The enemy is at home

Max Sawicky sawicky at
Thu Apr 15 22:54:47 PDT 1999

Heartfield holds forth -- (better rhyme would be Wohlforth holds forth, but never mind)

> . . .
> What would it mean if I went around Britain denouncing Milosevic and his
> war. It would mean that I was taking sides with the militarists here,
> and parroting their propaganda. If I was talking to an audience of
> Serbs, I would say something different, like 'lay off the Albanians'.
> But I'm not talking to Serbs.

You left out a third option -- talking to Muslims. Now you could point out the bombing has not helped their brethren in Kosova and may have accelerated or generated attacks from Milo. I suspect they would not dispute that, but they would wonder, not without some rancor, what you meant by this for their struggle. So the priority of demanding protection for Muslims from somebody would have to be faced. By analogy, the left has been know to demand that police arrest fascist murderers, notwithstanding the periodic complicity of police with such activity. And the left supports the indictment of the police in NYC who felled an innocent man with a hail of bullets, notwithstanding the links between prosecutors and police in NYC. And of course we could all pop a cork over Straw's Pinochet decision.

> The left-wing militarists identify Nato as an instrument of good, as
> though it were a welfare law, or a new public school. But it's not. It
> doesn't hand out welfare payments. It blows up trains and convoys of
> refugees. There is no way to make war progressively. You can only make
> war destructively. And the only way that you can justify that is by
> dehumanising your enemies.

"Militarists"? hmm. Nobody says NATO is an "instrument of good" in the sense of this being NATO's essence. Any support for Nato has been premised on the possibility of good effects coming from action that follows from non-humanitarian motives.

> Who is all this Serb-trashing aimed at? Do Denitch and Williams think

There has been no Serb trashing, no less than no militarism.

> that they are reading Nation in Belgrade and will see the error of their
> ways? Of course not. It is directed at those parts of the radical
> intelligentsia who refuse to go along with this war-fever. They want to

"war fever"

> whip up chauvinistic hatred of a people, so that bombing them becomes

"chauvinistic hatred of a people" I've seen no hint of this on the left. Not even at the Muslim rally I attended.

> more palatable. But the people on the train didn't force Albanian
> refugees from their homes. And the convoy of Albanian refugees certainly
> didn't do it. But if the Serbs as a people are demonised, then
> 'collateral damage' becomes acceptable.

You're mixing up Newsweek magazine/Clinton Administration with the left, which has happened here before. The gov's arguments are easy to debunk, not unlike shooting clay pigeons. Better to try for more challenging targets.

> Real radicalism means challenging the prejudices of your own day, not
> re-hashing them and giving them more vigour. With the whole country

One U.S. prejudice is isolationism -- if it happens in another country we don't give a damn -- and another is that the Federal government is incapable of constructive action (another way of saying collective action is a non-starter, something you may have a weakness for yourself). Notwithstanding the Clinton Administration as evidence of the latter, both prejudices as harmful to our politics as anything else.

> wrapping itself in war fever, critical thinkers should be trying to call
> the consensus into question, not beefing it up. There is a good reason
> that the militarism of the West troubles me more than that of Milosevic.
> Its because - quite apart from the exponential imbalance between Nato's
> war machine and Milosevic's - the militarism that is constraining
> British and American society is its own militarism, not Milosevic's.

Nato is big and bad, Milo is bad but little, ergo Nato is worse than Milo. This be some powerful reasoning. Here's an alternative, equally simple, but possible more correct: Nato is big and bad, Milo is little and bad; if Nato leaves Milo alone, they are both still bad; if Nato bashes Milo, then only one of them is bad.

> Despite the ill-mannered slanders of the War-mongers, there is nobody in
> the West that has any illusions in any 'progressive' character of the
> Yugoslav government. It is not necessary here to challenge such beliefs.

The point is that it doesn't matter what you think about Milo. A narrow anti-bombing message helps him, pure and simple. This does not speak to your character, only to your political wisdom in this matter.

> People in the West do have absurd illusions in the progressive potential
> of stealth bombers, 'precision weapons', air wars, and ground troops.
> Those illusions are what needs challenging here.

No doubt. But one way of challenging them condemns the Albanians; another, demanding protection for Muslims in Kosova, at least makes an effort in the other direction.

"militarism," "war fever," "war-mongers," and "chauvinistic hatred of a people" are nowhere to be found in the rhetoric of any lefts in sympathy with Kosovars. Milo is the militarist with a fever for land; Milo escalated, if not started, this war; Milo's political career is founded on chauvinism.

Everything Barkley raises in his critique goes to the military difficulty and the cost in casualties facing any mission to protect Kosovars, and nothing to justice.

We might come to agree that such a mission was infeasible. I couldn't really say; I never got past Tenderfoot in Boy Scouts. But I would hope that we could agree that it was in a good cause, rather than allow the infeasibility to condemn the cause and thereby ratify the futility of struggle.

( . . . fade to bad folk music . . . )


More information about the lbo-talk mailing list