National Sections of the L5I:

Bosnia: Elections legitimise ethnic carve-up

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The parliamentary and presidential elections in Bosnia are due on 14 September. They represent a further ethnic carve up of the country which is a direct result of the imperialist-sponsored Dayton Accord.

In November 1995 the US government forced the Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian governments to sign a settlement ending the Bosnian war.

This treaty, the Dayton Accord, was a result of US imperialism’s willingness and ability to reassert its role as the hegemonic power against the divided European imperialists. It was also the result of imperialism’s success in forcing the warring parties to the negotiating table.

The bourgeois media, throughout the world, has presented the emergence of three ethnic statelets within Bosnia as a failure to implement the Accord. Nothing could be further from the truth. The “violations” are the logical results of the Accord.

The Accord was not an attempt to rescue or reconstruct a multi-ethnic Bosnia, but a reward for Serbia and Croatia’s war gains at the expense of the Bosnians. It was a recognition of their key role as regional powers that could stabilise the Balkans in the interest of imperialism.

The Accord represented a strengthening of imperialism’s role in the region. All the ruling regimes are highly dependent on imperialist aid to reconstruct their economies and to push through capitalist restoration.

But the Accord could not be implemented by economic pressure alone. It depends on the presence of 60,000 foreign troops under imperialist command (IFOR). The troops are not likely to be withdrawn until the US achieves its aim: the creation of a military balance of power between Croatia, Serbia and the Bosnian Muslims that would deter all forces from restarting the war of conquest and annexation.

The Accord formally committed the signatories to preserve and rebuild a “unitary” Bosnian state. But this state has a very special character. Even under the terms of the treaty, two states (the Serbian and the Bosnia-Croat Federation) effectively exist, each with its own police and army. Neither is under the control of the Bosnian government.

A third statelet, Bosnian Croat “Herzeg-Bosna”, run by the reactionary HDZ, also exists. Despite numerous promises to “dissolve” it, such as the last one given after the elections in Mostar, this will not happen. On the contrary, the fake character of this federation was most sharply revealed in the last elections in Croatia, when the Croats of Herzeg Bosna were allowed to take part in the election of president Tudjman, despite nominally living in a different state.

The last year has not seen any real steps towards rebuilding Bosnia as a multi-ethnic state.

The policy of dividing Bosnia into ethnically “pure” areas has been pursued by all sides since the Accord has been signed. This was illustrated in Sarajevo at the beginning of the year, when the Serbian chauvinists as well as the Bosnian government did everything to destroy what was left of the multi-ethnic character of the city. The IFOR troops in and around Sarajevo did nothing to prevent it.

The Accord allowed for the return of displaced workers and peasantsto their former homes, especially ethnically-cleansed Bosnian Muslims. The Bosnian Serb and Croat authorities refused the necessary authorisation, and neither they nor IFOR troops will extend protection to those who want to return.

The most reactionary political forces have been able to remain in power. Despite all the calls for bringing the “war criminals” to court, it is these war criminals who are still in military and political control in the Serbian and Croat territories.

The Bosnian ruling party, Izetbegovic’s SDA, has given up most of its multi-ethnic aspirations. This is evidenced by the rise in influence of the reactionary Islamist Hasan Muratovic, the new prime minister, and the resignation of the bourgeois democrat Haris Siladjzic who has split with the SDA.

The leader of the Bosnian Social Democratic Party has been prevented from standing in the elections by physical threats from the Bosnian Serbs. In the elections in Mostar, Croat candidates who stood on joint lists with the Bosnian Muslims were beaten up in the Croat part of the town and their homes raided. In Muslim areas, SDA squads and police have repeatedly attacked candidates and meetings of other parties.

All in all the elections will be a further step towards consolidating the territorial ethnic divisions of Bosnia. The major parties are “persuading” as many of the electorate as they can to register in areas they control, not where they lived before the war.

The coming elections are important for the imperialist forces as well as for the reactionary leaders in Bosnia itself.

In the USA, they will be used to demonstrate a foreign policy success for Clinton. The elections are also a test for the European imperialist powers whose institutions are overseeing the elections.

The holding of the elections, and the creation of parliamentary and governmental bodies legitimised by them, will give the green light for the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Bosnian refugees all across Europe.

The various nationalist leaderships in Bosnia are quite happy with the elections. Within their ethnically cleansed enclaves, they are likely to win.

The elections will give democratic credentials to those parties whose aim is to split their ethnically “pure” regions from Bosnia, fuse them with their respective “motherlands” and thereby prepare a way to achieve the aim they previously pursued by war—the carve up of Bosnia.

This is why the Bosnian government is least keen on the elections. Izetbegovic’s whole policy has led him into this trap.

Over the last year, the Bosnian government has become the force most reliant on imperialism’s support and aid. And Izetbegovic’s SDA is likely to finally accept the split up of Bosnia if that is the price for controlling their own mini-state.

The warmongers, the nationalists, the enemies of the working class will not be removed from power by the elections. Their power will be consolidated. The elections are a fraudulent attempt to bolster imperialism’s plans and to establish the ethnic parties in dictatorial positions in the three statelets.

The Bosnian workers’ movement could and should have mobilised a campaign to boycott these elections, indicating its rejection of the ethnic division of Bosnia. However, it did not and this testifies to continued illusions in elections after four years of war. Workers wishing to preserve a multi-ethnic Bosnia will participate in the elections. They will seek representation for parties which pledge to fight for this.

There are only few viable political forces standing against ruling reactionary parties. On the one hand, there is the open bourgeois, pro-imperialist party of Silajdzic, which stands for a unitary bourgeois-democratic, multi-ethnic Bosnia. No vote must be given to this force.

On the other, there is the left alliance around the Social Democratic Party of Bosnia-Herzegovina (SDP), which emerged out of the former Stalinist “League of Communinists”. The SDP stood against Serb and Croat nationalists. Its stronghold is Tuzla, where it is linked to the miners’ union.

Despite its bourgeois, pro-capitalist programme and its refusal to reject the imperialist bombardments of the Bosnian Serbs, it is organically linked to the working class and has a clear anti-nationalist stand.

Unlike nearly all the other parties it is not confined to the Bosnian Muslim areas, but has links with trade unionists and leftists in the other parts of Bosnia and in Serbia and Croatia.

However, it stands in an electoral block with one other reformist party, the Union of Bosnian-Herzegovinan Social Democrats (UBSD), and three petit-bourgeois parties: the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS), the Republican Party (RS) and the Muslim-Bosnian Organisation (MBO).

Faced with this alliance workers should vote only for the SDP candidates. If the electoral list system makes this impossible then they should cross off the other candidates from the list, thereby expressing both their support for the SDP as a multi-ethnic workers’ party and their opposition to its class collaborationist policy.

Such a policy clearly must not be confused with giving any political support to the SDP or a refusing to criticise its positions.

But any revolutionary policy on Bosnia today will have to relate to existing political, trade union and workplace organisations in the country.

Most crucially, a party must be created which can give a lead to these struggles, fighting for an action programme to link them with the fight against capitalist restoration, imperialism, the old bureaucrats and the new bourgeoisie.