Bosnia: The Imperialist Peace Sows the Seeds of Future Wars

Despite the intense rivalry between the USSR and the USA lasted so long because neither side had emerged fundamentally aggrieved from the Second World War. The USA had emerged as far and away the strongest military and economic power in the world. Untouched by the ravages of war the post-war boom was simply “business as usual” for the citizens of the “the arsenal of democracy”. The USSR, on the other hand, through its control of Eastern Europe, now had the buffer zone against attack from the West that Stalin desired. Moreover the major European threat, Germany had been dismembered. It is perhaps not surprising that it was over the proposed re-unification of Germany that the Cold War started in earnest in 1948. But despite Eastern European workers revolt, a Cuban missile crisis and scores of proxy wars, the armed peace held.

With the collapse of the USSR in 1991 we reached a fundamental turning point in history. The old certainties of the Cold War were over and the Western alliance was no less affected than the old countries of the Warsaw Pact. Since 1991 there has been a slow waltz in the NATO alliance as the Western Powers have tried to maintain their own imperialist interests against those of their erstwhile allies. Often, as is the case with imperialist relations the policy goals they have pursued have been confusing and more inspired from the fear that they would lose out in the future rather than make gains in the present. This helps to explain the shifting and contradictory nature of the manoeuvres of the “Great Powers” as they changed allies according to circumstance and place. In Algeria and Rwanda the British and Americans have lined up against the French. In ex-Yugoslavia the Germans originally backed Croatia and Slovenia against the USA’s efforts to maintain Yugoslavia as an integral state economically linked to the US. The British and French have always supported the Serbian rump state and gone to great lengths to prevent NATO intervention against it. (1) However, once again, the USA has had the final word and this is the so-called Dayton Agreement.

The Dayton Agreement

As already stated in Revolutionary Perspectives 1 the Dayton Agreement spells victory for the USA and defeat for almost everyone else (with the partial, and short-term, exception of Germany which is currently allied with the US over ex-Yugoslavia). There can be few better illustrations of imperialist dominance. The “settlement” of the Bosnian affair did not take place in Geneva or Paris or even New York but in a mid-West US airbase where the participants - whether little Balkan states or great European powers - were locked away from the world’s media and forced to accept the US “solution”. Clinton could now announce “to the American people” that the US had once again led the world.

But Pax Americana is like Pax Romana. It does not mean peace. Those Dayton participants now benefiting from the dubious efforts of the US state are chafing at the bit under the enormous military and diplomatic pressure of the USA. In effect Bosnia has been dismembered. If this represents a turnaround for the US (in that it originally wanted to uphold Yugoslavia) it does not represent a defeat. On the contrary, it has come to recognise that the British French and Germans could not be trusted as they each vied for their own interests in the Balkans. The US has now forced them all to agree to a partition of Bosnia (despite the thinly-disguised fiction of joint institutional arrangements with the Serbians in Bosnia). The US itself will occupy (under the guise of NATO) the strategic areas between the various armies. It has been a massive setback for the British and French who had hoped to become the arbiters of the area when they set up their Rapid Reaction Force. Now the US have forced the other powers to recognise its military superiority and the Rapid Reaction Force has vanished. The Germans have largely gained through the support of the US for their Croatian satellite, even if they have had to accept a semi-union with the Bosnian Muslim regime.

All these arrangements in themselves contain the seeds for future conflict. The Serbians eventually took away support from the Mladic/Karadjic regime in Pale so that economic sanctions against Belgrade would be lifted but they are unlikely to stand by if the NATO forces insist on arresting war criminals amongst the Bosnian Serbs (as they have been doing). Meanwhile the Bosnian Muslims and the Croats have already started fighting again in the divided city of Mostar. And already Ifor, the NATO occupying force (i.e the US), has shown the Bosnian Government that it is not sovereign in its own territory by invading its terrorist training base which was run by Iranian government agents and arresting its officers. Hardly a showpiece for future peace prospects. Behind all of these causes of future conflict each of the great powers will be quietly urging on their respective clients in the hope of increasing their influence.

One thing is certain, as with other US-brokered peace deals, this rests on shaky ground. Imperialism is capable of bringing peace to this or that area for a given amount of time but that does not contradict the assertion that imperialism in general means war. The very nature of the rivalries for re dividing the planet dictates that we have at best armed truces in the Middle East, Ireland, Rwanda, Somalia, ex-Yugoslavia and all the other areas where international intervention has taken place. And is will not be local forces alone which will break these truces but the great power godfathers who sanction their satellites’ actions.

Nationalism and the Working Class

Far from there being any progressive forces working in ex-Yugoslavia, there are only a series of nationalist gangs armed and guided by this or that imperialist power. The Leftists (mainly of Trotskyist origin) who have called for, and still call for, support for the Serbs (because they are nearer to the ex-Stalinist vision of “socialism”) or the Bosnians (because they have a multi-ethnic working class as if the workers had any say in the formation of Izetbegovic’s Muslim fundamentalist regime) are just the same as their reactionary ancestors who regimented the workers behind the banners of imperialism in the First and Second World Wars. They have absolutely nothing in common with the revolutionary working class or communism.

The working class can only look to its own forces. At present these are extremely weak and the short-term prospects are bleak. The wars in ex-Yugoslavia of the last four years have shown just how easy it is for bourgeois minorities to impose war on any state. Before this conflict broke out there were thousands of workers who were striking and demonstrating against the inability of Yugoslav state capitalism (which was not, in any sense, socialism) to satisfy their basic needs. With annual inflation in four figures and unemployment rising the working class had begun to fight back. The different so-called ethnic groups from various cultural backgrounds stood together against the inflation and unemployment which capitalism imposed upon them. The wars were the bourgeoisie's answers to this class struggle. Despite the fact that many workers have resisted the nationalist poison it becomes very difficult to insist that you are the sister or brother of the workers from down the road when the bourgeoisie from down the road are murdering your children. Bsaically it has been relatively easy for a small minority to impose a nationalist or ethnic agenda on the situation. The very start of the war was a defeat for the workers. Four years later when a quarter of a million are dead it is mainly the working class that have died. The nature of war in the present epoch means that the bourgeoisie can impose a devastating war as its “solution” and get away with it.. The war in ex-Yugoslavia shows that the workers cannot simply fight to defend themselves on an economic level. On the contrary they have no choice but to fight today for their own class programme, their own interests, their own international class party and to resist any talk of fighting for any national or sectional interest. That is the bourgeoisie’s road to barbarism. Only the working class, united behind an international communist programme embodied in the future world party of the proletariat can lead us down another road - the road to revolution.

(1) For further details on these interventions see Internationalist Communist Review 11 “From Titoism to Barbarism”, Workers’ Voice 78 “Behind the Peacemaking Lies the Manoeuvres of the Great Powers” and Workers’ Voice 79 “NATO Bombings Show the Real Aims of the Great Powers”, as well as “After the Balkan War, The Imperialist ‘Peace’” in Revolutionary Perspectives 1 (Series 3).