False phrophets for Bosnia

The UN is a reactionary force - along with all the warring parties

THE BOSNIAN government’s offensive against the Serb forces besieging Sarajevo has caused confusion and disarray among the ‘revolutionary’ left, who display a near tragi-comic inability to understand the complex reality of the situation or adopt a principled Marxist position on the war.

The Trotskyite paper, Workers Power, demands “victory to the Bosnian government forces!” and declares confidently: “The war of the Bosnian republic, whether militarily offensive or defensive, is a justified war of survival as a people” (June 1995).

However, there is an escape clause. The “justified war of survival” by the Bosnian government “would change its character” if imperialism intervened “in force” behind the Bosnian government. This overlooks the obvious fact that it was precisely the Western powers who encouraged Bosnia-Herzegovina to hold a referendum on independence way back in February 1992, which in many ways was seen as the signal for all-out war.

In other words, Workers Power’s ‘principled’ position is entirely dependent on what happens at the war front and the vagaries of international diplomacy.

For another, though very different group of Trotskyites, the Workers Revolutionary Party, the truth could not be more simple: the war in Bosnia is the product of a deeply sinister imperialist conspiracy. According to the WRP, the imperialist powers have been pro-Serb since the beginning and cannot wait to crush the “legitimately” elected Bosnian government of Alija Izetbegovic.

Therefore, Workers Press thunders: “Arm the Bosnian people!” and gloats about how the “imperialists, whose partition plans and arming of ex-Yugoslavia brought the war, are in disarray” (June 10), thanks to the upturn in the military fortunes of the Bosnian government. Given the fact that it is an open secret that the United States is indirectly supplying the Izetbegovic regime with arms, we can see that Workers Press is retreating into a fantasy world.

Ludicrously, Workers Press draws an apocalyptic analogy with Spain in the 1930s, comparing the Bosnian government with the Spanish republican government in its struggle against Franco’s forces. Unfortunately, Workers Press fails to see that the bourgeois Izetbegovic regime is the product of a counterrevolutionary crisis, while the bourgeois Spanish republican government was the product of a revolutionary one. It also has to be said that Leon Trotsky did not advocate defence of the bourgeois republican regime, unlike some of his supposed followers at the time. If you recall that Workers Press went cock-a-hoop when the “Stalinist” regimes - in Yugoslavia and elsewhere - suddenly collapsed, their current stance appears even more irrational.     

As for the Socialist Workers Party it takes a purely passive, almost pacifist, position, fantasising about “ordinary people” spontaneously uniting “against their rulers” and pleading with the pro-imperialist Labour Party to be more ‘progressive’ (when it feels like getting round to it, I presume). Militant Labour, true to form, is more worried about ‘our boys’ out there and the fact that some of them might get hurt by any sort of ‘reckless’ military action.

Communists condemn unreservedly all sides, which obviously includes the reactionary Izetbegovic regime. Unlike Workers Press, we recognise that the war in Bosnia is not the result of a monolithic, dark imperialist plot, but the logical outcomeof a counter-revolutionary meltdown, which has plunged the Balkans into chaos, crisis, war and disaster.

Eddie Ford