The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Against the Barbarism of Ethnic War, Against the Barbarism of the Bombing, For the Right of Self-Determination of All People

Apr 11, 1999

What cruel cynicism to pretend that an intervention carried out with bombs and missiles is an intervention in favor of the Kosovar people! This, however, is what the rulers of the imperialist countries, almost all their political parties and a big number of intellectuals tailing after them would have us believe.

The intervention led by the U.S. does not aim only at military targets, but also at factories, power stations, bridges, coal mines, etc., as well as at buildings situated in the center of cities like Belgrade in Serbia or Pristina in Kosovo.

They dare pretend that this bombing has not played a role in the massive exodus of the Kosovar people toward the frontiers of countries bordering Kosovo. What hypocrisy! The U.N. High Commission on Refugees estimates that some 450,000 people were chased out of Kosovo between the launching of the bombing on March 24 and April 6.

The supporters of this war try to pose as the defenders of the Albanian people in Kosovo.

Faced with an obvious disaster, trying to absolve themselves of all responsility, the Western leaders claim that even before their intervention, Milosevic had plans to drive the Albanians out of Kosovo. They pretend, however, that they just discovered it!

What an opportune discovery! Milosevic and his followers have never made a secret of what they do. They, themselves, call it "ethnic cleansing." They have not hidden their intention to maintain total domination over Kosovo, nor their bloody and brutal methods. Their actions have been on display for years, in Croatia, in Bosnia and in Kosovo itself.

What is happening today was foreseeable and the leaders of NATO had to have foreseen it. Some of them even admitted this, themselves. How could they not have known that Milosevic would profit from the bombing to accelerate his work? They had to understand that the bombing would leave his hands freer to carry on the butchery.

Nonetheless, according to the leaders of the Western governments, neither the speed nor the amplitude of what happened was foreseeable – as though they weren't acquainted with ethnic cleansing. As if the U.S. wasn't built on the bones of the different peoples who inhabited this continent in one of the longest campaigns of "ethnic cleansing" in world history. As if the U.S. government didn't "ethnically cleanse" all people of Japanese descent from the U.S. West Coast during World War II, taking everything from them and putting them in concentration camps. Or, as if the U.S. didn't help finance and support the forced uprooting of the Palestinian people by the state of Israel – tragedies with which, one or another of these Western governments were directly complicit.

The fact is, the imperialist military intervention in Yugoslavia has facilitated the vile work of the Great Serb nationalists in Kosovo, and even helped them.

The bombing in Serbia has reinforced the political standing of the worst instigators of the policy of "ethnic cleansing": General Mladic, the former butcher of Bosnia, who parades through Belgrade now; the bandit Arkin; and the ultra-nationalist Vojislav Seselj who has just become one of the vice ministers of the government. The extreme-right, fascist-like party he leads now occupies the heights of power in Serbia itself.

As for the democratic opponents of Milosevic – those who, for whatever reason, repudiated the bloody orgy unleashed by Serbian nationalism – they are reduced to silence, or come under pressure from the police.

Where, in all of this, is there any help for the various peoples of this area?

The justifications invoked by the imperialist governments are nothing but rubbish – they themselves demonstrate it by the way they reacted, or more exactly, didn't react, to the catastrophic and massive exodus of the Kosavar Albanians starting on the 24th of March. The different governments in NATO glorify the aid they now improvise for the refugees – a drop in the bucket for people dying of thirst. But they did not bother to anticipate what might happen nor to prepare the kind of efficient and rapid aid that people forced into this kind of exodus would need – even though it was obvious what would happen and what would be required. When it was a question of reinforcing their policy and their interests, they were able to organize a military intervention of some 600 planes of all types, coming from 13 countries, along with all sorts of other military materiel, and they spared no expense to deploy it rapidly.

The revolting truth is that they aren't concerned by the "humanitarian" side of the problem – other than to talk about it and wash their hands of all responsibility for the bloody consequences of their intervention.

Revolutionary communists are vigorously opposed to NATO's bombing, as to any form its military intervention might take against Serbia and Kosovo. We are opposed to all the governments which carry it out, and the U.S. government, first of all.

The infamy of "ethnic cleansing" in no way justifies a military intervention which can only aggravate it, at the same time that this intervention makes the population of Serbia pay for the crimes of their dictator.

This intervention is only a variation of the gunboat diplomacy of the colonial epoch. The workers have no reason to support it in any way. This intervention was not organized to defend a people, but to impose the law of the Big Powers on all the peoples of the world.

The Law of the Imperialist Powers

The only reason for NATO's bombing is to impose the world order of the Big Powers, with the U.S. at their head. Through this bombing, they announce their intention to use arms to impose their order over all the peoples of the world.

The Western leaders intend to bring Milosevic to heel, to make him obey their order. By his policy and his regime, the dictator of Belgrade has created a serious risk of destablization and chaos in the whole region, including outside of the former Yugoslavia. The logic of war brings with it consequences that are not always controllable. Milosevic must show to the world that he obeys their rules and accepts their order.

Intervention by the Big Powers in the Balkans didn't start only yesterday.The borders there have long been made and remade according to the shifting relationship of forces among the rival imperialisms. Imperialist intervention has been a constant in the area for the last century, and it has been particularly destructive in those regions where the different peoples were intermixed with each other. The populations of this region have been tossed about, divided or reassembled arbitrarily, according to the rule imposed from outside, since the Treaty of Berlin in the 19th century and that of Versailles, which concluded the First World War. This latter, for example, created the small state of Albania, leaving the region of Kosovo, already mainly populated by the Albanian people, to the Slavic monarchy dominated by Serbia.

The imperialists looked on the Balkans as a terrain for pillage, cut up into "zones of influence," for which British, French and German capital competed with one another.

This history has weighed heavily on the region, which has not been able to escape from poverty, oppression and ethnic violence. Different local leaders have widely used ethnic violence as a tool of their own domination. But the responsibility of the big powers for all of this, including in the current period, is overwhelming.

Don't forget that for almost 40 years these peoples were at least able to co-exist and even to intermarry in the Yugoslavia of Tito, which was certainly not a model of democracy. But Tito's Yugoslavia provided a framework which went beyond that of the former micro-states; it allowed the different peoples finally to ignore ethnicity and, instead, simply declare themselves Yugoslavs.

After the death of Tito, the regime went into a crisis, with struggles for power being carried out at the very heights of the state apparatus. Rival cliques stepped forward, searching for territory in the different constituent republics of the former Yugoslav Federation on which to rest their claims to power; the struggle took place against a background of a growing economic and social crisis. These cliques had recourse to all the old myths drawn from the different micro-nationalisms: Serb, certainly, but also Croat, Slovene, etc. But it was the imperialist powers which presided over the breaking apart of Yugoslavia in 1991. They encouraged the cliques which were pushing to tear Yugoslavia apart, and they endorsed the dismemberment, the transformation of administrative boundaries into true borders between the different states which came out of the former Yugoslav federation.

This seemed to be a harmless, innocent change. But its consequences were to become catastrophic in the states which came out of this break-up. The nationalist cliques, which were propelled to the head of these new states, moved to tranform them into nation-states.

Serbia had significant non-Serbian minorities inside of it: Albanian, in Kosovo, or Hungarian, Croat and Rumanian in Voivodie. The Serbs, themselves, were a minority in Krajina, where they had long lived, when Krajina was given to Croatia. And in Bosnia, of course, many nationalities were truly inter-mixed.

Milosevic was not the only one to practice "ethnic cleansing." The Croat Tudjman had carried out the same attacks against the Serbes in Krajina or against the Bosnians in the region of Mostar.

The nationalist cliques ready to carry out such a policy had already existed, but it was the imperialist powers which recognized them and even acted as their patrons. The different imperialisms played out their own rivalries – French against British against German, with the U.S. introducing itself into the whole messy affair – by playing one or another of the nationalist cliques against each other. The imperialists were the ones to gasoline on the fire.

Today, it is through a spectacular military intervention, led by a coalition of the big world powers, that imperialism claims to regulate the fate of the people of the Balkans.

Those people have nothing to hope for from this intervention.

The Different Peoples Shouldn't Put their Hopes in the Big Powers

The Western leaders are trying to make Milosevic more pliable, less uncontrollable. But today they apparently do not see any possibility of replacing him. As things stand now, they seem ready to negotiate, at least eventually, with him.

Certainly, Clinton has refused to declare Milosevic a war criminal, instead saying that that is why "we have an international court, it is not up to me." And when the U.S. State Department published the names of nine Serb officers who had committed atrocities, it did not say directly that they were "war criminals." Commented the French newspaper Le Monde (April 10,1999), "It was as though the marching orders for the West were: lets not immediately indict Milosevic in the International Court in The Hague for this would legally exclude him from any final settlement to the crisis; don't use words which could have the same result; if we use words like genocide' don't connect it to Milosevic; because one does not deal with Hitler."

What they demand of Milosevic is that he return to the bargaining table and accept a form of autonomy for the Albanians of Kosovo, who would nonetheless remain within the framework of a Serb-dominated Yugoslavia, regulated by NATO forces on the scene.

In any case, whatever is Milosevic's future, whether he comes to the bargaining table to arrange things with the leaders of imperialism or whether he is replaced in this role by a successor of the same type, the aim of this negotiation will be to divide up the former Yugoslav territory even more, consecrating the relationship of forces created by the war.

The good souls who call for a "negotiated settlement" – have they forgotten what the Dayton Accords, which were imposed on Bosnia, signified for the people there? An area which had been ethnically mixed was partitioned into three zones, separated by rivers of blood; these zones are now miserable ghettos for populations deprived of hope and placed under the boot of ferocious and corrupt micro-dictators. This partition turned two million people into displaced refugees, in exile in a number of countries. This partition also was presided over by the imperialists, consecrating the results of "ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia. It was in Dayton Ohio, under the guidance of Clinton, that this partition was made official.

As for Kosovo, we can see what the imperialist leaders wanted to impose by what came out of the conference at Rambouillet. This conference did not in any way respect the right of the people of Kosovo to determine their own fate for themselves, nor did it concern itself with respect for the rights of the Serbian minority who live inside of Kosovo. The projected accords of Rambouillet formally rejected any possibility for the Kosovar people to decide for themselves whether to be independent or to attach themselves to Albania. The only "right" proposed for the Kosovar people is to ratify what the Big Powers decide for them.

We can already see in the accords proposed at Rambouillet what the Big Powers would impose on Milosevic when he is finally forced to negotiate: a settlement put in place over the bodies of the Albanian victims of the Serbian military, militias and para-military groups; as over the bodies of the Serbian victims of NATO's bombing. The terror of the Serbian militias, seconded by the effects of the bombing, have forced a significant part of the Albanian inhabitants to flee some regions of Kosovo, including its capital, Pristina. Milosevic can now add demographic arguments to his pseudo-historic ones to keep a part of the region (perhaps within the framework of a "provisional" solution, which ends up becoming permanent, as has the "provisional" division of Bosnia). What remains of Kosovo will receive part of the refugees, now waiting in miserable conditions in Albania or in Macdonia.

If a NATO force is set up to police the area, it will be to impose a solution which scorns the right of the Albanians to decide their own future. Whatever comes from NATO, or the U.N., which tails after NATO, it can only contribute to crush underfoot the right of the Kosovar people to self-determination.

For the various peoples of the Balkans, who have all in turn been victims of the breaking up of Yugoslavia, imperialist leaders propose only rotten "solutions." Their "solutions" offer nothing but despair and resentment, generating new fires and new powder-kegs.

Neither is there anything to hope for from the different leading micro-nationalist cliques. In the best of cases, they can only bring their populations into miserable dead-ends.

As for proletarian revolutionaries, our solidarity lies with the Albanians of Kosovo, facing oppression and atrocities from the Serbian state. It seems obvious to us that the various peoples themselves should have the right to choose the framework within which they wish to live. It seems obvious to us that all the peoples of the Balkans should have the right to decide for themselves; that all minorities be recognized with the same rights as the majorities, with all the democratic liberties this implies.

But we also know that the future for these peoples lies in a fraternal coexistence among themselves. This will be realized only when they gain the means to overthrow all the nationalist and exploiting cliques who hold them under control, the means to up root them from their bases of power; only when the peoples rise up in arms against the dictates of the Great Powers. This is the only perspective for a positive solution for all the peoples of all the countries in the world.