Roundup of antiwar protestsGreat Britain (In the London Guardian on 29 April, Harvard academic Daniel Goldhagen wrote a disgraceful article extending his argument that all Germans have a moral responsibility for Hitler's atrocities to Serbia. He calls for an all-out war against Yugoslavia, war-crimes trials, the lot. I sent a letter in reply. I doubt if they'll print it, as they haven't printed any of mine since this war started. Paul Flewers)
To the EditorDear Sir There is nothing 'controversial' about Daniel Goldhagen's 'German Lessons' (29 April), he is merely bringing out the unpleasant if logical consequences of the pro-war liberal attitude to the Yugoslav disaster, that the Serbs must be taught a lesson even if it takes the systematic destruction of Serbia's industrial and therefore social infrastructure, and the deaths of many of its citizens. Loath as I am to make comparisons between this war and that of 1939-45, that is what happened to Germany and Japan. Less explicit but nonetheless present in pro-war liberalism is Goldhagen's concept of the 'national guilt' of the Serbs. Much as Goldhagen wants to parade his liberal-democratic credentials, saying that the Serbs are 'legally and morally incompetent' is no different in essence to Hitler's wholesale dismissal of such entire peoples as Gypsies, Jews and Slavs. Isn't it interesting that liberalism tips so easily into militarism and racism?
* * * *
Here's a brief and somewhat subjective report of a demonstration against the Nato war on Yugoslavia in London on 8 May.
News reports said around 2000 people attended, but it was considerably more than that. Much mobilisation by the Socialist Workers Party. Most other left groups in attendance, if in small numbers. No sign of the Alliance for Workers Liberty, who think that self-determination for Kosovo is a more important demand than stopping the bombing. A certain amount of the usual religious/pacifist types. There were a few Serb nationalist types around, some of whom waved royalist tricolours.
I saw no hostility from bystanders, except from a few dozen Albanians shouting at us at one point, waving Union Jacks and Nato flags. I marched with an anarchist contingent, with a banner in English, Serbo-Croat and Albanian saying 'No war but the class war', and 'Stuff nationalism'. We stopped opposite the Albanians with our banner, and they did not like it! Neither did the small number of Serb nationalists on the march.
I don't know what the end of march speeches were like, as I had to leave for another engagement.
Did anyone else on this list attend?
* * * *
I was at the demo as well. I'd estimate the attendance at around 5,000. As Paul says, there was a very large SWP turnout, probably a third or slightly more of the whole total. In my equally subjective view, I got the impression that the vast majority of the demo were aged 35 plus. I bumped into some old friends who are SWP members and marched with them, directly behind some very well heeled Serbian Nationalists who spent the whole time blowing whistles, thus drowning out any of the chants, and giving me earache.
My general impression was that despite itself, the march wasn't very political, beyond 'NATO out' slogans. Also, a lot of people seemed to think that though the bombing was bad, getting rid of Milosovic was the main task. The size of the demonstration was depressing but not surprising, as the impact of the anti-war groups has been slight. They seem to be dominated by pacifists, christians and the SWP. From my limited spot on the demo, I'd say that most of the marchers seemed to be middle class professionals. Like Paul, I didn't hear the speeches as I left just before Hyde Park, being cold, wet and hungry.
I can't really see future anti-war marches being any larger, particulary because a growing number of working class people are politically disenchanted with politics as a whole and though they might not be supportive about the war, they're unlikely to do anything about it. The left has less of an impact on events today than any time in the last 30 years, so they are not going to be able to change things.
One final anecdotal point about the confusion of the left about the war. I was told by one of my friends about a guy who I remember from my time in the SWP, who joined them in the late 1960's and has been a continual member ever since. He's left the SWP because they don't support the bombing of Yugoslavia. Make of that what you will.
* * * *
Thanks Nestor for your comments (and the the Spanish translation of my earlier post - for which I have sent off-list thanks direct).
It is especially helpful to have a comment from another country demonised by the UK establishment (admittedly an attitude now in the past, with the change in public assessment of Margaret Thatcher).
I do feel that the Nestor's assessment (last para of his message below) is the crux of the fascist system (which terminology should ONLY be applied to the system imposed in a major IMPERIALIST country - and never to a dictatorship occurring in a "minor" country, whatever its social system).
How "brain-washing" has succeeded in Britain may be illustrated by comparing reaction to the NATO attack on the remnant-Yugoslavia with the reaction to the 1956 Anglo-French-Israeli attack on Egypt in 1956. Then as now - the Egyptian leader Abdul Nasser was demonised as a brutal dictator - and the attack was justified on the grounds of "keeping open trade routes through the Suez Canal". [In fact, of course, the attack closed the canal by blocking it with sunk shipping].
The weekend following the attack was followed by one of the biggest demonstrations ever in Trafalgar Square, London. I went with my wife and young family, [I was working in London then] and after the speeches a large portion of the crowd (including us) walked up Whitehall to accompany those who were to deliver a protest to the residence of the Prime minister in Downing Street. The government called out the mounted police who rose their horses down Whitehall at the crowd - we escaped their charge by ducking through the arches into Horse Guards Parade - but my daughter, at leat, remembers the fear produced by this mounted charge at a crowd....
And - a couple of days later - the PM (Anthony Eden) retired ill - (possibly mainly due to the fact that he was not supported by his msters in Washington - but seen by us as a victory for a democratic response to an unprincipled and unprovoked attack on another country by our Government).
As a sequel, when I spent a few weeks in Egypt, giving lectures and advice at Ein Shams University, Cairo in 1978, or thereabouts - I found that everywhere I visited were pictures of Abdul Nasser, still regarded as their main national hero.
[During my stay in Egypt I visited the University in Ismailia - and the enlarged and developed Suez Canal - and attended a lunch for visiting academics held in the old offices of the Suez Canal Company, which I kew from my army days in Egypt, where the shrapnel and bullet marks on the structure were pointed out to me - with pride? but certainly not in rancour. On the contrary, on the last morning in Cairo I walked in the park on the island in the Nile (name forgotten) and was accosted by two Egyptian soldiers - who asked, rather ominously, if I was American. I said "No, British", whereupon one of the soldiers grabbed my hand and filled it with a handful of roasted sunflower seeds - as a greeting!]
So despite the fact that the British attack on Egypt was CONDEMNED by the US - it remains that even there the British are excused as if they are unwilling puppets of the US which is the main aggressor in the world!!
But at least in 1956 the British Government used "trade" as the excuse - not "humanitarian considerations". [Where is the humanitarian consideration for the Palestinian refugees? or for East Timor? or ??]
However, the main point is that this year the numbers protesting in Trafalgar Square has of the order of 5,000, rather than the more than 50,000 of 1956 - the "humanitarian" ploy has clearly worked very well for NATO and Blair. Many people are seeing through the ploy, but the feeling that "we must stop the Government" that arose in 1956 is entirely absent - and people are just closing their ears and getting on with their own affairs..... BUT the overwhelming number of letters on the subject in the Eastern Daily Press (Norwich - for a selection see my web-site) and the TV letters services are AGAINST the bombing (Initially the TV was 50:50 - not so now). Nevertheless this coupled with the low turnout in elections this week shows a general public view that democratic rights have little real effect!
Dear Friends near and far,
This is a somewhat lengthy update. Below FYI are three accounts of Monday night's "Town Meeting" in Montpelier, Vermont at which our so-called "progressive" Congressman Bernie Sanders tried to justify his support for the bombing of Yugoslavia and at which he got a well-deserved (and, in my opinion, long-overdue) hot reception from Vermonters on the anti- imperialist Left and in the peace communities.
The first account is by Will Miller, Marxist philosophy professor at the University of Vermont and longtime anti-imperialist activist. . .For another account of the meeting by a member of the Vermont Labor Party who spoke out eloquently against Sanders on the war, see the VLP Web site:
This Web site also features some good photographs of the event, including a photograph of several of the student protesters who were arrested in Sanders' office last week and who came to the Town Meeting linked together with handcuffs and who sat near the front and waved their handcuffs dramatically in Bernie's face from time to time. Bernie was asked repeatedly by some of those he had arrested (now known as the "Sanders 15") how he could justify doing this when they just wanted to talk with him, but he kept dodging the questions -- just as he was totally evasive on why he supports the war when he claims all the time to be against the big corporate interests and the military-industrial complex who are clearly being served, as people like Noam Chomsky have amply demonstrated, by this war.
My sense is that people who were there on Monday and others around the state are definitely not going to let this all slide. Bomber Bernie is likely going to face other similar confrontations when he returns to the state from Washington, D.C. next time, unless he listens to what his constituents are saying, goes back to his more radical roots and changes his support for this illegal and immoral war very soon. . .Through his votes in Congress for the bombing and Clinton's warmaking policies, he and other such politicians have now got the blood of over 1000 Yugoslavian civilians of all ethnicities whom the U.S./NATO have killed at least partly on their hands. Bernie once claimed to have Eugene Debs as his top hero and role-model. Debs, the leader of the U.S. Socialist Party, went to prison for his resolute and principled opposition to the First Imperialist War. What would Debs have thought about his erstwhile disciple?
On another related front, one of Bernie's staffers, the well-known labor writer Jeremy Brecher, resigned yesterday I just learned in disgust with Bernie's support for the bombing. See Brecher's resignation letter:
(Are you listening to this Phil Fiermonte? Phil, then with CISPES, got arrested with me and 42 other people 15 years ago in an occupation of Senator Robert Stafford's office to protest the Senator's support for U.S. imperialist intervention in Central America. Now, he's placed himself on the other side of the fence. As Bernie's head of staff in Burlington, he's the one who had us arrested last week. Phil -- It's time now, I would say, to follow Brecher's example and repent.)
Let's keep up the heat on the warmakers! Stop the bombing now. Negotiate. I think that the initiative is now much more on our side. There are very positive signs of protest against and disunity among NATO members everywhere. It seems that our Sen. Leahy needs some attention from those of us in Vermont, too. Although this hasn't gotten as much publicity as Bernie's pro- war votes in the House, Leahy the loyal "liberal" Democrat cast his vote a couple of days ago for a resolution supporting Clinton's insane warmaking policies when it came before the Senate. (Meanwhile, our Republican Senator Jeffords voted "no". Odd bedfellows. But thanks. At least someone among the politicians is being an independent and doing the right thing)
Marshfield, Vermont http://www.neravt.com/left/ http://www.uvm.edu/~jmoore/
By Will Miller
Apparently, Bernie Sanders has forgotten what a Town Meeting is. Perhaps he
lived in Burlington (too "big" for town meetings) and Washington (scared to
death of town meetings) for so many years he cannot recall how a democratic town meeting
actually works. No one is allowed to appoint themselves the moderator for the town meeting
and persons who are partisans on the issues before the town are excluded from the
moderator's election in favor of persons who can moderate fairly and evenhandedly.
He continued by subjecting the packed room of over 200 people to more than an hour of a panel presentation by people of his own choosing; even then, only one panelist overtly supported his position--Bogdan Denich, a professor from New York City and leader of the pro-imperialist wing of the Democratic Socialists of America. Another panelist, Shirely Gedeon, a UVM Economist whose speciality is the Balkans, undercut Sander's historical analysis and a third, Roddy Cleary, a feminist and religious activist, challenged he support of the bombing directly.
Apparently, with all the college and universities in Vermont, Bernie had to travel far into flatlander territory to find an academic willing to support his "bomb now, talk later" position. In fact, Denich went beyond Bernie's present position and called for sending in ground troops, immediately.
After allotting the panelists and himself 12 minutes each and now more than an hour and a half into the meeting, the people finally had a chance to speak. But only for 2 minutes each, dictated the self-appointed moderator Bernie! And this after having lectured us on how complex the issue of the US/NATO War on Yugoslavia really is. When he was challenged by a few members of the meeting about his undemocratic restriction of peoples' speech, he said anyone who didn't like it could leave. It seems when Sanders was in college in Chicago, he learned more from Mayor Richard J. Daley than from his academic studies.
The overwhelming majority of the people present were against Sander's support for the bombing. Even with all his attempts to control the meeting, the people had at him for more than an hour and a half. He was denounced for his selling out to the Empire and it's war machine and for his support for the 9 year old war against Iraq and his active support for every US intervention since he has been in Congress--Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Liberia, Zaire (Congo), Albania, Sudan, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia. He was further criticized for his refusal to ban or even object to the use of depleted uranium with it's long term toxicity in both Iraq and Yugoslavia. Sanders even tried to escape responsibility for arresting 15 of his constituents in his office one week ago for the crime of wanting to talk to him without an appointment by blaming those arrested for their arrest, as if they went out and brought the police in to arrest themselves.
Sanders was repeatedly unresponsive to questions put to him. He evasiveness and arrogance did not serve him well. In the end, only a few people defended him. Whatever else Sanders gets for his joining the other side in the global struggle for social justice--he has lost the left and the peace movement here is Vermont. Maybe in the next election he will finally have to run officially as the Democrat he has been for the last 9 years! And then the people of Vermont will be free to build the anti-capitalist political movement and party that Sanders has worked so hard to block for more than a decade.
People left the meeting resolving to escalate the antiwar movement before the US escalates the war with an invasion of ground troops. The latest leaks out of NATO sources in Europe suggest that the current plan is to invade with troops by the end of May. Remember Vietnam! Never again!
All Power to the People!
I stayed inside this Sunday morning to watch the TV coverage of the demonstrations. The news was essentially the same as Saturday night, reading the same statements from the government, with some added coverage of the protests in Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Chengdu. They did not report on any of the attacks on the US embassy and consulates in these areas. The government has until now refrained from reporting that NATO says the bombing was an accident, and has not reported that Clinton and NATO have made their lame apologies.
After the news there was a news-in-depth show, the host interviewed some professor from the People's Liberation Army University. The attack on the embassy, said the professor, was part of America's global strategy, and part of its attempt to keep China down. The professor said that there was no need to worry, however, because the Party Central Committee under the leadership of Jiang Zemin, along with the PLA, would protect the interests of the nation. The rest of the program was devoted to the three reporters killed by the bombing, with interviews of their co-workers, friends, family, etc.
I left my apartment around noon to meet my roommate and a Chinese-American friend, who had gone out about half an hour earlier. When I met up with my roommate (a big white guy), he told me that he had been stared at and talked about as soon as he left the apartment. Finally someone asked him where he was from, a huge crowd gathered around when he replied that he was American. The crowd was not threatening, but asked if he supported the attack on the embassy. He replied that of course he did not.
I had heard the previous night that some people had attacked the McDonalds nearby. We went to have a look. The McDonalds was closed and there were some posters pasted on the windows and door, saying "Dissolve NATO!", "Repay Blood with Blood!", "Down with America!". The signs were much more "bloody" than they were yesterday, as many were splattered with red paint. Pasted on the inside of the door was a sign directed at the protesters: "This McDonalds restaurant is entirely managed and operated by Chinese people. We are just as upset and angry at the bombing of the Chinese embassy as all Chinese people!"
Later in the evening, I learned that at least two McDonalds restaurants and a Kentucky Fried Chicken had closed down because all of the workers (mostly university students) had all gone on strike to protest the bombing. But I also heard that another McDonalds about a mile away was still open, and was packed with people.
As we stood looking at the signs on the McDonalds, a crowd began to gather around us. Someone told our Chinese-American friend, "You had better take them out of here," so we turned and started walking down the street. Someone shouted after us "Down with America!" My roommate turned around and used this as an opportunity to speak. He said that although he was American, he opposed the bombing, and that the actions of the US government and the will of the people are often at odds. He said that he has opposed this war from the beginning, and that he also opposes the bombing of the Chinese embassy. The crowd clapped and cheered. It seems as though most people are very quick to accept the argument that the policies of the government and the will of the people can be very different, and that the US government should be blamed for the bombing. Several of the students then said to us that the American government was bad, but the people were good.
But then my roommate told them that he truly thought that the embassy bombing
was an accident. The mood of the crowd turned immediately. One person in the crowd raised
his fingers in defiance "Three missiles! From three different directions!" My
roommate tried to explain that such a mistake is possible, but he was not confident enough
with his Chinese vocabulary to begin discussing errors in coordinates, etc.
As we began to move away a couple of students holding a banner came forth from the back. They spread out the banner in front of us, and it said something about hegemony and human rights. The banner was covered with signatures, and they handed my roommate a pen. I looked at it enough to tell that it didn't say anything that I opposed, and then called out, "I'll sign it!" The crowd cheered. As I was signing, though, someone called out "Is that his real name?" I didn't respond, but instead finished signing and yelled out "Dissolve NATO!" The crowd cheered again, and we turned our backs to leave. As we walked away a couple of the students shouted after us "Down with America!"
More shouts of "Down with America!" came from a couple of groups of migrant workers as they passed us by.
We passed by a newspaper stand selling a small paper about the events of the last evening. The headline of the paper was "Today, China says NO!", the title referring to the very strongly nationalistic (even vaguely fascistic) book "China Can Say No!" published in 1996. According to the paper, 10,000 students marched in Nanjing last night.
One of the pictures on the front page of the paper showed a Polish student in the front line of one of the groups of protesters. I began to think that I should be more active in my support of the progressive aspects of what is going on here. It's not my responsibility to argue that the bombing was an accident--that's Clinton's responsibility. My responsibility is not to criticize or fear the protesters, but to oppose the war. Displaying opposition to the war as an American would also perhaps also undermine some of the nationalistic assumptions that might push the demonstration in a more negative direction. I also started to become more cognizant of the fact that, because of these nationalist assumptions, I am perhaps less likely to be treated poorly or bullied now because I am not white. Although many people guess that I am American, others think that I am an Arab or a Pakistani. I resolved to make contact with some of the demonstrators.
We headed toward the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, and there spoke to the director. She informed us that the American embassy in Beijing issued instructions that US citizens staying in China should avoid going outdoors for the next few days. We ate lunch and began to head back home. My roommate decided to avoid the demonstrators by taking a cab home.
I walked back alone, determined to meet some of the demonstrators. I reached an intersection where a long line of marchers was passing by. I stopped and watched for a while. The signs people carried were definitely more nationalistic than the day before. On Sunday there were many signs saying "Repay Blood with Blood", and many again were splashed with red paint. Other signs focused on the three people killed in the bombing. Others said "Down With America", "Dissolve NATO", and "Stop the Bombing!" The marchers were all chanting slogans.
Several hundred people passed by while I mustered up my courage to do something. I waited for a pause in the chanting, and then shouted out "Strongly Oppose All NATO Violence!" The demonstrators passing by me at that point cheered. I joined in with the crowd and started walking with them. No one spoke to me, and I was still too nervous to think of what to say to them. A couple of students in front of me began to ask each other where I was from. I called out, "Me? I'm American." The crowd around me cheered again. A young photographer from the Xinhua news agency came up and told me how upset he was that his fellow Xinhua reporter had been killed. I apologized, and reiterated my opposition to the US government. He told me that it was not my fault, but the fault of the American government. Another student told me that Americans should study my behavior, and I replied that American people should study his behavior and take to the streets to protest the war. A woman in front of me, clearly uncomfortable with the presence of an American in the crowd, said under her breath, "The American people should apologize to the Chinese". I said replied, "That's true. America should apologize to the Chinese." She did not respond.
A bus with several students hanging out of the windows edged by the crowd. One of the students waved a huge PRC flag, and as he rode by shouted out in English, "Fuck America!" Part of the crowd cheered, probably those who knew what "fuck" meant.
The slogans people shouted today were much more nationalistic on Sunday. During the time that I marched with the crowd, people chanted:
Down with America!
There was a problem with two contradictory slogans: Protect Peace and Repay
Blood with Blood. Both slogans are chanted by the same crowd. Repay Blood with Blood
seemed to be on the ascendent.
As we marched near where I live, I left the demonstration to go and speak to a worker friend of mine. He advised me not to let anyone know where I am from, but I told him that when the demonstrators heard that I am an American who opposes the war they welcomed me.
He pointed out to me that the marchers were all students, and no older people were taking part. I asked why, and he said that after the 1989 demonstrations many more workers were caught and punished by the government than students. The students were characterized as "patriotic", but workers who joined the demonstrations were accused of trying to overthrow the government. So although many workers now supported the students in opposing the bombing, they didn't dare to take to the streets to demonstrate. I recalled then that on television, there were some factory workers interviewed, but they all said that the way that they should oppose the bombing is to work even harder to develop the wealth and power of the country, so that it can't be bullied in the future. Presumably they were directed to say this. Any other actions by workers would apparently keep the country weak and threaten stability.
I had not slept much during the previous night, so I returned home to rest. I went out again at night. The Gulou traffic circle was no longer blocked off, and there were many fewer protesters than there were on Saturday night or in the afternoon. The students had set up a small stage, and although it was clear that there was one leader, a few others got up to chant slogans as well. Three large signs were near the podium. One was a picture of Clinton holding an olive branch, with a skeleton holding a bomb behind him. Another said "Repay Blood with Blood!", and another was an elaborate picture of a bomb, which simply said "No Bombing!" Groups of marchers periodically arrived from the streets coming toward the circle, and they were greeted with cheers by the students around the stand. My anxiety about moving around the crowd had completely disappeared, and I moved in and out freely. I also saw a small group of five or six white students moving through the traffic circle unmolested.
The vast majority of the demonstrators appeared not to hate all Americans as Americans. A minority do have such bitterness, and I think only a very small number of extremists would resort to violence. The nationalists seem to be gaining influence, though. I suppose that the correct thing to do would be for an internationalist to try to challenge the nationalists, and engage them in a public dialogue. I should have been braver in this respect. I'll bet that they would have let me speak on the stand.
I don't think that Americans who are not hesitant to express opposition to the bombing are at risk at all. As the demonstrations become more nationalistic, Americans who are not opposed to the bombing and Americans who are too frightened by the crowd to say anything are perhaps at risk.
Several people reported on May Day celebrations at the list. Should I tell you that at Havana, over one million persons paraded through the Plaza de la Revolucion, or you might know it already?. It was a sight to see. Hundreds of tourists were watching that river of people at the banks, and clicked their cameras, and gaped in awe, and could not believe their eyes.
It was a feast of the people. People were happy and exultant, and noisy, and cheering. Even more people than those that went there last year, which were well over a million then too. Maybe it had to do with the way the country is recovering from the worst crisis ever, when Cuba lost 35% of its GDP, or maybe it was because we are flooding Central America, Haiti and South Africa with doctors and nurses, or because for the first year after three in a row we are going to finally be able to fulfill the goals of the sugar harvest, or because people see what the whole world is coming to, and understand better than ever what has been achieved in Cuba, at an enormous cost.
Lots of hand made posters asked to stop the bombing of Yugoslavia. People felt that in the midst of our difficulties, conflicts, contradictions, insufficiencies and, most important of all, happiness, in the center of Europe, a whole country was held hostage under a deluge of ammunition for "humanitarian reasons". I have read a lot on sovereignty in the list recently. Sovereignty was there at the Plaza exulting of independence and understanding that it is all the result of toil and effort, dignity and principles.
Yugoslavia today is what Cuba was in October 1962. I was 12 years old then, but I can remember very well my cousin, who was 17, dressed to go to serve in an antiaircraft unit, and my envy since I was not allowed to follow him. Cubans lived through that. We were severed of all diplomatic (and trade) relations with the rest of our neighbors in order to quarantine them from infection of an "antidemocratic social system". We can understand very well the Yugoslav situation. We can understand very well that this war has little to do with humanitarian reasons, and that it has a lot to do with spheres of influence, markets, and imperialist World politics.
And there is no way anyone could be hypnotized into thinking that bombs will make it easier for anyone in the former Yugoslavia. I can not see how those bombings will not increase hate in every direction possible. Of Serbs against every other, of Kosovars against Serbs, of Europeans among themselves and against Americans. I live in a multicultural, pluri-ethnic and ecumenical society which has profited a lot of mingling in every possible combination to a degree that no one is pure anything... and no one cares. I respect every other Cuban no matter his creed, color, belief or convictions. The only thing you can not do in Cuba, is to actively engage in destroying what we have so hardly built against all odds, and under the hostility of the most powerful enemy in the whole World. The only thing that will be totally repelled by the immense majority of the population will be to actively engage in courting that enemy into the delusion that this country can be bent to serfdom again.
And that brings me back to the Plaza, where that immense majority of the population went to parade because they wanted to do so, more than ever, and where, at the end of the parade, people flowed to the center to sing The International, understanding that they sang for every proletarian in the World, wherever they might have been today.
Sergio Jorge Pastrana
Vancouver Just a quick note on Mac's post (I'll write more later in upcoming days, but I'm exhausted after a long day of marches/demos, having to physically defend myself on a "peace walk", and a rather invigorating May Day celebration with our comrades in the Vancouver Kurdish, Farsi, and Iraqi communities):
As I had mentioned in a previous post, eight socialist groups in the city who work together in the broad based Vancouver Anti-War coalition (oddly, Mac, I haven't seen you at coalition meetings yet: they are held every Monday night at the Kalayaan Centre at 451 Powell Street) and who are opposed to NATO, the bombings, and any "western" intervention in the Balkans whatsoever, but who take a minority position in the coalition by agree on the position of self-determination for Kosova (actually, Mac didn't tell all of the story -- all of our material spells Kosova with an "a") have been working closely in a socialist current here in the city. We have planned a joint forum, produced a joint statement (which I forwarded to the list several days ago), and have done joint work, both within the coalition (building the anti-war movement larger and bringing in trade union and student union representation into the coalition) and within our own current.
As such, we were at the "End The Arms Race" "walk for peace" and rally today... the demands put forward by End The Arms Race (a Vancouver-based NGO which has been essentially dormant and moribund since 1992, when they discontinued their tradition of annual "peace walks" that would bring out up to a hundred thousand people) were: "Stop The Bombing" and "Negotiate Peace" (I'm not exactly clear by what they meant by "negotiate peace" -- End The Arms Race called for sanctions on Iraq in '90/91 (although they've backpeddled on that more recently after it became completely obvious that sanctions have killed hundreds of thousands of people in that area).
So, within that political context, we went to the demonstration with our leaflet for our jointly sponsored forum (which contained the text of our joint statement), as well as a tremendous stack of coalition leaflets (our current were virtually the only people handing out the 6000 leaflets that the coalition had directed me to print this past week), and a thousand of these silly little flags (which were quite cute) which said (similar to Mac's paraphrasing, but not exactly the same):
No to NATO Hands Off Yugoslavia Self-determination for Kosova
In any case, we were physically attacked on the demonstration (it was actually the most violent "peace walk" I've been on since the early 1980's, when the CPCML, which Mac wrote about a few days ago, would physically attack the peace demonstrations with 2x4's). The attackers were holding Chetnik flags and wearing, in most cases, chetnik badges on their jackets. Luckily for the dozen or so comrades who were being attacked, a number of members of the Vancouver Anti-War Coalition (who don't agree with our position on self-determination for Kosova, but who respect the work we do in building the coalition) came to our physical defense and helped to prevent any serious injuries from occuring.
The Chetnik movement, as most comrades on this list will know, were Serbian irregular army from WWII at first supported by the Allies, but since 1943 widely regarded as pro-fascist. In any case, they fought against Yugoslav partisans and, after the war, they fought the communists -- in their attempt to re-instate the Serbian monarchy. In recent years they have reemerged as a leading power in the aggression in Croatia and Bosnia. The same flag was seen in many places occupied by them (usually volenteers - very similar to the american far-right militia movement) -- the most famous is the entrance of Chetniks in Vukovar in 1992 (?, if I recall correctly). Anyway, the flag, and the Chetnik movement, is now connected mostly with Seselj, leader of the most rightwing party in Serbia.
The responses from these Chetniks was quite interesting (beside the physical attacks, which were not all that interesting, and more than a bit disconcerting -- I'm still resting a fairly sore shoulder and calf) -- their arguments were as follows:
- Kosovo *is* Serbia - The Albanians in Kosovo are illegal aliens and most of them are undocumented - "Kosova" (ie., the spelling) is used only be illiterates in the region (ie. Albanians)
- Kosovo will have self-determination only after the last Albanian is dead in that area.
- If Quebec were to declare separation, Canada would have every right (and should) do the same thing as Serbia is doing.
Judge for yourself, Mac, whose side to take in that discussion.
The Serbian community is incredibly divided politically. There was a young Serb youth (who we had never seen before on any of the prior demonstrations) who was carrying a placard which was critical of Milosevic, as well as of NATO -- he was physically harassed by identifiable Chetniks as well at the rallying point (the Art Gallery), and we had to enlist the help of several comrades to surround him and protect him from the proto-fascists, who were calling him a traitor, etc.
I'm certain I'll have more to add to the general discussion of the war as time permits in upcoming days -- but given how late at night it is (and that I've gotta leave for Seattle at 8:30 in the morning to attend a May Day celebration there and discuss with activists in that area on organizing against the World Trade Organization conference which is occuring in that city in the fall, which will be similar in character to APEC in Vancouver in '97), I'll cut it short at this point...
PS: Mac -- "Mr. Tracy" is my grandfather. I'd prefer that you call me, as you always have, Tony :-)