PAX AMERICANA SETS ITS SIGHTS ON YUGOSLAVIA
Hands off Yugoslavia!
main enemy is at home!
a Socialist Federation of the Balkans!
Statement by the Trotskyist League
On March 24 the US and NATO attacked Yugoslavia, launching cruise
missiles and dropping bombs on supposedly military targets. In the weeks
since, they have escalated their air war to include economic and political
targets throughout Yugoslavia. With bridges, oil refineries, factories,
offices, and television stations being hit -
and “collateral damage” to houses, schools, hospitals, and even
refugee columns -
the US and NATO are now waging war against civilians.
official rationale for the US/NATO war on Yugoslavia is to force it to
allow US and NATO troops to occupy Kosova, a predominantly Albanian
province of Serbia, supposedly to protect its population from human rights
abuses. This is entirely hypocritical, since the US and NATO aid and abet
even worse human rights abuses by Turkey against the Kurds and Israel
against the Palestinians.
war is in fact an imperialist war, fought by the big capitalist powers to
establish their domination of the world and their hierarchy relative to
each other. Iraq continues to defy them, despite the Gulf War and eight
years of murderous economic sanctions. Now Yugoslavia is defying them in
their European heartland. They want to crush this resistance and
consolidate the “new world order” they’ve been trying to build since
the fall of the Soviet Union.
abuses in Kosova are real, however. Slobodan Milosevic rose to power on a
wave of Serb chauvinism ten years ago. Since then, Serbia has denied
political and social rights to Kosova’s Albanian majority through
systematic discrimination much like “Jim Crow” in the southern US
until the mid-1960s.
the Kosova Liberation Army (KLA) launched its armed struggle last year,
the Yugoslav police and military retaliated against civilians they
suspected of aiding the KLA, much as the US and South Vietnamese military
retaliated against civilians they suspected of aiding the National
Liberation Front during the Vietnam War. Serb paramilitaries went even
further, terrorizing Kosovar Albanians in a campaign of “ethnic
the US and NATO began their air war, the Yugoslav military and Serb
paramilitaries escalated their attacks on Albanian civilians. According to
UN relief agencies, half a million Kosovar Albanians have fled to Albania
and Macedonia to escape the Serb attacks and the US/NATO bombing. Another
half million, perhaps more, have been driven from their homes but remain
in Kosova, in part because the Yugoslav military wants to keep them there
to hamper US/NATO military operations.
Trotskyist League -
US supporters of the International Trotskyist Opposition -
opposes the US/NATO war on Yugoslavia as an imperialist war. We are for
the defeat of imperialism in this war. Realistically, the only way this
could happen is if workers and youth in the imperialist countries rise
against the war, as we did against the Vietnam War.
oppose “ethnic cleansing” and support Kosova’s right to
self-determination, including its right to secede from Yugoslavia and join
Albania. We see a Socialist Federation of the Balkans as the only real and
lasting alternative to imperialist domination and national conflicts in
the Balkans. We want to help build an international political party that
could overcome national and ethnic divisions and lead the working class in
the struggle for world socialism.
US imperialism continues to escalate its war on Yugoslavia, the TL’s
most important contribution to these goals is our struggle to stop the
war. We join with other socialists in saying: Stop the US/NATO bombing of
Yugoslavia! No ground war! No occupation! The main enemy is at home!
is an imperialist war
The war against Yugoslavia by the US and its NATO allies is a war
waged by imperialist powers for their own political and economic goals.
The sermons about “human rights” as a cover for the intervention can
only be heard with contempt. We need only point out a few examples of the
imperialists’ concern for “human rights” to expose their hypocrisy.
rights of Vietnamese, Timorese, Kurds, Palestinians, Salvadorans,
Nicaraguans, Iraqis, Rwandans, South Africans, and many more were clearly
not on the minds of the imperialists when they or their clients displaced
whole nations, bombing their cities and shooting, torturing and starving
their people. The imperialists, who have twice this century turned the
whole world into a gigantic killing field, can only preach about “human
rights” from the pulpit of duplicity.
imperialist attack on Yugoslavia must be put in the context of the
collapse of the Soviet Union. The equilibrium that existed between the US
and the Soviet Union was a stabilizing element in the world situation. By
and large, the rivalries among the major imperialist countries -
the US, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, and Canada -
were checked and abated by their common hostility to the Soviet Union. And
all the imperialists, including the US, were constrained by the existence
of the Soviet Union and the possibility that it would aid working-class
and national liberation struggles against them.
all this has broken down. With the Soviet Union out of the picture, large
areas of the world previously off limits are now open for trade and
investment. The imperialists want to assert their common interest in world
domination and their separate interests in spheres of influence. Their
different agendas are beginning to take shape.
US, as the dominant imperialist power, wants to make clear that nothing
is possible without its participation and leadership. Germany sees the
non-Serbian parts of the former Yugoslavia as in its sphere of influence.
It helped instigate the secession of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and now
Kosova. France sees Serbia as in its sphere of influence. Italy has a
longstanding imperial relationship with Albania. And Britain once again is
acting as hyena to the American lion. About all they agree on is that
Milosevic has gotten out of line.
differing interests and roles in the Balkans are echoed elsewhere in the
world, for example, in Africa.
the moment, the economies of the imperialist countries are doing
relatively well, and they have relative class peace at home. So their
contradictory aspirations are blunted. But an economic downturn -
which should occur this year or next -
or a wider war in the Balkans or elsewhere would exacerbate these tensions.
A deep enough social crisis could also bring to power more aggressive
governments willing to go down the militaristic path that led to world war
twice before in this century.
bomb dropped on Yugoslavia is a not-too-thinly veiled message to Russia
that its days as a major player on the world stage are over. That NATO
would absorb three former Warsaw Pact countries (Poland, the Czech
Republic, and Hungary) and then, within days, attack a Russian ally is a
provocation unimaginable ten or even five years ago.
the Yeltsin government has made noisy statements about “not standing
idly by” and “the danger of world war,” it is in no position to
challenge NATO. It is more interested in negotiating IMF loans than
confronting imperialism. This bluster is mainly geared for internal
consumption. But the relationship between the US and Russia is
is not at all clear who will fill the vacuum of leadership that will
follow Yeltsin’s death or retirement next year. The bombing of
Yugoslavia is in part a message to the next Russian government to know its
place. The rules of conduct in the post-Soviet world are new and largely
unwritten. The United States is attempting to write those rules with the
blood of Yugoslavia. This could easily backfire, with nationalist and even
fascist elements gaining ground and mapping out a more confrontational
policy toward the US.
and the attack on Yugoslavia
counteroffensive against the workers and oppressed begun in the late 1970s
continues today as neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is an attempt by the
capitalist class to break down trade restrictions, deregulate industries,
privatize previously state-owned companies, drive down wages and social
benefits, and increase the rate of exploitation. It is an attempt to
transcend the limitations imposed on it by the movements of the workers
and the oppressed from the 1930s through the mid-1970s.
has been integrated into the world capitalist economy since the early
1960s. In part because of negative aspects of this experience, the mainly
Serbian remnant of Yugoslavia retains a greater degree of state control
over the economy than most of the other former workers’ states. The wars
in Croatia and Bosnia and the UN embargoes are also partly responsible for
Yugoslavia’s continued state ownership of many industries.
plays a role too, as the Milosevic regime rests ideologically on
preserving a large state sector and claiming continuity with Tito’s
Yugoslavia. While too much could be said of the economic reasons for the
attack on Yugoslavia, it is no accident that NATO has made a concerted
effort to destroy Yugoslav industry, including its important ability to
produce many of its own vehicles and to refine petroleum.
whole neoliberal project hinges on the acceptance by the working class
that there is no alternative to the capitalist system. The collapse of the
Soviet Union and the subsequent discrediting of “socialism” among
large sectors of the working class have given the imperialists an immense
ideological victory. The disorientation of the vanguard and leadership
layers of the working class as the result of this ideological victory is
necessary for the continued success of the neoliberal project.
by Iraq, Yugoslavia, or any other country undermines the view that there
is no alternative. It cannot be tolerated, if the project is to succeed.
In a sense the bombing of Yugoslavia is the ultimate in union-busting. Its
aim is to break the will and ability of working and oppressed people
anywhere to resist the dictates of capital.
the defeat of US/NATO imperialism in Yugoslavia!
A defeat for the US and NATO in Yugoslavia would be a profound
setback for the imperialists. It would severely limit their ability to
intervene elsewhere in the world. After the defeat of US imperialism in
Vietnam, it was a decade and a half before the US was politically able to
attack another country -
and even then, it had to avoid large-scale casualties. A US/NATO defeat
would give an impetus to all those around the world resisting the
onslaughts of capitalist barbarity.
struggle from the landless peasant movement in Brazil to the fight against
sanctions on Cuba would gain. Many struggles for national liberation, for
example, Ireland and Palestine, have sought to come to terms with the new
post-Soviet imperialist order.
These movements would have new reason to believe that it is
possible to fight and to win, that there is an alternative to the
acceptance of imperialist dominance.
Yugoslav military victory is very unlikely, however. NATO has the combined
resources of the world’s most powerful countries. Milosevic’s troops
are very different from Tito’s partisans, who defeated thirty German
Nazi divisions in World War II. The goals, policies, and, to a certain
extent, the leadership of the struggle against the Nazis gave it the
tenacity and moral strength needed to win. The ideals of the partisan
struggle have long since been burned away in the nationalist inferno of
revolutionaries should defend Yugoslavia against the US and NATO as part
of our struggle against imperialism. Our defense should be without
political conditions. In particular, we should oppose the US/NATO war
whether or not Yugoslavia withdraws from Kosova. But we should give no
political support to the reactionary nationalist regime of Milosevic,
which is an obstacle in the fight for a real defense of the
Yugoslav, Albanian, and international working class.
US and NATO have the military power to destroy Yugoslavia and impose their
will on the whole area. But they are reluctant to commit the ground troops
needed to do so. They fear that their own working classes would react
against them, undoing their efforts to overcome Vietnam.
The imperialists can be defeated by making the political price for
engaging in this war more than they are willing to pay.
in the imperialist countries should explain that the struggle against this
war is linked to all the struggles of the working class. We face a common
enemy, the capitalist ruling class.
unions are the most important organizations to activate against the war,
since they are the strongest organizations of the working class in most
countries. So long as the working class accepts this war, quietly or
openly, the imperialists will have room to maneuver.
union leaderships in the US are going along with the imperialist war,
helping to give it humanitarian cover. If US casualties are low and the
war is over quickly, this probably won’t change. But conditions are
different in other countries and in different sectors of the working class
here. And the situation will change, if the war lasts long enough and
brings US casualties.
some countries, mass demonstrations, strikes, and hot-cargoing are already
real possibilities. Everywhere, we can agitate against the war and help
generalize the experience and perceptions of the more politically
conscious workers. This will help limit the imperialists’ ability to
wage the war and add drive and clarity to the class struggle.
parties which did not show by all their activity, that they would liberate
the enslaved nations, and build up relations with them on the basis of a
free union -
and free union is a false phrase without the right to secede -
these parties would be betraying socialism. Lenin, The Socialist
Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination
The right of national self-determination has long been included in
the canon of democracy, but rarely has it been afforded in reality to
those outside the imperialist world. Marxists recognize this right not
just for its democratic merits but as an essential requisite for the
eventual unity of all the peoples and nations of the world. A guarantee of
the right to self-determination, up to and including separation, provides
the basis for learning in action the value of unity.
is not just that communists are more consistently democratic than the
ruling class, but also that the socialist project requires the active
participation of millions, whose trust and confidence in each other must
be based on living realities, not phrases and motions in parliament. The
democracy of the ruling class is a democracy based on their
dictatorship, and all that comes into conflict with that dictatorship,
including national liberation, is a threat to be met with force.
Albanians of Kosova are an oppressed national minority deprived of their
rights as a people and suffering at the hands of the Serb majority of
Yugoslavia. Since the KLA began its armed struggle last year, Albanian
civilians have been driven from their homes and sometimes killed because
they were suspected of aiding the KLA, because they lived in
KLA-controlled areas, or simply because they were Albanian. Since the US
and NATO began their air war against Yugoslavia, the situation has gotten
much worse. Between “ethnic cleansing” and the bombing, a majority of
the Albanian population has been displaced, half a million having fled the
US and NATO don’t want a truly free Kosova anymore than the Serb
nationalists do. Real self-determination would involve redrawing borders,
since the Albanians of Kosova and Macedonia almost certainly would choose
to join Albania. This would destabilize the region, creating the
possibility of a much wider Balkan war, a war that could potentially
involve NATO members Greece and Turkey fighting against each other. It
might even draw in Russia.
borders in the Balkans would pose the question of redrawing them in many
other countries, including the imperialist countries. The aim of
imperialism is the imposition of stability based on its dominance, not the
liberation of subjugated people.
the KLA began its armed struggle last year, its strategy was to provoke
Serb retaliation against Albanian civilians and bring in the imperialists.
The KLA is now collaborating with the imperialism in its war on Yugoslavia.
KLA guerillas act as spotters for US/NATO planes bombing Serb positions.
to the most right-wing forces in Albania, the KLA deserves neither the
support nor the confidence of the Albanian population. A real movement for
self-determination must be based on a firm rejection of imperialism, if it
is to achieve its most basic demands. The KLA offers the Albanian
population as pawns to imperialism.
different perspective is needed to achieve the aspirations of the Albanian
people, as well as all the other nationalities of the Balkans, to freedom
and a dignified life. That perspective would include as its cornerstone
the building of a Socialist Federation of the Balkans.
a Socialist Federation of the Balkans!
The Yugoslavia of Tito’s partisans went as far as the limits of
its economy and bureaucracy could allow in developing an equitable
solution to the longstanding national conflicts in the Balkans.
Yugoslavia’s respect for the national rights of its component republics
was near unique in the world. But this respect was also an expression of a
bureaucratic balancing act. After the Stalin-Tito split, the bureaucracy
had to make concessions to Yugoslavia’s nationalities, as it had to make
concessions to its workers, to survive the combined hostility of
imperialism and the Soviet Union.
working-class internationalism starts from the needs of the international
class struggle as a whole, recognizing that the victory of each can be
achieved only by the struggle of all. The Yugoslav Stalinist leadership
never adhered to this. To do so would have meant the end of its existence.
“independent path” meant balancing between the Soviet Union and
imperialism. Its “workers self management” was a fraud that gave
little in the way of direct control over the economy to the working class.
It professed itself classless, yet huge inequalities developed. All this
led to a deep suspicion of the socialist alternative.
bad Titoism was, capitalist restoration has been much worse, offering
nothing but deeper misery. Imperialism’s solution to the national
question is its domination, not the realization of national
self-determination. We should not romanticize the past, but we should
build from its lessons. A noncapitalist approach succeeded better than any
other in securing the national rights of the Balkan people. We must build
on that lesson.
genuine Socialist Federation of the Balkans would incorporate freely all
the nations of the Balkans, for the working classes of the different
countries have far more in common with each other than differences. A
common struggle against all the nationalist bureaucracies and fascistic
marauders, against the restoration of capitalism, against the oppression
of national minorities, women, lesbians and gay men, and against
imperialist military and economic intervention. For the return of refugees,
and the rights of religious, national and ethnic minorities. For
independent working-class action, politically and militarily.
building of a Socialist Federation of the Balkans is impossible without a
multinational collective leadership with the ability to absorb and
generalize the experiences of the working class as a whole. This
leadership must organize itself into a party, a revolutionary party whose
aim is the socialist transformation of society. A party incorporating the
best traditions of the Yugoslav revolution, but critical of the
limitations of Titoism.
struggle for international socialism requires rebuilding the Fourth
International, that is, the World Party of Socialist Revolution. In this
way, the lessons of all our experiences, both positive and negative, can
be put to the shared purpose of socialist revolution. The mistakes of
yesterday, if we learn from them, can help pave the way to success
tomorrow. In that way the suffering of Yugoslavia and Kosova will not have
been in vain, but will have helped bring about a new and infinitely more