the positions of the workers’ communist party of bosnia and herzegovina

Introduction by Chris Kane

The revolutionary communist movement in the former Yugoslavia has produced some of the most pioneering Marxists: Anton Cilliga, the critic of Stalinist state-capitalism, and the dissident Marxist humanists of the Praxis group in the League of Communists of Yugoslavia who produced figures such as Gajo Petrovic and Mihailo Markovic.  They developed an emancipatory school of communism closely identified with workers self-management, de-alienation and the importance of Marx’s early humanist writings.   Many of these ideas have been lost to West European communism and the insular British left: and with the wars in Yugoslavia the tradition appeared defeated.  But in Bosnia communists are reviving: the internationalist Workers’ Communist Party was founded in 2000.  These comrades have drawn a number of lessons from the experience of state-socialism, which is of particular relevance to our own situation in the UK today.  The Bosnian communists are clear that:

Nationalization of the means of production cannot bring freedom for the working class. State-owned enterprises are under the control of the state, in other words, under control of the ruling party. Exploitation remains. Only socialization of the means of production can produce real changes in the position of the working class. Social ownership is connected with socialist self-management (government).”  They take a clear stand against Parliamentarianism, stating that:  “The political system of socialism will be based on self-government at all levels of social organization. We do not accept a system of parliamentary democracy because it is based on partocracy – rule of the powerful parties and their leaders.” We republish below the basic goals of the Workers’ Communist Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Workers’ Communist Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina is a democratic party of a communist and Yugoslav orientation. The party was formed in June 2000. We strive to bring together the people of all nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina – that is the Bosniaks, the Croats, the Serbs and members of other nations and ethnic groups – on the basis of equality, brotherhood and unity. Events of the recent past have convinced us of the importance of  a policy of cooperation and brotherhood. Not just a slogan like the nationalist leaders often liked to say, but a way of life necessary for the country, whose history has been full of misunderstanding, death and the domination of powerful states.

During the communist regime, we were truly an independent state with the possibility for every nation to develop its national and cultural particularities. Today we see the necessity of gathering people of all nations around a coherent political programme that would exclude nationalist versions of past events, especially between 1990 and 1995. These nationalist ideas are still the corner stone of our divisions. Even left parties, socialists and social democrats, are nationally divided and often ready to strengthen nationalism in order to strengthen themselves. Bosnia and Herzegovina needs a wide political movement based on equal approach to three nationalisms, to their aims and war policies. Creating such movement is a harder way to reach political influence, but there is no chance that war leaders or their allies on the left can or want to stabilize society.

The Workers’ Communist Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina fights for a democratic socialist society. We do not think that the societies created in Eastern and Central Europe are what working class should fight for. After the October Revolution some revolutionary and socialist measures were taken, but they were not enough for the creation of a real socialist democracy in which every person and working people as whole could be free of oppression.

Bureaucracy inside the Communist Party became powerful, giving itself great authority. The working class became weak because self-management and political freedoms were not seen as an instrument of democracy and liberation. Later Stalin and his bureaucrats perfected this machine and the results were terrible crimes and the decline of socialist ideas. Instead of the capitalist class the party and state bureaucracy became the ruling class oppressing right-less workers. The social systems in the countries of Eastern and Central Europe were just a copy of Stalin’s system, because Communist Parties in those countries had no influence and became powerful thanks to the Red Army’s victories in war. This was a great loss, because in some of them there were strong working class and democratic traditions. Socialism in their terms could have been democratic.

The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia achieved some democratic and socialist gains different from the USSR and its satellites. The conflict with Stalin in 1948 had a decisive role in this process. Self-management introduced in 1950 meant a reaffirmation of the idea of the self-liberation of working class. A democratic processes unfolded, and the power of the Party was not so great as in the USSR. The 6th Congress of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (League of Yugoslav Communists) in 1952 declared a different, educational, role for itself instead of ‘commanding’. Unfortunately, this process couldn’t reach a mature stage because of strength of the bureaucracy formed after 1945.

In Yugoslavia there were elements of socialism and democracy in a much wider degree than in Eastern and Central Europe, but the declared aims were not achieved. During this time some new rights were established for the working people, but they were not able to exercise them in full because of the de facto rule of the new bureaucratic class. The formal rights of workers and the power of the state/party bureaucracy came into conflict. At the end of 1960s this conflict came to a head. The bureaucracy was not ready to accept and admit its responsibility for the economic and political crisis. Instead of that, it turned to nationalism. After protest movements in 1969, 1971 and 1972 the process of political trading between republic and national bureaucracies accelerated. Disintegration of the Federation was the result of the bureaucracy’s inability to solve problems in society. Nationalism was the best way to hide real causes of problems. From the beginning of 1970s the economic system was not able to produce progress and stability. Production went down and the number of unemployed increased. Self-managing socialism had to be liberated from the pressure of the state and the party; the initiative of the working class had to be allowed. But this would also have meant real power for the working class and the bureaucracy could not allow that. So, the machinery continued towards collapse.

No doubt nationalist forces won the 1990 elections because of the too-difficult economic and social situation. In Bosnia and Herzegovina “communist” and social democratic (reform) forces won only 25% of votes. Together with the economic and political conceptions of the Communist Party disappeared the ideas of brotherhood and unity. The first stage of the open counterrevolution was the alliance of three nationalist parties against the communists. The second stage began after the total defeat of multi-national ideas and movements. Three nationalist parties started preparations for the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina, while ationalist regimes in Serbia and Croatia were ready to split up Bosnia and Herzegovina. Serbian and Croatian nationalist leaders from Bosnia and Herzegovina helped them in order to realize their own aims for uncontrolled power. These plans meant the destruction of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the creation of “Greater Serbia” and “Greater Croatia”. But the Bosniak nationalists planned the creation of Bosnia and Herzegovina – totally unacceptable for the Serbs and the Croats – with the predominance of their nation as the most numerous.

The fact that the members of the extremist organization “Young Muslims” were the new leaders of Bosniak nationalist movement was enough to explain their vision of Bosnia and Herzegovina. On the other hand, Croat nationalists in November 1991 created the so-called Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosnia as a Croatian national republic that would be incorporated into Croatia. The problem came in some annexed municipalities where the Croats were not the majority and the Serbs and Bosniaks would not accept living in “Greater Croatia”. From the very beginning the leaders of the Croatian Democratic Community (its nationalist party) consulted with officials in  Zagreb. It was written in the Statute of this party that “the Croatian Democratic Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina is a part of the Croatian Democratic Community with its headquarters in Zagreb.” Serbian nationalist leaders had a different strategy. They were talking about Yugoslavia, but they were preparing for war. In 1990 Serbian President Milosevic consulted with  Slovenian President Kucan about the secession of this republic, and in March 1991 Serbian and Croatian presidents Milosevic and Tudjman agreed in Karadjordjevo the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina. During 1991 and 1992 Serbian and Bosniak nationalists in Bosnia and Herzegovina organized two referendums: one for Bosnia and Herzegovina as a federal republic of Yugoslavia and the other for an independent state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. These referendums were intended as legitimation for nationalists to start the war: because everybody knew the results of both referendums. The Yugoslav People’s Army was under the control of Serbian nationalists, rather than protecting the Yugoslav borders and social system. At the same time Bosniak nationalists began the creation of the so-called “Patriotic League” as a new army of Bosnia and Herzegovina that was also against the Constitution.

The results of war showed the absence of will on the side of nationalist parties to create a democratic society in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They were talking about Bosnia and Herzegovina as a state of equal nations, or about national states where the rights of national minorities would be respected. These promises have never been realized. Three ethnic states were created, each of them under control of extreme nationalist forces. We have not seen much improvement since 1995. So-called moderate parties, socialists and social-democrats, have been no better than their colleagues on the right. Nationalist ideas, made by right-wing parties, have been the basis of the national programmes of left-wing parties all these years. The left parties knew that citizens had turned towards nationalism and every attempt at their re-orientation would mean the loss of political influence. That is why they decided to accept the nationalist way of political action. It was better for them, but not for the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. So, Bosnia and Herzegovina still awaits a real multinational democratic movement fighting for national equality.

The Workers’ Communist Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina is trying to organize workers all over Bosnia and Herzegovina in the struggle for their everyday interests. We know that anti-communist hysteria is still very strong. That’s why we want to act together with mass-movement organizations. The class consciousness of workers is not high enough: they do not have faith in their own strength and possibility of successful class struggle. The trade union movement is very weak and is under control of opportunists. There are few strike actions, often not organized by the central trade-union leaderships. Workers have no patience any more. Their position is harder and harder after the privatisations. We have a good chance to work among them to build a wide workers’ movement. Workers can understand our propositions for immediate improvements in their lives: they need victories now otherwise many of them could simply die because of hunger. The Party proposes measures that could be understandable and acceptable for the working people, and some of them could be ready to fight for the realization of this measures. If we succeed in this, it could be very important for the strengthening of our party and proposing wider socialist measures. On the other hand, our concept of socialism disapproves such a role for the communist party as would give it a leading role in the affairs of state. Cooperation between the party and the independent mass-movement is fundamental to socialist democratization. Such cooperation is possible only if there are strong and mass trade-unions.

However the immediate tasks of the Party are as follows:

  • Creation of independent and mass trade-unions, prepared to fight, at least at the beginning, for the realization of workers’ rights in law;
  • Intensified and obligatory worker-participation in company boards, the number of workers’ representatives depending on their strength;
  • Creation of workers’ control bodies in all enterprises with wide authority, as a step toward workers’ self-management;
  • Special protection of young workers as the most jeopardized part of the working class, who have to fight for their rights through special trade-union commissions. Also the protection of brutally exploited pupils of professional schools;
  • Acceptance of young workers’ political rights regardless of their age;
  • Preserving the jobs of workers who serve in the armed forces;
  • Milder taxation of workers’ wages and sharper tax on capitalist profits;
  • Cancelling of MPs’ wages as well as the financing of parliamentary parties from the budget. Using this money for developing the economy and the protection of poorest citizens;
  • Giving the greater part of finances devoted to scholarships for working-class and peasant pupils and students;
  • Free health care and schooling at all levels;
  • Criminal prosecution of state and party leaders as well as managers who intentionally prolong the development of the production process in order to reduce the value of state-owned enterprises;
  • Annulment of privatization, first off in those cases where illegality is the greatest;
  • Cancelling the privatization of socially-owned flats, which cannot be ransomed without a great deal of robbery taking place. At the same time, force all enterprises to pay taxes into special funds in order to finance those families who are not able to buy a flat on the market;
  • Transformation the social security funds into the bodies under the management of state and service users instead of party representatives;

The immediate tasks in the sphere of the economy are dependent on state’s policy of privatization. Today we have typical liberal capitalist system. Almost all enterprises and branches will be privatized. This process has already begun. Communists have no great belief in the state’s authority in the sphere of the economy, especially not in socialism. But today, its greater involvement in the regulation of economic processes could be of great importance for working class. This is because the capitalist class does everything in its own interests which is especially seen in the fact that it buys state-owned enterprises for less than their real market value. Capitalists do this in cooperation with party leaders and enterprises’ managers, sometimes cutting them good deals. Party leaders and managers are often the new owners of enterprises that were rifled under their control or with their approval. Of course, we have a capitalist state but every capitalist government must think about its political future. Because of that it could be forced to make steps towards the interests of working people: but there is no doubt that none of them would do anything for the working class unless workers enforce it. So, our task is to bring together trade-unions and political organizations of working people in order to force the government to lead an active economic policy. Such a policy includes more active investment policy, especially in the areas of industry and agriculture where  private capital has no interest to invest. The capitalist state destroys our future, giving the most attractive sectors of economy to war criminals (the new capitalist class). Privatization is not acceptable for us. But it is especially not acceptable when it includes successful state-owned enterprises. A liberal capitalist system in our conditions means the absence of an economic development plan carried out by the parliament and the government. This will cause great loss of finances, greater social differentiation and the lagging of the economy. The working people’s movement must force the state to lead a better taxation policy. This means two kinds of measures. First of all, the state must execute laws on taxation which would ensure billions more for the budget and, of course, for investment. On the other hand, its taxation policy must ensure the economic crisis is placed on the capitalist class’s shoulders.

The constitutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina are such that they do not ensure full national equality. The Party advocates changes in order to establish this: the constitutions of Republic of Srpska and Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina were made during the war. They expressed the nationalist nature and aims of the three nationalist movements. That is why Bosniaks and Croats have not had equal rights in the Republic of Srpska and Serbs have not had them in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a part of the Dayton Agreement guaranteed equal rights in the state bodies of Bosnia and Herzegovina. So, we have the legal nonsense that the nations are equal in Bosnia and Herzegovina but not in its constituent parts. On the other hand, there was ethnic cleansing in both parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina and nationalist governments obstruct the return of refugees. The only solution is the creation of Houses of the Nations in both parliaments (Republic of Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina) with an equal number of Serbian, Bosniak and Croatian representatives. These houses would have equal rights with other houses, the Houses of Representatives. Such an organization of parliaments would ensure full equality without the possibility of the coalition of two nations against the third. Houses of Nations must be established in all municipalites. The Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina also must be changed. Today there is situation that only Serbs can elect the member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina for the Republic of Srpska and only Croats and Bosniaks can elect two members of the Presidency for the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Discrimination against the Serbs in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Bosniaks and the Croats in Republic of Srpska, is obvious.

The Workers’ Communist Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina denounces war crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina under control of the three nationalist regimes. In our opinion independent multi-national courts of Bosnia and Herzegovina should prosecute organizers and executors of those crimes as well as political, army leaders and prosecutors who were able but didn’t want to investigate such cases. Unfortunately, this is not possible because of nationalist influence and total nationalist control over the state apparatus. In our opinion the International Court in the Hague is a political body. No doubt it is a creation of international capital. We condemn it not because of its trial of Milosevic, but for absence of trials for Izetbegovic, Tudjman, Tachi and other nationalist leaders. On the other hand, there is no other body that could punish war criminals. Should we wait many years and allow war criminals to die happy? Their freedom is against justice and the law. But it is also contrary to political stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Their political work, propaganda and electoral successes would mean prolonged national hatred and inequality. The nations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially their working class, must think about their own interests. And those interests are contained in the ideas of equality, brotherhood and unity. Those ideas, inevitably connected to working class struggle, can be accepted only in the case of knowing the truth. The International Court in the Hague cannot show us the complete truth. The so-called international community is interested in maintaining the situation of national distrust. It can only be maintained if some nationalist leaders remain free. On the other hand, the cases against some political and army leaders can show us that all of them, the Serbs, the Croats or the Bosniaks, had the same plans and aims. It is impossible to win support among the victims of the war telling them about the dependence of the Court on US imperialism. That is why our Party supported the case against Milosevic, but we also demand cases against Izetbegovic, Mesic, Tachi and many other leaders because they had the same aims and committed the same war crimes.

The Workers’ Communist Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina is dedicated to a project of  a democratic socialist society. The economic system of socialism must be based on social ownership. Nationalization of the means of production can not bring freedom for working class, as state-owned enterprises are under control of the state, in other words, under the control of the ruling party. Exploitation remains.. Only socialization of the means of production can produce real changes in the position of the working class. Social ownership is connected with socialist self-management (government). Socially owned enterprises will be managed by workers’ councils elected by all workers. These enterprises will be independent subjects on the market. Their existence as well as the working class standard of living and conditions will be dependent on success of workers’ management, workers’ skills and interest in good work. Of course, the role of democratic planning will be very important. It won’t be a type of centralized economy. Democratic planning will enable the realization of working people’s interests. Such economic system will be socially and ecologically orientated. Small private enterprises with a limited number of employees will be allowed.

The political system of socialism will be based on self-government at all levels of social organization. We do not accept a system of parliamentary democracy because it is based on partocracy – rule of powerful parties and their leaders. This attitude doesn’t mean that we disclaim the multi-party system and political freedoms. In our opinion there is no socialism without democracy. One of the most important aspects of democracy is the right to opposition. We accept all political freedoms known in contemporary societies as well as those adopted in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Socialist democracy includes the possibility of creation of all parties, with socialist and capitalist orientation. Democracy only excludes the creation of nationalist parties. Parties will have opportunity to fight elections, but their members won’t be the majority in assemblies and other state bodies. The citizens who are not members of parties (non-partisans) must have the decisive role in the process of decision-making because they are the majority in the society and are not subordinated to party bureaucracies. The representatives (delegates) in the assemblies at all levels will be directly elected and responsible to their electorate. The voters will have the right to recall them at any moment if they don’t follow their instructions.

The re-establishment of a socialist federal Yugoslavia is one of most important aims of our party. Yugoslavia was destroyed by the united force of international capital and domestic nationalists and capitalists. Its destruction was necessary for them if they wanted to establish their rule and bring NATO here. Domestic nationalist parties had to destroy Yugoslavia if they wanted to establish the capitalist system and to plunder society’s wealth. The re-birth of Yugoslavia is not some kind of nostalgia or mourning: it is in the essential interest of the Yugoslav nations. The newly formed states are not independent. Their sovereignty is under control of international capital. All of them will join NATO. Foreign capital already strengthens its positions by buying state-owned and socially-owned enterprises. Their governments must follow the political will of the USA and EU.

Widespread privatisation is in the common interest of domestic and foreign capitalists. But it means the great loss of jobs and very bad position for domestic economies on the world market. Citizens, especially workers and peasants, live very hard lives. Because of that, the level of nationalism is lower. The working class must think about satisfaction of their basic material needs: that is how left-wing parties become more influential. Of course, their political orientation is still capitalistic. Leftist slogans can’t satisfy workers. That is a reason why we expect the building of independent trade-unions as well as the strengthening of workers’ parties. Bad living conditions and the ruined economic system will play a decisive role in the decline of nationalism. On the other hand, new generations of young workers arise, and they are not burdened with war fears and nationalist mythology. New social struggles are coming. They will be inspired by the poor classes who are not ready to work for the selfish interests of the ruling class in the name of “the national interest”. The too-difficult economic and social position of working people will force them to work together, no matter what their nationality.

The creation of a pro-Yugoslav political movement will be countered by the capitalist governments in the Balkans and by the strength of imperialist financial and military forces here which are the strongest threat to the existing achievements and future objectives of the workers’ movement. In the future, the existence of five states subordinate to international capital and its military alliance NATO will be the biggest obstruction for achieving the socialist programme. That is why the struggle for socialism is inevitably connected with struggle for re-birth of Yugoslavia. Newly formed Yugoslavia will be a socialist federal republic from Slovenia to Macedonia. It certainly won’t be a highly centralized state. Every republic and every nation will have possibility to develop their own identity and autonomy. Highly developed republics will help those who are not developed and will have bigger a market for selling their goods. Yugoslav army forces will guarantee the real independence of the state and its non-aligned orientation. The federation will have such structure that will ensure the equality of all republics and nations, with equal number of representatives from all republics and nations. The House of Nations will be established in the federal assembly as well as in all other assemblies, which is the best way to guarantee national equality.