Ethnic cleansing

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spot
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Ethnic cleansing

Post by spot »

This is a letter by F. L. Lucas to the Manchester Guardian, 15 September 1938, which I have copied from his Wikipedia page. It discusses - and recommends - the movement of ethnic minorities across national borders. I'm wondering whether the position is outmoded or whether the argument is still supportable.

'The limits of self-determination for racial minorities'

To the Editor of the Manchester Guardian

Sir,

Many honest folk feel it hard to deny the Sudetens self-determination, if they want to belong to the Reich. But then, can we deny it to the Czech areas among the Sudetens? Then what about Sudeten pockets in the Czech areas? Self-determination must stop somewhere. In politics, as in physics, you come to a point where you cannot go on splitting things. You cannot have self-determination by villages. You may split Czechoslovakia now. In a few years it will be one again. Only it will be German. That is all.

What would our own answer be, supposing we were expected on racial grounds to hand over to Berlin our coastal counties from Essex to Northumberland? We should reply that any nation must defend itself against a step which would make it impossible to defend itself.

You cannot by any juggling with frontiers abolish racial minorities in Europe. And you cannot totally ignore geography. It follows that where you cannot move mountains you must move men. If the Sudetens are irrevocably set on being in the Reich let them go to the Reich instead of expecting the Reich to come to them. The Germans are the later comers in Bohemia. There are precedents for such an exodus. Good Aryans may disdain to copy Moses, but within these fifteen years just such an exchange of minorities has cured, as nothing else could have cured, the secular hate of Greek and Turk. If a small, poor and barren state like Greece could absorb between one and two million refugees it is absurd to pretend that a great country like Germany, which Hitler has set flowing with milk and honey, could not do as much and more. And if the Czechs can give a home to the persecuted refugees of the Axis, so much the better.

This seems to me justice. The alternative is to admit the Trojan Horse into Prague. That may be the sort of fool's wisdom called "expediency"; it is the line of least resistance; but at least let us not cant about its honesty.

Undoubtedly Hitler will object. He has other aims. It is not oppression he minds; the loudest yelps about persecution come from the persecutor of the Jews. Czechoslovakia lies on the flank of the German drive to the Black Sea. Therefore, Hitler will not hear reason.

A question that vitally affects all Europe should be discussed by Europe. If Hitler foams at the mere mention of the League, let it be a European conference. Only let it give full weight to those smaller Powers which have often a more disinterested sense of decency than their great neighbours. If Hitler refuses he puts himself at once in the wrong. The verdict of such a conference may not convince him; but if he cannot reason, he can count.

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Ethnic cleansing

Post by gmc »

Your point?
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Ethnic cleansing

Post by spot »

I'm wondering whether the position is outmoded or whether the argument is still supportable.
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Ethnic cleansing

Post by LarsMac »

There will be such arguments for as long as there are political boundaries, I suspect. Someone will always find reasons for changing those boundaries. Look at the current arguments in the Ukraine.
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Ethnic cleansing

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Would it solve the issue of Crimea and of the Russian-majority Eastern Ukraine if the Ukrainians in Crimea swapped places with the Russians in Eastern Ukraine? And if it would, would it be an ethical solution?
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Ethnic cleansing

Post by LarsMac »

no.
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Ethnic cleansing

Post by spot »

So would it have been ethical to solve the Sudeten German problem by accepting them into the Reich, as the letter suggests?

The letter does point out that it's immaterial, since the Reich had no particular desire for the people, it wanted Eastern Europe in its entirety as lebensraum into which to expand Aryan occupation. But Lucas does see it as an ethical solution. Was he wrong at the time? Has the ethical position changed between then and now? He was a philosopher of note, he is still discussed (and, indeed, still in print), his view isn't negligible.
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Ethnic cleansing

Post by LarsMac »

It really has little relevance today, at least for Czechoslovakia (Which no longer exists) or the Sudetens. The concept has little relevance, today. The entire concept of political boundaries is obsolete, even though it will likely be a century or more before that is fully acknowledged by the world populations.
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Ethnic cleansing

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It's one of the major problems, the Middle East is rife with it what do you call that wall going up across the West Bank at the moment?

Eleven Nobel peace prize winners have urged the UN to "end the human crisis" of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims in a letter criticising Aung San Suu Kyi. In the open letter, the group said the government crackdown on the population amounted to "ethnic cleansing". - that was one week ago.

The Syrian government, Russia, and Iran are trying to depopulate Syria of the Arab Sunnis, and thus change the demographic makeup of Syria. So writes Dr. Harold Rhode, who served for 28 years as an Islamic world advisor in the U.S. Secretary of Defense office. - that was two weeks ago.

I have been warning through my articles in this newspaper that the world ought to monitor this situation carefully. Numbering between 300,000 to one million, Ahmadi community in Pakistan stands at the brink of genocide and ethnic cleansing. The state’s attitude so far has been extremely callous. - that was three weeks ago.

Widespread ethnic cleansing, burning villages, looming starvation, and gang rape “so prevalent that it’s become ‘normal.’” This is what UN experts found when they took a 10-day trip to the African country of South Sudan in late November. - that's a report from today.

It's a burning issue. Not in Czechoslovakia, I agree, but the concept remains active. I'm discussing events in the news, not what might eventuate if we wait long enough. The problem I posed is a present ethical problem, and the example of Crimea is a simple one to focus on. Can the movement of ethnic minorities across national borders be an ethical solution or is it always a war crime?
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