The assault on national sovereignty

On behalf of the Communist Party of Sweden (SKP) I would like to thank the Communist Party of Greece for arranging this conference and for inviting us to participate.

SKP regards the European Union as the spearhead of imperialism in Europe. We do not believe that the EU can be transformed into a socialist organization, and we have consistently argued that Sweden should withdraw from it.

Sweden joined the EU in 1994 on the initiative of the Social Democrats, who arranged a popular referendum and a comprehensive so-called information campaign that was deliberately misleading. Despite this, only fractionally more than 50% of the Swedes voted to join.

Since then the social democratic government has actively implemented neoliberal policies with the support of the bourgeois, left and green parties in the Swedish parliament. Privatization has probably been more extensive in Sweden than in any other western EU country, and efforts to dismantle the public sector are continuing, in compliance with EU directives and policies.

After only a few years it was obvious that a large proportion of the Swedes had realized that they had been tricked. The government was therefore forced to repeatedly postpone a referendum on joining the European Monetary Union, which has been at the top of the European capitalist agenda since at least the mid-1980s.

The referendum was finally held In 2003, mainly because the prime minister foolishly believed that a majority could be persuaded to vote Yes. A special minister was appointed with the task of selling the EMU to the people. The Swedes rejected the EMU by a 6 to 4 margin, the largest in any referendum since World War II. This came as a shock to the Social Democrat leadership as well as the bourgeois parties.

Those of us who campaigned against the EMU in street rallies and public debates were not surprised at all. It was clear that both the working class and sections of the middle-class were angry at the results of neoliberal policies, although many of them are still not ready to accept the socialist alternative.

The main reason for rejecting the EMU was a widespread insight, often intuitive, that joining it would be a disastrous additional erosion of Sweden’s national sovereignty and the people’s right to self-determination.

This explains why the Swedish government has refused to arrange a popular referendum on the new EU constitution. The real reason has not been admitted publicly, of course.

The reasons that have been given publicly are fuzzy, to say the least. The Swedish foreign minister has said that 1) by voting to join the EU and ratify the Maastricht Agreement in 1994 the Swedes actually accepted the proposed constitution of 2004, 2) the issues involved are so complex that ordinary citizens cannot understand them, and 3) the changes in the new constitution are so insignificant that they are not worth the bother of debate or a referendum.

Among other things, for Sweden the new constitution would enable entering NATO by the back door. More than 60% of the Swedish voters are against joining NATO, and the government is well aware of this.

But pressure for a referendum is mounting, and SKP is participating actively in a nation-wide campaign to ensure one. The government is currently trying to hedge its position with a vague promise that the question will be dealt with somehow in the parliamentary elections scheduled for 2006.

The attack on the principle of national sovereignty
The negation of national sovereignty is central to imperialism and takes many forms, including the EU and the WTO. It is part of the development of a new and higher form of fascism which like the previous version eliminates the last vestiges of bourgeois democratic processes. We are constantly being reminded that the sovereign state is an anachronism, that we need a modern structure adapted to new needs.

SKP is convinced that the bourgeois sovereign state, despite its limitations, must be defended because it enables the working class to exercise political power. At this point in time, replacing it by supranational structures can only benefit the capitalists.

In the 1930s, fascist jurists tried to legitimize German imperialism on the grounds that a homogeneous ethnic group – das volk – forms the true nation and is of a higher order than the state. This means that the ethnic nation also supersedes international law, which consists of agreements between states.

Military intervention in other countries is justified if the leader of das volk considers that it is required in order to safeguard members of this group, regardless of national jurisdiction. A similar concept is also a component of Zionist ideology, and Zionist leaders had repeated contact with officials of the Third Reich.

Governments in the Baltic countries are currently applying the principle of the ethnic nation to deny civil rights to the Russian-speaking pert of the population.

In other sections of the imperialist camp, violations of national sovereignty have often been publicly justified by the need to safeguard the lives and/or property of fellow citizens. This was a standard pretext for the US government in 54 military interventions in Latin America between 1890 and 1994.

In recent years we have heard an argument that is analogous to the fascist ethnic nation, as imperialist ideologues attempt to enshrine the principle of “human rights” as pre-empting existing international law.

One example is the prototype assault on Yugoslavia 1992-1999. The breach of national sovereignty by NATO was repeatedly justified in the mainstream media by claims that human rights had either been violated, were being violated or were about to be violated by the Serbs, which was the term used in the West to denote the legally elected government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Parallels were often drawn in a fictional analogy to the Munich conference of 1939, when the West supposedly “stood by” and allowed the mass murder of Jews. In the 1990s it was said that the West could no longer allow the Serbs to trample on human rights with impunity – military intervention was both necessary and just.

We may note that imperialist propaganda about Bosnia contrasted Serbs with Muslims. Not only was this a false dichotomy of ethnicity as opposed to religion, but it also ignored the fact that a significant number of Muslims in Bosnia are ethnic Serbs.

Rewriting the UN Charter
Attempts to establish the principle of the defense of human rights as superseding national sovereignty and existing international law have been launched within the UN.

At last year’s conference I informed the delegates that the Swedish government has established a state agency called The Forum For Living History at the same organizational level as the Swedish Inland Revenue Department. Its tasks are to inform the public about the Holocaust in 1941-45 and to carry out research on the so-called crimes of Communism. It is openly committed to spreading anti-Communist propaganda throughout the Swedish educational system.

In January of this year the Forum arranged a conference in Stockholm on the theme Preventing Genocide - Threats and Responsibilities. At the insistence of the Israeli government the Forum did not invite a representative of the Palestinians, although the actions of the Israeli government fall within the definition of genocide in the UN Charter.

The delegates to the conference came from 60 countries. Virtually all of them referred to the Holocaust, which shows that they had a historical perspective on the crime of genocide, since the Holocaust ended 59 years ago. But this perspective was rather limited, as you will see.

“The Holocaust” are the first two words of the declaration adopted by the Forum, which stated that the delegates are “conscious of our obligations and responsibilities under international law including human rights and international humanitarian law, deeply concerned with the repeated occurrence of genocide, mass murder and ethnic cleansing in recent history…We are committed to exploring…the options presented at the Forum for action against genocidal threats, mass murders, deadly conflicts and ethnic cleansing as well as genocidal ideologies and incitement to genocide, including the concrete proposal presented by the United Nations Secretary-General”.

This proposal appeared in the keynote speech by Kofi Annan. He mentioned Yugoslavia, Rwanda in 1994 and Srebrenica in 1995, the latter three times. The alleged genocide in Srbrenica is said to have involved 7,000, sometimes 8,000 deaths.

Annan said that in a report to the UN General Assembly in November 1999 he “drew attention to serious doctrinal (!) and institutional failings within the UN, including a pervasive ambivalence regarding the role of force in the pursuit of peace” (my italics).

He also said that a “Special Rapporteur” should be appointed, supported by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to report directly to the Security Council “making clear the link, which is often ignored until too late, between massive and systematic violations of human rights and threats to international peace and security”.

This was of course at the core of the propaganda justifying the attack on Yugoslavia. Alleged violations of human rights within the borders of the sovereign state of Yugoslavia were said to be a threat “to international peace and security”, which they could not have been even if they had been committed.

Annan referred to an International Commission on Intervention and National Sovereignty which in 2001 issued a report entitled “The Responsibility to Protect”. According to Annan this report “has altered the terms of debate on this very difficult issue in a most creative and promising way. Thanks to the Commission we now understand that the issue is not one of a right to intervene, but rather of a responsibility – in the first instance, a responsibility of all states to protect their own populations, but ultimately a responsibility of the whole human race to protect our fellow human beings from extreme abuse wherever and whenever it occurs. This nascent doctrine offers great hope to humanity. I believe it will gain wider acceptance…”

Das volk has now been supplanted by “the whole human race”. It should be noted that there is no such thing as the “human race”. We are a species of animal.

Annan also mentioned the new International Criminal Court but omitted to inform the delegates that the US refuses to recognize its jurisdiction. The position of the US is obviously a “very difficult issue”, so difficult that it cannot even be discussed.

Annan finally stated his proposal. “Genocide, whether imminent or ongoing, is practically always a threat to the peace. It must be dealt with as such – by strong and united political action and in extreme cases by military action. And that means that we need clear ground rules to distinguish between genuine threats of genocide (or comparably massive violations of human rights) which require a military response, and other situations where the use of force would not be legitimate”.

This will obviously require a revision of the UN Charter, which expressly prohibits the use of force except in case of self-defense.

Armed intervention according to Annan is legitimate even when genocide is “imminent”, which means that the crime is to be punished before it is committed. Neither Annan nor any of the delegates to the Forum bothered to explain how alleged genocide is a threat to the peace.

The US Ambassador to Sweden referred to the Holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda and “over 25 years of massive assault on humanity in Iraq”, but did not indicate who was behind the assault. The Ambassador advocated the use of “force where appropriate.” He claimed that “the US is committed to working with the international community to ensure that every state fulfills its obligations to guard against those who would exterminate liberty and innocent life”. He said that we all have to “support the rule of law”.

The Ambassador also said that “Since the Nuremberg trials, we have all worked to create a framework of principles to secure the rule of law and hold perpetrators accountable”. There is no indication in the transcript that the delegates to the Forum laughed at any of these statements.

Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson made two speeches, in which he referred to the Holocaust, the former Yugoslavia, which mysteriously “exploded”, Cambodia and Rwanda. He praised the illegal, NATO-funded so-called Tribunal for War Crimes in The Hague and referred to the International Court of Justice several times, although he neglected to mention that the US and the UK refuse to obey its decisions despite being signatories to the convention which created it.

Who will provide the evidence?
Who will provide the evidence to substantiate claims of “massive violations of human rights”? It will undoubtedly come from the same sections of the “international community” which produced the so-called evidence that was used to justify the wars on Yugoslavia and Iraq. For example, Washington is currently trying to apply Annan’s doctrine to justify an attack on Cuba.

Highly selective doctrine
Annan’s doctrine is also highly selective, as the historical perspective of the conference did not include any of the following examples of “genocide or other comparably massive violations of human rights”.

The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that were ordered by President Truman and Secretary of State James Byrnes caused the deaths of about 210,000 people, most of them civilians. Hundreds of thousands of others lived in suffering for many years afterward as a result of burns and radiation. The bombings were totally unnecessary from a military point of view. The British physicist and Nobel laureate P.M.S. Blackett called them “the first shot in the Cold War”.

US Admiral William D. Leahy was special adviser to both Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. He said of Truman and Byrnes that “They went ahead and killed as many women and children as they could. Which is what they wanted to do in the first place”.

Other crimes ignored by the Forum on genocide include but are not limited to:
• The terror bombings by the US of North Korea in the early 1950s, and of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in the 1960s and 1970s
• The slaughter of more than 1.5 million Communists in Indonesia 1965-66 under the supervision of the US government, with no protest from the West
• Years of slaughter in East Timor, also without protest from the West
• Mass murder under US supervision in Colombia, Guatemala and other Latin American countries, also without protest from the West. In 2000 President Clinton admitted that since following a US-sponsored coup in Guatemala in 1954 CIA agents and US military personnel had led a genocidal campaign that resulted in the deaths of 250,000 Guatemalans. I am unaware of any demands from Western governments or mass media for a tribunal to punish the guilty. As I said, the alleged massacre in Srbrenica involved 7,000-8,000 deaths.
• Murder and ethnic cleansing of the Serbs in Croatia 1994-95, under US supervision
• The terror bombing of Yugoslavia
• Considerably more than 25 years of Israel’s massive assault on humanity
• The attack on Iraq in 1992, followed by 12 years of bombing by the US and the UK, which together with Western-imposed sanctions resulted in well over a million deaths, including at least 500,000 children.

Given the historical record, there is no reason to believe that the new ground rules called for by Annan will be used for anything else justification of aggression against states that defy the will of the imperialists.

SKP urges all Communist and workers’ parties to expose and vigorously combat this attempt to pervert the UN Charter.

Peter Cohen
CC member and International Secretary
Communist Party of Sweden (SKP)