[L-I] Re: Why the Western Left Failed to Defend Yugoslavia (wasRe:Economic revolutions)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at SPAMosu.edu
Sat Oct 7 10:32:30 MDT 2000

>In response to the posting below by the editor of left.ru, we would say
>as a whole (and there are exceptions), the Western Left does not completely
>reject the mentality, the false consciousness created by its own ruling
>class, and this often cripples the Left when it comes to offering
>solidarity. This is particularly true if the Western media have
>systematically demonised a target for a while. It is clear to us from the
>behaviour of the Western Left that, if their own media keep calling somebody
>"the Beast of Belgrade" (for example), a good portion of the Left will start
>to be influenced by this before too long.
>On a different matter, statements distributed by us don't seem to be going
>out on the L-I list. Is there a reason for this?
>DHKC London Information Bureau

What DHKC LIB wrote is true, especially in that the U.S. Left's
response has been very much media-driven, both in terms of which
place in the world it pays attention to and how issues get framed in
left discourse.  This was not always the case, though; for instance,
during the heyday of anti-colonial and/or revolutionary nationalist
struggles (Cuba, Vietnam, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, the Intifada
of Palestinians, etc.), the mass media in the West also demonized
challengers to the Western hegemony, but leftists, on average, did
not succumb to the media manipulation to the extent they did in the
case of Yugoslavia.

The dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc was a
watershed event, in terms of the consciousness of the Western Left.
No, even before the formal dissolution, the change in the Soviet
Union had begun:

*****   NARRATOR: [September 17, 1990, Helsinki, Finland] President
Bush had isolated Saddam diplomatically. He met Mikhail Gorbachev to
ask the Soviet Union not to stand in the way if America went to war
with Iraq. Iraq was an old ally of the Soviet Union, but Gorbachev
agreed. The cold war had just ended. Gorbachev did not want to risk
his new relationship with America.

MIKHAIL GORBACHEV, Soviet President: [through interpreter] This was a
key meeting. A country had been occupied. If, at that point in
history, we had not been able to deal with that situation, everything
else we had worked for would have been null and void.

<http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/gulf/script_a.html>   *****

In my view, the change had a disorienting effect on leftists in the
West (this despite the fact that not all leftists in the West had
looked upon the USSR favorably before its endgame).

Beyond the impact of the end of the USSR, more generally, many
Western leftists, too, have become affected by the ascendancy of
capitalism worldwide.  They have lost a long-term goal (socialism
worldwide), and short-term issues have begun to be framed in terms of
"human rights."  And many leftists now envision the Western military,
economic, & diplomatic muscle as a vehicle for "humanitarian
interventions."  (It is telling that even the recent activist upsurge
in the West -- anti-Sweatshop, anti-globalization, etc. -- has been
often colored by such sentiments & sometimes by outright
protectionist demands.)

It is ironic that, just at the moment when imperialism became more
powerful than ever with the loss of the Soviet countervailing force,
many Western leftists lost sight of imperialism altogether.  To many
of them, heads of states on the periphery are as bad as the empire,
and for some, they are the main enemy.  This loss of anti-imperialist
consciousness is sometimes couched in the language of the defense of
the working class and/or ethnic minorities in the states under attack
by imperialists.  No doubt they sincerely believe what they say;
nonetheless, they forget that the energetic defense of countries
attacked by the empire should not be predicated upon the said
countries being paragons of socialist virtues.

At the level of rhetoric, terms revived from the days of World War II
-- fascism, genocide, holocaust, etc. -- have done a good job of
intimidating even leftists who were inclined not to accept the mass
media's framing into toning down opposition to imperialism, lest they
became associated with "fascism."  This fear made an anti-war
movement against the bombings of Yugoslavia very small.  (Many
leftists have said, by way of excuse, that they did not want to be
part of the movement dominated by "Serbian nationalists"; this
excuse, however, reveals that they were not well acquainted with the
politics of Serbian diaspora in the West, since most diasporic Serbs
have been liberals rather than nationalists -- it would have been
hard to find supporters of the Milosevic government among them, too.)


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