Chechnya and Kosovo: Alliances with Islam and the collapseofRussian Influence

Wojtek Sokolowski sokol at
Tue Jan 4 08:01:42 PST 2000

At 11:45 PM 1/3/00 +0000, Chris Burford wrote:
>Nathan is correct that the readiness of right wing forces in the capitalist
>countries to applaud the attack on Chechnya should make us vigilant. The
>Conservative shadow foreign secretay in Britain has just stated that the
>best thing that can happen to Chechnya is that the Russians win quickly. It
>is shameful but almost certainly the case that a significant number of left
>wingers in marxism space hold the same view.

Chris, perhaps I am becoming an old fart, but the knee jerk reaction and vigilance of the sort you describe have much less appeal to me than they used to. Just because right wingers support something it does not mean it is automatically wrong and "we" (whoever that is) must automatically oppose it. I'd even go as far as saying that the old left-right divide make less and less sense, as world politics increasingly take various shades of grey.

As far as wars like Chechnya or Kosovo are concerned, they have two distinct aspects. First is what kind of conflict they are, second is how that conflict is represented by western intellectuals.

In regard to the kind of conflict, they all seem to instances of struggle for local control. That is not necessarily a good thing - think American Civil War in which the South fought for the same ("state rights," preservation of traditional local institutions esp. slavery etc.). It is not necessarily a bad thing either - cf. anti-colonialism, and it can be both a good thing and a bad thing at the same time cf. the struggle for American independence from British Crown.

So the bottom line is that a rational thing to do is to see each of those struggle for local control in its own framework, looking into who has what stakes in what outcome and for what reasons. But since most of those conflicts are fairly remote to my own world, I have rather tepid feelings toward most of them with one exception - I find killing of any sort utterly repulsive.

In regard to the interpretation of these conflicts by western intellectuals - as Roland Barthes aptly observed, these conflicts become mere signifiers of the abstract ideas that have significance to those intellectuals. People tend to see those conflicts not for what they are, but for what they signify in the US context. And most of those conflicts signify one and the same thing - a schmaltzy small town fantasy, played in innumerable Hollywood movies, of a bunch of local guys fighting against a distant 'evil empire' - a small cute religious cult of Dalai Lama v. evil Chinese empire, freedom-loving Chechen tribes against corrupt Russian tyranny, meek Kosovars v. Serb war machine, etc.

This small-town sentimentalism makes me puke. And to fight nausea, I tend to root for the opposite team - just to spite groupthink, team spirit and collective self-righteousness of the folks around me. I was a bad soccer fan in the Old World, and I am a bad fan of the bush league games for local independence. Fuck those cutesy-schmutesy local folks! Long live Evil Empire!


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