UN - tool of imperialism?

Chris Burford cburford at gn.apc.org
Fri Aug 18 22:08:40 MDT 1995

I particularly liked the politeness with which Jeff shouted at me
and I had a good laugh. I realised I had to expect an angry response
as I feel we have to get to grips with concrete issues about what is
to be done in Yugoslavia, and had spoken bluntly.

But if I were to shout back, people, and not just Jeff, would have
difficulty listening, so please excuse me if I do not shout.

This is not just to try to seize the moral high ground. In the point
about South Africa of course I accept that the battle was above all
won by the courage of the masses of people of South Africa, plus the
international solidarity at some level of hundreds of millions in
other countries. But my point was whether now, in the second half of
the 20th century the UN is an arena of struggle. I think it is
dogmatic and one sided to say it is only a tool of the imperialist
powers, and nothing more.

If as I think, the process of globalisation is producing the emergence
of global civil society and global suprastate institutions, this
issue is related to the marxist theory of the state. I do not accept
Leninist formulations that the state is a machine by which one class
oppresses another, and nothing more, period.

Jeff and I would at least agree in words on the desirability of making
use of the marxist method. I would draw attention to this
passage from one of Engels late letters. It is about the law. I
would say a concept of international law is emerging, through debate in
the UN and elsewhere, such that forced expulsions of civilian populations
from their homes by terror directed against a particular race, creed,
language group etc, is unacceptable. Greater Serb nationalism has violated
this principle.

Engels to Schmidt Oct 27 1890 London:

Similarly with law. As soon as the new division of labour which creates
professional lawyers becomes necessary, another new and independent
sphere is opened up which, for all its general dependence on production
and trade, still has also a special capacity for reacting upon these
spheres. In a modern state, law must not only correspond to the general
economic condition and be its expression, but must also be an *internally
coherent* expression which does not, owing to inner contradictions, reduce
itself to nought. And in order to achieve this, the faithful reflection
of economic conditions suffers increasingly. All the more so the more
rarely it happens that a code of law is the blunt, unmitigated,
unadulterated expression of the domination of a class."

Similarly a state, which has in part to appear to stand above classes
(actually I think Lenin made this point too) cannot always afford to
appear to be the blunt unmitigated expression of the domination of a
class. I am sure Jeff is right that there are very few workers in the
UN assembly, but the authority of the great powers in the security
council has to be mitigated by the authority of rotating representation
from other countries, and the General Assembly. Thus for Britain to
be a lone voice at times against condemnation of apartheid, was a
significant pressure.

The UN is not *only* a tool of imperialism.

Pardon me if I do not shout. I hope I am however clear.

Chris B, London.

	Please excuse me while I yell at Chris Burford for a second:


	There.  I feel much better.  Chris also totally mis-understood
the point of marxism being a method.  That's to be expected from someone
who claims dialectical analysis has led him to conclude that the U.N. may
now be used to promote democracy and workers unity!  When's the last time
a worker was a U.N. delegate or even addressed the U.N. ?

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