Saturday, December 23, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Three [16]



The fourth paragraph ostensibly describes the process by which Slovenia established and strengthened ties to Austria and Italy in the late years of the Yugoslav period; it actually serves to insinuate that the Slovenes were conniving capitalists and snobbish elitists who sought to break up Yugoslavia in order to distance themselves from the non-Catholic riff-raff to their south.

The facts are not spectacular or amazing; one is almost tempted to conclude "Nothing to see here," except for Johnstone's trademark sinister tone. Having established that the decline of Federal power, combined with communist Yugoslavia's relatively open borders and openness to trade with the West, she describes Slovenian participation in this process thusly:

"In 1978, neutral Austria sponsored the foundation of an association called Alpen-Adria to foster such exchanges between provinces within Italy, Yugoslavia, and Austria, which had all formerly belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Cross-border regional groupings were promoted as a way of overcoming outdated nationalisms and ideological differences in the interests of the environment, trade, and cultural exchange. In theory, they were apolitical; in reality, with the benevolent encouragement of Otto von Hapsburg, heir to the throne of the defunct empire, and the blessings of the Catholic Church, Alpen-Adria promoted a strong sense of the superiority of "civilized" Mitteleuropa over the "backward, barbarous" Balkans."

[As always, underlined words and phrases in quoted passages were italicized in the original.]

What's interesting about this passage is how little of interest there really is, despite Johnstone's obvious attempts to imply underhanded and elitist motivations to the Slovenes. Their leadership took advantage of open borders to develop ties with regional economies? These ties had a strong religious, cultural, and historical basis? This organization was patronized by an heir of the former nobility? And there was a chauvinist slant to this organization? Oh, the horror...

I'm sure there were some insufferably elitist and smug Slovenes looking down at their poorer, less-educated countrymen down south. I'm not defending elitism; I am saying that such an attitude is a pretty lame scapegoat for a war that would tear a country apart and leave tens of thousands dead. The Slovenes were snobs who preferred the company of Catholic, formally Hapsburg peoples. That seems to be Johnstone's case against them.

One last point of interest, in the final sentence--yet another example of her use of quotes when she is neither quoting anyone OR using words or phrases in an unconventional manner. Why is 'civilized' in quotes? Who, exactly, described the Balkans as "backward, barbarous"? She doesn't say.

She goes on to describe a Western left that had lost interest in working-class interests to "issue-oriented" advocacy; that is, for what it's worth, a fair assessment. She claims that this signaled a broader rejection of support for socialism in any form, in exchange for the idealization of "civil society."

So we learn that:

"In the late 1980s, attractive young Slovenian intellectuals toured Western European capitals to alert human rights activists and anti-militarist journalists to the dangers of Yugoslav militarism. These youthful Slovenes spoke in terms of the values shared notably by German Greens, such as pacifism and human rights."

Sounds great, doesn't it? Not if you're Diana Johnstone. Tune in next time...

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