Greater Surbiton

The perfect is the enemy of the good

More on Richard ‘Lenin’ Seymour’s support for Serbian imperialist expansion

In my last post here, I pointed to the fact that Richard ‘Lenin’ Seymour of the ‘Lenin’s Tomb’ blog, the most widely read blog of Britain’s Socialist Workers Party (SWP) has retrospectively endorsed Serbian territorial expansionism and embraced the arguments ofLiving Marxism, the former pro-Milosevic propaganda publication that denied the existence of Serb concentration-camps in Bosnia. In his response to me, Seymour hasn’t really denied any of this. He admits to endorsing the views of Philip Knightley, who was one of Living Marxism‘s supporters in its libel trial against ITN and who endorsed its apologia for the Serb camps; to denying the existence of Serb concentration-camps; and to viewing Milosevic’s regime as democratic and pluralistic. And he elaborates on his retrospective support for the principle of Serbian territorial expansionism:

After all, I am not the one who [would have] supported the logic of secessionism in the first place, and therefore I would have no problem explaining why the construction of separate states based on ethnic exclusivity would be no solution. It is Hoare who, considering Croatia’s secession legitimate and worthy of full-throated support, has to answer why the Krajina Serbs were not entitled to independence from Croatia (and political union with Serbia if they wished). This is particularly the case since the Serbs living in Krajina were, like other Serbs living throughout Croatia, genuinely victims of repression and ethnic hatred by a state whose early gestures included the rescuscitation of fascist symbolism. But if there is going to be secession, ought there not be negotiations as opposed to a unilateral military take-over of the territory? Might there not be a concession of territory by both parties, or are the borders of some states eternal and inviolable, like the Holy Mother’s virginity?

This is, of course, the same argument that Slobodan Milosevic made at the time of the war in Croatia. In an interview to British Sky Broadcasting TV on 7 August 1991, Milosevic argued:

We are not opposing the Croatian people’s right to self-determination. If they want to establish their own independent, national state, there is no reason for us to oppose that. However, if they want to leave Yugoslavia, they cannot take a section of the Serbian people with them. This right to self-determination belongs to the Serbian people as well… The people of Krajina have, first of all, decided to remain within, that is, a part of Yugoslavia and that is all.

(Text of recorded interview with Slobodan Milosevic, President of the Republic of Serbia, by Arnot Van Linden for British Sky Broadcasting television, Belgrade TV 1833 gmt 7 Aug 91, via BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 9 August 1991).

The central controversy of the wars in the former Yugoslavia revolved around this point: whether, given Yugoslavia’s break-up, the right of national self-determination should belong to the individual republics or federal units, in their Titoist borders – as I and others argued – or whether these borders should be redrawn to give Serbia a significantly larger share of the territory – as Milosevic, Seymour and various Serb nationalists and their apologists argue (there is also a Tudjmanite Great Croatian variant on this argument, which is that the borders should have been redrawn to give both Serbia and Croatia a larger share of the territory, but we’ll come to that later).

The Milosevic/Seymour demand for ‘self-determination’ for the ‘Krajina’ in a euphemistic way of saying that Serbia should be, or should have been, allowed to annex part of Croatia’s territory as the price for Croatia’s secession. As I pointed out in my last post (a point which Seymour did not respond to, because there isn’t really a counter-argument):

1) Roughly half of the pre-war population of the territories encompassing the ‘Serb Republic of Krajina’ was comprised of Croats and other non-Serbs; even the territory of ‘Krajina’ in the narrower sense, i.e. the crescent-shaped stretch of Serb-occupied land in central Croatia, had a substantial Croat population; the Milosevic/Seymour call for ‘self-determination of Krajina’ simply treats these people as if they don’t exist;

2) Roughly half of all Croatian Serbs lived outside the territory of the ‘Serb Republic of Krajina’, in Zagreb, Split and other large Croatian cities and elsewhere; the overwhelming majority lived outside the territory of the ‘Krajina’ region narrowly defined; the Milosevic/Seymour line, again, treats these people as if they don’t exist.

It should not be necessary – but apparently is – to add to this the truism that ‘Krajina’ was neither a nation, nor a country, nor a historic region, nor any form of legitimate entity, but was simply the name given by the Serb extremists to part of Croatia that they occupied.

So if the Milosevic/Seymour call for ‘self-determination for Krajina’ cannot be justifed on the grounds of self-determination for the inhabitants of the Serb-occupied areas, and cannot be justified on the grounds of self-determination or even minority protection for the Croatian Serbs, what precisely is its justification ?

The answer is this: ‘self-determination for Krajina’ is simply a euphemism for part of Croatia to be annexed to Serbia. Seymour used a slightly less dishonest euphemism in his comments on his own earlier post, when he wrote of ‘border rectifications’. He means the annexation of part of the territory of a smaller, weaker state (Croatia) by the larger, predatory state that is attacking it (Serbia).

How else does Seymour’s attempt to justify his support for Milosevic’s land-grab in Croatia ?

After all, I am not the one who [would have] supported the logic of secessionism in the first place, and therefore I would have no problem explaining why the construction of separate states based on ethnic exclusivity would be no solution.

Seymour is an Irishman, so I am confident that, given his retrospective opposition to the ‘logic of secessionism’, it is only a matter of time before we read a post by him explaining why Ireland should have opposed the ‘logic of secessionism’ and remained in the UK. I hope so, otherwise people might suspect that he was a shameless, lying hypocrite.

As for his straw man ‘I would have no problem explaining why the construction of separate states based on ethnic exclusivity would be no solution’ – this is rather rich coming from a member of a party, the SWP, that did everything possible to sabotage the international campaign in defence of a united, multiethnic Bosnia. And it is particularly amusing that Seymour makes this claim while simultaneously arguing for Croatia’s dismemberment into separate ‘Serb’ and ‘Croat’ areas. No, Einstein, a ‘separate state based on ethnic exclusivity’ is not a good thing, that is why genuine anti-fascists opposed the ethnic partition of both Bosnia and Croatia and supported their self-determination as multiethnic wholes – unlike the SWP, which did not.

Seymour continues:

But if there is going to be secession, ought there not be negotiations as opposed to a unilateral military take-over of the territory? Might there not be a concession of territory by both parties, or are the borders of some states eternal and inviolable, like the Holy Mother’s virginity?

‘Concession of territory by both parties’ !! Yes, he said that. Now he appears to be arguing that not only some parts of Croatia should be annexed to Serbia, but that some parts of Serbia should be annexed to Croatia ! But since Croatia had no territorial claims on Serbia, and since there were no large Croat-inhabited areas in Serbia, it is completely unclear which territories he has in mind, and the suspicion must be that he has simply inserted the phrase ‘by both parties’ in order to retreat from his earlier position of supporting ‘territorial rectifications’ solely in Serbia’s favour and at Croatia’s expense. He can, of course, prove me wrong by simply explaining which parts of each state should have been annexed to the other. We’re all waiting, Richard…

There is, of course, another possibility: that Seymour believes Serbia should have been allowed to annex part of Croatia’s territory, while Croatia should have been compensated with part of Bosnia’s territory where Croats lived. This would make sense: given Seymour’s support for the ‘self-determination of Krajina’; he presumably would also have supported the ‘self-determination of Herceg-Bosna’ – the Croat statelet carved out of Bosnia by Tudjman.

This is, after all what Tudjman himself essentially advocated. Tudjman, in fact, spent the best part of the 1990s engaged in ‘negotiations’ of the kind Seymour favours – for territorial exchanges and the redrawing of borders between Serbs and Croats. This began in March 1991, with the Karadjordjevo talks between Milosevic and Tudjman for the partition of Bosnia. They continued with the Graz agreement in May 1992 between the Serb and Croat extremists, for the delineation of spheres of control in Bosnia. And they culminated in the Dayton Agreement in November 1995, when Tudjman did indeed negotiate the handing over of a portion of Croat-held (Bosnian) territory to Republika Srpska. Tudjman appears to have believed what Seymour argues today: that Milosevic and the Serb extremists were essentially reasonable, and would have called off the war if only the Croats would agree to ‘negotiations’ on ‘border rectifications’.

So unless I am much mistaken, on the key points – support for ‘negotiations’ to determine the borders between Serbs and Croats; support for ‘border rectifications’; and denial of the legitimacy of a unified Bosnia – Seymour is entirely in agreement with the politics of the late President Franjo Tudjman.

This is an irony, but for those of us who have watched the SWP’s moral degeneration over the past two decades, it is hardly a surprise…

Wednesday, 30 July 2008 - Posted by | Balkans, Bosnia, Croatia, Former Yugoslavia, Genocide, Kosovo, Red-Brown Alliance, Serbia, The Left

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: