for supporting the anti-Habsburg cause in Germany).

(2) What troops? From what countries? Perhaps Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Turkey, Morocco, Bangla-Desh? All those countries live under terrible, cruel regimes. A few among them respect a minimum of apparently bourgeois-democratic appearances (Egypt, Pakistan, Bangla-Desh). Most of the time they have been under undisguised ruthless military dictatorships. Their internal record is appalling. (Their external record is hardly better. Remember Pakistani troops' atrocities in Somalia against the population, which triggered the US-UN aggression against the Somali people.) No regimen in the world now has so a bloody record as Suharto's both against the Indonesian people and abroad (Timor, Western New Guinea, where real genocide has been committed against several aboriginal ethnias.) What about the merciless Sudanese military dictatorship, or Iran's fanatic Mullahs, who have killed thousands of peaceful political dissenters on account of their adherence to the `anti-Islamic' ideology of Marxism. (Please, folks, admit that Tudeh militants and leaders have been the victims, not the murderers.) What about the King of Morocco, with his feudal, quasi-absolutistic regime? Stories about Moroccan prisons are such that they can be compared to the Roman ergastula for revolting slaves or the cages for runaway slaves in America in the early 18th century). Nothing to say of a particularly loathsome oppression and subjugation to which they submit half the population, namely all females just because they are females.

Bryan, are troops sent by those governments liberators? What to think about the cause which is likely to be consolidated by such help? Or are you thinking of non-government troops sent by private citizens and organizations? (Which ones? I am curious about it.) That cannot be your point. Your advise `Muslim troops sent from abroad, [...] [such that what they would be capable of is such that you] don't think NATO or the UN is structurally capable of'. Hence very very very powerful troops.

I am sure, Bryan, you do not have in mind a colossal expeditionary corps sent by Turkey, Indonesia, Iran, Egypt and so forth. But a joint intervention force meeting your requirement of more structural strength than NATO's seems to me to evoke something like that.

Fortunately nothing of the sort will be realized. Yet, at this stage an impressive, if more discrete, Islamic-Conference intervention in the Yugoslav internal affairs has been taking place for years. With the support and blessing of the Western powers and the media.

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1. 1.

Most of those facts are reported and analyzed by Karl A. Roider Jr. In his book Austria's Eastern Question 1700-1790, Princeton University Press, 1982.Back to the top of this document

2. 2.

See Martin Bernal's Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization, p 249; see also A Concise History of the Middle East, by Arthur Goldschmidt Jr., Folkeston: Dawson, 1979, p. 156. The latter author analyses the political developments around the Crimea war (1853-56) and asserts (p. 161): `After the Crimean War, the Ottoman Empire was admitted to full membership in the European Concert of Powers, and no one dared speak of its collapse or partition'.Back to the top of this document

3. 3.

Speaking about the Holy-Alliance Veronna Congress (1822), Golo Mann -- in his book Secretary of Europe: The Life of F. Gentz, Enemy of Napoleon (translated by W.H. Woglom, Archon Books, 1970, p. 275) -- asserts: `In the Greek question Austria and Great Britain found their interests at first in accord. The Ottoman Empire must not be allowed to disintegrate. ... The Greeks must find out for themselves how to escape from a situation for which they alone were responsible'. Such was indeed united-Europe's attitude as a whole. The same author recognized that the late intervention in Greece, under the growing pressure of public opinion, outlined the practical end of the holy alliance. (P. 277, ibid.): `Thereafter one spoke no more of «Europe». No consciousness of a common cause survived...'.Back to the top of this document

4. 4.

The complex relationships between those dynasties are amusingly reported by Theo Aronson in his book Crowns In Conflict: The Triumph and the Tragedy of European Monarchy 1910-1918, London: John Murray Publishers Ltd, 1986.Back to the top of this document

5. 5.

In order to prevent an Anglo-Turko-Austrian alliance against the revolting Slavonic peoples in the Balkans, the Czar, who supported their 1875 uprising (which led to the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78) was compelled to acquiesce in Austria's seizing Bosnia-Herzegovina. The occupation was ratified by the Berlin treaty after much haggling over (artificially established) borders. The treaty was imposed by the Monarchic powers in order to subjugate the Slavonic peoples previously liberated by the Czar (Western Bulgaria was wrenched from the Bulgarian Motherland, which gave rise to the still burning `Macedonian' question). It is ironic that the arbitrary and totally unjustified borders imposed by such an imperialistic Monarchic `treaty' are regarded by many as defining the would-be natural frontiers of a supposed nation of Bosnia.Back to the top of this document

6. 6.

`The idea of a Yugoslavia gained acceptance slowly during the war. ... The Allies were strongly opposed to the break up of the Habsburg Empire... Croat and Serb representatives met on the island of Corfu in the summer of 1917. The agreement to seek a Yugoslav state under the Serbian Karageorgevich dynasty was ... A powerful propaganda weapon against the Dual Monarchy': E. Garrison Walters, The Other Europe: Eastern Europe to 1945, New York: Dorset Press, 1988, p. 142.Back to the top of this document

7. 7.

Alfred Sohn-Rethel, transl. by Martin Sohn-Rethel, The Economy and Class Structure of German Fascism, London: Free Association books, 1987, p. 49.Back to the top of this document

8. 8.

Muslims in France constitute the second largest religion; there are Protestants, too, despite Louis XIV's cruelties against huguenots; no one thinks of counselling secession to such counties, districts or zones wherein Muslims or Protestants may be the majority. Nor are the Egyptian Copts entitled to secede from Egypt on account of their religion (the Sudanese question is entirely different, of course, since Southern Sudan is neither ethnically nor linguistically Arabic.Back to the top of this document

9. 9.

Martin Gilbert, Second World War, London: Widenfeld & Nicolson, 1989, p. 166.Back to the top of this document

10. 10.

ibid., p. 170.Back to the top of this document

11. 11.

ibid., p. 746.Back to the top of this document

12. 12.

There have been many horrible slaughters which cannot count as cases of genocide: Suharto's killing of half a million Indonesians (with the US's benediction and approval); Franco's death-squads, which remained active for years and years (also with the support of the US government and the presence of US military forces); Mobutu's merciless persecutions, and so on.Back to the top of this document

13. 13.

My source here is Edward H. Carr, A History of Soviet Russia, t. 7 (`Socialism in one country: 1924-1926, vol.3, part 1), pp. 226 ff.Back to the top of this document

14. 14.

E. Garrison Walters, The Other Europe: Eastern Europe to 1945, New York: Dorset Press, 1988, p. 129: `The Croats decided to adopt essentially the same language as that adopted by Karadzic. This led to a remarkable event, the knjizevni Dogovor [Literary Agreement] signed in Vienna in 1850, In this document leading Serbs and Croats officially adopted a single literary language (but with different alphabets)'. Such Serbo-croat linguistic codification was to become the Serbian state's official language in 1868. The same author emphasizes elsewhere (p. 19) that Serbo-croatian is considered by most linguists to be one language, despite the fact that Serbs and Croats use different alphabets. See also p. 95: `In particular the dialects of the Serbs and Croats are so close that they are now considered as one language'. From the view-point of modern linguistics, what constitutes a language is only its oral expression. Thus no difference in graphic representation can count as a difference in language. Otherwise such languages in the former Soviet Union as in less than a century have been written with at least three different alphabets (Arabic, Cyrillic, Latin, sometimes a new-fangled invented alphabet of their own) would have become different languages; medieval Spanish graphic representations of Castilian with the Arabic alphabet would not belong to the Castilian language; the Turkish language would have changed with Ataturk; current Vietnamese would be different from the pre-colonial tongue written with Chinese characters, and so on. One of the great discoveries of Modern palaeography, namely that Linear B in Crete was Greek, would also be meaningless. See Geoffrey Sampson, Writing Systems, London: Hutchinson, 1985 and my review of that book Arbor, issue # 538 (Madrid, 1990), pp. 125-129 (ISSN 0210-1963).

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15. 15.

Although Yugoslav communists were instructed only to advocate the right to separation -- as against effective secession --, it was hinted that the would-be `oppressed-nation nationalism' of the Croats was less of a danger than the so-called `oppressive-nation Great-Serbian nationalism'. Thus, separation would be a lesser evil than the persistence of the Yugoslav union. The announced Balkan federation would include Macedonia and even Thracia among its member `nations'. To my mind, that fact alone reveals the superficial method resorted to for the drafting of such a miscellaneous list. Such territorial denominations had only either a very distant reality -- as belonging to ancient history -- or else one which only arose from the Ottoman Empire administrative organization, which had little or nothing to do with national or ethnic realities. There is no separate `Thracian' nation (although Spartacus was a Thracian!), while most inhabitants of Greek Macedonia are hellenic.Back to the top of this document

16. 16.

Experience clearly shows that witch-hunts are often upheavals leading to an increased power of witches (remember Arthur Miller's The Crucible).Back to the top of this document

17. 17.

It reminds me of the so-called `nation of new Christians from Moor stock' in 16th century Spain, which were then brutally expelled by the Spanish kings, at the beginning of the 17th century.Back to the top of this document

18. 18.

In fact the sufferings and social inequalities caused by market-socialism can arguably be taken to constitute the main root of the Yugoslav tragedy; but I do not want to pursue this issue here, since my main argument is quite independent from such a guess (and even quite separate from the question of whether a system with common ownership is good or bad).Back to the top of this document

19. 19.

When the split took place, Tito was pursuing both at home at abroad a dashing unreflective line leading to a direct confrontation with the Western powers. The schism may have been one of the results of his flamboyant, arrogant leaning. See on Tito's policies at the time: Gavriel D. Ra'anan International Policy Formation in the USSR, passim.Back to the top of this document

20. 20.

Was the 1917 revolution a haphazard event? Or is collectivism deeply rooted in the Christian-Orthodox thought the traditional Russian mind has been steeped in? There is a strong pre-Marxist communist or collectivist tradition in Russian thought, which was combatted by Lyenyin in the early stages of his ideological and political career, but which arguably was assimilated and blended into later revolutionary bolshevism.Back to the top of this document

21. 21.

I personally think, though, that capitalism could perfectly survive without such dangerous militarism. As to the extent of the military action the interests of the industrial-military lobby are likely to kindle, I imagine a full-scale bombardment along the lines of the Gulf war -- not only against the Serb-controled areas in Bosnia, but also against Serbia proper -- remains a possibility, if Western intervention and military escalation is allowed to continue. Public opinion can prevent such a deplorable development.Back to the top of this document

22. 22.

Thus a Spaniard, one Mendiluce, appears as Europe's anti-Serbian campaigner number 1.Back to the top of this document

23. 23.

After 1945, Franco bacame an instrument of the US.Back to the top of this document

24. 24.

Those who have favoured the Bosnian and Croatian secession have played with fire. Since all Bosnians, Croats and Serbs speak the same language, while they inhabit contiguous territories, they all constitute a single nation. The only relevant difference is cultural -- the sundry religious traditions they belong to. But in Albania a similar religious pattern exists. In fact until the cultural Albanian renaissance in the late 19th century, muslims there used to be called `Turks' and Orthodox-Chritians `Greek'. A bloody splintering of Albania is not a far-fetched nightmare, but, unfortunately, has become, as a result of the breaking-up of Yugoslavia, a real, concrete possibility.Back to the top of this document

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Lorenzo Peña
Director de ESPAÑA ROJA

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Lorenzo Peña
Director de ESPAÑA ROJA