Stopping Hitler versus stopping Milosevic

Why do you think I want to promote the idea that the imperialist bourgeoisie is a reliable friend of the Kosovan people?

There is a fair range of possibilities between them not caring a rat's ass, and being the only true and reliable friends of the Kosovans.

LP's position is not helped by keeping quiet about the national oppression of the Kosova Albanians and implying that anyone objecting to it is doing so in order to support their imperialist bourgeoisie.

There are contradictions within the ruling class and within members of the ruling class. 4 years ago I kept on denouncing the imperialist nature of the appeasement policies of the British government that was sending in troops to Bosnia, for patronising humanitarian reasons to escort food parcels past Serbian tanks positioned around Sarajevo shelling it routinely month after month. That was imperialist, in class character, although not a shot was fired by those troops, and in some ways *because*, despite being there, not a shot was fired by them!

But when Blair says of 2 million Kosovo Albanians, 'these are our fellow human beings' it is more progressive than saying 'these are just another lot of back-biting balkans', or 'they are muslims, and we all know what we think about muslims'.

Clinton likes to be loved by everyone, but on a personal level it does seem that he is less racist than some. He is particularly at ease with afro-americans, and it seems to me likely he could feel the obligation to treat muslims the same way. Certainly Clinton in the earlier 90's was making more ethical noises about the muslims in Bosnia than John Major was.

But can the "imperialist bourgeoisie" be trusted? No.

Jon is right that "If the troops go in, part of their job will be to keep the Albanians firmly in line."

This secenario would be to send in 30,000 troops to defend a few territorial enclaves agree a cease fire that would effectively partition Kosovo on apartheid lines, and prevent the KLA organising guerillas to harass and defeat the Serbian troops.

The less imperialist line would be to send in ground troops, arm the KLA, and negotiate hard for human rights organisations, press agencies and all the features of civil society to have free access to all parts of Kosovo. (It is noteworthy that NATO briefings say little about the structures of civil society.)

Jon is notable for his reports on how he tries to discuss politics with other working people. Opinion in favour of sending in ground troops is less strong in the USA but it is growing substantially in Britain and France.

The purpose of spelling out a more progressive as against a less progressive basis for doing so, is in order to unite with the progressive feelings of ordinary people that others like them should not be expelled from their homes, but to do it in a way that relevantly criticises the limitations of the approach of the imperialist bourgeoisie.

That is not a reformist way, it is the way of revolutionary reform.

It does something to aid the correction of an injustice in another continent but in a way that gets a hearing which undermines the claim of the imperialist bourgeoisie to lead the campaign for peace and justice in the world.

Now if you hold the same views as LP, such approach at all would be completely wrong because

a) the only line should be revolutionary defeatism of ones own imperialist bourgeoisie

b) There are no contradictions within the ruling class and within the imperialist state.

BUT I would say that an approach like the one I have outlined (which could be improved through discussion) would be better at uniting with people and getting a progressive point of view across. It would also be better in a small way at actually changing the world, rather than just analysing it with however devastating a critique.

Chris Burford


In my message quoted below I picked out one line from the message from Philip Ferguson (the generality of which I agreed with) a line which clearly indicated to me a narrow approach to the history of WW2. My response was too brief - and clearly was put in a way which was asking for a slanging match, which I did not intend.

However, I DO think that a blanket condemnation of WW2 is fundamentally misguided and shows a tendency to argue from abstract principles - (a proceeding always condemned by Marx as utopian socialist) rather than a detailed class analysis.

Clearly WW2 had many aspects, but, having lived through it - I regard the way its aftermath led to the extension and success (very partial when seen from the view of the world situation today) of the anti-colonial struggle as being every bit as important as the defeat of European fascism. And I fail to understand how ANYONE in the Marxist tradition can suggest it was a time to stand aside because Germany, Italy, Britain and USA were (and are) imperialist powers. How Britain and USA were turned from their tacit support of fascism from the time of the Italian attack on Abyssinia, through the Spanish civil war and the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia to participation with the USSR in a war to liberate Europe from fascism - is a story with many twists and turns - and 1939 to 1941 was a time of great difficulty for all on the left - and 1939-1940 is still generally regarded in Britain as the time of the "phoney war". [And I can well remember saying in 1943-4 - they'll HAVE to open the Second Front soon or the Red Army will liberate the whole of Europe - in the event D-Day was none too soon, and London was well battered by Hitler's V1s and V2s, with the bases just captured in the nick of time!]

Yes, Churchill saw the war as "Defense of the British Empire" and the USA was precipitated into what, had it not been for declaration of war on the USA by Hitler, could have been seen as a completely separate "imperialist war" between USA and Japan. BUT these wars were, in the event, tied together such that for a time (1941-45) the USSR-GB-USA-Free French alliance came to be seen (and WAS in its most important aspects) a continuation of the fight against fascism starting in Europe with the Spanish Civil War.

Being in the Army 1944-47 I know only too well how fragile that alliance was, with British plans (and in 1945 the Churchill government was replaced by a Labour government, in which the Foreign Secretary was the rabid anti-communist trade union leader Ernest Bevin!!!) to ensure their power base in Europe by re-installing the royal family in Greece (I was in Venezia Giulia at the time, with fears that our Brigade might be sent to Greece - but after the peace treaty with Italy we were moved to Egypt for participation in the Palestine conflict, and in November 1947 I came home for demob), "to keep the "reds in their place" in Italy and and France, and in plans for "the next war against Russia".

These were all issues in which I and many others were in conflict with our Government - but that does not make WW2 simply an "imperialist war". It is necessary to distinguish between the motives of governments and the objective needs and aims of the working class and the colonial peoples..... for whom WW2 was a "war of liberation". No Marxist worth his salt COULD stand aside in that war, and it is worrying to an oldster like me to see blanket condemnations of WW2 banded about on this list.

There is a lot more I could add, but perhaps the above is sufficient to indicate my attitude - which underline my assessment of the situation in the Balkans as Nato aggression.

And by the way - see how I sign myself:

Paddy Apling

As most people know, the American Trotskyist leaders were imprisoned by FDR under the Smith Act for speaking out against WWII. For the Fourth International, WWII was a complex phenomenon that incorporated 4 wars in one:

1. An interimperialist war between plunderers in which the United States and England were just as reactionary as Germany and Japan.

2. A just war of self-defense by the Soviet Union against Hitlerism.

3. A just war of oppressed nationalities against their colonial overlords whether allied or axis, including Japan, England and France.

4. A just war by working-people and peasants in Nazi-occupied Europe. The Resistance in France was the best example of such a just war.

The Trotskyists were imprisoned under the Smith Act not for "opposing" WWII, but for exposing the imperialist motives of the ruling-class as indicated in point one above. Since the ruling class prefers to keep its vampire profit lust a secret, they will deny freedom of speech to leftists who want to point this truth out. They imprisoned the SWP leaders for the same reason they went after Daniel Ellsberg during Vietnam. It is considered deeply subversive to break through the propaganda lies of capitalist governments when they go to war. Some leftists, including the CPUSA, identified the interests of the workers with the war aims of the superrich. US soldiers died by the tens of thousands in the Pacific theater to make the region safe for rubber, oil, banking, construction, railroad and shipping companies. We resented another vulture--Japan--picking at the flesh of China, the Philippines, and other of our post-1898 conquests. This did not matter to Earl Browder, who viewed FDR as being the reincarnation of Lincoln. Needless to say, the only slavery in the Far East was wage slavery and FDR had no intention of uprooting that.

Furthermore, the SWP advocated a revolutionary armed struggle against Hitler modeled on the Spanish Civil War popular militias. They argued that armies under ruling-class leadership with their officer corps would not be as effective as those under working-class control. While they were doomed to be in a small minority due to the ideological lock the CP had on left opinion back then, their case was actually quite powerful. If you study the Spanish Civil War, you will learn that the POUM militias were far more effective than the CP-led regular army which was defending the interests of the Spanish landlords while fighting against Franco. When the Popular Front troops repressed strikers and peasants occupying the land on rural estates, they ensured Franco's victory. All this is depicted in Ken Loach's "Land and Freedom".

Louis Proyect

Chris Burford wrote, "On politics I think that we are moving towards global government. We cannot resist this. We can try to outflank it. We can try to divert it in a progressive direction."

Chris seems to have been making a rather curious argument. Perhaps, one of the most surprising aspects of it has been the fact that his argument concerning global government and why Marxists should collaborate with their own bourgeoisie in its formation is analogous to the arguments that Marx & Engels gave for their support of German unification even under the conservative auspices of Bismarck. For Marx & Engels, German unification (even under right-wing auspices) was progressive because in their judgement, a united Germany would be able to industrialize more rapidly, thereby leading to the more rapid development of an industrial proletariat which would in turn grow increasingly stronger politically. Also, a united Germany would almost immediately become one of the great European powers, thereby constituting a check on Czarist Russia which Marx & Engels viewed as a fountainhead for reactionary politics in Europe.

Marx & Engels also gave their critical support to the Prussian side in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. They supported that war precisely because they correctly foresaw that Bismarck would use to accomplish German unification. They also correctly predicted that the war would end with the defeat of Louis Napoleon, which would open the door for revolutionary uprisings in France. In fact, following the capitulation of Louis Napoleon, Marx & Engels withdrew their support for the Prussians when they saw that Prussian troops would be used to help Thiers crush the Paris Commune.

Chris Burford seems to be pushing arguments analogous to those that Marx & Engels used to justify their support for Prussia in the Franco- Prussian War. In this case, Burford sees the war against Yugoslavia (Serbia) as one which will help facilitate the political unification of the EU. Just as M & E saw the unification of Germany as progressive, so Burford see the political unification of Europe as similarly progressive. Likewise, just as the war against France, led to the destruction of a reactionary regime, so Burford sees Serbia as being governed by a reactionary, "social fascist" regime. Apparently, Chris thinks a military defeat of this regime would open the door for its possible overthrow and the emergence of more progressive forces within Serbia.

By framing Chris' argument in this way in analogy with M &E's arguments for their critical support for Prussia, I have attempted to present his arguments in their strongest form. By the same token, this helps to expose a number of assumptions, that merit examination, and which to me seem rather questionable. Is the political integration of the EU as progressive a step as Chris thinks? I think that one's answer to that question will depend in large part on whether one thinks that capitalism can still be progressive in our time, or whether as most contemporary Marxists seem to believe (although there are some notable exceptions), capitalism has long since past the time when it could play a progressive role. To many observers, the political integration of the EU looks more likely to augment the power of international capital, and will make it not only harder to overthrow or even to influence in a reformist manner.

Chris has also been pushing analogies to WW II when Marxists did collaborate with "their" bourgeoisies in the struggle against fascism and National Socialism. He sees the situation in Yugloslavia as constituting a parallel situation which merits a similar collaboration. But it is hard to perceive the parallels that Chris sees. WW II constituted a life-and-death struggle between the fascist powers and an alliance of the bourgeois democracies with the former USSR. A victory for the fascists would have resulted in the destruction of the USSR and of the bourgeois democracies in the West. The destruction of bourgeois democracy under these circumstances would also have resulted in the destruction of the workers movements in the West as well. No such stakes are apparent in the present conflict in the Balkans. On the contrary it seems likely that the present war, there will have disastrous consequences for the left opposition within Serbia, not to speak of what is happening in Kosova. At this juncture it is hard to envision an outcome that will be particularly salutary from a progressive standpoint.

Also, Chris has characterized the Serbian regime as "social fascist." Putting aside for the moment, the question of whether the exact nature of that regime is particularly relevant in evaluating the appropriateness of NATO's actions against it, I would think that Chris would prefer to shy away from "social fascism" as an analytic category. The term is of Stalinist origins, and one think that a reading of how Stalin's contemporary acolytes like Lou Godena and Adolfo Olaechea have used this term in discussion on marxism-international would be sufficient to immunize any rational person from ever using this term again.

Jim Farmelant

Are the Serbs fascist?

The words "Hitler" and "Nazis" have been bandied about quite freely just about everywhere the past few weeks. Here is what real Nazis, in this case Heinrich Himmler, sound like:

"What happens to a Russian, to a Czech, does not interest me in the slightest. What the nations of the world can offer in the way of good blood of our type, we will take, if necessary by kidnapping their children and raising them here with us. Whether nations live in prosperity or starve to death like cattle interests me only in so far as we need them as slaves to our Kultur; otherwise it is of no interest to me. Whether 10,000 Russian females fall dead from exhaustion while digging an anti-tank ditch interests me only insofar as the anti-tank ditch for Germany is finished." Quoted in William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich p. 937-8.

The philosopher Jonathan Bennett in his paper "The Conscience of Huckleberry Finn" in Philosophy 49, draws a distinction between sympathy and morality. It is better to act in accordance with the former rather than the latter because sympathy is more or less constant while morality may be atrocious. Himmler is an example of sympathy with bad morality. Huck Finn also has sympathy and bad morality. Himmler acts out of his bad morality against his sympathy while Huck Finn acts out of sympathy against his bad morality when he saves Jim. Himmler saw his policies as being hard to implement while still retaining one's sympathies. More from the same speech:

"I also want to talk to you quite frankly about on a very grave matter...I mean...the extermination of the Jewish race...Most of you must know what it means when 100 corpses are lying side by side or 500 or 1,000. To have stuck it out at the same time--apart from exceptions caused y human weakness--to have remained decent fellows, that is what has made us hard. This is a page of glory in our history which has never been written and is never to be written."

According to Himmler, the weak take the easy way out and just eliminate their human sympathies. Himmler praises the stronger and more glorious course of action which is to retain one's sympathies while acting in direct violation of them.

"We have exterminated the Jews without our leaders and their men suffering any damage in their minds and souls. The danger was considerable, for there was only a narrow path between the Scylla of their becoming a heartless ruffians unable any longer to treasure life and the Charybdis of their becoming soft and suffering nervous breakdowns."

So, one can remain a "decent fellow" and not become a "heartless ruffian" by retaining one's sympathies even if one does not act in accordance it them. By contrast, Huck Finn is a character who acts from sympathy in helping Jim escape. According to Huck's morality which is that of the antebellum South, it is wrong to help Jim to escape and right to turn him in. In our morality, it is right to help Jim escape and wrong to turn him in. Huck's sympathies win out and he helps Jim escape which is what we would think is the morally correct thing to do. The comparison of Huck Finn and Himmler shows that one should act with one's sympathies and not with the morality one has been taught.

Sam Pawlett

Those who support the war of aggression against Yugoslavia charge the opponents to this war of not answering questions about atrocities. An example for the conclusion of such an argumentation:
"I consider the war of the Albanians of Kosovo for their independence to be a just war. It is quite right that public ministers should be carefully cross-questioned about their evidence. But I consider that there is an important element of truth to Scharping's assumption, which Hinrich did not answer. Kosovo has been treated as one large concentration camp with the Albanian population driven over the border."

We do not have to speculate about atrocities in the - as Wallerstein calls it "low-level" [1] - civil war in Kosovo. And we do not have to speculate about atrocities with several hundreds of thousands victims at earlier stages of the high-level civil war during the process of breaking up the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. We know for certain that there have been atrocities and victims both in the civil war in Kosovo and at earlier stages of the civil war in former Yugoslavia. And we know for certain that the atrocities were aggravated after NATO started the bombing of the sovereign state of Yugsolavia. This aggravation - more violent terror against civilians, higher death-toll in all parts of Yugoslavia, more refugees and more expellees in and outside Kosovo - was deliberately accepted by both the military leaders of NATO and its respective political organs, including governments and parliamentary majorities of the NATO member states, by starting the war of aggression - regardless of whether in the tactical form of air warfare without or including ground troops. War victims and the huge number of refugees are now used by the NATO - and hence by the German defence minister Scharping (SPD) - to justify the war of aggression once more and in order to continue to divert the attention from the violation of international law. And I am not surprised that justifying a "just war" a person tends to exaggerate only one part (atrocities committed by one side in the former negotiations and their aggravation by military intervention) and to keep quiet about the other part (new terror and bloodshed against civilians).

I repudiate the constant insinuations of those who back the NATO war of aggression that the opponents to this war would not notice the atrocities of a civil war, that they would not condemn these atrocities committed by all participating sides, and that they consistently would have backed or would back the politics of the Milosovic regime.

And I repudiate the constant comparisons of atrocities in a situation of civil war to the type of concentration camps and extermination camps run by the Nazi regime. The atrocities in a civil war are worse enough - you do not have to exaggerate them. The comparison of these civil war atrocities to the holocaust is used by the supporters of the war of aggression in order to get another argument by devious means. And this comparison does not gain more persuasiveness when it is done by a member of the current German social democratic and green party coalition government which alarmingly has no sense of history.
Those who are now backing the NATO war of aggression will have to politically justify *all* the results of this wrong method to solve a political, economical, social, and juridical conflict, especially the new instability within the international political institutions (UNO, OSCE) due to the renewed and continuing violation of international law which now have opened all doors to the expansion of the current war and to repetitions of this inhuman way of conflict resolution.

I disapproved and I am still disapproving of the bombing of Belgrade, Novi Sad and Pristina by any "international community" as a means to solve the conflicts within Yugoslavia.

I keep to the conviction that war has to be ostracized as a means or method of politics. The undeclared war of aggression against Yugoslavia must be stopped immediately.

The obvious lack of success of the military attacks must be taken as an opportunity to return to and to resume political means in order to strive for non-violent solutions by negotiations.

I support the following political demands (seen on a statement circulating for signing within the German trade union movement):

*** immediate stop of the bombings

*** immediate stop of persecutions and expulsions in Kosovo

*** Summoning a Balkan conference with the participation of representatives of all concerned states and representatives of all national communities of the states concerned

*** regulation of conflict under United Nations control

*** effective emergency relief for all refugees in and outside Kosovo.

Hinrich Kuhls

PS - Note:
[1] "Juridically, the bombing is an act of aggression. It is totally unjustified under international law. The Yugoslav government did nothing outside its own borders. What has been going on inside its borders is a low-level civil war into which the U.S. and other powers intruded themselves as mediators. The mediation took the form of offering both sides an ultimatum to accept a truce on dictated terms, to be guaranteed by outside military forces. At first, both sides turned this down, which upset the U.S. very much. They explained to the Kosovars that they couldn't bomb the Serbs unless and until the Kosovars accepted the truce terms. The Kosovars finally did so, and now the U.S./NATO are bombing." Immanuel Wallerstein: "Bombs Away!" - Comment No. 13, April 1, 1999 (!en.htm )

Some days ago the social democratic German Defence Minister, Rudolf Scharping, SPD leader from 1993 to 1995, used the term concentration camp in connection with the expulsions and civil war atrocities in Kosovo. This was based on a report by German TV channel ZDF that the central stadium of Pristina was reportedly used as a concentration camp - a report which was not only denied by the same channel on Thursday night but described as part of wartime propaganda.

Yesterday, Rudolf Scharping had been asked to comment on this remark during a press conference. He did not reiterate the term concentration camp.

In this joint press conference the leading figures within the red-green German Government, Schroeder (Chancellor), Scharping, and Fischer (Foreign Secretary), repeated their exhortations to hold out, i.e. to continue the bombing, accompanied by describing the fatal situation of the refugees in and outside Kosovo. The main argument for continuing the war of aggression now runs that the deportation of the Kosovo Albanians had been prepared long before the bombing started and that the expulsion had been planned by Milosovic in order to destabilize the neighbouring countries.

The governmental exhortations are in contrast to the emerging opposition of members of the Social Democratic Party and the Green Party at grass root level against this war af aggression. It looks like that the shock which the left wings of the SPD and the Green Party have been suffering from for more than a week is now giving way for some cautious opposition within these parties.

Hinrich Kuhls

Concerning the winning over of Jewish public opinion against the Serbs, it is interesting to note that according to the press coverage that I have seen, in Israel as opposed to the US there has been considerable pro-Serb sentiment especially within the Israeli right. This is because many Israelis remember that during WW II Serbs and Jews in Yugoslavia fought side by side against the Croatian fascists. Also, it is said that in Israel the large population of immigrants from Russia has been rather sympathetic to the Russian position on the Kosovo war. And it is said that many Israeli rightists find the Serbs' notion of Kosovo as their Jerusalem as one that they can identify with.

Jim Farmelant