Yugoslavia: Oppose NATO Aggression!
NATO war planes have rained down bombs on Yugoslavia killing men women and children. It is a bloody act of naked aggression by the big imperialist powers, who are using a "humanitarian" cover for their ruthless pursuits. Rather than bringing peace, the bombing has brought a trail of suffering, bloodshed and death. It has opened up a new nightmare for the peoples of the Balkans.
The attempt by the imperialist powers to impose a second "peace" deal on Milosevic in Paris was clearly doomed from the start. The first October deal, brokered under the threat of NATO bombing, was in tatters. Despite the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo agreeing to forego demands for independence, the Serbian leaders could not agree to some 28,000 NATO troops on its sovereign soil. This US demand shows its naked arrogance and complete contempt for the Yugoslavs. Even before a military conquest, the imperialists are demanding total capitulation. This is unprecedented! For Milosevic to have accepted such a capitulation would have led to his overthrow by his ultra-nationalist partners. The people of Yugoslavia have no alternative but to resist this foreign aggression.
The situation in Kosovo is deteriorating fast. In the last week some 80,000 have fled their homes under threat from Serb forces. Over the last year about 400,000 people - more than a fifth of Kosovo's population - have deserted their homes and villages. The Serb leaders have been conducting a policy of ethnic cleansing under the guise of eliminating the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Villages are being burned to the ground and the population driven out. But to imagine that the imperialist powers are the great protectors of the ethnic Albanians is totally false. They are using the cover of humanitarian aid to establish a basis in the Balkans.
The Kosovo crisis is a clear indication that the national question cannot be resolved under capitalism. Previously, under Tito, the Yugoslav federation (comprising six republics and two autonomous regions), realised a high degree of unity. Kosovo, which was made up of 90% ethnic Albanians, accepted autonomy within the framework of Yugoslavia. However, with the crisis of Stalinism, the poison of nationalism once again raised its head. Each of the bureaucracies of the different republics played the card of nationalism to maintain their powers and privileges.
In the late 1980s, Milosevic based himself upon Serb nationalism and demagogicly raised the question of Kosovo being the birthplace of the Serb nation, as an excuse for ending autonomy for the Kosovars. There followed a brutal policy of national oppression in Kosovo.However, the bulk of the blame for today's crisis in the former Yugoslavia lies with the imperialist powers, especially Germany. With the collapse of the Berlin Wall, they sought spheres of influence in the East. German imperialism deliberately engineered the break up of Yugoslavia with its support for Croatian independence. This policy plunged the whole region into conflict, culminating with the war in Bosnia and the present conflict in Kosovo.
Although autonomy was taken from Kosovo in 1989, it has been in the last two years - following the revolution in Albania - that arms have become plentiful. This was a key factor in the emergence of the KLA, and its guerrilla war for independence. This served to escalate the crisis. Serb repression has been met with individual terrorism from the KLA - each event serving to inflame the resentment on the opposite side.The ethnic Albanians of Kosovo should have the right to live peacefully in their own land. However, given the ethnic make-up of the region, Kosovar independence would trigger a whole series of wars throughout the Balkans. Such a development is implicit in the current crisis. This would be a catastrophe for the peoples as a whole. It would make the war in Bosnia look like a tea party by comparison. The war in Bosnia was 'only' between local militias.A Balkan war would involve Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, and so on. It would be fought between regular armies, which under modern conditions, would mean unimaginable carnage. It would have far reaching implications for the whole of Europe, resulting in millions of refugees seeking shelter across the continent.This is one of the main reasons why the imperialists have intervened. It has nothing to do with the "poor ethnic Albanians", who are so much small change to them, and everything to do with fear of a Balkans war. Yet their own actions could serve to escalate the situation, with retaliation by the Serbs driving more and more refugees toward Macedonia, where the population already consists of 40% ethnic Albanians. As Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov commented (Financial Times 24/3/99) "If a fire burns in Kosovo and it follows into Macedonia and Albania and Bosnia-Hercegovina, then another large war in the Balkans would be sparked."Such a scenario would involve two NATO members Greece and Turkey, posing the possible break up of NATO itself. The imperialists are prepared to do anything to avoid this. This marks a new stage in the inter-imperialist rivalries that have replaced the New World Order.
The language and actions of imperialism, especially American imperialism, stinks of hypocrisy. They are prepared to act only when it is in their interests. Otherwise they are completely indifferent to the plight of oppressed peoples. They were not prepared to lift a finger in Rwanda, where one million Tutsi people died in the genocide. Nor were they prepared to defend the Kurds. On the contrary, they supported Turkish oppression. Rather than the "liberator", the imperialists have always acted as the oppressor. They are now interested in getting a basis for their own interests in the Balkans.US imperialism especially, now the only superpower, acts with complete arrogance on a world scale. Not satisfied with their latest "agreement" with the KLA, who now look in vain to the USA for help, the NATO imperialists demand the military occupation of Kosovo. The refusal of the Serbs to accept this ultimatum, has led to NATO bombing hell out of Serbia, as they did in Iraq. This is the New World Order!
However, all recent history has proved that bombing alone is not sufficient to dominate a country. For this they will need ground troops. Air power is only an auxiliary - but destructive - weapon. However the imperialists are terrified of committing ground troops for fear of being caught up in a protracted war (most probably a guerrilla war) with huge casualties. That was the recent US experience in Somalia, Lebanon, and the memory of Vietnam lingers on. If Milosevic were to accept the terms of imperialism, he would most likely be replaced by an even more aggressively nationalistic regime, intensifying the situation still further. At the same time, the NATO bombing of Serbia will not be as simple as they make out. The Yugoslavs have a sophisticated defence system supplied by the Russians.
The Russians themselves, allied to Serbia, are opposed to the bombing. They object to the imperialist domination of the Balkans, and have said they will supply the Yugoslavs with more arms. "We are duty bound to provide air defence systems to Yugoslavia", said the head of the Russian security committee, Viktor Ilyukhin. The leader of the small 'Russian Party', Vadim Guzinin, pledged to send volunteers to fight in Serbia "to provide assistance to brotherly people."Russian opposition to bombing explains the use of NATO by US imperialism rather than the United Nations. Inter-imperialist rivalries involving the US and Britain on the one hand, and Russia and France on the other, prevent them using the UN as a fig leaf for their naked imperialist aggression as they have done on previous occasions. The UN has turned out to be completely impotent. It is in reality the dis-United Nations.
The imperialists have boxed themselves into a corner. Their whole prestige and that of the NATO alliance are at stake. They therefore had to go ahead with the bombing unless the Serbs capitulate. But NATO bombing will solve nothing, and only serve to escalate the situation. The Serbs are being forced to counter attack. There are bound to be big casualties. This in turn will put pressure on the American Congress who are divided and very wary of a bloody European entanglement.The US hoped that simply the threat of bombing would force Milosevic to retreat. But this failed. Now they are bombing Serb men, women and children in the hope that it will force Milosevic to capitulate. But that is a big gamble. There is no guarantee of success. Rather than force concessions, it will intensify matters. Already there are threats of a pro-Milsoevic coup in Montenegro, after their leaders refused to back Serbia. There will be a further Serb onslaught in Kosovo under the guise of finishing off the KLA who are presented as American stooges. This will send refugees flooding towards the borders of Albania and Macedonia, creating further tensions within these countries.
Rather than placating the situation, the bombing will inflame the Balkan situation, resulting in endless instability and conflict.The Russian defence minister, Igor Sergeyev, predicted Kosovo could prove "a second Vietnam, but inside Europe." Yeltsin was forced to come out against NATO stating: "This means war in Europe, possibly even more." On a capitalist basis, there can be no solution for the peoples of the Balkans. The NATO actions may succeed temporarily in preventing a generalised Balkan war. But the imperialists cannot hold out indefinitely on the basis of a "limited" war. If the situation in Macedonia explodes, the whole region will be in flames. The New World Order is in reality a World Disorder. This is the "practical" solution being offered by the imperialists.
The only real solution is a genuine federation of the Balkans. But that can only take the form of a socialist federation. Under these circumstances, the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo would achieve real autonomy for themselves. Under these circumstances, the peoples of the Balkans would be able to unite on a fraternal voluntary basis.The British labour movement must oppose the NATO bombing. We must oppose Blair's foreign policy, which simply acts as a puppet of US imperialism. He is endangering the lives on all sides - civilian and military - not in the interests of the Kosovars, but of imperialism.
Oppose the use of British troops for imperialist aims! For a socialist foreign policy! Only on the road of working class internationalism can we help our fellow brothers and sisters abroad. Support the workers of former Yugoslavia in overthrowing their oppressors as a means of establishing genuine socialism and workers' democracy.
The author is interested in receiving any views, comments or criticisms of this article. Send e-mail to