Tribune leader, 16 April 1993

Margaret Thatcher is right. The record of the European Community on Bosnia has been an utter disaster and the British government has played a full and dishonourable role in it.
Despite all the evidence that what we are witnessing is a war of Serbian expansionist aggression against Bosnia, a state recog­nised by the United Nations, the EC has persisted for more than a year in the fic­tion that the conflict is a three-sided civil war. What Bosnia needs, in the EC’s view, is not the means to defend itself but “cantonisation” and humanitarian aid.
The result, precisely as predicted by Tribune this time last year, has been that the Serbs have continued unmolested to burn, kill, maim and destroy in pursuit of their dream of an ethnically pure Greater Ser­bia. Some Croats have joined in the carve-up, leaving a beleaguered rump under the control of the Bosnian government.
Meanwhile, the United Nations humani­tarian relief effort, although it has un­doubtedly kept thousands of Bosnians from starving, has gone ahead only when it has suited the Serbs to allow convoys through the parts of Bosnia which they have seized. Worse, the UN has increasingly found itself transporting besieged Bosnian refugees to safety, thereby becoming an agent, albeit unwilling, of Serbian “ethnic cleansing”.
In the face of all this, the British govern­ment has watched and wrung its hands, smugly insisting that any other course of action would be too dangerous to contem­plate. Labour’s response has been miser­ably inadequate: Jack Cunningham, the shadow Foreign Secretary, has appeased the appeasers, never advancing more than trifling criticisms of the government’s craven policy.
Tribune has argued consistently that the international community should be defend­ing Bosnia by force of arms and that the failure to do so has been a political capitu­lation to militarist expansionism unprece­dented since the thirties.
Failing military intervention – which, contrary to the “wisdom” of most British politicians, would not necessarily bog down hundreds of thousands of troops in a “new Vietnam” – the least that the world should have done is to allow Bosnia to buy the arms to defend itself.
Instead, a strict arms embargo “on all sides in the conflict” has been maintained. Because Bosnia did not have the arms in the first place, unlike the Serbs, and be­cause it is under siege, without the pervi­ous borders enjoyed by Serbia, this embar­go has acted in the Serbs’ favour.
To redress the balance and allow the Bosnians to exercise their right, enshrined in international law, to self-defence, it is es­sential that the embargo on arms sales to Bosnia is lifted at once.
THE HARD LEFT: washed up with nowhere to go
Labour’s hard left meets in Sheffield his weekend to listen to its stars and hew the cud.
It is unlikely to be a particularly upbeat occasion. The hard left is weaker today than at any time in the decade since 23 members of the Parliamentary Labour Par­ty set up the Campaign Group as an alter­native to the Tribune Group in the wake of Tony Benn’s unsuccessful campaign for Labour’s deputy leadership and Labour conference’s decision to establish a register of internal party pressure groups.
Mr Benn is now the only hard left repre­sentative on Labour’s National Executive Committee. In the mid-eighties, there were four or five Campaign Group MPs on the NEC. The Campaign Group is smaller than ever before, with few new recruits from the 1992 intake.
Ten years after the publication of its greatest policy achievement, the 1983 Labour manifesto, the hard left has no in­fluence to speak of in Labour policy formu­lation.
It dominates no local councils, plays a leading role in only a couple of trade unions and can command a majority of members in only a handful of constituency Labour parties.
So what has happened to the movement that came so close to taking the Labour Party by storm in the early eighties? Part of the story is that the it was singled out as the “enemy within” by Neil Kinnock and much of Its Trotskyist base was expelled.
Many in the hard left orbit in the early eighties have since left it, either worried about their own political careers or con­vinced that Labour could not win on a hard left ticket.
But it is also true that the hard left has become an increasingly unconvincing and conservative force in Labour politics. In the late seventies and early eighties, all the bright new creative ideas in Labour poli­tics, from alternative defence to worker co­operatives, were coming from what would now be described as the hard left. Today, it seems entirely preoccupied with defend­ing the status quo against real or imagined attack from the right: no to Maastricht, no to electoral reform, no to changing the Labour Party constitution.
It is difficult to imagine a less attractive approach to politics. If the hard left is to regain a role in Labour politics – and it would be good for the party to have a credible far left inside it to keep it on its toes – it has some serious thinking to do about what it is for as well as what it is against. Whether that even begins to happen in Sheffield is another question altogether.
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