Skeletons in the imperial attic

by Chris Bertram on April 18, 2012

Today’s Guardian has a series of articles today concerning Britain’s colonial past and evidence of the widespread destruction of documents with evidence of crimes against humanity by British forces. Other pieces include material on planned poison gas tests in Botswana , on the coverup of the deportation of the Chagos islanders from Diego Garcia (now used by the United States to bomb various countries), and of serious war crimes during the Malayan emergency . And then there are eighteen striking photographs of the British at work in Kenya, Malaya and Aden . The Aden photographs in particular call to mind similar later ones of British troops in Northern Ireland, where of course, torture was also employed: the techniques used on colonial populations being brought to bear against Irish republicans. And, of course, the look on the faces of the soldiers as they manhandle and abuse “natives” is really no different from what we see in pictures of the French in Algeria, of American troops in Iraq and, indeed, in footage of the Israeli Defense Force in the occupied territories. A timely reminder of the evils of imperialism and colonialism.

{ 341 comments }

1

Jawbone 04.18.12 at 7:14 am

This is pure white self-hatred–what about the Japanese massacre of Nanking, the Aztec human sacrifices, the Mongol invasions. Just focusing on European misdeeds betrays a weird pre-occupation.

2

david 04.18.12 at 7:30 am

Modern Malaysia still regards the Malayan Emergency as a glorious nationalist victory on the road to independence, awkwardly enough – it fought alongside the British to suppress the (Chinese) communists.

3

david 04.18.12 at 7:36 am

Ooh, maybe my comment will suffice for non-self-hatred.

4

Walt 04.18.12 at 7:36 am

Jawbone, the fact that you are so quick to think this is white self-hatred suggests you suffer from low self-esteem. The rest of us are self-confident enough to look at a list of examples, and not wonder whether the authors secretly hates us.

5

Chris Bertram 04.18.12 at 7:40 am

Had just decided to zap the troll, but now there are referring comments. Jawbone: further comments from you will be deleted. Other people, please ignore.

6

david 04.18.12 at 7:55 am

Malaya’s a rather problematic region to think about, actually. As early as 1948 the British were overtly intending to move toward independence ‘eventually’, as part of the wider postwar draw-down East of Suez. The domestic dispute was largely over whether the resulting state would be a Malay or multiracial one.

Are there other cases where multiple revolutionary leaders in a single country oscillated between demanding the British leave and demanding that they stay, until they’re really sure they’ve got the domestic upper hand? Which was remarkably foresighted of all involved, really, given how many newly independent states tore themselves apart after their common enemy sailed home (okay, actually Malaysia tore itself apart too, but not through civil war, and regardless both Singapore and Singaporeless Malaysia kept up the give-me-independence-but-not-just-yet dance yet further. The spectre of Communism makes strange bedfellows, eh?).

Had the British just upped and left in 1948, the result would almost certainly have been Malay ethnic supremacy and civil disorder of a far greater degree than what eventually emerged from the Malaysia compromise, so I daresay there were no good options once colonialism had already been entrenched.

7

Martian 04.18.12 at 8:35 am

Ignoring the provocative side of Jawbone’s comments, there is a kernel of truth there – we’re judging these events through society’s current filters, whereas these all took place 60+ years ago.
That is not to excuse the actions, but to explain them. And no amount of left-wing navel-gazing or hand-wringing about the events and dredging up old wrongs is going to change where society is now – which is almost certainly past such actions…unlike many other countries around the world where people ARE suffering right now, and where those column-inches and that intellectual/emotional intensity could be better-focused.

8

Leinad 04.18.12 at 8:39 am

As if Britain’s on-record colonial legacy wasn’t embarrassing enough, its former colonies already embittered.

It’s one of the ironies of deletions like this that by eliminating evidence of real atrocities they end up providing validity to the wildest claims: “how do you know they didn’t do X? They destroyed all the evidence!”.

9

bob mcmanus 04.18.12 at 8:41 am

Currently reading Jennifer Pitts A Turn to Empire on the “liberal imperialism” of J.S. Mill and Tocqueville. I won’t attribute this to her, she is very careful, but I am interested in the thesis that liberalism, cosmopolitanism, anti-slavery/anti-racism, and feminism (Goldman/Pankhursts) are connected/correlated/wildly coincidental to Imperialism, cultural imperialism, colonialism, torture and genocidal attitudes. Or looking for coincident or preceding social attitudes, (religious/anti-religious awakenings?) that would turn cosmopolitanism outward into liberal paternalism or liberal interventionism. Examples might be the T’ang, Meiji, post-Darwin Britain, current America.

If this makes sense to anyone, I would appreciate recommendations.

10

Chris Bertram 04.18.12 at 8:49 am

Bob, you might be interested in Sankar Muthu’s Enlightenment Against Empire

http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s7669.html

11

Chris Bertram 04.18.12 at 8:52 am

_And no amount of left-wing navel-gazing or hand-wringing about the events and dredging up old wrongs is going to change where society is now – which is almost certainly past such actions…_

Funny, I thought those pictures from Abu Ghraib were rather recent, not to mention the Israeli officer smashing his weapon into the face of a protestor this week. But if we’re past such actions since, say, Monday, we should definitely celebrate.

12

Doctor Slack 04.18.12 at 9:26 am

we’re judging these events through society’s current filters, whereas these all took place 60+ years ago.

Ummmm, you might want to check your arithmetic there.

More broadly, it’s trivially obvious that a) these actions seemed correct to a certain subset of people in British government at the time, and b) that they had enough perspicacity to note that their judgments of necessity might not play well in the public sphere of the day, let alone “society’s current filters,” and that they particularly feared successor governments making use of it. This is really not very interesting in itself; you could say exactly the same thing of communist regimes in Eastern Europe prior to their fall. By far the more interesting question is: to what extent does the period’s rationalization of its own actions hold up (or fail to do so), and to what extent was it mere arse-covering, self-deception or outright corruption or worse? This is useful to historians, but not necessarily useful to the people who wanted to get away with arse-covering, self-deception, outright corruption or worse. Hence the secrecy and document destruction.

13

Asteele 04.18.12 at 9:40 am

7 Oh nonsense if the British goverment thought people of the day would see these activities as normal or justified, they wouldn’t of denied the allegations in the first place. Instead, at the time, they claimed they weren’t committing these terrible atrocities, because they understood that these actions would be seen as terrible atrocities. If it makes you feel any better: I’m sure they’ll never pay out a dime, because they’re still terrible, and aren’t sorry.

14

J. Otto Pohl 04.18.12 at 9:56 am

The cover up of the deportation of the indigenous population of the Chagos Islands was not a very good one. It was pretty much public knowledge to everybody in the world at least by 2005 which is when I first heard about it and I think people like Pilger had covered it much earlier. The tragedy is not in any attempts to keep it secret, but the fact that despite being out in the open the British and US governments refuse to allow the people of the Chagos Islands to return home.

Not on the list is the British massive internment of people in Kenya during the Mau-Mau revolt. I think Caroline Elkin’s _Imperial Reckoning_ which came out in 2005 may have been the first work to really expose this particular skeleton. I remember that the official narrative endorsed by a significant amount of popular literature had not that long ago portrayed the events in Kenya as primarily being indigenous violence against the British rather than the other way around.

15

ajay 04.18.12 at 10:09 am

Minor point: Pretty sure that planning to test chemical weapons – in the middle of a desert! – is not and was not a crime against humanity.

16

Chris Bertram 04.18.12 at 10:09 am

_Not on the list is the British massive internment of people in Kenya during the Mau-Mau revolt._

Some of the pictures cover that Otto and it gets discussed in the first linked Guardian article.

17

Matt 04.18.12 at 11:00 am

Bob at 9- another good (though unfortunately not widely read) book on this subject is the anthology _Utilitarianism and Empire_, edited by Bart Schultz and Georgio Varouzakis, (Lexington Books, 2005).

18

Peter T 04.18.12 at 11:04 am

I am not at all for imperialism or colonialism, but it’s hard to deny that it makes up a lot of history at all times and places – and on all scales. Sometimes its universally celebrated (Romans gave those who killed more than a specified number of natives a triumph), sometimes opinion is – as UK officials apparently feared – more diverse. Just reading an account of the arrival of European traders in New Britain (now part of Papua New Guinea). Enterprising coastal big men and their associates immediately grasped the potential of the new weapons that could be bought, and started wars of imperial and colonial conquest against those further inland.

19

CMK 04.18.12 at 11:23 am

David @ 6. Is Malay supremacy not the core tenet of contemporary Malaysia. ‘Bumiputras [ethnic Malay]‘ only need apply for jobs – these terms are used openly in job advertisements. I remember discussing it with a Malaysian of Indian origin who confirmed that discrimation against Malaysian citizens of Indian and Chinese origin is widespread and unapologetic. It’s been a while since I was there so maybe things have changed in the interim.

20

Martian 04.18.12 at 11:39 am

@ 11 – I didn’t know the ‘jailers’ at Abu Ghraib were British, and I don’t consider the Israelis particularly civilised…Palestine is one of the places I was referring to when I said we should be focusing our attention elsewhere. Re: Gitmo, A-Ghraib etc – I fear the USA have become rather too eager to protect themselves against perceived enemies…a very shortsighted viewpoint that is actually making a rod for their own backs.
@ 13 – I suspect more a political mistake (“oh god, we can’t release that, what will the Guardian / members of Crooked Timber make of it!”) rather than anything particularly sinister – you can wear the tin-foil hat TOO much, you know!
Both – please point to a BRITISH atrocity in the last 20-30 years. The closest I can think of is extraordinary rendition, which was caused by a lack of political backbone.

21

ENKI 04.18.12 at 11:46 am

A timely reminder of the evils of Liebig’s ‘ecomony of power’, if which, imperialism and colonialism are only relatively recent manifestations. Understanding how such things unfold lead the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman to investigate the dynamics of the holocaust, reaching the conclusion that ‘inhumanity is a function of social distance’ (Modernity and the Holocaust). Bauman’s research lead him to Stanley Milgram, who is infamous in the annals of psychological research. Milgram’s controversial authority experiments brought to light a profound understanding of the role and character of social hierarchy in fostering and perpetuating systemic violence and inhumanity. Bauman came to believe Milgram’s work clearly demonstrated that violence and inhumanity are a function of social relationships and that as the latter are rationalized and technically perfected, so is the capacity and efficiency for the social production of inhumanity. It is not difficult to understand that the destruction of the natural world and the immiseration of most of the world’s people are extensions of, if not analogues to the mode of production of bourgeois society. Capital’s mode of production is only effective to the degree to which the native matrices of humankind and the natural world can be disregarded. Such is a condition of bondage that must always be imposed and maintained through a global system of hierarchy and the monopoly of violence on part of the nation/state.

22

Andrew Fisher 04.18.12 at 11:46 am

Martian@20

Surely British atrocities have diminished because (and to the extent that) British imperial power has diminished? The OP called this a ‘A timely reminder of the evils of imperialism and colonialism’ not ‘A timely reminder of the evils of the British’.

Or are you suggesting that we Brits would be better at imperialism and colonialism if we started up again? Evidence in (e.g.) Basra doesn’t seem to support that view.

23

J. Otto Pohl 04.18.12 at 11:50 am

Marian @20

Thirty years ago would have been 1982 under Thatcher. I think there were still abuses in Northern Ireland during this time. The rest of the British Empire had pretty much disappeared by then.

24

Chris Bertram 04.18.12 at 11:51 am

Oh FFS Martian. First of all it is the work of a moment’s googling to find more recent examples of very bad things done by British soldiers

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/iraq-abuse-was-widespread-says-convicted-exsoldier-1821658.html

Second, I was indeed making a more general point about the treatment of subject populations by such armies, which is ongoing, and from which no such army can count itself as immune.

25

bert 04.18.12 at 12:00 pm

bq. please point to a BRITISH atrocity in the last 20-30 years

Chris already mentioned Diego Garcia. It’s part of history’s grand pageant of the powerful screwing the powerless. This history needs to be acknowledged, and as a general principle it’s important to acknowledge the parts that make you uncomfortable.
That it’s repeatedly exploited by opportunists (a particularly nauseating example) shouldn’t alter that.

With this in mind, let’s remember that Bristol is built on the profits of slavery, and Bristol University on the profits of Imperial Tobacco. Are you compromised? Do you need to make reparations? Or is it enough to seek to prevent further abuse? What’s your view, Chris? How far do you take it?

26

Patrick S. O'Donnell 04.18.12 at 12:03 pm

Oh, but Gandhi’s satyagraha campaigns were effective primarily because the British in India were so civilized!

27

Patrick S. O'Donnell 04.18.12 at 12:43 pm

My favorite work on the political philosophy or ideology of British imperialism in India is Raghavan Iyer’s little gem, Utilitarianism and All That (London: Chatto & Windus, 1960/Santa Barbara, CA: Concord Grove Press, 1983). Wonderful stuff on Burkean trusteeship (with its appeal to the Parliament), Benthamite utilitarianism (with its appeal to the imperial government in India), “Platonic Guardians” (with its appeal to the civil service), and Evangelicalism (with its appeal to non-official bodies and societies): “More generally, Burke provided a moral code, Bentham a programme, Plato an attitude of mind, and Wilberforce a transcendental sanction and a belief in oneself.” (‘The interaction between these four doctrines was too subtle and complex to be reduced to any simple scheme or stable relationship.’)

28

Asteele 04.18.12 at 1:01 pm

25 I don’t know about Chris, but I would settle for stopping. That’s of course is not going to happen. Perhaps in 40 years we can talk about how our current abuses were also sadly inevitable and unrealistic to compensate for.

29

Chris Bertram 04.18.12 at 1:20 pm

bert @25: I don’t really like responding to that kind of ad hominem remark from an anonymous commenter, since I can’t reply in kind. Bristol as a city has done quite a lot to recognize the wrongs of the slave trade, though the fact that many things are still named after Edward Colston remains a source of annoyance to anti-racist campaigners. I should also mention that Bristol was also an important place for the campaign against the trade (thought this got more traction once Liverpool had eclipsed Bristol). The university now has a policy of refusing all donations from the tobacco industry.

30

Tim Wilkinson 04.18.12 at 1:20 pm

It’s one of the ironies of deletions like this that by eliminating evidence of real atrocities they end up providing validity to the wildest claims: “how do you know they didn’t do X? They destroyed all the evidence!”.

It’s not an irony, because just in case you hadn’t noticed, what you yourself call ‘the wildest claims’ are not accorded much in the way of ‘validity’. In fact there is (as you’d expect) a well developed and highly effective genre of propaganda aimed at delegitimatisation and marginalisation of ‘conspiracy theorists’, and at claiming the benefit of every doubt on behalf of official spoliators.

‘Plausible deniability’ doesn’t even have to be that plausible to work as an effective prophylactic against the viral conspiratorial memes – the infection can be kept to harmless levels or quarantined in the ‘cultic milieu’. Take something that does appear to be adequately well-documented and is central to a proper understanding of recent and contemporary geopolitics – the Saddam/Glaspie(/Baker etc.) affair, in which Saddam was given a green light to invade Kuwait, thus enabling the US protection racket to expand into Arabia. No-one seems able to dispute the facts, but no-one seems terribly keen to accept them, either. These claims are neither wild nor, it seems, inaccurate, yet in some nebulous way they remain disreputable, not to be taken Seriously.

31

john b 04.18.12 at 1:27 pm

CMK: you’re a very fine thread away from the folk who shout that affirmative action is anti-white racism. In real life, Indian and Chinese populations are massively economically and educationally privileged over Malay populations in Malaysia, due to imperial British policy, so a bit of affirmative action is completely legit; meanwhile, Malays remain far poorer than either of the migrant groups.

Meanwhile, I’m not sure NI fits into this template. Britain’s action there fell more into the “draconian use of force to defend unequivocally British territory” camp than the “showing uppity colonials what for” camp. Like some combo of the Falklands War and the aftermath of the London riots, rather than the violent quashing of uprisings in places (with Dublin pre-1922 an excellent example of one to join all the others upthread) that weren’t British by popular will.

32

Cryptic Ned 04.18.12 at 1:30 pm

Wow, during the Vietnam War there were still regiments with names like “The Northumberland Fusiliers”. How quaint!

33

Andrew Fisher 04.18.12 at 1:47 pm

Ned@32: The Fusiliers are still going strong.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Regiment_of_Fusiliers

34

rea 04.18.12 at 2:03 pm

Take something that does appear to be adequately well-documented and is central to a proper understanding of recent and contemporary geopolitics – the Saddam/Glaspie(/Baker etc.) affair, in which Saddam was given a green light to invade Kuwait, thus enabling the US protection racket to expand into Arabia

There is certainly evidence that Ambassador Glaspie blundered in a discussion with Saddam, saying something he could read as a green light to grab all of Kuwait. There is no evidence whatever to support what you suggest, which is apparently that it was all a plot to lure Saddam into grabbing Kuwait, thus enabling the US to occupy Saudi Arabia.

35

Eli Rabett 04.18.12 at 2:42 pm

Ireland was, and Northern Ireland still is a colony, just with a settler class. Plantations and all that

36

Laleh 04.18.12 at 2:47 pm

I spent the morning at the National Archives in Kew, going through as many relevant folder as I could from this newly release “migrated archives” transferred from their hidden storage place at the FCO to the National Archives. I have written a manuscript on counterinsurgency, set to be published in October, which I was hoping to enrich by adding material from the new files to it. To this end, I was very much looking forward to the files on Aden, Cyprus, Malaya, and Kenya (I also was anxious to see the Palestine files, but those are not scheduled to come out until April 2013).

The Aden material was ludicrous. Given the extent of torture and ill-treatment, detention and protest in that colony in its latter years, it was laughable to see the released files having to do with fisheries. The Cyprus files only go up until 1938, as if keeping the more incendiary material from the period of Cypriot emergency for a future date when the hubbub around the files has died down. I glanced at the Kenya material but trust that David Anderson and Caroline Elkins would be giving those a good once-over, so I then moved on Malaya. The files mostly dated from 1955-1957 (rather than the period of 1948-1951 when half a million civilians were resettled in concentration camps quaintly called New Villages) and what was there was either oblique, opaque, or useless.

Most strikingly, the keywords “detention”, “resettlement”, “New Villages”, “reservations” (another quaint word for concentration camps, this time used in Kenya), or “detainee”, don’t even appear in any of the aforementioned files.

It seems to me that there are some interesting things having to do with the Chagos Islands, Anguilla, and some parts of Africa (not those with major counterinsurgency operations, however), but those are not my areas of interest.

It seems to me that the whole release is a whitewash intended to mollify critics and save the government from embarrassment.

37

Katherine 04.18.12 at 2:49 pm

The scandal that is Diego Garcia certainly isn’t in the past. The English courts have frequently found in favour of the islanders’ right to return, but the UK government has just as frequently employed weasely methods to prevent them.

Not so much as skeleton in the imperialist closet, as a decomposing corpse lurching around the Indian Ocean.

38

Laleh 04.18.12 at 3:06 pm

Re: the Malayan article, “elimination” of guerrillas (euphemised as “Communist Terrorist” and then reduced to the acronym “CT”)* was pretty de rigeur and most militaries don’t even bother apologising about it. What is perhaps even more shocking is the prevalence of “food denial”^ operations to the aforementioned “New Villages”. What these entailed was severe reduction in rice rations and complete elimination of other forms of food stuffs to civilians thought to be supporting the guerrillas, or in punishment for intransigence, or as a punitive measure when enough intelligence wasn’t forthcoming from them.

* The US did the same in Vietnam, where civilian supporters of the VNLF were called “Viet Cong Infrastructure”, then reduced to “VCI”… The process of course strips persons of their humanity – as they become a set of acronyms.

^ This is also familiar from both Viet Nam and Israel. In VN, the defoliation of the jungles with Agent Orange was partially intended to deprive the guerrillas and their supporters of the informal patches of agriculture in the jungles. In Israel, two Haaretz journalists a couple of years ago reported the existence of two lists maintained for Gaza which respectively calculated the caloric requirement of men, women, and children of different age bands in one list, and prevented the entry of a broad range of foodstuff (including such random things as coriander) in another list.

39

danielwaweru 04.18.12 at 3:15 pm

What is perhaps even more shocking is the prevalence of “food denial”^ operations to the aforementioned “New Villages”.

Spot on. Elkins has some detail (from about p. 260ish) in her book, of very similar deliberate restrictions on food supply. She also found memoranda showing that the colonial administration was aware—was advised by its own medical department—that these restrictions were untenable.

40

J. Otto Pohl 04.18.12 at 3:20 pm

Re 31

As one of the few Americans claiming no Irish heritage I don’t really have any dog in the Irish conflict. But, I am quite sure that Northern Ireland was contested territory when it came to those people calling themselves Irish Republicans. They did not view the territory as being legitimately British. It also seems to me there has been a considerable amount of literature comparing the historical situation in Northern Ireland with South Africa and Palestine.

41

ajay 04.18.12 at 3:56 pm

Ireland was, and Northern Ireland still is a colony, just with a settler class. Plantations and all that

As is the US. And indeed England.

42

piglet 04.18.12 at 4:22 pm

Bob 9, isn’t that something like the thesis of the Dialectic of Enlightenment?

43

Colin Danby 04.18.12 at 4:23 pm

Re #9, also: Uday Singh Mehta, _Liberalism and Empire: A Study in Nineteenth-Century British Liberal Thought_ (Chicago 1999)

44

ponce 04.18.12 at 5:00 pm

“A timely reminder of the evils of imperialism and colonialism.”

I’d wager a majority of Americans/Brits/Israelis enjoy seeing their troops abusing subject populations.

45

bert 04.18.12 at 5:02 pm

Chris, in your response to #25 you talk about ad hominem remarks.
To me, ad hominem means playing the man not the ball.
My questions were very much all about the ball.
They’re questions about guilt, responsibility and restitution.
You raised issues in the OP about which you and I might be thought to share national guilt.
I raised issues where, as a thoughtful citizen and a moral philosopher to boot, you might already have considered whether you bear civic or institutional guilt.
Perhaps if I’d chosen a different example (how should Americans regard aboriginal genocide? Are casino licences enough?) you’d have felt more comfortable. But isn’t the need for uncomfortable self-examination kind of the point you’re making?
If any of the questions in #25 strike you as worth answering, I’d be interested in your response.

As far as anonymity is concerned, I understand where you’re coming from. Last time there was a thread on the subject, I pitched in with my view. But the other day I saw Janeane Garofalo (who very much hasn’t stayed anonymous, and has attracted a swarm of trolls as a consequence) describe how her teeth have started falling out because she grinds them so much. Any slight prickliness from you is understandable and I hope this reassurance isn’t devalued, coming as it does anonymously.

46

Data Tutashkhia 04.18.12 at 5:03 pm

of American troops in Iraq

What, is Afghanistan still “the good war”? Liberating women, building schools and highways?

47

Enda H 04.18.12 at 5:32 pm

@John b,

Meanwhile, I’m not sure NI fits into this template. Britain’s action there fell more into the “draconian use of force to defend unequivocally British territory”

As J. Otto Pohl rightly points out this is only true in the sense that, say, Ireland was unequivocally British territory in 1920. Legally of course that’s true, but perhaps not ethically/democratically. Northern Ireland comprises six counties. At its birth in 1920, four of those six counties were predominantly Irish catholic. I’m from a Dublin suburb, and there are large parts of NI that “feel” more Irish than my hometown. The high population density of very-British Belfast swung its strength of numbers into what I would consider unequivocally Irish areas like Derry or south Armagh.

If Birmingham wanted to join Ireland, and had a large enough population to also win a “Should Birmingham and the surrounding cities of Stoke, Leicester and Coventry join Ireland?” vote, would you consider Stoke to be unequivocally Irish territory?

48

rf 04.18.12 at 6:09 pm

“Britain’s action there fell more into the “draconian use of force to defend unequivocally British territory” camp than the “showing uppity colonials what for” camp”

Although I see your point, it isn’t a particularly novel or complex idea and doesnt serve much use to reduce it to those two options. (‘Defend’ it from what? ‘Unequivocally British territory’ by what criteria? The relationship between Britain and Ireland is quite different than that between Britain and its later colonies, from what I can gather, so perhaps the comparison isn’t particularly helpful)
You also appear to be channelling Maggie Thatcher

“She began to paraphrase a letter which had appeared in the Daily Telegraph a few days before: Mexico would have as much right to seek Texas back as the Republic of Ireland to seek the Six Counties. The Cardinal launched into a historical and geographical account of the issue. He emphasised the artificiality of the border, pointing out that no one had even been able to find an adequate name for the northern state: it was not Ulster .. it was not Northern Ireland.. he explained how the border cut right across the most ancient territories in Ireland .. But it was all to no apparent avail.” (Beresford, Ten Men Dead)

49

Hektor Bim 04.18.12 at 6:30 pm

john b,

You are incorrect about the situation in Malaysia. Chinese are more economically priviliged, but Indians aren’t. In fact, a lot of Indian advancement in Malaysia happened in the context of the struggle against British rule in WWII by Bose’s army, but the Indian population in Malaysia is not economically advanced now relative to the Malays. They started as chattel labor in the main, working on plantations, so it is not true that they were advantaged relative to the Malays. (Maybe you are thinking of Sri Lanka?)

50

hartal 04.18.12 at 6:30 pm

Looking forward to John Hobson’s new book which seems to be a critique of Eurocentric theories of international relations. See also
http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?266849

51

geo 04.18.12 at 6:31 pm

Patrick @26: I know it’s a pretty well-worn subject, but I’ve never gotten quite clear about it. Suppose it were put this way: Gandhi succeeded because the British authorities were more constrained in their resort to violent coercion by domestic public opinion than a totalitarian government would likely have been. Doesn’t sound altogether improbable, does it?

52

Hektor Bim 04.18.12 at 6:37 pm

ajay,

There are substantial areas of Northern Ireland that in the 20th century have never supported British rule in Ireland (like Derry/Londonderry and South Down), but were included in Northern Ireland for cynical reasons. The situation there was historically colonial, though one can argue whether it remains so today.

53

Watson Ladd 04.18.12 at 7:00 pm

john b: the politics that supports the racially discriminatory policies of the Malay state is one of Malay ethnonationalism, including periodic riots and killings of Indian and Chinese Malaysians. Where exactly does the line between redress and racism fall?

54

bob mcmanus 04.18.12 at 7:13 pm

Thanks for the suggestions, all

55

Data Tutashkhia 04.18.12 at 7:45 pm

I used to know a Malaysian guy from KL, sat in the same office for a couple of years. His wife is Chinese, cooks real well. He said, I remember, that as soon someone there starts any nationalist propaganda – anti-Chinese, pro-Chinese, doesn’t matter – secret police guys come, take this person, and lock them up in a concentration camp. No investigation, no trial, no nothing. He says it works great, excellent method. No troubles whatsoever. But that was years ago.

56

Tim Wilkinson 04.18.12 at 7:52 pm

rea @34 hasn’t perfected the trick of entirely ignoring it yet, I see. The more naïve approach makes a token engagement with ‘evidence’ (but does not specify any, in particular not for the key claim of a ‘blunder’). This invites trouble, since if anyone had the patience, they might actually walk through that evidence.

I don’t have much patience at present, but from the handy collation linked above:

[from Glaspie's meeting with Saddam Hussein, July 25, 1990:]

President Saddam Hussein:
“If we could keep the whole of the Shatt al Arab – our strategic goal in our war with Iran – we will make concessions (to the Kuwaitis). But if we are forced to choose between keeping half of the Shatt and the whole of Iraq (which, in Iraq’s view, includes Kuwait), then we will give up all of the Shatt to defend our claims on Kuwait to keep the whole of Iraq in the shape we wish it to be. (pause) What is the United States’ opinion on this?”

US Ambassador Glaspie:
“We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary (of State James) Baker has directed me to emphasise the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960s, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America.”
(Saddam smiles)

—-

At a Washington press conference called the next day (July 26, 1990), US State Department spokesperson Margaret Tutweiler was asked by journalists: “Has the United States sent any type of diplomatic message to the Iraqis about putting 30,000 troops on the border with Kuwait? Has there been any type of protest communicated from the United States government?” To which Tutweiler responded “I’m entirely unaware of any such protest.”

On July 31, 1990, two days before the Iraqi invasion, John Kelly, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, testified to Congress that the “United States has no commitment to defend Kuwait and the US has no intention of defending Kuwait if it is attacked by Iraq.”

57

J. Otto Pohl 04.18.12 at 8:00 pm

Data:

Well the KGB did greatly minimize ethnic conflict in the USSR using that method.

58

Data Tutashkhia 04.18.12 at 8:10 pm

Yes, but how did Tito manage? He didn’t seem to have any excessively repressive apparatus.

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J. Otto Pohl 04.18.12 at 8:16 pm

Yes he did, UDBA, was pretty efficient in arresting, or killing if in exile, various Croatian nationalists.

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leederick 04.18.12 at 8:51 pm

“As J. Otto Pohl rightly points out this is only true in the sense that, say, Ireland was unequivocally British territory in 1920. Legally of course that’s true, but perhaps not ethically/democratically. Northern Ireland comprises six counties. At its birth in 1920, four of those six counties were predominantly Irish catholic.”

From a technical perspective, the country’s called the “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. So NI isn’t British territory. I think the broader point is that there is political union – Ireland got to elect MPs from 1800 and citizenship was merged. So it’s far from Aden or the Falklands, for example.

“I am quite sure that Northern Ireland was contested territory when it came to those people calling themselves Irish Republicans.”

Sure, but contested territory does not make a colony. The Basque and Olivenza are contested territories, but no-one would call them colonies. I think John B has a point.

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JJ 04.18.12 at 8:51 pm

J. Otto Pohl @ 23:
“The rest of the British Empire had pretty much disappeared by then.”

The British Empire never disappeared. A casual stroll through the meanest streets of London, let alone the more affluent neighborhoods , or in any other city in Europe or the US, confront the idle observer with evidence of the continued existence of the Empire. The British Empire was outsourced to the US (United Kingdom to United States), just as the Dutch Empire was outsourced to the British Empire (United Provinces to United Kingdom), and the Venetian Empire was outsourced to the Dutch Empire (United Italian City-States to United Provinces). The American Empire will be outsourced to some World Empire (United States to United Nations).

As the Earth becomes increasingly less habitable, the costs of living here will become increasingly comparable to the costs of living in an absolutely uninhabitable environment, and the World Empire will be outsourced to the Orbital Empire, with all the colonial baggage of all previous empires transformed intact.

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bianca steele 04.18.12 at 9:14 pm

From my reading of James Shapiro’s 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, England’s fearful need to subdue Ireland seemed less economic (though of course appearances are deceptive) and more akin to, for example, US fear of the USSR during the Cold War (which doesn’t make it not a colony but does seem to make it different from a place like, say, the Falkand Islands).

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J. Otto Pohl 04.18.12 at 9:16 pm

59:

Many of those who have in the past contested the legitimacy of British rule over Northern Ireland referred to it as settler colonialism. This is controversial. But, I think the point is that it has been not a universally agreed upon position particularly a few decades ago that Northern Ireland should be under British rule. There were people engaging in political violence to remove British rule. I would say the Basque comparison is apt. The ETA and other Basques wanted to remove Spanish rule particularly during the reign of Franco. I am not so sure that no Basque nationalist would call have ever called Spanish rule over his homeland colonialism. I am not familiar enough with the literature. But, it would not surprise me if some Basque nationalists did talk about Spanish colonialism of their homeland.

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Data Tutashkhia 04.18.12 at 9:31 pm

No, annexation is different from colonizations, and separatism is different from anti-colonialism.

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rea 04.18.12 at 9:50 pm

Tim Wilinson @55, you seem a bit shaky on this concept of “evidence.” Where in what you quote does anyone say anything to support your claim that the US deliberately encouraged Iraq to attack Kuwait, in order to get an excuse to base US troops in Saudi Arabia?

You probably don’t remember the longstanding Iraqi-Kuwaiti dispute over Kuwait’s northern border–what used to be shown as the “neutral zone” on the maps. Consistent with longstanding US policy, Glaspie reminded Saddam that the US had a “hands-off” policy about this dispute. She wasn’t playing close enough attention to what Saddam was telling her to recognize that Saddam was talking about siezing all of Kuwait, not merely the “neutral zone.” As usual, there is no need to look to malice for an explanation of what is adequately explained by stupidity.

I was under the impression that you had thought this up on your own, but I see from a little googling that instead you’re simply parrotting one of Ron Paul’s more lunatic arguments.

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Nick L 04.18.12 at 9:52 pm

Re: Malaysia
Yes, Chinese have on average significantly higher incomes than Malays, but Indians do not. Malaysia has Latin American levels of inequality unfortunately, although inter-ethnic inequality is only one component of total inequality. There are many poor Chinese and Indians whilst inequalities within the Malay community are very large. The latter is seen by many observers as a result of the race-based discrimination in favour of the Malays, which has arguably privileged some Malays above others. Whilst it might be claimed that this is to be expected for Kuznet curve type reasons and the strong urban-rural inequalities in Malaysia, many (including the main opposition party, which is Malay but multiracial) argue that the inequality amongst the Malays is a feature, not a bug, of the system. They claim that the system of race based reservations, which apply to everything from bank loans to university scholarships to share of equity in firms, is used as a font of corruption for both Malay and Chinese insiders connected to the ruling coalition. Positive discrimination intertwines with the system of money-politics and the patron-client networks of power brokers.

On the other hand I have Malay friends who say that they would never be where they are without the government scholarships they received. Malaysia was, by all accounts, moving towards a caste-like society as a result of British policies (both intentional and inadvertent). But the Barisan Nasional government (which is strongly against non-racial redistribution and openly rejects the welfare state) could certainly focus its efforts more directly on poverty instead of playing the race-card, if it so chose.

Re: whisking people away. I’m not sure that they take people to ‘concentration camps’, but under the Internal Security Act the government can certainly detain individuals without trial on just about any pretext. The incident referred to by the colleague of Data @54 was probably ‘Operation Lalang’ (weeding operation) in 1987 when during a period of ethnic tension both members of the opposition and some of the headbangers of the ruling party itself were arrested to ensure parity. This is part of the apparent ruling strategy of the government, keep the tensions simmering and then present its brand of communalism as the only answer. Contra Watson Ladd @52 there haven’t been pogroms since 1969, but the ruling party does make references to events to remind everyone to know their place and not rock the boat.

The last time they used the ISA to detain people for political reasons (as opposed to a case of genuine terrorism) was July 2011 during the ‘Bersih’ (‘clean’ as in anti-corruption and vote-rigging) march. But the ISA is now being repealed as a result of the unpopularity of the heavy handed response to the march, although human rights campaigns are sceptical. Bringing us full circle and back to UK imperialism, the ISA is a by-product of the war against communists in Malaysia. Like elsewhere, one of our parting gifts was a set of coercive apparatus designed for the control of a recalcitrant population.

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rea 04.18.12 at 9:55 pm

JJ@ 60 says:
The British Empire was outsourced to the US (United Kingdom to United States), just as the Dutch Empire was outsourced to the British Empire (United Provinces to United Kingdom), and the Venetian Empire was outsourced to the Dutch Empire (United Italian City-States to United Provinces).

This, of course, explains why Crete is currently US territory.

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Tim Wilkinson 04.18.12 at 11:06 pm

rea @65 – ‘Lunatic’? ‘No need’ to posit blah blah? (“That gets to national honour!…That is absolutely absurd!”).

You don’t seem even to realise that you are reciting narrative rather than actually addressing evidence. This level of learned naïveté maintained in the face of the US’s clear statements in the run up to the war is quite remarkable.

(And I have no idea what Ron Paul has/had to say about it – but nice smear. Also, brilliant use of evidence in support of your categorical assertion that I am ‘parroting’ some statement of his.)

Thanks for providing an excellent illustration of my original point though.

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Peter T 04.18.12 at 11:54 pm

Small story – I was in Calcutta in 2002 when Hindu violence against Muslims exploded in Gujarat. The Communist government of West Bengal put everyone they could trust on the street with an armband, a stick and instructions to prevent any outbreaks of temper whatsoever (no double-parking, no name-calling, keep the bargaining muted). There was no outbreak of violence in Calcutta (as there was elsewhere in north India). Sometimes a heavy hand can be a good thing. It is also, unfortunately, what laid the foundations on which we have built.

Query – is a lot of continuing small-scale violence, as per normal in non-state societies, preferable to less, but large-scale violence? Is it possible to escape violence altogether, or is it an inextricable part of political institutions?

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JJ 04.18.12 at 11:56 pm

‘This, of course, explains why Crete is currently US territory.”

Probably not.

It certainly explains why New England, New Amsterdam, New York, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Orleans, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, California and New Mexico are currently US territories.

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Patrick S. O'Donnell 04.19.12 at 12:28 am

geo@50:

I don’t think this offers a reasonable accounting for the success (some campaigns were judged, at least by Gandhi, to be failures) of the nonviolent campaigns: it rather insinuates such campaigns will not be successful in totalitarian regimes. I’m not sure that’s true, but I suppose in some measure the assessment will depend on the period of time invoked in making judgments of success/failure (in addition to being clear as to the criteria relied upon for the assessment). One also has to bear in mind the nature of the commitment to nonviolence: has it motivated the masses or is it confined to comparatively few groups, classes, or sectors of the society? Gandhian-like nonviolence was found in both Poland and Czechoslovakia during their “nonviolent” (‘self-limiting’ and ‘velvet’ respectively) revolutions, although one might certainly quibble about their “totalitarian” character (Havel, on occasion, described these regimes as ‘post-totalitarian’).* The current Chinese regime certainly behaves in a totalitarian fashion in Tibet and one might reasonably argue that nonviolence has not worked in this instance, but I suspect such a conclusion may be premature. In any case, I don’t think we’re justified in drawing the conclusion that strategic or principled nonviolence cannot work (is doomed to failure) in repressive regimes (there’s simply not enough evidence to warrant this conclusion: in other words, we simply can’t make that inference based on instances where it has worked in comparatively non-repressive regimes, for we have few instances where it seems to have been attempted in more authoritarian or ‘totalitarian’ societies). Recent events in the Middle East suggest that nonviolence campaigns have fairly decent prospects for success even in authoritarian regimes. Of course there are all sorts of variables that affect such things outside of the dynamics between those in power and those in opposition (‘outside’ interference/non-interference, pressure, etc.). Finally, In a timely, original, and important social scientific study, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict (2011), Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan come to the following conclusions:

First, “that historically, nonviolent resistance campaigns have been more effective in achieving their goals than violent resistance campaigns. This has been true even under conditions in which most people would expect nonviolent resistance to be futile, including situations in which dissent is typically met with harsh regime repression.”

Second, “the historical success of nonviolent campaigns is explained by the fact that the physical, moral, and informational barriers to participation in nonviolent campaigns are substantially lower than in violent campaigns in given comparable circumstances.”

Chenoweth and Stephan make explicit the error of drawing a further but unwarranted inference from their findings, namely, “that just because a campaign is nonviolent does not guarantee its success. [….] Rather, the ability of the campaign to make strategic adjustments to changing conditions is crucial to its success, whether it is nonviolent or violent.”

These arguments do not account for the specific moral and political motivations of leading actors involved in nonviolent resistance campaigns. In other words, it may very well turn out to be the case that a principled commitment to nonviolence is what sustains (in the face of repression and violence) those involved in nonviolent resistance campaigns, in addition to, or apart from, a belief in the strategic efficacy of nonviolence. Indeed, it may turn out to be the case that such a belief (and principled commitment in praxis) is on the order of wishful thinking in the form of a self-fulfilling prophecy. In other words, a creedal belief in the value and (eventual) success of nonviolent action may provide the requisite motivation to sustain actors in protracted social conflict and campaigns of nonviolent resistance, thereby directly contributing to their effectiveness and enhancing their probability of success. The corresponding question being whether or not simple belief in the strategic effectiveness of nonviolence or the adoption of nonviolence as a policy or tactic is sufficient to motivate a devoted cadre to persevere in the cause and throughout the course of such resistance campaigns.

* I discussed this a bit here: http://www.religiousleftlaw.com/2011/09/socio-political-conflict-resolution-nonviolence-a-select-bibliography-and-historical-exemplum.html

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Patrick S. O'Donnell 04.19.12 at 12:31 am

Oops, that’s geo@51…

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Helen 04.19.12 at 12:42 am

we’re judging these events through society’s current filters, whereas these all took place 60+ years ago.

Hmmm.

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geo 04.19.12 at 2:35 am

Patrick @72: Thanks for that long, informative, and well-reasoned reply. I agree with you entirely. Actually, I wasn’t trying to suggest that campaigns of nonviolent resistance can’t succeed and shouldn’t be undertaken against totalitarian or otherwise severely repressive regimes. I only wanted to point out that a comparatively liberal and democratic society like 20th-century Britain offered a more promising target for such campaigns than, say, Stalinist Russia or Nazi Germany would have. The fact that Britain was, in that sense, more “civilized” than Germany or the USSR, does indeed, it seems to me, partly explain Gandhi’s victory.

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heckblazer 04.19.12 at 2:38 am

“It certainly explains why New England, New Amsterdam, New York, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Orleans, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, California and New Mexico are currently US territories.”

I was previously unaware of the history of Dutch and English colonies in the Louisiana Territory and the Republic of Mexico.

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js. 04.19.12 at 3:38 am

geo re Gandhian resistance:

It strikes me that what must matter as much as (if not more than) the nature of ruling regime is the function of the colony within the colonial system as a whole. Other people probably know more about this than I do, but that India in lots of ways functioned as a captive market for the British (textiles, etc.) rather than primarily as a location for resource extraction would, I’d think, have very important effects on how the local population was treated. Or could be treated. And again, this has nothing to do with how “civilized” the British state was. (None of this is to say that the nature of the ruling regime does not matter at all w/r/t to strategies of resistance.)

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geo 04.19.12 at 3:57 am

js: Interesting suggestion. Do you mean that because the Indians’ function for the British was to be customers rather than, say, slave laborers, the British had to treat them differently?

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Aulus Gellius 04.19.12 at 4:08 am

Was non-violent resistance used against the British in any colonies outside of India, to any significant extent?

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js. 04.19.12 at 4:08 am

That’s the idea, yeah. A thought I’ve had for a long time, but I don’t know a ton of work in this area, so not entirely sure what the generally accepted views about this are.

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ponce 04.19.12 at 5:25 am

“we’re judging these events through society’s current filters, whereas these all took place 60+ years ago.”

I think we were more civilized 60+ years ago.

The outcry against the atrocities of the Philipine-American war was much louder than that the whispered outrage today.

http://www.logosjournal.com/issue_4.3/twain.htm

Naked brutality is the mean America and its poodles are returning to.

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js. 04.19.12 at 5:31 am

Just to spell out my point a little bit more: if you think about the specific tactics and strategies Gandhi used—the salt march, home-spun cotton, “non-cooperation” in general—a lot of them hit at the economic structure of British rule in India. But of course this depended on the specific economic functions of India as a colony for the British. If, on the other hand, you have a colony whose primary function, say, is to provide slave labor or as a geographical location for resource extraction, none of those strategies would work.

None of this shows of course that non-violent resistance of some sort couldn’t work in very different circumstances, but I think it’s a good point to keep in mind the next time someone brings up the damn annoying lament,”Oh, if only there could be a Palestinian Gandhi!” (Sorry to bring up what I gather is a verboten topic ’round here, but Israel and the occupied territories were mentioned in the OP.)

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Patrick S. O'Donnell 04.19.12 at 6:03 am

There has, in fact, been a strong and often neglected history of Palestinian nonviolence, whether or not there’s been a “Palestinian Gandhi” (the idea of a ‘missing Mahatma’ being, I think, quite silly and a needless distraction). I introduce the topic and share SOME of the relevant literature (in English) here: http://www.religiousleftlaw.com/2011/07/the-palestinian-struggle-nonviolence.html

I think the Israelis are more concerned about nonviolent strategies and tactics than they are about the use of violence (for which they have ready-made if not predictable responses).

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Patrick S. O'Donnell 04.19.12 at 6:04 am

I should have been clearer: the Israelis are more apprehensive about the Palestinians resorting to nonviolence….

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Data Tutashkhia 04.19.12 at 6:18 am

The fact that Britain was, in that sense, more “civilized” than Germany or the USSR, does indeed, it seems to me, partly explain Gandhi’s victory.

I’m not buying the “domestic opinion” suggestion at all, and this phrase confirms it: who could be more “civilized” than Germans? Give me 6 months and 3 major newspapers, and the domestic opinion will demand little kittens to be put though the shredder.

Sure, it might be more expedient to conceal than to propagandize, but that’s about as far as it goes. In my opinion.

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david 04.19.12 at 8:20 am

CMK @19 – yes, but do consider that the Bumiputra policy is still more egalitarian than what the Malay nationalists wanted (namely, no citizenship for non-Malays at all). Also, a lot of its modern aspects dates from Mahathir’s ascension to power and the New Economic Policy, rather than from the earlier Abdul Rahman administration.

john b @31 – realize that the Malay nationalists wanted a lot more than affirmative action; they wanted delegitimization of Chinese and Indian Malays as citizens at all. Political affirmative action is what they got after lots of self-interested British intervention. But what would you have done, expel the introduced minorities wholly via appropriation and intimidation, as independent Kenya did and the Malay nationalists rather wanted to do?

Nick L @66 – allegations that Malaysia is “past” racism and that Barisan Nasional is just wagging the dog have fallen out of popularity ever since actual pogroms in Indonesia happened in 1997 and suddenly May 13 1969 got a live reenactment. It helps that things have liberalized a little post-Mahathir and furthermore the rise of an opposition alliance too Muslim to be labelled anti-Malay but too Chinese to be irrelevant, so battle-lines are no longer drawn rigidly along ethnic faults, weirdly rendering it incrementally safer for open discussion.

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Peter T 04.19.12 at 9:33 am

On India – the Raj was always a joint British/Indian initiative and structure (although Britons at home tended to forget this). Clive was financed by Indian merchant interests, the army had both British and Indian officers, learning Indian languages was essential to service in India, and there was often a lively tussle between Calcutta and London over policy even if London had the last word. Not an ideal or equal partnership, but Indian interests always had to be heeded. When Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah mobilised middle and lower class Indians against British rule, exit was the only option. Bose’s Indian National Army was a reminder of the alternative, but holding India by force was not an option.

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danielwaweru 04.19.12 at 10:13 am

@David,

expel the introduced minorities wholly via appropriation and intimidation, as independent Kenya did?

This is just false. While there was trouble in the 60s and early 70s, the Kenyan courts upheld the rights of Kenyan Asians to hold property (see e.g. Shah Vershi Devji v. Transport Licensing Board [1971]), and they weren’t expelled. You must have had Uganda in mind.

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J. Otto Pohl 04.19.12 at 10:56 am

Data:

Annexation can be colonization. This clearly happened with the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states. There all the criteria of classical colonialism were fulfilled. You had a stronger political power taking over weaker ones. You had the net extraction of resources from the Baltic states to the USSR with the result that they had far lower standards of living than they would have had otherwise. You had the massive colonial settlement of Latvia and Estonia by Russians. Likewise “separatism” or independence movements are often anti-colonial. Lithuania avoided the mass settlement of Russian colonials because like in other colonies there was massive resistance, much of it armed up until the early 1950s, to Soviet rule. The armed resistance in Latvia and Estonia was less and hence colonial settlement more.

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Data Tutashkhia 04.19.12 at 12:32 pm

Of course all kinds of grey area cases are possible, but the Baltic republics? Colonial settlement? Really?

I get the impression that you’re pushing it too far. As well as with that “fifth item” in the Soviet passport, a very crude mechanism to trace ethnic association. A child whose parents had different identifiers would choose one of them at the age of 16; not exactly your typical nurenberg laws. Of course the authorities did use it for nefarious purposes at times (and is there anything they wouldn’t, ever?) , but I don’t believe this was a major characteristic of that system.

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Patrick S. O'Donnell 04.19.12 at 12:59 pm

Re: Peter T @ 86

“the Raj was always a joint British/Indian initiative and structure (although Britons at home tended to forget this). Clive was financed by Indian merchant interests, the army had both British and Indian officers, learning Indian languages was essential to service in India, and there was often a lively tussle between Calcutta and London over policy even if London had the last word. Not an ideal or equal partnership, but Indian interests always had to be heeded.”

Well, yes and no. If by a “joint British/Indian initiative and structure” is meant that the British quickly learned how to “take full advantage of India’s caste, class, and communal divisions,” then, yes, it was a “joint” venture, but it hardly does it justice to characterize it as “not an ideal or equal partnership.” After all, what does the word “rāj” connote? The East India Company came “came to rule large areas of India, exercising military power and assuming administrative functions,” and the fact that Edmund Burke in 1786 saw fit to present Commons with the Article of Charge of High Crimes and Misdemeanors against Hastings (who was adept at ‘squeezing’ wealthy natives to support Indian ‘pacification’), speaks to the early nature of Raj rule and why Burke could rightfully proclaim that the British venture began in commerce but ended in empire (although of course he was not against empire in principle, believing it could be morally benevolent undertaking). That the earliest representatives of John Company were able to buy off the decaying remnants of Mughal Empire hardly amounts to a “joint venture” (‘initiative/structure’) in any meaningful sense of that phrase. Indeed, to speak of anything as simply “Indian” during this period is a bit anachronistic or misleading (at the very least, it deserves an adjective), national consciousness only stirring with the onset of foreign powers entering the subcontinent and Indian nationalist sentiment proper taking some years to develop thereafter. And it was only with the “new Raj” established under Cornwallis that a class of loyal Indian supporters for the British Raj was firmly in place, although not so as to prevent an imperialist war against Mysore in 1789. The Cornwallis Code that laid the foundation for British rule in India was not jointly formulated (e.g., it displaced Indian judges with British ones). The young British men fresh from England accorded police and judicial authority under these regulations often did not know “the language in which criminal charges and countercharges were made” (hence the need to employ Indian clerks, assistants, and servants ‘of every variety’). If by “learning Indian languages” is meant acquainting oneself with common phrases in Persian and Hindusthani, fine, but let’s also bear in mind that those who “served in India” (let’s not forget who and what was being ‘served’) were

“Picked by the directors and Board of Control from the ever-widening pool of younger sons of relatives, friends, and lesser gentry-at-large who could find no place in the Horse Guards, no Church ‘living,’ [and] no suitable job in London. [….] [These men], a motley crew of lads from Eton, Oxford, and Westminster imbibed their gruel of Indic learning, seasoned with a thick sauce of Anglo-Christian prejudice, Malthusian pseudo-science, and Benthamite optimism. [….] The young civilians and cadets who sailed for India in the early decades of the nineteenth century were taught that they were born to lead ‘heathen natives’ toward the wisdom they themselves epitomized.” (Stanley Wolpert)

Shrewdly, and sometimes ruthlessly reducing Indian princes to “virtual impotence” was not in any way a “joint” affair, and protracted warfare against the Marathas can hardly be indicative of “always heeding Indian interests.” Not for nothing were these early imperialists christened the “new Mughals.” Whatever semblance of a “joint venture” is detected in the early Raj effectively ended with the abolition of the East India Company, the demise of what the British viewed as “Oriental despotism,” and the 1857 revolt (or ‘mutiny,’ ‘magnified by a simultaneous series of rural rebellions’).

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Torquil Macneil 04.19.12 at 1:03 pm

“I think the Israelis are more concerned about nonviolent strategies and tactics than they are about the use of violence”

That rather depends on which Israelis you are talking about. I guess you mean only the current Israeli government because it seems pretty clear that the majority of Israeli citizens would be delighted by the emergence of a non-belligerent Palestinian regime.

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Data Tutashkhia 04.19.12 at 1:22 pm

In what sense the current Palestinian regime is belligerent? Or any previous one, for that matter, since the Oslo accord?

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Torquil Macneil 04.19.12 at 1:26 pm

“In what sense the current Palestinian regime is belligerent? Or any previous one, for that matter, since the Oslo accord?”

I guess it will depend on what we mean by ‘Palestinian regime’, but the bit that is in control of Gaza is belligerent by any standard, no?

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rf 04.19.12 at 1:29 pm

There doesn’t need to emerge a ‘non belligerent Palestinian regime’, it already exists in Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad.
What they want is for that ‘moderation’ to become the only expression of Palestinian nationalism, which can then settle for an independent state in name only run by a regime sympathetic primarily to Israeli security issues. And it appears Hamas are moving in that direction. Though of course then there will be the existential threat of Islamic Jihad.

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david 04.19.12 at 1:32 pm

danielwaweru @87

Whoops, possibly. I get East Africa mixed up easily.

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Torquil Macneil 04.19.12 at 1:34 pm

“What they want is for that ‘moderation’ to become the only expression of Palestinian nationalism”

Again, it depends on who you mean by they’. It is clear that large majority of Israelis want a full two-state solution, as do the vast majority of Palestinians, and an end to hostilities makes that a lot more likely.

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rf 04.19.12 at 1:45 pm

But that also depends on what you mean by ‘two state solution’. Polling consistently shows that most Israelis do support a two state solution, but not when the reality of an actual two state solution is spelled out. (Settlement removal, an independent Palestinian government – with, for example, control of borders, security services, airspace etc)
Of course there are a variety of opinions in any society, but I don’t think that what could be classified as Israeli ‘public opinion’ is in anyway comparable to even the ‘moderate’ Palestinian view on what a viable independent Palestinian state would look like.

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Torquil Macneil 04.19.12 at 1:59 pm

I don’t think that is right rf. Israeli opinion on the settlements is divided, but there is a large constituency, about half the population that would support dismantlement of settlements as part of a peace deal, and a larger majority can be found if you ask more leading questions with words such as ‘illegal’.

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rf 04.19.12 at 2:18 pm

A quick google appears to back up your claim re public opinion on the settlements, so perhaps I overstated that point (although I still think it depends on what settlements your talking about, and doesnt offer a realistic representation of what settlement dismantlement would look like – either socially in Israel itself, or in the settlers reaction in the West Bank) But statistics trump my anecdotal

http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/brmiddleeastnafricara/659.php

http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/brmiddleeastnafricara/659.php

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J. Otto Pohl 04.19.12 at 2:34 pm

Data:

How was the occupation of the Baltic states not colonial? It had political control, economic exploitation, colonial settlement, and armed resistance. How are Russians sent to the Baltic states in violation of international law during the occupation not colonial settlers? All four of the criteria that are used to define colonialism were present in the Baltic. One can argue that the components of economic exploitation did not exist in Central Asia, but not the Baltic states. Their relative standard of living compared to neighboring states such as Finland plummeted as a result of Soviet occupation.

Mixed marriages in the USSR were very limited in the cases of the special settlers in the 1940s. Where they did exist the whole family was deported and placed under special settlement restrictions if the father was of the targeted nationality. The usually Russian wife had the option and was encouraged to divorce her husband or accompany him into exile as a special settler. The minor children were not given such a choice and they were deported with the father. The children of all special settlers were automatically registered as special settlers at birth. So yes it was a racist institution.

Being able to choose between the assigned identities of one of two parents is not much of a choice. Especially since people of mixed parentage were often completely assimilated into Russian culture despite the fact that their parent’s documents both had stigmatized nationalities listed. The old story about the girl with the Kalmyk father and Jewish mother being asked if she had a better nationality by the OVIR office at age 16 was not all that uncommon. Although German-Polish was a more common combination than Kalmyk-Jewish. Any state that assigns ‘ethnic’ or ‘racial’ categories to its population and then puts it on its ID cards is a racist state. Especially since in the USSR having the wrong nationality had real consequences in the form of various forms of discrimination. The Russian Germans went from being one of the most educated ethnicities in Tsarist Russia to being one of the least in the late USSR due to systematic discrimination in the admission to institutions of higher education.

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JJ 04.19.12 at 3:18 pm

“I was previously unaware of the history of Dutch and English colonies in the Louisiana Territory and the Republic of Mexico.”

Remnants of the French and Spanish empires were swept into the orbit of the American Empire as the imperial attraction of more distant, conflicting empires declined. Eventually, the entire imperial project was outsourced to the US since none of the other imperial powers could maintain the military means to retain it.

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Data Tutashkhia 04.19.12 at 3:20 pm

Otto: annexation is different from occupation. The population of annexed territory becomes (usually, certainly in the case of the Baltic states) full fledged citizens of the state. Population migrates within the state for (mostly) economic reasons, and soon the original ethnic composition becomes meaningless.

Now, certainly, there were periods of repression in the Baltic states; one before the war and one after, but I don’t see how colonial settlement fits into it. For a colonial settlement you need, I think, some sort of privilege assigned to the settlers, I don’t believe that was the case. The ‘exploitation’ claim doesn’t make sense to me either: Baltic states were a part of the state, of the Soviet Union. Can Connecticut be exploited by the US of A? Political control – what of it? Again they had become a part of the Soviet Union.

Any state that assigns ‘ethnic’ or ‘racial’ categories to its population and then puts it on its ID cards is a racist state.

Nah. Can we say: any state that assigns ‘ethnic’ or ‘racial’ categories to its population and then puts it on its ID cards is a suspect of being a racist state. Not to mention that they weren’t really ‘assigned’; there were no passports or any unified IDs there at all till, correct me if I’m wrong, late 1930s? And at that time one could assign any category and any name to oneself.

Of course all states are racist in some sort of way, to one degree or another, and I am well aware of the plight of “Russian Germans” (although a lot of older ones I know, in Germany now, are very nostalgic), but, like I said, that wasn’t the main theme of the USSR – do you understand what I mean? That was sideshow. Do you disagree?

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Torquil Macneil 04.19.12 at 3:26 pm

“annexation is different from occupation”

That depends on whether the ‘annexation’ is voluntary or not, doesn’t it? On both sides, I mean.

104

ponce 04.19.12 at 3:42 pm

“I don’t think that is right rf. Israeli opinion on the settlements is divided, but there is a large constituency, about half the population that would support dismantlement of settlements as part of a peace deal, and a larger majority can be found if you ask more leading questions with words such as ‘illegal’.”

That’s like saying a majority of Republicans are actually quite reasonable, they just keep electing fringe right extremists for some unknown reason.

105

Data Tutashkhia 04.19.12 at 3:44 pm

No, I don’t think so. Annexation implies adding the territory to a larger state, which will then grants citizenship to the population there. Occupation is neither of these things.

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Aulus Gellius 04.19.12 at 3:47 pm

Wouldn’t the promotion of the Russian language at the expense of Latvian (and I think Estonian and Lithuanian, though I know less about that) count as a “privileging” of the Russian settler population? It’s certainly a significant focus of anti-Russian feeling among Latvians, and there’s a lot of current (or recent, anyway; I haven’t really kept up) controversy about Latvian-language requirements in post-soviet Latvia.

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Torquil Macneil 04.19.12 at 3:48 pm

“Occupation is neither of these things.”

Occupation is occupation. If a neighbour country arrives with its army uninvited and then re-arranges your constitution, you are occupied, and not merely annexed. Remind me what happened to the citizens of the Baltic states that formed parties looking for a bit of de-annexing from the USSR.

108

Aulus Gellius 04.19.12 at 3:49 pm

Also, of course Connecticut could be exploited by the USA as a whole, right? Why would that even be problematic?

109

Torquil Macneil 04.19.12 at 3:50 pm

I think we can get the measure of how occupied or otherwise the peoples of the Baltic states felt by the speed with which they left the USSR once the tanks had rolled away.

110

ponce 04.19.12 at 3:58 pm

Here’s a story today about all the reasonable Israelis agreeing quite reaonabley that a settlement built by some of their religious extremists sits on Palestinian land.

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/settlers-in-west-bank-outpost-build-new-homes-on-private-palestinian-land-1.425151

Of course, it was built 13 years ago and all the reasonable Israelis quite reasonably agree that they aren’t going to do anything about it.

111

Torquil Macneil 04.19.12 at 4:02 pm

Stop being silly Ponce (and, by the way, a friendly warning, the people who called you that might not have meant it kindly).

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Shelley 04.19.12 at 4:11 pm

Documents should never be destroyed.

Never.

113

piglet 04.19.12 at 4:22 pm

Pohl:

“I would say the Basque comparison is apt…. I am not so sure that no Basque nationalist would call have ever called Spanish rule over his homeland colonialism. … it would not surprise me if some Basque nationalists did talk about Spanish colonialism of their homeland.”

Of course there are. Separatists have in many cases adopted the rhetoric of anticolonialism. But that doesn’t settle the question of what is meant by colonialism. I agree that citizenship status is an important factor. Colonial subjects do not have the political status that the metropolitan population has. In cases like Basque (or Quebec!) separatism, I don’t think one can argue that Basques have second-class citizen status in the Spanish constitution.

In Ireland under British rule, there were all sorts of anti-Irish/anti-Catholic laws. They were gradually reformed in the 19th and 20th century but I don’t see how anybody could deny that the relationship was colonialist at least in the early period. One might debate to what extent colonialism can evolve into a genuinely equal political union. It probably can but it certainly takes time.

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Data Tutashkhia 04.19.12 at 4:22 pm

Russian language was the common language for all the Soviet republics. The annexing state applies its laws to the annexed territory; it would be odd it was otherwise.

So, most of the population of the Baltic states didn’t like it, I don’t dispute it. And those who were communists probably did like it. What of it? It doesn’t change the fact that they were annexed: joined with the USSR, given full citizenship rights, and became a part of it.

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ponce 04.19.12 at 4:26 pm

I named myself, “torquil”

I’m just pointing out that it’s cold comfort to the victims of a military occupation to know that a timid minority of the military’s civilian masters feels vaguely uncomfortable about what’s being done in their name.

116

bexley 04.19.12 at 4:36 pm

@ data

What of it? It doesn’t change the fact that they were annexed: joined with the USSR, given full citizenship rights, and became a part of it

Well the point is that promotion of Russian privileged the settlers at the expense of the existing residents of the Baltics. Remember you said For a colonial settlement you need, I think, some sort of privilege assigned to the settlers

117

Data Tutashkhia 04.19.12 at 4:40 pm

bexley, I repeat: it wasn’t a special “promotion”; Russian was the common language of the USSR.

Is California a colony of the US of A?

118

J. Otto Pohl 04.19.12 at 5:06 pm

Data:

Legally under international law the Baltic states never became part of the USSR. The annexation was considered illegal by almost every state in the world with the exception of the Warsaw Pact. Economic exploitation is considered by many the essence of colonialism. It is what most of the arguments regarding the nature of imperialism and colonialism during the 1960s and 1970s were about. This included the USSR where the lack of economic exploitation of Central Asia was repeatedly pointed out as making its relationship with Moscow non-colonial. Citizenship has not been considered that important in the literature, especially since colonialism developed before there was an operating concept of citizenship in most of Europe. Until fairly recently most people in the world were subjects not citizens. Hence there have been very good arguments that the US annexation of New Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii were colonialist acts despite the granting of citizenship to the inhabitants of these territories. In the Soviet case citizenship itself always took second place to natsionalnost anyways. Special settlers never lost their citizenship only the rights associated with it due to their nationality. Does the fact Tibetans have Chinese citizenship mean they have full equality with Han Chinese as well?

The internal passports were issued in 1932. But on 2 April 1938, the NKVD issued explicit instructions that people were to be assigned or reassigned if they had a passport on which it differed the nationality of their parents. In the case of people suspected of being diaspora nationalities the NKVD enforced this by requiring a large amount of documentation to verify the ancestry of their parents. Just in case the parents were also pretending to be an ethnicity from which they were not biologically descended. The NKVD undertook this action specifically to prevent people of German and Polish descent from escaping scrutiny during the German and Polish Operations by changing their nationality. The national operations of 1937-1938 claimed the lives of some 250,000 people. People suspected of being members of diaspora nationalities had to prove that they were not. So it becomes involuntary retroactively after this time.

Having lived in Central Asia for almost four years and still having family there I disagree that natsionalnost (Soviet for race) is or was a sideshow. It is the single most important organizing principle of most post-Soviet states and was under Soviet rule as well. Long after everybody stopped believing in socialism they still believed in the primordial and immutable nature of natsionalnost and accorded it the utmost importance.

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Data Tutashkhia 04.19.12 at 5:56 pm

Otto, Until fairly recently most people in the world were subjects not citizens. Hence there have been very good arguments that the US annexation of New Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii were colonialist acts despite the granting of citizenship to the inhabitants of these territories.

Puerto Rico is a special case, but for New Mexico and Hawaii I don’t understand where the ‘hence’ comes from. Until fairly recently most people in the world were subjects not citizens, but in the US, USSR, and China (vis-a-vis Tibet) they were citizens. Hence these annexations were not acts of colonialism.

I still don’t understand the “economic exploitation” point, what it means in this context. Did these ‘settlers’ in Latvia (most of them ordinary factory workers, I’m sure) exploit the ‘natives’? How so? Did Russian Federation get cheap oil from Estonia? I guess I’m missing something. And if the Central Asian republics were not colonies, since all the republics were operating under the same exactly arrangement, I don’t see how any republic could be a colony. And if this is merely a matter of redistribution among regions within the state, then perhaps Latvia was a colony of Kyrgyzia?

In the Soviet case citizenship itself always took second place to natsionalnost anyways. Special settlers never lost their citizenship only the rights associated with it due to their nationality.

I’m sure, obviously, they had limitations placed on their citizenship, unlike ordinary Lativians.

The NKVD undertook this action specifically to prevent people of German and Polish descent from escaping scrutiny during the German and Polish Operations by changing their nationality.

Fine, so they were looking for sources of potential disloyalty, I can see that. Ethnicity being one of them, like with the Japanese, Germans, and Italians in the US, during the war. If your father owned a business, or, god forbid, was an officer in czar’s army, that would’ve been far worse, I’m sure. How is this racism?

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lurker 04.19.12 at 6:06 pm

‘Being able to choose between the assigned identities of one of two parents is not much of a choice.’ (Otto, at 100)
And choosing one parent’s identity did not free you from association with the other. In 1985 a conscript serving in Afghanistan tried to get out of a really shitty unit rife with bullying by volunteering for service in an airborne unit. He was disqualified because his father belonged to an unreliable nationality and this made him also unreliable.

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Data Tutashkhia 04.19.12 at 6:09 pm

It is the single most important organizing principle of most post-Soviet states and was under Soviet rule as well.

Yes, I’m sure it is, I’m well aware of the troubles in Osh, for example. And I’m sure there was some of it under Soviet rule as well, but that was despite official policies, wasn’t it? It is much worse now, isn’t it?

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Aulus Gellius 04.19.12 at 6:16 pm

I don’t see the importance of the distinction between (a) “promoting” a language in a colony along with the influx of a lot of colonists, and (b) aggressively applying the official language of the country to a newly annexed region that has not traditionally used that language, along with the influx of a lot of citizens from other parts of the country who do traditionally speak it (I also don’t see why the latter shouldn’t be called “promotion”). From the point of view of either the indigenous population or the new colonists/migrants, it seems like basically the same thing.

“Population migrates within the state for (mostly) economic reasons, and soon the original ethnic composition becomes meaningless.”

This definitely isn’t what happened in Latvia. The first round of Russian immigration was forced resettlement (though later there was a lot of voluntary immigration)*, and the difference between Russians and Latvians was and remains today a significant issue.

In general, I feel like you’re not quite replying to the people arguing with you — nobody (AFAICT) is denying that the Baltic states were annexed, but this all began with J. Otto Pohl (88) saying that “[a]nnexation can be colonization.” So if you’re saying that it can’t, you have to argue that it can’t, not just keep pointing out that the Baltic states were annexed.

*I’m not sure how broadly you mean “economic reasons”; obviously, I’m sure all the decision-makers involved were considering the economic effects, but it was not just a case of people going where the jobs were. And of course, part of the reason there was demand for Russian migrants later was the fact that demand for speakers of Russian had been deliberately increased. I really don’t see the relevance of the fact that Russian was also the official language of the rest of the USSR.

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Aulus Gellius 04.19.12 at 6:21 pm

Oh, also: although I don’t know a lot about this, I would not assume that all the Latvians who were communists necessarily liked the Russification policies. They were likely happy about the original annexation, but that’s not the same thing.

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Data Tutashkhia 04.19.12 at 6:30 pm

So if you’re saying that it can’t, you have to argue that it can’t, not just keep pointing out that the Baltic states were annexed.

Annexation can also be colonization, as in the case of East Jerusalem, for example. I just don’t see the Baltic republics being that case. After the initial repression (purging of ‘class enemies’, like everywhere else, including Russia), it just became a soviet republic, like all other republics. How was Latvia in 1960 different from, say, Belarus? I see no difference whatsoever.

125

J. Otto Pohl 04.19.12 at 6:45 pm

Data:

The standard of living in Estonia was equal to Finland in 1940. In 1989 it was much less. This was in part due to the fact that the central government in Moscow took far more resources out of Estonia in the form of taxes and obligatory deliveries than it provided in services. This is the opposite of what happened in Central Asia. The net flow of resources in the Baltic was like in other colonies from the periphery to the center. This is considered the key part of colonial relations in most of the literature on the subject from the 1960s and 70s. I have yet to find an African who thinks that colonialism has to do with citizenship rather than economic exploitation. Puerto Ricans are US citizens so it can not be colonialism under your definition.

The national operations and deportations were racist in the same manner as the US internment of Japanese. Having a bad class background was not worse. For one thing it was not transmitted forever across generations. Except for children deported as family members of kulaks in the 1930s it was not even transferable across one generation. In no cases were the grandchildren of such people subjected to mass collective punishment comparable with that meted out to various stigmatized nationalities. During the mass operation in the Great Terror dealing with class enemies, Operation 00447 ,people were not tried for being the children of business owners or Tsarist officers. They were only tried if they themselves had been White Officers, Tsarist civil servants, or kulaks, etc.. Further only 50% of those convicted in this operation were executed versus over 75% in the national operations.

Actual Nazi collaborators who were ethnic Russians, the members of the ROA only got six years of special settlement. Red Army veterans that were ethnically German or Crimean Tatar, etc. were sentenced to special settlement restrictions forever along with their children, grandchildren, and all future generations on 26 November 1948. Children and grandchildren of deported Russian kulaks, ROA men, and other Russian special settlers did not have any restrictions on their rights of settlement after being released. The blanket restriction on the right to choose their place of settlement remained against Germans until 3 November 1972. Ironically it was repealed around the same time that the USSR and Guinea co-sponsored the UN resolution on punishing the crime of apartheid which included limiting the freedom of residency of ‘racial groups’ as a violation of international law. The 1965 CERD which forms part of the foundation of the anti-apartheid convention is pretty explicit that any discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or nationality constitutes racial discrimination under international law.

126

Data Tutashkhia 04.19.12 at 7:53 pm

This was in part due to the fact that the central government in Moscow took far more resources out of Estonia in the form of taxes and obligatory deliveries than it provided in services.

Taxes? What taxes? Look, redistribution between regions happens in every federal state. This is nothing, this is indication of nothing. And are you seriously telling me that their income fell compared to Finland because of this redistribution? It was, after all, soviet economy, remember?

For one thing it was not transmitted forever across generations.

Well, you are the expert, so I can’t really question… eh, what the hell: are you sure? From all the literature I’ve read on the subject (massive amount), I get the impression that having dubious class ancestry was extremely dangerous, much more dangerous. Any doubt, and you’d be the first against the wall, not just exiled to Kazakhstan. Are you sure you are not cherry-picking your examples?

127

piglet 04.19.12 at 8:18 pm

“annexation can be colonialism” – I would say annexation can be part of colonialism, as it was in the case of France annexing part of Algeria. The question is more how to conceptually differentiate between colonialism and any other kind of expansionism. Or maybe some here would argue that there is no difference but that I think isn’t how the term colonialism is generally understood.

128

J. Otto Pohl 04.19.12 at 8:45 pm

Data:

Turnover taxes were extracted at a much higher rate from the Baltic states than from other states. The extraction of resources certainly was part of the reason the standard of living in the Baltic states was lower under Soviet rule than it is today. Trying to make a forcible and unpopular military occupation equivalent to the relationship between the US government and its states is sophistry.

If you have any evidence that millions of people were shot or incarcerated or executed in the USSR because of the class status of their grandparents as opposed to their own please present it. There is evidence of millions of people being repressed including tens of thousands of loyal communists because of their ethnicity which was biologically inherited from their ancestors. If your claims were true then descendants of kulaks should have been the ones with official residency restrictions rather than Germans in the 1960s. Yet, kulaks and the children of kulaks were already being released in large numbers from the special settlements in the 1930s after as little as five years in exile. The children of repressed Harbintsy became ordinary Russians with full civil rights. The children of deported Volga Germans remained under legal restrictions until 1972 and subject to discrimination in education and other spheres until the collapse of the USSR and beyond. So yes ethnicity was much more salient than ancestral class background in the USSR when it came to repression. A member of the working class did not have to worry that he and his children and his grandchildren and his great grandchildren would be denied all civil rights because his grandfather owned a store. This was not the case with the deported nationalities.

129

Nine 04.19.12 at 9:26 pm

@geo #77 – I’m not sure what commentor @js means by “extractive” but Acimoglu and Robinson (http://www.amazon.com/Why-Nations-Fail-Origins-Prosperity/dp/0307719219) classify the Raj as extractive & argue that said extraction led to political, economic and technological retrogression.

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Data Tutashkhia 04.19.12 at 9:31 pm

Trying to make a forcible and unpopular military occupation equivalent to the relationship between the US government and its states is sophistry.

So, now it’s a military occupation? Look, I’ve been there several times, in the 70s and 80s. This is absurd.

Volga Germans were exiled what, must be 1941? Rehabilitated, you say, in 1972? That’s 30 years; what great grandchildren? Denied all civil rights? All the way, in the late 50s, the 60s, to 1972? I understand, you feel strongly about it, and I certainly agree that it was an atrocity, but what’s with this rhetoric? Come on.

131

J. Otto Pohl 04.19.12 at 9:56 pm

Data:

I was in Estonia in the late 1980s as well and every Estonian I talked to described it as a country illegally occupied by the USSR. Upon returning to Estonia in 2003 and 2005 they still thought it had been illegally occupied. The Soviet Union did militarily occupy the Baltic states. Are you claiming that there were no Soviet military bases in the Baltic states? Or are you claiming that the Baltic peoples and the international community thought there presence was legitimate? I am quite sure there were Soviet military in Estonia, I saw some of them. I am also quite sure that the people of Estonia as well as the Estonian diplomats abroad in places like New York and Los Angeles and the governments of the US, UK, and Canada did not view their presence as anything other than an occupation.

The 26 November 1948 Presidium of the Supreme Soviet decree sentenced the deported peoples to special settlement ‘navechno.’ It is the only Soviet decree to use the term. It applied to the deported nationalities, but not to other special settlers. So in 1948 every single deported Russian German, Chechen, Kalmyk, and Crimean Tatar could reasonably expect that their descendants for many decades would be subject to the special settler restrictions. In 1948 there was no expectation that Khrushchev would parole the deportees several years after Stalin’s death.

The Russian Germans as a collective group did not recover the right to choose their place of residency until 3 November 1972. Which is eight years after the US passed the Civil Rights Act. But, discrimination did not end in 1972. It was just now on a more individual rather than blanket level.

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bexley 04.19.12 at 10:36 pm

This argument seems somewhat pointless. If Data wants to call it annexation rather than colonialism, whatever. Its only a word after all.

I am a bit mystified by Data’s argument though. Are you saying that just because the Baltics got citizenship this made the Soviet invasion, executions, deportations and loss of independance alright? If not whats the point of arguing whether or not it counts as colonialism?

133

leederick 04.19.12 at 11:00 pm

“Are you saying that just because the Baltics got citizenship this made the Soviet invasion, executions, deportations and loss of independance alright? If not whats the point of arguing whether or not it counts as colonialism?”

I think there might be worthwhile differences between colonialism, which suggests at one extreme two seperate nations with different citizenships, and one controling the other – like the Raj. Rule by a seperate entity. And on the other hand union and seperatism, with joint citizenship and joint government and a dispute over politicial union – like the Basque. That’s not to say invasion, executions and deportation is okay, just that there are meaningful differences in the political structures thought which this is achieved.

“But, I think the point is that it has been not a universally agreed upon position particularly a few decades ago that Northern Ireland should be under British rule.”

I see the point, but there’s the difference between ‘British rule’ and ‘political union with Britain’. Depending where on the spectrum you place NI. Was it really ‘British rule’? If anything political authority in the UK had tended to run the other way; NI MPs have historically been able to vote on British law, while British MPs haven’t been able to vote on NI matters which were/are devolved. NI MPs have also propped up Tory governments which would otherwise have fallen – inflicting their opinions on the British. That doesn’t seem classically colonialist to me.

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Meredith 04.20.12 at 12:36 am

bob mcmanus @9, maybe relevant: Page duBois, Torture and Truth. Especially the last chapter (as I recall), discussing the qualms that particularly thoughtful people in groups like Amnesty International have about their own possible fascination with torture. DuBois’ book is pretty old now (1980′s? early 1990′s) and wasn’t trying to be particularly original on these points. There’s probably more recent literature along these lines.
It occurs to me that some missionary groups’ recent writings may be a useful resource, too — many may be much more self-aware (about the dangers of paternalism, for instance) than most people realize. Likewise some NGO’s.

135

DelRey 04.20.12 at 2:48 am

A timely reminder of the evils of imperialism and colonialism.

Peter Singer, among others, is ambivalent about colonialism:

I think, clearly, there were lots of bad things about colonialism, but you would have to say that some countries were definitely better administered and that some people’s lives, although they may have had some sort of humiliation, perhaps through not being independent, being ruled by people of a different race, in some ways they were better. It’s hard, really, to draw that balance sheet. Independence has certainly not been the unmitigated blessing that people thought it would be at the time.

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Peter T 04.20.12 at 3:44 am

Patrick O’Donnell at 90

All fair points. The Raj (Hindi for “rule”) is complex. But – Mogul rule was in advanced decay by 1750, north India and central had been mostly ruled by Turkic dynasts for 700 years at that point, the lack of a unified sense of being Indian meant that most rulers were “foreign” in some sense. Hindu mercantile interests and Muslim factions collaborated with the Company to oust a local ruler who was widely unpopular. One factor was the need for better defence against Mahratta predation (Mahrattas did not claim rule, just one-quarter of the revenue, paid as a lump sum, calculated since their last visit). In the chaos that was north India, taking on rule meant expanding – the place was full of would-be Moguls.

My sense is that the character of British rule changed over time. Up to the Mutiny, Brits were more “Indian” in manners, languages and outlook. After there was more of an attempt to make India British. But this never went all that far – India was too big, and the key institutions too reliant on Indian cooperation. The main one was the army, where British officers had to know the regimental languages and customs, but the other was the Indian Administrative Service. Collectors were judged on their ability to get things done and keep the peace, and for both they relied on their Indian advisors and their own local knowledge. There was an upper, more transitory class around the Viceroy, and an increasing number of missionaries and merchants. The latter were often regarded by the IAS with suspicion.

It’s hard to make sense of incidents such as the Shore mutiny, or of the role of Indian troops in putting down the Mutiny, or of the arguments between Calcutta and London, or of the resistance of the IAS to some policies, if you see the Raj as simply an extension of the British government. Also a classic imperialism would not have so readily recognised the need to concede measures of self-government and later, independence.

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heckblazer 04.20.12 at 3:54 am

“Remnants of the French and Spanish empires were swept into the orbit of the American Empire as the imperial attraction of more distant, conflicting empires declined. Eventually, the entire imperial project was outsourced to the US since none of the other imperial powers could maintain the military means to retain it.”

Much better. I have no problem with the argument of the US being a successor empire per se, but I do ask that it follow the actual pattern of US territorial influence and acquisition.

138

piglet 04.20.12 at 5:20 am

132: “Are you saying that just because the Baltics got citizenship this made the Soviet invasion, executions, deportations and loss of independance alright? If not whats the point of arguing whether or not it counts as colonialism?”

Not speaking for Data of course but certainly there is a point in arguing what counts as colonialism unless you are satisfied to define colonialism as “anything bad that ever happened” (see 127). Me, I object to the “loss of independence” argument. “Loss of independence” is what happened to everybody. The Pays Basque. Catalunia. Saxony. Lombardy. Texas. The Provence. Wales. Wherever you look you’ll see political entities that became what they are today through annexation of smaller entities. In some cases, the annexed didn’t mind too much. In others, they did and massive force was brought to bear against them. In some cases, the annexed (more precisely, some of their descendants) are still angry. Others have agreed to let bygones be bygones. Most have forgotten (if the events in question are long enough in the past). Most of us don’t question why the political entity we were born into happens to be what it is. In any case, we don’t subsume all historical annexations under the label colonialism. Insisting on that distinction doesn’t imply approval of annexations. That should really be needless to say!

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js. 04.20.12 at 5:39 am

British officers had to know the regimental languages and customs

But weren’t they really bad at this, though? That’s been my sense, though again I don’t know the scholarly literature on this all that much. (One thing that I do know is that they were god-awful at transcribing names, etc., e.g. ["they" here being Brits often not in the military of course].) Anyway, moving on to the more important point:

Also a classic imperialism would not have so readily recognised the need to concede measures of self-government and later, independence.

I just don’t see this “ready recognition” you’re alluding to. For one thing, if the British had in fact readily conceded meaningful self-government, surely the struggle for independence wouldn’t have involved all that it did.

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js. 04.20.12 at 5:52 am

Nine (129):

Thanks for the reference; I’ll be looking into the book this summer. My point wasn’t to exclude extraction (in one sense or another) as something that the British used India for, but simply to note that, e.g., India served as an important captive market for textiles made in Manchester, say. And this strikes me as quite different than, say, the function of Congo for the Belgians. My point to geo was that this sort of difference (the specific economic function of the colony for the metropolitan state) is surely important when we consider which sorts of strategies of colonial resistance can be successful.

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Data Tutashkhia 04.20.12 at 6:03 am

every Estonian I talked to described it as a country illegally occupied by the USSR

Then it must’ve been. Why do I even bother. And every Russian would probably describe it as a small region of the USSR with unhealthy concentration of racist Nazi-loving assholes.

In 1948 there was no expectation that Khrushchev would parole the deportees several years after Stalin’s death.

You don’t know that. If I saw “forever” in an official decree, my reaction would’ve been ‘yeah, right’ instead of ‘omg, all my descendants are doomed forever’.

The Russian Germans as a collective group did not recover the right to choose their place of residency until 3 November 1972.

My point was that they weren’t “denied all civil rights”, and shortly after 1953 it was probably mostly a formality (just a hunch, I could be wrong).

Compare: the people of Texas did not recover the right to suck dick until 2003.

142

Chris Bertram 04.20.12 at 7:24 am

_Peter Singer, among others, is ambivalent about colonialism:_

And your point is? There are quite a few things that Peter Singer is ambivalent about.

143

Scott Martens 04.20.12 at 8:15 am

Since a lot of this thread seems to be about the meaning of the word “colonialism”, let me weigh in with some lexicography: Words should correspond to ideas and things, not the other way around.

A lot of these issues arise equally in defining “fascism”. There is a respectable community who define it specifically in historical terms, identifying fascism with a specific collection of ideas and regimes that existed in a specific time and place: interwar Europe, and to some degree in the Americas. Defining fascism as a particular ideology or a specific pattern of actions or justifications runs into problems because it’s hard to identify any ideological characteristics, specific patterns of action, or justifications that are genuinely unique to the regimes we think of as fascist. It makes no sense at all to say there never was such a thing as fascism, but it’s hard to uniquely identify things as fascist outside of a specific historically located and historically justifiable pre-determined set of ideas and regimes.

I think a lot of the same could be said for colonialism. I think it’s rather silly to paint the Roman state in the same light as Imperial Britain. I’m not sure it even makes sense to see the early modern colonial empires – the initial British settlement of North America and the Spanish and Portuguese expansions before the Seven Years’ War – in the same light as the Scramble for Africa. And I am even less convinced that the Soviet Union should be under the same label.

Colonialism clearly means something. I’m just not sure that there is a course of action or ideological core that it uniquely corresponds to. I’m not sure I see what’s wrong with defining it in terms of the political expansion of western European states in the modern era.

That does not justify any action taken in the past or present. Saying something is or isn’t really appropriate to label as colonialism is quite independent of whether it’s right or wrong. Not being willing to call the Soviet annexation of the Baltic states colonialism does not make it more okay. In fact, I’d be inclined to see it the other way around – calling it colonialism gives the Soviet Union a tu quoque defense, since it didn’t do anything in the Baltics particularly out of the ordinary for the millennium preceding 1950. And, I’m not sure any just cause is supported by categorizing Northern Ireland as a British colony now, even if such a label might have been justified in the past.

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Z 04.20.12 at 10:23 am

I’m with Scott Martens. To me, state-sanctionned aggressive territorial expansion against the expressed will of a majority of the population accompanied by massive and systematic violations of human rights is the key concept. Call that X if you wish. For sure, in the last 50 years, all major military powers have committed X, usually multiple times.

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Katherine 04.20.12 at 10:26 am

Peter Singer, among others, is ambivalent about colonialism

Good for him. I wonder if he’s ever been colonised.

A further problem is that he seems to be comparing apples and oranges. One cannot compare pre-independence to post-independence and say “look, pre-independence was better (for a subjective value of better), therefore colonialism has some good sides”.

The fact is that you cannot know what would have happened to a country had it not been colonised. Perhaps with a civilized and reasonable trading relationship established between Britain and India, for the sake of argument, India might have built its own railways.

You could I suppose look at countries that managed to resist colonisation and see how they are doing compared to their colonised neighbours, although even that isn’t perfect, since it’s still in the context of surrounding colonisation and having to resist it. I daresay Thailand, for example, would argue it’s not done so badly compared to, I dunno, Burma/Myanmar or Vietnam or Laos.

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J. Otto Pohl 04.20.12 at 10:40 am

Data:

You are purposely ignoring the consensus of international law which did label the Soviet presence in the Baltic states as an illegal occupation similar to South Africa in Namibia. The last independent governments of these states retained diplomatic representatives abroad throughout the entire occupation because other states did not recognize the Soviet right to annex the Baltic states.

You are also wrong about every Russian. There were Russians that supported Baltic independence. But, really we can just look at the results of the voting and see that the vast majority of Baltic peoples supported the restoration of independence.

The NKVD police reports reproduced by Zemskov in _Spetsposelentsy_ Moscow, 2005 do indeed indicate that the deported special settlers did ake the word ‘navechno’ seriously as an eternal condemnation. Why do you keep guessing instead of looking at evidence? This stuff is not hidden.

The special settlement restrictions were only lifted in 1955-1956. They were still in full force in 1953 when Stalin died. In 1954 they were eased somewhat. Up until Gorbachev and even during his era individual OVIR offices, however, strictly limited the number of Germans allowed to settle in European areas of the USSR despite the 1972 law. Before that they were officially banned from returning to their areas of former settlements under the terms of the 1955 release from the special settlement regime and many of those who attempted to do so were forcibly sent back and sometimes punished. The same thing happened with the Crimean Tatars and Meskhetian Turks. Otherwise the territory of the former Volga German ASSR would have become majority German again in the 1960s just as the Chechens, Kalmyks, Karachais, Balkars, and Ingush all returned home. It was not just a formality and a quick check of the literature would have noted that the prohibition on returning in large numbers to the Volga was in fact enforced by the Soviet government.

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Torquil Macneil 04.20.12 at 11:04 am

“Not being willing to call the Soviet annexation of the Baltic states colonialism does not make it more okay.”

No, but it does look a lot like rhetorical sleight-of-hand, and the suspicion is that it is for ideological purposes. Can we really defend a usage of ‘imperialism’ that allows us to denounce the Iraqi war as an imperial exercise but not the invasion and permanent annexation of a neighbour state against the will of its population so long as it isn’t done by the US? I am pretty sure that if US tanks rolled into Cuba anytime soon and declared it annexed, we wouldn’t be debating the fine semantic nuances of ‘imperialism’.

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J. Otto Pohl 04.20.12 at 11:04 am

Martens at 143.

I think colonialism has four main defining features in common. One is political rule over an ethnically distinct territory. Two is resistance to this rule by the people in the territory. Three is economic exploitation of the territory and four is settlement of the territory by the dominant population of the new ruling power. All four of these things existed in the Baltic states. I think an argument could be made that they existed in Northern Ireland at one time. It appears that they all exist in the West Bank today. I go into it in a bit more detail here:

jpohl.blogspot.com/2011/05/more-on colonialism.html

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J. Otto Pohl 04.20.12 at 11:06 am

OOps I got the link wrong.

It should read:

jpohl.blogspot.com/2011/05/more-on-colonialism.html

Sorry about that.

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Torquil Macneil 04.20.12 at 11:08 am

“The fact is that you cannot know what would have happened to a country had it not been colonised. “

That’s sort of the trouble with any consequentialist utilitarianism, isn’t it Katherine? Except for in very extreme cases. I don’t think you can make a very strong utilitarian case against any moderatetly enlightened form of imperialism, which is why Singer gets stuck (as usual).

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Torquil Macneil 04.20.12 at 11:10 am

“and four is settlement of the territory by the dominant population of the new ruling power. All four of these things existed in the Baltic states.”

But not British India. I mean some members of the ruling power went to live there but usually not permanently and in only very small numbers relative to the native population.

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Peter T 04.20.12 at 11:40 am

Why not go back to the origins of the words? Colonia are settlements in newly-acquired (other people’s) territory, imperium is rule over another people. This is a useful distinction.

In this sense, Canada was a colonial venture, India an imperial one. The Russian rule over the Baltics was primarily imperial but, as one commentator pointed out, imperium often ends up involving settlement and sometimes eventual integration. As for why – the reasons have varied over the years.

Also, it’s hard to construct any useful counter-factual – so much of the world has been built by imperialism and colonialism. Not just places like India, but also Britain, France, Germany, Thailand, China. In fact, I find it hard to think of a state that was not shaped by these.

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BenSix 04.20.12 at 12:08 pm

Peter Singer, among others, is ambivalent about colonialism…

That interview also features Tyler Cowen suggesting the continuation of Empire would have prevented the Rwandan genocide. I’m not wrong in believing sectarian hatreds in that region were, in part, the product of divide-and-rule tactics of the Belgian colonists, am I? If so, a line from Homer Simpson about beer being the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems seems relevant…

I don’t there’s a necessary evil to valuing consequences of imperialism. (I, for example, think England profited from being invaded by the Romans. Thanks, Claudius!) But one must be very careful before offering such praise because it is remarkable how often its benefits exist within the minds of the occupiers rather than the lives of the occupied.

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Scott Martens 04.20.12 at 12:12 pm

Torquil@147: No, but it does look a lot like rhetorical sleight-of-hand, and the suspicion is that it is for ideological purposes.

But the converse is true too. Think of all the things that get labeled “genocide” these days. To pick an uncontroversial case of abuse of terminology: The white supremacists who call immigration and multi-culturalism “genocide against the white race”.

The point is that as soon as someone is making an argument about whether a *word* applies to a particular historical event or not, when that word has no legal meaning that lends itself to proceedings and enforcement, I suspect them of ideologically motivated sleight-of-hand. I suspect the claim that the Baltics were colonized – using that word – lends itself to an ideologically motivated program of “decolonization” along the lines of more prototypically colonized states. And that program – imagine something like Algeria, or Zimbabwe in the Baltics – is something that I probably would judge as grossly wrong.

Whether or not the Soviet Union colonized the Baltics should be more or less be irrelevant to the question of what actions should be taken now, given the concession that the actions it took were morally wrong.

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Torquil Macneil 04.20.12 at 12:19 pm

“I’m not wrong in believing sectarian hatreds in that region were, in part, the product of divide-and-rule tactics of the Belgian colonists, am I?”

‘Divide and rule’ is usually cited as a British colonial tactic. The Belgians tended to take the ‘murder-them-until-they-shut-up-and-rule’ approach.

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Patrick S. O'Donnell 04.20.12 at 12:26 pm

Peter T. @ 136

Re: “Up to the Mutiny, Brits were more ‘Indian’ in manners, languages and outlook.” And: “Also a classic imperialism would not have so readily recognised the need to concede measures of self-government and later, independence.”

I think these two judgments are profoundly mistaken. I’m simply not aware of any evidence for the first proposition, indeed, if anything, the converse may be true, but I’m not prepared to argue the case. Nonetheless, we might consider the following example as illustrative: “The British Club soon emerged [after ‘the Mutiny’] as the insular nucleus of European society, and it was to retain its Victorian mannerisms and peculiar morality on Indian soil long after Edwardian attitudes and fresh ideas liberated London from the narrow formalism and rigidity of such inhibiting mores” (Wolpert). In other words, the increasing climate of “distrust, frustration, and fear” served only to make the British more, not less, “British.” More interesting is the effect of “many-things-British” on the Indian elites, as all of the leaders of the nascent independence movement, for example, received some English education.

And the British did not “readily recognize the need to concede measures of self-government…,” but were compelled by the force of circumstances and events (including revolts, terrorist acts, nonviolent non-cooperation, boycotts, civil disobedience campaigns), coming to see they had neither the energy nor the resources to rule a population seeking nationalist independence (the model of ‘ruthless repression’ used in Bengal could not be replicated everywhere, and the Rowlatt Acts, as a different kind of repression, were equally ineffective). The British were victims of their own capacity to create a growing climate of “distrust, frustration, and fear,” as Indians began to realize that a viceroy like Lord Ripon was an exception to the rule (literally and metaphorically): the Imperial system “was fundamentally unresponsive and hostile to many basic Indian needs, aspirations, and desires; it was cold, imperious, paternal, and foreign.” Of course British imperialism, in the form of unification and modernization, served to unite Indians (by planting the seeds of ‘national consciousness’ as it were, keeping in mind that Indian nationalism ‘has always been a theme scored with religious, class, caste, and regional variations’) who might otherwise been indifferent to modern forms of geo-politics, so it unwittingly contributed to its own demise, but there was absolutely no “ready recognition” on the part of the Crown.

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Scott Martens 04.20.12 at 12:30 pm

Torquil@155: Not in Rwanda and Burundi, where things were very different than in Congo. The Belgians definitely built up Tutsi power to the detriment of everyone else (eventually labeled “Hutu” pretty indiscriminately). They had adopted a more British model by the time they gained control over the former German colonies.

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Patrick S. O'Donnell 04.20.12 at 12:32 pm

Oops, I see I misread the first proposition, although I still believe it mistaken, in other words, the British were never remotely “Indian” in manners, languages, and outlook.” And they were, certainly, “more British” after the Mutiny than before.

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Torquil Macneil 04.20.12 at 12:36 pm

Thanks Scott, I was being a bit facetious and don’t know much about Belgium in Africa except for the usual horror stories about the Congo. I should look into it.

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J. Otto Pohl 04.20.12 at 1:03 pm

Martens:

There is a full scale revival of the Stalin cult going on in Russia today. Imagine if there was a similar revival of Hitler’s cult in Germany. The ideological underpinning of calling Soviet actions what they were is to remind the world that repeating them is not acceptable. Unfortunately too many western intellectuals seem fine with all matter of Soviet atrocities because they called themselves socialists and defeated the Nazis.

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Barry 04.20.12 at 1:15 pm

Torquil Macneil

” That’s sort of the trouble with any consequentialist utilitarianism, isn’t it Katherine? Except for in very extreme cases. I don’t think you can make a very strong utilitarian case against any moderatetly enlightened form of imperialism, which is why Singer gets stuck (as usual).”

Well, the obvious case is that ‘moderately enlightened forms of imperialism’ occurs much more in the eyes of the imperials than in the eyes of the imperialed.

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Scott Martens 04.20.12 at 1:21 pm

J. Otto: There is also something of a revival of the attitudes of the “Latvianization” program of the 1930s , and of the celebration of pro-fascist figures of the 30s and 40s in the Baltics. I’m not sure if either merits taking seriously, but I have my doubts that any repeat of Stalinism is likely.

“Calling Soviet actions what they were” is exactly where the problem lies. “Colonialism” is a word standing in for what happened, and any argument focused on calling it that is not going to accomplish anything real by itself. Getting the Baltic occupation called “colonialism” and declaring victory is exactly the kind of worthless activity that makes me pretty unsympathetic to its advocates. If having been “colonized” entails no plan of action, then it’s a waste of time. If it does entail a course of action, then defend that course of action.

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Manta1976 04.20.12 at 1:28 pm

(I hope that this will not degenerate…) Isn’t this discussion about what colonization and imperialism are the analogue of discussions about what racism/sexism etc are, and whether a specific event/attitude should be classified as such?

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Scott Martens 04.20.12 at 1:45 pm

Manta, as a lexicographer, I might offer the following argument why it’s not the same.

You can say that racism and sexism pervade all or a large share of human interaction without making those words meaningless. I say “hello” to people all the time. Sometimes, when I say “hello” to women, I’m thinking “nice tits!” It’s far from impossible that I subtly betray that sentiment sometimes, and contribute (in only a very small way, hopefully) to a sexist milieu. My awareness of women – specifically and as opposed to men – on terms that are to some extent sexist is something that simply exists, in some respects and to some degree, in all my interactions. I could probably think of a similar example for racism, but I rather prefer to think of attractive bosoms.

But to say that colonialism pervades all international relations would make colonialism meaningless. Colonialism, as a term, distinguishes some situations from others. Sexism and racism describe consequences and attitudes, not so much specific acts.

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Torquil Macneil 04.20.12 at 1:50 pm

I don’t think you have to believe that colonialism pervades all international relations to notice that the USSR was an imperial project Scott. It was pretty routinely referred to as ‘the Soviet Empire’ for most of its existence after all.

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J. Otto Pohl 04.20.12 at 1:51 pm

Martens:

I told you why I think it fits into the category of colonialism. It had the four main features that other instances of colonialism had. I have no plan of action. But, I do find the complete rejection by western intellectuals of negative terms such as colonialism, racism, slave labor, and genocide when it comes to the USSR to be disturbing. Especially since Stalin has been more fully rehabilitated in Russia today than many of his victims.

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Scott Martens 04.20.12 at 2:15 pm

Torquil – it was referred to that way pretty much exclusively by its enemies, and in a way that very strongly indicates an ideologically motivated choice of words.

The proof is always in the pudding. You can convince me that the Soviet Union was an empire by showing me a definition of imperialism that forms part of a theory of imperialism, and that that theory:

1. Makes coherent sense of multiple empires. It must explain, in some non-obvious but adequately convincing way, the histories and actions of empires in general.
2. When applied to the Soviet Union, makes more than a coincidental amount of sense of its actions and history.
3. Does not predict the opposite of what actually happened in too many ways, or in too many important ways.

I am unaware of such a theory but I am prepared to change my mind in response to one that I find convincing. The specific challenge that this theory will have to explain to my satisfaction, in order for me to buy it, is why the Soviet periphery after Stalin was usually much wealthier than the core. Specifically, the eastern European satellites and the relative affluence of the Baltics, Georgia, and to a smaller degree Belarus and Ukraine relative to both the Soviet average and Russia. This is radically contrary to the actions of prototypical empires that move wealth to the center, but makes much more sense for a powerful and militarized state worried about the security of its periphery.

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Scott Martens 04.20.12 at 2:30 pm

J. Otto:

I have no plan of action.

I suspect that to be false. I doubt you have a political plan of action – though others do – but I’ve read enough of you to suspect you of demanding the Soviet Union be viewed as a colonial power precisely because of the rhetorical opportunities it gives you to ding some kinds of leftists, or the left in general. You have every right to argue against things you disagree with, but using labeling and arguments about the meanings of words to do so, rather than arguing about whether your opponents actions and ideas are sensible or reasonable, brings you into territory where I have my own ideological and professional axes to grind.

You can make a case that parts of the western left did not or do not adequately condemn the Soviet Union without having to call it a colonial power. That’s a fair complaint that can either stand or fall on its own merits.

But calling it “colonialism” is like calling it “fascism”, albeit perhaps different in its degree of unaptness. It is a shortcut that might have made some rhetorical sense as an anti-Soviet political strategy before 1990, but now it no longer serves any purpose other than empty rhetoric. Do you imagine any living Stalinist will rethink their positions after being called a “colonialist”? If you think people on the left have not been hostile enough towards the Soviet Union, don’t you think its actual unarguable crimes are enough to indict them for hypocrisy without having to use dubious categories of questionable applicability?

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bob mcmanus 04.20.12 at 2:32 pm

But to say that colonialism pervades all international relations would make colonialism meaningless. Colonialism, as a term, distinguishes some situations from others. Sexism and racism describe consequences and attitudes, not so much specific acts.

I think I could make a case that colonialism (or imperialism or hegemony) could fit with sexism or racism in a meta-discourse based on an unequal relationship with an Other.

Switzerland is small and weak, and the US is really big and powerful. This is the starting point for understanding Swiss-US relations. There are state act that are almost unthinkable for the Swiss, like acquiring nuclear weapons or conquering Austria, and I do believe this is in part because of US privilege and power. OTOH, Switzerland is rich, and thereby has privilege in relation to say Greece perhaps.

Maybe this isn’t “colonialism.” Whatever, that looks like the dodges and justifications sexists and racists have been using for centuries. And certainly it is complicated, needing overlapping and overdetermined analysis, but I don’t view sexism and racism as acting in a simple binary world either. Rich American black women are oppressed by sexism and racism, but have a ton of privilege in other sites.

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Data Tutashkhia 04.20.12 at 2:37 pm

Unfortunately too many western intellectuals seem fine with all matter of Soviet atrocities because they called themselves socialists and defeated the Nazis.

I don’t know a single western intellectual who seems fine with all matter of Soviet atrocities.

“next to communism the thing I hate most is anti-communism.” – Sergei Dovlatov

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Scott Martens 04.20.12 at 2:43 pm

bob:

I think I could make a case that colonialism (or imperialism or hegemony) could fit with sexism or racism in a meta-discourse based on an unequal relationship with an Other.

You could, but then you would be unable to distinguish colonialism from the 5000 plus years of history of unequal relationships between state-like entities. Does having been colonized create circumstances that require particular policies and responses, ones that have some common elements, that other kinds of international relations do not generally have? I think the answer to that is “yes”, and I don’t think very many people disagree. That alone is enough to justify the term: It designates something different from other things in a useful way.

To say there is a pervasive unequal relationship with the Other in international relations is pretty much trivially true. Maybe there should be a word for that. But I don’t think “colonialism” is a good one.

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Torquil Macneil 04.20.12 at 2:48 pm

” You can convince me that the Soviet Union was an empire by showing me a definition of imperialism that forms part of a theory of imperialism”

Why does the definition have to include a theory any more than a definition of burglary has to include a theory? That’s just a smoke screen. Why not just call it imperialism when any country invades another country and then keeps it against the will of the local population? That fits fine for every empire I can think of, includes no non-empires, and explains why the USSR was routinely described as an empire by everyone except its friends (or those millions of enemies who actually lived within it, obviously). The only reason to rejecct such a commonsensical definition is to save face for the USSR or some other favoured state as far as I can see.

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Data Tutashkhia 04.20.12 at 2:55 pm

Of course the Soviet Union was an empire. It totally dominated a whole bunch of countries.

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bob mcmanus 04.20.12 at 2:56 pm

171.2: is a useful discourse for certain nations and groups, especially for domestic politics.

It also limits other discourses in ways that are useful, IOW, so that it is difficult to speak of Ireland, Latvia, Iceland (Greece, Spain) and the “economic imperialism or colonialism” of the US controlled financial NGOs etc.

Was Bahrain a “colony” of SA before, or only after the Saudis moved the troops and tanks over the bridge? Or just an “ally?” I guess IR folk would study all the complicated ways Bahrain is independent of SA, and I would look at what Bahrain can’t do, like move to democracy, and say the relationship with SA is a factor. You think I want to oversimplify. I think the language games used for centuries deliberately obscure and obfuscate the power relations.

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Scott Martens 04.20.12 at 3:01 pm

Why not just call it imperialism when any country invades another country and then keeps it against the will of the local population?

Because I think it’s not very useful to call the Norman invasion colonialism. I don’t think the Islamization of Egypt and Persia are really usefully categorized as colonialism either. Or the Crusades. Or Argentina’s invasion of the Falklands. Or the wars along the Indo-Chinese border. I don’t think those things have much in common with the conquest of the Americas, or the role of France in Algeria. I think seeing them as similar is poor thinking. I think it makes nothing clear, it explains nothing, and I think arguing for actions in response to those things by analogy with the events surrounding colonialism will lead mostly to doing the wrong things.

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bob mcmanus 04.20.12 at 3:04 pm

Okay, to go another way:why would the use of words like “colonialism” and “imperialism” be useful to we who would like to use them when speaking of Iceland, Greece, Latvia, Bahrain in the last few years?

Cause they are confrontational and interrogate the prevailing discourses (among others) of neo-liberalism and “market forces.”

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Torquil Macneil 04.20.12 at 3:05 pm

” I think it makes nothing clear, it explains nothing”

Maybe not, but the world does not have a duty to conform to your preferred categories. there can be different kinds of empire, but leaving out the ones that don’t give you the theoretical results you prefer doesn’t do much for your theory in the long run. Just ask yourself what the people in the conquered country thought about it all. That might help. And I am not sating that every war is imperial in nature, just the ones where one country invades and then keeps another country. Even if the invading country is doing it for the invadees own good.

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bob mcmanus 04.20.12 at 3:06 pm

Discourses aren’t a form of truth-seeking, Scott.

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Scott Martens 04.20.12 at 3:06 pm

bob: Do you think that the right thing for Greece and Iceland to do is engage in a colonial struggle against someone, with rural guerrillas issuing manifestos and accumulating AK-47′s? Or do you think that a Gandhiesque strategy of mass resistance by boycotting foreign-owned businesses would help either country?

Or is it possible that what’s going on in those countries doesn’t really have that much to do with colonialism?

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Torquil Macneil 04.20.12 at 3:08 pm

“Of course the Soviet Union was an empire. It totally dominated a whole bunch of countries.”

I think ‘dominated’ is a tiny bit of an understatement, don’t you? They invaded with huge armies, and then ruled the countries we are talking about without the consent of the conquered population. As soon as the occupying armies left, so did the countries. That’s empire for you.

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Torquil Macneil 04.20.12 at 3:11 pm

No, I am with Bob McM on this one, we should unite to resist the imperial menace of Iceland before it is too late!

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Scott Martens 04.20.12 at 3:13 pm

Torquil:

Why does the definition have to include a theory any more than a definition of burglary has to include a theory?

Because you do time for burglary. It doesn’t need a theory, it needs a definition that police and courts enforce. The meaning of burglary can be found in the acts that lead to getting tossed in prison for it. If you want an analogy with burglary, try “genocide”, not colonialism.

Maybe not, but the world does not have a duty to conform to your preferred categories.

No, but *you* have a duty to be communicative if you want to convince people of anything. If you don’t like my preferred categories, show me that yours are good for something mine aren’t. That is exactly what I am asking for – what do your categories explain or enable you to do that would make it worthwhile for me to agree to them? If the only purpose of defining colonialism in some way is because then you can use it to grind your favorite ideological axes, I’m not going to be convinced.

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Scott Martens 04.20.12 at 3:16 pm

bob:

Discourses aren’t a form of truth-seeking, Scott.

Nor is the definition of words a form of truth-seeking. But both are acts, undertaken with intentions and goals in mind, that inform further action.

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Torquil Macneil 04.20.12 at 3:22 pm

“No, but you have a duty to be communicative if you want to convince people of anything. If you don’t like my preferred categories, show me that yours are good for something mine aren’t.”

But I have. I have given you a definition of empire that not only fits with common sense usage (as yours does not) and the usual metaphorical applications, but applies to all known empires without needing any ad hoccery. The only objection you seem to have is that it also embraces the Soviet Empire, but that is a feature not a bug; the definition clarifies what is obscure and not the other way around. In other words: if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck …

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bob mcmanus 04.20.12 at 3:27 pm

179:Yes,yes (both), no. Okay, not Iceland, the world must keep the Vikings disarmed.

Bye

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Data Tutashkhia 04.20.12 at 3:27 pm

They invaded with huge armies, and then ruled the countries we are talking about without the consent of the conquered population.

I don’t think any of this is true, but they did dominate, so it certainly was an empire.

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Torquil Macneil 04.20.12 at 3:29 pm

“I don’t think any of this is true, but they did dominate, so it certainly was an empire.”

The Baltic states weren’t merged into the Soviet Empire by force? It was voluntary? If only they had known!

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Scott Martens 04.20.12 at 3:31 pm

I have given you a definition of empire that not only fits with common sense usage (as yours does not) and the usual metaphorical applications, but applies to all known empires without needing any ad hoccery.

Alas, no. Invading land and then keeping it turns lots of things that are not common sense cases of colonialism into colonialism, starting with the Old Testament, and going right through the Napoleonic wars, the German annexation of Alsace-Lorraine and the Argentine invasion of the Falklands up to the war in Afghanistan. It makes nearly every military victory before 1900 into an act of colonization. It makes the notion useless.

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LFC 04.20.12 at 3:35 pm

As an historical point, most (not all) countries in the UN General Assembly in the postwar decades viewed colonies as meaning, basically, overseas territories of the European powers. Indeed, Khrushchev originally suggested/sponsored what became the landmark 1960 UNGA Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (though the final version differed in some respects from the USSR’s original proposed wording). Obviously Khrushchev didn’t think the Baltics etc were included. Of course one can say, no doubt with much justification, that this was ‘politics’ and hypocrisy, but I think that that underscores the extent to which there is no immaculate definition of “colonialism” detached from, e.g, great-power politics and, in this case, the Cold War.

So when J Otto Pohl writes “other states did not recognize the Soviet right to annex the Baltic states,” the answer is some did and some didn’t. The US, e.g., didn’t and something called “captive nations day” may still be on the US statute books (indeed I saw a rather odd public meeting marking this day in NY Central Park several yrs ago). OTOH, allies of the USSR probably did recognize the ‘annexation’.

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Torquil Macneil 04.20.12 at 3:36 pm

“Alas, no. Invading land and then keeping it turns lots of things that are not common sense cases of colonialism into colonialism”

But that was not my definition, which was the invasion of another country and keeping it against the will of the local population. And that neutralises all your objections, doesn’t it? We may have to quibble a bit about what constitutes a ‘country’, but I think we can work that out to general satisfaction.

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Torquil Macneil 04.20.12 at 3:38 pm

“So when J Otto Pohl writes “other states did not recognize the Soviet right to annex the Baltic states,” the answer is some did and some didn’t. “

That may be true, but personally I think that the views of the Baltic states themselves should be given extra weight.

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Data Tutashkhia 04.20.12 at 3:38 pm

The Baltic states were annexed, as we already established. That’s not a characteristic of empire and imperialism. But they dominated the Eastern European states, and some other states (like Mongolia).

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Torquil Macneil 04.20.12 at 3:41 pm

“The Baltic states were annexed, as we already established. That’s not a characteristic of empire and imperialism.”

I think we have already established that your semantic chopping over the word ‘annexed’ is very silly, annexed by force is pretty much the definition of empire.

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LFC 04.20.12 at 3:43 pm

In any event, whatever the definition of ‘colonialism’ I think there’s no doubt that ‘imperialism’ or ‘empire’ are broader categories than colonialism.

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Scott Martens 04.20.12 at 3:45 pm

Torquil: So, then the colonization of Africa and the Americas was not colonization because Africans were not organized into states? Japan’s control over Korea and Taiwan were not colonialism because they were not internationally recognized as sovereign? New Guinea was never a colony because it had no institutions that even resembled those of a state? But the Norman invasion was colonialist because England had a king? The Islamic expansion was colonialism because the lands it invaded had functioning governments?

Your definition of “country” and “will of the local population” is either going to make your definition completely ad hoc or fail to apply to things most people would call colonialism.

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Torquil Macneil 04.20.12 at 3:45 pm

Yes to that LFC, colonialism doesn’t necessarily imply empire

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Torquil Macneil 04.20.12 at 3:50 pm

“Torquil: So, then the colonization of Africa and the Americas was not colonization because Africans were not organized into states?”

They were sovereign peoples occupying determinate areas of land. I think we can agree a definition along those lines that satisfies everyone without too many ad hocs. Think of it like this, does the invading entity get to keep a lump of land with a people on it? If yes, empire.

As to the ‘will of the people’, I guess we can assume that if they weren’t asked, there was a reason not to.

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LFC 04.20.12 at 3:52 pm

Torquil 196:
I would put it the other way round: Colonialism implies empire, but ‘empire’ does not necessarily entail (what I think of as) formal colonialism. Thus the USSR stood in an ‘imperial’ relation to its eastern European satellites, although Poland, e.g., was not a formal colony of the USSR

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Data Tutashkhia 04.20.12 at 3:52 pm

Scott, for colonization you need colonists, ‘control’ won’t do. With mere control you only have imperialism.

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Manta1976 04.20.12 at 3:54 pm

Torquil, LFC was claiming the opposite of what you say.
Also, I think you don’t get to redefine words in whatever way you want, unless you are Humpty Dumpty.

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Torquil Macneil 04.20.12 at 3:58 pm

LFC, I broadly agree with you, but there are situations where one could easily enough have a colony without empire being implied, in previously uninhabited land, for example, such as a moonbase.

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Torquil Macneil 04.20.12 at 4:00 pm

Manta, I am not redefining words, I think I am insisting that they are used they way they always have been instead of looking for special definitions that spare the blushes of the USSR. There is a reason that5 most people in the world thought it natural to talk abut a ‘Soviet Empire’. It was because, to the untrained, non-theoretical eye, it looked pretty much like every other empire, just a bit less fun.

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Scott Martens 04.20.12 at 4:11 pm

Think of it like this, does the invading entity get to keep a lump of land with a people on it? If yes, empire.

Then nearly everything is, or at least once was, an empire. Words have to make distinctions to have meanings. I’ll agree that the Soviet Union was a colonial empire for its annexation of the Baltic states in the same sense that Japan is for its annexation of Hokkaido, India for Goa and Sikkim, Sweden for Jämtland and Scania, Germany for Bavaria, France for Corsica, Turkey for… everything. But that makes the whole thing pointless – it means the Soviet Union was just a country. And now, you have to come up with some new word for whatever France, the UK, Spain and Portugal were doing in the 18th and 19th centuries. Super-duper-colonialism?

Words need to make distinctions to have meanings. They need to make useful distinctions to have good meanings. When “empire” and “colonialism” get tossed around this way, it robs them of those meaningful distinctions.

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Torquil Macneil 04.20.12 at 4:18 pm

“Then nearly everything is, or at least once was, an empire. Words have to make distinctions to have meanings. I’ll agree that the Soviet Union was a colonial empire for its annexation of the Baltic states in the same sense that Japan is for its annexation of Hokkaido”

If it is true that nearly all modern states emerge from earlier imperial efforts, then so what? I don’t think it is true, but what of it if it were? We should know, rather than try to create baroque definitions that make it appear otherwise because we would prefer it weren’t true. That’s just a little bit, well, Soviet, isn’t it?

The Baltic states were part of a Soviet empire. It is quite possible that if we had travelled down another timeline the distinction would have got lost, the ethnic differences have disappeared or been erased etc. But that would not have made the earlier empire any less real.

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piglet 04.20.12 at 6:56 pm

“And I am not sating that every war is imperial in nature, just the ones where one country invades and then keeps another country.”

Maybe. If you wish, you can refer to the Swiss empire since they did invade and annex other territories (Ticino for example). Forceful territorial expansion has been a ubiquitous concept throughout history. Is there any distinction between imperialism and expansionism, and colonialism? I would like to see people here answer that question. We can agree to disagree about the meaning of words if that’s what the problem is.

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piglet 04.20.12 at 7:24 pm

I see that Scott has already responded to much of this but let me point out that this:

They were sovereign peoples occupying determinate areas of land. I think we can agree a definition along those lines that satisfies everyone without too many ad hocs. Think of it like this, does the invading entity get to keep a lump of land with a people on it? If yes, empire.

… this definition goes back to “imperialism equals any kind of territorial expansion”. If that is your definition, that’s fine with me. I just want you to acknowledge it.

The rest really is adhocery. The bit about the will of the annexed people is meaningless because we rarely know for sure. At least I don’t know of many cases in history when an annexed population got to vote democratically whether they wished to be annexed. (There are cases were the elite assented to annexation but is that “the will of the people”?) And even if a majority were in favor of annexation (or union), does that really override the strong objections of the minority? Some think it doesn’t (e. g. Quebec separatists, NI Republicans). It is meaningless or worse to ahistorically ascribe “will” to the people of a territory or a country.

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bianca steele 04.20.12 at 7:36 pm

There are cases within modern states in which the local elites didn’t assent to annexation (for instance, the French Pyrenees, which doesn’t fit the model being discussed here well, because religious conformity was involved as well as state interests, but). Presumably the position of those elites, as well as the local populations, was similar to those under colonialism (proximity aside, which wouldn’t help if they’d been targeted to be stigmatized). But especially if we have another way of discussing the position of local elites and local populations subjected to elsewhere, it would be fair to say “colonialism” is an inappropriate term.

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Katherine 04.20.12 at 7:42 pm

Maybe it’s the Trekkie in me, but I’ve always thought of a colony being a place to which a group of people have travelled to and taken over to make their new home – aka colonists. Frequently, if not always, this is going to involve defeat and displacement of current occupiers.

Empire is an accumulation of lands/territories/countries conquered by an outside power, and run for the benefit of that power. A la the Roman Empire, or the British Empire, or whatever.

There’s going to be frequent crossover of course, but it’s possible to envisage colonisation without empire, and empire without colony. Sort of Venn Diagram of differing concepts with much crossover.

As to when colonisation ceases to be colonisation, that’s mushily and messily a matter of passage of time. End of empire is a bit more definite.

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Data Tutashkhia 04.20.12 at 7:54 pm

Think of it like this, does the invading entity get to keep a lump of land with a people on it? If yes, empire.

The problem with this definition is that (in a typical case of annexation, like with the Baltic states) after the annexation the invading entity doesn’t exist anymore; it’s a whole different entity, even if the name remains the same.

People of the land that’s being kept are now (assuming they get full citizenship) a part of this new entity, a part of what in an empire would be considered the central state of it, the ‘metropolis’. And where is the colony, or subservient territory? Nowhere. The definition doesn’t work.

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rf 04.20.12 at 8:43 pm

J Otto

An unrelated question. I was going to get Orlando Figes A Peoples Tragedy out of the library recently, but I dont want to commit to it if its a heap of …. Have you read it and is it any good?
Also, any recomendations on books on Russias Jews? (Interpret that request as you see fit ie which era etc – though possibly the Russian equivalent of The Pity of it all)
Thanks

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dr ngo 04.20.12 at 9:38 pm

For many years I lectured on imperialism – once I gave a whole course on it – and I nearly always started out with a simple exercise. Listed in a single column, down the entire page (A4) were carefully selected events from world history: the question was “Which of these are examples of imperialism?” It was of course, a trick question, because the answer was that every single one of them either was or was *not* an example, depending on which definition of imperialism you started out with!

Useful discussion frequently ensued.

(I could probably dig out the list and post it, if anyone cared.)

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Substance McGravitas 04.20.12 at 9:40 pm

(I could probably dig out the list and post it, if anyone cared.)

I’m interested.

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Sam Clark 04.20.12 at 9:41 pm

Dr Ngo: I’d find that interesting…

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dr ngo 04.20.12 at 10:32 pm

Efforts to locate this page in electronic form on my computer having failed several times (and crashed the computer), I’m going to have to resort to re-entering this, with apologies for typos, etc. I’m working from hard copy, a version I gave to the MA in Comparative Asian Studies at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) in 2001. I’ll have to do it in several installments, probably:

Which of the following are examples of imperialism?

-The Roman occupation of England
- The English occupation of Ireland
- The Japanese occupation of Manchuria
- The Chinese occupation of Tibet
- Israel’s occupation of the West Bank
- The control of Indian states by the East India Company
- American military bases in the independent Philippines, 1946-92
- Iraq’s attempted annexation of Kuwait, 1991
- The Boer War? The Opium War? The Falklands War? The First World War?
- The government of Hongkong before AND/OR after 1997 [reversion to the PRC]
- The Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank
- The establishment of Malaysia in 1963 AND/OR Indonesia’s “confrontation” of Malaysia
- Rambo, The Deer Hunter, or Walt Disney’s Aladdin. [Previous versions of this list referred to Donald Duck, as in Ariel Dorfman's classic tract, "How To Read Donald Duck"]
.. . to be continued

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dr ngo 04.20.12 at 10:38 pm

. . . continuing on, and unable to explain why a vertical list turned into a horizontal listing at submission . . .

- The British Council (in HK)
- The Peace Corps
- The New China News Agency [= PRC agency] in HK
- CNN and/or the BBC
- America’s intervention in Vietnam, 1950s-1970s
- Vietnam’s 19th-century interventions in Cambodia
- Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia in 1978
- China’s invasion of Vietnam in 1979
- Vietnam’s claims to the Paracel & Spratly Islands AND/OR China’s claims to the same
- The colonization of Australia by Europeans
- The establishment of Brunei as a British protectorate
- Japanese investment in the Malaysian automobile industry
- Malaysian investment in the lumber industry of Surinam
- The suppression of the Boxer Rebellion
- The “westward movement” of Americans across North America
- The presence of Western lecturers [= like myself] at HKU

. . . to be concluded

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dr ngo 04.20.12 at 10:43 pm

. . . once more, with feeling:

- The Second Empire in France (under Napoleon III)
- John King Fairbank’s influence on the study of Chinese history
- American aid programmes [sic - it's a Commonwealth university] in the Philippines
- The International Monetary Fund
- United Nations Fund for Population Activities
- The Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO)
- British trade with 19th-century Argentina
- The Ming maritime expeditions to/through Southeast Asia
- The Manchu conquest of Ming China
- The Chinese occupation of Taiwan
- The HKSAR [Hong Kong Special Administrative Region - in the PRC] Basic Law and how it is interpreted
- America’s “Good Neighbor Policy” in Latin America

ASSIGNMENT for next class: Write a brief definition of “imperialism” and explain HOW it might be used to distinguish among events, attitudes, and activities such as the above. Limit: 1 page.

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dr ngo 04.20.12 at 10:49 pm

In ensuing discussions, the chief point I tried to make is that there is no such thing as a “correct” definition of imperialism, or any other term. There are only more or less useful ones. And one element of utility, IMHO, is that terms should not be defined or deployed in ways that are radically different from conventional usage. IOW, if I choose to call this horizontal surface around which we are gathered a “chair” rather than a “table,” my definition is not wrong – it’s just extremely unuseful. (HKU students, even more than students in America and Australia, were always hoping that you would tell them the “right” answers to questions so that they could learn [memorize] them and move on; they hated to be told there was “no right answer.”)

I do not vouch for being able, at this remove, to explain exactly why all of these listings might be considered both “imperialism” (by one definition) and “not imperialism” (by another), but if anyone gets stuck I’ll give it a whirl.

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dr ngo 04.20.12 at 10:50 pm

And now I’m breaking for dinner . . .

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Substance McGravitas 04.20.12 at 11:25 pm

Thank you!

HKU students, even more than students in America and Australia, were always hoping that you would tell them the “right” answers to questions so that they could learn [memorize] them and move on; they hated to be told there was “no right answer.”

Maybe I can repay you with a bit of trivia: the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority is replacing their old exams with a new one as Hong Kong revamps its secondary system. Official material puts a lot of emphasis on choice and independence and critical thinking, for whatever that’s worth.

http://334.edb.hkedcity.net/EN/overseas/section1.php

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Tim Wilkinson 04.20.12 at 11:39 pm

Torquil Macneil – since a flurry of other commentators have joined Scott Martens with a variety of cogent objections, I guess the fun is over.

So I may as well point out a bit of background about the USSR’s supposed ‘empire-building’. The Soviets (and French and British, I believe) tried to get the juntas which by then were running the economically-distressed Baltics to allow Soviet troops in to hold back Hitler’s expansion. Only once a substantial part of Lithuania had already been annexed by Hitler did the USSR enter into the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and annex the Baltics as a slender bulwark for ‘socialism-in-one-country’. This does not even look like expansionism, let alone colonisation or imperialist conquest.

Post WW2 the USSR got a more substantial buffer, but the situation was for these purposes pretty similar, really.

(Dr Ngo – I suspect the text may have been typed into another application then pasted into CT, and contained the ‘wrong’ kind of new-line character, which the server rejected or replaced with a space.)

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dr ngo 04.21.12 at 12:03 am

Tim: Nope – I was planning to do that, but wound up typing it straight into the “Leave a Comment” blank, with a carriage return [now there's an obsolete term!] after each entry. Lined up nice and pretty when I typed it; bunched up after submission. Fortunately for what’s left of my sanity, I gave up worrying about the Whys and Wherefores years ago.

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LFC 04.21.12 at 12:06 am

Only once a substantial part of Lithuania had already been annexed by Hitler did the USSR enter into the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and annex the Baltics as a slender bulwark for ‘socialism-in-one-country’.

Didn’t the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact have a tiny little bit to do with an agreement to divide up Poland btw. Nazi Germany and the USSR, and isn’t that in fact what proceeded to happen?

From James Joll, Europe Since 1870, p. 375:

On 20 August [1939] Hitler asked Stalin to receive Ribbentrop; on 22 August Ribbentrop was in Moscow. On the next day a German-Soviet non-aggression pact was signed with a secret clause by which spheres of influence in Eastern Europe were defined, and which contained the sinister statement that ‘the question of whether the interests of both parties make desirable the maintenance of an independent Polish state and how such a state should be bounded, can only be definitely determined in the course of further political developments.’

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Data Tutashkhia 04.21.12 at 7:24 am

But, really we can just look at the results of the voting and see that the vast majority of Baltic peoples supported the restoration of independence.

Otto, separatist attitude of the population of country’s region is irrelevant.

Imagine that tomorrow the state of Texas (or Vermont; it’s being exploited, you see) declares independence; all 100% of the population with no exception vote to secede. What would happen? Without a doubt: by the end of the day federal troops are on the streets of all major cities. Blood flows. By the end of the month the state is brought back into the union. Hundreds killed, thousands incarcerated, sent to prisons in Wyoming and North Dakota. End of story. Life goes on.

Would this constitute imperialism? Hardly. Who cares what the population wants. They were born as citizens of the USA (or USSR), they are full-fledged citizens, and if they don’t like their country’s (USA or USSR) politics, they should try to change it, according to the rules; breaking out is not an option. That’s clearly the consensus, at this point in history.

The fact that nationalist propaganda (probably a deliberate, foreign-run propaganda campaign, too) implanted some subversive ideas into their heads doesn’t change anything conceptually, forget it. You don’t always get what you want, especially when you already got what you need, in this case: equal citizenship.

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J. Otto Pohl 04.21.12 at 8:14 am

rf:

Figes is not my favorite writer. I find his works overly long in prose compared to their substance.

On Soviet Jews try the works of Benajmin Pinkus and Zvi Gitelman for starters.

I am not going to try and argue anymore with people defending Stalin’s invasion, occupation, repression, and colonization of the Baltic nations. Honestly I thought this issue was settled in 1991.

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Data Tutashkhia 04.21.12 at 8:39 am

I am not going to try and argue anymore with people defending Stalin’s invasion, occupation, repression, and colonization of the Baltic nations.

That’s your problem right there: you’re applying neutral terms according to your moral judgement. Nobody is defending anything; either the terms ‘colonization’ and ‘occupation’ apply or they don’t. To be meaningful outside a church or party meeting, this has to be 100% morally neutral.

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Emily 04.21.12 at 11:08 am

Data, I’m pretty sure some modernists attempted to devise 100% morally neutral languages and failed dismally. History and other narrative forms can’t be written in a positivist or objective way – if you’re genuinely (rather than rhetorically) seeking that I think you’re effectively constraining yourself to discussions of maths and the hard sciences . Citizenship is hardly “equal” when it’s effected by an asymetrical practice of one civilization (for want of a better word) forcibly taking rule over or settling another.

As far as defining colonialism goes, my understanding is that the concept/term dates back to describe settlements in the Roman Empire. I have some idea that the contrast isn’t between imperialism and colonialism (the latter being a subset of the former) but between colonised (settled) territory and conquered territory. I could be wrong here, my understanding pretty much rests on the Australian High Court ruling on Native Title, which distinguished Australia as settled territory rather than conquered territory. I don’t mean that colonialism is peaceful compared to conquest, rather that it involves a much larger proportion of transmigrasi, most likely overwhelming in numbers (not only power/force) the indigenous/prior population.

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rf 04.21.12 at 11:16 am

J Otto

Thanks

228

Data Tutashkhia 04.21.12 at 1:13 pm

Narratives can’t be neutral. That, however is not a license for opportunistic and tendentious mis-use of terms.

229

Substance McGravitas 04.21.12 at 3:43 pm

Data: what word do you think describes Kaliningrad?

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Data Tutashkhia 04.21.12 at 5:45 pm

Kaliningrad, they kicked the natives out, didn’t they? Yes, this one does look like colonial expansion.

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Tim Wilkinson 04.21.12 at 6:21 pm

LFC – well, no-one had been discussing the southern half of the slender bulwark, but much the same appears to apply. What’s your point?

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J. Otto Pohl 04.21.12 at 8:48 pm

I love it how whole countries of which Lithuania alone is larger in size than Belgium and has more people than Israel are reduced to the term “slender bulwark” by leftists as if those people did not have the same right of national self-determination as others.

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Tim Wilkinson 04.21.12 at 10:17 pm

Oh give it a rest. If it wasn’t a bulwark or wasn’t a slender one, give us the benefit of your – undoubtedly far superior – historical knowledge.

In the meantime, if you want to smear me as some kind of Stalin apologist, at least have the good grace to look me in the eye while you’re doing it.

234

rf 04.21.12 at 10:27 pm

In fairness to J Otto, and I’m not a huge fan of the endless carping against academic Stalinists that have exiled him to Ghana, he’s been more than patient with the handful of people endlessly offering inane rebuttals to his pretty convincing arguments.

235

LFC 04.22.12 at 6:25 am

LFC – well, no-one had been discussing the southern half of the slender bulwark, but much the same appears to apply. What’s your point?

My point, I guess, is that I had not thought of the M-R pact as mainly a defensive move on the USSR’s part. But I’m far from an expert on the diplomatic history of the period so I’m willing to be corrected.

236

LFC 04.22.12 at 6:28 am

P.s. The clause on spheres of influence in E.Europe does suggest something more than defense to me.

237

Emily 04.22.12 at 8:08 am

“Narratives can’t be neutral. That, however is not a license for opportunistic and tendentious mis-use of terms.”

Data, in complex languages *terms* are rarely neutral either. “Colony” is from the Roman term for their imperial settlements, and conflated into the term is the perspective and culture (from the same Latin root I believe) of the empire itself.

The legacy of European imperialism is not dead but ongoing. In Australia we have an annual public holiday (Australia Day) to celebrate the early events of British colonisation in New South Wales; celebrating this day is increasingly contested – this year it culminated in a heated altercation between our Prime Minister and our Leader of the Opposition, and protesters from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aboriginal_Tent_Embassy#section_2).

For the same series of actions and events one might choose the descriptive term “settlement”, or one might choose the terms “invasion” and “occupation” – the terms themselves at once embed and efface certain perspectives and realities, invoke varied sovereignties and laws, and as complex words they each conflate too many assumptions, actions and meanings to be neutral.

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Data Tutashkhia 04.22.12 at 8:37 am

Fair enough, Emily. Perhaps I did get carried away somewhat responding to what I perceive as tendentious interpretation, riding a hobbyhorse (notice that we have no disagreement on facts). Wouldn’t be the first time. I really have no dog in this fight; you can call the 50′s-90′s situation in the Baltic republics a genocide, if you want. What the hell do I care.

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J. Otto Pohl 04.22.12 at 10:48 am

There is a school of scholarship that deals with postcolonialism in the Baltic States. In order to be postcolonial you first have to have a colonial relationship. The denial of such a relationship has been attributed in part by David Chioni Moore to the pro-Soviet ideological bias of many western academics. But, even if most CT are unwilling to call it colonialism there are some scholars who do and they do so on the basis that it exhibits the same traits as other cases of colonialism. I have post up on postcolonial studies of the Baltic up on my blog now.

Mr. Wilkerson as I have already noted Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia were sovereign nations. They were invaded and occupied against the will of their populations and in violation of international law. The Soviet regime then proceeded to deport tens of thousands of civilians to Siberia and later after WWII illegally settle the countries with the civilian population of their own state. Nobody today would ever refer to South African occupied Namibia as having been a bulwark against Soviet-Cuban expansion. There is a clear double standard.

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Tim Wilkinson 04.22.12 at 3:49 pm

J. Otto Pohl – My objection was to your flouncing back in with more accusations of Stalinism, in response to my ad hominem rebuttal of someone else’s comments, viz. Torquil Macneil’s adverbial classification of the Baltic annexation as an act of colonisation or imperial conquest.

I don’t deny or need to deny anything in your account – though all the stuff about sovereign juntas, international law, etc., seems relevant only to a rhetorical purpose and not particularly useful even for that.

I wouldn’t particularly object to describing anything as a ‘bulwark’ if it should turn out that it was one (I don’t think this is an especially loaded term – if so, please feel free to suggest one with less in the way of evaluative content. Buffer? Human shield?)

I think the reason why one might describe the Baltics + eastern Poland as a bulwark against German expansion, but not describe Namibia as a bulwark against Soviet-Cuban expansion is the fact that in the former case there was expansion (rather rapid and rapacious expansion, and with Russia clearly being measured up as a suitable living room, if unchecked it would mean curtains for the USSR) while in the latter case, there was not.

In fact I’m a bit baffled by this, so just to be clear, and since I’m far from being any kind of expert, are you suggesting that the 1915 wartime occupation (of an already genocidally-’administered’ German colony, fwiw) took place in response to Cuban-USSR aggression?

Well, maybe you mean something else. I’m by no means an expert on the Angolan civil war but have taken some interest in it and recall that the Angolan CIA bureau chief resigned saying US involvement had drawn the USSR into the war. Maybe he was being gratuitously mendacious; you tell me. But even once that situation escalated and the wretched affair became a (symbolic?) proxy conflict under the Cold War umbrella, I don’t think SA was (regraded as being) under threat of conquest. Again, YTM.

As far as I can make out, you seem to be drawing a ‘false equivalence’ in suggesting that Nazi aggression in 1939 eastern Europe is to be considered no more threatening than Soviet/Cuban ‘aggression’ in 19?? southern Africa, though I wouldn’t on that basis start drawing wild conclusions about where your loyalties must therefore lie.

LFC @235 – yes, I’m happy to be corrected too. It’s just that I don’t seem to have been so far. But that’s how it looks to me, anyway.

In general, the Cold War looks very much like a US offensive from the start, aimed at destroying the USSR by direct and attritional application of military force inc. coups d’etat, while the USSR seems largely to have been trying in its own foul way to make its debased idea of ‘socialism in one country’ to work, rather than taking over the world by force. Its strategy for defeating capitalism (such as it was) rested on, in its own terms, providing assistance to workers’ revolutionary uprisings etc. See People’s Pocket Marxism-Leninism Handbook (abridged ed.), pp.1,567 -3,378 & passim.

I would even hazard a guess that my best chum Joe Stalin and his successors might not have been quite so brutal had they not been subject to such a fierce and sustained assault and seige. (Admittedly the main merit of this position is that it can be expected to whip Otto into an apoplectic frenzy of denunciation – since he seems intent on ranting rather than yer actual historiography, he might as well be entertaining about it.)

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Tim Wilkinson 04.22.12 at 4:07 pm

Re: In order to be postcolonial you first have to have a colonial relationship.

Actually, I’m pretty sure either Moore or someone similar denies this, and I think does so specifically with reference to the Baltics. And doesn’t Moore say that on his account the entire world comes out as post-colonial (which result he is happy to accept, but other commenters here have suggested, with some plausibility, should make one think again)?

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J. Otto Pohl 04.22.12 at 4:24 pm

Mr. Wilikinson:

The conquest of the Baltic States meets the basic definitions of colonialism. There was political control of an ethnically distinct territory, economic exploitation in that net resource flow was from the Baltics to the rest of the USSR to the disadvantage of the Baltics, armed and other resistance by the population and, finally settlement of Russian and other colonists in the countries. Hence scholars of colonialism and post-colonialism like David Chioni Moore note that it was a colonial situation. The bulwark term is offensive. Soviet “security concerns” do not trump the human and national rights of the Baltic people as you seem to think it does.Especially since the Soviet government allied itself with and acted in cooperation with the power you claim they were defending themselves against from 23 August 1939 to 22 June 1941. They only ceased their alliance with Nazi Germany because the Germans invaded them.

The original South African conquest of Namibia occurred after the genocide of the Herero and Nama. But, it was justified along lines of security of the Union against “German aggression.” My point, however, was that claims of bulwark and security do not justify colonial occupation. The continued occupation of Namibia after 1975 was wrongly justified along these lines. The same type of lines that you think justify Stalin’s conquest of the Baltic States and eastern Poland. But, it is a very odd justification since again the occupation of the Baltic States and eastern Poland was done in alliance with Nazi Germany. The Soviet Union actively cooperated with Nazi Germany from 23 August 1939 to 22 June 1941. At least in the case of Namibia the South Africans actually were fighting against the Cubans rather than cooperating with them to divide Africa up into spheres of influence.

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Data Tutashkhia 04.22.12 at 4:46 pm

Otto, for reference: what international laws were violated by the invasions and occupations in question? Is it the Hague conventions? But by that standard, I understand, American occupations of Italy, Germany, and Japan were also illegal.

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J. Otto Pohl 04.22.12 at 4:50 pm

I just reread the Moore article. He does say most of the world is postcolonial. He also explicitely states that the relationship between the Baltics and the USSR was colonial. The quotation below is from “Is the Post- in Postcolonial the Post in Post-Soviet Towards a Global Postcolonial critique.” PMLA, vol. 116, No. 1, Jan. 2001., p. 116.

“When Russia moved its colonial enterprise West, the situation sharply changes and I speak here principally of the the post – World War II Soviet expansion to the independent Baltics and nations such as Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria. By most classic measures – lack of sovereign power, restrictions on travel, military occupation, lack of convertible specie, a domestic economy dominated by the dominating state, and a forced education in the colonizers tongue – Central Europe’s nations were indeed under Russo-Soviet control from roughly 1948 to 1989 or 1991.”

He continues on the same page.

“Thus if dynastic colonization is out of bounds, it might be profitable, I would argue, to consider the Baltic and Central European states as a distinct fourth case I call ‘reverse cultural colonization.’”

So while the general scheme of a allegedly superior civilization conquering an inferior one is reversed in this case, everything else needed for a colonial relationship as listed above was present.

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bianca steele 04.22.12 at 4:53 pm

Also in J. Otto Pohl’s defense, somewhat, there is a pretty long history of specious arguments denying that the USSR was colonialist. One is that colonialism, being an economic policy, can only be practiced by capitalist regimes. Another is that the Soviet Union was “encircled” by capitalists and could only protect (the building of) socialism-in-one-country by creating equally communist allies or a buffer zone. But the balance-of-power argument that it was only fair for the West and the Soviets to have their own basically equal spheres of influence, in order to prevent war, isn’t really defending the USSR except in the minds of Western ultra-hawks.

I for one would like to learn more about postcolonialism as alluded to by J. Otto Pohl and by Emily.

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Tim Wilkinson 04.22.12 at 5:02 pm

This is becoming depressing rather than entertaining. I’m not going to keep repeating myself except to point out that I didn’t offer any justification of anything (FFS). And to mention that the USSR did not enter into an alliance with the 3rd Reich. Not that much rests on that specific point, given that I’ve already provided a rudimentary account of what apparently did happen, the particulars of which you don’t seem to dispute.

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Tim Wilkinson 04.22.12 at 5:03 pm

That crossed with bianca’s

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Tim Wilkinson 04.22.12 at 5:21 pm

http://www.macalester.edu/internationalstudies/Moore-IsThe%20Post-inPostcolonialThe%20Post-inPost-Soviet111-128.pdf

As well as the observations above, note that Moore comments The largest omission
in this paper results from my thin consideration of the Soviet experience from 1917 to
1991 and my too easy yoking of it in my repeated “Russo-Soviet.”

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LFC 04.22.12 at 5:32 pm

On TW’s side, Joll says earlier on the same page that I quoted that Stalin was motivated by, among other things, the need to postpone a German attack on Russia for as long as possible and to put space between “the heart of Russia” and the launch-point of such an attack. On the other hand, when the German invasion did come in June ’41, Stalin at first “refused to believe that a full-scale invasion was under way” and told a gathering of leaders in Moscow on the morning of 22 June that “surely…Hitler did not know about it.” (R.J. Evans, The Third Reich at War, p. 186) Did Stalin expect a German invasion eventually but not so soon? Or did he not expect Hitler to break their pact at all?

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J. Otto Pohl 04.22.12 at 5:42 pm

LFC:

Apparently Stalin thought he had at least a couple more years before he had to worry about an invasion. That is one reason why the Soviets had not moved their fortifications westward yet by the time of 22 June 1941. Had the Germans not made some crucial mistakes they might have defeated the USSR in 1941 much as they did in 1918.

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LFC 04.22.12 at 5:53 pm

J. Otto 250: thks

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Tim Wilkinson 04.22.12 at 8:53 pm

#246 also crossed with J.O.P’s latest @ 244, in which he summarises some of Moore’s particular position. Maybe this was in moderation, or more probably I just didn’t scroll up beyond bianca’s. (I mention this because had I seen it and not only the one before, I would have been a touch less exasperated; I don’t imagine this is of much interest to anyone but me, but there it is anyway.)

JOP: yes, trawling through my browsing history reveals that the place where I came across the suggestion that the Baltics count as post-colonial but do not have a colonial past was here: http://www.alternativeculture.org/reset/content/view/131/63/ – I merely report this without necessarily endorsing either conjunct.

And just to reiterate that I was addressing what I’ve called the ‘adverbial’ account (perhaps ‘genetic’ or ‘intentionalist’ would be better) of supposed Soviet imperialist conquest of the Baltics. I don’t (and didn’t at any point) rule out the possibility that subsequent events would make the ongoing experience of Soviet satellites and provinces come out as instances of colonialism.

As well as the possibility of distinguishing 1. a genetic conception of colonisation from a functional one of colonialism and 2. a post-colonial condition from an actual colonial past (oh, and of course 3. Imperial Russia from the Soviet Union, where the latter might have delayed the onset of post-White Russian ‘postcolonialism’), we might also propose distinguishing 4. the experience of the victim from that of the victor (which might overlap somewhat with 1.)

—-

My main interest, btw, is in the Cold War/Red Scare/MI-complex/Orwellian propaganda side of things, rather than the ‘Stalin was bad’ side of things, which seems to me to have been pretty well worked over for quite some time, even if J.O.P. seems to think just about everyone outside Africa is a Stalinist (I don’t even know what the ‘-ist’ is doing there; surely it should be an ‘-ite’ , just as there are Blairites but no Blairists. Or just Stalin apologist, fan, groupie, as e.g. that historian whose name escapes me – Irving? – seem sto be motivated by admiration of Hitler rather than by any substantive political commitment.)

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Peter T 04.23.12 at 9:38 am

Let’s go find Hammurabi’s grave, dig him up, and put him on trial for starting this whole thing. Or someone earlier if we can identify them. Of course we’ll allow proper legal representation, and explain their rights to them carefully.

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Guano 04.23.12 at 9:46 am

What is important here is that it is very easy to distort the information coming in from far-off lands. The feed-back loop doesn’t work when a decision is taken in London but its effect is felt in Kenya: it is too easy to hide or lose the information that should be used for monitoring or evaluating that decision. While it is possible to distort the effects of domestic policy it is much easier to distort the evidence about the effects of foreign policy. This is happening all the time, in large and small ways.

To take an Angolan example again: the date of the elections of 1992 were decided by the Americans, and if Savimbi had won his victory would have been part of the election campaign of Bush Sr. (another country joins the free world, preferably with shots of Cubans running away from Angola). But when Savimbi lost and restarted the war no information came back to the US: this was just some far-off inexplicable war that had nothing to do with the US.

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Katherine 04.23.12 at 10:09 am

what international laws were violated by the invasions and occupations in question? Is it the Hague conventions? But by that standard, I understand, American occupations of Italy, Germany, and Japan were also illegal.

Basic customary international law, that’s what. Roughly, you can defend yourself from attack (which may involve entering the territory of your attacker), but you cannot invade. Eg Iraq invading Kuwait.

I’ll also, for the sake of forestalling future asinine questions, point you to the UN Charter: http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/chapter1.shtml

You may note also that the UN Charter came into effect after the Second World War. If you really really want to know what the law regarding aggressive war was at the time, you might want to read up on Nuremberg. Most of the charges there actually related to the waging of aggessive war, rather than crimes against humanity.

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J. Otto Pohl 04.23.12 at 10:49 am

252

1. I think the Soviet rule of the Baltic states was functionally colonialist due to two main factors. Unlike other areas of the USSR it involved the net flow of resources from the periphery to the center and there was significant opposition by the native populations to incorporation into the state. The population of the Baltic states made its opposition to Soviet rule made very clearly and early on. The Forest Brothers were anti-colonial national liberation movements. I also think there was from 1918 on a desire by the Soviet government to recover all the territories that had been part of the Russian Empire in 1917. So any opportunity to invade and annex such ‘irredentia’ like the Baltic States was going to be taken. Hence the invasion of Finland in 1940.

Central Asia was a very different situation in that the net flow of resources was from the center to the periphery and the overwhelming majority of the native population supported being part of the USSR. There was no significant opposition movements in Central Asia after the crushing of the Basmachi and there were never any movements for independence after the republican borders were drawn in 1924. The Central Asians desired to be in a union with Russia as part of the USSR because it benefited them economically.

2-3. I do think that the post-Soviet situation in Central Asia has a lot similarities with post-colonial situations in Africa. But, while Tsarist rule over Central Asia from the 1860s to 1917 is definitely colonial, the Soviet era is considerably different in terms of economic organization. I would at this point argue that the post-Soviet situation in Central Asia has a lot of similarities with postcolonialism in Africa, but not that they are the same. The results look very similar, but the fact that most Central Asians view the late Soviet era (1964-1985) as a golden age and most Africans view the colonial era very negatively is significant.

4. In the case of the USSR it is quite clear that certain nationalities were great losers as a result of the war and Soviet victory. This includes the Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians. It also includes the Russian-Germans, Karachais, Kalmyks, Chechens, Ingush, Balkars, Crimean Tatars, and Meskhetian Turks. I believe that the theory of internal colonialism as developed by Robert Blauner can be applied to these last eight ethnic groups. Pointing to the evils of Naziism as a justification for the treatment of these peoples is no more morally justifiable than pointing to the Rape of Nanjing to justify the US treatment of Japanese Americans during WWII.

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Torquil Macneil 04.23.12 at 12:23 pm

“So I may as well point out a bit of background about the USSR’s supposed ‘empire-building’. The Soviets (and French and British, I believe) tried to get the juntas which by then were running the economically-distressed Baltics to allow Soviet troops in to hold back Hitler’s expansion. “

Rather late in the day but I have to say that this is one of the funniest of Tim Wilkinson’s re-guard attempts to defend the honour of imperial conquest: they were given the chance to roll over voluntarily but didn’t, so they basically asked for it!

I think the ‘bulwark’ thing is hilarious as well. It is. of course, wrong to invade and annex a country so you can use it a source of minerals, but if you only mean to use it as a ;’bulwark’ to keep out your other enemies, well, that is a whole different manner. Who could reasonably object to being used for that purpose? Only wreckers and deviationists that’s who!

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Torquil Macneil 04.23.12 at 12:24 pm

manner=’matter’

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Data Tutashkhia 04.23.12 at 12:51 pm

Hi Katherine,
You may note also that the UN Charter came into effect after the Second World War.

But that’s exactly why I asked: the UN Charter came into effect after the Second World War; the invasions happened in 1940.

And even if you consider their rolling the Wehrmacht back an illegal invasion in 1944, still, that was before the UN charter.

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rf 04.23.12 at 1:12 pm

But surely if the occupation continues after the Charter, they become illegal? (I’m not stating this, but wondering if that would be the case)

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Data Tutashkhia 04.23.12 at 1:13 pm

I think the ‘bulwark’ thing is hilarious as well. It is. of course, wrong to invade and annex a country so you can use it a source of minerals, but if you only mean to use it as a ;’bulwark’ to keep out your other enemies, well, that is a whole different matter.

But isn’t it, indeed, a somewhat different matter? It’s wrong to attack someone in order to take their wallet, but in a situation when your life is threatened the rules change: you could, for example, jump into someone’s car and drive away, without being prosecuted for grand theft auto later.

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Torquil Macneil 04.23.12 at 1:20 pm

” It’s wrong to attack someone in order to take their wallet, but in a situation when your life is threatened the rules change”

I am afraid they don’t. The law does not allow you to use innocent third parties to protect yourself. If I kidnap my neighbour’s wife because I want to stop him acting on his threat to duff me up, I am guilty of kidnap without any possible mitigation. That might strike you as strange, but try thinking about it from the victim’s point of view and all with become clear. I offer that for free as a generally useful piece of advice.

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rf 04.23.12 at 1:21 pm

Sure, but any act of imperialism could be justified by that criteria. Your perception of a threat is entirely subjective

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Data Tutashkhia 04.23.12 at 1:29 pm

But surely if the occupation continues after the Charter, they become illegal?

Probably, but they’d been annexed by then already. Joined the union. Like the California Republic.

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Watson Ladd 04.23.12 at 1:40 pm

J. Otto Pohl, it is clear that the Shoah was so successful in the Baltics because of mass cooperation from the people. The Baltic countries to this day commemorate the SS as national heros. Baltic nationalism is pernicious in erasing the memory of what actually happened.

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Data Tutashkhia 04.23.12 at 1:43 pm

If I kidnap my neighbour’s wife because I want to stop him acting on his threat to duff me up, I am guilty of kidnap without any possible mitigation.

I disagree. Your actions would be judged differently than if you kidnapped your neighbor’s wife for a ransom.

267

Tim Wilkinson 04.23.12 at 1:51 pm

Torquil Macneil – no, I’m not defending or attempting to justify anything.

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rf 04.23.12 at 1:53 pm

“Probably, but they’d been annexed by then already. Joined the union. Like the California Republic.”

Very true, great point

“I disagree. Your actions would be judged differently than if you kidnapped your neighbor’s wife for a ransom.”

What if I was walking down the street, someone lunged at me with a knife and I grabbed the nearest child for a human shield. In fact I think that particular example was used in the UN Charter

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Emily 04.23.12 at 2:00 pm

Um, are you positing that international relations ought to be governed by some sort of global equivalent of the Stand Your Ground law? That seems like a recipe for disaster to me…

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Data Tutashkhia 04.23.12 at 2:36 pm

I am positing that situational circumstances matter, in response to someone who said that they don’t. Are you positing that circumstances don’t matter?

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windwheel 04.23.12 at 2:51 pm

Reading through the very interesting comments here- I was reminded of Kipling’s story ‘under the City walls.’
In the story, a White journalist is used by his friend, an aristocratic Muslim ‘atheist’ and the lovely courtesan, Lalun, to help an old rebel leader escape from prison. The old man soon realizes that though the educated ‘Babu’ Nationalists (this was in the 1880′s) talked about Revolution, what they really wanted was to get a bigger slice of the patronage for themselves. As for the peasants, they were busy cultivating their land and seeking to get their irrigation cesses reduced and trying to get their kids into English medium schools. The old days when tribesmen took up the sword and saddled their mounts to seek death or glory (booty) on the battlefield were long gone. So the old man returns humbly to his jail cell where, at least, two sentries are appointed to watch him and thus give him face.
Around the same time that Kipling was writing this story, an Indian barrister with a degree from Oxford, Shyamji Krishnavarma, was finding that life as a Dewan ( Chief Minister) of a Princely state was no bed of roses. The British bureaucracy was not really results-oriented. On the contrary, red-tape and complacency were the rule of the day. Kipling makes this point again and again. In his story ‘the bridge builders’, defective materials are supplied to the Chief engineer. He can’t lodge a protest because the fix is in. Someone has been paid off. The bridge won’t be built. Ah! but hang on! What’s this? The junior engineer turns out to be an Aristocrat, the heir to a big County Estate back in Blighty. This young man takes unpaid leave and goes back to London and spends his time attending debutante balls and the at home drawing rooms of influential dowagers till, finally, he is able to get his work done. A consignment of building materials, fit for purpose, is sent and so the Bridge, if the Gods of India permit, will be built.
Shyamji Krishnaroa Verma, who had risen by his excellence in Sanskrit (Monier Williams invited him to Oxford to help with his dictionary), was seeing the same thing as Kipling. He took a radical course. First he made himself financially independent by investing in Textile Mills (this was the class of industrialist who, later, financed Gandhi and the Congress) and then moved to London where he adopted the philosophy of Herbert Spencer- in particular the criticism of paternalist State action as needful to de-legitimize British Imperialism- and became involved in various radical causes.
The important point to note is that traditional Victorian radicalism had morphed in the Edwardian era and become ready to embrace feminism, racial equality and so on. By the time H.G. Wells writes the New Machiavelli, the question this new class in Britian was asking itself was ‘what are we doing in India? We don’t have a plan. ‘
The whole thing has degenerated into a sort of Comic opera. The new type of ICS officer, like St.John Philby, who’d been at Uni with Nehru, were just as likely to be adventurists and turn-coats as by-the-book bureaucrats.
It was this crisis of values, this loss of belief in an Imperial or civilizing mission, which- for eg in South Africa- came to characterize a reckless resort to brutal methods which would be covered up by other members of one’s cadre.
Evelyn Waugh, writing at the beginning of the Twenties, depicts the manner in which High Victorian Evangelical piety had degenerated into a nihilistic esprit de corps. The old School tie, or Regimental badge, or Aristocratic connection had become a talisman that could absolve one of any crime, including cowardice in the face of the enemy.

I think the reason a lot of Brits turned against Empire was because this was the sort of thing which kept filtering back. For Chesterton, the great Imperial Warlord was, by definition, a turncoat and Benedict Arnold. The only question was, when this ‘hero’ would use coloured troops to colonize England and destroy its ancient liberties.
Indeed, Franco did nothing else in Spain- though that may not have been a comparison he would have relished.
When Clement Atlee, in 1938, asks Nehru to read over Labour’s policy on India, Nehru came down to the breakfast table in a state of astonishment. ‘But, you are giving us everything we asked for!’
Yes, but Sidney Webb had given Ceylon universal sufferage with protection for minorities back in 1931 itself!
Reading would probably have given India something similar back in the Twenties if Gandhi hadn’t stuck his oar in.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that the trouble with Imperialism is that accountability can break down. Esprit de corps can work in malign ways. Rent seeking can wear the plausible mask of ‘Representative Consultation’. A ‘Civilizing Mission’ can turn its purveyors into beasts. Burke castigated this as ‘Indianism’ (i.e. the corrupt policies of the East India Company) and warned that it was a greater danger to the Polity than ‘Jacobinism’.
It is all very well having a bein pensant outlook and saying- we must send in UN troops! But what if UN troops themselves sell guns or molest women?

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Katherine 04.23.12 at 2:59 pm

But that’s exactly why I asked: the UN Charter came into effect after the Second World War; the invasions happened in 1940.

And even if you consider their rolling the Wehrmacht back an illegal invasion in 1944, still, that was before the UN charter.

I no longer know what point you are making or question you are asking. Who is “they” and what are “the invasions”?

Trouble is, international law is not quite like domestic law. It’s a loose amalgam of treaties, custom, previous case law and opinion.

Nuremberg was victor’s justice, to be sure, but many would argue that it codified the customary law that was developing up to that point, and the results have been understood as “the law” since then. And post-the UN Charter, the International Court of Justice is generally the go-to point for law regarding international law on peace and conflict.

What I generally would advise though is not to have an opinion on the legality of invasions if you don’t know even the most basic details of the law on invasions past and present.

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Torquil Macneil 04.23.12 at 3:01 pm

“I disagree. Your actions would be judged differently than if you kidnapped your neighbor’s wife for a ransom.2

Not when it came to sentencing it wouldn’t. You are not allowed to use people like that and for good reason.

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Katherine 04.23.12 at 3:07 pm

And honestly, I don’t know any international law that would say invading Country A in order to pre-emptively stop the possibility of Country B invading you is AOK. State sovereignty is the basis of most international law and always has been.

In fact, the whole possibility of pre-emptively invading Iraq because of the possible threat from them was (and still is) considered highly controversial just a few years ago.

That something several steps on from that was available to make Soviet invasions of Baltic states legal is laughable.

275

Emily 04.23.12 at 3:33 pm

a) “It’s wrong to attack someone in order to take their wallet, but in a situation when your life is threatened the rules change: you could, for example, jump into someone’s car and drive away, without being prosecuted for grand theft auto later.”
b) “I am positing that situational circumstances matter, in response to someone who said that they don’t. Are you positing that circumstances don’t matter?”

Your statement a) makes a moral claim – that in the event of the first instance (mugging) an attack on a person is morally wrong, whereas in the event of the second instance (theft of a vehicle in response to a perceived (?) threat) an attack on property is morally acceptable.

With regard to the matter at hand, presumably I can extrapolate that you are arguing that in response to a perceived threat from X (albeit of a potentially significant magnitude) it is morally justifiable to attack person Y, steal their property, falsely imprison them and possibly kill them. I would be surprised if, in any country where the rule of law functioned properly, any magistrate or justice would give much weight to defense counsel arguments pleading extenuating circumstances in this instance.

Your statement b) seems to argue that in understanding (rather than judging) historical events one should take various contingencies into account – I agree.

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Torquil Macneil 04.23.12 at 3:38 pm

” I would be surprised if, in any country where the rule of law functioned properly, any magistrate or justice would give much weight to defense counsel arguments pleading extenuating circumstances in this instance.”

And in fact there is a prominent example of someone attempting this defense taking place right now in Norway.

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Katherine 04.23.12 at 3:45 pm

Yes, Torquil, but they are trying to decide whether or not he is insane.

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Torquil Macneil 04.23.12 at 3:51 pm

Whatever they decide on that score, Katherine, he will never get away with a defence like that without Data on the jury.

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Data Tutashkhia 04.23.12 at 5:00 pm

@272 What I generally would advise though is not to have an opinion on the legality of invasions if you don’t know even the most basic details of the law on invasions past and present.

‘They’ in that phrase is the USSR. I wasn’t expressing an opinion, I was asking Otto what exactly international laws were violated by those invasions in 1940, because he said that international law was violated and he is a historian. He hasn’t answered. Do you know the answer?

What about the Munich Agreement, was it in accordance with international law, at the time?

@275: understanding, of course, but also judging; obviously, to a degree. I gave an illustration to demonstrate that circumstances matter, not an analogy to invasion of Baltic states. Sorry if it wasn’t clear, I thought it was obvious.

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LFC 04.23.12 at 7:59 pm

Data, I would direct you to this statement by Katherine, above:

Trouble is, international law is not quite like domestic law. It’s a loose amalgam of treaties, custom, previous case law and opinion.

Katherine is right, and I would “state practice” to her list. IOW, it’s not as if there is one big fat statute book sitting on a shelf which one can open in any situation and say “yes, this violates provision X.” That said, Katherine is also right that the customary intl law against aggression is of fairly long standing. But frankly I don’t know whether the Soviet invasion of the Baltics violated intl law — insofar as they were independent sovereign nation-states, I assume it did — but I also don’t think the legal question matters as much as you apparently do.

Since 1945, a norm against conquest has been consolidated to the point where state A invading state B to seize territory has become both rare and universally viewed as illegitimate. This is a matter primarily of norms and state practice (or state behavior). A scholarly book dealing (in part) with this is T.M. Fazal, State Death (2007).

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LFC 04.23.12 at 8:04 pm

p.s. See also the Stimson Doctrine.

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LFC 04.23.12 at 8:09 pm

from the 281 link:

The [Stimson] doctrine was also invoked by U.S. Under-Secretary of State Sumner Welles in a declaration of July 23, 1940 that announced non-recognition of the Soviet annexation and incorporation of the three Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—and remained the official U.S. position until the Baltic states gained formal international recognition as independent states in 1991.

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Data Tutashkhia 04.23.12 at 8:56 pm

OK, so unspecified international law was violated, or must’ve been anyway, I got it.

What I want to know now is why this Stimson doctrine, which is definitely not an international law, wasn’t triggered by the Munich agreement, and German invasion and occupation of Sudetenland and then the rest of Czechoslovakia. Does it mean that pres. Roosevelt was pleased by and applauded to German expansion to the East? Sounds like it, doesn’t it.

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LFC 04.23.12 at 10:04 pm

The Stimson Doctrine wasn’t triggered by the Munich Agreement b/c it was an agreement — however unwise etc. — which gave Germany the Sudentenland against the wishes of the Czech govt to be sure, but Germany did not have to seize the Sudentenland by force. When Germany proceeded to occupy the rest of Czechoslovakia (by force), that should have triggered the Stimson Doctrine, I suppose, had the US been consistently applying it. And in fact isn’t it the case that the German occupation of the rest of Czechoslovakia was not given the seal of legitimacy by most of the major powers? Anyway the fact that the Doctrine might not have been consistently applied doesn’t mean necessarily that FDR approved German expansion to the east, which I think he did not.

This discussion has gone quite far afield from the original topic. I think I’m out of here. And no one is reading this thread any more anyway.

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LFC 04.23.12 at 10:13 pm

correction: shd be Sudetenland (not Sudentenland)

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Watson Ladd 04.23.12 at 10:30 pm

LFC, an agreement between the cop and the robber to split the contents of a safe is no agreement at all, even if those victimized are too cowed to protest.

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LFC 04.23.12 at 10:58 pm

Watson 286:
This being the Internet, I was afraid this would happen. I am, obviously, not/b> defending the wisdom of the Munich agreement. Virtually no one, apart perhaps from some revisionist biographers of Chamberlain, defends its wisdom, that’s why the so-called Munich analogy has had such a long life (but that’s another story). I was responding to a specific question. I think everyone interested in these questions (the Stimson doctrine, intl law on aggression etc etc etc) can pursue his/her own researches. There are numerous online resources, incl. the Electronic Information System for Intl Law maintained by the American Society of Intl Law. I do not intend to get further into this.

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LFC 04.23.12 at 10:59 pm

Sorry should not be all in bold. HTML fail. Only “not” was meant to be in bold.

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piglet 04.24.12 at 12:52 am

As a tiny comment to the legality question, it probably doesn’t even matter for the issue of whether something is imperialism/colonialism or not. I understand that the carving up of Africa by colonial powers in the 19th century was at the time believed to be perfectly legal by everybody whose opinion counted. There was no UN charter at the time. So what does that imply? Nothing.

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I.G.I. 04.24.12 at 7:39 pm

J. Otto Pohl
@118 “….natsionalnost (Soviet for race)…”

AFAIK this is incorrect. “Natsionalnost” (национальность) in Russian is not referring to race but to ethnicity, or more precisely, to ethno-nationality.

@131 “The Russian Germans as a collective group did not recover the right to choose their place of residency until 3 November 1972.”

The above is a bit misleading as it omit the broader context how life was organised in the Soviet Union. Place of residence was regarded as purely administrative issue, and strictly speaking, the individual right to choose one’s place of residence simply did not exist – not just for the Russian Germans but for everyone; and not until 1972 but right up to the System dismantling. That was also a feature of life, if not in each one, at least in some of the Eastern Block countries. To change one’s place of residency (town or province) for personal reasons required slow, complicated, and often impossible to obtain administrative permission. On the other hand, relocating due to professional demands was easier, and often facilitated for it was perceived to serve broader society/state interests.

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J. Otto Pohl 04.25.12 at 6:20 pm

I.G.I.

Ethnicity became racialized in the USSR in 1938. If a category is based on ancestry, inherited at birth, immutable, and transferred to future generations it is a racial category regardless of what the regime calls it. See the works of Eric Weitz, George Fredickson, John Rex, Kenan Malik, Etienn Balibar, and just about anybody else writing on race. Ethnicity and nationality are frequently used as codes for race. This was also true regarding natsionalnost in the USSR. See Marina Mogil’ner, _Homo Imperii: Istoriia fizicheskoi antropologii v Rossii (Konets XIX-Nachalo XX v.) _ (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe oborzenie, 2008, p. 495. I am getting tired of arguing this. But, apparently it never ends.

There was an official blanket prohibition on OVIR offices allowing Germans to return to their previous places of settlement embodied in the 13 December 1955 release of Russian-Germans from the special settlement regime. This prohibition was specifically repealed on 3 November 1972. No other national group had such a blanket ban in place. Under the 1965 CERD this clearly counts as racial discrimination under international law.

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J. Otto Pohl 04.25.12 at 6:40 pm

Oops the Mogil’ner citation should read pp. 494-495.

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Data Tutashkhia 04.25.12 at 7:03 pm

Appeal to authority, on something that’s clearly is a matter of opinion, is not much of an argument. Maybe that’s why. Seriously, someone named Marina Mogilner published a book, and that should settle it?

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dr ngo 04.25.12 at 8:20 pm

Seriously, somebody actually cites a published sources – presumptively by someone who has studied the issue closely – and this gets dismissed as intrinsically inferior to anyone’s unsubstantiated “argument”? No need to look at the source, or even to have heard of the author; the fact of its publication condemns it on the internet?

Seriously?

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David in NY 04.25.12 at 8:56 pm

I recall that the repression in Malaysia was viewed as a great Western victory in the late ’50′s, early ’60′s (both in the popular press and military circles) and thus a map for prosecution of the Viet Nam war by the US. I’m pretty sure the whole “strategic hamlet” business was inspired by Malaya, though conditions were very different in the two places and the ethnic aspect made Malaya not comparable to Viet Nam.

296

Data Tutashkhia 04.25.12 at 9:17 pm

@249, but what exactly is the issue here, that has been seriously studied ? That the word “Ukrainian” in a Soviet passport represents a racial category? Seriously?

297

Data Tutashkhia 04.25.12 at 9:25 pm

…if your axioms lead you to an absurd conclusion, then you may want to reexamine them.

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Emily 04.25.12 at 9:59 pm

@296 Data, Otto’s argument may be best understood as an argument against the categorisation (and all that it inplies – why does someone act to categorise another?) of human beings along specious lines. If you’re genuinely interested you may find Michel Foucault’s book (French title I’ve forgotten – it’s French for The Words and the Things if I remember rightly) The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human Sciences educational reading. I wouldn’t recommend it without qualifications, flaws I see are that, to me, I find it slightly lacking a moral compass and also a conception of individual agency and sense of obligation and duty to others. He constructs a position as much as he deconstructs one.

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Emily 04.25.12 at 10:02 pm

By the by, it’s also more teleological than any book calling itself an archaeology ought to be.

300

dr ngo 04.25.12 at 11:27 pm

@295 – British handling of the Malayan “Emergency,” including the use of “New Villages” (= strategic hamlets) was indeed considered seriously by American officials in Vietnam. In fact Sir Robert Thompson was wheeled in for special consultations. (Of course there were other Americans who believed that no Brit, or any other foreigner, could teach us *anything* about anything.) But the basic connection is well-documented.

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dr ngo 04.25.12 at 11:33 pm

@296 – I don’t claim to know anything at all about Soviet “natsionalnost,” but when a study is cited in support of the claim that it was often used “as a code for race,” I would at least consider the possibility that this might be correct. (Unless, of course, I had read the book or at the minimum knew the reputation of the author.) It wouldn’t even have to be wholly accurate – certainly we know of societies in which “racial” categories are mixed in with other ethnic/religious/historical ones.

As for dismissing this possibility out of hand on *a priori* grounds, I refer you to @297.

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emmanuelgoldstein 04.25.12 at 11:49 pm

Appeal to authority, on something that’s clearly is a matter of opinion, is not much of an argument. Maybe that’s why. Seriously, someone named Marina Mogilner published a book, and that should settle it?

Even accepting your characterisation that it’s a matter of opinion, appeal to authority is a decent argument, especially when, as here, there are independent reasons to think that the authority has relevant expertise.

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Data Tutashkhia 04.26.12 at 5:53 am

@301, but I do know a lot about about Soviet “natsionalnost”, and I am telling you: it’s simply absurd to call it “a code for race”. The word “study” doesn’t impress me; I see a violation of common sense, politicization, and bullshit all over.

I heard a woman named Madeleine Albright saying on TV yesterday that she has “Jewish background”. She seemed very excited about it, and apparently it means a lot her: she spent a half of 5 minute interview talking about it. If some bureaucrat decided that the “background” is important enough to put on the US passport, it could’ve been there too. Instead of, say, the “country of birth”. Someone like J. Edgar Hoover would, without a doubt, use it as one of the characteristics (among many) to profile for potential disloyalty. Would that make it “a code for race”? Seriously?

304

Data Tutashkhia 04.26.12 at 7:36 am

If a category is based on ancestry, inherited at birth, immutable, and transferred to future generations it is a racial category regardless of what the regime calls it.

These sound like characteristics (whether you agree with it or not) of a ‘racial category’, rather than a definition of it. The sky is blue, but not everything blue is the sky. ‘Surname’ has pretty much the same characteristics.

305

Salient 04.26.12 at 7:59 am

I heard a woman named Madeleine Albright saying on TV yesterday that she has “Jewish background”.

Thanks, Data, I needed confirmation that you deserve no credulity or respect, ever.

Just in case others aren’t familiar enough with the interview to realize what a reprehensible asshole you’re being here — though phrasing like “a woman named Madeleine Albright” should be a dead giveaway — I’ll note a bit of context: Albright’s parents responded to the German annexation of Sudetenland by fleeing Czechoslovakia (more specifically, the Czech Embassy in Serbia where her father held an appointment), and more importantly, by converting from Judaism to Catholicism. This was in 1938, when Albright was one year old.

This is a woman whose parents concealed that they had been Jewish; this is a woman whose extended family died in the Holocaust. She discovered this only recently, and it’s that discovery she had been asked to talk about in the interview. I can’t even fathom what kind of asshole would describe her description of that discovery as “She seemed very excited about it” as if it’s evidence of womanly silliness, and I can’t fathom what kind of denseness is necessary to say “apparently it means a lot her” as if the reasons for that meaningfulness are at all inscrutable or arbitrary.

But most of all, holy shit, dude, did you seriously just laugh off the proposition that having a “background” of Jewish parents would be considered a matter of race? In the specific context of Nazi Germany? Words can’t express how asinine that is, so I’ll forgo any further expression of disdain — but not because you deserve any forbearance.

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Data Tutashkhia 04.26.12 at 8:28 am

@305, really, “I heard a woman named Madeleine Albright …” deserves all that denunciation? The disagreement has been rather amicable here, before your flying off the handle, for no apparent reason. What is your contribution, exactly?

And, as Special Agent Dale Cooper said: Albert, where does this attitude of general unpleasantness come from?

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J. Otto Pohl 04.26.12 at 10:14 am

Surnames are not immutable they can be legally changed. From 1938 this was not the case with natsionalnost. The law required that it be the same as your parents. In practice there were some exceptions. But, in practice there were a lot of people of mixed race passing as white in South Africa as well.

308

Emily 04.26.12 at 10:20 am

Salient @305,
I’ve no idea about your personal background or place of residence; for a number of us, born after the process of ‘nation building’ and imperialism, we have a number of ethnic and cultural identities we might choose to identify as or not to identify as. Of my grandparents, 3 were born in Australia and 1 migrated here from Ireland as a young adolescent in the 1910s. In the three or four generations I know of (I haven’t actively traced my ancestry) I could choose to identify as Irish, Scottish, Jewish, or German – further than that I’ve no idea – which would you like to categorize me as – which legacy should I inherit? In terms of religion, for the same generations I could choose to identify as Jewish, Catholic, Protestant (Presbyterian), Atheist (after serving in WW2) – beyond that, again, I’ve no idea.
Again, I’ve no idea of your place of residence, but I hope you don’t take exception to me saying that it seems somewhat unconscionable at this point in history for those of us, such as Madeleine Albright (without meaning at all to discount the suffering of her family) and myself, residents of countries currently with high incomes and patterns of consumption, to publicly associate ourselves with history’s victims, while never forgetting the terrible events in our past and present.

“A skeptical generation stands at the threshold of adulthood, bereft not of ideals but of certainties, indeed distrustful of the grand revealed truth: disposed instead to accept the small truths, changeable from month to month on the convulsed wave of cultural fashions, whether guided or wild.
For us to speak with the young becomes ever more difficult. We see it as a duty, and at the same time as a risk: the risk of appearing anachronistic, of not bring listened to. We must be listened to: above and beyond our personal experiences, we have collectively been the witnesses of a fundamental, unexpected event, fundamental precisely because unexpected, not foreseen by anyone. It took place in the teeth of all forecasts; it happened in Europe. Incredibly it happened that an entire civilised people, just issued from the fervid cultural flowering of Weimar, followed a buffoon whose figure today inspires laughter, and yet Adolf Hitler was obeyed and his praises were sung right up to the catastrophe. It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say…. Violence, ‘useful’ or ‘useless,’ is there beforevour eyes: it snakes either through sporadic and private episodes, or government lawlessness, both in what we call the first and second worlds, that is to say, the parliamentary democracies and countries in the Communist area. In the third world it is endemic or epidemic. It only awaits it’s new buffoon (there us no dearth of candidates) to organise it, legalise it, declare it necessary and mandatory and so contaminate the world.
Few countries can be considered immune to a future tide of violence generated by intolerance, lust for power, economic difficulties, religious or political fanaticism, and racialist attritions. It is therefore necessary to sharpen our senses, distrust the prophets, the enchanters, those who speak and write ‘beautiful words’ unsupported by intelligent reasons.”
Primo Levi (1986) ” The Drowned and the Saved”

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Data Tutashkhia 04.26.12 at 12:27 pm

I watched Madeleine Albright yesterday, and was reminded of the concept of “background”, which seemed relevant to this discussion. Does it make me a Hitler? If Albright’s background has to be a taboo, Bill O’Reilly, who seems to be very much into his Irish background, would be another celebrity example. This, people having ‘backgrounds’ “based on ancestry, inherited at birth, immutable, and transferred to future generations”, seems very common. For reasons, I admit, I don’t understand.

310

dr ngo 04.26.12 at 7:51 pm

@306: “The disagreement has been rather amicable here, before your flying off the handle, for no apparent reason.” Salient just spent three paragraphs outlining the “reason” he holds your opinion in such contempt. You may disagree, but why deny the “reasonability” of his view?

@309: “Does it make me a Hitler?” No one called you a Hitler, IFAIK. Salient said you were a “reprehensible asshole” – giving his reasons (as noted) – which is not the same thing, although Hitler was himself a reprehensible asshole. The sky is blue, but not everything blue is the sky.

I haven’t called you anything, but I will say that you demonstrate a remarkable insensitivity to the way racial or quasi-racial legal categorizations have been used *within our lifetime* to harm people. Bill O’Reilly can rejoice in his Irish ancestry – as I in my Welsh – without such recent echoes, though both ethnicities have suffered in the more distant past. Survivors of the Nazi and Soviet empires are not always so fortunate.

311

Salient 04.26.12 at 8:38 pm

it seems somewhat unconscionable at this point in history for those of us, such as Madeleine Albright (without meaning at all to discount the suffering of her family) and myself, residents of countries currently with high incomes and patterns of consumption, to publicly associate ourselves with history’s victims, while never forgetting the terrible events in our past and present.

Hi, Emily, it’s possible that my earlier comment sounded hostile to this viewpoint, for which I’m very sorry. What you’ve said here, as well as the Levi quotation, make quite a lot of sense to me (though I might be a bit confused about the “never forgetting” part). It might be that Albright would agree with this, though it’s hard for me to tell from the interview alone. I should probably transcribe part of the interview, just to share what was said word for word:

[introduction & etc]

JS: “First of all, just, what an impressive piece of writing, Prague Winter. You really are a magnificent writer; I really enjoyed the way you have woven history with memoir, with sort of personal remembrance but also sort of with historically re-creating that time period. Is that–was your intention to combine those in a way?”

MA: “I mean, I kind of thought of the book in three layers. The inner core is obviously the personal story of trying to sort out who I really am, and also put it within the context of my parents’ lives [1:00], and then the second is the historical period, ’37 to ’48 is quite a period about how great nations made decisions about the fate of small countries, and then the third is about the difficulty of making moral decisions.”

JS: “To give the background. You lived in Czechoslovakia, that’s where you were born.”

MA: “I was born in Czechoslovakia. And my father had been the press attache in Belgrade at the time, my mother wanted me to be born in Prague. And then in 1939 when the Nazis marched in, we escaped to go to live in England because my father was with the government in exile, in London. So I spent the war in London, in bomb shelters, and I had a very British accent.”

JS: “And I would imagine a healthy disregard for Germany at the time.”

MA: “Very healthy disregard–And the thing that was so interesting, my father used to tell this story, is that [2:00] he was on one of those double-decker buses, and he tripped over somebody and he said, ‘I’m not sorry. That’s from Munich.’ [Laughter.]

JS: “Stuck in his craw a little bit.”

MA: “Definitely. And then we went back to Czechoslovakia in May 1945, and my father then was made ambassador to Yugoslavia afterward, so I never– I didn’t spend an awful lot of my time in Czechoslovakia, but I certainly learned a lot about what I thought was Czechoslovak history.”

JS: “And you went back, and you found that, even as much as the Nazis had done, that Czechoslovakia had its own sort of very complicated history with its German people in the Sudetenland.”

MA: “Right. I think it’s a very interesting country, if I may say so. [2:45] [Some stuff about Czechoslovakia that I'm too lazy to transcribe.] [3:20] Anyway, the issue was that there were minorities in Czechoslovakia, and a big one was the German minority, and the story of the beginning of the 30s was that the German minority didn’t feel that it was treated properly. And they were the Sudetenland Germans, and they then, as I learned history, were alleged in many ways of providing the environment for the creation of a Nazi party there. And so they were viewed as traitors, and in many cases they were. And so then what happened after the war, once the Allies had won, the German, Sudeten Germans, were all pushed out of Czechoslovakia. And when I was ambassador and then Secretary of State and we were talking about ethnic cleansing in Yugosla–, in the former Yugoslavia, they said, ‘Well, what do you think your people did to the Germans? They pushed them out too.’ This is one of those moral aspects, is: I don’t believe in collective guilt.”

JS: “Right.”

MA: “And one of the reasons that I was so vocal on the idea of the war crimes tribunal and the international criminal court, is that we can’t assign collective guilt, we have to find individual guilt.”

JS: “Right, and in some respects, it would be easier to believe there was an evil group that carried out this terrible thing, and no one else could ever approach that level of inhumanity, and yet we find that it, it really is more complicated than that, that–the good guys are sometimes the bad guys, and the bad guys are the good guys, and–”

“–well I think the hardest part of all of this, John, was realizing that within all of us there is some of the traitor, some of the person who rats on their neighbor — and then some people who are just amazingly brave. [Some more history.] The story in this book — and a lot of it is sad, I have to say, but some of it is really showing the resilience of people, I wanted to show that.”

JS: “[6:00] You yourself a few years back received a sort of a fuller picture of where you came from and who you are within that, that you did not know.”

MA: Well, for me — and I start the book this way, that I was 59 when I thought I knew who I was, and that I thought I knew about the country where I was born. And it turns out I didn’t know who I was, and I found out a lot of things about Czechoslovakia that I had not known. And so what happened was, when I was Ambassador at the United Nations, people began to write me letters which were barely readable but mostly they’d say ‘I’m your relative, send money.’ [Laughter.] You know what, I bet you in the end you and I are somehow related.

JS: “Right. Well, you found out that your parents were Jewish, and that a lot of your family had perished in the Holocaust, and you had not been raised that way.”

MA: “And I did not know that. I had been raised a Roman Catholic, and then became an Episcopalian when I got married, and I did not know about my Jewish background. And when I was being vetted for Secretary of State [7:00] finally somebody sent me a letter that seemed to have the names and villages and dates right, and so when I was being vetted the lawyer said, ‘tell us something about you that we haven’t asked that you think we ought to know.’ And I said, ‘well, it’s perfectly possible that I am of Jewish background,’ and they said, ‘so what? Our President is not anti-Semitic.’ [Laughter.] And it wasn’t until later a reporter went back and kind of found a lot– it’s one thing to find out you’re Jewish, which I thought was fascinating and very pleased to know about the complexity of my background, it’s another to find out that more than two dozen of my relatives died in the Holocaust.”

JS: “Right. And that’s the part that you begin to– I imagine it’s that, sort of, a very complex feeling of, of almost guilt, pride, things that you didn’t know that are–must be very difficult to work through.”

MA: “Well, very strange, and I must say, y’know, people want to know how come I, smart person that I’m supposed to be, had never thought about this? [8:00] And if you never know that there’s something about you, there was no reason to ever ask.”

JS: “Right.”

“And so I’m really, very– I never had a chance to ask my parents, because when I found all this out they were dead. [8:10] But. So. The reason I wrote the book was out of remembrance and honoring those who did die, and then to explain the story, and then the resilience part, I really–and then some issues about leadership, that leaders often operate on wishful thinking. Chamberlain thought that Hitler might change, Roosevelt thought that Stalin might change. Leaders need to operate on the basis of facts, not on wishful thinking.”

[8:40; commercial break]

312

Salient 04.26.12 at 8:41 pm

(retry to escape auto-moderation: 1/3)

it seems somewhat unconscionable at this point in history for those of us, such as Madeleine Albright (without meaning at all to discount the suffering of her family) and myself, residents of countries currently with high incomes and patterns of consumption, to publicly associate ourselves with history’s victims, while never forgetting the terrible events in our past and present.

It might be that my earlier comment sounded hostile to this viewpoint, for which I’m very sorry. What you’ve said here, as well as Levi’s statement, make quite a lot of sense to me (though I might be a bit confused about the “never forgetting” part). Possibly it’s the case that Albright would agree with it as well, though it’s hard for me to tell from the interview alone. I should probably transcribe part of the interview, just to share what was said word for word:

JS: “First of all, just, what an impressive piece of writing, Prague Winter. You really are a magnificent writer; I really enjoyed the way you have woven history with memoir, with sort of personal remembrance but also sort of with historically re-creating that time period. Is that—was your intention to combine those in a way?”

MA: “I mean, I kind of thought of the book in three layers. The inner core is obviously the personal story of trying to sort out who I really am, and also put it within the context of my parents’ lives [1:00], and then the second is the historical period, ‘37 to ‘48 is quite a period about how great nations made decisions about the fate of small countries, and then the third is about the difficulty of making moral decisions.”

313

Salient 04.26.12 at 8:42 pm

(retry to escape auto-mod — 2/3)

JS: “To give the background. You lived in Czechoslovakia, that’s where you were born.”

MA: “I was born in Czechoslovakia. And my father had been the press attache in Belgrade at the time, my mother wanted me to be born in Prague. And then in 1939 when the Nazis marched in, we escaped to go to live in England because my father was with the government in exile, in London. So I spent the war in London, in bomb shelters, and I had a very British accent.”

JS: “And I would imagine a healthy disregard for Germany at the time.”

MA: “Very healthy disregard—And the thing that was so interesting, my father used to tell this story, is that [2:00] he was on one of those double-decker buses, and he tripped over somebody and he said, ‘I’m not sorry. That’s from Munich.’ [Laughter.]

JS: “Stuck in his craw a little bit.”

MA: “Definitely. And then we went back to Czechoslovakia in May 1945, and my father then was made ambassador to Yugoslavia afterward, so I never—I didn’t spend an awful lot of my time in Czechoslovakia, but I certainly learned a lot about what I thought was Czechoslovak history.”

JS: “And you went back, and you found that, even as much as the Nazis had done, that Czechoslovakia had its own sort of very complicated history with its German people in the Sudetenland.”

MA: “Right. I think it’s a very interesting country, if I may say so.” [2:45 -- some history stuff that I'm too lazy to transcribe.]

314

Salient 04.26.12 at 8:53 pm

nevermind, auto-mod is killing me. Here’s the transcription

http://queensprizeawaits.blogspot.com/2012/04/john-stewart-and-madeleine-albright.html

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Emily 04.26.12 at 10:13 pm

I don’t have time For a considered response. But, basically the problem is of conflicted impulses between sharing our commonality with others, and maintaining (when genuinely felt whether traditional or re-created – see Kilt chapter in Invention of Traditions/ use of tradition in 1980s China politics and cinema, the volk in Germany etc) our otherness (by which how do we maintain a common humanity?)
dr ngo it is either willfully ignorant or disingenuous to say what you say about the Irish – there is still entrenched poverty, segregation and the threat of violence in Ireland – any decent literature review would show that!

316

dr ngo 04.26.12 at 10:36 pm

Emily (@314): I’m sorry for the confusion. I was not actually thinking of the situation in Ireland, but that of the Irish in the United States, who faced massive discrimination (in jobs, housing, law, society) in the middle of the 19th century, but who have over the past 150 years or so lost most of that curse, so that an American of Irish descent can boast of his or her heritage without fear of recrimination and even be elected President (if he’s good-looking, glib, and has a millionaire father). In short, that particular brand of ethnic hostility, in this particular situation, has largely abated – which is not always the case.

317

Emily 04.26.12 at 10:46 pm

It is sort of similar in Australia, but assimilation is a vexed issue. The Irish were persecuted in the UK and deprived of land and other rights because many wanted to maintain Catholicism: there was a lot of sectarianism in Australia in the past, and it hasn’t gone away – our Opposition Leader is Catholic and there is a lot of open hostility to that in the press – my understanding is that that is also the case for one of the (now withdrawn) Republican presidential candidates in the United States?

318

Watson Ladd 04.26.12 at 11:53 pm

Emily: Newt was Catholic, but that wasn’t really an issue, nor was Romney’s Mormonism. Religious bigotry is gone in the US: that’s a change probably around 1963 when Kennedy got shot. At least, none of the usual targets (Mormons, Jews, Catholics) encounter it.

As for otherness, I think its worth noting that things that individuals think of as important aren’t things that others think of as important. Ones religion doesn’t require special notice by anyone, or one’s ethnicity. To the extent it becomes noticed, it becomes coercive in a way the simple existence of such a category isn’t. Interestingly this seems to have created a reversal: the people who say they are against racism are for making race a category that will determine treatment, while those against such a system are accused of perpetuating racism.

319

rf 04.27.12 at 12:03 am

“Religious bigotry is gone in the US”

Sure you’ve even elected a Muslim

320

rf 04.27.12 at 12:07 am

That should obviously be as President

321

Emily 04.27.12 at 12:42 am

Watson, I understood that Santorum was the Catholic Republican runner and from my reading of your liberal press (New Yorker, NYT et al) it seemed to cause a great deal of consternation. Is this not the case?

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Emily 04.27.12 at 12:54 am

And for what it’s worth Kennedy didn’t seem particularly attached to practicing his Catholic inheritance, preceding philandery and lunar-tic endeavours – much like Newt.

As well as I have also read works suggesting some discrimination exists with regard to a lot of the disestablishment church groups (not only the mennonites, but congregationalists and traditional baptists etc) or those who are their descendants, in the Appalachian area (aren’t their traditions often reduced to the old ‘Weird America’, Marshal Sahlins has written of the use of shame and humiliation to coerce development in the Pacific) – structural economic effects come into this too – a lot of mining is located among these communities. And isn’t there now the phenomenon of ‘hill billy heroin’?

323

rf 04.27.12 at 12:58 am

Fwiw, my impression was that Santorum did particularly well with grassroot Evangelical voters (which isn’t surprising considering his dogmatic brand of Catholicism)

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/24/us/santorums-catholicism-draws-evangelicals.html

But actually polled badly with Catholics (or at least ‘lost’ their vote in a number of states)

324

Tim Wilkinson 04.27.12 at 1:06 am

Yeah, this fear and resentment of the erstwhile subjects of the 3rd Reich (yea, even unto the 2nd or even 3rd generation) was shared by my Prussian-Jewish grandmother. Of TV coverage of the Berlin wall coming down, she reportedly said “When I saw those cruel faces, it made my blood run cold.”

I suppose the (Russian) Soviet oppression of ethnic German folk between 1939 and 1972 started out with internment of potential enemy sympathisers (which was of course common though itself objectionable) and went rapidly downhill from there.

The point of this is (yawn) not to justify anything. Point is, J.O.P. says ‘no other national group had such a blanket ban in place’, and the treatment of ethnic and actual Germans was clearly closely connected with their being associated with Nazi aggression, like a form of collective punishment. I believe the Soviets announced their use of ‘German’ slave labour after the war as a form of reparation (which is also always a collective matter, in the sense that the population of the state making reparations, including members of new generations, will suffer regardless of responsibility). So I don’t think these events – specifically not the example J.O.P provides, which ended well within a generation in 1972 – provide much support for the thesis that the USSR was racist, or not to the extent J.O.P. seems to claim it was.

(On a purely speculative note, I wonder whether specifically preventing ethnic Germans from returning to pre-war residences had anything to do with fear of a post-war resurgence of Nazism. Remaining active Nazis and Fascists were broadly speaking on the US side in the Cold War, too, and had always been virulently anti-communist of course.)

It would be very interesting to know what Mogil’ner actually says in the referenced passage. Maybe it consists of pure uncheckable opinion, so that even if the passage were quoted, J.O.P. would still have to rely on appeal to an authority selected by him. Even if so, at least it would then be possible to assess the strength of support it provides, and to what proposition.

325

JanieM 04.27.12 at 1:10 am

I understood that Santorum was the Catholic Republican runner and from my reading of your liberal press (New Yorker, NYT et al) it seemed to cause a great deal of consternation. Is this not the case?

It’s ridiculous to say that religious bigotry is gone in the US, but concerns about Santorum as a candidate were about his particular brand of extremism, not about his Catholicism as such.

For one thing, there’s a big disconnect in the US between millions of ordinary lay Catholics on the one hand (plus a lot of the nuns, it would seem), and the church hierarchy (bishops and cardinals and a lot of priests, though I suspect there are a lot of priests just trying to keep mum and weather the storm these days).

For another, there are lots of Catholics in high political office — governors, Congressfolks, six out of nine members of the Supreme Court — and mostly it isn’t worth mentioning, again in terms of whether Catholicism as such matters to most people. What matters (in both directions) is the extent to which any given politician is ready and willing to run on a platform of shoving his or her religious beliefs down everyone else’s throat. That was the problem with Santorum.

As to “discrimination with regard to a lot of disestablishment church groups” — there can’t disestablishment when there’s no establishment. However much a lot of self-styled Christians feel that this is their country and no one else’s, there has never been an established church — in the sense of a state religion — in the US, and the FSM forbid there ever should be.

326

JanieM 04.27.12 at 1:18 am

Oh yeah, and if you think there’s no religious discrimination in the US these days, just try running for office as an “out” atheist.

327

JanieM 04.27.12 at 1:47 am

no religious discriminationbigotry

328

Emily 04.27.12 at 2:06 am

JanieM,
When I say disestablishment I mean the Established Churches of Europe. These include the Roman Catholic Church, Lutheranism in Germany I think, the Church of England, the Church of Scotland and perhaps others.
Insofar as I know a large number of early settlers from Europe were from the Puritan or disestablishment protestant faiths and were drawn to migrating to America and later other colonies because they were able to escape the persecution they often faced in Europe. The Mennonites are a good example of this, as are the Welsh Congregationalists.

Their freedom to live according to their own beliefs did, it should be acknowledged, come at the cost of others. I think that this is why Thanksgiving is as important to America as July 4th – because to my mind at least it shows and memorialises at least a moment of reciprocity between those who were different.

With regard to your comment as to candidates ‘shoving their religious beliefs down everyone elses throat’ – if we take religion and philosophical or other beliefs as being essentially the same – isn’t this what all lawmakers do regardless – they make laws based on their own judgement for constituents or subjects to follow?

And sometimes these binding laws prevent some constituents or subjects from living according to their own personal or cultural beliefs. And sometimes lawmakers pass injust laws.

329

Emily 04.27.12 at 2:13 am

JanieM
Atheism is hard because it is hard to understand. To me, if atheists reject a particular concept of God or metaphysics, I think if they want to go into lawmaking they need to be able to justify to voters what their fundamental principles are.
I find a public figure like Richard Dawkins exceedingly difficult because on the one hand he seems to reject that there is an immaterial, or metaphysical aspect to the world, and that everything is simply a physics but he insists on publicly using metaphysical terms like ‘good’ and ‘meaningfulness’. His entire position seems illogical to me.

330

JanieM 04.27.12 at 2:23 am

… isn’t this what all lawmakers do regardless…

No, not in practical effect, it really isn’t. At the very least, there are degrees of willingness to co-exist with people of varying beliefs and to make laws that foster or squash that kind of co-existence, and Santorum is far toward the “unwilling” extreme.

And sometimes these binding laws prevent some constituents or subjects from living according to their own personal or cultural beliefs. And sometimes lawmakers pass injust laws.

Profound. I almost didn’t add a comment to this thread, and now I see that I should have listened to myself. The goalpost shifting is making me dizzy.

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Data Tutashkhia 04.27.12 at 6:26 am

dr ngo: I haven’t called you anything, but I will say that you demonstrate a remarkable insensitivity to the way racial or quasi-racial legal categorizations have been used within our lifetime to harm people.

I have a problem with a couple of Otto’s claims, presented as sober historical analysis. One is that Soviet Baltic republics were colonial possessions of Russia. The other is that the USSR was as racist as South Africa.

My charge is that his claims are exaggerated, by mixing melodrama into the analysis. And you now accuse me of not being melodramatic enough? Why, I take it as a compliment.

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J. Otto Pohl 04.27.12 at 10:42 am

This thread is really getting too long. Unfortunately the CT editors will never allow a separate thread on ethnic minorities in the USSR and their treatment. But, in response to Tim Wilkerson at 324.

I could put up an exact translation of the Mogil’ner piece if people really want. I cited it because I believe Russian is the native language of I.G.I and maybe Data as well.
The basic gist of the Mogil’ner passages are that natsional’nost is a racial and racist category and was seen as such by the Soviet population for two reasons. First it was a category that was biological. You automatically inherited your parent’s legal status and there was no official legal way to change it. So the state marked each individual as being part of a group determined solely by biological inheritance not by actual cultural practices or primary language. In this context being German, Jewish, Kalmyk, Korean, or Chuchki is a racial rather than an ethnic matter.

Second, the terms resonated with a vast unofficial mass of racist stereotypes, epitaphs, jokes, and even violence. That is the official structure of classifying people along lines of cultural essentialism reinforced unofficial negative perceptions associated with these groups. Ethnic animosity did not all the sudden appear out of nowhere under Gorbachev. Calling somebody a German wrongly associated loyal Soviet citizens whose ancestors had come from Hesse to the Volga in 1774 with the Nazis and their atrocities. Calling somebody a Jew tapped into well established traditions of anti-semitism. The Chuchki jokes were and still are a throwback to the absolute worst of 19th century European colonial racism.

The Soviet Union forcibly deported and placed under a separate legal and administrative system a number of peoples in their entirety. This separate system gave them fewer rights, opportunities, and material goods than other Soviet citizens of different nationalities. It is on this basis that I maintain that the institution of the special settlement regime or in the case of the Koreans administrative exile were racist institutions. The deportees suffered legal disabilities on the basis of their natsional’nost that other groups did not. The deportees could not move freely, they could not serve in the military, and they suffered extremely high mortality rates due to a lack of adequate housing, food, and medicine for them in their places of internal exile. The Karachai demographer, D.M. Ediev puts the excess deaths for all the groups collectively due to poor conditions in the places of exile at around 20%, but some such as the Chechens were considerably higher. Among the groups so treated were Koreans, Germans, Karachais, Chechens, Ingush, Balkars, Crimean Tatars, and Meskhetian Turks. In total over two million people of which ethnic Germans were the single largest group making up over half the total and the last to officially recover the collective right to choose their place of residency.

There was no internment of Germans in 1939-1940. The 1937-38 Great Terror had already eliminated anybody who might be considered a potential enemy. The deportations came as a complete surprise to the group in 1941. Just before the deportations the Soviet government had been recruiting Volga German communists for political work in the Red Army. There is an official report on this dated 21 August 1941. On 24 August 1941, two days before the first and at the time unpublished deportation order for the Volga Germans (SNK and CC of CPSU), _Komsomol’skaia Pravda_ had an article the heroism of Heinrich Hoffmann a 20 year old Komsomol member killed by the Nazis. The article throughout stressed the fact that Hoffmann was a Volga German and Soviet patriot who had died defending the USSR. There was no public indication until 30 August 1941 that the Volga Germans in their entirety along with the rest of the USSR’s ethnic Germans were about to be brutally expelled from the Soviet family of nations. On that day the 28 August 1941 Presidium of the Supreme Soviet decree was published in _Bolshevik_ and _Nachrichten_ in the Volga German ASSR.

It should be noted that all of the Germans deported in 1941 and later rounded up for forced labor in the labor army in 1942 and 1943 were Soviet citizens. They were descendants of immigrants from Central Europe to the Russian Empire before there was a unified German state. Indeed many came from areas never incorporated into Germany such as Switzerland and Holland. Between the Nazi invasion of the USSR and the deportation of the Volga Germans in September 1941, the NKVD found only two people out of over 350,000 ethnic Germans in the Volga German ASSR they considered to be spies for Nazi Germany. Over 30,000 Russian-Germans were at this time in the Red Army and many of them were fighting against the Nazis. The Russian-Germans were well represented among the Red Army soldiers that fought against the Nazis at the Battle of Brest early on in the war. There were also thousands of Russian-Germans in the Communist Party and Komsomol who had been actively working to “build socialism.” They along with the rest of the population consisting mostly of women, children, and the elderly were severely persecuted not for any political ties with the Nazis, but solely due to distant ancestral ties with Central Europe. They were not allowed to return not because of any fear of a rebirth of Naziism. Otherwise they might have started with purging the DDR of officials who were former Nazis. The Soviet government had also issued a decree on 28 August 1964 noting that the charges of disloyalty and treason against the Russian-Germans were false and that they had contributed to the victory over Nazi Germany during the war through their labor. But, that the Germans could not return home because they had become “rooted” in their new places of settlement. Instead Mikoyan was quite honest in 1965 with a group of Volga German activists seeking the restoration of the Volga German ASSR. He told them they could not return home because without their labor that the agriculture of northern Kazakhstan would collapse. How is this any less racist than the US internment of American citizens of Japanese descent?

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J. Otto Pohl 04.27.12 at 11:37 am

Oops I meant in response to Tim Wilkinson. I keep spelling his name wrong.

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J. Otto Pohl 04.27.12 at 12:31 pm

Here is a short part of the Mogil’ner on passport natsional’nost being racist from p. 494.

“But, these real “differences” were not only not overcome in social practice, but were even implanted and strengthened on an official level – in part, through the obligatory fixing of _natsional’nost_ in the passport. _’Natsional’nost’_ in Soviet passports, was determined by the father’s or mother’s ‘blood’, this was in essence not only racial, but ‘racist’ in that it was understood that these categories, were insurmountable stigmas or inherited advantages. It was not possible to choose or ‘construct’, one’s parentage.”

She goes into a lot more detail about how this official classification interactsed with the unofficial racism in Soviet society.

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J. Otto Pohl 04.27.12 at 1:12 pm

OOps, I mangled the first line of the translation. It should read.

“But, in reality these “differences” were not only not overcome in social practice, but were even implanted and strengthened on an official level – in part, through the obligatory fixing of _natstional’nost_ in the passport. _’Natsional’nost’_ in Soviet passports, was determined by father’s or mother’s ‘blood’, this was in essence not only racial, but ‘racist’ in that it was understood that these categories, were insurmountable stigmas or inherited advantages. It was not possible to choose or ‘construct’, one’s parentage.” (Mogil’ner, p. 494).

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Barry 04.27.12 at 1:21 pm

Emily 04.27.12 at 2:13 am

” JanieM
Atheism is hard because it is hard to understand. To me, if atheists reject a particular concept of God or metaphysics, I think if they want to go into lawmaking they need to be able to justify to voters what their fundamental principles are.”

Tell you what – when your oh-so-pious right-wing politicians come clean as to what their fundamental principles are, then and only then will you have the moral standing to demand such things.

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bianca steele 04.27.12 at 2:04 pm

FWIW Congregationalism was the established church in Massachusetts until 1833. Of course their treatment of other religions was a copy of the colonists’ memory of the unjust bias they’d perceived being used against themselves.

(The Unitarians broke off in 1818. Harvard had gone Unitarian as early as 1805. So that must have been interesting.)

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Data Tutashkhia 04.27.12 at 2:12 pm

It was, originally, Lenin’s idea to – not only acknowledge – but respect and encourage this ‘ethnic background’ (not ‘blood’) identity. Because he, for some reason, was into the ‘national self-determination’ idea, not a typical marxist thing.

Well, the reason is probably simple enough: the Russian empire was indeed unique, tremendously multi-ethnic, with complicated cross~ethnic and cross~sub~ethnic relationships. Still, that was exactly the opposite of how they dealt with religion: they just suppressed it and almost made it illegal altogether.

I agree that it seems that it would be wiser to tone down this ‘ethnic background’ identity, rather than emphasizing it, but I wasn’t there in the 1920s, so it’s hard to judge. And then there was Stalinism. It turned everything upside down, and this is just one thing of many.

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J. Otto Pohl 04.27.12 at 2:44 pm

Data:

Nobody is accusing Lenin of racializing _natsional’nost_. That happened in the 1930s. Although the ideas had always existed from Tsarist times as Mogil’ner notes. The official stamp of making ethnicity biological first comes from the Soviet ethnographers under Lev Shternberg. Originally an evolutionist, by 1924 when Lenin died Shternberg had definitely become a primordialist and believer in cultural essentialism passed down and preserved through the biological mechanism of endogamy. His successors Bogoraz, Arsenev, Shirokogorov, and Bromley amplified this. Shirokogorov is interesting in that his work is not only cited extensively by Bromely as a primary basis for Soviet ethos theory, but also by South African _volkekundiges_ as one of the pillars of South African ethnos theory which was used to justify apartheid. But, _natsional’nost_ only became a racial category after Lenin’s death. Pleading that he meant it to be ethnic in a cultural sense does not change the fact that Shternberg et. al. understood ethnicity to be racial and the NKVD turned this understanding into practice.

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Data Tutashkhia 04.27.12 at 3:00 pm

OK, I still don’t accept this as a reasonable angle (that Stalin’s NKVD would study subtle aspects of anthropology and all that. They’d just make the widest sweep possible, trying to save their own skin; the usual CYA thing), but fair enough, I guess. Peace, man.

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Watson Ladd 04.27.12 at 10:04 pm

Emily: “Be a man in the street and a Jew in the house.” Just because Kennedy refused to make his faith a public affair didn’t mean he had it. It’s important to realize that lawmakers pass laws ideally rooted in reasons we can all access. A law rooted in divine revelation doesn’t count. Also, we can use phrases sans referent, like Easter Bunny or the largest prime number. I wouldn’t object to a candidate being asked how they make moral decisions: after all, that is going to be part of their job, and if they feel better asking a higher power for help, that’s fine. What the content of that decision is will matter, and to the extent religion determines the content, it is a relevant thing to talk about. (Of course, religion is never determinative: Jimmy Carter was our first evangelical President.)

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