Friday, 14 September 2012

What ever happened to Brotherhood and Unity?

Quite some time ago in the middle of a talk about a political union in Europe there was a debate on Newsnight. It was apt that Nigel Farage make an appearance in standard populist colours against the liberal multiculturalist elites. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as Farage drew a comparison between the European Union and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The UKIP leader suggested that the reason Yugoslavia collapsed into appalling violence in the 1990s was a result of the imposition of Yugoslavia over sovereign nations in a bid to craft a multiethnic federal system. Thankfully Farage is too thick to comprehend the implications of such an analogy. Effectively it would go as far as an endorsement of the Fascist movements - such as the Ustaša and the Chetniks - that devastated the region before the Partisans triumphed over them. This is nothing unusual, and it's not the first time that the analogy has been drawn between the EU and Tito's Yugoslavia. Farage has deployed it repeatedly.

After all it was the final victory over the Communist-led Partisans who had succeeded where the Left had been defeated in Italy and Greece where the West crushed left-wing movements soon after the War. Out of the warring chaos parts of the Yugoslav Kingdom fell into the hands of Hungarian fascists, as well as German and Italian occupying forces; the Bulgarians and Albanians. Croatia and Bosnia were unified under the clerical fascist Ustaša while the Serb Chetniks fought against the genocidal regime with the aim of building a Greater Serbia. The Croats became a client-state of Nazism where Jasenocav (the fourth largest concentration camp in Europe) was founded with the expressed intention of exterminating Jews, Roma and Serbs. There around 600,000 people were slaughtered. There was a great deal of collusion between the Ustaša and the Catholic clergy, going as far as forced conversions of Jews and Orthodox Christians. The establishment of a socialist Yugoslavia was the ultimate defeat of Slavic brands of Fascism.

The West took the side of Tito's Partisans for pragmatic reasons and the Serb Chetniks as well as the Ustaša of Croatia were defeated. The Soviet Union lent the Partisans support only to portray Tito as an agent of Western imperialism after the split between Tito and Stalin. It was clear that the new Yugoslavia was not going to bow to any foreign power. Instead Tito carved out a particular place for his country as a founder of the Non-Aligned Movement with an apposite place in Europe between the competing superpowers of West and East. The idea was that the unity of Yugoslavia would prevent it from being thrown about by international forces. This is contrary to Farage's warped wish to see a free-market world of nations, where every country is powerless to the onslaught of international finance and multinational corporations. In his invincible ignorance Farage fails to see that British withdrawal from the EU would undermine British sovereignty even more. Likewise Farage cannot understand the implications of what it means to say that the EU is just another Yugoslavia.

It should be kept in mind that there have been many right-wingers who found the sight of Yugoslavia's crumbling into barbarism absolutely beautiful. This differs strongly from the small band of leftists who supported Milosevic out of a misguarded belief that it was the last chance to hold together Yugoslavia. By the time of the explosion of violence it was already too late and Yugoslavia was dead on its feet. What did the Right see in this? Well, the multiethnic composition of the federalism and its dependence on a culture of solidarity could not have repulsed many rightists any more than it did. The Titoist campaigns against nationalist sentiment certainly worry backward types like Nigel Farage. No doubt the Eurosceptics fear a federal state where they will be stamped out. Even more freightening is the possible end of the racial tensions that the Right can exploit to its ends. A culture of solidarity doesn't stop at ensuring improved relations between countries and peoples, it could go as far as to build a strong working-class movement.

After all the primary reason for the policy of brotherhood and unity was to hold together Yugoslavia as a socialist system. Tito could not launch a Stalinesque collectivisation, as it would've torn the country apart. Instead Tito decided to give away power to the republics and build the country into a model of market socialism. It featured a limited place for private enterprise and markets combined with a decentralised state-planning apparatus and workers' self-management. It was a prosperous system of development and growth for quite some time. The average rate of GDP was 6% at one point and the standard of living increased significantly, with the establishment of universal health-care and education came a life expectancy of 72 years and a literacy rate of 91%. Every Yugoslav citizen had a right to a job, unemployment was reduced drastically until the 1980s and every worker had a free month-long holiday every year with pay. There was affordable housing and public transportation across the country, while the borders were held open.

It's this model that the Right despises. It is not coincidental that so many right-wingers wanted to leave the Slavs to slaughter one another. The more honest reactionaries have been blunt in their support for the violence. Michael Savage was an open defender of Serbian nationalists attacking Muslims. Later Savage went on to attack Bill Clinton during the intervention in Yugoslavia. He even labelled the President 'Clintler' with regard to the NATO bombing of Serbia. What else would you expect from this fascist? Then there was Nora Beloff who wrote to The Economist in condemnation of the critics of Serbian atrocities. The way she saw it the Muslims are guilty by virtue of being Muslim, she's of the Israel First brigade you see. In this view the Serbs are just exercising their right to self-defence as the Christians fending off the barbarous Muslim hordes. Hitler said about the same of the Poles. It's about the same line that Karadzic has used to defend his actions - such as sending snipers onto the roof of his hotel to shoot civilians as he made his escape.

No comments: