60 years ago, on June 22, 1941, Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa -- the invasion of Russia. The biggest attack recorded in history entailed a force of 8.7 million men, six million troops and 1.7 million airmen backed by 3,000 tanks and gun carriers and 5,000 aircraft, along a front of 1,800 miles that stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. Barbarossa was delayed by some 1.5 months because Hitler embarked on an unplanned attack of Serbia on April 6, 1941, as the Serbs had dared to stand against the Nazis. So Serbia was bombed into ashes and Yugoslavia dismembered. But this Balkan foray and its ensuing delay to launch Barbarossa turned out to be crucial for the defeat of the German war machine as it encountered a fierce Russian resistance and later in that year faced the grinding Russian winter with temperatures as low as minus 40 C. that led to its Stalingrad fate. Fast forward: sixty years later, in June 2001, Yugoslavia is again carved into statelets, Serbian economic infrastructure is in ashes, courtesy of the 1999 NATO illegal bombing campaign, and the Serbs are once more condemned to poverty and subjugated to abject blackmail from their conquerors. Read the present conditions under which Serbs are forced to live as reported by our correspondent in Novi Sad, Stevan Konstantinović, and the heart-breaking reaction of his translator, Alma Hromic (who was born in Novi Sad); you'll better understand the situation under which Milosevic is being betrayed and traded for the double-edge sword of some illusory financial relief. But will history also record that at the turn of the 21st century the small Serbian nation halted the advance of the American war machine? Will they, by their resistance and the same determination to not surrender to barbarity, will they once again save the world from the abyss into which it is heading?
Barbarity, excesses that are always exceeded, constant re-fighting of the last war....are subjects that Milo Clark covers in a five-part series, "Please Be Patient," that we are starting to publish today. War is also a subject covered by Deck Deckert who pertinently advocates to let old people fight their own wars. Imagine how policies would change if the politicians who vote for wars had to fight them! And Aleksandra Priestfield shares her thoughts on the wickedness of racism, anti-semitism and bigotry that are so alive and well in America, most often next door, close to home, in the mythological Suburbia. Barbarity again...
You and I are bombarded daily by incessant infomercials related to the best social system (of course, it's the USA), the best economic system (of course it's the "free-market" advanced by who else but the USA) and the best political system (of course, it's democracy as represented in....the USA). But what really is the meaning of democracy when the party in power, whether in the US or in Britain, was elected with less than 25 percent of the eligible voters? What does it tell you when 40 percent or more of those eligible voters, the "Abstention Party," does not even bother to show up to the polls? Is there any correlation between the dismal democratic representation of the various anointed bureaucratic monarchies (Bush II, Blair, et al.) and the need for the latter to wage repetitive wars against any social system that refuses those truly quite undemocratic paths? Is there a correlation between the destruction of Yugoslavia, Iraq, Nicaragua, etc., the asphyxia of Cuba and Iraq, and the fact that our elected officials only represent a minority whose personal interest is to keep things as they are? Stephen Gowans, a new contributor to Swans, explores this question. A must read...
And as always, a bit of poetry to soften your soul, thanks to Sandy Lulay. Enjoy this rendition and please do not forget to form your own opinion.
Personal footnote: For the past three weeks I have been engulfed in the re-roofing of our 66-year old 1,000 square foot all redwood house with the help of my close friend, Frank Wycoff, and the advice (and occasional hands-on assistance) of a professional contractor and friend of ours, Steve Mader. I have had no time whatsoever for Swans as we worked daily in 100 degrees F.. The flock of Swans came to the fore and provided all the material for this and the past editions. Seeing the quality of the work the team produced, I am in awe, have a ton of gratitude to each of them, present the collective work to you with great pride, and, come to think of it, feel I should keep working on the house forever!
Stevan Konstantinović: The Balkans That's Us!
About 3 million people in Serbia live below the poverty line. The Serbian Ministry for Social Protection has released the fact that, as of this moment, an income of 60 Deutschmarks (DEM) or about $25 US per family member is the lower limit necessary in order to survive for a month. The average four-member family requires about 240DEM or $110 US in order to satisfy the most basic survival necessities - in the first place food, which takes 90% of any available income. Over and above that money must be found for the payment of utility bills, clothing, shoes, telephone, heating during the winter months, schoolbooks for the children, medical expenses... More...
Stevan Konstantinović, a member of the Authors' Guild of Vojvodina, is an advisor for culture, education and science in the provincial administration of Vojvodina, Yugoslavia.
Alma A. Hromic: Note From the Translator (on The Balkans That's Us!)
Some days it is like looking into an old and rust-speckled mirror, one that is twisted and distorted and bent, and one that returns a reflection that bears almost no resemblance to what I believed was the real world. A smiling face turns into a leer. A cool cup of water turns green with poison. More...
Alma Hromic is an acclaimed novelist and a poet who was born in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia. She is the co-author with R. A. Deckert of Letters from the Fire
Stephen Gowans: The Democratic Dilemma
With Tony Blair's New Labour taking roughly 40 percent of the popular vote in the UK elections, and the voter turn out at 60 percent -- the lowest rate since 1918 -- the election results shake out roughly like this: Labour had the support of 24 percent of eligible voters; 36 percent of the eligible vote was split among the opposition parties; and 40 percent abstained. Looked at in this way, it's clear that headlines that proclaimed a lopsided Labour victory were wrong. Labour didn't win the election. The Abstention Party did. More...
Stephen Gowans is a writer and political activist who lives in Ottawa, Canada.
Aleksandra Priestfield: Racism
Everywhere you look, there are banners, books, pamphlets. "Lest we forget." "Never again." "Close the door on hate."
You would think that racism and anti-semitism and prejudices based on skin color, class and faith are pretty much something that the human race has learned to control, has learned to get over, has learned to dismiss in favor of a more even-handed way of judging one's fellow human beings purely on the merits of who, not what, they are.
Think again. More...
Aleksandra Priestfield, a writer and an editor, contributes her regular columns to Swans
Deck Deckert: Let The Old Men Fight
More than 10 years ago, when King George the First was preparing to go to war with Iraq to defend oil profits, I made a modest proposal -- let the old men fight for once.
Throughout history, old men have been sending young men, children really, into battle. More...
A former copy, wire and news editor, Deck Deckert is a freelance writer. He is the author, with Alma Hromic of Letters from the Fire.
Milo Clark: Please Be Patient II
A premise: "Attempting to solve problems using the tools, techniques and thoughts which create them is silly."
My perspectives related to this premise are rooted in systems and strategies. A logical response to this premise is "So what?" or "Then what?" To which I reply, "We need not only to re-think but also to dig deeply into fundamental, structural assumptions." I assume that delving deeply into systems will lead to more relevant strategies. Now what? More...
Milo Clark is a Swans' founding member, advisor and columnist.
Milo Clark: How Much is Enough?
"Love is the key we must turn
Truth is the flame we must burn
Freedom the lesson we must learn
Do you know what I mean?
Have your eyes really seen?"
--love song by Lesley Duncan
(performed by Elton John)
Last year I wrote and passed by the deft eyes of Swans scanners some commentary flowing from the works of historian John Lukacs. Intrepid Swans scanners may remember his warning or prediction that the end of the twentieth century may mark a return to barbarity as a norm of the human condition.
Here in the early twenty first century, Lukacs appears to be prescient. (viz. The Balkans et al) More...
Milo Clark is a Swans' founding member, advisor and columnist.
Sandy Lulay: ROBOT MINDS
Long ago and before that
Love was it's own Jewel;
Unto itself all things.
Not so, said the Gods and Kings
Love is ignorance, showing nothing.
In all their gold, they claimed
To own the sum of everything. More...
An "Original Woodstock Girl," Sandy Lulay is also a "Swans kind of girl" who's been writing poetry since age 10.