Intervention, "We" and Utopian thinking.

Carrol Cox cbcox at
Mon Aug 7 12:29:28 MDT 1995

    There are many legitimate senses of "utopia," but I wish here to define one
version of utopia (in a pejorative) sense as the positing of goals in
abstraction from the agents and forms of struggle through which those goals
might be achieved.

    In a recent message on Yugoslavia the writer says, "We could always..." Who
is the "we" who could do this? (The specific writer is not relevant, for this
phrase appears over and over again in statements on Yugoslavia.) Does anyone
seriously wish to claim that, at this time, "Marxists" in the west can have any
significant effect on U.S. policy in Yugoslavia?

    Note "we" (Marxists, progressives, others who are rallying as the struggle
grows) can and have made a tremendous difference in the case of Mumia
Abu-Jamal: We have done that because the issue is sharp (or capable of being
made sharp), it cuts across other broader issues around which people may rally
(death penalty, right to a fair trial, etc), and above all, because "we" are
pushing a negative position: we are insisting that the capitalist state NOT do
something. On a larger scale, that is how the anti-war effort in the '60s was
conducted. "We" were ineffective as long as we kept trying to suggest
"positive" policies; our effectiveness grew as we became more negative: get out
of Vietnam! Who cares how or what the results will be.

    The reitieration by Marxists (or other radicals, progressives,
what-have-you) that "we" should carry out a certain complex policy in
Yugoslavia is both pathetic and arrogant. If any positive policy is carried out
there it will be utterly regardless of anything "we" think, and both its
details and its tactics will be decided on by persons who carry nothing either
about our opinions or the best interests of the people of the former

    For some months the agitation of those who kept hammering away on the
evil going on in Yugoslavia almost swayed me--and I am almost ashamed that I
ever flinched from the bitter knowledge of 50 years of U.S. policy: No U.S.
intervention abroad can ever be more than harmful to all concerned. For
Marxists to try to work out their "solution" for the "problem," a "solution"
which must be implemented by the U.S. state, reminds me of the old joke of the
flea approaching the elephant with intentions of rape.
        Carrol Cox
        Dept of English
        Illinois State Univ
        Normal Illinois

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