Wednesday, June 13, 2007
This is a surprise. Marko Atilla Hoare (yes, that's him) will usually froth about the Balkans for Horowitz's Front Page Magazine every bit as readily as for the Henry Jackson Society. However, has taken a detour in the middle of a book review for bomber left online fanzine Democratiya to discuss my views about Slobodan Milosevic:
Or consider the case of Britain's Socialist Workers Party (SWP), whose best-known blogger Richard Seymour, self-named – in apparent unawareness of the concept of irony – 'Lenin', recently took issue with those of us who characterised the regime of Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia as 'fascist'. To do so, Seymour told us, 'degrades the very concept of fascism'. Meanwhile, the SWP runs a front organisation called the 'Anti-Nazi League' (ANL), which regularly portrays the British National Party (BNP), not merely as 'fascist', but as 'Nazi'. In every possible respect – authoritarianism, rejection of democratic practice, territorial expansionism, incitement of populist chauvinism, continuity with actual pro-Nazi groups from World War II and actual employment of mass violence against ethnic minorities – the Milosevic regime scored higher on the 'fascist' scale than does the BNP. Yet it is the 'Nazi' BNP which provokes SWP supporters to organise rallies, at which 'Nazi scum – off our streets!' is screamed at tiny or non-existent BNP gatherings, while the same SWP supporters will favourably compare the 'not-even-fascist' Milosevic regime with the supposedly 'real' fascists who are, apparently, to be found nowhere outside the white populations of the liberal-capitalist West.
Seymour writes of Milosevic's Serbia that 'a state with an elected government, legal opposition parties, independent trade unions, and opposition demonstrations permitted could not be characterised as fascist, for all its brutality'. This glowing portrayal of democracy under Milosevic can be compared with the description in Robert Thomas's Serbia under Milosevic: Politics in the 1990s: 'More importantly the new 'pluralist' system had not effected a separation between the state and the party… The SPS [Socialist Party of Serbia] remained interconnected with all the main institutions of the state. The state media in particular remained faithful to the party line, and was a key element in the Socialist election victories from 1990 onward… The formal structures of parliament were effectively a hollow shell. Real power was located with the Serbian President [Milosevic] and in the political-economic bureaucracy.' (Thomas 1999, pp. 422-423). Lenard J. Cohen, in Serpent in the Bosom: The Rise and Fall of Slobodan Milosevic has described Milosevic's system of rule as a 'soft dictatorship' (Cohen 2002, pp. xiv-xv). Robert J. Paxton in The Anatomy of Fascism has described Milosevic's regime as the 'functional equivalent' of a fascist regime (Paxton 2004, p. 190). Seymour's portrayal of the Milosevic regime as democratic, therefore, is at variance with the interpretation of serious scholars. Yet it may be a necessary misrepresentation for the activist of an SWP that allied with the supporters of Milosevic over Kosovo in 1999, as more recently with the supporters of Saddam and Zarqawi over Iraq.
He's citing this post. I don't particularly care to chat with Hoare about his eccentric politics. I am more interested in how he chooses to interpret - and thus attempt to rebut - my views. It is true that I don't think the Milosevic regime was a fascist regime (and I might mention that none of the things I describe would be found in a genuinely fascist regime, even in one run by the BNP). However, at no point did I describe (to my knowledge) the Milosevic regime as 'democratic'. I think I did once say something like: I bow to no one in my cynicism toward corrupt old Stalinoid regimes like that in Milosevic-era Serbia." Perhaps Carter Ruck will accept me as a client on a no-win, no-fee basis. At any rate, the attempted summation and rebuttal is a complete failure.
I haven't personally given any reason to believe that I support Saddam Hussein or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, even now that they've been executed by the occupiers of Iraq. I do vaguely recall dozens of posts on this blog arguing that the Left should support the legitimate resistance movement in Iraq. Strange to relate, however, I have also ruled out support for Zarqawi and Saddam, as well as the brutal tactics of the takfiris. (How about this headline?) But Hoare's claim is more dilute than that - he says the SWP 'allied' with the 'supporters' of those two individuals. Well, we can all play that game: Hoare 'allied' with the supporters of practically every tyranny in the world over Iraq (they're based in Washington).
Incidentally, it is true that Robert O Paxton describes Milosevic's regime as a "functional equivalent" of fascism, despite acknowledging that it "displayed none of the outward trappings of fascism except brutality" (something that could be said of quite a few states), despite acknowledging "relatively free electoral competition by multiple parties", and despite saying that "pinning the epithet of fascism upon the odious Milosevic adds nothing to an explanation of how his rule was established and maintained". Yet, he also adds (in the passage that immediately follows) that 'Greater Croatia' wasn't exactly fabulous either. Tudman "built his own regime of personal rule upon the no less cruel expulsions of Serbs from Croatia, and he reached more of his goals than did Milosevic. While Serbian patriotic themes included its anti-Nazi role in World War II, Croatian patriotic themes included Ante Pavelic's Ustasa, the terrorist nationalist sect that had governed Hitler's puppet state of Croatia during 1941-44 and had carried out mass murders of Serbs and Jews there. Tudman's newly independent Croatia resurrected Ustasa emblems and honoured the memory of one of the most sanguinary fascist regimes in Nazi-occupied Europe." (See Paxton's The Anatomy of Fascism, pp 190-1). Paxton might have added a reference to Tudman's antisemitism, and the fact that he wasn't exactly reluctant to close down dissenting newspapers, manipulate the electoral process and concentrate power in the hands of a few family members. The upshot must be that the HDZ regime was also a 'functional equivalent' of fascism, but that's certainly not Hoare's argument. He explains that Operation Storm, which involved the ethnic cleansing of approximately 200,000 Serbs, was a "liberation", part of a "war of independence" led by "former Partisans". He certainly isn't too hot on referring to Croatia's HDZ regime as Ustasa. (In fact, his father got furious back in the day if someone referred to Tudman's antisemitism and Ustasa-sympathies - which clearly doesn't make him an apologist for anything). Hoare can take his pick: either he agrees with Paxton's analysis, thus accepting "the interpretation of serious scholars"; or he doesn't, and is thus "at variance" with them.
Either way, the noisome little shit (no offense, obviously) can dig his nose right out of my arse and plug it back into that hole in the sand where he and his fellow ostriches have been keeping beady-eyed watch on world politics.