International Workers Aid: Our Solidarity Work with the Liberation Struggle of Bosnia in 1992-95

Michael Pröbsting, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 11.2.2014, www.thecommunists.net

 

In our resolution “Victory to the Bosnian Revolution!” we summarized our position during the Bosnia war in 1992-95. “The RCIT (respectively our predecessor organization) always defended the Bosnian people against the genocidal war which was started by the Serbian (and Croatian) nationalist forces in 1992. This war brought unspeakable suffering for the Bosnian Muslims and those Serbs and Croats who resisted the nationalist partition of Bosnia by the Serbian and Croatian chauvinists. According to a report about the war 1992-95 by the head of the Bosnian Delegation to the United Nations in 2008, 200,000 people were killed, 12,000 of them children, up to 50,000 women were raped, and 2.2 million were forced to flee their homes (in a country of about 4 million people)! We denounced the reactionary Bosnian government of Alija Izetbegović which – like the bureaucracies of the other republics – was striving to restore capitalism and which failed to defend the Bosnian people against the chauvinist aggressors. We called for international support for the national liberation war of the Bosnian people and combined this with the perspective of a multi-national workers republic in Bosnia as part of a socialist Balkan federation. We denounced the US and EU imperialists who strangled the Bosnian resistance with an arms embargo and whose UN troops collaborated with the Serbian chauvinists when the butcher General Mladić organized the mass murder of 8.000 Muslim men in Srebrenica in July 1995. We were part of the “International Workers Aid” campaign delivering medicine, clothes, etc. for the workers in Tuzla and other places. We called for arms and international volunteer brigades for the Bosnian resistance and denounced the NATO bombing campaign in summer 1995 which stopped the Bosnian national liberation forces when they were starting to advance and to take back the areas which they had lost in the first war years. In short, the RCIT stood – in contrast to many pseudo-Marxist groups – for the victory of the Bosnian people and the defeat of reactionary Serbian chauvinists and combined this with the perspective of a socialist Balkan federation.” (RCIT: Victory to the Bosnian Revolution! Workers and Youth: Form Popular Councils and Take the Power! Spread the Revolution to the whole Balkan! For a Socialist Federation of the Balkan People!, 9.2.2014, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/bosnian-revolution/)

In this short article we will briefly report about our activities in the International Workers Aid (IWA) campaign in 1993-95. This campaign was a broad campaign of trade unionists and left-wing organizations which started in summer 1993. We collected food, medicine and clothes and brought them with trucks to Tuzla which was the heart of the multi-ethnical Bosnian working class resistance against the Serbian chauvinist forces during the liberation war in 1992-95. At this time 140,000 inhabitants plus 70,000 refugees lived in Tuzla. The campaign was started in Scotland and was established in 11 countries, including Scandinavian countries, Austria and Italy.

The predecessor organization of the RCIT (the “League for a Revolutionary Communist International”) was part of IWA from the beginning in several European countries. The author of this article was the coordinator of the campaign in Austria.

The campaign received broad support from many trade unions. In Britain the union of the printers, the oil workers, the transport workers, the miners, the Dockers and of the journalists supported the campaign. The Belgian metal workers union, the French CGT, various local and small unions in Germany and Austria, the Autonomous Trade Union Federation in Croatia as well as Slovenian trade unions were also part of the campaign.

The first IWA convoy got to Tuzla on November 7 1993 and brought about 18 tonnes of aid. While this was not a lot given the terrible circumstances, it gave a lot of encouragement for the people in Tuzla.

We do not want to hide that there were also political weaknesses in the platform of the IWA campaign. It lacked a clear political internationalist and anti-imperialist perspective. At an international conference in autumn 1993 in Manchester I participated as the delegate for the Austrian IWA committee. While some of our proposals were adopted, the following two were rejected. I proposed to add the slogans 'Lift the Arms-Embargo against Bosnia!' and 'UN-troops out of Bosnia!'. We recognized that the Bosnian resistance suffered most from the imperialist arms embargo and desperately needed arms to resist the genocidal war of the Serbian (and Croatian) chauvinists. And we had no illusions about the reactionary role of the UN troops as it became so obvious in Srebrenica and other places.

Nevertheless the International Workers Aid campaign was a powerful example of international working class solidarity for the Bosnian people who faced the worst genocide in Europe since World War II. The RCIT is proud that it had been part of this campaign.