Notes on the News
by Madawc Williams
A second Bush administration would have been a disaster for the world. Bush’s world was the world of the Cold War, two rival camps engaged in bitter strife. When the USSR fell apart, he tried to cast the Muslim world as an alternative. Had that lacked credibility, who knows what he’d have tried next. Possibly German-led Europe would have been the new target.
All such dangers are now vanished. Even if Clinton does nothing except play his saxophone, that is a step up. There are all sorts of sensible things he could do at home. US medical care costs twice as much as the British NHS, provides an unreliable service and can bankrupt even the moderately rich; reforms can hardly make it worse. It could even be that the USA will start regenerating itself. Who knows?
[What actually happened was a failed attempt at basic public health. Continued persecution of Iraq in the hope of replacing Saddam with someone secular but docile. And a steady flow of wealth to a rich Overclass.]
A Major enigma
At the time of John Major’s election as Tory leader, I remarked that he seemed to have the wisest wisdom teeth in British politics. Trouble with his teeth kept him out of events while Thatcher was being ousted, and he came to power as her choice.
For several months he was seen as a weak Thatcher puppet by most people – I was one of the few who doubted this. Gradually it came to be seen that he was inching his way away from Thatcherism.
Sterling’s fall from the ERM was a disaster beyond Major’s control. More than likely it was a form of industrial action by currency speculators who know that sensible European money would deprive them of many of their most profitable hunting grounds. Yet somehow Major may have turned things around.
The storm that suddenly blew up over pit closures was not necessarily beyond Major’s control, nor was it particularly bad for him. Heseltine was up until that moment a very strong contender for the leadership. The self-made peacock-fancier was doing no more than carry through the logic of Thatcherite policies. Gas and nuclear power had been boosted, with little regard for cost, as part of a long-term strategy for breaking the miners. Suddenly Heseltine and Major were being criticised for still doing Thatcherite things, with Heseltine suffering most of the damage. And Thatcher and Tebbit were left with nothing to say.
Having won the Maastricht vote, Major is now free to quietly retreat for the most damaging of Thatcher’s policies.
[Sadly, he didn’t get far. Tony Blair with New Labour extended Thatcherism by another 20 years. The Tories reverted to Thatcherism, and then went for Brexit when it was clear this had not worked.]
Bosnia was never a nation, and Serbs have never been ruled by Croats. These two basic facts were ignored by the people who encouraged the break-up of Yugoslavia. Certainly, the Serbs began it, particularly with their suppression of the Albanians of Kosovo. But outside powers should have used their power to try to moderate Serb nationalism and preserve federal structures in an ancient and complex multi-ethnic land.
Once the break-up began, ‘ethnic cleansing’ was inevitable. It was very much a case of ‘cleanse or be cleansed’. Neighbours belonging to some other minority posed a deadly threat just by existing, given that each small portion of land was now bound to become the property of one nation state or another.
Had the Serbs of Bosnia practiced Gandhi-like self-restraint, there would today be no Serbs in Bosnia. Once the Federation began to break up, something like the present mess was inevitable.
[I had criticised the Serbs when they were the main offenders – see ‘Great Serbs Without the Law’ from 1991. (https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/very-old-issues-images/magazines-020-to-029/magazine-026-xx/serbs-in-1991-allowed-to-crush-albanian-kosovo/).
By November 1992, when I wrote these Newsnotes, the story was shifting to make the Serbs seem uniquely bad.]
These newsnotes appeared in November 1992, in Issue 32 of Labour and Trade Union Review, now Labour Affairs. You can find more from the era at https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/very-old-issues-images/ and https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/very-old-issues-images/m-articles-by-topic/.