Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Little evil me? posted by Richard SeymourI really am going to have to insist that Harry's Place stops with its cult of my personality. First they plugged my speech at Marxism, then they, er, 'celebrated' my graduation, and now this. The author, presumably in all seriousness, says that I "supported Serbian territorial expansion" in Croatia. Marko, dearest, I was thirteen when that shit started and wouldn't have known Serbia from a tennis shoe. What he means to say, perhaps, is that I would have supported such a procedure. His 'gotcha' consists of a retort in the comments box to someone brazenly supporting Operation Storm, in which hundreds of thousands of Serbs were ethnically cleansed. This is what I said:
So, you just accept the claims of Croatian nationalism, then? No negotiations, no border rectifications, no arrangements for the increasingly oppressed and demonised Serb minority, just take the land and tell the others to fuck off? Some socialist.
You’re stuck with your support for Croatian nationalism, then. It doesn’t occur to you for a second that there might be legitimate problems for an oppressed minority following an unnegotiated secession with no dialogue or border rectifications.
Hoare then goes on to offer his interpretation services to HP Sauce readers, who at this point would be snapping their crayons in puzzlement: "he’s saying that the proper solution to the Serb question in Croatia was for part of Croatia’s territory, where Serbs lived, to have been taken from it and annexed to Serbia, thereby creating a ‘Great Serbia’." His over-hasty prosecutorial zeal has led Hoare to neglect to ask the author of the quoted ripostes whether in fact he is indeed "saying" that, but I believe I have the advantage here. After all, I am not the one who [would have] supported the logic of secessionism in the first place, and therefore I would have no problem explaining why the construction of separate states based on ethnic exclusivity would be no solution. It is Hoare who, considering Croatia's secession legitimate and worthy of full-throated support, has to answer why the Krajina Serbs were not entitled to independence from Croatia (and political union with Serbia if they wished). This is particularly the case since the Serbs living in Krajina were, like other Serbs living throughout Croatia, genuinely victims of repression and ethnic hatred by a state whose early gestures included the rescuscitation of fascist symbolism. But if there is going to be secession, ought there not be negotiations as opposed to a unilateral military take-over of the territory? Might there not be a concession of territory by both parties, or are the borders of some states eternal and inviolable, like the Holy Mother's virginity? The logic of supporting ethnic nationalism in Croatia, an ultra-reactionary political project from its inception, is what has produced Hoare's hysterical twaddle. Anything that might appear as remotely sceptical about Croatia's inherent right to dispose of the territory (and the people living there) as it wishes must be taken as an affront.
Hoare also reminds readers that I don't agree with describing the camps run by Bosnian Serbs as 'concentration camps'. He of course redacts my description of said camps, and omits to mention that the main thrust was that there were similar camps with similar atrocities maintained by all the warring parties in Bosnia, with little attention paid by our vigilant press. He also says I am endorsing Living Marxism's claims, which have been 'disproved' in court. In fact, I endorsed the verdict of Phillip Knightley, citing him twice, not that of Thomas Deichmann, cited nowhere. The court did not 'disprove' the points that a) not all those present were emaciated like Fikret Alic, because people could be fed, and therefore the broadcast was wrong to give the impression that people were being forcibly starved; b) many people could come and go, and therefore not all were imprisoned; and c) those who were prisoners were not being held by barbed wire, but by armed guards, which point was obscured because it disrupted the symbolism of the concentration camp. Those were the points I cited. And at at any rate, I am not as content as Hoare evidently is to accept a court's verdict at a libel trial as the final word on a complex, multifaceted historical record. In another bid to establish my evil-doing propinquities, Hoare explains that "Seymour is on record as describing Milosevic’s dictatorship as ‘a state with an elected government, legal opposition parties, independent trade unions, and opposition demonstrations permitted’". It is enough to state the obvious to be indicted in Hoare's petty tribunal. And finally: "He responded to the International Court of Justice’s recognition of the Srebrenica genocide by continuing to deny that genocide had occurred: ‘the massacre of thousands of men of military age is an atrocity, but under no reasonable definition is it genocide’." This point is telling, but not in the way Hoare thinks it is. After all, it would not in itself matter whether such an unspeakable atrocity was genocide or 'merely' a massacre. The condemnation or otherwise of such conduct does not depend on defining it in this way. But for supporters of Croatian and then Bosnian nationalism, it has to be genocide because they know the word functions not in a literal way but in a propagandistic sense. Prophylactically, it isolates the Bosnian Serbs as uniquely malevolent in that conflict, and therefore provides the prior justification for the vicious ethnic nationalism and brutality of the HVO and BiH and their auxiliaries. It affirms a narrative elaborated since 1991, long before Srebrenica became a household name, in which the Serbian government was the Nazi threat refulgent (thus making fascist-loving Tudjman an anti-fascist resistance leader). That is why people like Hoare consider it monstrous to dispute the term - his absurd, whitewashing narrative of heroic Croatian nationalism depends on it.
The entirety of Hoare's infantile imposture is animated by this imperative. The histrionics about me having 'supported' something called 'Great Serbia', based on a couple of flimsily parsed comments box exchanges, truly befit someone who described Operation Storm as "the liberation of Krajina" and who spends much of his time trying to defend the insupportable proposition that the salient characteristics of Croatian nationalism in its militant phase - its reactionary anti-semitic leadership, its revival of fascist regalia, anti-Serb racism, repression, war crimes and ethnic cleansing - were merely incidental to a great liberation struggle.