As I write, “the world” is very anti-Serbian. It wants Croatia to be permitted to secede from Yugoslavia on nationalist grounds. A war is being fought because Croat leaders insist that the Croatia which appears on the map becomes an independent state. The Serb leaders say that the Croatia which appears on the map is part of Yugoslavia and cannot be maintained otherwise than as part of Yugoslavia. The Serbs in Croatia are Yugoslav citizens, and it is only as Yugoslav citizens that it is tolerable for them to form part of Croatia. But, if Yugoslavia is to be dissolved into nationalities, it must not be on the lines of the internal divisions of the Yugoslav state, but on the lines of the nationalities on the ground. I can see no flaw in that reasoning.
The Croats, who are very much in favour with “the world”, say that Serbia is Communist, and are not required to say what bearing that has – if it is true – on the nationality argument. Serbia says that Croatia only ever existed separately as a Catholic fascist state under the aegis of Nazi Germany, when it conducted wholesale massacres of non-Catholics, and that in the reconstruction of Yugoslavia it was given large Serb areas by “the dictator Tito”.
Only the Communist Party had ever transcended the national divisions of the South Slavs. Yugoslavia could only exist as a Communist state. If it is to be broken up because of the overthrow of Communism, the anti-Communists hardly have reason on their side when they base their claims on the divisions made within the Communist settlement.
The “Greater Serbia” of the BBC echoes “Greater Germany” and thus implies that the regions of Yugoslavia are separate states. They are not. Croatia was made much bigger, under the Communist settlement, than nationalist considerations would have entitled it to be. It is madness for the EC to be encouraging Croatia to reject the Serbian proposal that, if Yugoslavia is to be dissolved, it should be on the actual lines of nationality and not on the administrative divisions made by “the dictator Tito” within the Communist settlement.
Brendan Clifford Irish Political Review September 1991
This article is an out-take from six that appeared in Irish Political Review in 1991, at the time of the Gulf War. It was also republished in July 2014, in Issue 15-16 of Problems magazine.
It was in practice two articles – one on Russia and another loosely connected on Yugoslavia as it then was. So I have separated it out.
Irish Political Review is a magazine which has been in existence in 1986. It was a follow-on from the Irish Communist.
You can find more at the Problems page on the Labour Affairs website. A PDF of the whole magazine is available there.