Referendum for E. Slavonia?

Chris Burford cburford at
Wed Aug 9 07:44:20 MDT 1995


The holding of local referenda is the only way in which
border disputes can be settled democratically. Far from being
impractical, such referenda have taken place under international
supervision, I mentioned the Saarland - jointly claimed by
France and Germany and also the former British Cameroun,
disputed between Nigeria and the Cameroun republic.

Provided that the areas in which the referenda are held
are relatively compact and contiguous to borders there
is in principle no problem. The alternative in the case
of the Saar was another Franco German war.


Thanks for coming back on this. I usually admire the brevity of your
posts, but I could not get your one-liner on the Saar
and the British Camerouns first.

I take your point. Hopefully Croatia and Serbia proper will not
go to war over eastern Slavonia. A referendum could be one of
the methods for handling the conflict peacefully.

The point though is what value does a marxist policy on the national
question put on local votes or referenda. I argued why a referendum
in the Krajina could not be taken as constructive by marxists for
the purposes of self-determination by a nation but only by
a nationality. [Nevetheless quite possibly useful to ensure that
that nationality would experience as little oppression as possible]

As Paul's post indicates, where the territory is contiguous the
referendum could be taken in marxist terms to be a decision on
whether the group wishes or does not wish to be part of the larger
nation state power.

>From a marxist point of view there are two constructive
options for the Serbs of eastern Slavonia. They could in principle
remain as before, a nationality within the province of Croatia, or
the boundary between the provinces could be redrawn so that they
become a part of the province/state of Serbia. Hopefully, even
now Serb and Croat marxists and democrats could discuss these

It would be constructive if both options are on the negotiating table.
We must try to see through the fog of cynicism with which these
things will be reported and try to discern what is the most
democratic solution which values and respects people, including their
need to mourn, and gradually to reconcile. However ghastly the war,
peace can only be built by having faith in the people.

Now my limited understanding is that in eastern Slavonia, the town of
Osijek was mainly Serb and in 1991 quickly seceded, but the neighbouring
town of Vukovar, was ethnically mixed and was shelled for months by
Serb nationalist artillery until it surrendered. Perhaps Tudjman
wants Vukovar back because of his crypto Ustashe nationalism. Perhaps
others in Croatia want Vukovar back because it was a symbol of
a multi-ethnic way of handling the national question. That too must
be heard.

When we look at the map, and the need for all the people of Yugoslavia
to have an opportunity of peace and to trade between each other
across ethnic, linguistic and religious boundaries, I think the better
option from a marxist point of view is that the Serbs of eastern
Slavonia remain a nationality within Croatia, if at all possible.

Once again the dog is not barking: Serbia proper is moving its troops
up to the border of eastern Slavonia, but *not yet entering eastern
Slavonia*. However degenerate Milosovec may be, perhaps there are still
some marxists within the Serbian Socialist Party who remember
the need to handle the national question with great care. It is quite
remarkable and greatly to their credit that even at this time of greatest
anxiety the Serb army has not entered eastern Slavonia. Perhaps there is
still perhaps a folk memory of a time in Yugoslavia when the nations and
nationalities lived in peace side by side under a form of socialism.

Chris B.

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