Issue 191 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published November 1995 Copyright © Socialist Review
Maddy Cooper's letter (September SR) makes me angry. The Serbian occupation of Muslim districts of Bosnia brought the return to Europe, after an absence of 50 years, of unprovoked racist torture and extermination.
The Serbs fleeing ahead of the recent Bosnian offensive were terrified by the fabricated anti-Muslim propaganda stories put out by their own racist government. No credible evidence has emerged that the Bosnian government is other than what it claims to be--the upholder of civilised values and a multiracial society.
There are times and places where socialists must take sides with liberal imperialists to confront racism and fascism. The Second World War was one such case and Bosnia, in my view, is another. Some comrades seem so obsessed by hatred of the US military power that they will oppose it even when it fights for justice and decency. If Nato does not check and punish the mass murderers then who will?
If comrades think they can spark off a revolution in the Serb police state let them go there, try it, and see how long they last.
Alan Woodward (October SR), claims that there is no way that revolutionaries can intervene in the Bosnian war, other than by taking the side of the Bosnian government.
He is wrong on both counts, stemming from his wrong analysis of the war. His theory of national liberation does not fit in the Bosnian case. Before the war none of the three major ethnic groups was oppressed. The Muslims, Serbs and Croats lived side by side in mixed communities for centuries. During the economic and political crisis which the old Stalinist regime faced in the late 1980s the absence of an organisation which could have raised slogans of class struggle and broken down the emerging nationalist divisions helped the nationalist politicians prepare for the war.
During this time Izetbegovic set up a Muslim nationalist party, SDA, which shares the same platform of vile nationalism as his Serb and Croat counterparts. Workers and peasants were pushed to support their respective nationalist parties, which rallied under the banner of the 'right to self determination'. In the Bosnian context of highly mixed communities this led to 'ethnic cleansing'.
At the first stages of the war the Serbs were the strongest, which resulted in horrific massacres of the Muslims. But as soon as the Sarajevan government and Croats got better armed (by the US) the 'national struggles' showed their real nature.
Around 200,000 Croatian Serbs have fled Krajina, the remaining few being massacred, and thousands of Bosnian Serb civilians have fled from western Bosnia. Is this 'driving off the Bosnian Serb forces' as Alan Woodward calls it?
The projects of Greater Serbia, Great Croatia and independent Bosnia share the same aim--divide and rule. Ethnic cleansing is the means to achieve this.
The Izetbegovic government's empty slogans of 'multi-ethnic goals' are a way of getting support from the West, just as Tudjman's talk of 'Western culture and democracy' is an attempt to court German and US support. The Croat, Muslim and Serb ruling classes are closely knitted with the imperialist interests of the competing world powers. Supporting one side against another in the Bosnian war just reinforces the nationalist divisions, strangling a potential workers' revolt on all sides, and giving 'lefty' cover for Croatia's and Izetbegovic's territorial ambitions.
Neil Davidson's review of Braveheart (October SR) told us a lot about the history of Scotland's war of independence. It was very interesting but it will not do as a review of the film.
Braveheart is a piece of fiction based on historical events. It is not a documentary. Therefore, to simply attack it as historically inaccurate is not good enough.
In the Name of the Father, the film based on the Guilford Four case, was attacked by the right wing for its supposed inaccuracies, as was Ken Loach's Hidden Agenda.
Scottish audiences are not so naive as to fail to grasp certain historical inaccuracies. Watching the film in Edinburgh I heard one group criticising the fact William Wallace is portrayed as a Highlander.
Perhaps some Scots may have left the cinema wanting to join the SNP or to burn down English owned holiday homes. But that wasn't the mood when I saw the film.
What is more important is that the film centres on rebellion from below. It spells out that it's better to resist than not, and that the poor cannot trust the rich.
Braveheart is not one of my all time favourites. But I enjoyed it and most people I know liked it because of its spirit of rebellion. If Neil Davidson's criteria were applied to every film, few would pass the test of historical accuracy.
Neil Davidson's review of Braveheart (October SR) is right to stress its many historical inaccuracies. To fail to do so would be a surrender to postmodernist notions which refuse to distinguish between history and fiction.
Movies are not simply texts on which socialists can inscribe any kind of inspirational message that they like.
Apart from its homophobia and the orgies of dumb macho violence, the main message of Braveheart is that Scots should line up behind nationalism in the present as part of the age old patriotic struggle against the English. The way that the film is being received by audiences in Scotland feeds into a virulent anti-English chauvinism which the SNP leaders are doing everything in their power to fan.
The message of this miserable vehicle for Mel Gibson's vanity is thoroughly reactionary and one which socialists should reject.
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