Monday, December 18, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Three [12]



Johnstone's scorn for nearly all the non-Serb peoples of the former Yugoslavia takes many forms and adopts a wide variety of tactics. She sets up her assault on Slovenia and Slovenes at the end of the section on Serb nationalism. Having claimed that the vagaries of the 1974 constitution empowered increasingly nationalist elites in each of the republics at the expense of the Federal government (an argument that is not without merit), she turns her attention to the elites in each republic--rather selectively.

Having argued that secession was nothing more than a continuation of the breakdown of the Federal center after Tito's death (not a word about the rise of belligerent Serbian nationalism, or of Slobodan Milosevic at all in this chapter), she makes the further claim that the republics weren't fleeing from oppression or inequity but towards Western European markets and capital. The leadership of the individual republics scrambled to be first in line to suck up to the European Community (this was before the switch to the EU). This, essentially, is the core of the Michael Parenti the-West-destroyed-Yugoslavia-because-it-was-socialist delusion.

Since all the nations of the former Eastern Bloc were also jockeying for a piece of the pie, the republics of Yugoslavia had to find their own trump cards in order to play on western capitalist sympathies. Their answer, Parenti and Johnstone want you to believe, was to cynically claim they were fleeing Communist oppression from Belgrade.

It's an interesting theory, hampered somewhat by its complete disengagement from reality, but we'll let that pass. Our concern here is the uses to which Johnstone puts this interpretation:

"Throughout East-Central Europe, the light at the end of the tunnel of the Soviet Bloc was the prospect of membership of [sic] the European Union. Far from contributing to a sense of solidarity in the region, this shared ambition often took the form of a race between leaders of East-Central European countries to win the favor of the Brussels institutions by demonstrating that they were more "Western" and "European" than the others."

I always thought that the criteria the EU was looking for involved things like free markets, judicial transparency, human rights records, functioning infrastructure, and so on--maybe Johnstone knows something that the rest of us, including diplomats, economists, and government officials are somehow unaware of.

At any rate, she's established her sordid picture of desperate post-Communist nations scurrying to prove their "Europeaness" to the powers that be in the West (jettisoning a unity that she wants the reader to believe would have otherwise existed between these varied states with often contentious histories) not only to paint a scornful general picture of the immediate post-Cold War aftermath. This is, as I said, a very deliberate segue to the section on Slovenia. The above-quoted paragraph--the end of section 1--concludes thusly:

:As the richest, most northern and most western of the federated republics, ambitious Slovenians (with encouragement from Austria in particular) saw their republic as most eligible to jump the Yugoslav ship and get aboard "Europe." This prospect was by far the most powerful incentive to Slovenia's political class to secede. Slovenia's declaration of independence in June 1991 was the immediate trigger for the disintegration of Yugoslavia."

I don't think I need to point out to an even moderately informed reader that she's got the cart so far ahead of the horse it almost would be better to look for a new horse entirely. What is most aggravating about the above statement is that it is almost true. But not quite. Milosevic had already concluded that Yugoslavia could get by without Slovenia--there were no Serbs there.

But Johnstone wants us to believe that tiny Slovenia and it's lightly-armed troops, on their own, were sufficient to instigate the process by which Yugoslavia feel apart. We will examine her case for this rather startling claim in the next few posts.


Anonymous said...

One thing about the whole 'The West Destroyed Yugoslavia Because it Was Socialist' argument is that a divided Southeast Europe has been Damned Expensive for the West. What I think the West wanted was a united, peaceful, and capitalist oriented Balkans region.
Having everyone killing each other off was pretty bad for business, and then you have to send troops and pour in a lot of money to repair the damage. And you get the refugee problem, also costly.
The only thing comparable in terms of expense and annoyance is creeping kleptocracy like in the former Soviet Union.

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