Trotskyists on Balkan war

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Sat Oct 16 08:40:08 MDT 1999

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A Fourth International Document

>From the Balkans to the world order: balance sheet of the war

[The International Executive Committee of the Fourth
International approved this resolution in September 1999. It is
also available in French.]

The war that the NATO governments unleashed against Serbia is at
the same time a new stage of the crisis that has torn apart
former Yugoslavia, and of the geostrategic recompositions that
have been affecting relations among the big powers, in particular
the European Union and the United States, as well as their
institutions (the UN, NATO, etc.) since the fall of the Berlin

This is why it has elicited two main types of one-sided reactions
from left milieus: 1) reactions arising primarily from rejection
of the repression carried out by the Serbian regime in Kosovo
since 1989 and more broadly from rejection of the policies of
ethnic cleansing that have ravaged Croatia and Bosnia since 1991
? it is from this current that NATO's war has drawn its popular
support as a "moral" war, abusing inappropriate historical
analogies; and 2) reactions from another current that has
primarily seen the war as a NATO war like earlier ones, in the
context of the "new world order", its hypocrisy and its
international, geostrategic stakes.

Even if rejecting NATO and rejecting the Milosevic regime
obviously cannot be put on the same level, rejecting both enables
us to break with the false dilemma of having to choose one
reactionary "camp". Far from undermining resistance to
imperialist policies, a critical approach to the Serbian regime
made it possible to get a response from people who saw the
difficulty and the counterproductive character of this war from
the standpoint of its own declared goals (stopping ethnic
cleansing). Finally, the fact that Milosevic leads a party that
calls itself "socialist" required us, more explicitly than in the
case of Iraq, to express our criticism of his policies very
clearly at the same time that we condemned NATO's war.

This is why these two critical axes, along with the defence of
the Kosovars' right to self-determination, served as progressive
reference points.

They did not however tell the Kosovars how to defend their right
to self-determination against the aggressive violence of the
Serbian state.

Rather than sliding into a "pacifist" position that would be
indifferent to the suffering of the Kosovar people, we supported
their legitimate right of self defence. We don't accept a
symmetrical analysis of Serbian state terrorism and the armed
struggle of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). But the KLA's
political orientation after Adem Demaci was removed from its
leadership, and the group's organisational weakness, made it
impossible for us to consider the KLA the necessary base for the
double struggle against ethnic cleansing and against the NATO
war. So we were reduced to the position of struggling for a halt
to the bombings and in favour of an agreement which would
prioritise the return of the expelled population?protected by a
multinational force.

The end to the war, and the return of the refugees, was achieved
through a compromise which reintroduced Russia and the UN into
the Balkan procedure, and allowed NATO troops to occupy Kosovo.
Such an agreement?between the Belgrade regime and the major
powers, and excluding the Kosovar resistance?has  a conflictual
and reactionary content, which we must analyse and fight against,
while supporting the right of the Yugoslav and Kosovar peoples to
take charge of their own destiny.

The consequences of the war and our tasks

A) In Yugoslavia and in the Balkans

1) In Kosovo.

11- The agreement which stopped NATO's attacks and made possible
the withdrawal of the Serbian army and police has resulted in a
military occupation of Kosovo mainly by NATO troops and the
establishment of a big power protectorate under a UN mandate.

The massive and rapid return of the Albanian-speaking Kosovo
expellees gave an initial legitimacy to the presence of the
international interposition force ? although this is the least
reparation that could be made for a war that was a catalyst for
(not an obstacle to) the worst ethnic cleansing committed by the
Serbian forces. Of course from the Kosovo Albanians' point of
view the protectorate breaks the Serbian yoke, but it is at the
antipodes of what the peace accords claim to be establishing: "a
multi-ethnic and tolerant Kosovo". There is no plan to recognise
the right of the Kosovar population to express their views about
their own future.

KFOR (the multinational interposition force in Kosovo) says it is
incapable of protecting the non-Albanian minorities that are
massively fleeing from the province. All this can encourage the
growing doubts in public opinion about the real goals (or at
least about their "effectiveness" in reaching their supposed
goals) of the war and protectorate. This is in conflict with both
Belgrade and the Kosovar pro-independence forces. On the one hand
it is formally maintaining Serbian sovereignty over the province
and the external frontier of Yugoslavia?which suggests the
theoretical possibility of the return of Belgrade troops. But in
practice it is making the Deutschmark the official currency of
Kosovo at the expense of the Yugoslav dinar. On the other hand
the power of the big powers is coming into conflict with the
aspirations of the KLA for independence and with its will to
control the province's institutions.

Just as in the old colonial days, an "administrator" of Kosovo
has been appointed. The "administrator's" troops will be present
for years, maybe decades. For the moment, this Protectorate
excludes the option of ethnic partition. But the reorganisation
of Serb paramilitarys, and their entry into the
(French-controlled) northern part of Mitrovica could lead to a
new spiral of ethnic cleansing.

The various political forces of the Kosovar resistance are
demanding the establishment of an army and police force based on
the Kosovars' own decision-making. This is a legitimate demand.
So is the demand for democratic self-administration, in place of
a UN Protectorate.

The lasting presence of foreign troops and organisations will be
a source, as in Bosnia, of very great social inequality,
corruption and dependence ? along with the acceleration of
privatisation, which is a source of the same mafia-type disasters
as in neighbouring Bosnia. Our objective is to help Kosovar civil
society and in particular its young people and its workers - men
and women - to take control of their own future, their defence
and their institutions as quickly as possible in a democratic
framework. The development of international links, particularly
on the trade-union level through a continuation of International
Workers Aid for Bosnia will be essential in this context.

12 - Right of self-determination for the Kosovars; respect for
minorities; and solidarity among the peoples of the Balkans.

Hesitations about defending this right derive from the fear that
it will only lead to growing fragmentation and the building of
ethnically pure states. But a selective approach to the right of
self-determination or its rejection necessarily imply accepting
that might makes right and accepting the Big Powers' arbitrary

Our intransigent defence of peoples' right to self-determination
does not mean that we support a universal solution of "one people
one state". But it means that the people themselves have to
decide in a given, changing, context. The defence of this right
is inseparable from a struggle for political and ethnic
pluralism, against all policies of ethnic cleansing and for equal
treatment for all communities.

Albanians constituted 80% of the population of Kosovo. After Tito
died, Milosevic's first act, in 1989, was to abolish the Statute
of Autonomy which Kosovo had enjoyed within the Yugoslav
Federation. It was replaced by an apartheid regime, with a system
of 'national preference' installed  for the Serbs.

The only democratic and political solution is through the
self-determination of the people of Kosovo. Through a democratic
consultative process, they must decide on their future. If they
want independence, they should have it.

Self determination means that the Kosovo people should freely
decide on their own political regime, their relations with other
peoples, the status of Kosovo, its future, and its relations with
the Belgrade government.  This should all be done by a free
choice, through a democratic consultation. Federation can only
work if it is freely accepted by each of the components.

 It is for the people of Kosovo to decide, though while
respecting the rights of Kosovo's minorities (Serbs, Roma,

Such a process is the only guarantee that all the communities
will define the rules and the institutions necessary for
cohabitation and equality. On the other hand, increasing tension,
and any desire to impose things on the minority will surely lead
to war and ethnic cleansing.

In September 1991, Kosovo's underground authorities organised a
referendum, in which 87% of the population participated, of which
99% voted for a sovereign republic?leaving open the question of
this republic's relationship to the neighbouring states. This
choice has been confirmed in all the subsequent elections
organised by Kosovo' s 'parallel' society. The elected
'president,' Ibrahim Rugova, was in favour of independence, but
Kosovars disagreed as to how this independence should be

After the mass deportation of Albanians from Kosovo?organised by
Milosevic?it is clear that a large majority of Kosovars are
sympathetic to the call for an independent Kosovo. We support
this legitimate aspiration. No-one has the right to force the
Kosovars to remain in a Yugoslav federation led by the regime
which organised the purges.

Equitable solutions and reciprocal rights can be realised for all
the peoples concerned only on the Balkan level. This is why we
defend both the Kosovars' right to self-determination along with
respect for all minorities and the necessity of links between the
peoples and workers of this region, so as to build regional
relationships of solidarity, cooperation, and social, cultural
and political equality.

2) NATO's war has solved nothing; rather it has increased the
main danger that it was meant to ward off, the risk of further
Balkan explosions.

21- Far from facilitating the overthrow of Milosevic on the basis
of a political clarification and progressive critique of his
politics, the NATO war has confused things more than ever and
made it still more difficult for a coherent, progressive
opposition to emerge.

Milosevic has consolidated his power by playing every card:
appealing to anti-bureaucratic mobilisations which made it
possible for him to consolidate his power against his rivals in
the first place ? and relying on bureaucratic and clientelist
mechanisms to control the enterprises; references to the Titoist,
anti-fascist, Yugoslav past ? and a radical break with this past
through an alliance with Serb nationalist currents with
anti-communist traditions; support for the secessionist
aspirations and policies of the Serb minorities in Croatia and
Bosnia relying on extreme-right ultra-nationalism and its
paramilitary militias ? and then support for "peace plans" which
meant breaking with his former allies. He thus appeared socially
more protective than his neo-liberal opponents and more moderate
than his extreme right ? while he borrowed part of the
extreme-right programme.

Milosevic is neither Hitler nor an anti-fascist. His political
and programmatic alliance with Seselj's Radical Party and its
militias is criminal. Just as criminal is the incorporation of
extreme-right currents and orientations into the Tudjman regime
in Croatia. And on this level the lack of symmetry in the media's
and politicians' treatment of Milosevic and Tudjman comes down
very largely to a soft spot for those who identify with
neo-liberalism and with anti-communism. To turn this hypocritical
asymmetry upside down and support Milosevic as a "progressive"
does not make any more sense.

Alone and unarmed, the Kosovo people were the victims of real
ethnic cleansing, carried out by the ultranationalist Serb
militias which became so infamous in Bosnia. During 1998 Serb
forces pushed about 200,000 Kosovars out of their homes. In the
first week of the NATO intervention,  a further 400,000 Kosovars
were pushed to the borders. Just before the NATO intervention,
Milosevic increased his aggression against the Kosovo Albanians.
No-one can say that they did not know what was happening.  That
the nature of the Milosevic regime was not clear, after the years
of war in Croatia and Bosnia, and after the Srebrenica massacres.
The Milosevic regime should be opposed. Its barbarian practices
and its ideology based on ethnic separation or ethnic domination
are just as dangerous as any other racist and xenophobic

To stay in power, the Milosevic regime  embraced a great-Serbian
nationalism, which promised to bring all Serbs together in one
state, through ethnic cleansing of a range of territories. These
are crimes against humanity and war crimes. Those responsible
should be prosecuted by the International Penal Tribunal in the

It is up to the Yugoslav population and particularly the Serbs ?
and not NATO ? to draw up the final balance sheet of the
tragedies to which Milosevic's policies have led.

The indictment of Milosevic and the conditions made for economic
aid push a good number of the former supporters of "Greater
Serbia" to "launder" themselves in "radical" campaigns for the
resignation of Milosevic, a demand which replaces any real
programme. They can base themselves on the aspiration to peace
and to receive Western loans in order to rebuild a ruined country
? as well as on the accumulated disillusionment with Milosevic's
regime. But the bitterness at NATO's policies also goes very
deep, which makes the outcome of elections uncertain. The great
majority of Serb refugees from Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia may
provide an electoral base for the extreme-right Radical Party.

We denounce the way in which the Serbian people has been taken
hostage twice, first by the war, then by economic strangulation
(the population of Montenegro for its part was subjected to
strangulation by Belgrade).

We also have to fight against the selective ? and thus political
? character of the International War Crimes Tribunal (IWCT)'s
actions. Not that we reject the IWCT nor its indictment of
Milosevic but we demand the prosecution of all the criminals and
the extension of penal action under international law to the NATO
leaderships, ie the imperialist governments.

22- The overall mechanisms of privatisation that accelerated the
break-up of the Titoist federation, as well as the maintenance in
power of a strong coalition between Milosevic's party and
Seselj's Radical Party, will continue to have disintegrative
effects, particularly in Montenegro. The loss of Kosovo is
reinforcing a political offensive by Milosevic, in alliance with
Seselj, around Bosnia. This could lead to a relaunching of
military action with the goal of partitioning Bosnia-Herzegovina
? gaining territory there, while definitively abandoning any
claim on Kosovo.

At the same time, the risks of a break-up of Macedonia still
exist, since it has not responded in a satisfactory way to the
demands of its Albanian population.

23- We therefore need to develop solidarity and trade-union,
grassroots and feminist links on a Balkan scale against the
predominant reactionary policies in order to prepare from below a
progressive recomposition of the links among peoples.

The growing awareness of the risks, of the (un-admitted)
disasters of the war and of the overlapping national questions in
the whole of Balkan Europe is the source of the proposal for a
"Stability Pact", which was signed in Sarajevo on 31 July 1999 by
all the region's governments ? except Serbia's. The NATO
governments will offer their multinationals the chance to rebuild
the infrastructure destroyed by their war. As in Bosnia and
elsewhere in the neoliberal universe, bribes in order to win
privatisation contracts will accompany this "Pact" with its goal
of "stabilisation", which will be contradicted by the socially
disintegrative logic and social austerity policies involved in
building neoliberal Europe.

This is the logic that we must oppose on the scale of the whole

B) The dimension of the "world order"

Expansion of NATO, of "humanitarian" neo-colonialism and of
militarism: this is the disastrous balance sheet of this war.
Nonetheless, even if on a limited scale so far, we may see the
emergence as well of an anti-militarist, anti-imperialist "civic
consciousness" based on demands for control over government
policies and for equal power and respect for all peoples.

1) Claiming to up hold the rule of law, NATO's war has meant a
flagrant violation of democratic rights, even the most limited
ones, of the countries involved. Parliaments have been confronted
with fait accomplis. In some cases the constitution has even been
violated (this is the case of Italy whose constitution explicitly
forbids recourse to war). This has been a real trauma in Germany.

The evasion of procedures for parliamentary control, as well as
those of the UN, obviously do not mean that the same decisions to
go to war taken by parliaments or by the UN or the specific
content of the peace agreements are defensible in our eyes. But
the demands for public control and radical contestation of an
imperialist order are at stake. It is not an innocent thing for
decisions to go to war (which are particularly serious forms of
intervention) to be taken by people who claim to act in the name
of the "international community" without most of the countries of
the world or public opinion having anything to say about it.
Although they are all obviously part of a world order dominated
by the imperialist powers, the UN, the OSCE and NATO are not
identical institutions on this level.

2) On the occasion of its 50th anniversary NATO has redefined its
reason for existence, its strategic goals and its rules of
behaviour, although the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact should
have (and should still) put its dissolution on the agenda.
Relaunching arms spending is once more on the agenda in every
region of the world, with all the inevitable consequences for
national budgets and social policies.

21 - The United States are themselves "profiting" from the Kosovo
experience by planning improvements and a supplementary research
effort in order to supply itself with still more sophisticated
and powerful means of destruction.

Japan and Germany have also experienced a radical change in the
"peaceful" attitude that they adopted after their defeat in the
Second World War.

Taken as a whole, the countries of the European Union are at a
turning point. If they do not want to be outclassed by their
ally/rival, the US, they have to make a maximum effort to reduce
the yawning chasm that currently exists between them at the
military level. After monetary convergence it is military
convergence and an increase in military spending that are on the
agenda ? even while the restrictive logic of the EU's budget
continues in force.

The mergers among arms multinationals, as in other fields, are
also at stake in the political decisions made by the Big Powers,
which will lead to growing disquiet and an arms race in the rest
of the world, particularly in China.

22 - At the same time, suspicion of NATO has also revived in the
public opinion of most countries of Eastern Europe and the
European Union, in contradiction to the unconditional support
given by their governments. The balance sheet of this war in
terms of of ecological, material, human and political disasters
will help to delegitimate it.

Our condemnation of this war is both moral and political. It
flows from our opposition both to the political and economic
interests of the big powers and to the overall strategy that they
have concretely deployed in pursuit of its supposed immediate
goals: pacifying Kosovo and defending human rights. The
pseudo-negotiations, the bombing to compel signature of an
"agreement", using civilian populations as hostages, establishing
a protectorate to block peoples' right to self-determination ?
all this is characteristic of the intrinsic arrogance of big

The fact that a country like Turkey?where human rights and the
rights of a national minority are trodden underfoot?took part
directly in NATO's bombing by opening its air bases to it is in
itself sufficient to demonstrate the completely hypocritical
character of the propaganda about humanitarian intervention.

A discussion and systematic balance sheets of this war in the
different European parliaments should lead to challenges to a
European "security" policy and to an international campaign for
dissolution of NATO.

3) In the short term the European Union still has a considerable
power of attraction in Eastern European and Balkan countries.
Projects for Balkan regroupments are often perceived (or
presented by the dominant parties) as diversions meant to slow
down admission to the EU. We should refuse to counterpoise
rapprochements among Balkan peoples in a community of states and
the links that they seek to the European Union. We must oppose
the logic of building the European Union as a neoliberal fortress
of rich countries.

In the face of the destruction caused by the war, declarations
about openings towards the East and the Balkans have been
multiplying. But they contradict the current austerity budgets
and are oriented towards militarist priorities that will cut
social programmes more than ever to bare bones. We must therefore
both oppose the current socioeconomic and political logic of the
European Union and propose its unconditional opening to all
countries that want to join ? but this implies a completely
different project, which must be redefined through a constituent
process that breaks with the existing EU treaties. A different
Europe must redefine itself through a co-operative approach that
respects the rights of peoples to decide for themselves.

We must push this perspective forwards by developing European
links, particularly throughout the Balkan region, with the
political, trade-union, feminist and youth forces that resist
every form of reactionary policies. But from this moment on we
must be in favour of any policy of aid for reconstruction of the
countries devastated by this war ? while demanding that they not
be condition on "structural adjustment" policies and that they be
subject to public, pluralist control.

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