Bosnian-Croat joint offensive

Left support for nationalist slaughter

THE LATEST twist in ex-Yugoslavia, which sees the ultra-nationalist Croatian regime basking in military glory after its rout of Serbian forces in the Krajina region, sharply exposes the real nature of the current war.

The Tudjman government in Zagreb is now taking measures to ensure that the country’s new-found ethnic purity is not diluted. It is threatening to bar entry to up to 30,000 Muslims who have been forced out of Serb-controlled areas of Bosnia. President Tudjman has also ordered out another 30,000 Muslims who have fled the fighting in the Bosnian enclave of Bihac.

Ominously, Tudjman confirmed last week that the constitution would be adjusted to remove all vestiges of the Serb presence, erasing clauses which give special status to ethnic minorities exceeding eight percent of the population.

These flagrantly chauvinist measures have been accompanied by an intense militarisation of all aspects of Croatian society. The state-controlled media fiercely denounce all critics of the Krajina conquest. Even the so-called opposition parties are uncritically endorsing the ruling Croatian Democratic Union’s belligerency. The leader of the ‘opposition’ Social Liberals, Drazen Budisa, declared it was not the time to criticise, but a “time to rejoice”.

The reactionary nature of Tudjman’s project is clear. This has not stopped the Muslim-dominated government in Bosnia from linking up militarily with Croatian forces. The combined Bosnian-Croatian operations broke the Serbian stranglehold over Bihac and there is much speculation that a joint assault on Banja Luka, the largest city in Bosnian Serb hands, is imminent.

Curiously, some leftwing organisations are unable to grasp the fact that all parties to this conflict have nationalistic/chauvinistic motives. Instead, they try to paint the war ‘red’ in some manner, imagining that there is a progressive content - somewhere, somehow - to the barbarous meltdown in ex-Yugoslavia.

The Workers Revolutionary Party, obscenely, welcomes the mass expulsion of Krajina Serbs. Workers Press claims that the people in the Bihac area of Bosnia can breathe a sigh of relief, “thanks to the Croatian army’s smashing of the Serb Cetnik gangster-statelet in the neighbouring Krajina” (August 12).

This “smashing” has seen Serb settlements and homes systematically burned. Evidence mounts daily of mass graves and of execution-style killings in the Krajina region. Yet Workers Press makes light of this appalling situation. “Of course, we must sympathise with ordinary Serb people,” it generously admits, but concludes, “The Krajina Serb exodus appears more the result of engineered panic than ‘ethnic cleansing’, with some civilians evacuating in advance.”

Not content with acting as a cheerleader for the Bosnian government, the WRP uncritically echoes the ‘official’ Croatian government line and the US state department’s position. Both insist that the mass exodus on Krajina Serbs is an “evacuation”. Naturally, “evacuation” is entirely different to “ethnic cleansing”.

Unfortunately, Workers Press is not the only leftwing publication with selective vision when it comes to atrocities and murder. The Trotskyite Workers Power boldly declares that the “military defeat” of the Krajina Serbs,

“up to and including their expulsion from all the territory they have unjustly occupied, is a justified war aim of the muslim and multi-ethnic population, the only oppressed community in Bosnia” (July/August 1995, my emphasis).

In other words, Workers Power believes that the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Serbs is acceptable. We have to presume that Workers Power thinks that Serbs belong to the ‘oppressor community’. All of them, comrades?

Then again, we should not be that surprised. Workers Power has already told us that, “the war of the Bosnian republic, whether militarily offensive or defensive, is a justified war of survival as a people” (June 1995). Do the Bosnian Serbs count as “people”, using this criterion?

Farcically, Workers Power thinks that the “legitimate Bosnian war of liberation” would change its character if the western powers, in the shape of Nato, intervened in force behind the Bosnian government. Mysteriously, this would mean that the ‘progressive’ Itzetbegovic regime would suddenly become reactionary.

Our evaluation of the Bosnian government should not of course be determined by the ups and down of western diplomacy or shifts in the battlefront.

Some leftwing groups, the WRP being the most vociferous, have mooted the idea that the Bosnian conflict is a re-run of the Spanish civil war of the 1930s. The Bosnian government is compared to the Spanish republican regime, also the victims of “fascist aggression”.

There is one fatal flaw to this analogy. The republican regime of the 1930s was the product of a revolutionary situation. There were revolutionary, working class organisations and forces ‘on the field’. Therefore, the tactics employed by revolutionaries would be vastly different.

This is a million miles away from the hell-hole that is ex-Yugoslavia. We are in the middle of a counterrevolutionary collapse. All of ex-Yugoslavia is unravelling along nationalist dimensions. The working class no longer exists politically, only sociologically.

Revolutionaries should expose the reactionary nature of all the regimes and parties to this conflict. We should not impose artificial historical models upon the war, or look in vain for ‘good guys’. There is no ‘lesser of two evils’ to be found in ex-Yugoslavia.

A working class agenda needs to be constructed from amongst the ruins of this area, and a working class way forward needs to be elaborated.

That way forward does not lie in a Muslim-dominated Bosnia. All peoples in Bosnia should have the right to decide where they live. At the moment they are all dominated by reactionary nationalist regimes. Working class unity to oppose the nationalist stitch-up is unfortunately a demand which is not being raised.

Eddie Ford