Bosnia, CPUSA and the left

Chris Burford cburford at
Wed Aug 2 08:32:41 MDT 1995

From: LeoCasey at
Date: Tue, 1 Aug 1995 11:05:56 -0400
Subject: Bosnia and CPUSA

I just returned from a week long educational issues AFT conference in
Washington DC, where I visited with a number of old comrades, including one
former leader of the CPUSA who has far more tolerance than I for reading CP
publications. She told me that Gus Hall had been taking the line in CP
publications (People's Daily World, etc.) that the reports of the massacres
and ethnic cleansings in Bosnia were the propaganda of the
capitalist/imperialist press, and was supporting the Serbs. The logic, it
appears, is one of support for the "Socialist Party" in the former
Yugoslavia (primarily Serbia proper), based on solidarity among former CPs.

Are other Stalinist CP remnants taking similar lines in Great Britain,
Canada and Europe? It would be interesting to know, and a very interesting
reflection on some of the historical questions (Hitler-Stalin pact) we have
been discussing the past few weeks.

I have not had time to get chapter and verse, but there certainly
are "communist" organisations who are on a spectrum for whom
one hall mark of political rectitude is a feeling that probably
the Serbs are good, there have been atrocities on all sides, and we
must not oppose the Serbs. I think this is a dereliction of a marxist
analysis, but it runs much deeper than whether a particular "Stalinist"
organisation is  sort of morally corrupt, and I do not think will be
illuminated on that basis. I quote from a thoughtful post on the
yugo.antiwar list, from a Paul Stubbs, presumably temporarily in
Zagreb University school of social work

Rudiger asked:



2. Lately, a lot of my thinking has been about how there is a
convergence between official UN thinking and the peace and left wing
movements of (mainly Western) Europe about the wars here. Indeed, by
refusing to see them as wars in the plural, and by continuing to use the
concept of former-yugoslavia, they remain implicitly or explicitly
pro-serbian-military hegemony. It is worth taking the trouble to think
about why this is:
i. Belgrade as the capital of Yugoslavia was the place which tended to
be at the centre of diplomatic activity and also of opppositional and
cultural links with the left and peace movements. Many veterans of
those movements remember their comrades in Belgrade in the 80's and
cannot share in the demonology of Serbia. The best example of this is
Johann Galtung in the Schlaining book 'Yugoslavia -war...' (1993). The
similarities between Galtung and David Owen are extraordinary.
ii. There is a strong 'Yugo nostalgia' which, of course, from time to
time I share. But the idea of Yugoslavia was always an uneasy tension
between Serbian political hegemony and genuine decentralised federalism.
iii. There is, in left and peace circles, some kind of support for
nominally 'socialist' Serbia - this is clear in John Pilger's writing
and, of course, from Joan Phillips in the UK. So that Bosnia is seen as
too multi-cultural; Slovenia too bourgeois, and Croatia too fascistic.
iv. There is a strange inverted logic which says 'if the US supports
Bosnia; if Germany supports Croatia' we (the left/peace activists) must
support Serbia. Of course, this is often dressed up as something else,
but it is pretty clear nevertheless.

Now I will post another clip from the same list, which gives
a statement from the Socialist Party of Serbia, rejecting the
war crimes charge.

I would challenge anyone to defend this position on marxist grounds
but it sounds left wing. A serious marxist analysis of the national
question, and it has been done many times in great depth both
theoretically and concretely in the communist movement, means you cannot
deny the right to secede. OK folks that's a challenge. The passage below
[as quoted to be fair to the authors], is a spurious left wing
justification for rape, torture and murder on a scale of hundreds of
thousands. It is not marxism. It is social fascism.

The trouble is that left wing groups may note this sort of statement
and in practice collude with it by saying Yugoslavia is an awful
muddle and the Serbs are not so bad, anyway it is an imperialist war,
anyway on the left we are weak etc etc - as Paul Stubbs argues
in the passage above.

Comments please?

Chris Burford, London


+Ruling Serbian party considers war crimes tribunal illegitimate and

Source: FoNet news agency, Belgrade, in Serbo-Croat 1558 gmt 26 Jul

The leader of the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia's parliamentary
club of deputies has described the UN tribunal at The Hague, which on
25th July accused Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, Bosnian Serb
army commander Ratko Mladic, and Croatian Serb leader Milan Martic of
war crimes, as illegitimate and illegal. The following is the text of
a report by the Belgrade-based news agency FoNet:

Belgrade, 26th July (FoNet): The head of the deputies' club of the
Socialist Party of Serbia [SPS] in the republican parliament, Milorad
Vucelic, told FoNet today that the International War Crimes Tribunal
at The Hague was "illegitimate and illegal" .

"This tribunal is operating outside any existing international
customs, rules and regulations, and whoever has taken the trouble to
investigate the question of responsibility for what is happening in
former Yugoslavia will come to the conclusion that the responsibility
is borne by the international community and those forces which broke
up Yugoslavia and caused the war," said Vucelic.

In his opinion the tribunal at The Hague is "absolutely irrelevant
and worthless and its decisions non-existent" .


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