No State, No Nation: Balkan Federation
No State, No Nation: Balkan Federation
â€œIt is the barbarians who now represent faith in human destiny and future of civilization, whereas the â€œcivilized peopleâ€ find their salvation only in barbarism: the massacre of the Communards and the return of the Popeâ€
Michael Bakunin, Protestation of the
â€œIf in order to win it were necessary to erect the gallows in the public square, then I would prefer to looseâ€
Enrico Malatesta, Pensiero e Volonta, 1924
â€œDoes such an environment exist? It does not. It follows, then, that it has to be created.â€
Michael Bakunin, Integral Education, 1869
A Few days ago, the famous British integrated intellectual, Timothy Garton Ash, invited us to â€œtell our Kosovoâ€. â€œKosovo is many things to many peopleâ€, asserted Ash, â€œtell me your Kosovo and I will tell you who you areâ€. Allow me then to start by telling you my Kosovo, and my Balkans. I advocate another Balkans, neither capitalist nor bureaucratic-socialistic, a trans-ethnic society with polyculturalist outlook that recognizes multiple and overlapping identities and affiliations, based on voluntary co-operation and mutual aid, direct democracy of nested councils and a self-managed economy with participatory planning, framed within a regional frame of a federation.
I believe that the Kosovo question can only be answered in a regional framework, and I believe that the Balkans can provide a model for another Europe, a balkanized
The Kosovo movement Verodonstovje has, as its motto, a catchy phrase: â€œno negotiation - self determinationâ€. The motto that I would like to offer is very different: no state, no nation - Balkan Federation. The project of Balkan federation is a project of radical decolonization, poly-culturality, social change from the bottom-up, analogous to, and in active communication with, such contemporary projects as the politics of zapatismo in
Regional experiences of the Balkans, such as its historical experience of self-organization, could balkanize, and denationalize
Before examining, at the end of this reply, your interesting and constructive arguments, I want to broach discussion of a few more general presuppositions and then try to contribute a few elements for a political reflection on Kosovo question.
If we take a historical view, I think that we could identify a phenomenon, or, rather, a whole complex of elite reactions, that I propose to call â€œpolitical balkano-phobiaâ€: an elite fear of autonomous spaces. The European state system of the 17th and 18th century arose as a result of successful fights for the formation and territorial unification of a regional identity. The state-architects of
Today, in this new era of integration, the Balkans, and balkanization, are presented and projected to the world opinion as nothing but historical residue of â€œprimitive nationalismsâ€, again poses the threat to delirious European bureaucratization -just like in the era of the
The real choice of our times is, more dramaticaly put, the one between barbarism and balkanization.
To say that Balkan nationalisms are somehow not real would be dishonest, even ludicrous, and in any event very irresponsible. But to say that inter-national and ethnic strife determine Balkan identity is to play into the hands of dominate Euro-imperial discourse. I would even advance a thesis that the Balkans, as a region, is much more courageous, even if sometimes tragically unsuccessful, in itâ€™s attempts to discover ways to confront the ethnic and confessional differences. It is enough, I think, to remember the courageous example of the former Yugoslavia; and then to compare it to Euro-American massacres of Jewish and Arab people, Amero-Indians, and itâ€™s historical legacy of feudal wars, colonialism, slavery and genocide. Who are the real barbarians? One of the crucial aspects of balkano-phobia is the particularism of the European universalism. Eurocentric universalism was forged, as an ideological balkano-phobic response, even before the colonization of the
Where are we now?
Allow me to sketch, for our readers who are not familliar with our Balkan peculiarities, something of a background. So what is this situation in which Kosovo, formally still part of
The Holbrook option
There are quite a few options on the table. One colonial and two nationalist. Serbian nationalists insist on â€œautonomy without independenceâ€. Albanian nationalists insist on â€œ independence and autonomyâ€. The EU and US are imposing, under the so-called Ahtisaari Plan, an â€œindependence without autonomyâ€. Russian politicians talk about the possible use of their veto in the General assembly if the wishes of Serbian nationalists are ignored. Serbian and Albanian nationalist politicians are in the process of long and not successful negotiations.
I think that we can safely assume that the future of Kosovo has already been decided. The so called negotiations are a charade, with the sole purpose of giving some illusion of legality. In an interview given with the Balkan Investigative Research Network, Richard Holbrook,
It is, at the same time, painfully obvious that
The Radical Left and Kosovo question
This complicated situation presents a very difficult dilemma for the radical left, and it frames the complex and sensitive nature of our conversation about Kosovoâ€™s future. It poses complex, deep and unpleasant questions.
Let me come try to address some of your criticism, which I find to be very inspiring and constructive in its tone. It seems to me that you propose a very European solution to our Balkan problems. Your answer to the Kosovo question is to establish new States, built on seemingly unavoidable ethno-nationalist principles. You object to my â€œself avowed utopian approachâ€, and see it as not political enough. What I think is happening is that we have different ideas of what politics is. This is probably related to the differences, and concrete disagreements, inscribed in our respective political traditions: anarchism and marxism-leninism. By politics I mean an organic, dialogical, shared and participatory activity of the self-governing public. What you call politics I would call state-building or statecraft, a set of operations that are premised on the seizing the State power, and which are realized through a political party, or political movement; a miniature State, that replicates the State in its organization. For me, this approach intimates precisely what you reproach me for, and that is an abdication of a genuine politics, with a grave concomitant and related symptom of atrophy of political imagination. It prevents critical and political reflection on the social change, whose meaning would lie in the attempt to bring into being other possibilities for human existence.
I do not avoid the national question, in proper or any other sense. But I do reject the nationalist-as opposed to polycultural- and statist solution, Serbian and Albanian, in every sense.
The radical Left should not worship the status quo, and should not adore fait acompli. What we need in the Balkans, where daily papers are rarely our morning prayer, but rather our brutal colonial farce, is a conquest of a point of view beyond the given, therefore a work of a new, restored politics that separates recognition of peoples creativity from adoration of power of facts. For the resurgence of the radical decolonization project, new political objectives and new intellectual attitudes are required.
Your solution is support for â€œthe right of Kosovo to self-determination, to its own independent state.â€ This is, of course, a very legitimate position to take, but it leaves us with two major problems.
Firstly, I do not see how this proposal is real. It seems to me that it is (even) more utopian then my own. You reproach Noamâ€™s advocacy of partition on the grounds that it would inflame â€œstill further the already inflammatory state of Albanian-Serb relationsâ€, and maybe even â€œlead to yet another war over new ethnic border lines, and to yet another round of ethnic cleansing of Albanians from majority Serb districts and vice-versaâ€. I agree with you. But something does not work here. Your proposal is vulnerable and open to criticisms for the precise same reasons. In my opinion, the future of Kosovo has already been decided in the gentlemen club of Europe, US and
My fear of inevitable ethnic violence is supported by a recent proclamation of Hisen Durmisi, one of the leading activists of Vetenovedosje (Movement for Self-determination, or MSD) to Balkan Insight: â€œDecentralisation means secession and secession means warâ€... This will be peoples war for freedom, and Vetevendosje movement will be there to lead it.â€
This brings us to another weakness of your position. You maintain that MSD is an â€œanti-colonial movementâ€. Perhaps so. The question is if we should support this movement.
I like their sense of political humor. Twice they surrounded the UNMIK building with a yellow tape saying â€œCrime scene - Do not crossâ€. And they have a skilful sense of euphemism: â€œUNMIKistanâ€, â€œUNMIKolonialismâ€, playing with words likeâ€œF-UN-Dâ€ for â€œthe endâ€, or â€œT-UN-Gâ€ for â€œgoodbyeâ€ in Albanian. While I completly support their fight against â€œautocratic neo-colonial powerâ€, I am very skeptical as to the other part of your argument, or your belief that â€œMSD is not serbophobicâ€. They appear to carry the flame of a very traditional Albanian ethno-nationalism. The leader of MSD is Albin Kurti, who I have had an opportunity to meet, back in the days when he was a student representative of the
In some of my writings on the Balkans I have tried to demonstrate that the case of Croatia, Slovenia, Serbian parts of Croatia and Bosnia, and Kosovo, is different, significantly so, from the history of anti-colonial independence struggles in the other parts of the world. We would be making a serious mistake if we would try to apply, or rather to impose, in a mechanic fashion, the same analytical and political framework. To use a very local joke, Otpor! does not always translate as "resistance". The reality on the ground is very complex and very nuanced; it defies tailor-made solutions, reflexive angeleology and demonology of particular struggles, and recognition of this nuanced reality demands from us to patiently tolerate regional complexities.
You further say that: â€ As for
I was always allergic to demands, expressed sometimes by other socialists, that anarchists need to come up with a â€œpositionâ€ on the national question or imperialism. Anarchism is not a political party, a single political line, and there are as many â€œpositionsâ€ as there are anarchists. But, this being said, I do believe that there is one fundamental common premise. Let us call it a prefigurative promise. We cannot create a future that we want by supporting, in the present, those projects, and those movements, that contradict our vision of future. â€œIf in order to win it were necessary to erect the gallows in the public square, then I would prefer to looseâ€. Or not to choose, between imposed balkano-phobic solutions. To refuse the rationalization of the real, rationalization of the imposed alternatives, colonial and state-national.
We, the people of the Balkans, need to go back to, and build upon, what is the most precious part of our history, and that is a polycultural vision of multi-ethnic, indeed trans-ethnic, anti-authoritarian society. To understand the scandal borne by the word â€œ Balkansâ€œ and rediscover the trenchancy of its idea. This kind of society is possible only in the framwork of a Balkan Federation, with no state, and beyond nation. A world where many worlds fit. If this is not our reality today, it follows that our duty, our only duty, is to fight to make it our reality tomorrow.