A letter from an Argentinian to a Serb

Dear Andrej,

I am very honored that you consider any of my postings worth a comment. I have been following your own postings with great interest, and I was waiting for an opportunity to make some comment on your ill temper with the "anti Serb Australians". I am a "pro Serb Argentinian", which marks a difference, though both Australians and Argentinians belong to the same hemisphere we belong to different worlds! First World, Third World...

Perhaps this is the moment for me to write that comment. And perhaps the best way to begin is by telling you, not what I understand as "petty nationalisms" in the Balkans, but what I understand as "petty nationalism" here in Latin America, where I do my political work.

I believe that the whole of Latin America is a disjointed nation, much in the sense that Germany or Italy were disjointed up to the late 1800s, and certainly much in the sense the Yugoslavs were a disjointed nation up to the early years of this century. I also believe that the road to socialist revolution in Latin America passes through the reconstitution of the National Union of Latin America. Any other Latin American nationalism is -in this view- "petty nationalism". But even "petty nationalism" can be, so to say, two sided. It can work _for_ or _against_ the great goal. When Chile and Argentina, in 1978, almost went to war for three stupid islands to the South of Tierra del Fuego we are witnessing these petty nationalisms in action against the national union. When, during the mid 1950s, Argentina or Brasil defended their own industrial sector and tried to establish an alliance against imperialist pressure, the petty nationalisms worked in the right direction.

Some "petty nationalisms", moreover, cannot _but_ act in the sense of the unification. Others, cannot _but_ act in the sense of further desegregation. Belize is a case study for the second possibility, where the "independence" can be sustained only through direct British support. If I were a beliceno, I would struggle for integration with my neighbors of Spanish origin within a Caribbean Federation on the road to Latin American unity, that is I would struggle for the dissolution of the "independent Belize". Panama is a queer example of the first possibility. Panama is an absolutely artificial creation, it was made up by a gang of swindlers (led by a Bunau Varilla) in the early 1900s. The country was segregated from Colombia because Colombia had the queer idea that if the Panama canal was to traverse Colombian land, there should be some kind of compensation for Colombians. The United States, with support from some European powers, generated a "revolution" and "independized" Panama. Now, this dirty birth nonwithstanding, Panamanian "petty nationalism" has seen itself forced to raise the slogan of the nationalization of the Panama Channel. In so doing, it confronted American imperialism, and it generated one of the most interesting moves towards national unification of Latin America.

This said, on to the Balkans. I am, as a rule of thumb, for those petty nationalisms that cannot _but_ struggle for the reunification of the Southern Slavs, and (best IMHO) for the constitution of a general Socialist Federation of Balkan Peoples that may eventually include Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Albania, and even (who knows) Greece and Hungary perhaps. The candidates for this role are few, and Serbs are the most important and bold of them. I believe that no matter how much this war costs, no matter what amount of war business can be done, no matter how many jobs will be created in Europe and the USA thanks to the attack to Yugoslavians, the NATO is waging a war against the only nationality in the former Yugoslavia that can (and that, in its own interest, should) struggle for the reconstitution of the lost unity.

The problem with Serb nationalism, however, is that without a socialist framework of mind, that is relapsing into petty bourgeois or bourgeois nationalism ("bourgeois", in Yugoslavia? is there a bourgeoisie worth noting in Yugoslavia now?), it may also work against that goal.

History is asking from the Serbs a great generosity, a generosity that is seldom asked from anyone. That, in the service of their own patriotism (and I make a difference between patriotism and nationalism outside the First World countries), they generate a policy that will make the remaining nationalities of the former Yugoslavia bend towards reunification against the dissolution that has been imposed from outside. After the Second World War, the decision to leave a huge chunk of Serbs outside of the Serb Republic was the way in which the Serbs served this objective; in the same sense, they also darkened the hues of the Serb anti-Communist anti-Fascist Mihailovic and tended to be lenient on the Ustashi and the 55th. Division of the German Army (formed by Bosnians and Albanians). This policy helped keep Yugoslavia unified until 1990, but it proved disastrous afterwards. General Anders in Poland was not a Fascist, and Mihailovic was some kind of an Anders. But in order to stiffle the debate between nationalities in the Balkans, Tito decided to make of Mihailovic a monster and to silence the more important contributions received by the Fascists there: those from the Croatians, Bosnians and Albanians. This generosity, based on optimistic assumptions as to the development of the world scene, proved wrong.

Now, the task of the Serbian petty nationalism is more complex: the Serbs must find a way to win over any other Yugoslav (and Balkan) nationality to their cause, must find a way for the Southern Slavs to accept their hardly won right to leadership of a democratic union of peoples, in the same way the Rhinelander bourgeoisie was taken into acceptance of the Prussian leadership of German issues in 1870. The difference (and it only makes things more difficult) is that while the bourgeoisie could be easily lured away of their democratism by the magnet of enhanced business opportunities, a socialist union must rely on much harder rock, on a more solid foundation.

So, to sum up. Petty nationalisms in the Balkans are those which -though may defend just interests, and thus deserve all my support and the support of anyone who cares to be a revolutionary- aim at a level below the Union of the Southern Slavs or the Balkan Federation. They may be reactionary (as currently is the Albanian one) or revolutionary (as Serb nationalism), they may choose to attempt an alliance with the West (Slovenes, Croatians) thus becoming hirelings of the imperialist bourgeoisie, or remain isolated after a dictum by Stalin (Bulgaria). There are many possibilities. But while a petty nationalism in the Balkans struggles for unification, this is a revolutionary petty nationalism. Because unification in Yugoslavia, after the Second World War, is the same thing as socialism. The events of the last ten years have only heavily underlined this.

Hope I could explain myself. By the way, I admire the endurance of you Serbs, and only wish my own people were able of just half that effort!

Nestor.