Issue 234 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published October 1999 Copyright © Socialist Review
No apologies necessary
Paul Flewers (September SR) is wrong on two counts. He underestimates both the impact of the anti-war movement on Nato's strategy in the Balkans and the scale of the crisis in the former Soviet Union.
The anti-war movement had a direct bearing on the options Nato felt able to pursue. The mass demonstrations in Germany, Italy and, in particular, Greece meant that the Nato alliance was subject to increased tensions as a result of popular hostility to the war. In the United States, the Vietnam Syndrome lay behind Clinton's reluctance to commit ground troops. There is still popular hostility to Americans suffering death and injury in foreign military engagements.
Even in Britain the impact of the anti-war movement was considerable. Demonstrations against the war had a real effect More importantly, the proliferation of local groups organising debates and public meetings gave the movement real depth. There was much less sectarianism in the alliances that were established which can be put to good use for other campaigns. Look, for example, at the breadth of support for the lobby of the Labour Party conference.
As K-For colludes with the KLA in the ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Kosovo, the demand from the liberal press that we apologise for our opposition has a decidedly hollow ring to it. In fact, as these events show, the anti-war movement has been vindicated.
To describe as 'alarmist', as Paul Flewers does, the stance Socialist Review has taken on the scale of the crisis in the former Soviet Union is either unbelievably complacent or profoundly pessimistic. It seems to betray a secret wish that the crisis will go away.
Firstly, the proliferation of conflicts between the states that comprised the former Soviet Union is likely to intensify in the future. For one example, the pro-Nato Guuam alliance aimed at exploiting the oil rich region around the Caspian Sea has already exacerbated tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Paul Flewers also refers to the war in Moldova and Chechnya.
Secondly, in the 82 regions of Russia itself there is increasing conflict between the desire for increased autonomy from Moscow and the inability to go it alone. Thirdly, as Mike Haynes graphically described in the last issue of Socialist Review, the scale of the Russian economic and political crisis 'beggars belief '. Output has fallen by half since 1991, in the last 18 months there have been no less than five prime ministers, and it is now becoming clear that Yeltsin and his family circle are mired in corruption.
What would be truly alarming is if this edifice of political and economic corruption managed to sustain itself much longer. The old ruling class cannot continue to rule in the old way and has not yet found a new way of consolidating or extending its control. Unfortunately, the other element in the revolutionary equation--the refusal of the exploited classes to go on being ruled--has not yet found sustainable expression.
But his interpretation of law is too one sided. In Britain, for example, the law is undoubtedly structured to meet and maintain the interests of capital, but that doesn't mean socialists take no interest in breaches of health and safety law, or don't use 'Fairness at Work' legislation to push for trade union recognition or defend the gains of the Abortion Act. Similarly with international law. Surely Max would agree with nuclear test bans and proliferation agreements, or restrictions on the emission of greenhouse gases.
The points that Natassja Smiljanic raises (July/August SR) are well made. Nato's breach of international law during the Balkans war has made the world less safe. It sets the US, Britain and other Nato states up to work outside internationally agreed standards--to intervene whenever and wherever they feel their political interests have been threatened.
If anyone should be in the dock of an International Criminal Tribunal it should be Clinton and Blair.
A CASE OF TRIAL AND ERROR
Keir McKechnie and Iain Ferguson (September SR) are right to question the diagnosis and compulsory detention of those with 'severe personality disorder'. The label is almost meaningless. In one survey, 80 percent of psychiatrists questioned said they simply did not know whether the condition was treatable or not. Despite this confusion, the establishment has happily applied the label to certain individuals and then proceeded on the basis that with this category of patient 'anything goes'.
DRAWING TIGER'S TEETH ONE BY ONE
Neil Rogall's letter (September SR) about my article on Kashmir raises an important objection. It would even be a decisive objection if the organisations of chauvinistic Hinduism (the Sangh Parivar) were calling for a reconquest of the provinces lost to Pakistan in 1947. The point is that, apparently perversely, they don't, and haven't since at least 1957.
STRUCK OFF FROM THE LIST
The 100th anniversary of the formation of the Labour Party falls next year. However, anxious to spin its own version of events, Labour HQ at Millbank scheduled the celebration for this year's conference instead.
HITTING THEM WHERE IT HURTS
Ralph Tebbutt's letter (September SR) reminds pensioners of the issues involved, the lack of response from all governments since the last war (especially on the Pensioners, charter), and outlines action for the future. His call for more of the same is praiseworthy and should spur pensioners to respond to Jack Jones's appeal at the recent Pensioners' Parliament at Blackpool for more local direct action. In this area we are taking Jack Jones's advice, going to lobby our local MPs and creating as much 'fuss' as possible.
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