"Just as the 19th century came to a close with the outbreak of the first world war in 1914, the war that has started in Kosovo, Europe's first since 1945, marks our true entrance into the 21st century. That we should be entering a new era in the same tragic way we did the previous one, and more or less in the same place, is highly symbolic... The events taking place there reflect the changing clout of the various international actors..."
"The United States is clearly the sole 'hyper power', an imbalance that could prove damaging."
deputy director of the Paris-based Institut Francais des Relations Internationales writing in the Financial Times (29.3.99)
"I am surprised to see you supporting the current propaganda campaign by Nato and British politicians who are repeatedly stating that Nato's air campaign over Kosovo met its campaign objectives. It manifestly did not... After 11 weeks of one of the most intensive air campaigns in the history of warfare, it is clear that Nato had tragically failed to accomplish these initial objectives. For thousands of people were brutally murdered and more than a million people were driven from their homes by the Serbs. The Alliance was thus compelled to redefine the purpose of the war as being that of allowing the safe return of the Kosovo Albanian people to their homes. Its success in achieving this lesser task should not be allowed to obscure the fundamental message that it is not possible to safeguard a people by bombing from 15,000ft. Rather than engage in cynical propaganda exercises, Nato should examine how it is going to be able more effectively to fight humanitarian wars in the future. This will require the Alliance to develop better leadership and to demonstrate a greater preparedness to deploy troops on the ground. Sadly, both these critical elements seem to be missing at present."
(Commander UN Protection Force, Bosnia, 1994)
in a letter to The Times (of London ) July 14 1999
The war in Kosovo represents a major turning point in the new balance of forces that has been developing over the past decade, since the collapse of Stalinism, and of the Soviet Union in particular. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union the two super powers, the USA and the USSR, balanced each other out and this provided a relative stability to the world situation.
That does not mean that there were no conflicts of interest. The post war period was a convulsive period of wars, revolutions and counter-revolutions in the former colonial countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. However the presence of a powerful Soviet bloc meant that the world was divided into clear spheres of influence. Under that set up the US would never have dared bomb Iraq and Nato could not have gone into Yugoslavia. The disappearance of the Soviet Union as a super power has allowed the United States to emerge as the sole world power and given it the confidence to develop a more aggressive foreign policy.
The emergence of US imperialism as the sole major world power is an unprecedented world situation. The USA is now the most counter-revolutionary force ever seen in history. It is prepared to use any means to undermine governments not to its liking. In Africa, Asia and Latin America it has been prepared to give aid to gangsters and thieves to fight those forces it perceives as being against its strategic interests.
This aggressive expansionist stance of US and Nato foreign policy has had its effects on Russia in particular, but also on other countries. The friction between Russia and the NATO alliance that has emerged around the Kosovo conflict is leading to a significant realignment of forces and relationships among the imperialist powers.
Russia, after brokering Yugoslavia's capitulation, expected some kind of reward. This they got in terms of the cancellation of $20 billion of its foreign debt, with further loans being conceded by the IMF. The fact of the matter is that the IMF has ignored its own rules when it comes to giving financial aid to Russia. This shows that the imperialists understand that without aid the whole process of capitalist restoration could unravel in Russia. They understand the revolutionary potential which is developing in there and hope to forestall by propping up the ailing Yeltsin regime.
But the US in particular made it clear that as far as its role in Kosovo was concerned Russia would be kept to the sidelines with only a token presence, and without its own zone. That explains why the Russian military decided to send 200 paratroopers to Pristina airport. Other developments also indicate the mood of the Russian military. Recently Russia sent two Bear bombers near Iceland's airspace. This was the first time in ten years that Russian military forces had acted in such an aggressive manner. It was clearly an effort by the Russian Defence Ministry to demonstrate that it was still a force to be reckoned with. This was followed by the expulsion of an American military attaché from Moscow.
This has been going on while Nato has been widening its membership eastwards, with the inclusion of Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic into the alliance. It has already brought under its influence countries like Romania and Bulgaria, which obeyed Nato orders to refuse the Russians airspace to transport troops into Kosovo. And with Hungary and Poland as full members they have brought Nato right up to the borders of Russia itself. Again this shows their fear of revolutionary developments in Russia.
The attempts on the part of United States imperialism and Nato to expand its sphere of influence eastwards has accelerated the formation of new power blocs around the world. And the war against Yugoslavia has particularly fuelled this process.
In response to the Nato danger, Russia has been building a series of new military alliances. This has involved China, the Ukraine, Moldava, and even Yugoslavia itself. Russia is also building alliances in the Caucasus where it has conflicting interests with Nato.
The role of Russia was crucial for Nato
Russia played a fundamental role in brokering the agreement between the Milosevic regime and NATO. Milosevic only capitulated under pressure from Chernomyrdin, who did the job for Nato. As The Guardian, (30.6.99), explained, "Crucial also was the role played by Russia." The same article reports General Sir Charles Guthrie as saying, "The Russians were helpful, very helpful."
Russia put unrelenting pressure on Serbia, otherwise it would have been a bloody nightmare of a ground war. Without the support of Russia Milosevic could not continue. Had he had the backing of Russia he may well have challenged Nato to a ground war. His troops were well dug in and waiting for the Nato forces. Apparently Chernomyrdin warned Milosevic that if he did not come to an agreement there would have been a ground invasion and that Russia would not have supported him.
However, Chernomyrdin does not represent the opinions of the dominant wing of the ex-bureaucracy or of the Russian military. They all regarded Chernomyrdin as having betrayed Milosevic and as having given away too much to the West. As a result of the bombing of Serbia the mood against the West has hardened in Russia. The overwhelming majority of the Russian population was against the bombing of Serbia, as was the officer caste.
Roy Medvedev, a Russian left wing historian, tried to portray to the West the indignation of the Russian people, in the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, (20.4.99), "... In all the bloody wars that have afflicted Europe in the last three centuries, Serbia has always been an ally of Russia... Serbia has never gone against Russia and even now it is our only ally in Europe... Nato wants to dominate Serbia as a threat to Russia... The attack on Serbia is an attack against Russia..."
"Our people were told over and over again that the rich and liberal countries of the West would have helped Russia to build democracy and a market economy. These illusions disappeared long ago. In the consciousness of the Russians, who are getting poorer and poorer and in many cases are reduced to misery, the idea is spreading that the West has not only betrayed our hopes, but it has also robbed the country. The Russian new rich have taken their capital to the West. Enormous profits have also been exported by the western financial speculators. Russia is now poorer and worse off than ten years ago, while its debts to the west have grown disproportionately."
"I am not giving you my opinion, but simply describing the feelings of the majority of Russians. They feel that Russia is not dead yet. It has an army, that they feel should be strengthened, and among the best weapons in the world, that it could share with its Serb brothers..."
This mood is particularly strong among the Russian army officers and was revealed, as we have already mentioned, in the events around the occupation of Pristina airport by 200 Russian paratroopers. Splits in the Russian regime appeared quite openly, with the Minister of Defence contradicting the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Russian military are extremely unhappy about the developments of the past decade. First they lost Eastern Europe, then the former Soviet Republics. To add to that NATO has been moving ever closer to the frontiers of Russia itself.
They were aghast at the enormous destructive power of the weaponry used by Nato against Serbia. This is important because Serbia was using outdated Russian air defence equipment. Thus the Russian generals are anxious for the investment needed to re-establish their former position as a world super-power. This explains the attempts of Russia to build up new alliances, such as that with China, and so on.
Relations between the West and Russia have been deteriorating throughout this whole process. The "incident" of Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania denying Russian planes air space to fly in forces to Kosovo was regarded by the Russian generals as a "provocation" on the part of the United States. They replied by expelling one of the US's diplomats stationed in Moscow and by preparing four ships to sail to Yugoslavia with up to 1800 paratroopers on board.
Russian officers are furious now that they have been forced to face the fact that the former Eastern Europe is not a neutral zone, but has been brought under Nato' sphere of influence. All this has led to a major crisis in Moscow.
Serious consequences flow from this situation. In the Duma and among the military there is a growing sensation that this is a catastrophic situation and there will be attempts to correct it. Nato have been attempting to pull the Ukraine under its umbrella, but the real process is going in the opposite direction. The Ukraine's economy is deeply integrated with Russia's because of its historical development. This means that the Ukraine will tend to move closer to the Russian and Belarus union. It is significant that three of the seven most serious candidates in the Ukraine's forthcoming presidential elections, to be held in October, are in favour of the recreation of the Soviet Union, with the Ukraine as a part of it.
Thus what is emerging is a bloc around Russia. The pro-western bourgeois wing has been defeated. However the dire economic situation facing Russia means that the West can still use the promise of aid to achieve its aims. In these latest developments money played a very important role in convincing the Russians to withdraw support for Milosevic. However, Western aid is not achieving the results that the bureaucracy expected. So how long this situation can last is another question.
Divisions in Nato
While it has been expanding its membership, it must be stressed that the Nato bloc is not one homogeneous bloc, as the events in Kosovo have revealed.
For example, at the end of April, NATO came up with the idea of imposing an oil embargo on Serbia, but it could not achieve unity over this question. To impose an embargo would have meant a possible conflict with Russia, because this would have implied the blocking of Russian oil tankers. These would most likely have been accompanied by a Russian naval escort, and therefore an armed conflict was implicit in the situation.
For this kind of operation to have been "legal" NATO would have had to get UN approval, but Russia and China, in the Security Council, would have blocked any resolution empowering NATO forces to stop and search ships on the high seas. This pushed NATO members, France, Greece and Italy to put a brake on the whole idea. In the end the idea had to be dropped, proving once more that NATO did not have a unified policy and was close to an open split in its ranks throughout the duration of the bombing.
During the whole bombing "campaign" the United States government had to struggle to hold the Nato alliance together. US military strategy was limited due to opposition from within Nato itself.
As far back as March, the Italian government was in difficulty. The Italian parliament voted for the re-opening of negotiations and the suspension of the bombing. Thus Italy, together with Greece, two of the closest NATO members to the war zone, were constantly regarded as "weak links" in the alliance.
Germany, too, was not too keen on the war. One week into the bombing campaign opinion polls showed that only one in four Germans were in favour of sending in ground troops. Even within the government their was dithering on the issue. The Greens were under pressure from their ranks to come out in opposition to the war, and there was also opposition inside the SPD. If they had gone ahead with the plans for a ground war it is most likely that Nato would have split.
NATO failed to achieve its "war aims"
Nato also quite clearly failed to achieve its war aims. At the beginning of the bombing campaign Nato diplomats were saying that "...the alliance should go after the military goal of damaging or destroying his military machine. Once this is achieved, NATO can declare success..." (Financial Times, 27.3.99)
Their aim was clearly to destroy Serbia's military capability. This was for strategic reasons as the domination of Serbia is a key to the domination of all the Balkans. But by the end of April it was clear that, "The failure of the campaign to achieve its initial objective [had] caused growing unrest among politicians on both sides of the Atlantic." (The Financial Times, 23.4.99).
But a successful military operation in Kosovo was essential to prove the seriousness of Nato in backing up its declared aims at its summit earlier this year. At that summit Nato presented a new strategic concept document in which it widened the scope of Nato intervention.
As the Guardian, (6.4.99) pointed out "Nato has sought vigorously to define a new role for itself in the post-Cold War world, stretching its orbit into eastern Europe, establishing itself as "the policeman of Europe" and ultimately hoping to extend its operations into neighbouring regions, including the Middle East. For all these reasons, Nato cannot afford to fail in Kosovo..."
What is absolutely clear is that the further break-up of Yugoslavia was definitely not one of their aims. As the Financial Times, (27.3.99) pointed out, "The complete disintegration of Yugoslavia cannot be a NATO war aim... NATO resists the idea of an independent Kosovo as destabilising to the region." And yet it has failed because it has not achieved the stability it desired. It has not destroyed the Yugoslav army, and it has actually further destabilised the whole area.
The propaganda war
That explains why the Nato propaganda machine has been pounding away with the idea that Nato has achieved a victory in Kosovo. As we have said before, the first casualty in war is truth itself.
This is now becoming ever clearer as the days go by. During the bombing campaign Nato leaders built up a barrage of propaganda aimed at convincing the people back home that this was a "just war". To do that they exaggerated the atrocities being carried out. Undoubtedly many atrocities were carried out by Serbian paramilitary forces, but these were obviously regarded as insufficient as far as the power to convince the people back home was concerned.
We should remember that only a few years ago Milosevic was portrayed by the Western media as a man "we can do business with". He was the man that allowed the peace process to go forward in Bosnia, etc. etc. Now he is an indicted war criminal and he has been compared to Hitler. The war "had to be carried out" otherwise we would be making the mistakes of the Second World War "appeasers" and so on and so forth. The whole thing was aimed at making the whole Serbian people into monsters. It was racism of the worst kind.
At the same time the bombing had to be portrayed as being successful in destroying Milosevic's war machine. Thus we were led to believe that as much as one third of Serbian tanks had been destroyed. That would have meant hundreds being destroyed. So far only 13 have been accounted for! As The Guardian, 4.7.99, revealed, "The damage inflicted on the Serb ground forces turns out to have been minute compared to that claimed by Jamie Shea and his colleagues in effusive daily Nato press conferences."
At one point we were led to believe that up to 100,000 ethnic Albanians had been massacred. Now the real figure seems to be around 10,000. Of course that does not remove the crimes of the Serb paramilitaries, but it does highlight the fact that the Nato strategists needed the massacres to justify their bombing. And the more they could exaggerate the killings the more they could justify the bombing. The fact that the mass murder and expulsion of Kosovar Albanians actually intensified as a result of the Nato bombing seems to escape all the apologists of Western imperialism!
Was it a Nato victory?
However, now that the bombing is over, a more realistic appraisal of the campaign is emerging. As the Wall Street Journal, (8.6.99) pointed out "...there will be one thing lacking in this war's endgame: the sense that this was a victory... the bottom line is that Milosevic has not been defeated. After 76 days of pounding by a vastly superior force using the most accurate and powerful conventional weapons known to man, the head of a small state of only 11 million people was able to negotiate a compromise..."
According to an article by Richard Norton-Taylor that appeared in The Guardian, (30.6.99), "Nato, of course, has no choice but to hail victory. A well tried way of claiming success when things haven't gone according to plan is to change the stated objective of the exercise." Back in March, on the second day of the bombing, the British Defence Secretary stated that the aim was "to avert an impending humanitarian catastrophe by disrupting the violent attacks currently being carried out by Yugoslav security forces against Kosovar Albanians and to limit their ability to conduct such repression in future."
The facts are that most of the "ethnic cleansing" actually took place after the bombing started, and the Yugoslav army lost very little in Kosovo. Thus Milosevic's military capability remains intact. In fact his army was not defeated, as even some KLA volunteers admit. The Guardian, (30.6.99) reported that according to Lirak Qelaj, a 26 year-old fighter in the KLA "the Serbs were not defeated. Nor was Nato's bombing as effective in Kosovo as he and his comrades had hoped... The KLA, he confirmed, had great difficulty standing up to Serb attacks and was able to do little to protect the thousands of people displaced since late March... He also disclosed that it was KLA advice, rather than Serbian deportations, which led some of the hundreds of thousands of Albanians to leave Kosovo."
Destabilising effects on whole of the Balkans
Initially Nato decided to start the bombing campaign to avert a wider conflict, to attempt to stabilise the situation in the Balkans. But rather than stabilising it, they have made it worse. Now the whole of the Balkans are more unstable than before. This is particularly true of Montenegro and Macedonia.
Montenegro has a population of 650,000. Nine per cent of its population is Serbian, but many Montenegrins, especially in the North, also consider themselves Serbian. And about 20 per cent of the population are ethnic Albanians or Moslem Slavs. Their leaders have backed Djukanovic's coalition government in opposition to Milosevic for fear of domination by Belgrade.
The Djukanovic government adopted a pro-western stance during the bombing campaign, but that did not reflect the views of all the population. There are deep divisions on the question of whether to break away from the Yugoslav federation. There is also the possibility that Milosevic will play the Montenegrin card in an attempt to remain in power.
Barely a week into the bombing campaign Milosevic sacked the Yugoslav army's commander in Montenegro and replaced him with the hard-liner, general Obradovic. Rumours circulated of the possibility of a pro-Milosevic coup. The 2nd Army Corps of the Yugoslav Army, loyal to Serbia, with its 10,000 troops is stationed in Montenegro and the Third Army that has just pulled out of Kosovo could easily be sent in. One political observer pointed out that, "the danger of civil war is real." For the Milosevic regime losing Montenegro would mean Serbia losing its only outlet to the sea and its Adriatic naval base in Kotor Bay.
Now that the war in Kosovo is over, tension is high in this small mountainous republic. The presence of foreign troops, both in Bosnia and Kosovo is giving the government more courage in its attempts to break away from the Serbian dominated Yugoslav republic.
The Montenegrin government is clearly looking for investment from the West. It is interesting to note that the government plans to introduce its own mass privatisation programme as of September. Significantly, it would also introduce its own currency, pegged to the German mark.
However, the west went into Kosovo to avert a wider war. Secession on the part of Montenegro would further destabilise the area and lead to a new war. Therefore Nato is not too keen to see Montenegro breaking away now. In reality western imperialism is using Montenegro to try and weaken Milosevic further, and to strengthen the opposition in Serbia. In fact Nato has made no promises to support Montenegro should it secede. But the tensions are there and they could explode at any time.
Macedonia is also under extreme pressure. About 750,000 ethnic Albanians, about 23% of the population, live in the western region of Macedonia. And as the Financial Times, (27.3.99) pointed out "...it is equally hard to imagine the Albanians of Macedonia remaining unaffected. In short, if ethnic Albanian aspirations are given rein in Kosovo, the whole process of shifting borders, and of shifting peoples, could begin again... setting off a new round of the Balkan wars." Unemployment at around 40% only serves to exacerbate the problem further. The presence of 12,000 NATO troops is the only thing guaranteeing Macedonia's security.
Opposition to Milosevic developing in Serbia
During the bombing campaign itself, contrary to the beliefs of the Nato strategists Milosevic was not weakened but strengthened. Dejan Lukic, a Serb journalist interviewed by the Guardian, (13.4.99) pointed out that "We are all behind Milosevic now, like it or not. Thanks to your bombs he is a national hero, even to the opposition. The Serbs who felt betrayed by him have forgiven him. This is the result of your policy."
And Maggie O'Kane of the Guardian, (4.4.99) who was for ever looking to back up the line of the Nato spokespersons had to admit that "among the ruins and rubble of Belgrade the Serbs' spirit of nationalism has become stronger." In the same article one Serbian who's house was hit was quoted as saying, "If this is what democracy looks like [referring to the Nato powers], then no thanks." Another Guardian reporter, Rory Carroll, was surprised to find that at the end of the bombing, "there were no signs of any popular shift of mood against the Belgrade regime."
However things do not stand still for Milosevic, either. Opposition to his regime is growing. This is inevitable as the real situation becomes clear and the people begin to understand that Milosevic is incapable of solving the basic economic problems of the country.
But what kind of opposition is it that now challenges Milosevic? We have to distinguish between the ordinary people participating in this movement and the leadership that is emerging.
The movement has had important support in the provinces and the rural areas, precisely where Milosevic was strongest three years ago. In fact these were the areas that allowed Milosevic to survive and defeat the movement that had developed then mainly in Belgrade. So one can presume that if this movement spreads to Belgrade then Milosevic would be facing the opposition of the overwhelming majority of the population.
The different groups that make up the opposition are divided among themselves. Draskovic, who was in the leadership of the movement of three years ago has since been in and out of the government of Milosevic. For a while he seemed to be making noises that would indicate a desire on his part to return to a "reformed" government with Milosevic. This was bringing him into conflict with the movement which is calling for Milosevic to go. But the ranks of his own party have now been joining the anti-Milosevic movement and he has decided to throw his lot in with it once more.
The nature of the leadership of this movement is revealed by some significant figures that have joined it. Milan Panic, a capitalist who made his money in the chemical industry in the United States is among them. He was also briefly the prime minister of Yugoslavia. Another significant supporter is the ex-governor of the Central Bank, Dragoslav Avramovic. Although all the different groups that make up the movement are divided among themselves, one thing unites them. They are all for the restoration of capitalism.
The tragedy of the situation is that the working class has no independent workers' party through which to challenge its own opposition. The independent trade union leaders are supporting the pro-bourgeois opposition movement without questioning its pro-capitalist aims. This lack of a class alternative gives the petty bourgeois opposition an exaggerated role in the situation.
There is genuine discontent among the masses. Serbia's two oil refineries were destroyed during the bombing. Exports were blocked. Four-fifths of the factories were closed. Production is half what it was in 1990. Average monthly income has fallen from £400 in 1979 to £250 in 1987 to £50 in 1999. Pensioners haven't received their pensions since February, and soldiers have also not been paid.
According to The Observer, 25.4.99, in this situation, "The real winners have been gangsters and the President's cronies - often one and the same. Trade sanctions from the West make for big business, greatly accelerating the criminalisation of the Serbian economy... With the economy crumbling, corruption rife and interest rates at more than 100 per cent, investment has dried up for years... Rampant inflation - caused by printing money - has been Milosevic's secret tax, wiping out his debts while eroding wages and pensions."
In this situation it is inevitable that genuinely concerned layers of the population, due to the lack of a class alternative, should fall behind the petty bourgeois opposition. We have seen this happen before, in other East European countries, where a movement of the masses has been hijacked by pro-capitalist elements.
That does not change the nature of the leadership which wants to fall in line with the plans of western imperialism, i.e. total privatisation of the economy and domination by western capitalists. This will lead to a disastrous situation for the ordinary working people of Serbia, with the closure of huge swathes of the economy.
The difference between the leadership of this movement and the regime, however, is not over the question of privatisation or not. Milosevic is also going ahead with his own privatisation plan. It is a question of who is to get the loot. Milosevic has his own agenda of self-enrichment for him and his clique. This brings his regime into conflict with western imperialism.
The fact that the petty bourgeois opposition is no real alternative may also explain the recent hostile reception of one of the opposition leaders, Zoran Djindjic, on the part of Kosovar Serbs. Some accused him of being a thief who simply wants to replace Milosevic for his own advantage!
As The Observer, 13.6.99, pointed out, "Milosevic is not a popular figure but, with the exception of Seselj [leader of the nationalist Radicals], opposition leaders tend to be even less popular..." Thus it is Serb nationalism that is being strengthened. Not exactly a development which would favour the plans of western imperialism. In fact the fall of Milosevic would lead to the coming to power of a weak coalition, which would depend on western aid for its existence.
Western monopolies scramble for contracts
For this reason the big capitalist corporations of the West obviously support the leaders of the opposition that is developing. They want to open up Serbia and the whole of the Balkans to western investment. The arms industry has made a fat profit from the war. Now the building companies are looking to make big money.
Initial orders for the rebuilding of the devastated province of Kosovo are expected to be in the order of £3bn. (Overall aid for the whole of the Balkans would be ten times that figure). British companies are being pushed to get in quick by the Blair government, so as not to lose out as they did in the rebuilding of Bosnia. German firms, disappointed with their share of the contracts for the rebuilding of Kuwait after the Gulf war, are pressurising the Schroeder government to help them get a bigger slice of the cake.
As The Guardian, 19.6.99, pointed out, "Some 80% of funding will be low-interest loans administered via Brussels while the rest would be bilateral aid. Britain is putting up 16.23% of the total and, in purely mercenary terms, British construction firms would like to win a commensurate amount of the work." Germany, on the other hand, is pushing for the Balkans to be integrated into a free trade zone with the EU, thus pushing its sphere of influence beyond Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia, which it had already gained after the break up of the ex-Yugoslavia.
The fact that most of the new currencies that have been created, or are being created, are pegged to the German Mark shows the growing economic dominance of Germany in this part of Europe. It also explains why Germany is pushing for these countries to be integrated into a free trade zone linked to the European Union. This growing influence of Germany will be a source of conflict between Germany and the other European powers, in particular France and Britain.
As The Independent on Sunday, 27.6.99, pointed out, "... hard on the heels of the soldiers, the refugees and the aid workers, a new army will shortly arrive. This one will be composed of damage assessors, surveyors, engineers and project managers from the four corners of Europe, and beyond... The World Bank, the European Investment bank and a host of other financial institutions are lining up task forces and reconstruction plans... Almost certainly, a new currency, pegged to either the German mark or the dollar, will be introduced to replace the endlessly devalued Yugoslav dinar."
Some western firms are obviously out to make big profits from their investments in this area. But they will not solve the overall problems of the economy of the Balkans. It will be very similar to what we have seen in Russia. On the one hand industry will be further weakened, as many of the old factories will be closed. On the other the money that is made will be siphoned off to the West both by foreign investors and the new clique of ex-bureaucrats turned capitalist.
The new situation in Kosovo and the role of the KLA
Inside Kosovo the KLA has filled a vacuum. Under the unrelenting onslaught of the Milosevic regime many ordinary Albanians turned to the KLA for protection. But the leaders of the KLA have more than just that in mind. They have made a lot of money from drug running. Many of them are gangsters who are seeking to carve out a position for themselves in Kosovo, in readiness for when the western money starts to pour in.
However, the KLA does not have a monopoly of representation of the Kosovar Albanians. According to the Los Angeles Times, (10.6.99), "Before Nato's airstrikes began [on] March 24, estimates of the KLA's strength ranged from 20,000 to 40,000 guerrillas. A ruthless offensive by Serbian security forces reduced the KLA to about 5,000 fighters within days of the first bomb falling, according to the Pentagon... The number of KLA fighters is now somewhere between 15,000 and 17,000..."
Before the war started, there were other forces such as that represented by Rugova, which actually had far greater support than the KLA. However, once Milosevic had agreed to withdraw his troops the whole balance of forces changed once again. As the Serb troops withdrew a power vacuum was created. And before the Nato troops could take over the KLA took advantage of the situation to seize strategic positions This brought them into direct conflict with Nato forces on many occasions.
The KLA have been attacking Serbs as they flee. In some cases Serbs have been tortured and wounded. This is provoking the "ethnic cleansing" of the Serbs in Kosovo. From being the "oppressed" the Kosovar Albanians are now becoming the oppressors. Of course, once again, it is not the ordinary ethnic Albanian people that are responsible for this, but the reactionary KLA gangs that are carrying out this "ethnic cleansing in reverse."
According to the agreement with Milosevic the KLA should be demilitarised. But although the KLA have formally agreed to this, in practice they have no intention of being totally disarmed. They will hand over some of their arms, as they are doing in some areas, but they will attempt to keep a part of their arms, because without arms the KLA is nothing. This inevitably implies a conflict with the Nato forces.
According to The Economist, (26.6.99, " NATO must set about disarming the Albanian guerrilla army with all the firmness and thoroughness it can muster." But, as one German captain explained to The Guardian, (19.6.99), "I don't know if they are giving us all the weapons when we ask for them."
There has already been an armed conflict between British paratroopers and KLA militiamen. Two KLA members have been killed by British troops. After the initial demonstrations of support on the part of the Albanian population, the people of Kosovo are slowly beginning to realise that NATO is no liberation force.
As The Guardian, (6.7.99), pointed out, "As last weekend's KLA clash showed, the honeymoon is coming to an end." The same editorial statement explained that, "Thaci [KLA chief] wants to create and rule an independent state. This places him and his undisciplined army of followers on a direct collision course with the untested UN administrator, Bernard Kouchner, and - potentially - with the British army and an overstretched K-For."
Due to the fact that there is a gaping political vacuum in Kosovo, NATO is being forced more and more into the role of policeman, but the present 20,000 troops are not sufficient. Wesley Clarke, NATO commander has called for a faster deployment of the 55,000 troops which were originally planned. This would add to the 32,000 Stabilisation Force (S-For) troops already in Bosnia and the 12,000 stationed in Macedonia, bringing the total in the area close to 100,000.
But, as The Guardian, (6.7.99), pointed out, "There is concern in Nato that K-for troops will be increasingly regarded by KLA elements as an unwelcome rather than a protective and stabilising force if they continue to take on a policing role."
The problem for Nato is that the KLA's aims are for total independence and a Greater Albania, which implies a conflict with western imperialism. Maps have been discovered showing a Greater Albania, including even parts of Greece! Hashim Thaci, the self-appointed leader of the KLA, seems to have the support of US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. They hope that he will "tame the extremist KLA commanders who demand independence at once" (The Independent On Sunday, 27.6.99).
The problem is: does Thaci control his commanders? According to the Evening Standard, 23.6.99, KLA commanders were, "insisting that a disarmament agreement signed with Nato at the weekend means it will only scale down, not dissolve, its units." KLA Commander, Rrusten Mustafa, was reported as saying that, "The demilitarisation agreement does not demand that we give up our arms. Those who thought the KLA will be destroyed miscalculated."
The fact is that, far from being a unified "freedom fighting force", the KLA is made up of conflicting groups, each with its own commander. It has been reported that the different commanders move around with their own personal bodyguards, not as a precaution against the Serbs, but against the threat of being assassinated by rival KLA commanders!
These reports were confirmed in an article published in The Guardian, 29.6.99, with the headline "KLA chiefs 'assassinated rivals' ". Thaci himself seems to have been involved in these assassinations. According to the article KLA officials "witnessed Mr Thaci's rivals being killed shortly after he or his aides threatened them with death." One of these, a former lieutenant of the Yugoslav army, who left the KLA last September said that, "For the leadership, this was never just a war against Serbs - it was also a struggle for power."
The Guardian gives one example: "In April last year a KLA commander who transported weapons, Ilir Konushevci, was killed outside Tropoia in northern Albania. Days earlier, he had accused Mr Haliti of profiteering and misusing funds, according to commanders who were present." Haliti is Thaci's ambassador to Albania. According to two former KLA commanders interviewed by The Guardian, Haliti had formed an internal security network to silence dissenters in Kosovo. In the confusion of the fighting it was easy to make "undesirable elements" disappear and accuse the Serbian forces of killing them.
The original aims of the KLA were total independence and the creation of a Greater Albania, including parts of Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania and even parts of Greece. This would have meant outright war across the whole of the Balkans.
That is why, initially, the West tried to convince the KLA to negotiate with Milosevic, but at the time the KLA controlled about one third of the territory of Kosovo. They thought they could take the lot, but were eventually smashed by Milosevic's army.
The fact is that the USA and Nato will not allow Kosovo to become an independent republic. That means Nato troops cannot leave Kosovo for years to come. The real situation in Kosovo is that of a semi-colony. In fact the owner of the popular daily Kosovar newspaper, Koha Ditore, Veton Surroi, has actually expressed this quite bluntly. In a conversation with a journalist from the New Republic (published 27th June 1999), he gave this advice: "Do not hesitate. Be colonial." And then he goes on to explain that what is needed is a long-lasting and strong protectorate under Nato.
Some people on the left in Europe have tried to find some kind of "socialist" content in the KLA forces, but as Zoran Kusovac pointed out in the September 1998 edition of 'Transitions', after the fall of the Berlin wall a revival of the old Albanian Stalinist ideology was not popular among Kosovar Albanian intellectuals. This shows that the same process was going on in Kosovo as in the rest of Eastern Europe. Former, so-called "Marxist-Leninists" (in reality Stalinists) had abandoned any idea of defending a planned economy and had gone over to the camp of the capitalist counter-revolution.
The real future of Kosovo is one of Nato domination and exploitation by the capitalist West for years to come. Without a Nato presence the KLA would push for independence. Would that stabilise Kosovo? On the contrary, the conflicting interests within the KLA could lead to a situation where the different gangs fight it out for control of the province.
An Italian bourgeois newspaper, La Repubblica (28.6.99), actually raised this perspective under the title 'The Afghanistan of the Balkans', "Indeed the KLA is not so much an army as an assembly of armed groups... an amalgam of groups united in the struggle against the Serb oppressor but divided over just about everything else... Once the Serbs, the gypsies, and all the other unwanted minorities have been eliminated by this ethnic cleansing process in reverse, this unhappy country could generate an ethnic statelet in which the various Albanian clans would engage in settling scores to the accompaniment of machine-gun fire... After all this profusion of humanitarian rhetoric, how would we explain such a result...?"
For an independent policy and programme of the working class
Both in Serbia and Kosovo the leaders of the political parties are in favour of the restoration of capitalism. And this, in spite of the disastrous effects of privatisation in Russia. Milosevic and the opposition are fighting it out over who is to control the process of privatisation. In Kosovo the KLA, and the other political forces that are once again raising their heads, are all for a "market economy".
Marxists can give no support to any of these groups. A return to capitalism would have the same disastrous consequences that we have witnessed in Russia. The problem is not state control. The crisis of the economy in the ex-Yugoslavia flowed from the bureaucratic nature of the regime. Power was not in the hands of the working class, but in those of a privileged bureaucratic elite.
The task facing the workers of Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia, etc., is to establish genuine workers' control of the economy and to oppose any hand over of the resources of the area to the capitalists. To achieve this the workers need their own voice. That is what is lacking. It is necessary to rebuild the genuine forces of Marxism across all the Balkans.
Marxists have confidence that the working class sooner or later will regain its ability to struggle. What is happening in Croatia is proof of this. The involvement of Croatia in war ended with the Dayton agreement in 1995 that brought "peace" to Bosnia. As a result the working class has been able to recover.
In the past few months there has been an increasing number of strikes. In May there was a railway workers strike, in June the state hotel workers struck. Workers have been striking due to the backlog of wage payments. On several occasions the police have had to block the roads leading to parliament to stop angry workers getting there to protest about wage arrears.
To the protests of the workers one has to add the peasant movement at the end of June. They blocked all the major roads of Croatia for several days, and they received widespread support from all over the country. In the end the government was forced to climb down and give in to the demands of the peasants, although it clearly doesn't have the resources to meet such demands. Such a movement is inevitable at some stage in Serbia also. However without a revolutionary leadership these movements can be derailed. We have seen it happen many times before.
None of the parties in Serbia or Kosovo can offer a solution to the terrible economic crisis. Only the socialist transformation of society can offer a way out of the impasse facing all the countries of the Balkans. That is why Marxists call for an all-Balkans socialist federation. Such a federation would be based on a nationalised planned economy under workers' control and management. Only by these means could the workers of all these countries join together and plan the economy on an international basis.
The role of the workers and youth of the West, is to give support to the workers of the Balkans in their struggle against capitalism and against the nightmare of privatisation, and to oppose Nato colonisation of the Balkans. The best way they can do this is by stepping up the struggle in their own countries to put an end to capitalism. This would put a halt to the imperialist domination of the Balkans once and for all.
The "agreement" that has been reached in Kosovo is not a solution to the problem. The ethnic Albanians are now returning. But now we are witnessing the "cleansing" of the Serb minority of Kosovo. This will only prepare the ground for new wars in the future. The labour movement can place no confidence in any of the political leaders at present dominating the political scene. Only the working class can stop the killings on both sides.
This is the message we have to take to all the workers of the Balkans. Do not place any trust in the capitalist parties. Build your own genuine socialist parties and fight for the genuine socialist transformation of society.