The War in Ukraine Through Some Memories of the Yugoslav Wars

This article may sit uneasily among others that look at developments of Russian and us imperialism, the movements of capital, energy markets, etc., in trying to understand the war in Ukraine. I want to go back to some of my personal experiences in Bosnia and Kosova between 1993 and 2002, during the Yugoslav wars. Those wars were very different from the present conflict in Ukraine but today I often read similar arguments and perspectives that were made then in left circles. I’m not going to refer much to current debates. People will see the parallels.

Since this is going to be a personal reflection let me just say who I am—since some people read these things with a mental clipboard waiting to pigeonhole writers according to their political grouping. I am a uk pensioner, not now a member of any political organization. From my teenage years in the 1960s till 1985 I was a foot soldier in a Trotskyist cult, the Workers’ Revolutionary Party, led by the serial sexual groomer Gerry Healy. In those days I worked in aircraft and car factories. The break-up of the cult in 1985 made it possible for me to begin to think for myself and do things during the Yugoslav wars that would have previously been impossible when building the “Party” was the only permitted activity. Indeed, my experiences in the war put an end to my “vanguard party” outlook. So, if you have a pigeonhole simply marked “revolutionary”—pop me in there.

On the eve of the Russian invasion of Ukraine I was at a meeting which sadly didn’t even discuss the troops massing on the border; but in the closing minutes this was raised as something we ought to talk about next time! A comrade declared “Well, we know what our line will be: ‘No war but the class war.’ ” Amen to that! But the problem is, where is the class war? How is it being fought, who is fighting it? And above all what does that mean for us, worker militants, far from the war? What do we do?

This is what I want to try to consider in what follows.

I was recently invited to Poland to speak about the Bosnia war. After I spoke a young woman took the floor. She had just returned from eastern Ukraine where she had meetings with miners and steel workers in Kryvyi Rih, the huge mining and industrial belt a short distance from the Russian front lines. It’s worth noting that this comrade worked in the Amazon warehouse in Poznan until she was recently fired for her union organizing activities as a member of the base union “Workers Initiative.” To summarize her report, the Ukraine miners and steel workers told her that for years they, and their whole community, had been fighting the mine owners and the Ukraine government over pollution, low pay, safety conditions, etc., but now they had no choice but to fight the Russians as well—because they had seen what had happened to their comrades in the Donbass, occupied by the Russians eight years ago. So, about half the workers had joined the army. The rest had continued to work but formed their own civil defense units which they’d had to equip themselves since they got nothing from Government. Interestingly, they reported, that senior management had all fled and ran the mines by Zoom!

I sat listening to this report and a kind of mental jolt went through me. This was the same kind of moment I had experienced in 1993. Before the Russian invasion I knew little about Ukraine. When the Yugoslav wars began, I knew nothing about the Balkans.

In 1992 and early 1993 our tv screens were full of scenes, first from Croatia and then from Bosnia of ethnic cleansing, mass killings and refugees pouring out of the country. But the main narrative being told by media and Western politicians was of an explosion of ancient ethnic hatreds. The left added a bit more—tracing the rise of nationalism within the Yugoslav political elite in the Communist Parties of the different republics that made up the Yugoslav Federation and how they had made alliances with different sections of global capital. I remember talking about the mass killings with an old comrade of mine who had lived through wwii and he said, “What can you do but weep?” And I agreed: appalled at the mass killings but feeling paralyzed. If workers were swept up in this orgy of nationalism what could anyone do but weep?

For the most part this is where lot of the left stayed, writing about the various activities of imperialism that led up to this terrible situation, some blaming Western interference, some blaming Stalinism, all writing about the “lessons” that must be learned but all, more or less, accepting that the Yugoslav working class had been silenced by the rise of nationalism and the war.

But then I began to hear from an old Serbian comrade giving a very different picture. In letter after letter, he detailed the way many sections of the Yugoslav working class had tried to fight against the collapse of industry and the economy and against the corrupt political elites as they tried to convert the socially owned property into their private wealth. (Yugoslavia did not have state-owned industries. On paper they belonged to the workforce.) He wrote about the steel workers. In the 1980s the industry had collapsed. The European Union (eu) had helped draw up a “modernization” plan that involved shutting 70 percent of the plants. Meanwhile steelworkers from all over Yugoslavia marched on Belgrade. No politicians dared meet them. How could the “modernization” plan be pushed through in the face of such worker opposition? Not by legislation. But by 1993 war had done it. The steel works had been bombed and destroyed or just abandoned.

The violence we were witnessing was not so much about ancient ethnic hatreds, my Serbian friend wrote, but rather the violence needed to break up modern working-class resistance.

The terrible, violent break-up of Yugoslavia erupted along ethnic and national lines but the driving force, exploiting old divisions, was the need of political elites and gangsters to break up modern working-class resistance, however incoherent, to the robbery of social property and collapsing living standards.

Had this working class completely vanished? With the war now raging in Bosnia, he wrote about the northern industrial and mining city of Tuzla, under total siege by Serbian and Croatian nationalists.

This town had been one of the cradles of the Yugoslav working class and to understand the situation in 1992 it’s useful to go back briefly to 1922 and the Husina Buna, the miners’ uprising. Then the Tuzla mines were worked by men from Hungary, Poland, Romania as well as local Croats, Serbs and Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims). The foreign miners lived in mine-owned dormitories and every previous strike had been defeated by the authorities sealing off the dormitories and deporting miners back to their own countries. In 1922, however, with the young communist movement gaining strength, people were prepared and when a strike started the local population took all the foreign miners into their homes despite facing jail sentences for doing so. A long and bitter struggle followed, only beaten when the Bosnian government brought in troops and armed gangs. Hundreds of miners were dragged in chains through the pit villages in the deep snow of winter.

But this unified struggle of the working class laid the basis for Tuzla’s militant history—saw it become the biggest “free territory” during the Partisan resistance to Nazi occupation and above all saw it become the most ethnically mixed region in Tito’s Yugoslavia. In the census of the 1970s 70 percent of the Tuzla people simply declared themselves as Yugoslavs, not Croats, or Serbs or Bosniaks as they could. It had the highest proportion of mixed marriages.

In the 1980s, this militant history and the ethnically diverse population saw Tuzla become a center of opposition to the rising nationalist political elites after the death of Tito. The Tuzla miners and their families led a huge demonstration of hundreds of thousands in Sarajevo in 1992, shouting “Down with all the nationalists.” But this demonstration was fired upon by Chetnik (Serbian nationalist) snipers. War had begun.

The miners returned to Tuzla, seized the weapons from the local Yugoslav Peoples Army (jna) barracks (by this time the jna was an entirely Serbian Government force) and established the defenses of Tuzla and the surrounding “free territory”—free to all ethnicities.

So, as I read these letters from Serbia, I started to see a way to overcome my paralysis because here was a working class—not in the sociological sense of “workers” but in the political sense of people trying to assert their working-class interests. This was what so excited me in Poland with the report from the Ukraine miners. I was no longer looking at things from an ignorant distance, from where all that could be seen was the elites, local and international, fighting for their share of the loot, but starting to see where “the class war” was, even if only dimly, a faint glimmer. My Serbian comrade made a simple proposal—the Bosnian miners had given a day’s pay each month to the striking uk miners in 1984–85; couldn’t this solidarity now be reciprocated by British workers? Tuzla was being starved into submission; no food had got in for 12 months. Could British workers get supplies to Tuzla?

I won’t go into the Workers’ Aid for Bosnia campaign that some of us then began—you can listen to an interview I did about all this. Over the next three years, we took over 100 lorries of supplies as well as taking hundreds of people to Tuzla, including trade union delegations, and helped miners’ and teachers’ representatives to come out and do speaking tours of Europe. Instead, I want to concentrate on what I found in Tuzla and how this was so at odds with what most of the left were writing, where you would not find a hint of this working-class city or its resistance to ethnic division. All they could see was the Bosnian flag, for them just another symbol of nationalism.

In fact, even before I first got to Tuzla, I had a sense of its character. In Manchester, where I live, two of us organized our first public meeting, “Solidarity with Bosnian miners, Stop ethnic cleansing.” A couple of hundred people turned up testifying to the widespread public horror of what was happening. (It was this huge public outrage at ethnic cleansing that made it possible for us to collect money, buy lorries, get food, warehouses and find drivers.) At the meeting were several newly arrived Bosnian refugees, including a woman from Tuzla who stood up and spoke movingly of how she had brought her children to safety while her husband had stayed behind to defend their city. “It is a workers’ city and I think only a workers’ convoy will have the determination to get there,” she said.

It took us only a few weeks to raise enough money to buy lorries and fill them with food but it took many months to get through the military blockades and reach Tuzla. The minute you arrived you felt the reality of the refugee woman’s statement “this is a workers’ city.” Built up over coal and salt deposits, the city had become the center, not just of mining, but of associated chemical industries. Now everything was idle apart from the coal mines. The siege had put an end to all other activities. But everywhere you felt the presence of the working class. Education was a good example. The teachers’ unions had organized education under siege, from primary to university level. Without any pay and without any resources the teachers had kept the classes going for all ethnicities. We visited many schools, often held in basements because of the shelling, and over and over we heard the same thing from children, “Before the war we never thought who is Serb, who is Muslim, who is Croat, we were just friends. Now the enemy want to divide us but they never will.” A miner in a bar laughed when we talked about ethnic division, “Down the mine we are all just workers.” There were still many people alive who had been in the Partisans, many people who had enthusiastically built the post-war socialist society. I visited an old woman dying in hospital, the mother of the refugee in Manchester. “We built this hospital” she told me proudly. Many homes still had their picture of Tito.

Of course, when I say it was a workers’ city this was not really true. Everyone we spoke to, politicians, judges, journalists, police chiefs—all acknowledge their roots in the mining community but in reality, the city’s political leaders all came from the old cp bureaucracy and had converted themselves into Social Democrats. In the immediate outbreak of war, citizens’ committees had sprung up everywhere to organize things like security in each tower block, which was where people lived. But over time the city bureaucracy had stifled such self organization. The ad-hoc military units gave way to regular army organization. Meanwhile, Tuzla was completely cut off from Sarajevo, the capital where the overall Bosnian political and military leadership was. And Sarajevo was firmly in the hands of the sda, the Bosnian Muslim nationalist party. But in Tuzla the sda had virtually no influence and throughout the war there was an uneasy alliance between Sarajevo and Tuzla. And in Tuzla there was an uneasy alliance between the working class and the political/military leadership.

Here, I guess, is the very heart of the problem with “No war but the class war” and all the other outside political commentators on the left who only see workers supporting “nationalism” or bourgeois war mongers. That is certainly how most left commentators saw it then. But were the Tuzla miners and citizens simply uncritically acting as cannon fodder to further the aims of the would-be bourgeoisie in Sarajevo? They were, after all, fighting as units of the Bosnian army, ultimately under Sarajevo’s control. But were they fighting for the same things?

Many Tuzla citizens were clear what their war aims were, defending their lives, the existence of their city and the right of all workers to live together. It might not seem very revolutionary. But is that very surprising? They had lived through five decades of Stalinism that used the words of socialism to justify the one-party rule of the bureaucracy. Indeed, the only person still waving the red star was the Serbian leader, Milosevic, who was overseeing their bombardment. The collapse of the old regime had coincided with war. The workers had no independent political parties, so was it surprising that they could only hold onto the most elementary aspect of their militant past—the right of all workers to live together?

And how did this these citizens’ war aims fit in with the plans of the Bosnian elite; how did the workers willingly fight in “their” army. Well, very simple. Because of Bosnia’s multi—ethnic population and the Serbian and Croatian governments’ plan to divide Bosnia between them, the sda Bosnian government, for their own ends, had to fly the flag of a “United Bosnia.” So, on the surface the Tuzla workers and the Sarajevo nationalists had a common war aim.

So, we would sit in meetings with the miners, or teachers. We would visit the trenches, meet men and women of all ethnic backgrounds, poorly equipped, wearing jeans and trainers and talk to them of what they were fighting for. Their language was very significant. Surrounded and bombarded by Serbian forces, but in Tuzla the enemy was never called “Serb,” but always referred to as “Chetniks” (the old name for Serbian royalists and nationalists), since there were many Serbs fighting to defend Tuzla. Then we would return to Britain and read endless articles in much of the left press about how workers in Yugoslavia must reject nationalism and unite against the bosses and imperialism. But unite with who? Yes, in Bosnia an ideal, politically sophisticated workers’ movement would have tried to reach out to the Serbian masses. But you know what? It’s very difficult, even for the politically sophisticated, to find a way to fraternize with someone with their boot on your neck and a pistol to your head. And what about the “unity” that did exist? In Tuzla, where they had fought against all nationalism and now, in order to survive, found that they had to fight in the Bosnian army. Didn’t that “unity” merit support? Well, the answer from the left was overwhelmingly “no”—but only in the sense that they just wrote as if this actual working class didn’t exist. For them, the only one was the one they invented, in the grips of nationalism.

Our solidarity efforts were criticized on all fronts for supporting Bosnian nationalism, supporting German imperialism, etc., etc. “Workers must break from their own bourgeoisie before they could be supported.” One us group accused us of gun running for nato, a curious idea since the West was itself imposing an arms embargo on Bosnia. But since we had to negotiate our way through hostile army front lines, this accusation could have done us great harm. A good thing only geeks read a lot of this stuff!

And then, even worse, the continual denial, by the some of the left of certain realities, that we saw with our own eyes, realities that didn’t fit in with their “analyses.” This was very strong in that section of the left that decided Western imperialism had organized the breakup of Yugoslavia and that Serbia had opposed this. Utter historical nonsense—but never mind. Despite its collapse, ussr nostalgia was still strong in the Western left, even the anti-Stalinist left. The crude “enemy of my enemy is my friend” was really very much at work.

Left groups denied that there were concentration camps run by the Serb nationalists—“Western propaganda.” The many “massacres” were “staged.” In May 1995 a single shell fell in the center of Tuzla killing seventy-five young people who gathered for a basketball competition. We knew some of the people killed. On the evening of the massacre all the bereaved families gathered together and decided that their children would be buried together in a public park, not in the traditional religiously separate cemeteries. They wanted to show the world that the children had lived together and died together. The local tv station told me that they had put out footage of the massacre and the funeral but no tv station anywhere in the world took their footage. Imagine my feelings then when I listened to left groups denying these events had happened or resort to “well all sides did bad things.” (This, of course, is always true in war but in Bosnia, as in Ukraine, they are no equivalents between aggressor and the resistance.) Moreover, time and excavations of mass graves have disproved all those claims of “fabricated” massacres.

Tuzla was not defeated. I don’t want to go into the Srebrenica massacre which was part and parcel of the steps leading up to the dirty deal done at Dayton to stave off nationalist defeat that effectively rewarded the ethnic cleansers and foisted an unworkable, corrupt state on Bosnia. But Tuzla survived, its working-class ethos survived and that can be seen in the post-war events.

The closed factories were seized by vultures and asset stripped but everywhere the workers continued to resist with factory occupations going on for years as they fought both local and national government. Hundreds of workers marched on the Croatian border—now within the European Union. The marchers, from the silent factories, demanded to be let into the eu. They shouted “The eu now rules Bosnia and we have mass unemployment, so let us into the eu to find work to feed our families.” The border guards forced them back.

Then in 2017, with youth unemployment standing at 70 percent, a demonstration in Tuzla was brutally attacked by the police. The next day almost the entire population took to the streets calling for jobs, and an end to the corruption of the political class, overseen by the eu. Government and police buildings were burnt down. The offices of the Social Democrats were ransacked. And young people tried to set up a council (a soviet?) to take control of the town. It didn’t succeed, not surprisingly as this was the very first attempt to create a free, public space for discussion in anyone’s lifetime. But their actions spread across the region with similar demonstrations and councils. They will be back.

But what’s important here is how this long history of working-class militancy was not totally crushed. Trapped by Stalinism, hammered by war, crippled by mass unemployment but never eradicated. We did a little bit to help it; above all we tried, through our efforts, to resurrect the idea of a working class and international practical solidarity.

This initiative was supported by various political groups around the world but above all by thousands of people in Britain, many of them young unemployed, who hated the idea of ethnic division. So, it wasn’t just a case of us “helping” the Bosnians. It was how, via our initiative, the Bosnian resistance helped give young people in the uk a radical political perspective. This is an important discussion. I have said most of the left ignored Tuzla but not all. Several political groups did make their way to Tuzla—but then and now there needs to be a discussion about what the purpose of such visits are. There is/was a tendency to go to “sell” this or that group, this or that “outlook,” much as the way people visit picket lines to sell their group’s newspaper. I always believed that the main purpose of our actions was to try to rebuild working class internationalism, to get the class to begin to act as a class, responsible for its own. So, our focus was not primarily on what we did in Bosnia but what we did in Europe. How could the Tuzla resistance act as a spark to move some parts of the class outside the war. If you wanted to have a serious discussion in Tuzla about the role of the working class then the best way to do that was to try to show that class in practice. That’s why we crammed all our lorries with as many people as possible. We managed to get postmen in Liverpool to put their own lorry on a convoy. Three union members drove the lorry to Bosnia. On the way there, they disagreed with one of our slogans, “Lift the un arms embargo, let Bosnia defend itself.” The postmen argued more guns meant more killing. Once in Tuzla they went to stay with Bosnian postmen and their families. At a press conference on Bosnian tv, the Liverpool postmen explained that having talked with their comrades they now understood why they needed weapons. I think this is how you strengthen the class. Not primarily by going and giving political lectures, though that can be useful.

From 1993 to 1995 we were going backwards and forwards with convoys of supplies. In the uk I could read left articles on the “lessons” from the war in Bosnia, concentrating on the duplicity of the west and the rottenness of the nationalist leaders in Yugoslavia. Of course, the west was duplicitous but actually most of these descriptions were partial or inadequate. Western policy was usually seen simply as being motivated by the desire to “colonize” this or that part of the Balkans but in reality its alliances with Balkan leaders were constantly shifting and of course there were differences between the Western players. But the overall concern was how to control the working class and if you only see it as a passive pawn in the game this never really features. This question of control was especially evident with Kosova (Kosovo in Serbian, Kosova in Albanian).

I first visited Kosova in 1996, to make contact with the education and miners unions there.

I had spent a lot of time in apartheid South Africa; Kosova was far worse. Everywhere the threat of violence against an entire people from the oppressor. Again, I look through the left press. Endless articles about Kosovan Albanian nationalism, about the nato bombing of Serbia, etc., but almost nothing about the history or conditions of Albanian workers in the period up to the bombing or their important role in trying to maintain Federal Yugoslavia. They appear only as dupes of Tony Blair or Bush.

When two of us travelled to Kosova in 1996 we had to go illegally, the area was sealed off. Milosevic’s tanks had rolled into the city a few years earlier and crushed the region’s parliament and its autonomous status that gave it exactly the same rights as the other Republics. When this happened, the Kosovar Albanians were the last people in Yugoslavia that tried to defend the Yugoslav constitution. The gold miners from Mitrovica first went on underground hunger strike and then led a mass march to the capital, behind the banner of “Defend Yugoslavia,” against what they rightly saw as Milosevic’s attempt to turn the Yugoslav Federation into Greater Serbia. But they got no support from workers in the other republics. The various regional political bureaucrats all thought, “let Milosevic have Kosova, then we will be free to do what we want.” A fatal miscalculation because in taking control of Kosova, Milosevic hitched his cart to the horse of rabid Serb nationalism, led by people like Arkan, a gangster and psychopath who controlled a growing army of looters and killers. After he invaded Kosova, Milosevic set his sights on the other republics.

Yugoslavia was dead. The prelude to the invasion saw Milosevic rally large parts of the Serbian population, including the intelligentsia, behind him with the myth that “Yugoslavia” and the Serb people were under attack from the West. The Kosova Albanians were just a front for nato. Milosevic also liked to shout about “Yugoslavia’s battle against the Nazis”—as if he could claim the mantle of Partisan Yugoslavia when he had actually just destroyed it. But much of the left repeated this propaganda. Meanwhile Milosevic was welcoming people like leading British Conservative politician, Douglas Hurd, to advise him on the privatization of the Serbian telecoms industry.

In Kosova we met with miners who had been locked out of their mines for six years as had all Albanians who worked for the state. Terrible poverty and hunger was everywhere. But again, as in Tuzla, the working class had organized itself. All teaching in the Albanian language was banned but the teachers’ unions had organized an entire underground education system. We visited a university philosophy class being held in a derelict house with no heating in the middle of winter. The room was packed with students in coats sitting on logs. The miners had organized a new trade union to try to get help for their starving members and also to try to prevent the destruction of their mines which were now being worked by scab labour brought in from Poland and elsewhere. But these were coal miners, not mineral miners, and the techniques are very different.

We began to repeat our solidarity convoys but, ironically, it was easier to get into a war zone than it was to get through the Serbian state control. Now our ongoing dialogue with the workers in Kosova is worth setting down in abbreviated form. When we first arrived the working class overwhelmingly supported a policy of nonviolent civil resistance. They knew that there were Serbian troops everywhere and that behind them were Arkan’s killers. The kla, Kosova Liberation Army, the Albanian nationalist armed force had very little support.

The Dayton Peace agreement changed everything. Western lefts write about the nato bombing of Serbia as if the us and uk had long wanted to destroy Serbia and free Kosova. But in 1996 at Dayton, it seems clear to me that in private the us told Milosevic, if you agree to the Bosnian peace deal you get to keep Kosova. The West were perfectly happy to let Milosevic control Kosova—as long as he could control it. But Milosevic wasn’t in control of Arkan whose looting of Bosnia had come to an end. He took Dayton as a green light to begin a killing spree in Kosova. The massacres of Albanians intensified and at this point the Albanians saw that passive resistance was hopeless and they turned to the kla. The war began. The kla knew they could never defeat the Serbian army and their tactic was simple and successful—make such chaos that nato has to intervene. Most of the Kosova Albanian civilian population fled across the borders into Albania and Macedonia.

So, I come to our discussions with the people we had been working with in Kosova, many of our friends now went off to the mountains to join guerilla bands. Suddenly they were all calling for nato intervention. The President of the University Lecturers’ Union who was doing a speaking tour with us in Spain, flew off to have discussions with the us State Department. Horror of Horrors! How can we go on working with them?

But hold on. This small population of 2 million people tried to defend a united Yugoslavia and no one came to their assistance. They tried to peacefully resist Serbian military dictatorship and starvation and no one came to their assistance. Now the killing squads were rampaging through the country murdering at will. We are there talking about working-class internationalism, but who are we? A ragtag handful of workers without a gun between us. Where is this international working class? Is it to be wondered that they, in desperation, look to the only force which they can see as capable of saving them from annihilation— nato?

So, we did go on working with them. Telling them everything we knew about nato but understanding their desperation. I was in Mitrovica, the mining town, two days after the Serbs pulled out, and nato forces went in. That evening the whole town was out in the streets, drinking, dancing and talking. French paratroopers patrolled. I sat with a group of young Albanians. I asked them what they thought of the nato presence. They replied “we know why nato are here, for their own interests, not ours. But this is the first time in our lives that we have been free to walk our streets at night so tonight we are partying.”

The next day we went with the miners to stage a protest outside their mines. Having been locked out for ten years by the Serb government troops, they were now locked out again, by French paratroopers. Our video camerawoman was arrested for filming outside the mine and her footage destroyed.

When is Kosova mentioned today by the left? Only in the context of nato’s bombing of Serbia. It’s thrown in as part of “look at the crimes of nato” argument. No mention of the oppression of working-class Albanian communities that took place under Milosevic with full Western complicity. This would make the picture too messy, wouldn’t fit the “narrative.”

It seems to me that much of the left reacted to the Yugoslav wars in a semi-religious way. They had their commandments, like “No war but the class war” or “The enemy is at home” and then, as events rapidly developed, they sought to squeeze the new world into their old commandments. They took those bits of evidence that seemed to support their beliefs and ignore others. Even those who did dig a bit deeper when the war erupted in their faces and rushed around to get a “Marxist analysis” of the causes never tried to find the working class. They just wrote it off.

All these slogans, “no war but the class war,” “revolutionary defeatism,” “the enemy is at home,” etc., are like stickers on a suitcase, a label to the contents. Look inside and there is a wealth of historical experiences but you can’t just peel off the sticker and put it on today’s suitcase. The present is always different from the past.

Over and over, people in the West, who are often not even capable of successfully organizing their own workplaces, somehow expect the workers of Eastern Europe to arise from the ashes of the ussr with a socialist outlook. Nor can some commentators understand why workers who have lived under Russian rule, both Stalinism and gangster capitalism, opt for life under Western capital.

People dismiss the Ukraine Maidan protests as just the work of the us, etc. Really? Of course, the us was there, as were the Russians. But did the Ukrainian masses have no reasons for themselves to rise up and oust the corrupt leaders?

The miners in Kyrvyi Rih understand very well the difference between living under the rule of Zelensky and the rule of the Russians in the Donbass. They’re not stupid dupes.

Tuzla workers knew what a victory for the Serbian nationalists would mean and they fought it in the only way they could see at that time and in those circumstances. That was their class war.

I don’t suggest that the kind of campaign we organized in 1993 can be repeated in other circumstances but I think the spirit of it is important.

The miners in Ukraine are fighting their class war and I’m sure so are many others there. Of course, developing a relationship with them will lead you all into terrible political dilemmas. They want to defeat the Russian invasion. To do that they need weapons. Where will they get them from??? Oh, my God, now you are on the road to hell! The old slogans are so much more comforting.

Footnote: After the end of the Bosnia war some of the people who had been the main organizers of the convoys got together and decided to put together a book of their experiences. The aim was not just to tell the history of the convoys but to try to say to readers: “We did this, so can you.” It is a scrapbook of personal memories of convoy people and Yugoslavs—with pictures! I’m happy to send people copies just for the price of postage. Write me.

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