CHAPTER FOUR: THE MAKING OF EMPIRES
THE NEW UTOPIA: PEOPLES WITHOUT BORDERS
This section is the Twilight Zone of Johnstone's book--for four pages, Johnstone argues strongly against the very mentality that has underlined her book to this point. Why the discrepancy? Because this time, the people who are preaching ethnic unity and the incompatibility of that unity with secular, cosmopolitan democracy are Germans.
Her ability to discern national conspiracies, mass movements, and sinister foreign policy strategies based on the words and deeds of a handful of NGOs based in Germany (or supported by German foundations) is impressive. I've no doubt that there is something to her critique, in a limited way--Germany and Austria most likely have encouraged the self-determination of a wide variety of smaller nationalities throughout Eastern Europe. And I'm sure they did so for very cynical reasons--what better way to undermine the new European order after the German Empire had been diminished and the Austrian no more?
This section discusses a hodgepodge of different groups, founded in different places at different times--all the better to mix them together in order to create the illusion of a unified social, cultural, and political crusade. Johnstone insists that the attempts between the two World Wars to stir up nationalism in the East, and the call by another group in 1971 to overcome national boundries, were linked. In her version of history, there can be no doubt that they were; but considering that nearly fifty years, and a great deal of history, separate these two examples one would hope for at least a modicum of elucidation. None is forthcoming.
She doesn't even miss a beat when she compares this organization's call--in 1971, remember--to turn national borders into administrative borders to the German push
"--in Yugoslavia--to transform administrative borders into national frontiers. The apparent contradiction is explained by the fact that in both cases German influence increased."
The fiction that Bosnia's borders were mere administrative divisions has been soundly and decisively refuted; her continued use of this tired and easily disproved propaganda lie is remarkably brazen and sloppy. You see her theme--the Germans were only interested in independence for Slovenia and Croatia because this would expand the German sphere of influence.
She has discussed the Alpen-Adria before, and its role in the breakup of Yugoslavia. After touching on this again, she goes on to warn ominously that German nation-destroying will not end with Yugoslavia. Every minority, no matter how ill-defined, had the potential right of self-determination. She is correct to point out that this process is dangerous because national identities were still being formed in Europe, and that the process as described by these--again, non-governmental--groups could potentially empower a savvy elite. Without even bothering to note that these are merely lobbying groups, not the Wehrmacht spreading ethnic fragmentation and discord at the point of a bayonet, it is fascinating to read Johnstone discussing such valid and nuanced criticisms of the concept of nationalism and national identity in the same book which is so heavily premised on the homogeneous and static nature of Serb nationalism. Ms. Johnstone is fluent in several languages, but she seems to have acquired the word for "irony" in any of them.
And the irony builds--this German ideology of the Volkstate is a direct threat to democracy since the concept of majority rule is contrary to the well-being of a minority operating under the principle of collective identity. And any minority will automatically be oppressed by the majority in a multi-national nation-state. I have to wonder--has the women read her own book?
What does this all mean? Well, it means that Germans hate the Serbs, since you will remember that the Serbs are a "nation-building" people, versus the "nation-splitting" Croats. Another "nation-splitting" people? The Kosovar Albanians, who have been getting a lot of attention in this section. Albanians, you might remember from far earlier in the book, are prone to be fascists. So says the lady who's indignant at German attempts to create collective identities for the smaller peoples of Europe.
It's instructive that her objection to the German doctrine of the "rights of minorities" could, word for word, apply to a critique of any collectivist national identity--it undermines the concept of individual liberty. It is truly amazing that she could write this section on the heels of the 176 pages which preceded it.