Watch for who’ll now defend Karadzic

July 22, 2008 at 10:52 pm (Jim D, politics, serbia, stalinism, thuggery, war)

While the civilised peoples of the world celebrate the capture of, and the prospect of justice for the war criminal and mass-murderer Karadzic (and note, once again, the progressive influence of th EU), some ultra-right, Stalinist and simply unhinged red-brown elements will bleat. It will be intersting to listen to their bleating. I intend to do just that, and keep you informed. It will also be interesting to see how the Stupid Wankers Party react, given their support for Serb militarism in the 1990′s – now conveniently forgotten in the light of their more recent Islamophilia. You can rest assured: Shiraz Socialist is on the case!

N.B: watch out for the tell-tale phrase of the apologist: “victor’s justice”.

51 Comments

  1. modernityblog said,

    good one,

    I think that similarly we’ll hear something like:

    “the ICC is a part of the West’s hegemonic struggle to suppress socialist (“anti-imperialist”) elements in the Balkans”, etc

    of course, you won’t hear much about the ICC and Al Bashir from the usual suspects because to do so would mean acknowledging the Sudanese elite’s murderous campaign in Darfur and China’s role

    I can’t help but wonder if Karadzic might get bumped off before he reaches The Hague to avoid embarrassing chunks of the Serbian ruling class?

  2. modernityblog said,

    PS: that’s not a smiley, damn wordpress.

    Has Tankie Unity commented yet?

    Seems like comrade Newman and co. are keeping very quiet on this issues?

  3. Rob said,

    Personally I would always be wary of using the word ‘civilised’ when talking about international issues.

    On the ICC, whilst it clearly cannot be blanket condemned (although I doubt many people adopt that exact strawman), I really don’t think that it can be unproblematically endorsed. And certainly the links between imperialism, international law and particularly international criminal law cannot be lightly dismissed.

  4. modernity said,

    quick answer, there are problems with nearly everything, but then again if it has a positive outcome, why shouldn’t it be welcomed?

  5. Chris S said,

    His arrest gives the imperialists an opportunity to pose progressive and the saviours of the Balkan’s.

    It will be interesting to see the SWP get through this issue, maybe they will leave their downsizing of massacres by the Serbian nationalists to the history books.

  6. Rob said,

    “quick answer, there are problems with nearly everything, but then again if it has a positive outcome, why shouldn’t it be welcomed?”

    Because individual positive actions have to be weighed against other factors, particularly – for Marxists – the situation as a whole (or totality). So, whilst it may be that the ICC creates a positive outcome in one situation, in terms of its material position it is deeply flawed or deeply imbricated with exploitative international relations. The idea I’m thinking of – crudely put – is that the ICC could be delivering ‘justice’ in one instance, whilst also remaining deeply implicated in the politics of imperialism. This would mean any endorsement of a particular positive outcome would have to be carefully couched (if at all) so not to legitimate the imperial project as a whole.

  7. Rob said,

    I would also question how the various international criminal tribunals that the world has seen can possibly avoid being labelled as victors’ justice. Again, characterising something as victors’ justice doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to oppose, but it is quite useful to get all of the issues in place. Indeed the ICTY (and the prosecutions surrounding the Balkans) is almost by definition the perfect example of victors’ justice (although it falls slightly behind Nuremburg in those stakes).

  8. modernity said,

    so what exactly are you saying ?

    the Left should reject the ICC completely and all of it actions?

  9. Jack Stephens said,

    I’ll look forward to reading up on your findings.

  10. tcd said,

    modernity:

    “so what exactly are you saying ?

    the Left should reject the ICC completely and all of it actions?”

    I don´t know about the “left”, but I´ll speak for Marxists: It´s possible that different bourgeois camps can do something progressive for some particular group at some time, in fact pretty much every government has to do something, don´t they, even some of the worst dictatorships build hospitals and roads and prosecute some criminals who we would not defend. But we don´t praise them for it!

    There´s obviously no need to shed a tear for Karadzic or to <b<oppose his prosecution, but why sow the illussion that the ICC can ever be anything more than a bourgeois instituion serving the interests of a section of that class? If the courts prosecute someone who deserves it then fine, but this doesn´t mean we should swing over to allying ourselves with those institutions in the hope of some long term progress, when in fact as marxists we believe that the only progressive class today is the working class. I mean, the ICC is not and never will be a public ody responding to popular pressure, rather it works in the interest of those who fund, established and run it, and that therefore any coicidence with progressive politics is purely coincidental and short-term, and that it will only do as much or as little as are in those interests anyway, so to place demands on such a body is a waste of time and sows false illusions.

    My personal opinion would be to say that whilst as marxists we reject completely the legitimacy of the ICC and would never consider it a viable means for progress, that in this particular case the working class has no interest in defending Karadzic. Full stop.

  11. Paul Fauvet said,

    So, TCD, you reject the ICC as a “bourgeois court”. Perhaps you’d care to tell us what a proletarian international criminal court would look like? In what way would the rules of evidence differ between the current ICC and a putative proletarian court? Is there any difference between the bourgeois and the proletarian definitions of genocide?

    TCD and Rob show the dangerously casual approach of some sections of the left (whether they consider themselves marxist or not is irrelevant) to the concept of the rule of law. Do you really believe that the rule of law is irrelevant to the working class? Would you prefer the alternative – which is arbitrary power?

    Are you saying that centuries of struggle to abolish bad laws and bad courts (e.g. Star Chamber) were a waste of time? Is the fact that you can no longer be hanged in Britain for stealing a handkerchief of no relevance to the class struggle?

    How are the rights of working people defended ? By enshrining them in law, of course, and getting those laws enforced by the police and courts. That is why children no longer work down coal mines, why there is such a thing as a minimum wage, and why trade unions are permitted to exist.

  12. modernityblog said,

    Paul put all of the points that need addressing, I shall await tcd and Rob’s response

  13. Rob said,

    In a bit of a rush, but several things immediately spring to mind.

    Firstly, I am speaking as a Marxist, not as some kind of general leftist. Therefore, it should not surprise you to learn that I (and the tradition I am claiming to speak for) am not a liberal, and am therefore ambivalent about the central plank of liberalism (the rule of law).

    Secondly, I don’t accept the idea that in our search for governmental alternatives we have to accept that all there is is the ‘rule of law’ or ‘arbitrary power’. Even if you are correct, the notion of ‘arbitrary power’ would obviously need to be refined and parsed.

    Thirdly, I really do reject this strawman argument which seems to be ascribed to me. At no point does my argument say ‘ignore the law’, indeed, I am at pains to point out that this is a complex issue. So, my general position is to say well, yes, obviously the law can have progressive content and it is necessary to struggle within the law for these. But ultimately law – as a form, as a social relationship etc. – is tied to capitalism, so struggling through the law means staying within those bounds. Importantly, struggling within the law may also mean *legitimising* those bounds. I develop this position to some degree in this blog post, although it remains unrefined:

    http://pashukanis.blogspot.com/2008/04/book-review-degradation-of.html

    If you are interested in how these issues might pertain to international criminal law (and international law more generally) I would reccommend an article by Matthew Craven, Susan Marks and Ralph Wilde that I would be happy to send you. So note that this position doesn’t say that law or legal issues aren’t ‘relevant to the class struggle’, but it also takes law – as a specific form of regulation – seriously, meaning that it becomes necessary to inquire into the structural limits of such a strategy.

    Finally, my specifc problems with international criminal law can be found here:

    http://pashukanis.blogspot.com/2008/07/hello-folks.html

    One other issue I would add to this problems is the virtual immunity of the P5 of the SC from any international criminal prosecution (owing to the veto).

  14. modernityblog said,

    Rob,

    thanks for your reply, as a Marxist, but could you, for the sake of the rest of us mere mortals, who haven’t read all volumes of Capital and the rest of Charlie’s output, engage with the issues directly?

    I don’t say that in bad faith, but your answers seem a bit elliptical and don’t answer the points made to you

    I am sure that your lack of time is probably to blame, but when you are relaxed and able could you possibly try to respond directly to those questions?
    :)

  15. paul fauvet said,

    Rob also doesn’t seem to understand the concept of the independence of the judiciary, or even know how the ICC was set up.

    It is not a body of the United Nations. It was set up by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which has so far been signed by 106 countries. Among those who have not signed are three members of the Security Council – the United States, Russia and China.

    So if ICC prosecutors want to prosecute US citizens, the problem they will face is that the US does not recognise ICC jurisdiction.

    The ICC is not accountable to the UN – if it was, you can bet that the indictment of Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir would never have got past a Chinese veto.

    Rob also seems to be confusing the ICC with a different court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which really was set up by the UN, but whose jurisdicton is restricted to crimes committed during the Balkan wars. The ICTY was set up by the UN, but is independent from the Security Council – it doesn’t have to ask permission from the Security Council and no veto is involved (otherwise Russia would almost certainly have vetoed the trial of Milosevic).

    As for “rule of law” versus “arbitrary power” – I’m afraid the bitter experiences of the 20th century should have tauight marxists what happens when you throw away the rule of law, in pursuit of Leninist cliches about the dictatorship of the proletariat.

    Rob’s claim that law is tied to capitalism is quite absurd. Does he imagine there were no laws before capitalism? And does he think that the socialist revolution will create such a paradise on earth that we can dispense with laws, police forces and courts?

  16. Dr Paul said,

    Can anyone prove rather than merely assert that the Socialist Workers Party supported Serb militarism? I defy you to find anything in its papers that actually does that. As far as I recall, the SWP refused to support any of the warring sides in the Yugoslav wars; and that is a rather different position.

  17. Bob said,

    Socialist Review June 1999:

    When the bomb went off in Old Compton Street, Mr Blair described it as a barbaric act. When cluster bombs go off in Serbian marketplaces, cutting children into pieces, we are told that such an act is being taken on behalf of ‘civilisation against barbarism’. Mr Blair is clearly having a wonderful time. But if Britain remains America’s poodle, she is now a vicious and demented poodle. The Nato action is in breach of its own charter and outside all recognised parameters of international law. Nato is destroying the infrastructure of a sovereign state, murdering hundreds of civilians, creating widespread misery and desolation, and doing immeasurable damage to the environment. Underneath the demonisation and the hysteria, there is an agenda. What is it? It is certainly not what it purports to be. Neither Clinton nor Blair gives a damn about the Kosovan Albanians, despite their tears. This action is yet another brutal and blatant assertion of US power, using Nato as its missile. This “new aggressive” Nato is helping to fulfil one thing and one thing only-American domination of Europe. The true danger to world peace is not former Yugoslavia, but the United States.”

  18. Bob said,

    OK, it is true, the SWP did not explicitly say “support Serb militarism”, but their attempts to relativise away Serbian aggression (“actually not so many have been killed”, “the Muslims are just as bad”) was one step better than the RCP’s denialism. Their insistence on the sovereignty of Serbia was as un-Marxist as it gets. Their utter lack of interest in initiatives like Workers Aid to Bosnia gave the lie to their claim that the duty of the socialist is solidarity with the workers on both sides.

    Also read:
    http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/587/swp.htm
    http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2008/02/22/swp-goes-neo-con

    ***

    On a different note, I’ve just written an overly long post on Western “imperialism” in Bosnia:
    http://brockley.blogspot.com/2008/07/extraordinary-claim.html

  19. Bob said,

    OK, the SWP didn’t actually say “support Serb militarism”, but their pathetic minimising of the ethnic cleansing (“not so many people have been killed as imperialist propaganda claims”, “the Muslims aren’t so nice either”) was just one step better than the RCP’s denialism. And their insistence on Serbian “sovereignty” (as in SR quote above) is about as un-Marxist as it gets. And their lack of interest in campaigns like Workers Aid to Bosnia gave the lie to their claim that the real duty of socialists is solidarity with the workers on both sides.

    Also read:
    http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/587/swp.htm
    http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2008/02/22/swp-goes-neo-con

    ***

    And on a different note, I’ve just written an overly long post about Western “imperialism” in Bosnia:
    http://brockley.blogspot.com/2008/07/extraordinary-claim.html

  20. Bob said,

    OK, the SWP didn’t actually say “support Serb militarism”, but their pathetic minimising of the ethnic cleansing (“not so many people have been killed as imperialist propaganda claims”, “the Muslims aren’t so nice either”) was just one step better than the RCP’s denialism. And their insistence on Serbian “sovereignty” (as in SR quote above) is about as un-Marxist as it gets. And their lack of interest in campaigns like Workers Aid to Bosnia gave the lie to their claim that the real duty of socialists is solidarity with the workers on both sides.

    Also read:
    http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/587/swp.htm
    http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2008/02/22/swp-goes-neo-con

  21. Bob said,

    That flipping wordpress smiley again!

  22. modernityblog said,

    scanning ISJ I found two articles on Duncan Blackie on the topic:

    War without end http://pubs.socialistreviewindex.org.uk/sr188/blackie.htm

    The left and the Balkan war
    http://pubs.socialistreviewindex.org.uk/isj69/blackie.htm

    scanning the first one, it seemed a bit weak, but I’ll let others judge

  23. Bob said,

    It is interesting to see, in the second of modernity’s links, how the SWP’s “anti-imperialism” uses the exact same language (“in the former Yugoslavia… all sides–no matter what their differences in military strength or their records of atrocities–are fighting for the control of territories in which the status quo will be upheld) as the “realists” in the George Bush Sr and Clinton regimes.

    Both portrayed the conflict purely as a civil war. In fact, in 1992, the non-Serb Bosnians were the victims of Serb oppression (to use the Leninist vocab), but the failure of the West to step in gradually allowed something more and more like a civil war to develop, so that the SWP and the realists could more and more easily say, “see it’s a civil war”.

  24. Andrew Coates said,

    There is an important basic set of principles here beyond this particulare case. My own views on human rights. Like most Marxists I was highly suspicious of gradiose claims about them. This changed gradually over the years. As most of us are, I was already in favour of the practical need to defend them, but wary of the institutions we have and not clear on the basis of the theory. What tilted me in full favour of human rights politics (and thus legislation and Courts) was the following:

    *Eleanor Roosevelt., The woman who pioneered the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. David Winner. 1992 .*

    This describes in detail how modern human rights legislation was born, how the framers of the Decelaration tried by every means possible to transcend the different world cultural, religious and ideological standpoints (from religious beliefs of all kinds, liberalism, to socialism and humanism). It is a tale of great courage and deep thought. Worth reading as well…

    From this position I don’t give a toss if the ICC is ‘bourgeois’ – what matters is the detail of its operations and how it enforces its judgements. That’s where we can criticise it. Not simply for *being*.

    For the record I defended the Yugoslav Federal state,against the break-up when it began. I suppose it’s because I had some residual sympathy for Tiitoism and a very much alive Austro-Marxist vision of federated nationalities. I would deeply resent if that position – which was not that rare – were conflated with any liking for Milosovic etc. Indeed as readers of the old Red Pepper site will know myself , and others, such as John Palmer, stopped posting there when it got flooded with neo-Stalinist cack disputing the atrocities carried out under Karadzic’s regime. (actually it got worse, the same nutter began questioning Rwanda’s genocide – these things tend to go together).

  25. Andrew Coates said,

    If you stomach it, the worst of the kind of drivel I referred to can usually be found at:

    http://www.emperors-clothes.com/

    Let’s hope this trial can show the world that some evil (not a word I usually use) can be brought to justice.

  26. Hamster said,

    Oh, I thought you were the SWP. You must have weakened over the years….bloody turncoats becoming Management Lackies.

  27. Mark said,

    Bob

    Isn’t the quote from Socialist Review you trailed earlier actually a quote from that well known SWP member, and Nobel Laureate, Harold Pinter ?
    Karadzic’s trial at the ICTY (not the ICC as Paul points out, correcting several other commentators) will certainly be interesting, assuming he doesn’t have an ‘accident’ before arriving at The Hague.
    If he calls the Russian arms dealer Victor Bout (lifted earlier this year in Bangkok) to testify about Clinton’s breaching of the Bosnia arms embargo it could get very interesting indeed.

  28. Rob said,

    Again, not much time, but Paul, I really do know what I’m talking about.

    Firstly, I know that the ICC was set up pursuant to the Rome Statute, but since UN obligations trump the obligations of any member states (customary or treaty based) a motion tabled under Chapter VII would be able to override treaty obligations under the Rome Statute.

    Secondly, this is of course *formally recognised* in the Rome Statute which – under Article 16 – allows for a prosecution to be deferred when a resolution is tabled by the SC. I also find your comment about Sudan particularly hilarious (as well as quite telling) because Sudan has not ratified the ICC Statute, instead the *only* reason the ICC has jurisdiction is because the situation was referred by the SC.

    Thirdly, I don’t see how I am confusing the ICC with the ICTY. I addressed the ICC when people invoked the ICC, but Karadzic (who this post is about) has been captured pursuant to an ICTY warrant and will be tried by the ICTY, hence why I mentioned the ICTY.

    Fourthly, the link between law and capitalism. Well, it is quite difficult to address the ‘argument’ you put forward, but I would note that all I have done is provide a very loose sketch. Law (in my view and the view of many others) is tied to commodity-exchange, which of course pre-dates capitalism but is only universalised with capitalism. Such a position admits of pre-capitalist law, but also explains why it was sporadic, unsystematised and very different from what we know as law today. In terms of post-capitalist ‘regulation’, I would say this is a question for another day, but seeing as this blog is home to a lot of AWL-ites I would simply note there are presumably a lot of people here who hold to the idea that the state will (and should) ‘wither away’.

    Personally I also find it pretty difficult to just accept the ‘independence of the judiciary’ or the rule of law without any critical engagement whatsoever.

    Andrew Coates, I have read some rather more pessimistic accounts of the international human rights regime/movement, which have also been fairly convincing.

  29. Ed said,

    When you watch that terrible grainy video footage they’re playing on the news of boys and men being unloaded from a truck and, hands tied behind backs, being made to squirm face down in the mud before, presumably, being shot in the back of the head don’t you wonder whether Cheka executions looked like that too?

    I don’t mean this as red-baiting point. I’m genuinely interested as to what followers of Lenin and Trotsky make of this. Doesn’t it trouble you when you see those pictures?

  30. modernityblog said,

    Rob,

    in fact, it was my mistake to confuse the ICC and ICTY (thanks Paul for correcting us) and it is reasonable to assume, as you appear to be studying law, that you’ll know some of these issues

    so instead of turning this thread into some legal conference why don’t we stick to the political issues?

    in light of that:

    1) do you think that “Marxists”*** should welcome Radovan Karadzic’s arrest ?
    2) or argue that the ICTY is fatally flawed? and that he should be released?
    3) and if he is put on trial, where could he receive a ‘fair trial’?

    *** remember that there are dozens, if not 100s, of types of Marxists, from SPGB (Clapham), to various Leninists (Trots, Maoists, Stalinists, etc) to others who might not share a conformity of views, whatever their view on old Charlie.

  31. Jim Denham said,

    First out of the traps, by my reckoning, is that friend of tyrants everywhere, and professional apologist for the old Yugoslavia (“a multiparty Socialist-led democracy”) is: “award-winning” Neil Clark:
    http://neilclark66.blogspot.com/2008/07/will-justice-ever-be-done-at-hague.html

  32. Jim Denham said,

    Volty: can’t we do anything about these fucking smilies?

  33. tcd said,

    “So, TCD, you reject the ICC as a “bourgeois court”. Perhaps you’d care to tell us what a proletarian international criminal court would look like? In what way would the rules of evidence differ between the current ICC and a putative proletarian court?”

    It wouldn´t uphold property rights, it wouldn´t respect the legitimacy of any state, and it would make its primary goal to prosecute anyoe profiting from anyone else´s labour and to enforce freedom from private property.

    “TCD and Rob show the dangerously casual approach of some sections of the left (whether they consider themselves marxist or not is irrelevant) to the concept of the rule of law. Do you really believe that the rule of law is irrelevant to the working class? Would you prefer the alternative – which is arbitrary power?”

    I would prepare a federal soviet democracy based on collective ownership, obviously. :D So I don´t accept your binary alternatives. In fact I think your binary alternatives are false, because as I said there´s no rule of law under capitalism, jsut different factions pursuing their own interests, and any coincedence with progressive poltiics is purely that – coincedence.

    “Are you saying that centuries of struggle to abolish bad laws and bad courts (e.g. Star Chamber) were a waste of time? Is the fact that you can no longer be hanged in Britain for stealing a handkerchief of no relevance to the class struggle?”

    This may have been relevant in the struggle to establish bourgeois demcoracy centuries ago, but I don´t think peddling the same line in a time of decadent monopoly capitalism serves any purpose. Worse, it sows the illusion thatthe state is “ours” and that we can democratically participate in it as some kind of “public space”. Wrong. The state is not public, it is the colelctive property of the bourgeoisie.

    “How are the rights of working people defended ? By enshrining them in law, of course, and getting those laws enforced by the police and courts.”

    Wrong. Rights are won through struggle, often violent. The fact that the bourgeoisie might sometimes curb its own excesses in order to not take on a conflcit it can´t win, doesn´t mean that the courts and police are a tool for progress, rather that they can be forced to retreat on certain issues through struggle, something they do in order to preserve their own existence and ability to continue defending privae property and ensuring that the majority of the population remain as slaves.

    “That is why children no longer work down coal mines, why there is such a thing as a minimum wage, and why trade unions are permitted to exist.”

    No.

  34. Graeme said,

    Did Clark beat Mick Hume to it?

    http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/5494/

    Filthy fuckers, the both of them.

  35. modernityblog said,

    you can’t get much lower than this:

    “When Arkan, the most notorious Serb militia leader, was wanted by the international war crimes tribunal, he said he would appear there after the American government: ‘First let them call in to the Hague Tribunal those who destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, those who killed civilians in those two towns, who attacked Panama and Grenada – and after them, me.’ It was hard to dispute that he had a point.

    Mick Hume :(

  36. paul fauvet said,

    So proletarian courts won’t uphold property rights, TCD tells us. Presumably he means that under socialism there will be no laws against theft.

    I’m not just scoring a debating point here – most people whose homes are burgled are not members of the bourgeoisie, and I suspect that burglaries are not going to miraculously stop the day after the revolution. So what do you propose to do about petty thieves? Summary execution?

    Furthermore, these ideal courts will not rspect “the legitimacy of any state”. Do you mean there isn’t going to be a workers’ state? We’re going to move from the current nation state system, to a global collective in one stupendous bound?

    The abolition of the nation state may well be highly desirable – but like many desirable things, it’s not going to happen in our lifetimes. Marxists have to live in the real world, not the ideal world of our imaginations.

    In that real world invasions happen, ethnic cleansing happens, genocide happens – and marxists must have a better response than to shake our heads wisely and say “it wouldn’t happen under socialism”. The best response we have come up with so far is a system of international law, enforced through international courts. It’s far from ideal, but it’s a lot better than the sovereign impunity that existed before Nuremberg.

    Of course rights are won through struggle – but you can only defend those rights in day to day practice if they are written into legal codes and if there are means of enforcing them – which means via the courts. Laws exist that prevent employers from sending their workers to an early grave, not because of the charity of the bourgeoisie, but because working people fought – and one of the things they consciously fought for was to change the law. TCD’s attitude shows a remarkable disrespect (or possibly lack of knowledge) of that history.

    Since TCD thinks we cannot democratically participate in the state, presumable he imagines that bourgeois democracy and fascism are much the same thing. I hope i don’t need to remind him that this was the position of the Comintern in the late 20s and early 30s, and that it led to an enormous disaster for the workers of Europe.

  37. Anthony said,

    “This “new aggressive” Nato is helping to fulfil one thing and one thing only-American domination of Europe. The true danger to world peace is not former Yugoslavia, but the United States”

    Well that worked out. Europe is so obviously under the thumb of the US as a result of the actions in Kosovo. Do these people ever re-visit the bullshit they write, or do hey just forget about it and move straight on to make exactly the same mistakes over and over again.

  38. tcd said,

    “So proletarian courts won’t uphold property rights, TCD tells us. Presumably he means that under socialism there will be no laws against theft.”

    No I don´t mean that.

    I don´t know if you have noticed, but life in the vast majority of the world (i.e. under capitalism) is not exactly safe. The courts and police are there to protect the property of the rich, not the poor. When I talk about private property I don´t mean someone´s right to their own living space or car etc., obviously. What I mean is that the state is there to protect the bourgeoisie, not workers, it is not a neutral institution but a tool of repression.

    “Furthermore, these ideal courts will not rspect “the legitimacy of any state”. Do you mean there isn’t going to be a workers’ state? We’re going to move from the current nation state system, to a global collective in one stupendous bound?”

    Obviously socialism won´t be established in the whole world a the same time. A workers state though would have to be soemthing compeltelyd ifferent to any “state” you can imagine, i.e not the Bolshevik conception, but a genuinely federal body of colective decision making by the whole working class.

    The argument that this will descend into anarchy I don´t accept, I believe that the majority of workers in any Soviet, having seized control of the means of production and the “monopoly of violence”, would be able to rationally police themselves and that any disruptive influences could be fairly dealt with. If I didn´t believe that then why even bother fighting for socialism?

    Regarding bourgeois courts, I believe they would be 100% opposed to any socialist federation, and fight to the last to destroy such a project. I don´t think it´s helpful therefore, if you are a campaigner for socialsim (to those who aren´t, well, that´s a different argument), to selectively praise these bodies.We shold surely instead put forward arguments against bourgeois “rule of law” at every opportunity, due to the fact that it´s primary function is to protect private property and the rule of the bourgeoisie.

    “The abolition of the nation state may well be highly desirable – but like many desirable things, it’s not going to happen in our lifetimes. Marxists have to live in the real world, not the ideal world of our imaginations.”

    I don´t know if the abolition of the nation state will ever happen or not, however, I think it´s a neccessity for the long term future of humanity, and saying so shouldn´t be sacrificied for momentary opportunism when a dominant section of the bourgeoisie fights against a particularly reactionary section of its own class via imposing laws through the state.

    I say this because it´s a key issue of our time, and self-proclaimed marxists have made terrible issues on this issue in many cases, from supproting Chavez and Evo Morales (or maybe even the AKP) against the “oligarchy”, to various “national liberation”, stageist, and “anti-fascist” projects.

    I think in large part this comes from the poisoning of marxism by Leninism and Trotskyism (an especially bad example, for example the would-have-been anti-fascist fronts with the German Social Democrats, the “anti-imeprialsit untied fornt”, and worst of alll, the “Transitional Programme) and I see this deep flaw as being at the root of the degeneration of both SWP “anti-imperialists”, and “muscular liberals”, i.e. that socialism can be relegated to a “higher goal”, and in practice well meaning socialist militants should be used as foot soldiers for one or another bourgeois faction which can secure some or other keyfoothold for the working class, however much it may have the exact opposite intentions, i.e. to increase its own exploitation of the working class and dominance over society, albeit at the expense of another bourgeois faction (although, those who end up dead, imprisoned or starving are never the other faction save for one or two scapegoats, but rather, the working class)

    “In that real world invasions happen, ethnic cleansing happens, genocide happens – and marxists must have a better response than to shake our heads wisely and say “it wouldn’t happen under socialism”. ”

    This isn´t my response, I find this quite patronising, I come form and live in a country where genocide has happened in the last generation, and where now various bourgeois factions use this for their own benefit and try to present themselves as defenders of democracy, human rights and the rule of law – which are completely bourgeois concepts and reflect a hypocritical morality with no rooting in what is really going on.

    In reality all they do is sacrifice some redundant section of the bourgeoisie in order to strengthen their own “progressive” faction, which then proceeds to screw hte working class.

    and in the middle of all this confusion, what does degenerate Leninism/Trotskyism do? It places demands on the govenrment and courts to prosecute more murderers, to cleanse the police, etc. Incoherent. So, wewant to destroy the state because it is a tool of the bourgeoisie, but we also want it to protect us from the excesses of the bourgeosie? We want toplace demands n the current crop of criminals in government to prosecute soem toher crop of criminals for us, and to pass laws to strengthen its power to persecute its enemies? Hmm, I wonder who they will be used against next….

    No, sorry, I do not see nay coherene in a Marxist placing demands on the state to be a tool of progress, all this does is legitimise it. All we are doing is placing demands on an institution that works for itself anyway the effect is to allow the borugeoisie to present a self-intereste measure as a pro-working class measure, witht he blessing of self-proclaimed revolutioanries.

    “The best response we have come up with so far is a system of international law, enforced through international courts”

    I don´t think “we” have come up with anything, I think dominant bourgeois powers have set up courts to better enforce their power over subordinate bourgeois pwoers. Not that we should resist this in the name of strenghtening subordinate bourgeois powers in the name of permanent revolution(a theory which in fact proposes the opposite), rather we call defeat to both sides, as the workign class has no interest in helping either.

    “Of course rights are won through struggle – but you can only defend those rights in day to day practice if they are written into legal codes and if there are means of enforcing them – which means via the courts.”

    Of course, but marxists want to abolish the existing courts and police, therefore we should not aid them in presenting self-interested measures as pro-working class measures. To do so is contradictory and incoherent.

    “Laws exist that prevent employers from sending their workers to an early grave, not because of the charity of the bourgeoisie, but because working people fought – and one of the things they consciously fought for was to change the law. TCD’s attitude shows a remarkable disrespect (or possibly lack of knowledge) of that history.”

    I´m not at all inorant of that history, this is the same attitude I encoutner when arguing with any self-proclaimed “radical” who nearly always turns out to be a worshipper of state power and social dmeocracy – I am not insulting you here, I am just noting the genuine confusion within the mdoern left.

    Let mework out this story then, if I can –

    1.)Capitalists need to exploit workers at a certain rate to turn a profit

    2.)Workers don´t let them

    3.)Said capitalists use the state to make all of society – in particular the stronger sections of their class and the middle classes, but also the workers, through tax – pay in order that the state can subsidise those industries – voa direct subsidies, protectionism, nationalisation with full compensation and the same bosses, the welfare state which replaces wages thereby offsetting class struggle between worker and employer -so that this need for unbearable exploitation is avoided and the bosses are saved from bankrupcy, widespread idsorder, or expropriation

    4.) The “revolutionary” left decides to place its demands on the state, whether these be job protection, welfare, nationalisation, pay and conditions etc, i.e. the same things which had already been spontaneously forced ayway by the working classes refusal to be exploited at the rate which the owners needed to survive in the free market anyway (all to be paid for by the borugeoisie as a whole as well as the general population)

    So I am sorry, but I´m confused as to how “revolutionaries” who demand state intervention are ever doing anything other than helping the borugeoisie paint as progressive a measure which it is already was forced to take by spontaneous workers resistance. The state will only ever do what is in bourgeois interest so to place demands on it can at best only legitimise it, and at worst lead you to place demands which will never be met – i.e. to waste workers energy on a utopian dream of charity from above.

    “Since TCD thinks we cannot democratically participate in the state, presumable he imagines that bourgeois democracy and fascism are much the same thing. I hope i don’t need to remind him that this was the position of the Comintern in the late 20s and early 30s, and that it led to an enormous disaster for the workers of Europe.”

    The Comintern of course was committed to the project of the Russian state bourgeoisie, which meant following whichever alliances they made. This is quite different to putting forward revolutionary alternatives to fascism and to social democracy, in fact the popular front against fascism hardly worked in Spain did it (or are we talking baout a “united front” here, in which case, what exactly would be the difference), so why should it work in Italy or Germany? Do you really think workers could or should have been called upon to defend the thieves and criminals of German social democracy, for example?

    I can´t think of a better way to playinto fascisms hands than to present that alternative, in fact, wasn´t it the failures of German liberal democracy which did os much to let fascism flourish in the first place, whilst all the while the pro-Soviet Union left refused to put forward a genuine class based alternative?

  39. Paul Fauvet said,

    After TCB’s first post I assumed he was some kind of Trotskyist. I now see that I was wrong, since TCB has jettisoned even the most sensible part of Trotsky’s writings,.on the need for a united front against fascism. TCB’s position – no united front with social democrats – is precisely what the comintern was preaching before Hitler came to power.

    His solution “putting forward revolutionary alternatives to fascism and to social democracy” was exactly what the German Communist Party claimed to be doing. Under the malign influence of the comintern, it even argued that Hitler’s takeover would be temporary and it would be “our turn next”.

    The Popular Front didn’t work in Spain? Actually it did for a couple of years, and the Republic might have survived had it not been stabbed in the back by Britain and France with their “non-intervention” policies (exactly the same sort of policies adopted towards Bosnia almost five decades later, which had the effect of rewarding fascist aggression).

    Do I think workers should have been called upon “to defend the thieves and criminals of German social democracy”? . Most members of the SPD were not thieves or criminals but ordinary workers. And even if they were thieves, this was surely a case for invoking Benjamin Franklin’s advice: ” We must all hang together, gentlemen…else, we shall most assuredly hang separately”. The latter turned out to be the fate of both German communists and German social democrats.

    You believe that “the majority of workers in any Soviet, having seized control of the means of production and the “monopoly of violence”, would be able to rationally police themselves and that any disruptive influences could be fairly dealt with”. Of course you have no evidence for such a belief, and the experience of 20th century revolutions suggests that you are plain wrong.

    No doubt your way out of that is to argue that they weren’t real revolutions, and there was no real socialism in the Soviet Union, eastern Europe, China or anywhere else. This is a very convenient argument, allowing you to discard all the lessons from history.

    Your vision appears to be entirely utopian. But utopias are not benign – like the millenarian goals of certain Christian sects, they cannot be achieved, and the attempt to do so results in mountains of corpses.

  40. Voltaire's Priest said,

    Jim;

    Not sure about the fucking smilies, but I shall have a look at it. I know it’s annoying when they pop up if you don’t intend to use them.

  41. tim said,

    i see Neil Clark has now stopped claiming that 2-4000 died at Srebrenica.
    The baton passes to Andy Newman
    http://www.davidosler.com/2008/07/radovan_karadzic_better_victor.html#comment-28436

  42. Dr Paul said,

    Re Modernity at # 33. Actually, the appalling Arkan did have a reasonable point, one which Mick Hume outlines above the quote from Arkan:

    ‘There has always been a strong air of double standards around accusations of war crimes… When a participant in a war is singled out to be accused of war crimes, it is generally a safe bet that it will be one of Them rather than Us – the barbarians of the developing world rather than the gentlemen of the West.’

    That is the main point about war crimes trials in general and of Karadžić in this latest incident. Who is to decide what is a war crime, and who is to be arraigned and judged? If one is on the winning side, or if one is in a position of power, then you are very unlikely to be up before the beak, whatever your crimes. Will George Bush ever be in the dock for launching an aggressive war — considered at Nuremberg to be a war crime — and causing untold misery in Iraq? And will Tony Blair be there because he gave him full support? Just to ask the question is to answer it.

    There may be those who feel that Karadžić is innocent of overseeing a regime whose forces and irregulars carried out many cruel atrocities. I cannot speak for the odd Serbophile amongst our ranks, nor would I wish to. I think that it is indisputable that Bosnian Serb forces and irregulars were responsible for many atrocities; as were all sides in the Yugoslav civil wars. I certainly will not be calling for his release should he be jailed. Nonetheless, there are aspects of this process that leave me — and should leave any socialist — uneasy. Apart from the example of Bush and Blair and Iraq, there have been over the decades many people guilty of overseeing, ordering and/or committing atrocities whose close links with the big powers have prevented them from being prosecuted for war crimes.

    Indeed, some war criminals in Yugoslavia seem to have been rewarded: Agim Çeku, who played a key role in the expulsion of 200 000 Serbs from Krajina in 1995, became, with Western backing, the prime minister of Kosovo, having been in the meantime a leader of the KLA/UÇK,, an organisation mired in gangsterism and guilty of ethnic crimes.

    I recommend that readers have a gander at the article on Nuremberg at http://www.revolutionary-history.co.uk/otherdox/nurember.htm as this makes some telling comments about the hypocrisy behind a trial that concerned probably the worst political gangsters in history, rather than small-time gangsters of the likes of Karadžić.

  43. tcd said,

    “After TCB’s first post I assumed he was some kind of Trotskyist. I now see that I was wrong, since TCB has jettisoned even the most sensible part of Trotsky’s writings,.on the need for a united front against fascism. TCB’s position – no united front with social democrats – is precisely what the comintern was preaching before Hitler came to power.”

    I believe this is called guilt by association. The Comintern rejected a united front against fascism, so do some other tendencies, so we must all be the same.

    You appear to have taken a very simplistic view of this whole question, if you think that the Comintern´s primary “mistake” was to not call for a united front with social democracy. Your logic seems to be “comintern refuses united front, fascism triumphs, a explains b”.

    I find it odd thart someone whois obviosuly not very sympathetic to Trotskyism would accept as gospel this analysis which I doubt many historians agree with.

    “His solution “putting forward revolutionary alternatives to fascism and to social democracy” was exactly what the German Communist Party claimed to be doing. Under the malign influence of the comintern, it even argued that Hitler’s takeover would be temporary and it would be “our turn next”.”

    Of course the Comintern claimed to be putting forward a reovlutionary alternative, but so what? History clearly showsus that it was not. In reality the co-operation of Stalinism with fascism are well known as is Stalinism´s committment to opposing revolution in western Europe, so your attempt to conflate this with a line which argues for an independent working class alterntive to fascism is quite strange.

    “By looking to the Comintern
    The Popular Front didn’t work in Spain? Actually it did for a couple of years, and the Republic might have survived had it not been stabbed in the back by Britain and France with their “non-intervention” policies (exactly the same sort of policies adopted towards Bosnia almost five decades later, which had the effect of rewarding fascist aggression).”

    Which is why I don´t look to enlightened foreign policy of borugeois states to save the world. Why sow false illusions?

    Likewise, what do you think would have been so much better if the Republic had triumphed? Stalinist dictatorship (with a debt to Britain and France at that!) over Francoist dictatorshp…take your pick. I choose neither. That´s the trouble with frontism you see, when you make a front with the borugeoisie, they don´t adapt to you, rather you simply give left cover to the crushing of the workign class.

    “Do I think workers should have been called upon “to defend the thieves and criminals of German social democracy”? . Most members of the SPD were not thieves or criminals but ordinary workers.”

    Yes of course, but you are talking about working with the party itself, which is entirely different from defending the rights of workers. Do you really think my position is “fine,lock them up, they are SDP members”.

    “You believe that “the majority of workers in any Soviet, having seized control of the means of production and the “monopoly of violence”, would be able to rationally police themselves and that any disruptive influences could be fairly dealt with”. Of course you have no evidence for such a belief, and the experience of 20th century revolutions suggests that you are plain wrong.

    No doubt your way out of that is to argue that they weren’t real revolutions, and there was no real socialism in the Soviet Union, eastern Europe, China or anywhere else. This is a very convenient argument, allowing you to discard all the lessons from history.”

    There were certainly real revolutions in Russia and China, though clearly not revolutions which led to the establishment of socialism. I would say that Russia underwent a bourgeois revolution which overthrew feudalism, and that the Bolsheviks were its Jacobins.

    Certainly I see no evidence of the rule of the Soviets being the source of oppression, in fact I think hsitory shows hat it was the Bolsheviks crushing of the Soviets which was the source of oppression in Russia.

    You talk about the lessons of history, well as someone famous once said, hsitory is a spiral not a circle. Either we can succeed in a real socialist revolution, now that we are in a world far more advanced than the one in which the Bolsheviks seized power over 80 years ago, or you think we are condemned to a binary choice between the current status quo, and totalitarianism. If you believe the latter then fine, I´ll keep fighting for the former, you keep opposing us.

    “Your vision appears to be entirely utopian. But utopias are not benign – like the millenarian goals of certain Christian sects, they cannot be achieved, and the attempt to do so results in mountains of corpses.”

    I don´t think my vision is utopian. It´s you after all who would call on the French and British bourgeoisie´s to establish socialism or democracy or whatever, out of the goodness of their hearts, across the world, against all evidence history has to provide about the barbarity of these states and the unbridled self-interest of all capitalists and all states.

    On the other hand, I know that the current status quo isa living nightmare for the majority of the world´s population, and that thanks to our current economic crisis and the complete barbarity of the global ruling classes, that it will get unimaginably worse over the next few years, and that our only alternative is to remove those bastards from power.

    So I don´t think I am utopian, I think I have been mugged by reality by seeing starving children every day, and by the knowledge that no-one in power or in business gives a shit and that they never will (because if they did, the wealth and means exist to end this misery instantly, jsut like we waste money on new football stadiums and high speed trains for businessmen), and all this in a country which is classed as middle income and as being in the top 50 most devleoepd in the world!

    At the same time, you appear to be in a complete liberal bubble, where the same people who live in mansions while people are starving are the same oneshwo can solve the world´s problems, and that we need no struggle or disorder to change things. That my friend is utopian. Can I ask you something, do you even have have contact with the 30% of your own country living in poverty (which is also getting worse every day).

  44. paul fauvet said,

    TCD – you’re wrong. 30% of my country does not live in poverty. 54% does (on the definition of living on less than one US dollar a day).

    For I currently live in Mozambique, where it would be rather hard to ignore poverty, or to live in “a liberal bubble”.

    I was involved (albeit, as a journalist, in a rather minor role) in the attempt to build socialism here – an attempt which the apartheid regime drowned in blood in the 1980s. I think I know from bitter experience some of the problems involved, and that experience makes me very wary of casting aside such sfeguards as the rule of law (or let’s call it “socialist legality”, if that will make you feel any happier).

  45. tcd said,

    Fair enough, I thought you were British. I apologise.

    I can´t comment on Mozambique speciically because I don´t know enough, however the hsitory of every coup and dictatorship which I do know about proves that when the majority of the bourgeoisie is faced with a threat to its existence, it will do what it takes to stay in power. Therefore, I can´t see the sense in placing faith in the bourgeoisie to oppose the repressive means which it needs to take to defeat the working class.

    The falsity of the left/right dichotomy is pretty clear to me, in every single exaple I can think of, any crisis of capitalism which was resolved by victory for the “left” wing of the bourgeoisie – dutifully supported by many so-called revolutionaries – led to the crushing of the working class to more or less the same extent as a victory for the right-wing faction would have. This is why life for the working class under fascism and life under stalinism were indistinguishable -a victorious Republic in Spain would have faced exactly the same taks (the defeat of the Spanish working class and the establishment of accepable rates of profit for Spanish national capital) as Franco faced (and these could hardly be implemented in somehow less contradiction with the working class byt he Republic than they could be by the fascists), this is why life under a victorious Hugo Chavez in 10 years will be fundamentally no better than life under a victorious military government, or why life unde rbarack Obama will be no different to life under John McCain – because they all represent the same class interests and all have the same task, to resolve existing contradictions in favour of the bourgeoisie, against the working class.

    It is of course true, I will accept, that usually the less internationalised, weaker factions of the bourgeoisie, represented by social democracyor third world nationalism depending on where int he world you are, will often be able to momentarily offer some kind of populist policies offsetting the need for immediate aggressive confrontation. But it is equally true that in power,t hese factions must serve the interest of their whole class, or be removed, and therefore in the end a Chavez or a Clement Attlee or a Barack Obama or a Tito or a Mandela or a Peron or a whoever the hell you want, has two choices: do exactly what the right would do, or lose power.

    For this reason, I do not think a genune marxist positoon should, today, put forward frontism with the borugeosiie (united or popular) as viable for anything other than at best failure and martyrdom (ala Allende) or at worst, putting into power the people who will then do exactly what the right would do in that situation (ala Bolshevism, Pol Pot, Mao, Nestor Kirchner, Lula, Tony Blair, etc.)

  46. tcd said,

    and regarding the dichotomy which I am about to be presented – “social democracy vs fascism”, can I ask, when was a serious crisis of capitalism where the bourgeoisie faced a real threat of revolution and where there was a huge push for fascism or a miltiary coup by its right-wing mainstream, ever resolved without violent repression?

    If you can´t find examples, then why should anyone assume that 1930´s Germany could have been different? I humbly suggest that what anti-Nazi factions of the German bourgeoisie did exist, would still have needed to crush the German working class at home in an extremely violent way, and that therefore the Trotskist fantasy of a united front against fascism with the left wing of the German bourgeoisie is not plausible,and is in fact an anti-working class policy.

  47. modernityblog said,

    Dr Paul wrote:

    “Who is to decide what is a war crime, and who is to be arraigned and judged? ”

    I suppose it is based on the UN conventions on war crimes? in this case it is the ICTY, but soon it will be the ICC for other significant crimes?

    you wrote:

    “I think that it is indisputable that Bosnian Serb forces and irregulars were responsible for many atrocities; as were all sides in the Yugoslav civil wars.”

    isn’t that a way of unnecessary deflecting criticism of the Bosnian Serbs forces? along the lines of “everyone is to blame, therefore no one is really to blame”?

    as far as I see “Serb or Serb-controlled forces were responsible for at least 86% of the killing of civilians in the Bosnian war, and for over 80% of the killing of civilians in the Wars of Yugoslav Succession as a whole.”

    http://greatersurbiton.wordpress.com/2008/07/15/thirteen-years-since-srebrenica-thirteen-facts-to-refute-the-theorists-of-an-anti-serb-imperialist-conspiracy/

    also, see http://greatersurbiton.wordpress.com/2008/01/04/what-do-the-figures-for-the-bosnian-war-dead-tell-us/

    I think that nails that point?

    you wrote:

    “Nonetheless, there are aspects of this process that leave me — and should leave any socialist — uneasy. “

    uneasy, fair enough, but what else would you expect from the Court system under capitalism? perfect justice?

    historically speaking, can you think of a time when that occurred? in the past 5,000+ years?

    so Mick Hume and many ex-RCPers are uneasy, what alternative would they have ?

    no justice at all? up against the wall? or an imperfect one?

    the imperfect one, at least has the benefit of setting a precedent which might be extended later on to cover other Heads of State, which I think is to be welcomed.

  48. Bob said,

    Re Mark: Oops, yes, not the SWP but Pinter in their mag Socialist Review
    http://www.jorna.dk/arkiv/sr/231/sr3.htm
    Still, they give him a platform!

  49. duh said,

    “Still, they give him a platform!”

    So?

  50. Jim Denham said,

    So…it suggests that they might just possibly think he has a point…or even agree with him. Usually, when left wing journals publish a point of view (especially on a contentious issue) with which they disagree, they make it clear by calling it part of a “debate”, or by also publishing a statement making their own position clear. The SWP did neither, and as previous comment-ators have demonstrated, gave *de facto* support to the Serbs during the Balkan wars of the early 1990′s.

  51. Bob said,

    So… Without having a copy of Socialist Review from 1999 in front of me, I can’t say how the featuer, “Voices against the war”, was laid out. But the web version at pro-SWP jorna.dk makes it look like they presented a pretty narrow range of views from close to the SWP’s own position. When they publish views they don’t agree with, they tend to make that clear.

    The SWP, I believe, didn’t actually affiliate to the Committee for Peace in the Balkans, but attended its meetings as observers, helped organise its marchs, and provided the cannon-fodder for these marches. The Committee was led by a sorry combination of social-pacficists (mostly on on the Labour left), tankies and vicarious Serb nationalists. Benn and Pinter were typical of this formation. The SWP material focused 100% on stopping the NATO bombs. They never once gave support to Kosovar independence or to the rights of Muslims in Kosovo or Bosnia; they never gave an indication of how the West might positively intervene to stop the slaughter of Muslims and others in the Balkans.

    As the Weekly Worker report on the Committee for Peace in the Balkans demo:
    “It is not the duty of revolutionaries to act as cheerleaders for the latest country to run foul of the US-led west, as if any such regimes’ ersatz ‘anti-imperialism’ represents any kind of working class interests. A prime duty of revolutionaries is to explain why, in the first instance, Serbia’s working class needs to support the right of Kosova to independence. The SWP failed in this duty at the weekend.” (http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/284/leftindisarray.html)

    Bosnia in 1992-5 was a big turning point in my political evolution: having been uneasy marching alongside Ba’athists in 1991 anti-war marchs, the refusal of most of the left (with the noble exeption of those groups associated with Workers Aid) to engage in any way with the victims of violence in the former Yugoslavia shocked me more. 1999, when the West had a clear opportunity to act in Kosovo in a way it had failed to do in 1992-5 in Bosnia, brought out a very sharp distinction between what became the indencent left and what became the decent left.

    The Committee for Peace in the Balkans was a dress rehearsal for Stop the War a couple of years later: the same alliance of vicarious social patriots, Stalinists, the new Stalinists of the SWP, and their social pacifist useful idiots. This time, though, the utter indifference to the suffering of Muslims demonstrated in the 1990s was replaced by a cynical pandering to Islamist sentiment, a move that is now (in the post-Respect explosion) rebounding on the SWP, but alas probably not fatally.

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