Why I cannot go to Austria

March 31, 2000

Doing the right thing

Chris Mulvey's reasons for boycotting the EAAS conference expressed as responses to arguments posted on the EAAS email list

1 Outsiders have no business involving themselves with the democratically agreed decisions of another country.

Democratically agreed decisions are not the end of a moral matter, as Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out: "When I refuse to obey an unjust law, I do not contest the right of the majority to command, but I simply appeal from the sovereignty of the people to the sovereignty of mankind."

2 The US and the UK elected politicians such as Reagan and Thatcher and no boycotts were called.

A proto-Nazi politician and his party are not simply another right-wing politician and group with whom we disagree. The underlying Nazi agenda is racial extermination. That has to be assumed to be an aim of any group that aligns itself with Hitler's rhetoric.

3 Several statesviolate humanrights conventions, but we have not planned boycotts of them.

In internationaldisputes, racist regimes and groups have been treated as special cases since 1945. South Africa was properly boycotted in the 1970s and 1980s when other human-rights violators were not. Austria does not have a racist regime, but it has a racist group in government.

4 It will only make things worse in Austria if outsiders protest against Austrian decisions.

If the reaction of Austrian people to outsiders' expressions of dismay is to elect more Nazis, that only shows the depths of the fascism that must be confronted.5 People should attend EAAS and voice a protest as part of theconference.

Any messageof protest willnot match the stronger protestof not travelling to Austria.

6 The cancellation of a small conference involving 400 American studies professors would make no difference.

What are needed are individual decisions not to attend. An important effect must be to make the loss of business and tourist income part of the price for electing Nazis.

7 The organisers have worked hardto make Graz a success.

This is not a relevant consideration.

Chris Mulvey is professor of English and American studies at King Alfred's College, Winchester.

Follow the debate via the European Association for American Studies homepage at http://www.let.uu.nl/eaas

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