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Ismet Mujezinovic - Majka, 1947.

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Broj 102 (13 - nova serija)

Godina XXIV mart-ozujak/april-travanj 1998.
Prethodna Sadrzaj Slijedeca

Tomaz Mastnak
Notes on European Anti-nationalism
Na bosanskom

Nationalism, it is often said, is the plaque of the late 20th century. But the name of the plaque anti-nationalism, when seen against the backdrop of what has been happening in ex-Yugoslavia. Someone out there one of the great number of those who have directly suffered from the war, may be writing, or is going to write, a journal of death and calamities that they have had to endure. Yet they may choose to try to forget the horrors which cannot be conveyed to those who have not experienced them, and they should be allowed to forget as much and as well as they can. What cannot be forgotten or forgiven is the attitude of those who call themselves the international community: European governments and supra-national political institutions, in the first place but also, proportional to their lesser power, non- governmental organizations and a great part of the public. Allegedly impartial spectators, they have been major players in the so called Yugoslav crisis; with their "neutrality" they have taken sides, and their "balanced view" has only strengthened "The fearful asymmetry of war."

Needless to say, the war in Bosnia has its history. However, this history does not reach very far back in time. It is Europe which lives immersed in its own not really glamorous history, which is haunted by memories of the past wars, and has not only not overcome, but cultivates, historical animosities. In looking for deep-rooted hostilities in the Balkans, Europeans only project and impose their tormented mind on those who had been surprisingly free of the burden of history. Of course, in the common image of the wild Balkan tribes there is a great deal of racism, too, yet this itself is a crucial element of the living European past. The Ubermenschen can only sustain their understanding by denigrating those whom they do not consider to be of their own race. The irony about the historicizing racist view of Bosnia is that the medieval Bosnian state gave shelter to many of those who fled religious persecution in the West, and it also appears that, since the early-modern era, there has been less war in the Balkans than in Europe.

The organizing principle of the discourse in Europe on the Yugoslav crisis and the wars that followed the dissolution of Yugoslavia is nationalism. If nationalism were better understood this might not be a misleading principle. However, nationalism is equated with ethnic strife and with xenophobia, chauvinism, and fascism. Because this understanding of nationalism is fallacious, it distorts the comprehension of what is going on in the former Yugoslavia; and, consequently, the West's policies, founded on an opposition to nationalism-the politics of anti-nationalism-are utterly destructive.

The sources of this anti-nationalism anti-etatisme are diverse. Serbia, under its present rule a fascism sui generis, is an anti-state. In the years of Yugoslavia's final crisis and war, it has never striven to become a nation. The truth of the matter is that Serbia cannot be accused of nationalism. On the contrary, power has developed to the people: the Serbian nation has become the "people." In the Germany of the 1930's, this process was termed the Volkwerdung der Nation. In Serbia, the people has become not the origin of power but power itself- the ethnic immediacy of national being. Consequently, it was declared, with the authority of leading Serbian intellectuals, that Serbia was, and ought to be, not only where Serbs live but also the soil in which they are buried. In order to involve the dead in the celebration of the new Serbian life, the remnants of Czar Lazar toured the land, graves were laid open and, among other rituals, bones were- literally- "sunbathed" (suncanje kosti). Serbian dominion was to be founded on blood and soil, extended so far as to encompass all the living and all the dead of that race, regardless of any existing civil institutions, and this territory was to be "cleansed" of the "impure breed" of the "inferior races." Croatia seems to be tending to take a similar way inasmuch as the nation, under the stress of the war and inept leadership, is turning into a "community" (hrvatska zajednica).

I do not want to imply that the state is an (much less the) ethical good. However, it is a good in the sense that civil order is a good. It is this good that Euro-Serbian anti-nationalism is effectively destroying. Slovenia seems to have escaped the worst. Croatia is becoming a ghastly place to live in. In Bosnia, anti-nationalism has been most successful. In proportion to the degree to which national sovereignty has been frustrated or destroyed, the politics of ethnocentrism, chauvinism, xenophobia, racism and fascism are gaining momentum. The politics of anti-nationalism have generated ethnic hatred and ethnic strife. For the camarilla in Belgrade, this was the starting point; yet it took a couple of English lords and an American politicus emeritus to elaborate the ethnic strife thesis as the guideline for official Euro-American policy. In March 1992. they first imposed a general scheme for the ethnic division on Bosnia (the so-called canonization plan), which provided the blueprint for initial Serbian aggression in that country. (As if it needed one. What it needed was a kind of authorization, and this was given. The war broke out in a month.) When the first wave of aggression achieved its basic aims, the Western diplomats drew a more detailed ethnic map, signed by Vance and Owen, as it they wished to set the objectives for the continuation of warfare. Serbs and Croats were eager to act and implement, or correct, this map. It is inconceivable that Eurocrats might recognize that their "peace plan" is fueling the war. They will continue to play the obscene game: for the murderous consequences of their "peace policy"-for all that which in the eyes of the old-fashioned and the naive does not really correspond with the idea of peace-they will blame the "traditionally barbarous" Balkan peoples. For Eurocrats, this "peace plan" has become a point d'honneur, and Bosnia may, and will, perish only that Europe will save its "honor". The European political elite has been offering, as the peaceful solution, the very same model that the Serbian-and now also Croatian-military and paramilitary forces are putting into practice with a genocidal war.

This certainly not a formalistic approach to politics. It has succeeded in finding a substance. And it was also successful in dismantling the existing formal structures without which civil order is inconceivable. The consistency with which the West deconstructed the Bosnian government can only be admired by philosophers of deconstruction. Western diplomats seem to have felt no discomfort in promoting Serbian chieftains from Bosnia as their equals in negotiations. The French president even took the trouble to fly to Sarajevo to have a talk with them. Their setting up of a hyperactive apparatus of rape and slaughter obviously called for respect Euro-American politicians also chose to treat Bosnian Croats, who were represented in, and by, the Bosnian government, as a separate entity. As a result, the government was declared the representative only of Bosnian Muslims and put on equal footing with the self-styled criminals. Instead of treating the latter as outlaws, the West has outlawed, as it were, the elected government, making it a problematic "warring faction" and compelling it to deal with those whose aim is to destroy it-that is, it has been forced to participate in its own destruction. The plans of European diplomats and Serbian fascists (as well as Croats, who have been all too happy to begin to participate in the partition of Bosnia) coincided. The former were dismantling the legal government ideally, in their heads and around conference tables; the latter materially, on the ground; and both were treating the government as a warring ethnic faction: as warring Muslims.

With the progressive disintegration of civil order, with "no Society; and which is worst of all, continual feare, and danger of biolent death; and the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short", the anxieties of Western anti-nationalists are materializing, their politics have born fruit. Here they have "nationalism" in actu. And as the war continues, affecting all who have come into contact with it, teaching them the lessons of Serbian genocidal practices, it will be all to easy to say that there are no "good wuys" in the conflict and to construe an image of creatures who are totally alien to the civilized Western race. In this way an ex post facto justification is provided for Western policies, suppressing the embarrassing truth that these policies have helped to create the facts. The understanding of what the West has done is so much easier to suppress because the racial, if not racist, view of the Balkans is proving that "nothing could be done." (When convenient, the Western power appears clad in powerlessness.) And if "nothing could be done," the easy and fallacious inference is at hand that nothing has been done-so much the more so because it is believed that the West can only do good. Since this crucial chapter, on what the West has actually done, is commonly missing in the story, the irrationality of those who are supposedly the sole protagonists, the indigenous tribes, is laid bare and exaggerated to the neutral Western eye.

Yet the self-congratulatory conclusion that the West was right to have opposed nationalism, from the outset is perverse not only in the sense that it defines, as the reality of nationalism, an ethnic hatred which its own anti-nationalist policies have generated. There is a desper perversity involved: anti-nationalism, the opposition to national sovereignty, absolves anti-nationalists from opposing ethnic hatred, chauvinism, racism, and fascism. They are anti-nationalists in order not to have to be anti-racists, anti-chauvinists, and anti-fascists, although some would prefer to think of inemselves ass anti-nationalists, and anti-fascists. They are anti-nationalists because, in their own opinion, nationalism equals racism, chauvinism, and fascism. But what they actually do when they equate nationalism with racism, chauvinism, and fascism is that they create an imaginary enemy. These phenomena, tied together into a fascio, may not be necessarily easier to break than each of them separately; yet it surely gives a much greater satisfaction to fight an opponent who is great, unitary, omnipresent and unreal, than to grapple with unpleasant, harsh, and fragmented realities. Yet it is not only that a crusade against an imaginary enemy frees one from confronting real dangers. it is that anti-nationalism-leaving racism, chauvinism, and fascism actually unchallenged weakens, or destroys, that set of institutions which are the reality of nationalism, that is, the state. And when the state is weakened or destroyed, the device is lost which alone could hold ethnic hatred, chauvinism, racism, and fascism in check. Without the state, indeed, little or nothing can be done against these sinister phenomena. There is yet another important aspect of this problematic. To oppose these thing would necessarily involve some introspection, some self-questioning on the part of the West. To oppose national sovereignty most often involves opposing an external reality, confronting the "other" and boosting one's own identity. To confront ethnic hatred, chauvinism, racism, and fascism would mean recognizing that the sinister phenomena are internal; it would mean questioning the identity of the West, of the best of all possible worlds-and that is out of the question.

The Western incapacity to confront Serbian fascism is telling, but not unexpected. In the big "ethnic strife" which has entered history books as World War II, fascism was defeated militarity. However, the West has never deconstructed and destroyed it symbolically, that is, politically. This is why fascism is still alive. In the policies toward the present Serbian regime there is much that evokes memories of the Spanish Civil War and the Treaty of Munich; the traditions of the politics of appeasement to fascism, so well exemplified by Chamberlain, appear not to have been abandoned. Much effort has been made in the West not to describe the Serbian regime as fascist but rather to look for fascism elsewhere, where the Belgrade gaze saw it (and never thinking that fascism might be in that gaze). And insofar as the Serbian regime and its aggressive politics have been confronted, they have been confronted as "bolshevism", "communism", or "nationalism"-all familiar enemies, which history has already defeated and surpassed. Because everything has been done not to confront Serbian fascism as fascism, Serbia has not been confronted at all. Not only is Europe as far as ever from the symbolic destruction of fascism; it currently even shuns a military confrontation with it.

This may become one of the messages of the "Yugoslav War", and Croats seem to be the first to have learned the lesson. paradoxically, as long as Croats had been victims of Serbian fascist violence, Europe called them fascist, now, as they themselves have started to fight Bosnian Muslims Serbian style, they are no longer described as fascists. As long as the Croatian population fell prey to Serbian genocide, Croats were decried as a genocidal nation; now, as thec have started to "crease" the territory, granted to them by European peace-makers, of the Muslim "rubbish", these accusations have quieted down.

The Orwellian fiction which used to be projected, without a second thought, on the communist East, seems to have made its way back home where it has come true.

European diplomats (and lesser pacifists) argue that war is peace and peace is war. Yet, in a strange way, this is a moment of truth. The peace plan for Bosnia belongs to a long tradition. European peace has never parted from war. European peace-seeking was only opposed to wars in Europe, it only desired that baptized blood should cease to be shed. The way of freeing Europe from wars was to export them to non-European territories, or to the margins of Europe. Moreover, the idea of European unity is intimately connected to the idea of war, or a real war, against an enemy from without, and as a rule that enemy is the Muslim. The Muslim is the symbolic enemy of Europe, and I do not believe that it is by accident that Bosnians. And whether accidental or not, this is certainly not inconsequential.

The image of the warring Muslim invokes both the Urangst of the Christian, cultured, and civilized West, and the more recent specter haunting Western politicians and intellectuals, that of "Islamic fundamentalism." Once the were styled "Muslims, the Bosnians who refused to join, or surrender to, either Serbian of Croatian ethno-fundamentalist formation, became total aliens to Europe. That the have been, as Muslims, excluded from Europe religiously, culturally, and politically, was to be expected. More surprising is the form of their racial exclusion. Because the Bosnians are Slavs, the often used argument against giving effective help to the Bosnian government-that this would upset the Russians who feel deeply with their "fellow Slavs," the Serbs-is actually nonsense. Yet out of such matter is European policy "composed and made." The Slavs, it is true, are only second class, or potential, Europeans, but Muslims simply do not belong to Europe. That is why it is assumed that the Bosnians are not Slavs.

Not much effort has been made in the West to explain the nature of Bosnian society, that it was a largely secular society and that the Bosnian towns which are failing victim to the urbicidal mob were historical centers of cultural pluralism and tolerance. And even if such efforts were made, it would not make much difference. For to argue against anti-Muslim feelings and images is as futile as to argue anti-Semitism-arguments cannot change anything. A further difficulty is that is impossible to prove in concrete that anti-Muslims is a constitutive moment of Western policy in Bosnia. The very suggestion that this may be the case is energetically refuted. Yet outcomes of the policy-whether it is conscious or unconscious, spelled out or denied, intended or unintended, originating in idiocy or malice-cannot be misread. And this is the writing on the wall.

The obvious fact is that there is a genocide of Bosnian Muslims taking place and that its perpetrators have not been countered in any effective way, much less stopped. The masterminds of the genocidal practices are distinguished quests at European diplomatic conferences, equal (if not more equal) negotiators, and are given full access to the media to disseminate their lies. It is sometimes said that European governments lack the will to confront Serbian fascism, but I'm afraid that the premise of this explanation is false-it would first have to be proved that they want to act in any different way. It takes a strong will to endure the horrors of the war in Bosnia, to sustain the genocide, and the West has not lacked this will. Its policy is one of anti-nationalism in the guise of anti-Muslimsm. The Bosnian nation, the sovereign Bosnian state, has to be destroyed not only because state-building, as a principle, is perceived as a nuisance, but also because the danger of a Muslim political presence in Europe has to be averted. The "shortest way" is to sufficiently reduce the number of Bosnian Muslims so that they will give up hope of ever being anything but an ethnic group.

I would not call this a conspiracy. It is much more like a dream coming true. To chase the Muslims out of Europe is the European dream. To cleanse Europe of "the Turks" was the dying thought of the greatest figure of the Enlightenment. "It is not enough to humiliate them, they should be destroyed," urged Voltaire. "Beat the Turks and I will die content," he confided to the Russian Emperess. This dream is still very much alive, living as dreams live.

The war against the Bosnian state and the genocide of Muslims is the execution of the Enlightenment testament. The Sadean soul of European enlightened rationalism reigns free. Serbian fascists are fulfilling the European dream. It the dream is too dreadful for Europeans to live it themselves, it is nevertheless their dream. If it is coming true with the heap of Serbian and Croat fascists, this only gives to Europeans double pleasure; the pleasure of the fulfillment of the dream and the pleasure of not having soiled their own hands with blood. They have the pleasure of realizing their barbarity and, in the face of barbarity, preserving their civility. While their wildest political imagination is materializing, they can at the same time maintain the position of horrified critics of this wildlife. Their racism can take a sublime and respectful turn as they condemn the Balkan tribes.

However, this dream, the Bosnian's nightmare, is bound to become a nightmare for Europeans themselves, a nightmare not filtered through TV screens. The denial to Bosnians of the right to defend themselves is immoral. To state this may not be completely out of place here, even if moral arguments do not have as much weight these days. They are with great confidence dismissed by the spineless political animals who rule Europe. They adhere to what they take to be Realpolitik, yet this "Realpolitik" of theirs is realistic only insofar as they are successfully creating a reality after their own image. In any conventional meaning of the term, this is not Realpolitik but a politics of Realitatsveriust. However, the denial to Bosnians of the right to self-defense is not only immoral. It is as also the destruction of the one certainty on which the security of modern European order has been based: the right to self-defense, If Bosnians are slaughtered like sheep, one should be aware both of the hand that slaughters them and the hand that ties them to be slaughtered. The hand that ites them is tearing the fabric of international law in its most vital place.

Humanitarian aid is not a remedy-with all due respect to those who, in the UN straitjacket, deliver it, It is a lie: the hand that feeds the Bosnians is the hand that ties them to be killed. The UN Secretary General was greeted in Sarajevo by a crowd shouting "Assassin! Assassin!" Those in the West who are not completely happy with the UN performance in Bosnia (and can afford the luxury of not being "emotional") would rather speak of a humiliation of the world organization in Bosnia. However, humiliation can only take place where there is dignity-a quality which has been impossible to discern in the UN Bosnian policy. The Arab countries are also mistaken when they accuse the UN of having double standards, for this organization appears to have no standard at all.

It is part and parcel of the policy which has not only refused to stop, but has itself contributed to, the destruction of civil order and the reduction of Bosnians to a state in which they have to depend on such help. Humanitarian aid is the reverse, the noble face of the denial of civil existence. All that is left to the victims of the war is the obscene recognition that they are humans. Yet if one recalls the "si non est civis, non est homo" maxim of European political tradition, they are not. Thus the Western policy of humanitarian aid is a policy of dehumanization-and and final blow to humanism. (This is not something Serbo-Croatian fascists worry about they are clear that Muslims are not humans. And whatever they do to them, they are not violating human rights. The "culture of human rights" - a self-glorious shorthand for Western political culture-is not endangered).

Humanitarian aid has also served as an excuse to avoid Western military action in Bosnia. And because this is called peace-keeping, one can only say that of all the weapons Europe has yet invented, "peace" appears to be the most lethal. Thus humanitarian aid has probably saved time contributing to the dehumanization of life in Bosnia; at the same time, peace negotiators, imposed and led by Eurocrats, have cost more lives than the war itself, properly speaking.

One of the reasons why Bosnians are dying is that they believed in Europe. They thought that the recognition of their state involved some kind of responsibility on the part of the "international community". They were utterly wrong, and they were wrong not to have armed themselves when there was still time. They were also naive to think that their adherence to European values mattered-instead of solidarity, they met racism; instead of support, humiliation. Their betrayed hopes reveal the hopelessness of Europe. Amidst the horror and devastation of the war, a senior UN official in Bosnia has recently expressed his hope that Serbian war criminals (those guilty of the massacre in Srebrenica) will burn in the hottest corner of Hell. This appeal to Heaven is most telling. Is appears that there is no Earthly instance left to appeal for justice. And if, in the "international community", there is no justice, then this community is latrocinium (a marauders' realm), and its leaders latrones (brigads). This appeal to Heaven is also telling because it is not the popular Lockean "Appeal to Heaven." This tells us, by implication, that liberalism has little, or nothing, to say. Indeed, against the background of the Bosnian war it appears that liberalism has collapsed. This is the end not of history, but of liberal history.

There may be more appeals to Heaven in the future, in a different context. The Mene, tekel, parsin (the writing on the wall, in Bosnian blood) has been spelled out for Western democracies: for Europe.

Prethodna Sadrzaj Slijedeca

Fuad Kasumovic - Razgovor, 1993

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