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The Internationalist
April 1999

U.S./UN/NATO Out of the Balkans!

Defend Yugoslavia –
Defeat the Imperialist Attack!

 Belgrade burning on the first night of bombing attacks by U.S./NATO warplanes. 

Against All the Murderous Bourgeois Nationalists–
For a Socialist Federation of the Balkans!
Smash Imperialism Through International Socialist Revolution!

Once again there is war in Europe. On March 24, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization launched massive air attacks against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In one week of bombing, some 430 NATO warplanes launched more than 400 missiles and dropped 1,900 tons of bombs on the Balkan republic.  Now, under prodding from Washington, the 19-member imperialist alliance has decided to start bombing downtown Belgrade. This will be wanton slaughter. And it is not just the U.S.: once again the Luftwaffe is raining death from the skies over southeast Europe. The last time around, in 1941, the German air force killed 17,000 inhabitants of the Yugoslav capital. Then their warplanes bore the swastika of Hitler’s Third Reich, today they bear the Iron Cross of the Fourth Reich of German imperialism. As they huddle in shelters, it is no wonder that the Serbian population compares today’s NATO assault with Nazi terror bombing. 

In the second imperialist world war, Hitler’s legions marched across the continent seeking to establish a German-dominated fascist New Order in Europe. Today, with Social Democrats in office in five of the seven leading European powers, the “democratic” imperialists drop their bombs in the name of “human rights.” This is a mere pretext. For Washington, the war against the Serbs–coming on top of its December bombing and continuing missile attacks on Iraq, as well as the strike against Sudan and Afghanistan last August–is all about imposing a U.S.-dominated New World Order. The purpose is to establish NATO’s “credibility,” to show that it “means business” when it issues its ultimatums. This is “human rights imperialism.” The attack on Yugoslavia is clearly intended as a warning to Russia, laying the basis for Western imperialist intervention in the oil-rich Caucasus, for example. And it is aimed at keeping the U.S.’ imperialist allies in check, forestalling a European military action outside the framework of NATO. Amid escalating interimperialist rivalries, this marks a step toward a new imperialist world war

The victims of NATO’s bombs already number in the hundreds, and soon there will be many more. But the imperialists are far from invulnerable. Already one of the U.S.’ high-tech F117 “stealth” bombers has been brought down by Yugoslav antiaircraft fire. Meanwhile, Yugoslav working people vow to resist: workers at an auto plant occupied the factory, saying to NATO that if it is bombed it will be deliberate murder of more than 1,000 people. The Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International call on the workers movement and all defenders of the oppressed to mobilize against the murderous imperialist aggression and to defend its intended victims. We demand: U.S./UN/NATO Out of the Balkans! Defend Yugoslavia–Defeat the Imperialist Attack! The IG and LFI also raise the following slogans: “For Workers Action Against Imperialist Aggression, Build a Revolutionary Workers Party!” “UCK/KLA Are Imperialist Puppets–No NATO Colonial Protectorate in Kosovo!” “Against All the Murderous Bourgeois Nationalists, For a Socialist Federation of the Balkans!” and “Smash Imperialism through International Socialist Revolution!”

Imperialist Bombs and Lies

While the Pentagon and NATO HQ in Brussels talk of “surgical strikes” and “pinpoint bombing” as they rain death on the Serb population, the imperialist governments and media march in lock-step, carpetbombing the rest of the world with war propaganda. The war was launched, they say, because Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic refused to accept a “peace settlement” for the region of Kosovo supposedly negotiated at the French castle of Rambouillet. These “negotiations” consisted of an imperialist diktat which would have set up a colonial protectorate in Kosovo, under the boot of 28,000 NATO troops (now called “peacekeepers”). As he announced the attack, U.S. president Bill Clinton claimed that this barbaric onslaught was a “moral imperative” in order to “save” the Albanian population of the Yugoslav region of Kosovo from “ethnic cleansing.” In fact, the NATO attack has produced a mass exodus of Kosovar Albanians as the Yugoslav army moves to secure the borders and attack the imperialist puppets of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK). 

Proletarian internationalists denounce the vicious nationalist policies of the murderous bourgeois nationalist Milocevic, but NATO’s war to impose an imperialist colonial protectorate is an incomparably greater danger to mankind–and to the Kosovars in particular. They are being sacrificed just as the Iraqi Kurds were in the aftermath of the U.S.-led Desert Slaughter against Iraq.

As NATO commanders bomb Belgrade, their political leaders claim they are averting “genocide.” Such talk is grotesque coming from German politicians who administer the affairs of the capitalist ruling class that financed and armed Hitler and built the death camps for the Holocaust that killed six million Jews–as well as millions of Slavs, Communists, Roma (gypsies), homosexuals and anyone else the Nazis considered Untermenschen (subhuman).  Within the last month it was officially revealed that the Deutsche Bank supplied credits to finance the construction of Auschwitz and the production of the Zyklon-B gas used there. And now the bourgeoisie of Auschwitz accuses the Serbs of genocide! 

American imperialism, in turn, slaughtered tens of thousands of Japanese in the A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, over one million Koreans in the Korean War, over two million Vietnamese and other Indochinese peoples in the Vietnam War. Documentary evidence has recently been released showing that the genocidal Guatemalan regime sponsored by Washington in the course of three decades wiped out well over 100,000 of that Central American country’s Mayan Indians. Washington’s starvation blockade has killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children over the last eight years. And the United States itself was built on genocide. Its bourgeois rulers “ethnically cleansed” the vast majority of the indigenous Indian population from their ancestral lands, slaughtering tens of thousands and herding the survivors into “reservations” (the word concentration camp hadn’t yet been invented by the Nazis). 

The idea of the White House claiming a moral imperative for anything is ludicrous. Today Clinton cites the “massacre of Racak,” where 43 Albanians were killed, to justify the bombing of Yugoslavia. He conveniently left out that there had been an all-day military battle between the Yugoslav army and the UCK at that site, as well as a number of aspects that have been questioned even by pro-NATO French reporters who were on the scene. Yet Clinton is the capitalist politician who in 1993 cynically ordered the FBI/ATF/National Guard assault that massacred 86 men, women and more than two dozen children at a compound of an inoffensive religious group in Waco, Texas. His excuse then was to “save the children” from alleged child abuse. At the same time he was threatening to bomb Bosnian Serbs (as he did two years later), and to deprive millions of mothers and children of food and shelter in order to “end welfare as we know it” (which Democrat Clinton and the Republican Congress did three years later). We say: Democrats, Republicans Murder Iraqis, Serbs, Starve Welfare Moms, Kids

In order to justify the NATO bombing, the imperialist governments and media now portray Yugoslav president Milosevic as combination of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot. In fact, he is a fairly standard murderous bourgeois nationalist strongman. Far from being a “holdover from communism,” already in the mid-1980s this Stalinist hack was hobnobbing with the imperialist financiers as a high-level official of the World Bank in Washington. As the Stalinist-ruled bureaucratically deformed workers states of East Europe were tottering in the late-’80s, Milosevic took up the banner of counterrevolutionary Serb nationalism. He came to political prominence by staging a giant Serb nationalist rally bashing Kosovar Albanians in 1989, blatantly appealing to Chetnik and Orthodox religious symbolism. The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, founded by Josip Broz Tito, grew out of the partisan (guerrilla) struggle against the German and Italian fascist occupiers and their puppets during World War II and against Serb royalist Chetniks

While calling his bourgeois political vehicle the Serbian Socialist Party, Milosevic has been aligned for years with fascistic Serbian nationalist elements such as Zeljko Raznjatovic, known as Arkan, and his “Tiger” death squads. But this hardly makes the Serb strongman unique among the feuding bourgeois nationalists. Croatia is ruled by a fascistic regime headed by Franjo Tudjman, an anti-Semite who declared the Holocaust was a hoax and who praises the Ustashe government of Ante Pavelic, a Nazi puppet who slaughtered tens of thousands of Jews, Serbs and Communists in his concentration camps. Nor do Milosevic & Co. have a monopoly on fostering murderous nationalist pogroms: the largest single example of “ethnic cleansing” in the former Yugoslavia was the expulsion of 250,000 Serbs from Croatia in 1995, in an operation planned with the aid of former U.S. generals advising Tudjman’s army. Meanwhile, Bosnian Islamic president Izetbegovic, who systematically drove the Serbs out of Sarajevo, was an official in a corps of Bosnian mercenary troops who served the Nazis in World War II. 

All-sided nationalist bloodletting was the instrument for tearing apart Yugoslavia, as part of the wave of counterrevolutions sponsored by the imperialist powers throughout East Europe and the former USSR. Capitalism, after all, is based on the nation-state. And among the bitter fruits of capitalist restoration are the escalating interethnic conflicts stoked by bourgeois politicians seeking to carve out their field for exploitation in the imperialist New World Disorder ushered in by the destruction of the Soviet Union. 

Milosevic’s Serbian nationalist crusade certainly helped set the stage for the counterrevolution in Yugoslavia, pushing other nationalities into the arms of the Tudjmans and Izetbegovics. But the final push for the destruction of the multinational deformed workers state was given by the German Fourth Reich under Helmut Kohl, which together with Austria lined up European Union support for the declarations of independence by Slovenia and Croatia in mid-1991 (and secretly shipped them Soviet arms from the stocks it had acquired in annexing East Germany the year before). From the early years of the 20th century, Germany’s imperialist rulers have sought to extend their sway to the Balkans, annexing (politically and/or economically) the areas that were formerly part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and gaining access to the mineral-rich areas in the south. In World Wars I and II, the Second and Third Reichs of German imperialism declared that “Serbia must die.” Today the Fourth Reich follows suit. 

UCK: Not Freedom Fighters 
But Imperialist Puppets

In Tito’s Yugoslavia, Kosovo had the status of an autonomous province of Serbia. In 1980-81, following Tito’s death, there was a student-led revolt in Kosovo, and in 1989 Milosevic canceled the province’s autonomous status. Marxists recognize the right of self-determination of the Kosovar Albanian population, including the right to separation from a Yugoslavia dominated by Serb chauvinism. However, those such as the Kosovo Liberation Army who are today ostensibly fighting for independence are in fact inviting the imperialists to establish a colonial protectorate. And in the face of the NATO assault this question is superseded by the need to defend Yugoslavia and all the Balkan peoples against imperialist attack. 

Moreover, the exercise of this democratic right must not be at the expense of the rights of other peoples. In areas of interpenetrated populations, the conflicting rights of different nations and nationalities occupying the same territory make it impossible to equitably realize these democratic rights under capitalism, where one national group is inevitably set against another in competition for scarce resources. Such regions characterized by a patchwork of nations, nationalities and pre-national peoples are generally located in the historical crossroads between different empires, such as the Near East. The Balkans, where the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires abutted each other for centuries, is another such region. 

In Kosovo the large majority of the population has long been Albanian, a non-Slavic people whose language is not related to the dominant Yugoslav language of Serbo-Croat. Nevertheless, Albanian and Serb communities were interspersed and the population was intermingled in the towns. If today Albanians constitute over 80 percent of the Kosovo population, this is in good part the result of a drive by Albanian nationalists over the last two decades to push Serbs out of the region, with considerable success. And as nationalist tensions were exploited in the service of capitalist counterrevolution and continued to escalate amid the ethnic civil wars, the Kosovo “liberation” movement has been entirely subordinate to imperialism. Those ostensible socialists who today raise the call for Kosovar independence are in fact acting as henchmen of imperialism. 

The Kosovo Democratic League of Ibrahim Rugova has long been a creature of the Western imperialists, particularly the United States, which has funneled large sums in “humanitarian” funds to support its educational and quasi-governmental institutions. By the late 1990s, however, Rugova’s brand of passive resistance had become discredited and a younger generation of Kosovar dissidents began to coalesce around the UCK (Ushtria Clirimtare e Kosoves–Kosovo Liberation Army). Western governments and the “free but responsible” bourgeois press portray the UCK as “freedom fighters.” They are nothing of the sort. The UCK is a mercenary “army,” bought and paid for, trained, supplied and outfitted by the NATO powers. Today it acts as a cover for the imposition of NATO rule–the real content of the Rambouillet “accords”–as the imperialists continue to dismember what remains of Yugoslavia. Revolutionary Marxists can give no support to these imperialist puppets.

While its founders include former supporters of Enver Hoxha’s Albania, the UCK has received economic support from exiles in Germany who fled after the collapse of the Third Reich and the defeat of the postwar Kosovo uprising led by Albanians who had been part of a Nazi-organized militia. More importantly, this misnamed “liberation army” is actually a creation of the German Fourth Reich. Last fall, the “Monitor” program (24 September 1998) of the ARD German television network aired a special report in which it reported that as early as 1990-91, German military intelligence (Militärische Abschirmdienst–MAD) supplied “electronic and optical surveillance equipment along with other intelligence material to the Albanian secret service,” and that “via the Albanian secret service the military supplies from Germany ultimately reached the UCK Albanian separatist army in Kosovo.” 

Even the most cursory reader of the imperialist press must wonder where this “liberation army” came from. Until early 1998, almost no one had heard of it, and then suddenly last spring it launched a widescale military operation. How did this come about? The Albanian uprising last year, in which thousands of Kalashnikovs were looted from government arsenals, certainly plays a role. Some of those arms ended up in the hands of the UCK. Yet the soldiers of this Kosovo Liberation Army are outfitted in German uniforms, and carry high-power German arms. Its leaders travel around rural Kosovo in expensive brand-new 4x4 all-terrain vehicles. Pictures are published of “training schools” for UCK officers. All this cannot be financed through the donations of Kosovo exiles–it requires direct state support, which it received from Bonn and Berlin just as the Croatians and Slovenians had before. 

But as also occurred in Croatia and Bosnia, the U.S. has now decisively moved in. While the German imperialists’ main aim has been to attack Serbia, which they see as an obstacle to their expansionist plans, the American imperialists want to enforce their “New World Order.” While taking over the financing and training of the UCK, supplying it with CIA minders, offering trips to the Pentagon, etc., the U.S. has sought to subordinate these “independence fighters” to its own interests. Washington wants to establish a new role for NATO as a U.S.-dominated military alliance that will continue to “keep the Russians out, the Germans down and the Americans in” Europe, even after the destruction of the Soviet bloc. The Pentagon currently commands 25,000-plus NATO troops in Bosnia and a 12,000-strong NATO “rapid reaction force” in Macedonia (where several hundred U.S. troops have been stationed for a number of years), while the U.S. has quietly maintained a satellite-tracking station in northern Albania.

In fact, the UCK is closely tied to the right-wing Mafia-connected former Albanian president Berisha, who was overthrown in a chaotic upheaval in 1997. While a host of  pseudo-leftists eagerly hailed a mythical “Albanian Revolution,” the Albanian state simply fell apart and gangster elements established their local bailiwicks. The current “Socialist” government is largely powerless, particularly in the northern part of the country still controlled by Berisha’s supporters and where the UCK’s rear bases are located. There are also numerous reports tracing part of the UCK’s considerable financial resources to drug trafficking.

For Proletarian Internationalism, 
Not Murderous Bourgeois Nationalism!

It is striking that the NATO war on Yugoslavia has been launched not by Reagan/Thatcher rightists but by governments led by social democrats in Europe and the Democratic Party in the United States. Clinton’s “New Democrats” in Washington, Blair’s “New Labour” in London, Jospin’s Socialists in Paris, Schröder’s Social Democrats in Berlin, D’Alema’s Democratic Left in Rome–these are the warmongers of today. Even NATO general secretary Solana is a member of the Spanish Socialists. This is no accident. Following counterrevolution in the Soviet degenerated workers state and throughout East Europe, imperialist rivalries (once held in check by anti-Communist common interests) have been heating up. 

Following the introduction of the euro on January 1, whose purpose is to compete with the U.S. dollar, European and American imperialists have been at each other’s throats in a bizarre “banana war” over exports from their respective neocolonies. History shows that trade wars lead to shooting wars, and as the bourgeoisies gird for war, preparing to send their young men (and some young women) off to die for Kosovo, they seek to overcome pacifist sentiment among the masses by looking to the “people’s parties” of capitalist rule. Where these take the form of reformist (bourgeois) workers parties, their allegiance to capitalism is often guaranteed through “popular fronts” with bourgeois parties such as the Greens, Radicals and offshoots of Christian Democracy. 

From Hamburg to Vienna, the German-language bourgeois press hails the fact that Germany has become a “self-conscious, normal” country–meaning, “no more apologies” for Nazism. Today Tornado jets of the Luftwaffe attack Yugoslavia while Leopard tanks of the Bundeswehr rev up their engines in Macedonia. German troops land in Thessalonika, site of a mass deportation of 50,000 Sephardic Jews to the Nazi death camps in World War II (in which former Austrian president and UN general secretary Kurt Waldheim took part). And this is carried out by a government of Social Democrats (SPD) and ex-New Left environmentalists. SPD chancellor Gerhard Schröder was a youthful leftist in the 1960s, a leader of Jusos (Young Socialists) when they denounced West German “Stamokap” (state monopoly capitalism); now he is the Stamokap chief. Green foreign minister Josef Fischer was a street fighter in the Revolutionary Struggle group in Frankfurt. SPD war minister Rudolf Scharping was active in the “peace” movement of the ’80s. But they all were and are German nationalists.

If this war had been unleashed by parties of the right, there would likely be hundreds of thousands in the streets today. The fact that there are only some tens of thousands protesting, and many of them Serb nationalists, is due to the reformists’ role in defending the interests of their respective bourgeoisies. In France and Italy, the long-since social-democratized “Communist” parties issue pro forma “protests” while dutifully respecting cabinet discipline, if in office, or confining themselves to maneuvering in parliament, if in “opposition.” If ground troops are sent in, shiploads of war materiel will have to be sent by sea from the French port of Toulon, where determined strike action by dock workers could block their movement. NATO bombers regularly take off from air bases in Italy, where a class-conscious workers movement could mobilize masses to surround them, hindering ground delivery of supplies. Any serious attempt to mobilize mass working-class opposition to the war would likely already have brought down the shaky government in Rome. None of that has happened. 

In Germany, the ex-Stalinist social democrats of the PDS (Party of Democratic Socialism) dutifully fulfill their tasks as the loyal opposition. While the PDS voted in the Bundestag against sending German troops to Yugoslavia, PDS leader Gregor Gysi coyly hinted that UN troops would be another matter. A PDS leaflet for a March 25 demonstration in Hamburg criticized the NATO bombing for “negating the monopoly on violence of the UN Security Council,” that instrument of imperialist policy that paved the way to the 1990-91 attack on Iraq. Meanwhile, the doddering Stalinists of the DKP (German Communist Party) declare in a March 25 leaflet that SPD leaders “Gerhard Schröder and Rudolf Scharping do not stand in the line of tradition of the Constitution [Grundgesetz] or of Nobel peace prize winner Willy Brandt....” What a travesty! Brandt was the social-democratic point man for the Cold War crusade against the DDR, the East German deformed workers state, and the West German constitution was the basis on which hundreds of ostensible Communists, including many DKP supporters, were thrown out of their jobs through blacklisting (Berufsverbot)!! 

As the social-patriotic reformists sit comfortably in their ministerial chairs and parliamentary seats, the ostensible “far leftists” give them extra-parliamentary support. To be sure, a panoply of social-democratic fake-Trotskyists call for an end to the bombing (as do Labourite Tony Benn and Hamburg’s Social-Democratic mayor Harald Voscherau). But they assiduously avoid calling for defense of Yugoslavia. In Britain, Peter Taaffe’s Socialist Party calls for “no trust in the capitalist powers” and “self-determination for Kosova.” The equally reformist Communist Party of Great Britain attacks Benn from the right for his statement that the UCK was “armed and funded by Germany,” saying that whether or not this is true, the UCK is fighting a “just war.” Criticizing the NATO attack “does not mean support for Serbia,” says the CPGB, making crystal clear that it doesn’t support “the enemy.” Her Majesty’s pseudo-socialist “opposition” just want to respectfully suggest an alternative policy for imperialism. 

As the Soviet Union was unravelling in 1990, the Workers Power group and its League for a Revolutionary Communist International (WP/LRCI) drew out this counterrevolutionary logic by calling on Thatcher’s Tory government to arm the fascistic Sajudis nationalists in Lithuania. Following this same line, a leaflet by the LRCI group in Germany, Arbeitermacht, distributed at a March 27 “antiwar” rally in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz, after some ritual “peace” rhetoric (an end to the Bundeswehr deployment, stop the NATO attack, no NATO troops in Kosovo, etc.) and even a nod toward defense of Serbia and Yugoslavia, ends up calling for “Serb troops out of Kosovo”–the very same demand as NATO’s justification for the bombing–and for “Arms for the freedom movement in Kosovo!” which is the same line as many right-wing bourgeois forces. A March 26 leaflet by the LRCI’s Austrian outfit, ArbeiterInnenstandpunkt, goes even further, saying that “in Kosovo we cannot therefore presently support either the Serbian repressive forces or NATO,” and calling for “critical support of the UCK.” Yet NATO is using the UCK to spearhead its attack on Yugoslavia in Kosovo, with the “critical support” of the WP/LRCI opportunists! 

The German affiliate of the fast disappearing United Secretariat of the late Ernest Mandel, the RSB (Revolutionary Socialist League), argues that instead of NATO troops there should be “a significant number of [UN] blue helmets escorting [Albanian] refugees back to their homes” (Avanti, November 1998). The German Mandelites and the rest of this crowd look to the example of the “Workers Aid to Bosnia,” in which assorted pseudo-Trotskyists raised money and supplies for “multi-ethnic” (in reality Islamic-dominated) Bosnia which were then delivered with the aid of U.S. troops and tanks. They end by calling to take up the policy of the American SWP during the Vietnam War, encapsulated in the slogan “Bring the Boys Home.” Unlike these social patriots, Leninists take a side against the bourgeoisie in imperialist war. Our “boys” in the Vietnam War were the Viet Cong! 

In the case of Vietnam, there was a social revolution underway. Today in the rump Yugoslavia there is a murderous bourgeois nationalist regime facing the onslaught of imperialism. While the Milosevic regime is not carrying out the “genocide” the imperialists accuse it of, the Serbian nationalists have plenty of ultra-rightist killers who are more than willing to supply the dead Albanian bodies that NATO wants in order to justify its own mass murder. Rather than trying to push the entire Albanian population out of Kosovo, the Yugoslav regime seems to be preparing to partition the region–which will necessarily involve brutal forced population transfers, such as the Israeli Zionists carried out in 1948, for example, clearing most Palestinians out of their homes and off their lands. Communists, who stand for proletarian internationalism uniting the working people of all nations, must combat the deadly nationalist attacks of Milosevic & Co. on the Kosovar Albanians and fight Serb chauvinism in anti-NATO protests while opposing the UCK’s drive to get the Serbs out of Kosovo. 

At the same time, we recognize that the vastly greater menace to the working people and oppressed comes from the NATO imperialists, who behind their current “human rights” mask are carrying out mass murder. If the imperialist “democracies” triumph against Yugoslavia, they will simply install another “ethnic cleanser” as they have done in Croatia or Bosnia. Just as Hitler used the Sudeten Germans to dismember Czechoslovakia in 1938, today NATO is using the Kosovo Albanians to dismember what remains of Yugoslavia. The phony “autonomy” or even “independence” for Kosovo would be nothing but a cover for colonial rule, in which any opposition would be crushed by the thousands of “peacekeeping” imperialist troops. On the other hand, a debacle for NATO in Yugoslavia could have repercussions around the world, including in the class struggle in Europe, as the myth of the invincibility of the imperialist order would be shattered. It is in the interests of the workers and oppressed throughout the world to defeat the U.S./NATO juggernaut. Today the imperialists are testing out all their high-tech weaponry in the war on Yugoslavia, just like Hitler used the Condor Legion in Spain to test his Messerschmitt fighter-bombers. Thus the downing of the “invincible” F-117A Stealth bomber is an encouraging sight for victims of imperialism everywhere. 

The only just, equitable and democratic solution to the national question in this turbulent region is through a voluntary socialist federation of the Balkans. This demand was raised by the early Communist International, which incorporated the call for a Balkan federation that was raised by the revolutionary socialists of Bulgaria and Serbia at the time of the First World War. However, it was abandoned due to Stalinist nationalism. When Tito’s Yugoslav CP and the Bulgarian CP under Dimitrov briefly raised the call for a Balkan-Danube federation in the wake of World War II, this was quickly squelched by the Kremlin. And when the Greek CP faced the might of British and U.S. imperialism in a bloody civil war, Tito did nothing to aid it. The outcome was a defeat that was decisive for the whole region. After breaking with Stalin in 1948, Yugoslavia  was only able to exist between the lines of the Cold War with the tolerance of imperialism. When the imperialists no longer saw their interests served by this arrangement, they set about destroying and dismembering the Yugoslav deformed workers state. 

It is not to Tito’s nationalist Stalinist legacy that communists must look in the face of the Yugoslav catastrophe, but to the heritage of the Bolsheviks under Lenin and Trotsky and of proletarian internationalists in the Balkans.  In 1912-1913, two Balkan Wars were fought that set the stage for World War I. In his war correspondence, Leon Trotsky wrote in March 1913: “On the eve of the Balkan War, when all the bourgeois parties in the Balkans were seized with a fit of warlike excitement, the young Social Democratic movement courageously lifted its voice in warning and protest” (Leon Trotsky, The Balkan Wars, 1912-1913). He noted that the Serbian socialist Lapcevic and the Bulgarian socialist Sakazov boldly voted against war credits and denounced the policy of blood and iron. 

Continuing this internationalist tradition, in 1924, the Balkan Communist Federation, bringing together the Communist parties of the region, passed a series of resolutions, including on the national question in Yugoslavia. The resolution noted that “the imperialist treaties have delivered compact groups of Hungarians, Germans and Romanians in northern Voivodina and of Turks, Albanians, Bulgarians and Romanians in Macedonia to the oppression of the Serb bourgeoisie.” The Comintern stressed: 

“The national, political and economic enfranchisement of the Balkan peoples can only be obtained through the common action of the workers and peasants of each Balkan people for the establishment of a government of workers and peasants, and by means of a Confederation of all the working masses of all the Balkan countries, the creation of a federative Balkan Republic.” 
–“Documents sur la question balkanique,” Cahiers du CERMTRI No. 78, September 1995

National wars in the Balkans touched off the first imperialist world war, and they could be the precursor to a third. The counterrevolutionary break-up of Yugoslavia was the result of the collapse of Stalinist rule throughout East Europe. While Tito’s Yugoslavia was multinational, it was still nationalist in character, based on the myth of building “socialism in one country,” the watchword of Stalinism. Socialism, a classless society, can only be built internationally, at the highest level of development of the productive forces. Otherwise, as Marx already predicted a century and a half ago, “all the old crap will return”–as demonstrated by the resurgence of reactionary nationalism. The only way out of this steaming cauldron of national hatreds is international socialist revolution. And what is needed above all is the revolutionary leadership to lead that struggle.

The League for the Fourth International states that it is necessary to build the nuclei of Trotskyist parties throughout the lands of the former Yugoslavia, forged in the struggle to defeat all the murderous bourgeois nationalists. Today, in the fight for a Balkan socialist federation it is crucial to defeat NATO imperialism in the war it has unleashed against the peoples of the region and the working people of the world. Only international proletarian revolution can defeat the growing danger of imperialist world war. 

2 April 1999 

Workers World: Reformist “Socialists”
Who Front for Serb Chauvinism

In the United States, the main organization sponsoring protests against the U.S./NATO attack on Yugoslavia is the Workers World Party (WWP). Far from presenting any kind of socialist opposition to the imperialist attack, in recent demonstrations in New York and Boston, the WWP, through its creation the International Action Center (IAC), has provided a leftist front for reactionary Serbian nationalist politics. 

A demo called by the IAC that gathered outside NYC’s Grand Central Terminal on March 27 was blanketed with signs proclaiming “Kosovo Is Serbia and Always Will Be,” “Albanians Go to Albania” and “We Love Pat Buchanan” (the ultra-rightist Republican America Firster who has opposed Clinton’s bombing). The crowd chanted repeatedly, “We will never give up Kosovo.” 

At another protest on March 31, which marched to the New York Times building to protest that imperialist mouthpiece’s distorted warmongering coverage, signs included “Kosovo Albanians: Seek Independence in Albania!” “Kosovo: Serbia’s Jerusalem” and the ubiquitous “Kosovo Is Serbia.” There were numerous appeals to Orthodox Christianity against the predominantly Muslim Albanians. 

While the WWP/IAC handed out their usual signs for “Stop the Bombing” and “Money for Jobs, Not War,” the overwhelming tenor of these demonstrations was Serbian chauvinism against Kosovo Albanians. 

Workers World has made its trademark the organizing of demos to showcase dissident bourgeois politicians such as black Democrat Jesse Jackson and LBJ’s former top cop Ramsey Clark, who busted Vietnam antiwar demonstrators in Chicago in 1968 and sent the FBI after the Black Panthers. Now Clinton’s man Jackson turns around and supports the U.S. bombing of Iraq. But what do the WWP opportunists care? Such is the logic of the popular front, which ties the workers movement and leftists to sections of the bourgeoisie. 

In contrast, the Internationalist Group and League for the Fourth International call for revolutionary defense of Yugoslavia and for the defeat of the U.S./NATO/UN imperialist attack. We fight for a socialist federation of the Balkans–forged in combat against all the bourgeois nationalist forces, from Milosevic to imperialism’s Albanian puppet army of the UCK–and to smash imperialism through international socialist revolution. 

The WWP’s inveterate tailism is combined with an idiosyncratic brand of Stalinoid politics: Workers World’s founder, the late Sam Marcy, split from the Trotskyist movement after supporting the Stalinist crushing of the 1956 Hungarian workers uprising. In the 1980s Marcy traveled to Pyongyang with other WWPers to embrace North Korean leader Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Il Jong. 

The Marcyites pretend that even after the dismembering of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the rump Yugoslavia is still a “socialist state.” An article on “Kosovo: Imperialist Powers & Self-Determination” in Workers World (25 February) claims: “Today, what is left of the Yugoslav socialist state is resisting a complete counter-revolutionary takeover by the big capitalist powers of Europe and the United States.” 

In a similar vein, the American cheerleaders for Castro Stalinism, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) of Jack Barnes, refer to Washington’s “military assault on the workers state in Yugoslavia” (Militant, 19 October 1998).  The U.S. rulers’ ultimate goal, says the SWP, is “to overthrow the workers state and restore capitalist social relations throughout Yugoslavia.” Yet the bureaucratically deformed workers state has long since been overthrown throughout the former Yugoslavia, all of whose components are now ruled by bourgeois nationalist regimes. 

At the same time as it declares Yugoslavia still a workers state, the Barnesite SWP proclaims its support for the “fight for independence in Kosova”–the same cause championed by bourgeois right-wingers. Opportunists often have trouble keeping straight whom they are chasing after at the moment. 

The WWP and SWP spin out their delusionary fantasies about rump Yugoslavia in order to put a socialist veneer on their utterly reformist politics. In fact, the Milosevic regime itself dropped the word “socialist” from the country’s name back in 1991, and now calls it simply the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Today, the Belgrade government includes the likes of Vojislav Seselj, whose fascistic militias were notorious for their murderous atrocities against Muslims in Bosnia. And it is hailed by the likes of Russian fascistic anti-Semite Vladimir Zhirinovsky. 

Those who turn a blind eye to the undeniable reality that there has been a counterrevolution in Yugoslavia and throughout East Europe inevitably embrace bourgeois political forces, including some of the most reactionary. In the case of Workers World, these opportunist “socialists” end up in a “red-brown” coalition with Serbian Chetnik counterrevolutionaries. ■