120,000 refugees or genocide?

Chris Burford cburford at gn.apc.org
Mon Aug 7 08:55:34 MDT 1995

A grim choice- do we call it 120,000 refugees or genocide?

120,000 Serb refugees from Krajina, is a severe blow to humanity
and to the unity of working people. And it could get much worse.

Still Doug is right that it is much much much worse in Africa, and I
suspect that there is a racism in the media that assumes we just ought
to do something in Yugoslavia, whereas "black on black violence" is
just something blacks do to each other.

Now that we are arguing about Yugoslavia, there is a danger that as
we face the atrocities we somehow blame those we disagree with on the
list with some sort of psychological complicity in them.

Those who favoured some sort of supranational intervention did so
among other things, in the hope that such massive population displacements
could be avoided. People's correct perceptions that the Greater Serbian
armed forces had to experience military defeat, does not imply their
preferred option was through a Croat attack of this form. Nevertheless it
is good that Karadzic and Mdladic, who are almost certainly war criminals,
are now at loggerheads.

One other point is central. The use of the word genocide.

Although I think it is clear that the Greater Serbs were fascist and racist
in their policy, it is not clear to me that even they they were following
a policy of genocide. They were following a policy of forced population
displacement by the use of terror, including murder, rape, and lower
levels of harrassment. These methods were used to expel Croats from
Krajina in 1991 when Serb nationalists declared independence there
from the province of Croatia.

The Croat government in retaking that territory by force while negotiations
were going on that might have led to peaceful reincorporation with
guarantees of human rights to all ethnic groups, are responsible for
the mass migration of 2/3 of the Serb population of the area, but

a) that is not genocide
b) even if done with cynical preparations for  mass migration
and even though news of atrocities by the army will accumulate in the
days, the policy was not one of forcing non-Croats to leave their areas,
unlike the policy of the Greater Serbs which has been one of forcing
non-Serbs to leave.

I concede that unfolding news may make that distinction appear
hypocritically academic, but I would maintain it is not.
The distinction is relevant for a marxist analysis of how the national
question must be handled in Yugoslavia to minimise the conflict between
nations and nationalities and maximise the possibility of cooperation
against exploitation and oppression.

Chris Burford, London

From: "Bryan A. Alexander" <bnalexan at umich.edu>
Date: Sun, 6 Aug 1995 21:29:53 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Genocide against the Serbs

I just returned from former Yugoslavia this week, which is why I've been
mum.  So instead of finding more anarchist-bashing, I discover the list
aflame with Balkan politics.  Well...
	Croatia is clearly doing more than flirting with fascism.  The
state is reorganizing the language, creating a mythical "Croatian" where
there was no such thing previously.  Militarism was rampant in Split and
Zagreb.  Dissent? ha!  Best of all was the Croatian state's new currency:
the beloved kuna, former cash unit of the Ustashe-

Bryan Alexander
Department of English
University of Michigan

On Sun, 6 Aug 1995, Louis N Proyect wrote:

> Louis Proyect:
> The Sunday 12 noon NPR news broadcast reported that 120,000 Serbs were
> fleeing the Krajna territory of Croatia into Bosnia, the "largest transfer
> of a population" in the 4 year old war.
> Today's NY Times reports the Serb populated city of Knin was subjected to
> "indiscriminate" bombing, with shells landing on hospitals and
> residential areas. A UN official, Alun Roberts, said that there were
> "quite significant numbers of bodies in the streets" and that many of
> them were women and children.
> Croat military leader Gen. Ivan Tolj said the territory had been "saved"
> by his troops. He declared "The Croatian army has done what we believed
> the world should have done."
> Do Tim Wolforth and Leo Casey concur with the good General?
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