Macedonia: Brief analysis after the terrorist attack in Kumanovo

The terrorist attack that took place in Kumanovo on 9th and 10th May resembled in its intensity the incidents that occurred during the conflict of 2001, when similarly fierce battles were waged in the villages near Kumanovo, Slupcane, Matejce, Vaksince and other places. The Kumanovo region has always been inhabited by a mixture of peoples (Macedonians, Albanians, Serbs, Roma, Turks, etc), but it is also a region with a long tradition of coexistence and joint struggle over and above national divisions.

Note: This analysis was written for In Defence of Marxism, the website of  the International Marxist Tendency (IMT).

Such was the struggle of the partisans in the Second World War: not only antifascist, but also socialist - a workers’ struggle (of all ethnicities) for a more humane and just society. The unity of the workers in Yugoslavia began fading when the rhetoric of class struggle was rejected and replaced by a new rhetoric of nationalism, chauvinism and ethno-centrism. It was then that the majority of the working people and students, stopped seeing in each other a fellow worker or a fellow student, but saw only a Macedonian, an Albanian or a Serb. 

Among other things, this change led to the outbreak of the wars in Yugoslavia and Macedonia was not an exception. In the conflict of 2001, each ethnic community stood firmly behind ‘their own’ side. Last week’s clashes in Kumanovo were an attempt to recreate the situation of 2001 and above all to destroy the already visible strengthening of the supra-ethnic unity of  the people, which was sadly lacking in 2001. This developing of unity above national divisions is already a threat to the traditional bourgeois parties, which, by playing the nationalist card, have long been successful in diverting people’s attention from their real problems and needs and keeping ‘each in their fold’. The question that arises is in whose interest it is to endanger the creation of a supra-ethnic unity within Macedonian society and whom the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) came here to “liberate”.

As far as the attack itself is concerned, we have to note several important moments. We are aware that the Macedonian Secret Police (Uprava za bezbednost i razuznavanje - UBK) possesses the surveillance equipment to follow far too many people and has complete control over the events. In addition to this, it is now a public fact that the secret police was warned by the secret services from neighbouring countries about the existence of terrorist groups, but there was no attempt to prevent the attack. This fact raises questions about how such a large group of some 80 terrorists entered the country, bypassing the border police, and how they managed to get their hands on so many weapons and ammunition that they could fight uninterruptedly for 30 hours. It is also suspicious that the terrorists issued no demands or clarifications as to what their goal is, as is the usual practice in terrorist attacks. Many security experts have therefore concluded that the entire action was executed in a highly unprofessional manner and that the police forces (mostly young and inexperienced – this was the first engagement for many of them) were thrown in front of the terrorists as cannon fodder. Their claim is supported by the warnings of the many local news websites in Albanian that groups of uniformed and armed persons seen in the Kumanovo region prior to the attack were ignored.

According to the largest opposition party, SDSM (the party has presented a multitude of evidence of, as they claim, illegal wiretapping conducted by the Secret Police under the orders of the Prime minister Nikola Gruevski; the audio recordings they have so far presented to the public testify for a variety of criminal actions perpetrated by the current government) this incident was arranged by the authorities in an attempt to save themselves from the consequences of the wiretapping scandal and the crimes it revealed. They specify that the highest echelons of government were not necessarily directly or indirectly involved in inciting the terrorist group, but they allowed the terrorists to infiltrate in the city of Kumanovo and cause the incident in order to divert the public’s attention from the actual problems.

The ruling party, VMRO-DPMNE, on the other hand, accused the opposition party and its leader Zoran Zaev of creating a deep political crises with the wiretapping scandal, which then culminated with destabilization of the entire society and created the environment for а national security crisis.

Some are arguing that it is Western imperialist powers who are behind this incident. According to this theory, the West is interested in preventing, through the destabilization of Macedonia, the project for construction of the Turkish Stream pipeline which is to conduct gas from Russia through Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary to Austria. It has been asserted that the interests of the great imperial powers are represented locally by the two major parties - that is to say, VMRO-DPMNE represents the interests of Russia, while SDSM represents the interest of the USA and EU. Consequently, this theory leads to the conclusion that these imperial powers will not ignore this conflict and that their traditional strategic interests in the Balkans correspond to which political groupings they support within the Macedonian establishment. But let us not forget that although western imperialists saw the current Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, as ‘a technocrat and reformer’ when he came into power, they now see him as a dictator because of his open turning towards the sphere of Russian interests.

We stand firm in the position that every war/conflict is futile and reactionary, except for one – the class war. We are ardent supporters of the unity of the people beyond national divisions - of all workers, students and deprived layers of society, fighting together to destroy the source of all national conflicts – the bourgeois state. Therefore, we believe that all the proponents of inter-ethnic and chauvinist conflicts serve only the bourgeoisie and its state and are our natural enemy. These latest attacks are just another example of this. At the moment, when no one can claim with certainty who organized the attacks and what their motives were, one thing is certain, their effect is to foment chauvinist intolerance and their aim is to divide the people at the very moment they begin to come together in their struggle for better future. The bourgeois state thus imposes itself as a false protector of the people and calls for ‘national unity’, but, by doing so, it only manipulates the masses to forget who the chief culprit is for the situation in which they find themselves and forces them to stand in line obediently behind the institutions completely occupied by the ruling party.

The masses must finally understand the situation they are in and continue with their united mobilisation relying on their own powers only. It is illusory to expect salvation from the international community and see world imperialism as a ’sincere do-gooder’, when it is perfectly clear that all major powers are led only by their pragmatic geostrategic interests.

  • We do not need a new inter-ethnic war!
  • What we need is a supra-ethnic class war!

See also: Macedonia: Mass protests against government cross national divisions