Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Tue Apr 6 11:39:16 PDT 1999

[Angela sent the whole of this, but at 67k, it ran up against majordomo's 35k limit setting. Here's the first section. The full text is at <>; I'll forward it to anyone who can't do www.]

From: "rc-am" <rcollins at> To: "lbo" <lbo-talk at> Subject: backgrounder Date: Wed, 7 Apr 1999 03:32:34 +1000 MIME-Version: 1.0 Content-Type: text/plain;

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[for those who haven't read this, i think it is an important analysis to chew up some bandwidth for. and, just maybe, we can halt the grand geopolitics and polemical indulgences long enough to read it. and debate it. it was written, i think, a couple of years ago. from: - angela] -------------------------------------------------------


For us the analysis of the war in Yugoslavia is indispensable. This war is not only of the greatest importance for its direct consequences for the conditions of life and struggle of proletarians in the region - it is also importantfor the international proletariat, and because it announces and prefigures the military conflicts that are to come.


"Is that you, Mladic?

"Yes it is, you old devil, what do you want?"

"Three of my boys went missing near... and I want to find out what happened to them."

"I think they're all dead."

"I've got one of their parents on to me about it, so I can tell them for certain that they're gone?"

"Yep, certain. You have my word. By the way, how's the family?"

"Oh, not so bad, thanks. How about yours?"

"They're doing just fine, we're managing pretty well."

"Glad to hear it. By the way, now I've got you on the line, we've got about twenty bodies of yours near the

front and they've been stripped bare. We slung them into a mass grave and they're now stinking to high

heaven. Any chance of you coming to pick them up because they really are becoming unbearable...?"

This is a telephone conversation between General Mladic, Serb commander of the army corps in Knin and the head of the Croat Interior Ministry (MUP) force in Split. This conversation between two men who apparently know each other well (having had the same career in the Yugoslav National Army) was reported by the BBC correspondent, Misha Glenny, in his book "The Fall of Yugoslavia". -------------------------------------------------------

The reality of the war, the sinister development of bombardments, of massacres, of persecutions, of internments, show clearly that this war is a war against the proletariat, against its interests and against its movement of struggle.

This reality of the war was shown, for example, in July 1991, in Banija (in Croatia, on the frontier with Bosnia-Herzegovina) when armed groups, mercenaries, commandos of killers arrived in the villages and carried out massacres. They classified the inhabitants principally according to their Serb or Croat origins, obliging the Croats who were capable of serving to join their ranks and to take the Serbs as hostages. Then the units fired on all sides and the population fled. Following this the federal army invaded the villages, beginning by bombarding them and then hunting those who had not been able to flee. The fugitives of Croat, Hungarian and Serb origins fled in the direction of the big towns or towards Vojvodina or Herzegovina.

Little by little, these war operations grew, sometimes carried out by the Croat militias, which caused hatred to be directed towards all those considered to be Croats, sometimes by the Serb militias, directing hatred towards all those considered to Serbs. For the rest of the villages it was as if an earthquake had happened. Whereas for many years "Serbs", "Croats" or "Hungarians" were mixed to the point where they could no longer define themselves as belonging to one ethnic group or another, the nationalist forces operated a systematic separation according to their supposed ethnic links.

These war operations came to be aimed more and more at the big towns. Thus for example the industrial centre of Vukovar was bombarded for three months by the federal army. The inhabitants spent days and nights underground in the caves. They organised resistance, helping each other, with all nationalities together. The Croatian National Guard and the Ustaöe (fascist forces) for their part organised the internal repression. When the federal army reentered the town, a whole series of corpses were found that had been shot from behind, summarily executed for refusing to let themselves be enroled in the Croatian National Guard and/or the Ustaöe.

The general consequences of this type of operation were:

Indiscriminate massacres of proletarians, as is shown, for example, by the discovery of mass graves where the bodies of "Serbs", "Croats", "Bosnians"... are mixed together.

The internment of hundreds of thousands of prisoners of war in numerous camps dispersed over the whole territory of former Yugoslavia. For example, today you find internment camps in Serbia as well as in the parts of Bosnia occupied by the Croat militias.

You can also find camps on the periphery of the big Slovenian towns where the state parks "its" refugees - that Slovenia which the whole world assures us is a successful model for the transformation taking place in Yugoslavia!

The existence of floods of refugees (more than 2.3 million in July '92 based on an estimate of the UN High Commission for Refugees) who try for better or worse to flee the massacres and throw themselves onto the roads in the hope of finding an unlikely exile elsewhere. Meanwhile, in Slovenia the government has declared that it will no longer accept Yugoslav refugees; in Sweden -a social democratic paradise according to some- the government has begun to expel refugees from Slovenia and Kosovo; in Denmark, the government has sent back more than two hundred Serb deserters...

The forced sending to the front of war refugees... there to join their "own camp".

Thus the press has mentioned nearly 200 Bosnian Muslim refugees in Croatia in the Karlovac camp, who were rounded up on Monday 17 August 1992 at 4 a.m. by the Croat armed forces to be sent back to the front in Bosnia. Some had been recently freed from Serb detention centres. All the men in the camp aged from 18 to 60 years were forced onto a bus for Rijeka, on the Adriatic coast, from where they would rejoin the combat positions.

Since mid-July, four thousand refugee men have been "sorted", and then returned to the front via Rijeka and Split. The Croatian Vice-President, Mate Granic, recognised, on Tuesday 18 August 1992, that this operation "violated universal human rights". But he justified it by the necessity of avoiding "a social explosion" in his country.

Similarly in Belgrade refugees from Croatia who are over 20 years old have been sent toward the front lines "to divert the anger of the Belgraders who reproach them for their quiet life in Serbia".

Direct, open repression against all those who resist. The state of war, the militaristic polarisation of society, allows the liquidation with complete impunity of all those who do not adhere to the patriotic and ideological values that flourish in all camps. Those that stand in the way are simply done away with!

The HCR estimates that more than a hundred thousand young deserters and draft dodgers have fled the war and the punishment of prison which they can receive for "high treason".

The humanitarian campaigns as a means of blackmail in the hands of the different bourgeois fractions, the better to reinforce still more their control over the territories which they dominate, when they don't serve directly as a means of transporting arms ("in their impatience to acquire arms, the Bosnians have without doubt already obtained satisfaction and the Serbs of Bosnia-Herzegovina accuse some countries participating in the humanitarian air bridge of having parachuted in arms", Le Monde, 21 August 1992).

The material disarmament of proletarians who refuse to fight on the fronts of this war which they recognise as not being theirs and which they flee from... The always sovereign HCR rejected the request of a Serb deserter who affirmed his "refusal to fight the Croats who are compatriots". In disarming the trouble-makers, in sending them back to "their" country, the bourgeoisie delivers them tied hand and foot, like peaceful and inoffensive lambs, to their executioners. And this is in the name of peace, in the name of the signed accords, in the name of the UN, that proletarians will be obliged to give up their arms and to wait passively for the hour of their execution in the abattoirs that are the fields of battle.

The incessant bombardments and the inquisitorial and murderous militias, the forced mobilisations and the prison camps, the refugees with their miserable lot... the shortages, the rationing, the price rises, pauperisation, the unemployment which hits a greater and greater part of the population. The different states make use of the war situation to better liquidate the least productive sectors and to impose new sacrifices on proletarians. This is the reality of war!

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