Thursday, March 13, 2008
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
As Kosovo declares independence with the encouragement of the US and most of the EU, one can well wonder whether all these people (starting with the Kosovars themselves) know what they are doing. The last 50 years have been full of countries splitting and joining, and almost always with nasty consequences that no one had anticipated. On the world-wide scale, this includes the WTO, and its junior cousin, NAFTA. Both of these are disastrous to the longer-term interests of working people, but these have stood still for having this done to them, often on the promise of cheaper goods. More visible is the fate of India since partition and of USSR since the Asian republics have been “freed” of the yoke of Moscow. Then Yugoslavia was freed of the legacy of Tito, which was 40 years of peace and relative prosperity. And we see the benefits that freedom from Britain has given places in sub Saharan Africa. Now we can expect Kosovo to seek inclusion in EU, and unthinking supporters of their independence will surely accept that, given the penury that separation from Serbia will surely bring upon them, and that will open the door to the Albanians, who will exacerbate the flood of cheap labor from E Europe. I am reminded of the saga of German unification. In the 60s and 70s, it was said that in Europe everyone was against that except the people. When it came, everyone cheered, but it has not been easily digested in Germany, even though the people are as close together in heritage as, say, the Southern and Northern Irish. And there is no doubt that while the Albanians think of themselves as one people even across that border, they will soon discover that they are uncomfortable bedfellows, not to mention they and the French, who have still not assimilated the Corsicans. The madness we know as nationalism divides more than it unites, though it keeps uniting people into units that ignore the other forces that divide their underlying interests. The little bits of Yugoslavia now have their own flags and their own parliaments, but they lack the economic strength they had 40 years ago, and that might be more important to them in the long run than any number of national anthems.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
Just last week, the British Government was “shocked, shocked”, they said, to discover that American planes had used British air bases in the process of flying prisoners to obscure places where they could be tortured without any interference from obsolete rituals like those required by the US Constitution or the Magna Carta. I saw them on BBC, the picture of offended innocence, declaring that they had not been provided by the Cheney administration with any proof that the unmarked planes landing and taking off from their bases were engaged in any such enterprises. Living here this Winter surrounded by statues and monuments attesting to the glories of the great British Empire, it was hard to remember that this was once a serious nation, not some sort of Uzbekistan. The ministers of state were happy to be taken for idiots, as they were required to do by their masters in Washington. At least an idiot can take refuge in the fact that he was born that way, but a toady is nothing but a toady. The Prime Minister here knows that as soon as he no longer imagines that he has an influence in the greatest agglomeration of coercive power the world has ever seen, he can no longer pretend to himself or his voters that he is somehow superior to inferior nations like France or Germany, to say nothing of Sweden or Denmark. Of course, we know what happens when someone knows better than the idiots in the White House, and says so. Gen Shinseki had his career terminated right away, and Attorney General Mukasey could not admit to knowing that waterboarding is torture. Meanwhile UK, a poor country, spends billions of dollars in maintaining a huge army and navy for a nation their size in order to pretend that they are still a world power, and the “Labour” Party bankrupts the working people with ruinous taxes so as not to trouble the plutocrats with the costs of playing at war and subjecting even poorer peoples to yield up their labor and their natural resources to the monopolistic power of the robber barons represented by Wall Street. Talk about the Emperor having no clothes. The Mother of Parliaments joins all the nations of EU in slavish obedience to a regime that no one could possibly accept as a superior.