Howie Chodos howie at magi.com
Sun Jul 23 23:23:02 MDT 1995

Louis Proyect wrote:

>While it is perhaps too late to stop the slaughter in Bosnia, it seems to
>me that the best way to block carnage of this sort in the future is to
>build international solidarity and to re-construct a world socialist
>movement. Jeffrey Booth is right to invoke Lenin and Zimmerwald.
>Instead of aligning ourselves with the governments of the United
>States, England, France and Germany, we should be building ties to
>working people and peasants without regard to nationality, religion,
>etc. It seems as long as the world is drifting toward nationalism and
>war at the end of the 21st century, our task should be the same as
>Lenin's: to stand apart from the slaughter and defend the humanitarian
>principles of socialism. Anything else seems quixotic.

I have serious difficulties with invoking Lenin and Zimmerwald. Back then
the issue was how to respond to an imperialist war of aggression, pitting
one bloc against another to see who would reap the spoils of dominance. It
was a situation that embroiled all the leading powers of the day, and none
of them had justice on their side.

I would want to argue that there is a difference with situations where there
is an aggressor. And I still hold that the situation in WWII is an example
of this. The situation in Bosnia seems to me to be more closely analogous to
the situation which prevailed during WWII than during WWI, in the sense that
there is one side that is the aggressor. It is also clearly not a situation
where the chief rivals for supremacy in the international arena are directly
slugging it out on the battlefield.

Furthermore, it seems to me that in thinking about what stand to take in
this kind of situation we need to use criteria analogous to those we would
use in assessing struggles for reforms. We can't impose our long-term goals
on people who are struggling to survive, as a collectivity and as
individuals, any more that we can force a striker to become a communist. We
don't judge a struggle against injustice by looking at the participants'
personal intentions or their attitudes towards socialism. And we certainly
don't judge a struggle for self-determination exclusively by looking at who
is on their side.

This is not to say that should an imperialist country support a struggle for
self-determination that it does not do so with its own best interests in
mind. Tigers (whether made of paper or not) do not change their stripes. But
there are situations where having to deal with treacherous allies must be
considered the lesser of two evils. Nor is it to say that there are never
cases of pseudo-liberation movements adopting the rhetoric of
self-determination while being secretly in the pay of one imperialist power
or the other, or simply being manipulated by them. But this must be assessed
on the basis of the evidence in concrete cases and cannot, IMO, serve as the
grounding for an unchanging position.

None of this resolves what to do in the case of Bosnia, but it does suggest
to me that some of our differences relate to opposing interpretations of the
communist tradition.

Howie Chodos

     --- from list marxism at lists.village.virginia.edu ---


More information about the Marxism mailing list