July 11 1995 was the beginning of the Srebrenica massacre, the worst atrocity committed by Serb nationalists during their wars to dominate the other peoples of former Yugoslavia. In a few days over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims men and boys were murdered. It was by far the largest mass killing in Europe since the 1940s.
There were crimes committed on all sides during the wars in former Yugoslavia, but it was nowhere near symmetrical. Serbia, in control of the bulk of Yugoslavia’s military machine, and Serb nationalist militias attempted to deny the other nations of the former federation self-determination. The Bosnian Muslims were faced with being crushed and dispersed. The Serb authorities actively organised slaughter of civilians, ethnic cleansing, rape and destruction of mosques.
Under the banner of “peace” and opposing Western intervention, the Stalinist-influenced Labour left sided with the Serb nationalists, allying with elements of the Tory right to do so. The SWP declared its opposition to all nationalisms — as if that resolved the issues — and emphasised opposition to intervention. By the time of Serbian offensive against Kosova, in 1999, it had shifted to an effectively pro-Serbian position.
Failure to support the mainly-Muslim Bosnians and Kosovans against the virulently Islamophobic Serb nationalists shines a remarkable light on the pro-Islamist politics of much of the left after 2001. So does failure to support the Uyghur people against China’s oppression today.
• The left and Bosnia (1995)