Monday, February 11, 2008

"Genocide and Resistance in Hitler's Bosnia" by Marko Attila Hoare [3]


Briefly stated, this chapter covers the period when the Partisan movement tried, and ultimately failed, to achieve a military and governmental alliance with the growing Chetnik movement; this policy was driven by expediency--the reality that in the opening months of the rebellion, the vast majority of footsoldiers were conservative rural Serbs. As noted in the first chapter, the KPJ had done a reasonably good job of taking command of an uprising not entirely of its making, but there were limits to how much control cadres actually had.

This chapter details the ups and downs of this ultimately failed enterprise; the author is sensitive to the difficulties the KPJ faced even while he does not shy away from mistakes made. The details of this phase of the uprising--when the Partisans were still "riding the tiger" of a Serb-peasant uprising, attempting to take command of politically unformed rebel bands are thoroughly documented.

Roughly speaking the Partisans were between a rock and hard place; while they needed to appeal to Serb nationalist sentiment in order to maintain even nominal control over the armed rebel bands, this also meant that all too often they had to pander to the bigotry and worse of their own soldiers. This translated to Partisan acquiescence with--and occasionally participation in--atrocities against Croat and especially Muslim civilians, especially as Chetnik influence and propaganda became more prevalent in Bosnia. This often pushed Croats and Muslims into collaboration with the Ustasha, which only fed Great-Serb propaganda even more while weakening Partisan pretensions to multiethnic cooperation and unity--which at this point was little more than a rhetorical flourish.

Still, for awhile the Partisans were able to build a nascent "state" in Eastern Bosnia by cooperating with Bosnian Chetniks, who were more inclined to some sort of accommodation with the Partisans (who's ranks were mostly filled with Serbs anyway) against their common Ustasha enemy than the Chetnik leadership in Nedic's Serbian state. This delicate balance was shattered when the Partisans were defeated in, and driven out of, Serbia, and the Chetnik alliance with Nedic became obvious, as did their decision to collaborate with the fascist occupiers. This triggered a breakdown in the Partisan-Chetnik alliance in east Bosnia.

The chapter ends with a case study of sorts; because of the still-underdeveloped nature of KPJ organization at local levels and other factors, some regional branches of the Partisan movement reacted to local conditions and these extraordinary stresses through their own dynamics, usually not with good results. Dr. Hoare examines the case of the "Drvar Republic", a Partisan mini-state which ultimately fell to Italian troops. Like the rest of this very interesting chapter, the story is far too complex for me to adequately summarize without going to great lengths--I would much rather prefer to encourage you to read the original.

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