Chapter 16 – Part 3 The propaganda war: Preserving “the natural order of things”
by Peter Cohen
Mao the mass murderer
Mao Zedong is roughly equivalent to Joseph Stalin in the Western chronicle of Communist evil, although coverage of his alleged misdeeds is not as pervasive. The main elements of the Mao mythology are discussed briefly below.
It appears that Mao’s three most highly publicized offenses were the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution and a deadly famine. As usual, the historical context of the Chinese Revolution is not particularly prominent in the bill of indictment.
From the 18th century onward China was considered fair game by imperial predators from the West, with Great Britain initially leading the offensive. British efforts to dominate the huge Chinese market included an ingenious scheme for peddling narcotics on a large scale. It involved shipping opium from the Indian sub-continent and selling it in China. This was considered a crime by the Chinese government, which unsuccessfully tried to cut off the contraband trade. The British naturally resorted to violence in order to pry the market open, and after the second of two so-called Opium Wars (1839-42, 1856-60) there was no more official resistance.
The profits generated by the narcotics business for the British Crown were enough to cover the cost of administering colonial rule in India for many decades. The huge profits for the private traders became the foundation of a number of highly respected commercial dynasties.
The use of narcotics in Asia was very limited until Britain and other imperial powers realized that production and sale of opium and other drugs could pay big returns (see above). Western involvement in the international narcotics trade has continued ever since.
By the mid-19th century US businessmen had joined their European colleagues in colonizing China, where the emperor became reduced to a puppet of the West. Revolts by the Chinese people against foreign rule were ruthlessly suppressed, as usual. Today’s imperial killing sprees are regularly justified by claims that the West must defend human rights and ensure that freedom and democracy are available to everyone. The principle official motivation for imperialism prior to World War 1 was that the West was spreading the Blessings of Civilization to the benighted heathen, and in doing so was selflessly shouldering what Rudyard Kipling called the White Man’s Burden.
Mark Twain’s To the Person Sitting in Darkness is an accurate report on the Blessings of Civilization business. It is available at http://people.virginia.edu/~sfr/enam482e/totheperson.html
By the early 20th century a nationalist movement had developed among the Chinese bourgeoisie. A Communist movement that promoted the interests of peasants and workers also developed in China, and accelerated after the Russian Revolution. It was pointed out in Part 1 of this chapter that revolutions are often if not always driven by an alliance of classes that have identified a common enemy, although their fundamental interests are in conflict. The Chinese Revolution was not an exception.
The Chinese bourgeoisie joined forces with the workers and peasants because they shared two main goals – to destroy the feudal structure of Chinese society, and to liberate China from domination by foreign powers. Since the bourgeois Chinese were a relatively small minority, they could not hope to achieve their goals on their own.
They realized that the strongest force in China was the revolutionary movement led by Mao Zedong. Alliance with the majority was the only workable solution. They therefore joined the Communist Party and participated in the long revolutionary struggle. Many of them became members of the party leadership.
The development of the alliance during the 1920s and 1930s was extremely complex, marked repeatedly by breakdowns and betrayal by the bourgeoisie. A small portion of the latter was grouped around Chiang Kai-Shek, who was opposed to the Communists in fact if not always in appearance. The US supported him with military equipment during World War 2 in the mistaken belief that he would use it to fight the Japanese, who in the 1930s had occupied substantial portions of China with the approval of the British government (see Chapter 9, The Far-Eastern Munich).
In 1942 President Roosevelt appointed General Joseph Stilwell commander of the China-Burma-India theatre of war. Stilwell became Chief of Staff of Chiang Kai-Shek’s army and was also responsible for the supply of Lend Lease to China.
Stilwell found that Chiang was primarily engaged in stockpiling weapons to enable a show-down with the Communists after the end of the war. He also reported that it was the Communists who were actually fighting the Japanese, and recommended supporting them.
Stilwell’s experiences in China are described in The Stilwell Papers (1948), published two years after his death. He was one of the few non-Marxist Westerners to evaluate the Chinese Communist movement on the basis of its political program and its consistency in promoting the interests of the majority of the Chinese people. In 1944 he wrote that Chiang Kai-Shek’s military effort since 1938 “…was practically zero”. His assessment of Chiang Kai-Shek’s Kuomintang regime was in sharp contrast to his view of the Communists:
Kuomintang: Corruption, neglect, chaos…taxes…hoarding, black market, trading with enemy…
Communist program: reduce taxes, rents, interest. Raise production, and standard of living. Participate in government. Practice what they preach…
Chiang Kai-Shek is confronted with an idea, and that defeats him. He is bewildered by the spread of Communist influence. He can’t see that the mass of Chinese people welcome the Reds as being the only visible hope of relief from crushing taxation, the abuses of the Army and Tai Li’s [one of Chiang’s commanders] Gestapo. Under Chiang Kai-Shek they now begin to see what they may expect. Greed, corruption, favoritism, more taxes, a ruined currency, terrible waste of life, callous disregard of the rights of men.
Stilwell stated that “The cure for China’s trouble is the elimination of Chiang Kai-Shek”, and accurately predicted that there would be a civil war if he remained in power after the war with Japan ended. Nevertheless the US ruling class and the politicians who served them continued to support Chiang.
There is an obvious parallel with the US (and general Western) assessment of the situation in Vietnam twenty years later, as the rulers of the West claimed publicly that the Vietnamese Communists (like all other Communists) were terrorists. Unlike Stilwell, they could not understand that the success of the Communist movement was based on a program that the mass of the people supported.
In 1949 the Communist-led Revolution triumphed, and the People’s Republic of China was established. Chiang Kai-Shek’s forces had been defeated. He left China and took over the island of Taiwan, which he ruled as a dictator with the eager support of the US government. Several of his generals established themselves in the Golden Triangle and developed a flourishing narcotics export business, in which they cooperated with the CIA (McCoy).
The economic policy initially proposed by Mao was a compromise. The greater part of the production and distribution systems were to be nationalized, but enterprises that were partly or wholly privately owned would also exist.
Nevertheless, from 1949 onward the contradiction within the Chinese Communist Party intensified. On the one hand, Mao and his supporters were committed to building socialism. On the other, the bourgeois members of the party were not committed to what Mao called “the socialist road”. They could not enter into open conflict with Mao, because his group appeared to have the upper hand. Most important of all, Mao had the support of the overwhelming majority of the Chinese peasants and workers. The conflict was fought out in a labyrinth of intricate maneuvers and counter-maneuvers, both public and private. Parallels with the situations in England after 1642 and the USSR after 1918 are obvious. A documented account of the class conflict within the Chinese Communist Party is given in Raymond Lotta, And Mao Makes Five (1978).
For the mass of the people, the benefits of the Revolution included successful land reform, the establishment of collectives and the nationalization of private property, as well development of nation-wide educational and health systems. Agricultural and industrial production increased strongly during the first ten years.
During the 1950s the US implemented a global embargo on trade with China (which devastated the port of San Francisco). Soviet aid was withdrawn after a split between China and the USSR, for which Khrushchev was largely to blame. The supply of development capital became extremely restricted. As in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s, continuing to build socialism required mobilizing labor-intensive policies on a large scale.
The Great Leap Forward launched by Mao in 1958 reflected both the need for such policies and the growing intensity of the conflict between the masses and the bourgeoisie, within as well as outside the Communist Party. The Great Leap was aimed at accelerating the development of “People’s Communes” and cooperatives. Workers and peasants were encouraged to break the power of the bureaucracy, which was naturally a component of the bourgeois forces.
The Leap Forward has been grossly misrepresented in the West, in the same way as collectivization and industrialization in the Soviet. For example, many of the People’s Communes performed successfully at first, but serious difficulties arose due to a lack of resources and mistakes by local officials. The bourgeoisie was on the defensive, and their retaliation included encouraging extremism, which led to a great deal of turbulence. To make matters worse, around 1960 agricultural areas were struck by natural disasters, including both floods and drought in different regions. Food shortages became widespread, and a famine occurred in 1961-1962.
According to the mainstream Western version, the famine was either engineered by Mao or caused by his policies, and resulted in the deaths of as many as 30 million Chinese. Estimates of deaths from famines and other disasters by Western anti-Communist experts often follow a standard pattern (see Robert Conquest or Dana Dalrymple, in Tottle). A population figure is stated for a given year, e.g. 1930. This is compared with an alleged population in e.g. 1940. The expert then projects a value for what the population should have been in 1940, on the basis of an assumed annual rate of increase. The number for the alleged population is subtracted from the projected figure for 1940. The difference is equated with “excess deaths” by starvation or execution, or both.
Fictive millions killed by Mao
Henry C. K. Liu was born in Hong Kong. He is chairman of a New York-based private investment group. In Mao and Lincoln, an article published on-line in Asia Times on 31 March 2004, he showed that a) the US trade embargo was the cause of the famine in China, and b) the number of deaths in the famine has been vastly exaggerated in the West. Liu writes:
There would have been no deaths in the 1961-62 famines if not for the US embargo.
Reports of severe natural disasters in isolated places and of bad weather conditions in larger areas appeared in the Chinese press in the spring of 1959, after the Wuhan Plenum in December 1958 had already made policy adjustments based on the technical criticism of Peng Dehuai on the People’s Communes initiative. In March 1959, the entire Hunan region was under flood, and soon after the spring harvest in southwestern China was lost through drought. The 1958 grain production yielded 250 million tons instead of the projected 375 million tons, and 1.2 million tons of peanuts instead of the projected 4 million tons [peanuts were the raw material for the most commonly used cooking oil in China at the time]. In 1959, the harvest came to 175 million tons. In 1960, the situation deteriorated further. Drought and other bad weather affected 55 percent of the cultivated area. Some 60 percent of the agricultural land in the north received no rain at all. The yield for 1960 was 142 million tons. In 1961, the weather situation improved only slightly.
In 1963, the Chinese press [mostly controlled by the Communist Party led by Mao] called the famine of 1961-62 the most severe since 1879. In 1961, a food-storage program obliged China to import 6.2 million tons of grain from Canada and Australia. In 1962, imports decreased to 5.32 million tons. Between 1961 and 1965, China imported a total of 30 million tons of grain at a cost of USD 2 billion (Robert Price, International Trade of Communist China Vol II, pp. 600-601). More would have been imported except that US pressure on Canada and Australia to limit sales to China and US interference with shipping prevented China from importing more. Canada and Australia were both anxious to provide unlimited credit to China for grain purchase, but alas, US policy prevailed and millions starved in China.
The University of Wisconsin’s Maurice Meisner, whom many consider to be the dean of post-World War II Chinese scholarship, presents three related ways of looking at the alleged 20 million to 30 million deaths caused by the Great Famine begun in the late 1950s under Mao’s tenure in The Deng Xiaoping Era and Inquiry into the Fate of Chinese Socialism 1978-1994 (1996). One, it was a horrible miscalculation. Two, it was the end of famines on this scale (famines had been occurring for the previous few centuries off and on in China about every generation or so). In other words, it brought this horrible historical pattern to an end. Or, three, it was a horrible miscalculation, while also afterward bringing this pattern of famine every generation of so to an end, thus saving millions from a similar fate.
[Liu quotes Meisner:] “It is now the common perception in the West that 30 millions starved to death as a result of Mao’s launching of the Great Leap Forward. Is it true or is it again a result of manufactured history? An article from the Australia-China Review contains a noteworthy refutation of the widely accepted figures of tens of millions of deaths caused by the GLF. The following is excerpted from this article, “Wild Swans and Mao’s Agrarian Strategy” by Wim F Werthheim, emeritus professor from the University of Amsterdam, one of the best-noted European China scholars:
‘…the figure amounting to tens of millions … [lacks] any historical basis. Often it is argued that at the censuses of the 1960s ‘between 17 and 29 millions of Chinese’ appeared to be missing, in comparison with the official census figures from the 1950s. But these calculations are lacking any semblance of reliability. At my first visit to China, in August 1957, I had asked to get the opportunity to meet two outstanding Chinese social scientists: Fei Xiao-tung, the sociologist, and Chen Ta, the demographer. I could not meet either of them, because they were both seriously criticized at that time as rightists; but I was allowed a visit by Pang Zenian, a Marxist philosopher who knew about the problems of both scholars. Chen Ta was criticized because he had attacked the pretended 1953 census. In the past he had organized censuses, and he could not believe that suddenly, within a rather short period, the total population of China had risen from 450 [million] to 600 million, as had been officially claimed by the Chinese authorities after the 1953 census. He would have [liked] to organize a scientifically well-founded census himself, instead of an assessment largely based on regional random samples as had happened in 1953. According to him, the method followed in that year was unscientific.
’For that matter, a Chinese expert of demography, Dr Ping-ti Ho, professor of history at the University of Chicago, in a book titled Studies on the Population of China, 1368-1953, Harvard East Asian Studies No 4, 1959, also mentioned numerous “flaws” in the 1953 census: ‘All in all, therefore, the nationwide enumeration of 1953 was not a census in the technical definition of the term’; the separate provincial figures show indeed an unbelievable increase of some 30 percent in the period 1947-1953, a period of heavy revolutionary struggle… My conclusion is that the claim that in the 1960s a number between 17 [million] and 29 million people was “missing” is worthless if there was never any certainty about the 600 millions of Chinese. Most probably these “missing people” did not starve in the calamity years 1960-61, but in fact have never existed’.
Mao the monster
In 2005, almost thirty year’s after Mao died, Jonathan Cape published Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday. I read about 125 pages, but having recently waded through 672 pages of Montefiore’s Stalin I decided that I had had enough. The styles, methods and purposes of the two books are similar, as are their functions. Discrediting the leader of the Chinese Revolution is intended as one more nail through the heart of the dead body of Communism.
Mao was received with rapture in the mainstream Western media and by fellow academics in the propaganda industry, because like Stalin it told the eager readers what they wanted to hear. But it was strongly criticized by a number of academic historians who have retained a relatively objective approach to reality. Since the book became an international best-seller and has undoubtedly had the intended pernicious effect, a few detailed comments are in order.
The quotations below are from the introduction to Was Mao Really A Monster?, The Academic Response to Chang and Halliday’s “Mao: The Unknown Story”, edited by Gregor Benton and Lin Chun (2009). The book contains sixteen appraisals of Mao by internationally recognized experts on China and Chinese history. All but two are intensely critical.
Benton is Professor Emeritus of Chinese History at the University of Cardiff. Lin Chun (Chun Lin) is a Senior Lecturer in Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics.
Benton and Chun begin the introduction with an exact description of the contents of Mao:
The book pictures Mao as a liar, ignoramus, fool, philistine, vandal, lecher, glutton, hedonist, drug-peddler, ghoul, bully, thug, coward, posturer, manipulator, psychopath, sadist, torturer, despot, megalomaniac and the greatest mass murderer of the twentieth century, in short, a monster, equal to or worse than Hitler and Stalin. He cared nothing about the fate of the Chinese people and his fellow human beings, or even his close friends and relatives. He was driven by bloodlust and the craving for power and sex.
The editors also quote from a review by Montefiore in The Sunday Times: ”a triumph – a barrage of revisionist bombshells, and a superb piece of research… Mao is [sic!] the greatest monster of them all, the Red Emperor of China”.
In recent years producers of anti-Communist propaganda have shown a tendency to provide massive lists of references. Chang and Halliday are not exceptions. Their book
has the trappings of massive scholarship, citing more than a thousand sources and interviews with hundreds of people ranging from George Bush Sr to the Dalai Lama… and various non-Chinese ex-Maoists. The authors are, of course, entitled to their opinion and memory. Where critics can legitimately take issue with them is in their methods and judgement.
Chang and Halliday’s assessment of academics who do not share their views is grandly uncharitable:
A barely suppressed theme of the biography is that established Mao scholarship is incompetent and uncritical. ”Bits of the information were around”, said Chang, ”but they were like pieces of a jigsaw that didn’t make any sense. Nobody has put them together into this coherent picture of Mao. People looked but they didn’t see”. David Goodman, writing in this volume, classes Mao with good reason among a clutch of recent ”revisionist” China books that imply ”a conspiracy of academics and scholars who have chosen not to reveal the truth”. He likens this view to the conspiracy theory in The Da Vinci Code (adding that the ”facts” in the thriller are about as reliable as Chang and Halliday’s).
Of the reviews in Benton and Chung’s book:
Two champion the book’s [Chang and Halliday’s] findings. The rest, taken together, form a comprehensive indictment of it. The critical studies argue that Chang and Halliday distort small details of history to ”prove” their point. The studies charge that evidence is used selectively, where it serves the authors’ purpose, and otherwise ignored. Slurs and innuendos are made to look like hard fact. Judgements seemingly based on strong evidence cited in footnotes collapse on closer scrutiny of the sources. Citations are garbled. Sources are inadequately referenced or uncheckable. Speculation is presented as certainty. Sweeping generalizations are found to rest on flimsy evidence, or no evidence. ”Myths” the authors ”bust” turn out not to be myths, in the cold light of facts. ”Sensational” findings turn out to be old hat, revealed years ago by others. (Even the idea of Mao as monster is not new but was around all along, perhaps most notably in the controversial portrait of Mao published by Li Zhisui, one of his doctors, in 1994.)
On the whole, Chang and Halliday are disinclined to tackle and sometimes even to reference the work of others, preferring to present their conclusions as original even where they are not. Most scholarly books engage with ”the field”, but Chang and Halliday ignore established work except, occasionally, when it coincides with their own preconceived ideas. Many academic studies in English or Chinese that deal with Mao’s character and career are absent from their bibliography. Where they do cite existing work, they sometimes bend its meaning and draw unfair and untrue inferences. Where expert opinion is irreconcilable with their prejudices, they apparently dismiss it. This approach is unacceptable in a book promoted as serious scholarship, especially one as contentious as this. Despite Chang and Halliday’s academic pretensions, they show little inclination to follow basic scholarly procedure. Scholars’ duty to engage with one another’s work is not just a professional formality but a necessary step in the testing of their findings. They must be able to show that their own arguments are either truer and more authoritative than those of others working on the same subject or at least equally legitimate. Chang and Halliday do not do this.
…The authors talk almost exclusively about conspiracy and manipulation. They say practically nothing about the revolution’s social, economic, political and cultural setting. The intellectual context that shaped Mao’s and his fellow leaders’ ideas vanishes almost entirely from sight in their view of it. In contrast, serious studies treat the Chinese Revolution as a complex, creative process in which millions of ordinary Chinese pursued their transforming visions in interaction with the party and its leaders. When others’ agency and the historical context are restored to view in this way, the revolution appears in a quite different light.
…To historicize the revolution is not to defend its weaknesses, mistakes and crimes. Although tragically deformed by its militarization, rustication, and Stalinization, the party continued to retain many of its founding goals and characteristics. After the Long March, when the Red Army battled its way north at the cost of enormous losses, the party spearheaded the resistance in the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-45. In the rural areas after 1945, it led the poor in transforming their local communities. In the villages in the revolutionary years and in the cities after 1949, it changed women’s lives for the better, not completely, but nevertheless massively. Chiang Kai-shek, by comparison, failed to reform the agrarian economy, was an ineffectual leader against Japan, did little to improve women’s status, ruled over an unjust society, and headed a brutal, corrupt and reactionary regime.
Chang and Halliday focus exclusively on the failures of the revolution, including the disastrous outcome of the Great Leap Forward and the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. The picture they give is thus distorted and incomplete. Rounded studies of the Mao years argue that the CCP’s [Chinese Communist Party] achievements outweighed its failures. Stuart Schram, the doyen of Mao studies, concluded in an essay published in 1994 on Mao’s legacy that at other times during his years in power, impressive rates of growth and technological exploits were recorded. Though the Great Leap Forward brought the peasants widespread misery rather than the promised collective prosperity and happiness, the successive phases in agrarian policy from 1946 onward destroyed the old landlord economy and thus laid the foundations for the emergence of a system of peasant smallholdings in the 1980s.
The historian Maurice Meisner, a rigorous critic of Mao, argued in a lecture in 1999 that the Chinese communist victory and China’s subsequent socio-economic development ”must be seen as one of the greatest achievements of the twentieth century”. He concluded that despite ”all the horrors and crimes that accompanied the revolution, few events in world history have done more to better the lives of more people” (emphasis added).
A balanced view of China in the decades of reconstruction after 1949 would also give full weight to the international environment. Blockades and threats by foreign powers created a fear of subversion that degenerated for long periods into cruel hysteria. Political controls tightened even further. Barry Naughton pointed out that resources were massively diverted from production and welfare spending to defence. As John Gittings noted in his review of Mao, ”we should ask how far western (effectively US) hostility encouraged Mao’s radical turn from the mid-1950s onwards, fostering a climate of chauvinism from which China has not yet completely emerged” (emphasis added).
Although I am far from agreeing with all the comments by Benton and Chung or the contributors to their book, their insistence on a balanced view of the Chinese Revolution as distinct from character assassination of its leader is vitally important.
The prime characteristic of all anti-Communist propaganda is precisely that it ignores or denigrates the achievements of Communist revolutions in terms of improved conditions for workers and peasants, i.e. for the majority of the population who actually produce the goods and services required for the survival and development of a society. Naturally, there are negative aspects to all revolutions. But the condition of the majority is the yardstick by which a society or a historical process like a revolution must be evaluated.
Benton and Chun:
An extreme example of the authors’ [Chang and Halliday] tendentiousness is their portrayal of Mao as a Chinese Hitler. They liken the effects of the famine caused by the Great Leap to the extermination of the Jews at Auschwitz and draw a parallel between Mao’s communes and Hitler’s slave-labour camps. These analogies display a saddening lack of moral taste and historical judgement. Six million of Europe’s eight million Jews died in the Holocaust. Auschwitz was the chief instrument in Hitler’s ”final solution” to the ”Jewish problem”. The Great Leap Forward, on the other hand, was designed to accelerate China’s industrialization and farm production. Chang and Halliday show no understanding of the dilemma Chinese communists faced in the late 1950s, as a result of China’s severe international isolation and the military blockade. In Chang and Halliday’s view, the Great Leap was a crime perpetrated by a madman. Others, however, see it as a fundamentally rational scheme to mobilize surplus rural labour in order to create local industry, improve rural infrastructure, and achieve national self-sufficiency, as a way of resolving the crisis caused by China’s quarantine. It also had a utopian dimension, rooted in a belief in the need for popular participation and self-government. That it went so catastrophically wrong was due to the manner of its implementation. No one ordered or desired the deaths. The Holocaust, in contrast, was a deliberate barbarity (emphasis added).
My main objection to the above, apart from the claim that the Great Leap Forward was a catastrophe, is that it implies and reinforces the idea that Nazism was an ideological phenomenon aimed at solving “the Jewish problem”. As we have seen it was aimed at solving “the Communist problem” and was the prime instrument for aggressively and ruthlessly promoting the interests of German capitalists.
Another shot at Mao
Just when I thought that I had almost completed the section on the propaganda war against the Chinese Revolution, on 7 July 2011 I discovered a report in The Guardian that yet another book on the demon Mao Zedong has been awarded the Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction. Professor Frank Dikötter’s Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe 1958-1962 (2010) is called a “stunningly original and hugely important” account of how Mao’s Great Leap Forward led to the deaths of 45 million people. Dikötter is Professor of Humanities at the University of Hong Kong.
One of the judges who voted for the award stated that
…this book changed my life – I think differently about the 20th century than I did before. Why didn’t I know about this? We feel we know who the villains of the 20th century are – Stalin and Hitler. But here, fully 50 years after the event, is something we did not know about. It’s a testament to the power of non-fiction, that it can rock you back on your heels.
The death toll according to Dikötter is about 50% higher than previous Western estimates, but it is difficult to understand why this should make anyone think differently about the 20th century, especially in the light of the figures for capitalist holocaust provided in Chapter 14. However, the judge’s assessment is similar to most of the reviews posted on the Internet.
One of the main requirements for achieving financial success in the propaganda industry is the same as in other branches of capitalist industry – you must have something new to peddle. Dikötter has new numbers, worse than ever, and claims to have retrieved sensational information from newly accessible archives which he refuses to allow anyone else to examine. Mining such archives is a routine activity for dedicated anti-Communists. The increase in the alleged number of Mao’s victims parallels the growth estimates of the so-called genocidal famine in the Ukraine in 1932 (see Chapter 16, Part 1). We can expect Dikötter’s competitors in the China sector of the propaganda industry to release new and higher figures in the near future.
Just as none of the experts in Soviet history is interested in the mortality figures in Russia after 1991, neither Dikötter, Chang or other China specialists are interested in the results of the drastic decline in health-care services after Deng Xiaoping lit up the road to capitalism. In rural areas, 90% of the population had health-insurance coverage in 1976, when Mao died, whereas only about 11% are covered today.
Cormac Ó Gráda is a professor in the School of Economics at University College Dublin. His critical assessment of Dikötter’s work at
http://www.scribd.com/doc/58612524/Cormac-o-Grada-Rvw-Dikotter-Famine-China-Leap does not inspire confidence in the new revelations, and exposes the trick played by Dikötter to arrive at the new figures:
Frank Dikötter’s Mao’s Great Famine (MGF} is the longest and most detailed study of the Great Leap Forward (GLF) famine to appear in English to date… The tone throughout is one of abhorrence and outrage, and sometimes MGF reads more like a catalogue of anecdotes about atrocities than a sustained analytic argument. In style and approach it recalls Jung Chang and Jon Halliday’s controversial Mao: The Unknown Story (2005); indeed, Chang leads the ”praise” for MGF on the back cover. MGF may become the best-known account of the GLF famine for a while. But should it? It is not a comprehensive account of the famine; it is dismissive of academic work on the topic; it is weak on context and unreliable with data; and it fails to note that many of the horrors it describes were recurrent features of Chinese history during the previous century or so. More attention to economic history and geography and to the comparative history of famines would have made for a much more useful book (emphasis added).
Dikötter accepts Deng Xiaoping’s estimate that the mortality rate in China was around 1% by 1958 (presumably the adult mortality rate), i.e. just before the Great Leap Forward. This is required in order to project a 1962 population figure that never existed, compare it with an unreliable census estimate, subtract one figure from the other and announce a new death toll. Ó Gráda:
The crude death rate in China in the wake of the revolution was probably about 25 per thousand. It is highly unlikely that the Communists could have reduced it within less than a decade to the implausibly low 10 per thousand adopted here [by Dikötter]. Had they done so, they would have “saved” over 30 million lives in the interim!
According to Ó Gráda, the mortality rate in China was 2.5% around 1949. Judith Banister, Director of Global Demographics at The Conference Board (www.conference-board.org), has given a figure of 3.8% for that year. This would mean that the health-care and food distribution policies of the Chinese Communist Party had generated a population increase of approximately 50-55 million people. This certainly compares favorably with a purported death toll of 45 million in 1959-1962.
It is a fact that the policies of the CCP resulted in a dramatic improvement in health care and life expectancy as well as a drastic reduction in the infant mortality rate. But it is not credible that by 1958 the party had reduced the mortality rate to the level of advanced Western countries like France and Great Britain.
In addition, a central question evades notice in the euphoric reviews of Dikötter’s book. Why would a government that had recorded such spectacular gains in health care during the first ten years of its tenure suddenly reverse course for a period of three years and arrange for the death of 45 million people, cancelling the gains it had previously achieved?
In the course of an Internet search I stumbled upon another quote from Dikötter. Like Montefiore and Applebaum, in the preface to his book he reveals his political stance without reservation:
In a far more general way, as the modern world struggles to find a balance between freedom and regulation, the catastrophe unleashed at the time [of the Great Leap Forward] stands as a reminder of how profoundly misplaced is the idea of state planning as an antidote to chaos.
The “modern world” is undoubtedly a pseudonym for the leaders of the capitalist West, and the evidence that they are striving to balance freedom and regulation is not persuasive, given among other things that 36 million people are dying annually of starvation and hunger-related diseases, and that a huge proportion of the world’s population is living in poverty. It would also be extremely difficult to convince the Iraqis, the Afghans and the Palestinians – or the Libyans – that the death and destruction inflicted on them reflects a desire for some sort of balance. This also applies to the continuously increasing numbers of American and British households that are descending into poverty or already suffering from it.
The “modern world” is struggling to maximize profits, as it always has, and the battle cry of the European Union and the World Trade Organization is “deregulation”, not regulation.
Only the poor go hungry
The number of excess deaths due to starvation within the capitalist system in the second half of the 20th century is given in Chapter 14. Irrespective of the historical mirages created by Montefiore, Applebaum, Dikötter and their colleagues, UN reports since 2000 show that the number of hunger-related deaths – by starvation or illness – continues to reflect the inherent savagery of the capitalist holocaust.
According to the UN report The Right to Food, approximately 36 million people die each year “directly or indirectly as a result of nutritional deficiencies, infections, epidemics or diseases which attack the body when its resistance and immunity have been weakened by undernourishment and hunger”.
The figure of 36 million was confirmed in a report from the UN Information Service, Independent Expert on Effects of Structural Adjustment, issued on 29 March 2004. “Structural adjustment” refers to the process known as “globalization”, a euphemism for the imposition of policies that promote profit maximization by privately owned companies, both national and multinational. These policies are aimed at preventing any and all attempts to regulate the drive for profits.
On 22 November 2005 the UN Food and Agricultural Organization issued The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2005, which specified that almost 6 million children die annually of hunger and malnutrition.
In recent years, multinational agribusiness companies have been increasingly active in India, a capitalist showcase. In As Indian Growth Soars, Child Hunger Persists, (13 March 2009) the NY Times reported that 42.7% of Indian children under 5 suffer from malnutrition, “despite robust growth and good government intentions”. If India’s BNP is growing and corporate profits are rising, why don’t the children have enough to eat?
Assuming that the number of annual hunger-related deaths has not increased during the first decade of this century, which in the light of poverty statistics is improbable, there were approximately 360 million excess deaths 2001-2010 within the capitalist system.
This real-world figure is 12 times greater than the number of fictitious deaths attributed to Mao Zedong, but it does not seem to bother professional Western propagandists.
The Cultural Revolution
Like the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution launched by Mao was a response to conflict with the bourgeoisie. Mao made this clear when he said that the target of the Revolution comprised powerful people within the Communist Party who were taking “the capitalist road”. These included Deng Xiao Ping and other “reformers” who came to power after Mao’s death.
Once again the bourgeois elements encouraged extremism and then blamed it on Mao’s policies. But the turbulence generated by the Revolution was an inevitable outcome of the class conflict. Naturally, many members of the Chinese bourgeoisie suffered during the process. Their suffering is the basis for the horror stories that are current in the West, which is understandable. Bureaucrats who are forcibly removed from their offices and sent to work in the fields for a year or more are to be pitied. Workers and peasants whose development is retarded by the same bureaucrats are to be ignored
The conflict continued during the 1970s, and after Mao died the “capitalist roaders” were able to consolidate their positions. From 1980 onward they succeeded in dismantling a major part of the social restructuring that had been achieved. Collectivized agriculture was replaced by private ownership of “noodle strips”, as the new and relatively inefficient small farms were known. The more aggressive farmers enriched themselves at the expense of their neighbors, like the kulaks in the Soviet Union. Large numbers of impoverished and landless small farmers have involuntarily joined the huge army of unemployed in China, which amounts to several hundred million. The educational system was “reformed” to restrict access by the working class and the peasants.
Private banks were established, along with a stock exchange. State property was privatized at bargain prices (as in the West) or managed in the interests of so-called “entrepreneurs”, e.g. capitalists. China was opened to foreign investment, and the country has become an export platform for major multinational corporations. Inequality of wealth and income is now the same as or worse than in the United States.
In the new China, as in post-Soviet Russia and the capitalist West, “reform” signifies change in the interest of the capitalist class. In the same way, the leadership of the Party has distorted the content of Marxism in an attempt to persuade the people that they are actually continuing on the road to socialism.
For example, the program of the Party was revised to allow membership by capitalists, both foreign and domestic, who the Party leadership claims are interested in building socialism. One of the most spectacular statements by a government official was an explanation of why capitalism has been encouraged in China, reported in the International Herald Tribune some years ago. He referred to the Marxist analysis of historical development, i.e. that feudalism gave way to capitalism, which will eventually be replaced by socialism. His conclusion was that since China had not passed through the stage of capitalism, it would have to be actively developed and replaced by socialism in the distant future.
The obvious question is why the leaders of the Party, who are clearly committed to capitalism, insist on retaining the word “Communist” in the Party’s name? A number of Chinese have told me “Because the people of China want a Communist Party”. I am convinced that sooner or later they are going to make sure that they have one – a real one.
Pol Pot’s alliance with the United States and Great Britain
The horrors of Pol Pot’s killing fields in Kampuchea comprise another standard item in the Western bill of indictment against Communism. According to Wikipedia, “The combined effects of forced labour, malnutrition, poor medical care and executions resulted in the deaths of approximately 21% of the Cambodian population. In all, an estimated 1,700,000–2,500,000 people died under his leadership”.
The Swedish Forum for Living History claims that Pol Pot was responsible for the deaths of 1.5-1.7 million people, and that this was one of the “most extreme” of the crimes against humanity committed by Communist regimes.
The contribution of the United States of America to the slaughter is not given the same prominence. However, in 2000 President Clinton declassified a database containing data on all bombings of Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos) by the US Air Force 1965-1973. According to Bombs Over Cambodia, byTaylor Owen and Ben Kiernan (2006):
The still-incomplete database (it has several “dark” periods) reveals that from October 4, 1965, to August 15, 1973, the United States dropped far more ordnance on Cambodia than was previously believed: 2,756,941 tons’ worth, dropped in 230,516 sorties on 113,716 sites. Just over 10 percent of this bombing was indiscriminate, with 3,580 of the sites listed as having “unknown” targets and another 8,238 sites having no target listed at all. The database also shows that the bombing began four years earlier than is widely believed – not under Nixon, but under Lyndon Johnson. The impact of this bombing, the subject of much debate for the past three decades, is now clearer than ever. Civilian casualties in Cambodia drove an enraged populace into the arms of an insurgency that had enjoyed relatively little support until the bombing began, setting in motion the expansion of the Vietnam War deeper into Cambodia, a coup d’état in 1970, the rapid rise of the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot, and ultimately the Cambodian genocide (emphasis added).
The US dropped 2,756,941 tons of bombs on Cabodia 1970-1973. Total bomb tonnage dropped by Allied forces in all of WW 2 was slightly over 2 million. David Model, Lying for Empire: How to Commit War Crimes With A Straight Face
American and South Vietnamese assaults in Cambodia, a country whose neutrality the U.S. claimed to respect, caused massive, unconscionable death and destruction. The Finnish Inquiry Commission referred to the number of deaths as genocidal. According to the Commission, 600,000 Cambodians died out of a population of 7 million and another 2 million people became refugees. Carlyle Thayer, an Australian Indochina specialist, estimated the number of dead at 500,000 of which 50,000 to 60,000 were executions. The CIA estimated that 600,000 had died.
US and UK support Pol Pot
Despite his symbolic value in the propaganda war Pol Pot was not a Communist, whatever he may have called himself. No Communist government supported him, with the exception of China, for tactical reasons.
In fact it was Communists – the armed forces of the Communist People’s Republic of Vietnam – who drove Pol Pot from power in Cambodia in 1978-79.
But he received support from the US and the UK for many years in the form of weapons, money, military intelligence, military training and food, as documented by the Australian journalist John Pilger in The Long Secret Alliance: Uncle Sam and Pol Pot and How Thatcher gave Pol Pot a hand.http://chss.montclair.edu/english/furr/pol/pilgerpolpotnus.pdf and http://www.newstatesman.com/200004170017
Pilger also produced Year Zero, a film that documented Pol Pot’s crimes.
Help from the Western champions of human rights and democracy enabled Pol Pot to infiltrate military forces into Cambodia in an attempt to regain power and continue the killings. He established a base in a mountainous region in northwest Cambodia, where he occasionally gave interviews to Western journalists.
Elements of the Vietnamese army remained in Cambodia in order to shield the population. This is referred to as “the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia” by official US sources, and by Wikipedia. The ostensible motive for supporting Pol Pot was that he was fighting the evil Vietnamese Communists.
The base in Cambodia was overrun and destroyed by the Vietnamese army in 1985. Pol Pot then retired to Thailand, where he lived comfortably until his death in 1998.
On the pretext that Vietnam was illegally occupying the country and that the government was also illegal, the US and the UK arranged for one of Pol Pot’s henchmen to be accredited as Cambodia’s representative to the UN. Sweden was one of the countries that recognized him. The alleged illegality of the Cambodian government was based on the claim that it included ex-members of the Khmer Rouge. Elementary logic would have declared Pol Pot’s UN representative as unacceptable, since he had also been a member of the Khmer Rouge, but elementary logic is seldom applied in the propaganda war.
Pol Pot’s crimes had been widely known for some years and he could easily have been arrested and charged with war crimes, but the Western powers made no attempt to bring him to justice. The mainstream Western media did not demand it. Nor were any of the other leaders of the Khmer Rouge put on trial, although a few lesser lights were quietly brought to justice many years later.
Western indifference is easy to understand. At a public trial Pol Pot’s defense would undoubtedly have included revelations about his alliance with the US and the UK, which would have been very embarrassing for Washington and London. It would also have posed a difficult problem for professional Western propagandists.
The nature of the problem was clearly demonstrated by the Swedish Forum for Living History, which on 9 September 2009 opened an exhibition devoted to Pol Pot as evidence of the “crimes of Communism”. Since I happened to be in Stockholm on the same day, I visited the exhibition and spoke with the person in charge. I told her that no account of Pol Pot’s career by an institution dedicated to historical truth could be complete unless it included the information in Pilger’s articles. She accepted copies of them with an obvious lack of enthusiasm and assured me that she would discuss the matter with her superiors.
As of 29 June 2011, I could not find any references to the Pol Pot-US-UK alliance at the Forum’s web site, and to my knowledge it is not referred to in the exhibition, which is on a traveling display.
Yugoslavia – the standard mythology
In Chapter 15 it was pointed out that Robert O. Paxton’s comments on Yugoslavia in The Anatomy of Fascism do not enhance his credibility as a historian. He writes “It was in Yugoslavia that Europe’s nearest postwar equivalent to Nazi extermination policies appeared”, and then demonstrates that he accepts the standard mainstream version of the 1990s war in Yugoslavia without reservations.
It might be expected that the closest European postwar equivalent to Nazi extermination policies would merit a few paragraphs by Paxton describing its historical context, but the background he gives to the conflict in Yugoslavia is limited to the statement that after Tito died in 1980 the Yugoslav federal state was “faced with the problem of distributing a declining economic product among fractious competing regions”. No explanation is offered as to why the product was declining. Paxton claims that the federal state ”gradually lost its legitimacy”, and the destruction of the Yugoslav federation was led by Serbia.
No mention is made of the fact that after the split with the USSR in the 1950s the imperialist powers regarded Yugoslavia as a useful pawn in the conflict with the Soviet Union and established friendly relations. This involved linking Yugoslavia to the Western capitalist economy. The dinar was convertible, unlike the Soviet ruble, and was therefore affected by the repeated international currency crises. The country suffered from the stagnation that began in the Western economy around 1975. Yugoslavia was also hard hit by the oil crises in the 1970s and the acute economic downturn in the West at the start of the 1980s. “By the early 1980s the country faced serious balance of payments problems and rising inflation” (Sean Gervasi, Germany, the U.S. and the Yugoslav Crisis, in Covert Action Winter 1992-3 No. 43, available at http://www.islandnet.com/plethora/yu/covact-1.html
Gervasi, 1936-1996, was an economic advisor to president Kennedy, and taught economics at Oxford, the LSE, the University of Paris and the University of Belgrade.)
The IMF quickly came to the rescue with loans and the standard prescriptions for financial health, which included cutting social outlays, reducing growth, restricting credit, devaluing the currency and other so-called market-oriented reforms such as selling or discontinuing companies that were not privately owned. As usual this contributed to a decline in the standard of living of the working class, as well as to an increasing burden of debt which gave the IMF even more leverage, as it is supposed to do.
The economic crisis threatened political stability. Not only did the declining standard of living undermine the authority of the country’s leaders, it also threatened to aggravate simmering ethnic tensions. (Gervasi)
Paxton avoids any mention of US National Security directives 54 and 133, which targeted Eastern Europe in general and Yugoslavia in particular for “regime change”, a euphemism for domination by Western capital. For more than two decades, the German government had been actively seeking to re-establish its domination of the Yugoslavia market, which of course involved destabilizing the country.
Paxton’s assertion that Serbia led the breakup of Yugoslavia has nothing to do with reality. The breakup was led by the US and Germany, actively supported by the EC/EU. Recognition of Croatia and Slovenia as independent states was spearheaded by Germany (with prime minister Carl Bildt of Sweden as an eager accomplice) and was a crucial element in the development of armed conflict.
The aims and scope of Germany’s drive east were summed up by the Chair of The East Committee, the [German] industrial group promoting business in the East: “It is our natural market… in the end this market will perhaps bring us to the same position we were in before World War I. Why not?” (Washington Post, February 16, 1992; cited by Gervasi.)
After a decade of economic decline, by 1990 unemployment was high and the leaders of the country were under increasing pressure from their citizens. They began to resist the IMF. The Serbia president Slobodan Milosevic announced that the Republic of Serbia would no longer submit to IMF dictates. This ensured him of a place high on the Western hit-list, both literally and figuratively.
Paxton’s treatment of Milosevic is reminiscent of Montefiore’s gutter journalism. Milosevic is termed a “colorless communist bureaucrat” until he discovered that he had a “talent for exciting crowds” when he delivered a speech in Kosovo Polje in April 1987 “and aroused a frenzy of excitement [among Serbs] by playing on the themes of victimhood and justified revenge”.
That is precisely what Milosevic did not do. Paxton’s account of the speech shows that he either has not read it or is deliberately lying. The same applies to the innumerable references to this speech (and to another by Milosevic in Kosovo in 1989) in the Western media, almost all of which show a strikingly similar pattern and choice of words, enough to suggest massive cross-fertilization. The alleged version of the speech is a key element in justifying Western actions in Yugoslavia, especially those aimed at Serbia and Milosevic The following text by the BBC is typical, and could have been written by Paxton. It is available at:
Slobodan Milosevic rose to power by manipulating Serb national sentiment over Kosovo.
In a famous (sic!) speech in April 1987, he told a crowd of angry Serbs outside Pristina – who were protesting against alleged harassment by the majority Albanian community – that no-one would ever be allowed to beat them. His speech attracted huge public support, and became a rallying cry for Serbs in all parts of Yugoslavia.
He also used it as a springboard to change his image from a colourless Communist apparatchik into a firebrand of Serbian nationalism. By lifting the lid on the long-standing taboo of national and ethnic rivalries, he reinvented himself as a charismatic leader of the Serbs.
He soon wrested control of Serbia’s Communist Party from his erstwhile ally and friend, Ivan Stambolic. In 1989, he became President of Serbia.
The background to the speech by Milosevic was the tension that had been developing in Kosovo for some years as a result of the activities of a nationalistic separatist movement led by ethnic Albanians. Secession from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was one of their goals. About 20 other ethnic groups were represented in Kosovo, which the nationalists aimed to make ethnically pure by driving them out. The nationalist Albanian leaders were descended from the previous Fascist Albanian movement in Kosovo, which had a long record of atrocities during World War 2, not least against Jews. Similar groups with similar goals were active in other republics, such as Slovenia and Croatia, and were encouraged by both the US and Germany (See Der Schattenkrieger. Klaus Kinkel und der BND, by ErichSchmidt-Eenboom, 1995.) Kinkel was head of the German equivalent of he CIA, and later Foreign Minister under Helmut Kohl.
During the 1980s the nationalists in Kosovo had been so aggressive that a number of non-Albanian Kosovars had moved to other parts of Yugoslavia, including Serbia. It should be noted that about 100,000 Kosovo Albanians were resident in Belgrade by the time the criminal NATO bombardment started in 1999.
In his speech Milosevic made it clear that he condemned the nationalists, not Kosovo Albanians as such. As in the 1989 speech, he emphasized and was proud of the ethnic diversity of Kosovo and the whole of Yugoslavia. He did not “manipulate Serb national sentiment”, as claimed by the BBC, Paxton, and many others. The full text in an English translation is available at
The following quotations illustrate his views (I have corrected a few grammatical errors; emphasis has been added):
We must protect brotherhood and unity like the pupil of our eyes. But because of exactly that, today when brotherhood and unity are jeopardized, we must and can win. Neither do we wish, nor are we able, to divide people into Serbs and Albanians, but rather we must create delimiters both for the upstanding and progressive ones that fight for brotherhood and unity and national equal rights and for the counter-revolutionaries and nationalists on the other side.
…Kosovo has struck us as the weightiest problem during a difficult economic crisis, when standards have fallen drastically, when prices have climbed, when there are more unemployed.
And that’s how it is a political crisis: Yugoslavia is a nation unsettled by separatists and nationalists as you well know in many of your areas… [and] anti-Yugoslav and anti-communist forces are all the more present and all the more aggressive.
…Kosovo is also underdeveloped, unemployment is high, it is in deep foreign debt. What is hardest of all, there is an ill-intended (sic!) element present and at work in many functions, and in the political realm.
…Kosovo is still poor today; the poorest portion of our country. Albanian separatists and nationalists have calmed down somewhat. They’re banking on time, and it’s understood that conditions are working for them. But they need to know… tyranny will be no more. Progressive people won’t give up Kosovo, neither will Serbia nor will Yugoslavia.
…we can’t speak of minorities or of majorities in Kosovo. Serbs, Montenegrins, aren’t minorities in relation to Albanians in Kosovo, just like Albanians aren’t a minority in Yugoslavia, but rather they are nationalities that live together under equal rights with other nations and nationalities in three of our socialist republics.
The premise of an ethnically pure, economically and politically autonomous, untethered Kosovo isn’t possible by political ideals or ethically, but at the end of the line, that premise isn’t in the interest of the Albanian nation. This kind of nationalism would exclude it from all circles, and it wouldn’t just slow down, but stop its growth in both economic and a completely spiritual sense (emphasis added).
Nationalism always means isolation from others, being locked in a closed circle, and that also means stopping growth, because without cooperation and connection with Yugoslavia, and then widening vistas, there is no progress. Every nation and nationality which shuts itself off and isolates itself behaves irresponsibly toward their constituents’ growth. That is why before anything else, we communists must do all that is required to eliminate the consequences of nationalist and separatist behavior, and counter-revolutionary forces, as in Kosovo, so in other parts of our land.
But our goal is to emerge from a state of hatred, intolerance and mistrust. That all people in Kosovo live well. And that is why, in relation to that goal, I want to tell you colleagues, yes, you need to stay here. This is your land. Your homes are here, your memories.
You won’t very well give up your land just because life in it is difficult, just because you’ve been pressured by crime and humiliation. It was never in the spirit of the Serbian and Montenegrin nation to bow before adversity, to demobilize when they need to fight, to demoralize when times are tough.
You need to stay here because of your forefathers and because of your descendants. You would shame your forefathers and disappoint your descendants.
But I’m not proposing that you should stay tolerant, hold on, and bear this situation with which you aren’t satisfied. Quite the contrary. You need to change it, together with all the progressive people here, in Serbia and in Yugoslavia.
Don’t tell me that you can’t do it alone. It’s understood that you can’t alone! We’ll change it together, we, Serbia and all of Yugoslavia! We can’t in our time return the national fiber to the Kosovo population in the past tense. But we can at least stop the exodus [of non-ethnic Albanians pressured by nationalists to leave Kosovo], we can assure the condition that all people that live in Kosovo be in their homes, live under equal rights and equal allotment of Kosovo economic opportunity before anything else, and then all other opportunities.
…The return of Serbs and Montenegrins to Kosovo is a process. We can’t issue a decree and by force return people to where they don’t want to be. But we can launch a political campaign to create material, economic, employment and cultural conditions such that they who because of dissatisfaction and abuse of rights left, would return, guaranteed that in their homes and workplaces this would really happen. In creating those conditions all progressive forces can
and must get involved, communist and youth, all that is respectful and progressive in all of Serbia. And there cannot be even one cost too great to accomplish this.
…in Yugoslavia salaries are low and prices are high, the prices of shoes and books are high, it’s hard to take a vacation. But we won’t because of that… give up Yugoslavia and settle in a happier and richer land. Those are rather more worthwhile reasons to stay in our country and make it richer and happier. It’s possible to make this happen, but through one mandatory condition: to accomplish the separating of the forces of socialism, brotherhood and unity, and progress from the forces of separatism, nationalism and conservatism. In that separation of progressives from reactionaries Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo surely will receive the support of many Albanians, communists and Albanian people among whom they have relatives and friends, and their children’s friends. Because here everyone’s common goal is the cultural and economic growth of the province, so that people, all people, live better and happier. Around that goal all respectful working people should gather, that is the principle of brotherhood and unity on Kosovo (emphasis added).
…I want to also assure you that every member of the leadership of the Socialist Republic of Serbia and Yugoslavia will always be ready for conversations like these and for constant presence on this job together.
Rest assured, this is a feeling that is uplifting all of Yugoslavia. All of Yugoslavia is with you. The issue isn’t that it’s a problem for Yugoslavia, but Yugoslavia and Kosovo. Yugoslavia doesn’t exist without Kosovo! Yugoslavia would disintegrate without Kosovo!
Yugoslavia and Serbia will never give up Kosovo!
An objective account of the development of conflict in Yugoslavia after 1991 should include reference to two American PR firms, Ruder Finn Global Public Affairs and Waterman and Associates. Ruder Finn was hired by the new government of Croatia, the Balkan Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic and the Albanian separatists in Kosovo. The PR firms were among the principal sources of information disgorged in the Western media (see Johnstone). It is their version of events that Paxton follows.
In 1992 Ruder Finn distributed press releases and video films to support the myth that a plan existed to create “Greater Serbia”. The contract with Izetbegovic was aimed at promoting a “stronger leadership role for the US in the Balkans” (Johnstone).
Although Kosovo was a province, it had been granted many of the powers usually reserved for a Yugoslavian republic, including a great deal of local autonomy. These powers were used by Kosovo Albanian nationalists for their own disruptive ends. The problem had been recognized by the central government in Belgrade and by the government of the Republic of Serbia in the early 1980s, when Albanian separatists led a series of riots in Kosovo.
The nature of the disturbances caused by ethnic Albanian nationalists was described in a report by David Binder in The New York Times on 1 November 1987, “In Yugoslavia, Rising Ethnic Strife Brings Fears of Worse Civil Conflict”:
Portions of southern Yugoslavia have reached such a state of ethnic friction that Yugoslavs have begun to talk of the horrifying possibility of ”civil war” in a land that lost one-tenth of its population, or 1.7 million people, in World War II.
The current hostilities pit separatist-minded ethnic Albanians against the various Slavic populations of Yugoslavia and occur at all levels of society, from the highest officials to the humblest peasants.
…Ethnic Albanians in the Government have manipulated public funds and regulations to take over land belonging to Serbs. And politicians have exchanged vicious insults.
Slavic Orthodox churches have been attacked, and flags have been torn down. Wells have been poisoned and crops burned. Slavic boys have been knifed, and some young ethnic Albanians have been told by their elders to rape Serbian girls.
Ethnic Albanians comprise the fastest growing nationality in Yugoslavia and are expected soon to become its third largest, after the Serbs and Croats.
The goal of the radical nationalists among them, one said in an interview, is an ”ethnic Albania that includes western Macedonia, southern Montenegro, part of southern Serbia, Kosovo and Albania itself.” That includes large chunks of the republics that make up the southern half of Yugoslavia.
Other ethnic Albanian separatists admit to a vision of a greater Albania governed from Pristina in southern Yugoslavia rather than Tirana, the capital of neighboring Albania.
…Last summer, the authorities in Kosovo said they documented 40 ethnic Albanian attacks on Slavs in two months. In the last two years, 320 ethnic Albanians have been sentenced for political crimes, nearly half of them characterized as severe.
…Officials in Belgrade view the ethnic Albanian challenge as imperiling the foundations of the multinational experiment called federal Yugoslavia, which consists of six republics and two provinces.
…Ethnic Albanians already control almost every phase of life in the autonomous province of Kosovo, including the police, judiciary, civil service, schools and factories.
Non-Albanian visitors almost immediately feel the independence – and suspicion – of the ethnic Albanian authorities.
While 200,000 Serbs and Montenegrins still live in the province, they are scattered and lack cohesion. In the last seven years, 20,000 of them have fled the province, often leaving behind farmsteads and houses, for the safety of the Slavic north.
Until September, the majority of the Serbian Communist Party leadership pursued a policy of seeking compromise with the Kosovo party hierarchy under its ethnic Albanian leader, Azem Vlasi.
But during a 30-hour session of the Serbian central committee in late September, the Serbian party secretary, Slobodan Milosevic, deposed Dragisa Pavlovic, as head of Belgrade’s party organization, the country’s largest. Mr. Milosevic accused Mr. Pavlovic of being an appeaser who was soft on Albanian radicals. Mr. Milosevic had courted the Serbian backlash vote with speeches in Kosovo itself calling for ”the policy of the hard hand”.
…Efforts are under way to strengthen central authority through amendments to the constitution… The hope is that something will be done then to exert the rule of law in Kosovo while drawing ethnic Albanians back into Yugoslavia’s mainstream.
In the early 1980s, the Communist leadership in Serbia recommended that control of the police and the judiciary in Kosovo be returned to the government of Serbia. A commission was appointed in 1986 to amend the Serbian Constitution, and the amendments were approved by the elected assemblies of Serbia and Kosovo. The vote in the Kosovo assembly was 175 to 10, with two abstentions.
Paxton follows the usual line by claiming that Milosevic “…had discovered in Serbian nationalism a substitute for the dwindling faith in communism as a source of legitimacy and discipline”, ignoring the fact that the workers’ demonstrations in Yugoslavia against the IMF regime in the early 1990s were aimed at restoring and enhancing the Yugoslavian version of socialism (which Paxton calls Communism).
Paxton alleges that Milosevic abolished local autonomy in Kosovo at the end of 1988, thus increasing “central control by Serbia”. In the first place, Milosevic was not elected president of Serbia until 1989, so that he could not have abolished anything in Kosovo in 1988. In the second place, the change was a result of a democratic process, as noted above, and was not decreed by an autocrat.
Paxton repeats the usual accusations that Milosevic wanted to establish Serbian domination of Yugoslavia by creating “Greater Serbia”. There is no evidence for this claim, as admitted by prosecutor David Nice in the Milosevic show-trial at NATO’S International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). In reply to a question from a judge, Nice said that it was possible (emphasis added)
…that the accused’s [Milosevic’s] aim was for that which could qualify as a de facto Greater Serbia… Did he find the source of his position at least overtly in [the] historical concept of Greater Serbia; no, he didn’t. His was… the pragmatic one of ensuring that all the Serbs who had lived in the former Yugoslavia should be allowed for either constitutional or other reasons to live in the same unit. That meant as we know historically from his perspective first of all that the former Yugoslavia shouldn’t be broken up… (Cited in Edward Herman and David Peterson, A Study in Inhumanitarian Intervention (and a Western Liberal-Left Intellectual and Moral Collapse), available at http://monthlyreview.org/2007/10/01/the-dismantling-of-yugoslavia) (Emphasis added.)
According to Paxton, Milosevic wanted “to enfold the Serb areas of Croatia and Bosnia into a Greater Serbia”, but “NATO military intervention forced Milosevic to accept a bargain” and abandon his plans for Bosnia. This claim is a perversion of history.
The following text is from The Srebrenica Massacre: Evidence, Context, Politics, edited by Edward S. Herman, available at www.globalresearch.ca
From the spring of 1993 to the summer of 1995, in my judgment, the effect of US policy, despite its being called ‘containment’, was to prolong the war,” writes European Union mediator David Owen in Balkan Odyssey. Writing in Foreign Affairs, U.S. Air Force General Charles Boyd, who served as Deputy NATO Commander in Europe and the head of intelligence until the final months of the war, observes: “The US approach to the war in Bosnia is torn by a fundamental contradiction. The United States says that its objective is to end the war through a negotiated settlement, but in reality what it wants is to influence the outcome in favor of the Muslims.”
At a time when NATO’s historic mission had vanished Germany’s plan to recognize Croatia and Slovenia was initially opposed by the United States, until the Germans succeeded in pressing a reluctant European Community to join them. At this point, the first Bush administration, under pressure from the leaders of Saudi Arabia to recognize Bosnia as a future Muslim-led European state, persuaded the Europeans to extend diplomatic recognition to Bosnia on April 6, 1992 in return for U.S. recognition of Slovenia and Croatia. As in the cases of Slovenia and Croatia one year earlier, this was done despite the fact that no agreement had been reached on the question of independence from Yugoslavia among the Muslims, Serbs, and Croats whose nations predominated in Bosnia, and that under the Yugoslav Constitution (1974), legal secession required the assent of all three nations. The move for a separate state would fracture the fragile consensus that had kept the peace following World War II, when Croat and Muslim leaders allied with the German invaders embarked on an extermination campaign against Serbs, Jews and Gypsies, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians. The ruling Muslim-dominated Bosnian government controlled less than 40 percent of Bosnian territory at the time of recognition. Moreover, as George Kenney of the US State Department acknowledged, “the [U.S.] intelligence agencies were unanimous in telling us that if you recognize Bosnia it will blow up” (emphasis added).
Realizing that recognition without agreement between the parties could lead to disaster, EU mediator Lord Peter Carrington and Portugese Foreign Minister Jose Cutillero tried to soften the impact by brokering an agreement among Bosnian Serb, Muslim and Croat leaders known as the Lisbon Agreement. This treaty established three Swiss style semi-autonomous ethnic cantons under a central government. The Lisbon agreement was signed by all three parties on March 20, 1992, but two days later, U.S. Ambassador to Yugoslavia Warren Zimmerman encouraged Bosnia’s Muslim President Alija Izetbegovic to disavow his signature on the treaty. Two weeks later, war broke out. Roger Cohen of the New York Times later noted that international recognition under these circumstances was “as close to criminal negligence as a diplomatic act can be. Indeed international recognition and the outbreak of the Bosnian war were simultaneous: The world [i.e. the US and Germany] put light to the fuse” (emphasis added).
NATO had not yet bombed Bosnia. If Milosevic wanted to “enfold” Bosnia in Greater Serbia, why did he allow the Bosnian Serbs to sign the Lisbon agreement? No one has produced any evidence that Milosevic opposed it.
At an early stage in the trial of Milosevic in The Hague the prosecution had to abandon charges related to Bosnia, precisely because Milosevic had endorsed the Lisbon agreement for a peaceful solution to the conflict there.
Why does Paxton not mention the presence of Muslim mujaheddin, including al Qaeda members, in the armed forces maintained by Izetbegovic with the complicity of the US government?
Paxton alleges that when “Milosevic tried to expel Albanians from the province of Kosovo in 1999, NATO air strikes forced him to withdraw” There is no credible evidence that Milosevic wanted or tried to expel Albanians from Kosovo.
The problem for the US in Kosovo was that the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was losing the war it had started. The KLA was on the US list of terrorist organizations until 1998, when Washington decided that it would be a useful weapon against Serbia, which had been continuously resisting attempts to establish Western dominance. The criminal activities of the KLA included murder and harassment of Kosovo Albanians who did not support secession, as well as large-scale traffic in narcotics and women.
The myth that vast numbers of ethnic-Albanian Kosovars were fleeing from the Serbs and not from the KLA or NATO bombs was effectively dismissed in DISPATCH FROM KOSOVO: In One Village, Albanian Men Are Everywhere, in The Los Angeles Times 17 May 1999, by Paul Watson, L.A. Times Staff Writer. At the time, the mainstream media in Sweden and other Western countries were informing the Western public that the Serbian authorities in Belgrade would not allow foreign journalists into Kosovo. Watson (emphasis has been added):
SVETLJE, Yugoslavia – something strange is going on in this Kosovo Albanian village in what was once a hard-line guerrilla [KLA] stronghold, where NATO accuses Serbs of committing genocide. An estimated 15,000 displaced ethnic Albanians live in and around Svetlje, in northern Kosovo, and hundreds of young men are everywhere, strolling along the dirt roads or lying on the grass on a spring day.
So many fighting-age men in a region where the Kosovo Liberation Army fought some of its fiercest battles against Serbian forces are a challenge to the black-and-white versions of what is happening here.
By their own accounts, the men are not living in a concentration camp, nor being forced to labor for the police or army, nor serving as human shields for Serbs. Instead, they are waiting with their families for permission to follow thousands who have risked going back home to nearby villages because they do not want to give up and leave Kosovo, a province of Serbia, the main Yugoslav republic.
“We wanted to stay here where we were born,” Skender Velia, 39, said through a translator. “Those who wanted to go through Macedonia and on to Europe have already left. We did not want to follow.”
…The closest Serbian security forces were two policemen sitting at a checkpoint half a mile up the dirt road, who weren’t pleased to see so many refugees moving back into the Podujevo area.
Just as NATO accuses Yugoslav forces of using ethnic Albanian refugees as “human shields”, the Serbs say KLA fighters hide among ethnic Albanian civilians to carry out “terrorist attacks”.
But Velia and other ethnic Albanians interviewed in Svetlje said they haven’t had any problems with Serbian police since the police allowed them to come back. “For the month that we’ve been here, the police have come only to sell cigarettes, but there hasn’t been any harassment,” Velia said.
That isn’t what North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary-General Javier Solana believes is happening in Kosovo. Solana told BBC television Sunday that he expected much more evidence of “ethnic cleansing” in the province to emerge once the war is over. “You don’t see males in their 30s to 60s,” he said.
And on CBS-TV’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said that as many as 100,000 ethnic Albanian men of fighting age have vanished in Kosovo and may have been killed by Serbian forces.
…Kosovo Albanians continue to flee Yugoslavia, often with detailed accounts of atrocities by Serbian security forces or paramilitaries. Yet thousands of other ethnic Albanians are coming out of hiding in forests and in the mountains, hungry and frightened, and either going back home or waiting for police permission to do so. While Serbian police seize the identity documents of Kosovo Albanians crossing the border into Albania or Macedonia, government officials in Pristina, Kosovo’s provincial capital, issue new identity cards to ethnic Albanians still here.
The Kosovo Democratic Initiative, an ethnic Albanian political party opposed to the KLA’s fight for independence, is distributing relief aid, offering membership cards and gathering the names of Serbs accused of committing atrocities.
“As an Albanian, I am convinced that the Serbian government and security forces are not committing any kind of genocide,” Fatmir Seholi, the party’s spokesman, said in an interview Sunday.
“But in a war, even innocent people die,” Seholi said. “In every war, there are those who want to profit. Here there is a minority of people who wanted to steal, but that’s not genocide. These are only crimes.”
As an Albanian, Seholi also knows the risks of questioning claims that Yugoslavia’s leaders, police and military are committing crimes against humanity in Kosovo. His father, Malic Seholi, was killed Jan. 9, 1997, apparently for being too cooperative with Serbian authorities. The KLA later claimed responsibility for the slaying in a statement published in Bujku, a local Albanian-language newspaper, his son said.
There are pressures to toe the party line in villages like Svetlje too, where a man who overheard Velia speaking with a Serbian correspondent for Agence France-Presse told him to stop.
“Don’t talk to the Serbs,” the man said angrily in Albanian. “They are to blame for everything that is happening.”
Velia, his wife, Hajiri, their three children and his mother, Farita, 56, were among as many as 100,000 Kosovo Albanians who fled the northern city of Podujevo in the early days of NATO’s air war.
Some said Serbs drove them from their homes, while others said they were simply scared and left on their own. But they all ended up moving from one village to another, trying to escape fighting between KLA guerrillas and Serbian security forces. Now they must live with another danger – the NATO bombs that fall ever closer to Svetlje as the alliance intensifies its attacks on Yugoslav forces across Kosovo.
…Despite the mass exodus of Kosovo Albanians during the NATO bombing, several hundred thousand remain in the province, many of them still hiding without proper food, medicine and shelter. After waves of looting, arson, killings and other attacks turned many of Kosovo’s cities into virtual ghost towns, the [Serbian] government took steps to restore order, and ethnic Albanians began to move back, often under police protection.
Of an estimated 100,000 people living in Pristina, roughly 80,000 are ethnic Albanians and a quarter of those are displaced people from the Podujevo area living with relatives, friends or in abandoned homes, Seholi said.
An additional 32,000 ethnic Albanians are living in and around Podujevo itself, he added. A total of 120,000 ethnic Albanians are waiting to return to their homes in four areas – near Podujevo, Pristina, Stimlje and Prisren – while 350,000 more have proper homes, Seholi estimated…
A number of articles refuting Paxton’s and other mainstream propaganda about Kosovo are available at http://www.sarantakos.com/kosovo/kstexts.html
After the Serbian forces were forced by NATO to withdraw from Kosovo, the KLA turned it into the main European entry point for the flow of narcotics from Afghanistan, which it still is. The KLA’s leaders became the leaders of the new “independent” Kosovo, and have continued their criminal activities ever since.
The KLA is not mentioned by Paxton. He also omits the fact that extensive mineral deposits in Kosovo comprised one of the main reasons for Western interest in the province. When UN troops attempted to take over the large Trepca mine complex they met resistance from the miners – both Serbs and Albanians. The UN takeover was one of the first steps in the process of selling off Kosovo’s mineral riches to major Western corporations.
Chapter 4 of he Rambouillet accord specified that Kosovo was to have a market economy, and government assets were to be privatized. The following instructive text is from The spoils of another war, by Neil Clark (The Guardian 21 September 2004): http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/sep/21/kosovo.comment
Yugoslavia had publicly owned petroleum, mining, car and tobacco industries, and 75% of industry was state or socially owned. In 1997, a privatisation law had stipulated that in sell-offs, at least 60% of shares had to be allocated to a company’s workers.
The high priests of neo-liberalism were not happy. At the Davos summit early in 1999, Tony Blair berated Belgrade, not for its handling of Kosovo, but for its failure to embark on a programme of “economic reform” – new world-order speak for selling state assets and running the economy in the interests of multinationals.
In the 1999 NATO bombing campaign, it was state-owned companies – rather than military sites – that were specifically targeted by the world’s richest nations. Nato only destroyed 14 tanks, but 372 industrial facilities were hit – include the Zastava car plant at Kragujevac, leaving hundreds of thousands jobless. Not one foreign or privately owned factory was bombed.
After the removal of Slobodan Milosevic, the West got the “fast-track” reforming government in Belgrade it had long desired. One of the first steps of the new administration was to repeal the 1997 privatisation law and allow 70% of a company to be sold to foreign investors – with just 15% reserved for workers. The government then signed up to the World Bank’s programmes – effectively ending the country’s financial independence.
Meanwhile, as the New York Times had crowed, “a war’s glittering prize” awaited the conquerors. Kosovo has the second largest coal reserves in Europe, and enormous deposits of lignite, lead, zinc, gold, silver and petroleum.
The jewel is the enormous Trepca mine complex, whose 1997 value was estimated at $5bn. In an extraordinary smash and grab raid soon after the war, the complex was seized from its workers and managers by more than 2,900 NATO troops, who used teargas and rubber bullets.
Five years on from the Nato attack, the Kosovo Trust Agency (KTA), the body that operates under the jurisdiction of the UN Mission in Kosovo (Unmik) – is “pleased to announce” the programme to privatise the first 500 or so socially owned enterprises (SOEs) under its control. The closing date for bids passed last week: 10 businesses went under the hammer, including printing houses, a shopping mall, an agrobusiness and a soft-drinks factory. The Ferronikeli mining and metal-processing complex, with an annual capacity of 12,000 tonnes of nickel production, is being sold separately, with bids due by November 17.
To make the SOEs more attractive to foreign investors, Unmik has altered the way land is owned in Kosovo, allowing the KTA to sell 99-year leases with the businesses, which can be transferred or used as loans or security. Even Belgrade’s pro-western government has called this a “robbery of state-owned land”. For western companies waiting to swoop, there will be rich pickings indeed in what the KTA assures us is a “very investor-friendly” environment. But there is little talk of the rights of the moral owners of the enterprises – the workers, managers and citizens of the former Yugoslavia, whose property was effectively seized in the name of the “international community” and “economic reform”.
The war on Yugoslavia 1992-99 as a prototype for motivating Western violations of international laws against intervention in sovereign states was discussed in Chapter 15.
Paxton omits a few other interesting facts about Kosovo, ethnic Albanians in Yugoslavia, and Milosevic’s alleged goal of ethnic purity. As previously noted there were 100,000 Kosovo Albanians living in Belgrade when NATO started bombing. If Milosevic really wanted “to create an ethnically pure and expanded nation-state [the mythical Greater Serbia]”, as Paxton claims, why hadn’t he expelled the Albanians previously, before the bombing started? Why has no one been able to show that he even tried?
Why didn’t Milosevic expel other non-Serbian ethnic groups? Why was Serbia the only Yugoslavian republic in which there was no ethnic cleansing at all during the entire war? To my knowledge, no one has ever provided any evidence to the contrary.
It is probable that neither Paxton nor most other believers in the Western mythology of the war against Kosovo have read a report published by the International Strategic Studies Association (www.strategicstudies.org) on 8 May 1999, Essential Public Policy Points Relating to the ISSA Mission to Yugoslavia, April 18-21,1999. The fact-finding mission sent by ISSA to Yugoslavia included US Congressman Jim Saxton (Republican, New Jersey), who was then Chairman of the House of Representatives Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare as well as a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Section B of the Report contains information which contradicts Paxton’s claim that Milosevic was the promoter of an ethnically pure nation-state (emphasis has been added):
1. The Flow of Refugees: The international media, because it is largely on the external borders of Yugoslavia [i.e. Serbia], has seen only the flow of refugees out of the country, to Albania and Macedonia. However, some one-third of the Albanian Yugoslav and other ethnic group refugees appear, in fact, to be fleeing further into Serbia, to avoid the Kosovo Liberation Army. Yugoslavia has already been burdened since 1992 with almost one-million refugees from Bosnian Serb areas and Croatian Serb areas, as well as Croatians and Muslims fleeing into Serbia-proper from what is now Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia.
2. There is no doubt but that the NATO bombings in Kosovo and in the rest of Serbia have contributed heavily – perhaps overwhelmingly – toward the outflow of refugees, not only the Kosovar Albanians but many other ethnic groups who have been forced on the road with the destruction of their homes or their livelihoods.
3. There are some 26 different ethnic groups in Yugoslavia, and some 20 different ethnic groups living in the Kosovo region. Within Yugoslavia, some one-third of the population is not of Serbian origin, and this makes it the most multi-cultural, multi-religious state in the Balkan region.
4. We saw extensive destruction of civilian targets, many of which could not be justified by NATO as military targets nor vital to the maintenance of a Yugoslav strategic power base. Given the widespread damage to these purely civilian targets which we saw, including the direct destruction of homes, it is not difficult to believe the claims of the Yugoslav Government that some 400,000 to a half-million people have been thrown out of work because of the destruction of their workplaces. This means that some 2-million Yugoslavs of all ethnic origins are without income, out of a population of some 10+ million people.
5. Justification for bombing civilian targets has now been given that these facilities were owned by relatives of President Milosevic, but the vast majority of these factories were either State-owned, privately-owned by non-Milosevic family members or, for the greater part, owned jointly by the State and by the workforces of the various factories. As a result, this has directly contributed to an attack on the average Yugoslav family.
6. There was no evidence to support the contention that the Yugoslav warfighting capability has been overwhelmingly broken by the sustained NATO bombing campaign.
Rather, the bombing has driven the Yugoslav people to put aside their political differences and to unite in the face of an external threat much as would be the case if the United States was attacked. We met with people who have, in the past, been totally opposed, politically, to President Milosevic. Today, they are working completely with Mr. Milosevic to defend their country. So the intention of the bombing to break the Yugoslav people away from Mr. Milosevic has totally failed, and shows no sign of succeeding.
7. The costs in terms of human casualties from the NATO bombing have largely been civilian: between 500 and 1,000 dead, with several thousand injured. Military personnel casualties have been minimal.
…12. There has, in fact, been considerable progress toward reaching a political solution acceptable to all moderate parties. And, of course, we except from the definition “moderate parties” the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army, which derived from the communist origins of the former Albanian stalinist (sic!) leaders and which today is funded largely by narcotic trafficking into Western Europe and through extortion. It has been a mistake for the West to support the KLA now, when moderate Kosovar Albanian leaders have been committed to a political solution to the tragedy. Equally, attempts to discredit moderate Kosovar Albanian leader Dr. Ibrahim Rugova are counter-productive to achieving a peaceful and lasting solution to the problem. The fact that Dr. Rugova’ s enormous courage in remaining in Yugoslavia to seek such a solution is now being dismissed by allegations that he is “a virtual prisoner” only serve to reinforce the hand of the KLA, which has previously been labeled a terrorist force by the United States, and remains so today.
The real promoter of an “ethnically pure nation-state” in Kosovo was the KLA, which with the help of Albanians from Albania began to cleanse Kosovo as soon as the UN forces entered Kosovo and there were no Serbian forces left. Within a few weeks, Kosovo was judenrein. No protests were heard in Stockholm, and the Forum for Living History does not mention the cleansing.
According to Čedomir Prlinčević, previously Director of Public Archives of Kosovo and President of the Jewish Community in Priština, the capital of the province, after NATO troops had occupied Kosovo:
During June and July 300,000 people left Kosovo, which is the non-Albanian population, Serbians, Turks, Gorani [Slavic Muslims] , ’Gypsies,’ that is the Romi, also people from Montenegro. 300 000.
Paxton deviates from the mainstream line by not alleging that a genocidal massacre took place in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica. It is possible that he knows that the alleged crime did not occur. A documented analysis of the Srbrenica myth, the background to the civil war in Yugoslavia, and the treatment of it in the Western media is given in The Srbrenica Massacre (see above).
Paxton writes that the “new Serbian government eventually turned [Milosevic] over to the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague”, i.e. the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). He does not mention that the turnover was a violation of the Yugoslavian Constitution. As a professor of history, Paxton is surely aware that according to its Charter the United Nations has no authority to establish such a tribunal, and that the ICTY was created and financed by NATO.
Paxton must also know that the ICTY was not and is not interested in war crimes, but in convicting Milosevic and other Serbs. When the Association of American Jurists submitted a bill of indictment to the Tribunal specifying war crimes committed by William Clinton and 65 other members of NATO countries, it was dismissed out of hand by NATO spokesman Jamie Shea and the then ICTY chief prosecutor Louise Arbor.
A number of issues related to the conduct of the show-trial of Milosevic are evaded by Paxton. The first is the almost total lack of coverage of the trial by the mainstream Western media. Milosevic was often billed as the “new Hitler”, the “Butcher of the Balkans”, the hateful villain who had started a bloody civil war, the war criminal responsible for “Europe’s nearest postwar equivalent to Nazi extermination policies”, in Paxton’s words.
I was 10 years old when World War 2 ended, and I remember well the enormous media coverage when leading Nazis were arraigned at the Nuremberg Tribunal. The NY Times and other major newspapers published daily reports throughout the trial, which often included transcripts. In an age without TV or the Internet, the newsreels shown in New York cinemas reported the proceedings every week. Magazines such as LIFE and TIME were full of photos and reports for months on end.
But when the Yugoslavian reincarnation of Adolf Hitler was put on trial in The Hague for the horrendous crime of genocide, among other things, the mainstream media stayed away, after a brief flurry of interest when the trial started. The star reporters weren’t interested. Presumably the indictment of Milosevic was sufficient proof of his guilt, as Paxton clearly implies. I cannot remember seeing any transcripts of the trial in the mainstream media. Comments were generally restricted to claims that Milosevic was delaying the trial, when in fact it was the prosecutors and the judges who were doing so. The media’s absence seems even more remarkable given the scope of the indictment as given in Wikipedia:
The charges on which Milošević was indicted were: genocide; complicity in genocide; deportation; murder; persecutions (sic!) on political, racial or religious grounds; inhumane acts/forcible transfer; extermination (sic!); imprisonment; torture; wilful killing; unlawful confinement; wilfully causing great suffering; unlawful deportation or transfer; extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly; cruel treatment; plunder of public or private property; attacks on civilians; destruction or wilful damage done to historic monuments and institutions dedicated to education or religion; unlawful attacks on civilian objects.
The crimes committed by Milosevic in the eyes of Western imperialists remained hidden from public view – he tried to hold the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia together, and he tried to prevent the re-colonization of Yugoslavia by Western capitalists.
Paxton’s reluctance to enlarge upon the trial is understandable. The ICTY is a disgrace, far removed from standard Western principles of jurisprudence and accepted concepts of justice. For example, witnesses are allowed to submit testimony anonymously, and even by letter. The Tribunal judges routinely prevent the accused from cross-examining. The perverted nature of the ICTY is detailed in John Laughland’s Travesty (2007) and Michael Mandel’s How America Gets Away with Murder (2004).
By the time Paxton completed the text of The Anatomy of Fascism in 2004, Milosevic had been in court for about 2 years. During that period, the prosecutors had been unable to prove a single charge against him.
The Nuremberg Tribunals lasted less than one year, from October 1945 to July 1946. Verdicts were delivered and sentences carried out, although the proceedings covered a much greater scale of crimes and a much larger number of criminals than the Milosevic trial.
The Milosevic show-trial lasted more than four years, from February 2002, until he died of heart failure in March 2006. During those four years the prosecutors were unable to secure a verdict on any of the accusations, despite the obvious bias of the judges against him. There was and is no proof of Milosevic’s guilt.
Nevertheless, Paxton blithely assures his readers that “Milosevic’s Serbia was able to present the world with a spectacle not seen since 1945; a de facto dictatorship with fervent mass support engaged in the killing of men, women and children in order to avenge alleged historic national humiliations”, and that this was a “functional equivalent” of Fascism.
Along with his colleagues in the propaganda industry, Paxton is never disturbed by lack of evidence or obvious contradictions. The truth is a foregone conclusion that does not have to be proved. Like the rest of The Anatomy of Fascism, Paxton’s comments on Yugoslavia are divorced from the essential historical realities.
How long can the rule of capital be allowed to continue?
As noted in the first part of this chapter, the primary function of the propaganda war is to discredit the alternative to capitalism. Socialism/Communism is allegedly dysfunctional. The capitalist system is the only viable option for humanity, and is ordained by natural law.
The propaganda war not only distorts historical fact but also disguises the ongoing capitalist holocaust in the neo-colonies as well as the imperial countries, where gains achieved for the majority through class struggle are being rolled back. For example, in Europe the propaganda war is part of the EU’s attack on social insurance systems (erroneously known as the “welfare state”).
Successful marketing of the propaganda message is essential for the ruling class in order to achieve their primary objective, which is to maintain their rule. As the destructive nature of the capitalist system becomes more apparent, the propaganda war has become a key component of the new Fascism. It appears that the ruling class is still worried about the “specter that has been haunting Europe” – Communism.
That is one reason why the toilers in the propaganda industry, in universities or in the mass media, never discuss or evaluate the achievements of the Communist movement in improving the condition of the majority. Their concern for the alleged victims of Communism equals their indifference to the real-life victims of capitalism, not least in the Soviet Union and other ex-socialist countries.
However, a major difficulty for the ruling minority is that the symptoms of capitalism are on display to anyone with eyes to see: They include war, poverty, slavery, disease, starvation, lack of health care and education, corruption, financial grand larceny, unemployment, illiteracy, debt slavery, child and adult prostitution, trafficking, pornography, narcotics addiction, environmental disasters and the abandonment of even the pretense of democratic government.
In a world that produces much more than is required for the sustenance and development of all the people on this planet, the propaganda war is aimed at convincing everyone that such symptoms are “contingent events”.
Another major difficulty for the rulers is that from the perspective of the vast majority of human beings, the problems generated by capitalism cannot be solved within the framework of the system. This means that those who in the face of all the evidence cannot be convinced of the system’s desirability will have to be suppressed by appropriate methods.
Nothing and no-one can be allowed to obstruct the triumph of capital over humanity. The establishment of a structure of permanent and brutal repression is proceeding rapidly.
The question today is the same as it was in 1917: How long can the rule of capital be allowed to continue? How long can we postpone the creation of a rational society that is dedicated to fulfilling the needs of all human beings, and not the profit hunger of a tiny minority?