Letter from Macedonia

Below we publish a letter we received commenting on our article 'Macedonia - the next powder keg?' What is particularly interesting is what is said about places where the local population is mixed, Albanian and Macedonian speaking. Apparently some form of militia has been formed to protect all the population from attacks from the Albanian guerrillas.

Introduction:

Below we publish a letter we received commenting on our article 'Macedonia - the next powder keg?' What is particularly interesting is what is said about places where the local population is mixed, Albanian and Macedonian speaking. Apparently some form of militia has been formed to protect all the population from attacks from the Albanian guerrillas. Also, it seems that these armed Albanian groups have also attacked their "own" people. This would not be surprising.

The instinct of ordinary workers is not to go down the road of ethnic

conflict: they defend their neighbours, whether they are Albanian speaking or Macedonian speaking. But the extreme Albanian nationalists can only thrive where ether is ethnically based conflict. Therefore they will try to drive a wedge between the Albanian and Macedonian speaking workers.

This has happened many times in the past. It happened in Northern Ireland in 1968-69, where initially a section of the Protestant working class supported, or at least sympathised for the mainly Catholic Civil Rights movement. A similar situation could be observed in Sarajevo in the initial stages of the conflict in Bosnia. And even at the very beginning of the process, that was to lead to the break up of Yugoslavia, reports came through that the reaction of ordinary workers was to tell the generals "if you want to fight this war do it yourselves."

Unfortunately, because of the lack of a genuine mass workers' movement

based on the ideas of Socialism, the workers of the former Yugoslavia have remained leaderless. When the working class is paralysed and incapable of offering the whole people a way out then the monster of ethnic conflict and war rises up once more. The killing of ordinary working people on both sides will lead to the frenzy of chauvinism and nationalism.

However, as this letter shows, even in the most monstrous, and apparently hopeless, situation the genuine instinct of the working class is still there. It can be crushed and hidden away, but it will inevitably come to the fore once again, once the embers of the present situation die down. The workers will have their chance once again. It is our task to keep the ideas of genuine Socialism and internationalism alive on the Balkans, and prepare for the inevitable movement of the workers which will come in the future.

Fred Weston,

March 26th, 2001


Dear comrades,

I have just read your article, 'Macedonia - the next powder keg?. I generally agree with what you write. I was really surprised at the very urgent publishing on the web.

Macedonia is at a crossroads now. Events are speeding up. I expect the next few weeks will be crucial. The bourgeoisie will find a way of keeping the Macedonians and everyone else here in chains, one way or another.

I would like to add some points to your article. Firstly, there are new developments here. It's really chaotic. The people are frightened.

Macedonians from Tetovo have fled to their relatives living in Skopje or other towns in Macedonia (preferably in the eastern parts). Many 'brave' citizens of Tetovo gathered in front of the Parliament and Presidential Palace demanding weapons. The rallies are very militaristic. Chauvinism is growing rapidly among both major ethnic groups.

However, some sources have reported that there are places where the local mixed population has been forming some kind of militia to protect themselves from the terrorists.

As I have explained before, Xhaferi's DPA and the other parliamentary Albanian party, the PDP, are not supporting the violence and terror of the armed Albanian groups.

The Macedonian Security forces - the Police and Army, are still fighting back. However, you have to be aware of the fact that these forces are not ethnically Macedonian, i.e. there are Albanians among them, especially in the police force, because it is made up of local people. The civilian victims are not 'ethnically pure' (i.e. they are not just Macedonian speaking). Many Albanians and Macedonians are targets of the nationalist guerrillas.

You wrote: "As Lenin pointed out the National Question is essentially a question of bread. Macedonia is one of the poorest countries in Europe. Unemployment stands at about 40%. However, among the Albanian minority (which makes up about 22% of the overall Macedonian population of 2 million) unemployment has reached the staggering figure of 60%! Average annual GDP per capita stands at about $1000. The break-up of the former Yugoslavia has been an absolute disaster for Macedonia which was already, together with Kosovo, one of the poorest parts of the ex-Yugoslav federation. Between 1990 and 1995 the economy contracted each year, in 1990 by 10%, in 1993 by 9%. Only in 1996 did the economy begin to pick up again, but only by a miserable one per cent or so. Macedonia is at the mercy of the foreign powers which now dominate it, in particular US and West European imperialism. It has to import all its oil and gas, and most of its machinery."

I would like to point out that Macedonia is not the poorest, however it is near the bottom of the league table. The living standard is actually Higher than in Bulgaria, Albania, Moldavia, Romania. The average monthly salary in Macedonia is 300DM, while in Bulgaria it is 150 DM. The health care budget is one of the highest in Eastern Europe. The GDP is not the only factor, but it is the major one.

I never heard before that unemployment among the Albanian population was 60%. However, it is very likely to be close to that figure, because of the "age pyramid" among the Albanian speaking population and the Rom nationality [note: gypsies]: the majority is made up of young people.

The figure of 60% unemployment among the Albanian speaking population, which you took from The Economist is questionable. Maybe the World Bank would have more precise figures.

I'll try to explain why 60% of Albanian population is classed as unemployed. Firstly, there is a strong patriarchal culture among the Albanian speaking peasantry. This doesn't permit for the girls to have higher or even secondary education. Albanian peasant girls are given in marriage by parental will, not their own. These young women never get a job. The percentage of rural population among the Albanian speaking people is much higher than among the ethnic Macedonians, ie, the Albanian speaking proletariat is many times smaller than the Macedonian speaking proletariat.

Secondly, the level of education among the Albanians is very poor. Only a small minority of the Albanian speaking population have had access to graduate university degrees. And thirdly, bare in mind also that an underemployed person is classed as unemployed, because the bosses don't pay any social and medical security for the army of underemployed youth, whether they are educated or not. Historically, many of the Albanians have not paid taxes and many of the employees are like Chechov's 'dead souls', they don't exist on the 'books', they are employed in the 'black economy'.

So, there are three factors that determine the 60% unemployment among the Albanian speaking population of Macedonia. If we take these factors (unemancipated Albanian speaking women in the rural villages, the poor level of education, and the large number of casual workers) into account, then I believe the figure to be absolutely true. Casual workers are considered as underemployed (therefore 'unemployed'), unlike the salaried workers with a legal labour contract, for whom social security is paid.

Well what can I say more when I agree with the rest? I have seen for myself how true Lenin was on the National Question. It is indeed a question of bread.

The problem is that the history of small nations is not so well known because it was written by the bigger, imperialist powers. You suggested I write something about the history of Macedonia - I will do that in the near future.

The party I belong to (The Socialist Party) has reached conclusions close to, but not quite the same as yours. The party understands that we don't need any foreign military force to defend ourselves. The so-called 'help' from the Bulgarians, or other Balkan forces, only serves to bring to the surface the collective memory of past wars in which the Macedonians were used as puppets. NATO and Kfor are responsible for the creation of the monstrous situation in Kosovo and also for the destabilisation of all the Balkans.

I see my task as bringing the ideas of genuine socialism, Marxism and internationalism to the youth of the Socialist Party and to advance the programme as high as possible.

The greatest help you are giving me is with your articles. They are my guide, as are the classics of Marxism in 'my' language.

Sorry for such long letter, but I felt I needed to add something more.

Comradely,

A.A.
Skopje, Macedonia,
18th March, 2001