Saturday, January 13, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Three [19]



I can't shake the feeling that this review has become bogged down; perhaps this is because I'm trying, and failing, to get to the core of Johnstone's argument against Slovenia. I have concluded that there isn't much of an argument to detect. In the interests of moving on, I'm going to summarize the remaining four pages of this section in a more perfunctory manner than I have been. Johnstone has her criticisms of the Slovene leadership and the Slovene people in general, but they are, frankly, mostly petty gripes which fail to add up to a coherent, believable critique. Therefore, I won't quote much, either.


Janez Jansa, a leading Slovenian opposition figure from the late 1980s, is introduced in a short paragraph which Johnstone seems to have written so she can point out how he tried to have the word "socialist" dropped from the name of the "Alliance of Socialist Youth of Slovenia." Jansa's claim to fame, at least here, was his involvement in the theft of a secret military document. Johnstone has nothing to say about the document or the case against Jansa and his colleagues; she only wants you to know that their cause was taken up by Western human rights organizations. She notes that their anti-militarism was certain to be popular in "the atmosphere created by Germany's big 1980s peace movement," which performs the neat trick of damning the Slovenes for being too pro-Western and she gets to bring the evil Germans on stage as well.

The Slovene complaints that wealthier, more free-market oriented Slovenia was being stifled and exploited by the centralized economic system, and that its wealth was being siphoned off to fund underdeveloped regions in the south are worthy of discussion--one could argue that while those complaints might have been legitimate, such an imbalance is inevitable in a large nation. Some regions are going to do better than others. Most Americans realize that Montana gets more in federal tax dollars than it pays in. Needless to say, Johnstone is not interested in a sincere discussion of the pros and cons of the Slovene argument.

Instead, she claims that this complaint applies "primarily to Kosovo," which while possibly true (I wonder about Macedonia as well), ignores the elephant in the room which she never mentions; the seat of the Federal government was in Belgrade, the capital of the largest republic, which was poorer and less dynamic economically than Slovenia.

At any rate, she accuses the Slovenes of duplicity, claiming solidarity with Kosovar Albanians after the unilateral elimination of Kosovos' autonomy by the Serbian Republic while refusing to contribute to the development fund. Of course she portrays Serbian actions at this time as part of Milosevic's "constitutional reforms" while ignoring the gist of Albanian grievances, which she dismisses as "secessionist" without elaboration.

One quote worthy of mention:

"From the Serb viewpoint, the Slovenian support to people in a region they would not even deign to visit on account of its "backwardness" was nothing but a totally hypocritical way to promote Yugoslav disintegration in pursuit of their own narrow interests, which had nothing to do with the Kosovar Albanians."

By this in her book, Johnstone has so deeply drank from the well of collectivism--to the point where she assigns corporate identities to ethnic groups, that she quite naturally, and without explanation or citation, is willing to assign thoughts and prejudices to these collective bodies. And, for the umpteenth time, why the quotes around "backwardness"? It's not a quote. In this case, Johnstone seems to be paraphrasing a collective Serb impression of a collective Slovene inclination.

At any rate--the Slovenes smartly chose Western-friendly tactics while Johnstone makes the following claim:

" Serbia the reform movement went into the streets in mass demonstrations supporting Milosevic's program of constitutional reform."

Well, that's one way to put it...


She goes on to compare the slick, Western-friendly Slovenes playing on Western sympathies while successfully smearing Serbian "reformers" as backward communists and dangerous nationalists intent on subjugating the peoples of Yugoslavia. Which, of course, had absolutely no basis in reality. The most important aspect of this section is that while she attributes all Slovene actions and rhetoric as being directed by a manipulative elite, Serbian actions at the time are portrayed as reflecting grassroots origins. There was a strong and sizable anti-Milosevic and pro-democracy element in Serbian society even during Milosevic's salad days before war and deprivation began to corrode his support, but you wouldn't know it from reading this book. All Serbs think, act, and feel alike--and Milosevic merely followed their bidding.

Meanwhile, the conniving Slovenes portrayed themselves as civilized Catholics against a decadent, oriental/Byzantine East. Not a very flattering aspect of the Slovene struggle, but the former Yugoslavia had no shortage of xenophobic and jingoist rhetoric; while such talk is always regrettable and never desirable, all such comments need to be put in context. The Slovene rhetoric, while distasteful, was merely designed to justify a pulling away. There was no desire for partition of a republic and the concurrent expulsions of populations in Slovene plans or nationalist discourse. Johnstone, of course, has not to this point in the book had a word to say about Serbian nationalist claims of Islamic fundamentalists plotting jihad in the cafes of Sarajevo.

A one-page summary of the Slovene 'war' of independence follows; she mostly sticks to the basic facts and lets Warren Zimmerman make the point that the Slovenes had pulled off an enormous PR coup internationally; the real issue of Slovene culpability for the beginning of the war, and the indifference shown to the fate of the rest of Yugoslavia by their actions, gets no real discussion in Johnstone's book. She merely wants us to know that Slovenes were arrogant, elitist snobs with lots of German friends.

And so the first section of part 2, "Slovenia: the End of Solidarity" comes to a ho-hum conclusion.

The next section, "Success Stories," will be the topic of my next post.

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