NATO has not achieved a "victory" in Kosovo. It has not achieved its war aims. The TV and the press are attempting to convince public opinion that the bombing campaign has achieved its objectives. But as in all wars the first casualty is the truth itself. Anyone who wants to understand what is really happening must be careful not to be blown off track by the propaganda machine of the bourgeoisie.
Thus in Britain throughout the bombing campaign all the news items were aimed at convincing the population of the need to carry out a ground war and send in the troops, the line of the Blair government. Now they are trying to convince us that for the first time a bombing campaign alone has been sufficient to achieve NATO's war aims. Again this is light years away from the truth.
The role of Marxism is to cut through the fog of the bourgeois propaganda machine and see the real process as it unfolds in the Balkans, to see the real interests, and indicate a way forward to workers and youth both in the Balkans and internationally.
All the more serious analysts agree that at best this has been a compromise. As the US based Stratfor, Inc., stated in one of its latest Updates (June 14th 1999) "NATO continued its policy of trying to turn a compromise into a victory". The Wall Street Journal (8th June 1999) pointed out that the 19 NATO countries represent about half the productive capacity of the planet and the armed forces of these countries were pitted against Serbia, "a small isolated country whose gross domestic product is roughly one-fifteenth the size of the American defense budget." Even The Economist (12th June), which had been pushing for a ground war, has had to admit that, "the West, whatever its protestations, has not won a clearcut victory."
From a purely military point of view the combined forces of the 19 NATO countries could have destroyed Serbia ten times over. But it isn't as simple as that. What has been striking about the whole bombing campaign has been the fear of most NATO leaders of the consequences that could have been unleashed at home in their own countries if a ground war had led to huge casualties among NATO soldiers. This reflects the fact that the Vietnam syndrome has not been buried. What this means is that the bourgeois leaders of Europe and North America realise that the workers and youth of the West could move in a similar fashion to what we saw in the 1960s and 1970s against their war aims. In reality one of the factors that paralysed the NATO generals was precisely this opposition to the war in most of the countries involved.
In those countries closer to the war zone, such as Italy and Greece there was widespread opposition right from the very beginning. This explains the lack of enthusiasm for a ground war on the part of the Greek and Italian governments. If there had been a ground war this opposition would have developed and would also have affected countries like Britain and the USA where the propaganda machine had at least managed to get support for the bombing campaign. However one has to remember that even in the US, towards the end of the bombing campaign, support was waning.
The consequences for NATO
Because the NATO troops are now marching into Kosovo they would like us to believe that they have achieved their aims. But again the Wall Street Journal points out, "Begin with the original objectives of this exercise, which were to deter the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo (a failure); to prevent the Serbs from consummating it once started (another failure); to restore a viable Kosovar autonomous-but-not-independent political entity (to be seen)... Operation Allied Force did not "solve" a problem; wars rarely do."
The above mentioned article, however, ignores that NATO's original aims went far beyond these. The Rambouillet Accords (as we have explained in previous articles) allowed for NATO to practically take over all of Yugoslavia. NATO troops were to have free access to the whole of Yugoslavia and control of the incoming troops was to be totally in the hands of NATO.
The compromise agreement they have now reached with the Milosevic regime foresees a Russian presence, as part of a United Nations force not a solely NATO controlled force. Milosevic has not conceded to what NATO was demanding. In that sense this whole operation has been a partial defeat for NATO.
Even more important are the consequences for NATO in the future. The bombing campaign has revealed quite clearly that NATO is riven with divisions among its different member states. If the ground war had gone ahead this could have led to the break up of NATO itself. This was explained by the US general Brent Scowcroft (quoted in our previous article). Thus the most powerful war machine in the world has had to step back from all out war in the Balkans for fear of its own break up. This is a sign of its weakness not its strength.
To cover up for this they are now trying to convince public opinion that a bombing campaign on its own can achieve victory. More serious analysts, however, understand that this is false. Simon Jenkins, writing in The Times (June 11th 1999), explained that, "The monarchs of spin are already claiming 'the bombing did it'. Not so. Such a fiction may suit the military-industrial complex, but fiction it is. The bombing of Yugoslavia failed in both its overt and its covert objectives."
This is important in terms of the effects it will have on the prestige and credibility of NATO. In spite of what they say, wars cannot be won by aerial bombing campaigns alone. And yet NATO has sent out a clear signal that it dreads the use of ground troops. Thus it comes out of this whole situation weakened.
Among the atrocities on both sides the solidarity of ordinary working people emerges
Now NATO troops are discovering evidence of mass killings in Kosovo. No one can doubt that Serb paramilitaries carried out these atrocities and we condemn this crime against the Kosovar Albanians. But we must not forget that atrocities have been carried out on all sides. Even before the bombing campaign the KLA was carrying out terrorist attacks against Serb civilians. In fact it was these kinds of attacks that played into the hands of the Milosevic regime which could use the excuse of the KLA terrorism to justify his "ethnic cleansing" of the Kosovar Albanians.
But we must always distinguish the actions of the Serb paramilitaries from those of the ordinary Serb soldiers and civilians. The Serb paramilitaries are under the control of known reactionaries such as Arkan, who was responsible for similar atrocities in Bosnia. We can quote a few examples however to prove that the ordinary Serb civilians behaved differently.
One was published in the Washington Post on June 15th. It quotes a Kosovar Albanian, Bejtus, who returned to his home in Podujevo, only to find it had been torched. His first reaction was anger against the Serbs, but then his Serb neighbours turned up. They had saved his cow! They had also tried to stop his house from burning but could do nothing against the actions of the Serb paramilitaries. Now that the NATO troops are coming in and the Serb forces are withdrawing ordinary Serb civilians fear for their lives as they see the looming threat from the KLA fighters. As the Washington Post pointed out, "Now that NATO's entry is changing the balance of power in Kosovo, Serbs are fearful of ethnic Albanians and are leaving Kosovo by the thousands. Many of the returning ethnic Albanians are threatening to take revenge on any Serbs who dare to stay. Not Bejtus. 'My friends will stay... I guarantee that no one will touch a tile on the roof of this house, or a hair on their heads,' Bejtus said." What is striking is that his Serb neighbours were themselves "ethnically cleansed" from Croatia back in 1995. They knew what it meant to lose everything in a fratricidal war.
Now that the Serbs face the threat of "ethnic cleansing" we are seeing similar solidarity coming from their Albanian neighbours. The London Metro (June 15th) reported on the situation in the town of Prizren where many local Serbs are beginning to leave the area. "Despite the joy, many ethnic Albanians were saddened by the Serb exodus. Ethnic Serbs made up around 10 per cent of Prizren's pre-war population of 80,000. 'This is not a fight between Albanians and Serbs. We have long lived together. Many of us wept when they were forced to leave,' said Ugliesa Popovic. 'It's bad for our city,' added Enver Fanaj, 29, watching the refugee convoy pass his house. 'I begged my neighbour not to leave. She didn't do anything wrong.' The dental student said he would care for the apartment of 73-year-old Vasko Pantejvic. The widow had been a neighbour and friend of his family for 45 years."
The role of the KLA
Unfortunately ordinary Serb civilians have good reason to fear the new situation that is developing. Together with NATO troops the KLA is also coming back.
Among them are individuals who have previous experience of "ethnic cleansing" of Serbs. One of the KLA's leaders is a certain Agim Ceku. He is equally as bad as the notorious Arkan, the Serb reactionary responsible for many of the atrocities committed in Bosnia. He was involved in brutal "ethnic cleansing" of the Serbs in Croatia back in 1995. According to Jane's Defense Weekly he helped to orchestrate 'Operation Storm' and the Medak offensive, which involved the cleansing of ethnic Serbs from the Krajina region of Croatia, the deliberate shelling of civilians, rape, and systematic arson.
According to Jane's, "in 1993 Ceku masterminded the successful HV (Croat Army) offensive at Medak, and in 1995 was one of the key planners of the successful 'Operation Storm,' in which the HV quickly defeated [its] Serb opponents." Hundreds of civilians were murdered, most of the victims being elderly and disabled persons who were unable to flee.
Jamie Shea, in a NATO press briefing has pointed out that, "Who they [the KLA] appoint as their leaders, that is entirely their own affair." This reveals the cynicism of the NATO officials. One minute they claim their intervention in Kosovo is for "humanitarian" reasons. The next minute they are tacitly supporting "ethnic cleansers" on the Albanian side. As Robert Fisk, reporting in The Independent (9th June), pointed out, "Nato, of course, is unconcerned by the fate of Kosovo's remaining 100,000 Serbs - mostly civilians and innocent of the crimes of Serb militiamen - and is already talking blandly of their 'probable' departure. First the Kosovo Albanians were 'ethnically cleansed' by the Serbs. And in a few days - two weeks at the most - the Serbs will be 'ethnically cleansed' by Nato's Albanian allies."
We also have to recall that before events escalated in Kosovo the KLA represented a tiny minority of the Kosovar Albanians. They were rightly regarded as a small terrorist organisation, not a genuine liberation army. They attacked ordinary Serb civilians and their source of income was dubious to say the least. Many articles have been written about the KLA's links to international Mafia networks and drug running. But we also have to distinguish between the hard core KLA members and leaders and those ordinary Kosovar Albanians who joined out of desperation as they saw their homes and families destroyed by the Serb paramilitaries. It is a tragedy that the Kosovar Albanian people have put their fate in the hands of these people.
The KLA's aims are total independence from Yugoslavia and a Greater Albania encompassing Kosovo, Albania and those areas of Macedonia and Montenegro where the ethnic Albanians are a majority. These however are in total contradiction to the aims of NATO. We have explained this in previous statements, and therefore will not repeat the point here. Supposedly the agreement reached included the "demilitarisation" of the KLA. NATO sees the KLA as a threat to its plans. It threatens to further destabilise the situation by carrying out attacks on Serb civilians. Reports are already coming in about Serbs being shot by KLA forces. The KLA commanders are not going to give up their arms easily. They are interested in sharing out the "spoils of war" for themselves. Without guns that will not be so easy.
The Financial Times, (15th June) pointed out that, "Armed, uniformed ethnic Albanians have moved into Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, where their commander yesterday rejected a UN resolution calling on the guerrillas to disarm. Rustem Mustafer, known by his nom de guerre, Remi, told the Financial Times in his new headquarters that the goal of the Kosovo Liberation Army was to transform itself into the army of an independent state of Kosovo... He told reporters that the ultimate aim of the KLA was to unite all the Albanian people in one homeland, including areas of Macedonia."
That poses NATO with a problem. Western imperialism does not want an independent Kosovo precisely because this would tend to move towards a Greater Albania, affecting Albania, Macedonia and even parts of Montenegro. It would involve the break up of Macedonia where a new war would inevitably be fought out. This time however countries like Greece and Turkey would be involved. It would mean an all Balkans war with two NATO members, Greece and Turkey on opposite sides. Thus, as events unfolding in places like Prizren show, NATO will be forced to disarm the KLA if it is to achieve any control over this whole bloody process.
Serious commentators were already posing themselves the problem of how to disarm the KLA even before the peace agreement was reached. They could see that a heavily armed KLA could upset NATO's plans. The latest reports are confirming that NATO may be facing an armed conflict with the KLA in order to get it to abide by the agreement reached between NATO and the Milosevic regime.
Peter Finn and John Ward Anderson reported in the Washington Post (June 15) that. "Armed ethnic Albanian guerrillas swept triumphantly into this southern city [Prizren] today, fanning out into streets that were occupied by Serbian paramilitary forces just hours before and reminding NATO peacekeepers that the rebels are bent on asserting a role in a new Kosovo." They quoted one of the KLA guerrillas as saying "We were the main force that brought freedom to Kosovo, and we will bring the final freedom with its independence." Their comment on this was, "That is exactly the language that most troubles Western diplomats, who have long opposed independence for the province and fear that the KLA will only reluctantly, if at all, give up its weapons and allow NATO to be Kosovo's only armed force. The agreement governing pacification of Kosovo, which was worked out by the Group of Seven industrial powers and Russia and accepted by the Serb-controlled Yugoslav government, calls for "demilitarization" of the KLA; the guerrillas were not a party to the agreement, however, and the exact meaning of demilitarization remains unclear. Gen. Jackson, the NATO commander, told reporters that he intends "to hold" the KLA to a commitment to demilitarize made at Kosovo peace talks in France earlier this year."
Reports are increasing of Serbs being shot by KLA forces and NATO forces coming into conflict with KLA guerrillas. NATO troops are now posed with the problem of wresting control of check points that have been taken over by the KLA. In Pristina British paratroopers have been forced to arrest KLA members after an armed clash.
All these events show clearly that the KLA will be betrayed by its imperialist NATO masters. Thus the real interests of NATO will be revealed to all. This was no war for so-called "humanitarian" aims.
It is in this light that we have to see how reactionary was the support for the KLA that some groups on the left came out with. Defending so-called self-determination they supported the KLA and called for an independent Kosovo, ignoring completely the consequences of such a position.
In the given conditions an independent Kosovo could only be achieved with the aid of NATO forces. As we have shown, Western imperialism had no intention of granting Kosovo independence. Thus the Kosovo Albanians would be used to justify the bombing of Serbia, but once Milosevic had agreed to a peace accord NATO would betray the Kosovar Albanians. Without NATO help the KLA would have been smashed by the Yugoslav army, as was already the case.
The role of Russia
Another important element in the whole equation has been Russia. Russia has played an important role in brokering the peace accord with Milosevic. NATO has been trying to push forward its sphere of influence right up to the Russian border. Thus Russia intervened in the conflict between the Milosevic regime and NATO in order to reassert its own role as a major power. They are giving NATO a warning not to go too far.
However, right from the very beginning NATO had tried to keep Russia out. This has enraged the Russian military. Initially there was talk of a 'Russian zone". The Russians would like an area in the North, where the bulk of the Serb minority is based and also where the mineral resources are to be found. But then NATO disregarded Russia's wishes and tried to double-cross the Russians. That is why the Russian military have reacted by out-manoeuvring NATO in getting to Pristina airport before the British troops, who were supposed to set up their headquarters there.
Although now the Russian military say they are not going to send any more troops until an agreement with NATO is reached there are reports that they are preparing to send up to 7,000 more troops into Kosovo.
According to the NBC news service (June 15th) "the Moscow-based RIA news agency quoted Serb sources in Pristina as saying that up to 7,000 Russian troops were expected in the Kosovo capital within the next four days as part of a Russian deal with NATO — even though NATO and Moscow have yet to reach agreement on where and how Russian troops will help in the peacekeeping."
Whether this latest report is confirmed or not, the fact remains that tensions between Russia and the West have been mounting for some time. Last year the United States decided to bomb Iraq without taking into account Russian opposition. Other areas of heated contention are the Baltic Republics, the Ukraine and the Caucasus.
All this has been leading to growing opposition from the Russian generals. Although Chernomyrdin played an active role in achieving the agreement between Milosevic and the West he was seen by the Russian military as making too many concessions to the West. Thus when it became clear that the Russians would not get their own zone in Kosovo this caused indignation both among the people of Russia and the military. This compelled Yeltsin to agree to the lightning move of 200 Russian troops from Bosnia into Kosovo.
What is worth noting is the different approach of NATO's generals to the Russian troops as opposed to the Serb army. With the Serbs they were very haughty, but faced with the Russians general Michael Jackson had to turn tail. Now the US government "welcomes" the Russian presence. That is only because they cannot afford to fight them. It is not a question of 200 soldiers, a very small force compared to the NATO troops pouring into Kosovo, but to fight them would mean war with Russia and that they cannot afford. That explains why representatives of the West are now saying Russia should play a major role, and that they might consider a zone where the Russians would play the fundamental role. However, they are still opposed to a purely Russian zone in the North as this would be a de facto partitioning of Kosovo, which would lead to an independent southern sector. This is precisely why they went in in the first place: to stop Kosovo from achieving independence.
These events also reflect divisions within the Russian regime itself, with the more openly pro-western wing becoming more and more isolated. The Minister of Foreign Affairs had one position and the Defence Ministry another. This foreshadows a split in the regime in the future, and even the possibility of a coup at a later stage. In all this of course the so-called Communist Party of Russia played no independent class role. It adopted a chauvinist position, simply echoing that of the regime itself.
What emerges from these events is that Russia far from becoming an ally of the capitalist West is a main competitor on the international arena. Below we quote at length from a document provided by the US based Stratfor, Inc., in one of their latest Global Intelligence Updates.
"The presence of Russian troops in Kosovo either under a joint UN command or as an independent force was the essential element of the G-8...
"Milosevic accepted the agreements because the Russians wanted them and because they guaranteed that they would be present as independent observers to make certain that NATO did not overstep its bounds. This is the key: it was the Russians, not the bombing campaign that delivered the Serbs...
"Serbia had agreed to the G-8 agreements and it was sticking by them. NATO's demand that Serbia accept non-negotiable terms was simply rejected, precisely because Serbia had not been defeated. The key issue was the Russian role. Everything else was trivial. Serbia had been promised an independent Russian presence. The G-8 agreements had said that any unified command would be answerable to the Security Council. That wasn't happening. The Serbs weren't signing. NATO's attempt to dictate terms by right of victory fell flat on its face...
"The Russians proposed a second compromise. If everyone would not be under UN command, they would accept responsibility for their own zone. NATO rejected this stating Russia could come into Kosovo under NATO command or not at all. This not only violated the principles that had governed the G-8 negotiations, by removing the protection of Serb interests against NATO, but it also put the Russians into an impossible position in Belgrade and in Moscow. The negotiators appeared to be either fools or dupes of the West. Chernomyrdin and Ivanov worked hard to save the agreements, and perhaps even their own careers. NATO, for reasons that escape us, gave no ground. They hung the negotiators out to dry by giving them no room for maneuver. Under NATO terms, Kosovo would become exactly what Serbia had rejected at Rambouillet: a NATO protectorate. And now it was Russia, Serbia's ally, that delivered them to NATO.
"By the end of the week, something snapped in Moscow. It is not clear whether it was Yeltsin who himself ordered that Russian troops move into Pristina or whether the Russian General Staff itself gave the order. What is clear is that Yeltsin promoted the Russian general who, along with his troops, rolled into Pristina...
"Here is the problem as Stratfor sees it. NATO and the United States have been dealing with men like Viktor Chernomyrdin. These men have had their primary focus, for the past decade, on trying to create a capitalist Russia. They have not only failed, but their failure is now manifest throughout Russia. Their credibility there is nil. In negotiating with the West, they operate from two mperatives. First, they are seeking whatever economic concessions they can secure in the hope of sparking an economic miracle. Second, like Gorbachev before them, they have more credibility with the people with whom they are negotiating than the people they are negotiating for..."
What emerges from all this is that the Russian generals are not prepared to stand idly by while their power and spheres of influence are whittled away. And to prove it they have shown themselves to be ready to reach a situation of military confrontation with NATO. NATO pushed the Russian generals a little bit too far and the Russian generals responded.
As the Stratfor Update concludes, "It seems to us that Clinton and Blair are so intent on the very minor matter of Kosovo that they have actually been oblivious to the effect their behavior is having in Moscow. They just can't get it into their heads that it's not about Kosovo. It is not about humanitarianism... It's about the Russians, stupid! And about China and about the global balance of power."
Marxists oppose the Milosevic regime
Another myth being bandied about is that this war prepares the overthrow of Milosevic. The reality is that this bombing campaign had actually temporarily strengthened Milosevic. Under the NATO bombs there was no room for the opposition. Draskovic, who attempted to pressurise Milosevic into accepting some form of compromise with NATO was expelled from the government.
Milosevic did not accept the demands being posed to him at Rambouillet and managed to hold out for more than two months against the combined forces of NATO. He said no to a purely NATO force. The so-called K-for force going in is under UN auspices, including Russian troops. Formally Kosovo remains part of the Yugoslav state. he has achieved massive ethnic cleansing which is going to take years to redress. NATO troops will not be able to enter Serbia itself. NATO even had to compromise on the "buffer zone". Initially they were demanding that Serb troops stay behind a line at least 25 kilometres from the border with Kosovo. This has now been reduced to 5 kilometres.
As the Wall Street Journal (8th June) stated, "On the cusp of victory, we returned to Milosevic with weakened demands, which he accepted readily. Now we are told the peace is at hand. If it is it will be a bad peace. Anxious to avoid a ground campaign, NATO and the Clinton administration compromised on their stated goals, sold out the Kosovar Albanians, resolved nothing and guaranteed that the Balkans will continue to fester." So much for Milosevic being defeated!
Even the Yugoslav army has not been destroyed, as they tried to make us believe. The bulk of Milosevic's forces remain intact. As The Economist (12th June) pointed out, "the Serb army remains potent: relatively few of its men have been killed, a formidable proportion of its armour, artillery and mobile air-defence systems is still intact. His army was not defeated".
But what is happening inside Yugoslavia? The Serb people rallied round the government in its battle against the NATO bombers. Before the bombing there were opposition movements against Milosevic. Unfortunately these were all pro-bourgeois and therefore none of them can offer a genuine alternative to Milosevic.
The Milosevic regime is presiding over a process of capitalist counter-revolution. They have privatised important sections of the economy. Already by the mid 1990s about half the economy had been privatised. In this the clique around Milosevic have been making sure that they get the lion's share of the privatised sectors.
As a Serb socialist pointed out in an interview recently, "He [Milosevic], his family and close party members have a monopoly on oil imports, cigarettes, luxuries and most of other goods. They have close ties with Mafia and paramilitary groups. Milosevic rigged the elections, suppressed strikes and demonstrations with brute force. State run TV has been brainwashing population in last ten years. His corrupt regime tends to control every part of society, and no cost in human lives is too high for them. Now, after he has totally robbed and destroyed Serbia's economy, he wants to conduct reforms towards capitalism."
Privatisation has led to widespread "restructuring", i.e. closures and mass sackings. It is within the overall collapse of the economy that Milosevic played the nationalist card, with disastrous consequences for all the peoples of the ex-Yugoslav Federation.
Genuine socialists oppose this reactionary programme. Unfortunately there has been no genuine Marxist party in Serbia that could explain to the working class that there is an alternative.
Now that the war is over, however, it is clear that the regime has been weakened. But without a genuine class alternative the opposition to Milosevic comes from pro-bourgeois elements such as Draskovic, or from Seselj, the ultra-nationalist. As the Yugoslav Minister for Privatisations, Bogoljub Karic, has pointed out (Il Sole-24 Ore, 10th June), "the leader of the ultra nationalist right wing Vojslav Seselj... today represents the only real opposition."
Seselj has now resigned from the government in protest at the presence of NATO troops in Kosovo. he obviously hopes to gain support on the basis of whipping up Serb nationalist sentiments. If Milosevic were to be overthrown by someone like Seselj, the situation in the Balkans would be even worse.
Marxists oppose Milosevic, but the only force that we can count on is the Serbian working class. Milosevic has portrayed himself as the "saviour" of the Serb people. In reality he has led the Serbs from one disaster to another. His opportunist turn towards nationalism, which actually started in Kosovo over a decade ago, played an important role in the break up of the Yugoslav Federation. This led to fratricidal war. The Serbs of Croatia paid a heavy price as the Tudjman regime expelled them en masse back in 1995. The Serbs of Bosnia paid heavily in the Bosnian war. Now the Serbs of Kosovo are beginning to move out in their tens of thousands.
As always in war it is the ordinary people, the workers, the peasants, the youth who pay for the war aims of their governments. And so long as capitalism dominates the Balkans there will be new wars.
The whole of the Balkans destabilised
Rather than solve the problems of the Balkans the bombing of Kosovo has further destabilised the whole area. The sudden influx of a mass of Kosovar Albanian refugees into Macedonia has further inflamed the situation there which was already heating up prior to the bombing campaign. The same is true in Albania. As the US general Brent Scowcroft pointed out in his interview with the Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera (7th June), "The real danger is that that part of the Balkans has been highly destabilised and will remain so for some time. I'm not only referring to Kosovo but also to Albania and Macedonia. The security forces that go into Kosovo will have to keep a watch also over these countries in order to avoid new and probable wars."
It is not just a question of the movement of refugees. The bombing has affected the economy of the whole of the Balkans. As we have already pointed out in previous statements the economy of Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania... have been affected.
It is calculated that Macedonia will have lost about $1.5 billion as a result of the damage inflicted by the war. Unemployment stands at the staggering figure of 40%. The influx of 300,000 Kosovar Albanian refugees has made the situation even worse. As a result of this situation Dimitrov, the Macedonian Foreign Minister, has said that he fears "inter-ethnic tension."
Romania has also been badly affected. It was already in a severe economic crisis. In 1997 and 1998 its GDP fell by 6.6% and 7.3% respectively. It risks defaulting on foreign debt repayments. Added to this is the loss of $50 million a week's trade due to the war in Kosovo. The war has led to a sudden collapse in foreign investment.
They are now talking about a so-called Marshall Plan for the Balkans. The European Commission calculates that $20 billion would be needed to launch such a programme. But the governments of Europe will not come forward with such amounts as they are attempting to keep down their own budget deficits.
It would be up to private investors to provide the money, but these would want guarantees that they would get the returns on their investments. With the unstable situation that has developed this guarantee is unlikely to materialise.
That does not mean that no investment will take place. The Economist (12th June) pointed out that, "such aid does nothing to improve the economic fundamentals of Europe's poorest region. For that to happen, Balkan countries need to face up to the rigours of reform when the guns fall silent."
And here we have it! Of the ex-Stalinist countries of Eastern Europe the programme of so-called "reform", i.e. privatisation, was moving at a much slower pace than in countries like Poland and Hungary. Now after destroying the economy of Serbia, they are blackmailing the whole of the Balkans. 'Either you let us buy up cheaply those state companies we are interested and close down the rest, or you get no aid.' As The Economist points out, "the shock of the war may make reform more likely."
If the West manages to impose this programme on the Balkans then the effects will be an even bigger increase in the levels of poverty and unemployment. This programme will solve none of the fundamental economic and social problems of the area. And without solving these problems, which were at the root of the war in the Balkans, there will never be a guaranteed peace.
The only "solution" they have is to maintain a permanent military presence in Kosovo. They cannot leave because this would give the KLA the go-ahead to take over the whole of Kosovo, ethnically cleanse the remaining Serbs and push for a greater Albania, thus further destablising the whole region. Therefore, just as in Bosnia, they will have to stay for years to come.
The fundamental role of the working class
This is clearly not a solution to the problem. There is another road, however, and that is the international solidarity of the working class. The workers of the West, through their trade unions and political parties (Labour, Socialist and Communist parties) must give support to the peoples of the Balkans in their struggle against capitalism and against the nightmare of privatisation. They must put pressure on their own "socialist" governments to put a halt to the carve up of the Balkans that is taking place.
The labour movement must oppose the agreement that has been reached and in its place must develop a class alternative. This agreement may have temporarily put a stop to the ethnic cleansing of the Albanians in Kosovo but it will not stop the cleansing of Serbs. It will only prepare the ground for new wars in the future. In the last analysis only the workers themselves can stop the killings on both sides. Time and time again we have seen how the workers are opposed to the senseless killings, but without leadership and without arms they cannot stop the paramilitary butchers.
All these events re-enforce what we have said all along. There is no solution outside that of the socialist transformation of society. For a period of over forty years the peoples of the ex-Yugoslav Federation were able to live together peacefully. This was thanks fundamentally to the economic development which lasted until the late '70s, early '80s. This was possible on the basis of the planned economy under Tito. Unfortunately the planning was not run under the democratic control and management of the workers themselves. Control of the economy was in the hands of a state bureaucracy. It was that same bureaucracy which eventually led the Yugoslav economy into crisis.
What we need to explain to the workers and youth of the Balkans is that it was not genuine socialism that failed in Yugoslavia but Stalinism in the Titoite version. The Balkans are rich in resources. These must be used to the benefit of all the workers of the Balkans. An all-Balkans socialist federation would allow the workers of all these countries to come together and plan out their common resources.
For this it is necessary to rebuild the genuine forces of Marxism in the Balkans, starting in the Trade Unions and then building up genuine mass Marxist parties of the working class in all these countries. If this task is not carried out then we will see more wars in the Balkans. Either the workers build their own organisations and take power or reaction will keep raising its head. There is no other way.