A month into the bombing campaign: A Marxist analysis of the Balkan crisis

With every passing day the beat of the war drums gets louder. The pages of the newspapers, the television screens and radio broadcasts pour out a flood of propaganda aimed at whipping up a mood of bellicose hysteria. What intention lies behind this barrage? Only to blunt the minds and sensibilities of the populations of the countries of the North Atlantic alliance to that critical point where civilised men and women are prepared to accept ground war. Ted Grant and Alan Woods analyse a month of bombing campaign, the perspective of a ground war, the possibility of a compromise and offer a socialist alternative. Also available in Serbo-Croatian: Mesec dana bombardovanja: Marksisticka analiza Balkanske krize

With every passing day the beat of the war drums gets louder. The pages of the newspapers, the television screens and radio broadcasts pour out a flood of propaganda aimed at whipping up a mood of bellicose hysteria. What intention lies behind this barrage? Only to blunt the minds and sensibilities of the populations of the countries of the North Atlantic alliance to that critical point where civilised men and women are prepared to accept the spectacle of a new and bloody eruption of the killing machine called NATO, and which, this time, will mean the shedding of blood not only by Kosovars and Serbs, but by French, British and American soldiers.

For a long time after the Second World War, the workers of Europe forgot what war was like--just as they forgot what revolution and counter-revolution was like. Now they are being subjected to a rude reminder. This is not an accident, but faithfully reflects the nature of the new historical period into which the world has now entered. The long period of capitalist upswing that followed the Second World War--at least in the advanced capitalist countries--has decisively ended. Instead of full employment, rising living standards and reform--the basis of "class peace"--we have permanent unemployment even in a boom period, downsizing, cuts in social spending and everywhere merciless pressure on the working class.

On a world scale, the relative stability achieved by the balance of terror between the USA and the USSR has been destroyed by the collapse of Stalinism. For most of the past decade, the USA has been the only global super power. Never in the whole of human history has one country possessed such a crushing economic and military superiority over the rest of the world. The "new world order" was supposed to be a kind of Pax Americana in which the domination of US imperialism would ensure a world free from wars and strife, living in a never-ending economic boom, made possible by the blessings of globalisation and free market economics.

Now all these dreams have turned to ashes. The slump in Asia, the collapse of free market reform in Russia, and the inevitability of an even greater collapse in the USA in the coming period, have put an end to the dream of a free-market utopia. On the military-political plane, the world has entered into a new and convulsive period, far more similar to the situation one hundred years ago than the period 1945-80. The conflict in Yugoslavia, which may yet end up in an all-out Balkans war, if not something still more serious, represents a sharp turn in the entire international situation and a fundamental change. This can alter the entire situation in Europe, Russia and the United States in a way which none of the contending forces have anticipated. They are all tobogganing to disaster with their eyes closed. But the conscious workers and youth must strive to understand the real meaning of these momentous events, which will have a decisive influence on the lives of people everywhere. Only Marxism can furnish such an explanation.

A pre-arranged plan?

In recent weeks rumours have abounded concerning the origin and intent of the bombing campaign. It is confidently asserted that the Americans had planned the whole thing long ago, and that the aim is neither more nor the less than the total dismemberment of Yugoslavia and the imposition of the rule of US imperialism throughout the Balkans. Such claims must be treated with great caution.

There is a tendency, particularly in the Balkans, where intrigue in politics has long been developed into a fine art, to seek conspiratorial explanations for everything. But the attempt to reduce the whole of history to a chain of conspiracies--that is, to reduce history to subjective considerations-- is the shallowest of all theories, worthy of the police mentality that seeks to find the cause of every strike in the work of agitators.

The present world situation is characterised by an abundance of combustible material. To imagine that Washington is able to move with complete freedom in such a minefield, imposing its will on every situation in accordance to some pre-ordained plan, is naïve in the extreme. It reveals a childish exaggeration--and, at bottom, fear--of the power of US imperialism. This power is, of course, immense. But it has very real limits. And the present conflict in the Balkans is a harsh reminder of these limits. After all, the essence of the conflict is precisely the inability of US imperialism to impose its will on what is really a small Balkan country.

Of course, the Pentagon and the State Department make many plans (which do not always coincide, incidentally). The reactionary nature of these plans does not have to be pointed out. American imperialism is the most counter-revolutionary force on the planet. But to assume that these plans will actually be carried out as intended is foolish in the extreme. Washington's plans enter the real world, where they meet with stiff resistance, not only from enemies but also from alleged friends and allies. Not only was the mightiest army in the world defeated by a barefoot army of peasants in the jungles of Vietnam and humiliated by Somalian militias and Lebanese suicide bombers, but in Africa and the Middle East, US interests have clashed--sometimes violently--with those of France.

It may well be that a section of the establishment in Washington has toyed with the idea of waging war on Milosevic as far back as 1992, and even of breaking up Yugoslavia and establishing US hegemony in the Balkans. But, in reality, the break-up of Yugoslavia was initiated, not by the USA but by German imperialism, anxious to recover its old colonies and spheres of interest. And it is Germany, not the USA, which stands most to gain from the Balkanisation of Yugoslavia.

But the dismemberment of Yugoslavia--a criminal act which went against the interests of all the peoples of the Federation--had effects which were not anticipated either in Washington or in Bonn. By bringing about the collapse of Yugoslavia and setting one Republic against another, they aroused all the old demons of chauvinism and the reactionary dreams of Greater Serbia, Greater Croatia, Greater Albania, Greater Greece, and soon we will be hearing of Greater Bulgaria as well.

The descent into war has exposed the essentially reactionary nature of the dismemberment of Yugoslavia and the hollowness, in the given context, of the slogan of so-called self-determination, which merely acts as a fig-leaf for the rallying of the most reactionary elements and the interference of imperialism in the lives of the peoples. As throughout the history of the Balkans, behind each chauvinist clique stands one imperialist power or another. The sufferings of small peoples are just so much small change in the diplomacy of imperialism, and behind all the hypocritical talk of humanitarian and peacekeeping missions lies cynical calculation and self-interest.

US imperialism has no interest in the fate of the Albanian Kosovars, other than as raw material for war propaganda. But Washington is certainly interested in the outcome of the conflict in the Balkans. As the guardian of world imperialism, it feared that the conflict between the Kosovars and Belgrade would lead to the destabilisation of the whole region, leading to the break-up of Macedonia and a general Balkan war, involving not just Serbia and Albania, but also Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey. An all-out war in the Balkans would be a catastrophe. In particular, the prospect of war between two NATO member states, Greece and Turkey, horrified them.

The history of war and diplomacy is full of examples of mistakes and blunders. The Second World War itself is a good example. Every one of the belligerent powers miscalculated. Stalin imagined that his diplomatic manoeuvres in the shape of the Hitler-Stalin Pact would enable the Soviet Union to stay out of the war, and disarmed the USSR in the face of the German onslaught in 1941. For his part, Hitler imagined he could defeat the Red Army in a few weeks. Churchill and Roosevelt thought that Germany would defeat the USSR, but that both sides would be so exhausted by the conflict that they would be able to step in and mop them both up. In the event, the USSR defeated Hitler single-handed and advanced to Berlin and beyond. This was not at all something that proceeded according to plan, but quite the opposite. Not one of the governments had foreseen such a development, and if the Germans, British and Americans could have done so, they would have done all in their power to avoid it. But the whole lesson of history is precisely this: that it never unfolds "according to plan."

In August 1914, Austro-Hungary and Russia blundered into a war over the Balkans. It is true that the tensions between the Great Powers had been building up for a long time previous to that. But serious conflicts and even wars are frequently sparked off by accidents and mistakes. The present war is no exception to the rule. The Americans, puffed up with the sense of their power after the fall of the Soviet Union, imagine that they can dictate their will to the entire world. Their insolent arrogance is without precedence in the history of world diplomacy. Thus, for seven years, they have subjected Iraq to a merciless air bombardment in an attempt to topple Saddam Hussein and force Baghdad to accept the dictates of the USA. Even while the world's attention was focused on the bombardment of Yugoslavia, they took advantage of the situation to destroy oil installations in Iraq, thus tightening the noose around the neck of the Iraqi people. Yet Saddam Hussein remains firmly in power. This is an indication of the limits of American power and the inability of aerial bombing to achieve the fundamental goals.

The astonishing insolence of US imperialism was shown by the demands made on Belgrade at the Rambouillet Conference. Basically, they amounted to the demand that a sovereign state, Yugoslavia, should allow its territory to be occupied by foreign troops (a NATO "peacekeeping" force). Such a demand is without precedent. It would only make sense after a defeat in war. Then, of course, the defeated country is obliged to accept foreign occupation. But to demand such a thing without a war (and, to this day, NATO has never formally even declared war on Yugoslavia!) is absolutely incredible. There is no way that Milosevic--or any other government in Belgrade--could have accepted such humiliating terms. To imagine such a thing was to display the most abysmal ignorance of the history, culture and psychology of the Serbian people. When Belgrade turned down these impositions, the immediate response of Washington was: "Accept our terms, or we will bomb you!" Such a threat had to be carried into practice, or NATO would have stood exposed to the entire world as a paper tiger.

Far from being the product of a cunning and far-sighted plan, the decision to bomb Yugoslavia, while publicly ruling out the use of ground troops was stupid and light-minded in the extreme. Clinton and his advisers thought nothing out, understood nothing, anticipated nothing. They seriously imagined that Milosevic, after a few raids, would wave the white flag. Apparently, this was the advice given to the President by the CIA. Like Joshua, who caused the walls of Jericho to tumble with a single blast on the trumpets, they would use their smart bombs and missiles to impose their will, with no risk of any NATO casualties. The experience of Iraq has taught these people nothing! One month later, Slobodan Milosevic is still firmly in place and shows no sign of capitulating.

Bombing has failed

NATO argued that the bombing was intended to help the Albanian population in Kosovo. But it is now clear to everyone that the bombing campaign has made the situation of the Kosovars a thousand times worse. Even NATO spokesmen have admitted that this is the biggest humanitarian disaster in Europe since World War Two. More than half the population--800,000 people on the latest estimate--have been forced to leave their homes. Every day Western audiences are treated to an unremitting barrage of horror stories--some true, some clearly fabricated--concerning the plight of these unfortunate people.

The intention of this propaganda barrage is to stir up hatred towards the Serbian people and thereby to create an atmosphere propitious to more bombing, and possibly a bloody war on the ground involving heavy NATO casualties. The reason is clear enough. It is absolutely clear that the bombing campaign has failed in all its objectives. NATO is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a humiliating defeat staring it in the face. That is why they are not only continuing the bombing but stepping it up. If they were to stop now, it would mean total humiliation. This would have serious consequences for the future of NATO, as The Economist pointed out in an editorial:

"If it is true that NATO's relative success in Bosnia boosted its morale and affirmed its usefulness after the Soviet collapse, then it is necessary at least to ask what a failure now in Kosovo would mean. In fact, such a failure would have ominous consequences for the alliance. Perhaps it would not mean outright death, given that the allies would still presumably want to defend each other's soil. But limping home from Kosovo would certainly oblige NATO to rethink its post cold-war aims of intervention not just for its members' defence but for the broader interests of humanitarianism and international order. NATO might even go into terminal decline." (The Economist, 24/4/99)

Prestige is also a military weapon. If NATO is humiliated in Yugoslavia, the myth of American invulnerability would be destroyed on a world scale. That is why they are obliged to continue this undeclared war, and intensify it. But the continuation of the war has its own logic. The failure to achieve their objectives by bombing alone inevitably pushes the leaders of NATO in the direction of the commitment of ground troops.

Since the defeat in Vietnam, the Americans have been wary of committing ground troops anywhere in the world. The limited incursions into Lebanon and Somalia were a further warning not to indulge in military adventures of this kind. That is why the Americans prefer to base themselves on air power. But the present bombing campaign once again serves to underline the well-known fact that air power without ground troops can never win a war. This message is being hammered home by certain generals and politicians--not least Tony Blair, the most bellicose of all the NATO leaders. The chorus is becoming louder and more insistent with every day that passes.

Despite this, the Americans remain hesitant. The memory of Vietnam still haunts the political and military establishment. There is an open split between the State Department, which favours sending ground troops, and the Pentagon, which is fearful of the consequences. The average American soldier has little stomach for a war of knives, grenades and bayonets, and it is doubtful how long the morale of the troops would hold up under the difficult and dangerous conditions of the Kosovo mountains, which are known as the "the accursed mountains" to Serbs and Albanians alike.

Washington is well aware that the brunt of any ground war in Kosovo would have to be borne by American and British troops. With Greece practically in open revolt and Italian public opinion on the war split down the middle (47% for and the same number against), no help can be expected from these countries. It is doubtful whether Greece could allow the use of the port of Salonica to move NATO troops. Enthusiasm for the war is already cooling fast in France and Germany. Only the London government is hell bent on showing its muscles. Only these do not add up to very much in practice. As the same issue of The Economist pointed out acidly: "A British leader who invokes the spirit of 1940 is not expected to flinch from the necessary price in blood, tears and sweat. The trouble is that Britain may not be able to pay such a price even if its people wanted to."

Civilian targets

Having failed to force Belgrade to capitulate, NATO has now abandoned all pretence that its bombs are directed exclusively at military targets. The scope of the bombing is being extended all the time. Not only bridges and railways (including trains with passengers inside them) are considered suitable targets, but oil refineries, water plants, television studios, residential areas, party headquarters and factories also. Not only did they bomb the Zastava car plant, but also a cigarette factory in Nis. Evidently cigarettes can also be put to military uses!

The real aim of this bombing is quite clear. On the one hand, they hope to sow fear and demoralisation among the population and break their will to struggle. On the other hand, there is an element of revenge and petty vindictiveness, shown by the bombing of Milosevic's home in Belgrade. Of course, none of this is aimed against the people of Serbia, you understand! If some people lose their lives, their homes or their places of employment, this is merely so much "collateral damage". After all, it is all in a good cause! At the end of the day, we will get rid of Milosevic, they say.

The problem is, there is no sign that the bombing has weakened Milosevic in the slightest. On the contrary. His support increases to the degree that NATO bombs inflict ever more terrible blows on Yugoslav cities, bridges and factories. The indignation of the population grows and with it, their will to struggle. Serbian youths volunteer to fight. Even those who oppose Milosevic feel obliged to close ranks against this brutal aggression against the Fatherland. Under such conditions, all talk of a mutiny of the Yugoslav army, a coup or a popular uprising against Milosevic is just nonsense. Milosevic feels so confident that he permits himself the luxury of giving a personal interview on American television.

After the first press conferences, where the NATO spokespersons gave an impression of absolute confidence, the tone soon changed. Disasters like the bombing of at least two columns of refugees, and the fact that Belgrade showed no sign of giving in, threw them into a mood of pessimism and nervousness. As early as the 4th of April the Observer published a pessimistic assessment of the bombing campaign under the heading "NATO's tragic errors". It quoted a former military intelligence officer as saying:

"We've made a complete mess of this. The mistake that NATO has made is to opt for a campaign of air power alone that has allowed Milosevic to ethnically cleanse Kosovo. It took seven weeks to use similar raids to prepare the battlefield in the Gulf War. Here we are flying missions to prepare a battlefield that no-one is going to fight on. The military have allowed themselves to be persuaded by political contingencies into fighting only half a war."

If the leaders of NATO knew anything about the history of war, they would know that even the most savage aerial bombardment, far from breaking the will of the population, has the opposite effect. That is shown by Hitler's Blitzkrieg against Britain in World War Two. And if they knew anything about the history of the Serbs, they would understand that such methods will not break the people's will to resist, but only spur it to desperate levels. The truth of this will be rapidly seen if NATO is foolish enough to resort to a war on the ground.

This option--so light-mindedly dismissed at the start of hostilities--is now constantly re-emerging, like some sinister litany. In truth, if the conflict continues, it will be the only option left open to them. The dangers of such a move are clear to all thinking people--though not to the incumbent of Number ten Downing Street. Mr. Blair appears to imagine that NATO will be able to march into Kosovo with little or no resistance. All that has to be done is to indulge in a little more "degrading" (that is, to pound Kosovo mercilessly from the air) and everything will be fine. Of such delusions are military catastrophes made!

Imperialist propaganda

Thwarted in their military plans, the strategists of NATO have stepped up the propaganda war to an unprecedented degree. The key element in this is the plight of the Kosovar refugees. This is indeed both tragic and heart-rending. But in the first place, the tragedy of the people of Kosovo has been directly caused by the bombing campaign which was supposed to help them. NATO cynically aroused hopes which it had no intention of realising. Then, having provoked a disaster in the form of a tidal flood of refugees, these Christian ladies and gentlemen promptly slammed the door in their face.

The right to asylum is an elementary democratic right, recognised by the Geneva convention and formally accepted by all civilised nations. In the past, it was honoured by countries like Britain which prided itself on its liberal and democratic traditions. Karl Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, all made use of this right to sanctuary at one time or another. But that was another age! Then, the capitalist system was still in its youthful and relatively progressive stage. The bourgeoisie was confident in itself, its future, its civilising historic mission. Not any more! Although these unfortunate men, women and children undoubtedly fulfil all the conditions required for the status of refugees, not a single one of the NATO countries that hypocritically pose as their friends and benefactors is willing to provide them with asylum in moreb than token numbers.

The USA, which inscribed on its statue of liberty an invitation to the world to send its huddled, oppressed masses, now reveals itself as a narrow-minded, selfish bigot, which sheds crocodile tears over the fate of the poor Kosovars, and then kindly invites them to go--to Cuba! The US's generosity to the Kosovars extends as far as the derelict barracks on Guantanamo, a hell-hole to which the Kosovars are understandably reluctant to commit themselves. Germany has admitted 10,000 Kosovars (they have some use for this source of cheap labour). And the others are no better.

The French press recently revealed the existence of a secret government memorandum to civil servants, instructing them not to let Kosovar refugees into France, alleging the danger of "civil disorder." In its issue of the 13th April Le Parisien writes: "The Kosovar refugees are nowhere near receiving visas for France. Far removed from the reassuring declarations of the Jospin government, the confidential slogans of the administration which have come into our hands, in reality, could not be more restrictive." And it quotes one such confidential circular: "We must pay particular attention to considerations of public order and to the risk of a high level of immigration linked to this situation." Specifically referring to the Kosovars, the memorandum lays down such restrictive conditions that it means in practice denying them the right to a visa, except for a few highly exceptional cases.

And Britain? While Tony Blair, the evangelical Christian and well-known moralist, loses no opportunity to wring his hands over the Kosovars before the television cameras, the government which he heads has offered to take in the grand total of--160 Kosovar refugees to date, allowed in on sufferance for twelve months only. The callous treatment of the Kosovars is a truly loathsome example of how imperialism uses the problems of small nations for its own ends. They see the Albanians of Kosovo as pawns to be used against their main enemy in the Balkans. They use this question as propaganda, but their real attitude was shown recently by the following incident. The Western media has made much of the fact that perhaps 500,000 refugees remain trapped inside Kosovo, in inhuman conditions, freezing temperatures and with no food. But when the question of dropping food for these people was raised, they refused on the grounds that this would interfere with the bombing campaign. In its issue of 21st April, the Daily Express reported that:

"Starving refugees trapped in Kosovo face a disaster of 'biblical proportions' the United Nations food agency warned yesterday. But hopes of getting aid to them were dashed by NATO commanders. The Express has been told by one Whitehall source that humanitarian air drops could get in the way of military operations.

"Apart from anything else, it also potentially disrupts the air campaign because air space has got to be made available to these aircraft to fly,' said the source. 'It hampers what our aircraft are doing."

So nauseating was this behaviour that even the right wing British Daily Express in its editorial protested that "such dismissive contempt for human life is revolting." What more proof does one need that the imperialists' war against Yugoslavia is not based upon humanitarian considerations and that the Kosovars are merely the small change of great power diplomacy? The flood of refugees is destabilising the weak and impoverished states of Albania and Macedonia who are in no position to deal with it. Incredibly, NATO seems to have been taken completely by surprise by this development, for which no provision had been made. No tents, no food, no medicine--nothing.

In an astonishing display of cynicism, Western leaders criticised Macedonia for its reluctance to take in large numbers of refugees, while refusing to admit them to their own countries. The Macedonian government is afraid that the huge influx of Albanian Kosovars will upset the delicate balance between the Albanians and Slavs inside Macedonia. Above all, the government of Skopje fears being dragged into the war. Already there have been violent demonstrations by Macedonians opposed to the bombing of Yugoslavia. Hence the extreme reluctance of the government to allow its territory to be used as a base for a NATO invasion of Kosovo. Such a development could easily lead to the break-up of Macedonia. This is what NATO wanted to prevent at all costs, since it could be the cause of a general war on the Balkans, as we pointed out seven years ago.

The logic of war

The worst thing about the present situation from NATO's point of view is that the conflict is showing an irresistible tendency to spread. This is precisely what they wanted to avoid. Yet by their actions, they themselves have provoked it. Both Albania and Macedonia have been turned into armed camps, with 8,000 NATO troops stationed in one, and 12,000 in the other. The Albanian government, in effect, has asked NATO to take it over. They want to become a colony of the EU and the Americans! This shows the bankruptcy of the former Stalinist leaders. If Fatos Nano and the other leaders of the so-called Socialist Party had been genuine socialists, they would have placed themselves at the head of the magnificent revolutionary movement two years ago and transformed society. The Albanian revolution could have acted as a beacon to all the peoples of the Balkans, especially if it had been armed with an internationalist programme and perspective, like the October revolution in Russia.

Without a revolutionary party and leadership, the committees failed to march on Tirana and take power, which was easily within their grasp. Instead, power fell into the hands of Fatos Nano and the other ex-Stalinists who have acted like the leaders of the German Social Democracy in 1918. Instead of arresting Berisha, they allowed him to escape and re-group his counterrevolutionary forces in the North, where he has played a role in arming the KLA and intriguing with them. He is now trying to get back into power by playing the nationalist card and calling for a government of national unity, including himself. Whether he succeeds in this remains to be seen. At present, the imperialists have realised that they have a safer bet with the so-called Socialist Party leadership.

Since the ex-Stalinist leaders have come to power, they have done everything in their power to hand it over to the bourgeoisie. The Albanian bourgeoisie is virtually non-existent, and the experiment in free market economics has ended in a complete catastrophe, this means, in practice, handing over Albania to foreign imperialism. This fact cannot be disguised by the foolish talk of "joining the EU" since nobody imagines that Albania could ever meet a single one of the Maastricht conditions! What they really mean is that imperialism should take over the country as a colony. This is a shameful betrayal of the Albanian people. Until now, the imperialists have taken no notice of the requests for help from Tirana. But now Albania has suddenly become important as a base for NATO's military operations against Yugoslavia. This will inevitably mean dragging Albania into the war on the side of imperialism, which will signify a new nightmare for the Albanian people.

Theoretically, the NATO troops stationed in Albania and Macedonia are part of a "peacekeeping force" that was supposed to enter Kosovo--but only with the agreement of the Yugoslav government, as part of a peace deal. However, the rules of the game are constantly changing. Instead of referring to the agreement of Belgrade, British and US politicians started talking about sending ground troops into Kosovo as soon as a "permissive environment" existed--that is, when the aerial battering had reduced the Yugoslav army in Kosovo to a bloody pulp, so that resistance would be impossible. However, as time goes on, the realisation has begun to dawn on even the thickest skulls that the Yugoslav army in Kosovo, far from being "degraded and destroyed" is very much in place and represents a formidable foe. It is estimated that some 300 tanks are dug in in Kosovo. High level bombing has done nothing to dislodge them. Now they are assembling Apache helicopters in Albania for use in Kosovo. These are formidable killing machines, but have one major drawback. They must fly at low level, which makes them vulnerable to ground fire.

Still fearful of American casualties, Clinton's preference is to continue bombing. This they will do, inflicting terrible damage on the economy of Yugoslavia. But sooner or later, ground troops will be required. The talk has shifted imperceptibly from intervening "in a permissive environment' to intervening in a "semi-permissive environment." Roughly translated, that means: "Since we cannot destroy the Yugoslav army from the air, or prevent it from resisting, we will have to fight our way in." But such fighting, if it takes place, will be far bloodier than what they think.

Given the attitude of the Macedonians, there are only two ways in which NATO could attack. One way would be to attack Yugoslavia proper through Hungary, now a member of the alliance. Belgrade has already warned the Hungarians to watch their step. Any hostile move by Budapest, and Milosevic may decide to take revenge on the Hungarian population of Vojvodina in northern Yugoslavia. Hungary too may find itself faced with a flood of refugees. But even if Hungary decides to let its territory be used as a launching-pad for a NATO invasion of Yugoslavia--which is not at all guaranteed--the prospect of a frontal attack on Yugoslavia, presumably with the aim of occupying Belgrade, must fill the NATO strategists with apprehensions. In a defensive war, with their backs against the wall, the Yugoslavs would fight like tigers every step of the way. There would be frightful slaughter, and NATO would have no guarantee of success. Moreover, the alleged goal of this campaign, Kosovo, lies far to the South. By the time the invaders fought their way through, they would not find much left.

We are left with Albania as the most likely base for a NATO invasion. The Socialist Party government has thrown its lot in with imperialism long ago. But here there are other difficulties. Albania is the poorest and most backward country in Europe. Its ports and roads are not suited to the rapid movement of large numbers of troops and modern equipment. The entry into Kosovo from Albania would be a difficult and dangerous enterprise. The NATO troops would be exposed to ambush at every step in what is classical guerrilla country. Under these conditions, even a small force of troops trained in the methods of guerrilla warfare--and remember that the Yugoslav army was trained in these methods for the last fifty years--could pin down a far larger force for a long time and inflict terrible casualties. It is not even certain they can win this war. But even if they can, how long could they hold it?

Here is another irony of history. The British conquered India with Indian troops. But now America, having inherited Britain's role as the world policeman, is compelled to fight a European war with its own troops. Neither the French nor the Germans have much stomach for a fight, let alone the Greeks and Italians. How long it will be prepared to carry this burden is another matter altogether. The US soldier does not want to fight in Europe in a strange country and for a cause he can scarcely understand. Moreover, the kind of fighting he will be faced with on the ground will be very different from the cosy, bloodless, sanitised warfare portrayed on television sets up till now. The invaders will not be sitting in a cockpit far above the clouds watching screens.

Despite all this, NATO will have little choice but to invade if it wishes to fight the war to the finish. It will take time to assemble the necessary force--probably months. The general consensus is that it would take between 100,000 and 200,000 troops to stand a chance of success. But given the evident difficulties in assembling such a force, there have been rumours that NATO is considering a far smaller force--maybe 40,000. With the support of air power, so the argument goes, such a force could succeed. This is a very dangerous assumption! In the Second World War, Tito's partisans tied down 20 German divisions, and Hitler never succeeded in defeating them, although he had the backing of the fascist Croat regime which waged a war of genocide against the Serbs.

The bombing campaign can reduce Yugoslavia to rubble, but it cannot compel it to do its bidding. The Yugoslavs are digging in, laying mines and waiting for the final onslaught. From start to finish, the leaders of NATO have understood nothing, anticipated nothing, and consequently, have made a mess of everything. But their failure to date will pale into insignificance if they decide to go into Yugoslavia with ground troops. Such a move would represent a fundamental change in the whole situation. It would have the most far-reaching consequences everywhere.

The role of Russia

In addition to all this, there is the little question of Russia to consider. So far Moscow has confined itself to verbal protests and attempts to patch up a deal. But the sight of an actual invasion of Yugoslavia would be too much for Russia to swallow. Of course, Yeltsin does not want to come into collision with the West, and is desperately trying to get some kind of a deal. But his warnings of a Third World War are an indication of growing panic and fear. Allowing for an element of exaggeration (Yeltsin wants to frighten the West into making concessions--a vain hope) these remarks are not entirely groundless. Russia could not stand idly by while NATO invades Yugoslavia. Even at the moment, the Russians are clearly providing Belgrade with military information. If NATO invades, at the very least the Russians would provide their Balkan allies with arms and probably volunteers. But it is quite possible that the West could blunder into an all-out Balkans war which Russia would feel compelled to join on Yugoslavia's side. The results of such a development would be incalculable.

For their part, the Americans, fearing the reaction of the Russian people, are giving large sums of money to Moscow in an attempt to bribe Russia into acquiescence and prevent Yeltsin from being overthrown. But if matters come to a ground war, all this will be in vain. If Yeltsin is not prepared to act, he will be overthrown and replaced by someone who is. Even before the war, the pro-capitalist elements were already discredited and Yeltsin himself seriously weakened. Now Chubais has stated bitterly that the attack on Yugoslavia has irreparably undermined the reformers. The West fears that the growing tensions between Russia and America can lead to the downfall not only of Yeltsin but of the entire programme of market reform. The events in Yugoslavia can have revolutionary consequences in Russia--and not only there.

The extension of the war will inevitably provoke a massive reaction in all the NATO countries. In Greece, this process has already begun. The population is opposed to the bombing of Yugoslavia. There have been many demonstrations. There is widespread fury at the use of the port of Salonica for the shipment of troops, and at least one NATO convoy was forced to turn back after the windscreen of the lead truck was smashed by demonstrators. If a ground war begins, this can have revolutionary implications in Greece, where some sailors on a destroyer have refused to follow orders to go to a war zone. A further escalation of the war can lead to even more serious incidents.

In Italy, where public opinion is split down the middle on the war, there has already been a demonstration of 100,000 in Rome. Prime Minister D'Alema can only keep his position by constantly pushing one peace proposal after another. Even during the celebration of NATO's birthday, Italy's foreign minister was forced to disassociate himself from the bombing of the Yugoslav television studios.

In Germany also there is a growing ferment. Unlike Britain, where the spectacle of Labour leaders supporting war is nothing new, the participation of Germany in a war for the first time since 1945 has caused a wave of shock. The Greens are facing internal crisis; a group of angry protesters recently occupied the Party headquarters. There is growing discontent in the ranks of the Social Democracy. Above all, the biggest German trade union, IG Metal, has come out against the war. As the war drags on, this opposition will increase, posing the possibility of crises and splits within the mass organisations. In France, the leaders of the Communist Party, members of the ruling Socialist coalition, have been running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. But this balancing act cannot go on forever. There is a ferment of discontent in the rank-and-file and in society, which is reflected (apart from the fact that the French ruling class has its own agenda in the Balkans) in the attempts of the French to distance themselves from the USA and Britain. In Belgium the authorities have shown their fervent commitment to democracy (a basic principle of NATO's constitution) by banning all anti-war demonstrations and brutally repressing protesters.

All this is the state of affairs even before the war has reached its critical phase. What is striking about this is the speed with which opposition to the war has started. At the start of the First and Second World War this was not the case. Also in the case of Vietnam, mass opposition only developed towards the end of the war. Here there is opposition, or at least a questioning of the war from the very beginning, although the situation varies from one country to another. True, the reaction in Britain and the USA has been muted. But once it is a question of a real war on the ground, public opinion can be transformed in 24 hours. In the event of a ground war, US and British troops will have to take the brunt of the fighting--and the casualties. There will be a violent reaction against the war, especially, as is likely, if it is prolonged in time. When the body bags start to come home, people will ask "why?" The war will be seen as something that was unnecessary. Those governments that were most identified with it will be in the deepest trouble--starting with the Clinton and Blair administrations.

Last but not least, the war will destabilise every country on the Balkans. In their efforts to find a suitable route to transport troops and equipment, the Americans have approached Bulgaria and Romania for permission to use the air space of these countries. The right wing governments in Bucharest and Sofia have apparently given permission, in an attempt to buy their way into NATO and the EU. But these pro-Western politicians do not represent the feelings of the masses, who will not want their countries to act as vulgar mercenaries at the service of US imperialism. The stage will be set for political crises and convulsions in these countries also. As in Macedonia, there will be violent demonstrations and even revolutionary developments.

Is a compromise possible?

On its 50th anniversary NATO is in deep trouble. Initially set up as an alliance dominated by US imperialism to confront the USSR, it has now become an agency for extending imperialist domination over an ever increasing area of the globe. The attack on Yugoslavia means that it now claims the right to intervene against any state that refuses to bow to its wishes on the principle: Do as you are told, or we'll bomb you! Do as you are told, or we'll invade you!

NATO has now staked its reputation on inflicting a defeat on Belgrade. If it fails, its prestige would suffer a severe blow. It could even break up. Therefore, the Americans and their British puppets are hell-bent on pursuing the war. All efforts at compromise have been unceremoniously dismissed. America does not want a compromise, but total victory. Tony Blair even went so far as to say publicly that the war must continue "until Milosevic stands down." This was too much even for the Americans. The over-enthusiastic British leader received a phone call from Washington, and on the next day was forced to retract. He had meant to say "until Milosevic stands down his troops in Kosovo"!

The Russian government, terrified of the consequences of an all-out war, is redoubling its efforts to put pressure on Milosevic to reach a deal. The problem is: what deal? After Chernomyrdin's latest visit to Belgrade, Milosevic offered to accept "international presence" in Kosovo after all. But he specified: under the control of the United Nations. NATO countries would not be welcome, particularly those that had been involved in the bombing. The reaction of NATO was immediate and predictable: not a chance! NATO troops must be allowed to police Kosovo.

If no deal is reached, then it's war. And war has a logic of its own. Do they want to go to war with Russia over Kosovo? No. But they may blunder into such a war. This will not be a pushover. To begin with, an invading force needs to be far stronger than a defending one--according to the standard theory, about three to one, but in the conditions of Kosovo an even greater ratio would be advisable. At the moment, the Americans are talking themselves into a war. They are convincing themselves that the Serbs will not put up serious resistance, their bark is worse than their bite, Russia will not intervene, etc. This is a serious misreading of the position. If they knew anything about the history of Serbia, they would not be in such a hurry to conclude that their enemies will not fight. In fact, their choice of adversary could hardly have been worse.

The NATO leaders are putting on a brave show of unity. But in practice they are completely disunited. The cracks have already begun to appear, and will grow wider as time goes on. The French are now demanding that NATO takes its war to the United Nations for approval. This is a joke! The bombing campaign has already been going for over a month. NATO showed complete disregard for the UN when it started and will certainly disregard any vote that goes against it. Since a) the war has already started and there is no question of calling it off if the UN votes against and b) Russia will veto the proposal anyway, this is a classic case of locking the stable door after the horse has bolted. Nonetheless, it is an early symptom that the French, too, are growing uneasy about the position. They may well quietly desert the USA and Britain.

Public opinion in the USA seems to be firm behind the war, but this will not last. It merely reflects the effects of the massive barrage of propaganda. But this will evaporate very quickly, once the news of American casualties begins to sink into the consciousness of the masses. Even the position of the ruling class is far from solid. There is the potential for collapse in the Senate, where isolationist sentiment is never very far from the surface. There are already divisions in Congress. So far, the cracks have been papered over. But this will not last. The more far-sighted and ambitious members of Congress have come out against the war. Henry Kissinger, in his submission to the Senate Armed Forces Committee said that he would never have gone into Kosovo, but having gone in, they must see it through. He warned that there would be "significant casualties" in a ground invasion, but that the real worry would be the losses sustained in a guerrilla war which would follow.

It is astonishing that this Senate committee should seek advice from the man who was one of the architects of the Vietnam quagmire. But history is full of such ironies. The memory of Vietnam has receded, but will come back to haunt them. If they could not occupy Iraq, how can they hope to occupy Yugoslavia? A more intelligent observer is Senator James Inhofe who is one of the most vocal opponents of the war. His opposition is not dictated by pacifism or morality, but calculated self-interest. He warns of a "long, protracted and bloody war" and told a British television journalist: "It may be in your country's interest but it is not in mine." It is clear that Senator Inhofe is putting down markers for the future. There will be a massive backlash against the war in the USA. Clinton is banking on gaining popularity as a great war leader. But he will end up as the most hated President in recent American history. The whole situation will be pregnant with revolutionary implications for the USA--and also Britain.

The Americans would prefer their European allies to do the fighting. But, with the exception of Tony Blair, the others are not all that keen on sacrificing money and men. The grumbling in the ranks will grow as time drags on and there is no prospect of a brilliant victory. Some sections have advocated arming the KLA as an alternative. But this is not a serious option. Of course, in the refugee camps in Albania and Macedonia there will be no shortage of young men and women burning with the thought of revenge and willing to sacrifice themselves. But the KLA, as a fighting force, cannot be taken seriously. At the beginning it was a small terrorist organisation with few military skills. According to a report issued by the CIA it has close links with drug dealers. Moreover, it was smashed by the Yugoslav army, against which it proved useless. There have been reports that the Americans are training KLA fighters. However, the reports make no mention of the numbers involved, and these will undoubtedly be too small to play anything but a symbolic and propaganda role.

So we are back to square one. A land invasion of Yugoslavia will represent a terrible blood bath, in which American and British troops will take most of the losses. Such a conflict could last a long time, and there is no guarantee that NATO would win. Given all these considerations, it is possible that Washington may seek some kind of deal, probably using the services of Moscow. The imperialists may have to swallow their pride and accept a compromise. First, however, they will flatten Yugoslavia, then look to the Russians to sort something out which they can sign. They may even agree to put some money in to help reconstruction in Kosovo. After all, it would be cheaper than a war, and US companies will get the contracts.

On the thorny question of a foreign peacekeeping force, Milosevic would doubtless accept one, under the banner of the UN, not NATO, with Russian and Ukrainian troops, but no Americans, British or Germans. Such a deal would not be welcomed by many Albanian Kosovars, who will feel cheated. The KLA would try to continue a guerrilla war, in which case, they would have to be disarmed by their American friends (one reason why the Americans will be wary about arming them too well today). Of course, this would really be a victory for Milosevic. But it could be dressed up by the diplomats as a perfect compromise and a victory for reason. Does this seem impossible? But stranger things have occurred in the history of war and diplomacy. And after all, it would not be the first time that the West has denounced Milosevic as a war criminal and then conducted negotiations with him.

Although America does not want a compromise, it may be forced in the end to accept one. The alternative to such a solution is war, and the results of such a war would be ruinous in many ways. In addition to the cost in lives there is the question of the economic cost. Even the bombing of the bridges across the Danube will have serious consequences for the countries that border the Danube and conduct a great part of their trade along it. The continuation of the war will have serious economic consequences. In the Gulf war, the West got all its money back from the oil-rich Arab regimes. But there will be nobody to foot the bill for the Yugoslav adventure. The dangers of a land war in Kosovo are already clear to the most far-sighted strategists of Capital. The logistical problems of even assembling a sufficiently large force are immense, as we have seen.

This is not a very attractive scenario. Once they start thinking about it, they may have second thoughts. But so far they have thought nothing out. From the beginning they have made one blunder after another. Thus far, Milosevic has made better calculations than Clinton and Blair. But sooner or later reality will begin to dawn on even the thickest heads. Trotsky once remarked: "When all else fails, one must start to think!" Clinton himself is always likely to backslide when faced with a serious challenge. The likelihood of numerous American fatalities may give him pause for thought at the eleventh hour. Naturally, any deal would be at the expense of the Kosovars. At no time has NATO or the United States ever committed themselves to the demand for an independent Kosovo, for the simple reason that they are just as opposed to it as is Belgrade. An independent Kosovo would inevitably attach itself to Albania, raising the spectre of Greater Albania, which would destabilise Macedonia and provoke a Balkans war.

The conclusion is inescapable. The Kosovars will have to be sacrificed. These, in any case, were always expendable from the standpoint of imperialism. Milosevic could offer a return to the kind of autonomy they had before 1989. His public meetings with the moderate Kosovar leader Rugova shows how this would be done. The Yugoslav army in Kosovo could return to barracks, and the refugees would be allowed to return--although, return to what is another question. With their houses burnt, their villages razed, their factories destroyed, they would have neither homes nor jobs to go to. Nor would they feel safe so long as Milosevic remains in power. We would therefore be faced with the prospect of NATO troops forcing the refugees to return against their will. After all, nobody else wants them. Britain has taken in a handful on a twelve months visa. Once they have been used for propaganda purposes, they can be sent back and safely forgotten. When Senator Inhofe was asked what would happen to them, he replied laconically: "I don't know." It was left to us to add the missing sub-clause, which really sums up Washington's attitude: "And I don't care."

Marxism and reformism

War is the acid test of all political tendencies. The position taken by the right wing reformist leaders is no surprise. Schroeder, Jospin, and above all Blair, have become the most enthusiastic cheer leaders of US imperialism and NATO. But that is their role in life. The tendency of right reformism is only an expression of the pressures of big business in the ranks of the labour movement. War is only the continuation of politics by other means. At home, the labour leaders represent the interests of the banks and big monopolies. Abroad they stand for the interests of imperialism--especially US imperialism. Moreover, they tend to be far more servile in following the dictates of big business and imperialism than the ordinary bourgeois politicians. The British Conservatives grumble under their breath about the uselessness of the bombing, while Blair has become so carried away with his bloodthirsty rhetoric that he has come into collision, not only with the cooler heads in Washington but with the British chief of staff who resents the intrusions of this latter-day Churchill.

The new breed of right wing parvenus like Blair are even worse than the old Labour leaders. In all probability, Callaghan or Wilson would have attempted to quietly restrain Clinton, warn him of the consequences of going to war. But Blair is greedy for the plaudits of the reactionaries and anxious to prove his credentials as a loyal servant of America and a fearless representative of imperialism. Just as at home he is fearless when attacking single mothers and disabled people, while bowing and scraping to the City of London, so on the world stage he struts about, beating his chest and telling the President of the USA to stand firm against a small Balkan country, while the US Senators look on with amused disbelief.

Despite all Blair's bluff and bluster, Britain's real contribution to the war is pathetic, as befits Britain's real place in the world. Out of 1,000 or so aircraft involved in the Kosovo conflict, about 800 are American. The handful of British planes involved in the bombing campaign have played an insignificant role. Many bombing missions have been aborted because cloud restricted visibility--more a comment on outdated British equipment than the weather. It is even reported that a cruise missile fired from the submarine Splendid failed to go off. The British carrier Invincible is armed with helicopters designed for anti-shipping activities, and therefore useless for the present war. Even the much-vaunted British Harrier planes are the wrong sort, being designed for air superiority, not air-to-ground missions. The same position exists with regard to ground troops. Even after reinforcements, there will only be around 8,000 British troops in Macedonia, "far too few to play more than a token part in the war against the Yugoslav army," as The Economist correctly observes. No wonder Tony Blair's insistent demand for a fight to the finish met with a rather tepid response in Washington!

In Britain, at the moment, there is general confusion. What opposition to the war exists is weak and mainly of a muddled and pacifist character. The supposedly left Tribune group is for the war. Michael Foot calls it the most just war in history. Ken Livingstone demands ground troops. These so-called lefts and former pacifists are the worst warmongers. Even the left wing Campaign Group is split 50:50 on the war. To his credit, Tony Benn has come out clearly against the war, but he does so on a pacifist basis, calling for the involvement of the (dis) United Nations. Tony Benn is the most courageous and sincere of the Labour Left in Britain. But appeals to so-called international law and the UN can solve nothing, and only serve to confuse the issue. The same confused pacifism is seen in other countries too.

In Italy, where the PDS led government is fully supporting the bombing campaign, in line with most of European Social Democracy, the leadership of Rifondazione Comunista (the PRC) condemns the bombing. They correctly state that: "The war against Yugoslavia will not be a war to defend the refugees and the legitimate aspirations to autonomy and democracy of the people of Kosovo. It will be a war for NATO, to reconfirm the hegemony of the United States over Europe, and to substitute International Law with the law of the jungle enforced by the new stars and stripes world policeman. The 'civilised' West once again resorts to the barbarism of war after having contributed to the disintegration of Yugoslavia, having supported the nationalists of all colours, who, in the name of ethnic purity, have erected new and unnatural border in the heart of Europe."

So far so good. But what is its alternative? The PRC appeals to the "democratic forces", to the pacifist movement and to the trade union movement. However, they do not specify who the democratic forces are. The parties in the government are all supporting the NATO bombing--but they are the same parties the PRC was supporting in government only a few months ago. The PRC leadership calls on these forces to uphold article 11 of the Italian Constitution which states that "Italy repudiates war as an instrument for resolving international controversy". They call on the government to ban the use of US and NATO bases for aggression against Yugoslavia and to disassociate itself from the war. They call on the UN Security Council to step in and to send Kofi Annan to Belgrade. In the place of NATO troops they call for OSCE forces to be sent in. They also call on the European Union to hold a conference on the Balkans with the aim of integrating the area into a "common, multiethnic and democratic Europe". They make no mention of Socialism.

The only way the Balkans could be integrated into a capitalist Europe is for these countries to complete the process of capitalist counter-revolution with wholesale privatisations and total submission to the dictates of Western imperialism. This is the rationale behind the position of Albania. As for the United Nations and the OSCE, they are merely organisations of different capitalist states which cannot play any kind of progressive role.

These appeals to international law and the UN represent the worst kind of utopianism. Solon the Great, the author of the Athenian Constitution, once said: "The Law is like a spider's web; the small are caught and the great tear it up." All talk of international law, peace, morality and the rest of it is consigned to the dustbin the moment the vital interests of the big imperialist powers come into play. All serious questions are solved by force, and the final expression of force in international politics is war. One may disapprove of this fact, but it remains a fact nonetheless. And to deny the facts is to deceive the people.

Where the vital interests of Imperialism are concerned, so-called international law is meaningless. The fact that Yugoslavia is very far from the North Atlantic, that Yugoslavia has not threatened the security or territorial integrity of any NATO state, and that, to this day, NATO has not declared war against Yugoslavia--these are just so many irrelevant details to Washington and London. Every day some new excuse is found, some new pretext produced to justify the one-sided onslaught on what was supposed to be a sovereign country. The hapless Kofi Annan looks on impotently. Despite all the tearful pleas of the middle-class pacifists and left reformists, the comically mis-named United Nations is powerless to resolve any question where the vital interests of the big powers are involved. The United Nations are treated with a well-deserved contempt by the USA and its partners in crime, who just swept it aside as a man would brush aside an irritating mosquito.

In Germany, the bombing of Yugoslavia has caused a wave of discontent amongst the rank and file of the SPD and also of the Greens. It is ironic that the first time that German forces participate in military action since the end of W.W.II, Germany's foreign affairs minister is a member of the Green Party. There has been an occupation of the Green Party HQ by enraged activists. Within the SPD the decision has caused shock and widespread opposition, not only amongst the rank and file but also from some local and regional leaders. Some say that one of the reasons for the resignation of SPD leader Oskar Lafontaine from the German government earlier this year was his opposition to the bombing campaign. The powerful metal workers union IG-Metall has called for an end to the bombing campaign (although its alternative is also UN intervention).

A socialist policy--the only alternative

There is no solution to the problem of the Balkans on a capitalist basis. Those who try to find such a solution, those who abandon the class standpoint under the pretext of allegedly defending the right of self-determination of the Kosovars, inevitably fall into a reactionary position. The KLA relies completely on US imperialism. In practice, it has become an instrument of US imperialism in the Balkans. Hence, concretely, the demand for self-determination for Kosovo in the given context signifies--and can only signify--the establishment of a US protectorate in what was part of the territory of Yugoslavia. Does this have a progressive content of any sort? Does it bear any relation to genuine self-determination? No, it does not. Can it be supported by socialists? No, it cannot.

Some so-called Marxists have defended the bombing of Yugoslavia on the grounds of self-determination for the Kosovars. We have the spectacle of some of the sects, shouting "arm the KLA" demonstrating alongside Albanians carrying NATO flags. Others who also call themselves Marxists have called, not for an independent Kosovo, but for a socialist independent Kosovo. This is really amusing. In the given circumstances, an independent Kosovo could only be brought about on American bayonets, and as an American imperialist protectorate. (The Albanian Kosovars themselves understand this very well, which is why they demonstrate with NATO flags, and demand that NATO bombs and invades Yugoslavia). But, say these wiseacres, this must have a socialist character! Such an idea would have the NATO strategists helpless with laughter, if only they bothered to read such stuff, which we doubt very much. We repeat. To abandon the class standpoint, no matter how you twist and turn, will land you in the camp of reaction.

In any case, it is clear that the Kosovars will be betrayed by Washington the moment it realises that the price of establishing a protectorate is far greater than was supposed. The Kosovars, having been cynically used by the imperialists for their own purposes, will be thrown aside like a dirty rag the moment they are no longer useful. The only slogan that can meet the needs, not only of the Kosovars, but of all the peoples of the Balkans is the slogan of a Socialist Federation of the Balkans. Only by overthrowing the reactionary chauvinist cliques which have plunged the region into war and misery can the conditions be established for the establishment of a democratic socialist regime that alone could guarantee the rights of all the peoples, including the right to self-determination.

Throughout history the demand for self-determination has been used, not only by revolutionaries, but also by reactionaries and imperialists to justify the dismemberment of states and cloak their aggressive intentions. It is necessary to distinguish in any given situation what is progressive and what is reactionary. In the given situation, considered concretely, the demand for so-called self determination for the Kosovars has been filled with a reactionary content. Not to see this elementary fact is to fall into a reactionary position and act, in practice, as the cheer-leaders of US imperialism.

It is necessary to tell the truth, not deceive people with "clever" slogans that are supposed to provide "practical" solutions, but which lead to disaster. We are for the fullest autonomy for the Kosovars within Yugoslavia. At the moment that is the most they can achieve. Only a revolution can bring about the necessary conditions for the real social and national emancipation of the Kosovars and all other Balkan peoples. The only demand that can solve the problem is the demand for a Socialist Federation of the Balkans. This slogan is getting an echo, even now.

Socialists, Communists and trade unionists of all countries must oppose the barbarous bombing of Yugoslavia. But this does not in any way presuppose support for the monstrous regime of Slobodan Milosevic, or the reactionary policies of Serb chauvinism. We do not forget that it was the actions of Milosevic in abolishing the autonomy of Kososvo ten years ago that started the process that led to the break-up of Yugoslavia. By contrast, Tito always tried to prevent the domination of Yugoslavia by any one Republic. Greater Serb chauvinism has played the most monstrous role during the last ten years. We must combat it with every means at our disposal. Not the monarchist flag of Serb reaction, but the red flag of proletarian internationalism is our banner--the only banner that can unite all the oppressed peoples of the Balkans! The attempts of the Serb chauvinists to hijack the anti-war movement are frequently met with repulse. In Austria the Chetniks were excluded from the organisation of an an anti-war demonstration. In London something similar happened, when Serb chauvinists turned up to the picket with monarchist flags, they were asked to leave. The demonstrators did not shout "Serbia" but "Yugoslavia!" Instinctively, the anti-war demonstrators knew how to distinguish between a reactionary and a progressive position in the struggle against the war.

No. We can accept no responsibility for Milosevic and his regime. In Spain the United Left has opposed NATO intervention in Yugoslavia, which is positive, but unfortunately, in common with others on the left who oppose NATO's actions, the United Left also calls for a "UN solution." To make matters worse, its leader Julio Anguita described Milosevic as "left wing". This is entirely false. In common with all the other former Stalinists in Russia and Eastern Europe, Milosevic stands for capitalism and a "free market economy" at home and a chauvinist policy abroad. Before the war, he launched a programme of privatisation--involving the selling-off of the state television company, cement and chemical works and sugar factories. The beneficiaries were foreigners and members of the ruling clique, especially Milosevic's family and cronies. His daughter Marija owned the now-destroyed Kosova radio and television studio. Dragan Tomic, the speaker of the parliament, was the director of Jogopetrol (also now destroyed) and so on. Trade sanctions have led to a widespread criminalisation of the economy, which also benefitted this circle.

While the ruling clique has enriched itself, the working class has been impoverished. As in other Eastern European countries, the movement towards capitalism has been characterised by a sharp fall in production and a fall in living standards. From one of the most prodperous countries in the Balkans, Yugoslavia has been reduced to one of the poorest. The economic output of Serbia is now half what it was in 1990. The average monthly wage has fallen from about £400 in 1979 to £250 in 1987, to just £70 last year--before the bombing. Although the war economy has partially disguised the situation (with measures of centralisation and planning, such as price freezes and petrol rationing) the economy is in a very parlous state. Unemployment is 25 per cent officially, but will rise steeply as a result of NATO's systematic and criminal bombing of economic and civilian targets and the infrastructure. We will continue to oppose this barbarity with all our strength, But we will oppose it with class policies, with the policies of socialist internationalism, and no others!

We have already received letters from Yugoslav communists, expressing gratitude and solidarity with our ideas. This is very important. These letters tell us that the communists of Yugoslavia are opposed to Milosevic, but that, naturally, the movement for real communism has been set back by the criminal war of NATO against the Yugoslav people. At the moment, the Serbian working class is disoriented by the war. The internationalist elements will be in a small minority. But that will change. The working class opposition to Milosevic is only temporarily muted because of the war, but later on there will be a massive reaction against the regime which combined a pro-capitalist policy of privatisation and the enrichment of the elite with chauvinist poison that has dragged the Serbian people into a bloody morass. The masses will understand that the policies pursued by Milosevic have led them from one disaster to another. After the war, there will be a growing realisation that along this road only new catastrophes are possible. The idea of a socialist federation will be the more readily assimilated because, for all its faults, the old Yugoslavia was much better than the present nightmare. The first need is for a real socialist policy and a radical break with capitalism, privatisation and the so-called free market which spells misery for the masses and enrichment for the few.

We are proud of the stand we have taken on the Balkans question for the past seven years. Not one of the other tendencies approach the war from a class point of view. Only the Marxist tendency has held a firm class position on the Balkans from the very first. Seven years ago we explained the whole process and predicted the outcome. We have stood firm in defence of a consistent internationalist line, when all other trends capitulated to nationalism in one form or another. In a war, that tendency that has clear ideas and is willing to fight against the stream stands to gain most. We are the only tendency with correct theory, tactics and orientation.

Even at this stage, there is the beginnings of a working-class opposition to the war in a number of countries. We have already referred to the opposition of IG Metal in Germany. This is not an isolated example. In Italy, although the national leadership of the trade unions is not organising a serious opposition, pressure is building up from the more advanced layer of shop stewards that is calling on the trade union leaders to organise a general strike against the war. Thus, a group of 500 Italian shop stewards recently held a conference to discuss a campaign for a general strike. Some workers have already taken action, like the four hour general strike and demonstration of 5,000 workers in Massa in Tuscany. Most important of all was the decision of the Greek railway workers to call a general strike in the event of the use of ground troops in Yugoslavia in order to prevent the movement of troops and war materials.

We must redouble our efforts to oppose the war and support every anti-war movement, particularly of the workers' organisations. But above all, we must patiently explain the class issues involved, educate the proletarian vanguard, not in a nationalist, reformist or pacifist spirit, but in the spirit of internationalism and uncompromising class struggle, and thus prepare for the decisive battles that impend. The present conflict represents a fundamental turning-point everywhere. In the new situation the audience for the ideas of Marxism and internationalism will grow by leaps and bounds.