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Issue 38, May 1999


    A 'just' war?
    Colluding in ethnic cleansing
    Inner NATO tensions
    When will ground forces go in?
    A patchwork of NATO protectorates
    The right of self-determination
    The way out of the Balkan quagmire

THE BOMBING OF Serbia, justified on the basis of humanitarian aims, has provoked a human catastrophe on a gigantic scale. This is the biggest, most violent deportation of masses of people in Europe since the end of the second world war. Bombs, it was claimed, were the only way to halt Slobodan Milosevic's atrocious campaign of 'ethnic cleansing' - genocidal purging - directed against the Kosovar Albanians (who make up 90% of the population of the province: 'Kosova' in Albanian, 'Kosovo' in Serbian). If the aim of the war was to protect the Kosovars, Nato lost the war in the first few days.

The leaders of the US superpower made a disastrous strategic mistake. They calculated that a few days' bombing would force Milosevic to accept the Rambouillet agreement, which proposed a three-year transition to autonomy for Kosova within Serbia under the supervision of a Nato peace-keeping force. At the same time, Clinton and Blair announced that there would be no land war, handing an incredible tactical advantage to Milosevic. The bombing triggered a ferocious intensification of Milosevic's 'ethnic cleansing' drive. Using the brutal methods already perfected in Bosnia-Hercegovina, Milosevic moved to grab as much Kosovan territory as possible in the early stages of the war.

Bombing, it was claimed, was the only way to protect the Kosovar Albanians. There was no alternative. But could anything be worse than the present situation? Well over 600,000 Kosovar refugees (as we go to press) have been forced to flee across Kosova's borders on tractors, horse carts and by foot. Their homes have been destroyed, their possessions stolen. They have been beaten, shelled, traumatised; and they are now facing an uncertain future in the squalid shambles of the camps in Macedonia and Albania. No plans were made to deal with the flood of refugees which was the entirely predictable result of bombing.

  Tens of thousands of Kosovar Albanian men of 'fighting age' have been tortured and executed by Milosevic's security police and paramilitary gangs. Tens of thousands are missing.

Women have been raped in a systematic campaign of terror. Still within Kosova are at least another 850,000 dispossessed, threatened by murder squads and shelling, as well as hunger and exposure. Could their plight be worse? Predictably, Nato bombing has also claimed the lives of Kosovar Albanian refugees. On 14 April a refugee convoy was bombed from high altitude on the road between Djakovica and Prizren. By relying on bombs and missiles, Clinton - fearing the potential electoral reaction against the use of Nato ground forces and inevitable US casualties - has insisted on a military strategy which minimises the risk to US forces but maximises the risk to the very people Nato claims to be protecting.

Milosevic has mounted a stubborn resistance to the Nato bombing. Yugoslavia's military forces, prepared under Tito to resist a possible Soviet invasion, are dispersed across Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) and prepared for the possibility of a long campaign. Faced with this, Nato has widened the targets from military installations and fighting units to 'strategic targets'. Oil refineries, chemical works, car factories, power stations, railways and bridges, and even television stations - the basis of Serbia's economic and social life - are now being systematically shattered. Inevitably, civilian targets - hospitals, residential areas, passenger trains - have been hit, causing many deaths and injuries.

  Politically, there is no doubt that the bombing has enormously strengthened Milosevic's position, at least for the time being. Under siege conditions, there has not surprisingly been an upsurge of Serbian nationalism. The Nato onslaught has smothered popular discontent about falling living standards, shortages, black-marketeering and corruption and an economy which for months has been sliding towards a deep crisis.

During the winter of 1996-97, the Zajedno (Together) coalition of liberal and social- democratic parties for three months brought out daily anti-Milosevic demonstrations on the streets. All that has changed. Some former opposition leaders (like Draskovic, leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement) have made their peace with Milosevic. Others have retreated to the sidelines, unable to withstand the nationalist upsurge provoked by the bombing.

The rout of the opposition has provided Milosevic with a golden opportunity to crush dissent. Liberal opposition papers have been closed down, as has the radio station B-92. Slavko Curuvija, an outspoken newspaper editor, was murdered in Belgrade. Through the Nato bombing, writes Veran Matic, editor-in-chief of the banned radio B-92, "the sins of the government have been visited on the people. Is this just? With the bombs falling all around them nobody can persuade them that this is only an attack on their government and not on their country". (The Guardian, 14 April)

Blair has spoken of forcing Milosevic to 'step down', and other political leaders in the Nato states have called for a campaign to topple Milosevic. Such a war aim, if it were adopted by Nato, would mean a massive, prolonged assault on Serbia which would shatter the whole basis of society and impose terrible suffering on the Serbian population. Serbia would be left in ruins, like Vietnam and Cambodia after the end of the US intervention in South-East Asia.

War has its own logic, whatever the initial plans of the belligerents. Forced to face up to the difficulties of defeating Milosevic through an air war alone (and no doubt reflecting on the survival of Saddam Hussein's regime), Western leaders, Nato commanders and media commentators are now intensely debating whether - or rather when and under what conditions - to launch a ground war against Milosevic, at least in Kosova itself. This debate, which poses acute problems for the capitalist powers, dominated behind-the-scenes at Nato's 50th anniversary 'celebration' in Washington DC on 23-25 April.

  top     A 'just war'?

THE ARMED ASSAULT on Serbia has been justified by European social-democratic leaders (Blair, d'Alema, Schröder, and Jospin, who head the four major European Nato governments of Britain, Italy, Germany and France) as a 'humanitarian war', a 'just war'. This has been taken up by some of the lefts in the traditional workers' organisations. Nato, they argue, has intervened purely to protect the Kosovar Albanians and to stop Milosevic, whom some of them liken to Hitler. The Western powers, they claim, have no selfish material interest for intervening. This cannot, therefore, be an imperialist war.

This line has been summarised by a Guardian columnist, Polly Toynbee, a supporter of the Liberal-Democrats: "For purity of motive, freedom from self-interest, Kosova is a better place to start than most… (The Kosovars) are dirt poor, with no spoils of war to offer beyond an open-ended obligation to prop-up almost certainly the entire region for the foreseeable future with billions of pounds. Our only booty will be the satisfaction of trying to entrench liberal democracy as far as we can… Search in vain for any advantage for the US or the rest of Nato in this poor rocky bit of land, geo-politically less important now than it has been in several hundred years… This is a just war which is why failure has become unthinkable, impossible". (12 April)

  If the Western powers are so concerned about humanitarian disasters, why did they stand aside during genocidal massacres in Rwanda or the civil war in Chechenya? Where do they stand on the continuing bloody repression by the Indonesian regime in East Timor? Why does Nato maintain its alliance with the Turkish regime, which has inflicted massacres on the Kurds? Why does the US back the state of Israel, which systematically represses the Palestinians? True, there is no immediate material motive for imperialism intervening in the Balkans. Unlike the Gulf there is little or no oil.

Moreover, intervention will be extremely costly. But historically it has often been the case that the imperialist powers have intervened, not for immediate economic gain, but to uphold their power and prestige. Prestige is undoubtedly derived from economic and military power, but it contains an ideological element - the domination of ideas and policy, which are important weapons for imperialism in maintaining its economic and military domination. For the US, it is vital to retain its credibility as a superpower in regions like the Balkans in order to be able to intervene when its fundamental economic interests are threatened. In the broad international perspective, power and prestige are inseperable from economic domination.

  The real considerations underlying Nato's current strategy were clearly summed up by Robert Hunter of the RAND Corporation in Washington and formerly US ambassador to Nato 1993-98: "Judged on its own merits Kosovo remains a strategic backwater, but it has acquired major importance for three reasons: the spectacle of atrocities and forced evacuations unmatched in Europe since world war two; the destabilising impact a mass of refugees spilling over borders can have on neighbours, especially Macedonia; and Nato's major ambitions in Central Europe and beyond for the 21st century. As it found in Bosnia four years ago, Nato cannot ignore a brutal conflict in its own backyard if it is to securre its moral and political credentials as principal guardian of security for a Europe 'whole and free'… Nato's credibility as a alliance rests in the balance". (Wall Street Journal, 13 April) This is the answer to those lefts who think they have discovered the 'humanitarian heart' of the imperialist beast.

For their part, the social-democratic leaders have completely subordinated themselves to Nato - which, in reality, means US imperialism. It is symbolic that the decision to go to war, announced on 23 March, was made by a one-time leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE), Javier Solana Madariaga, who pronounced war against Serbia to be 'a moral duty'. It is absolutely clear that the 19-member Alliance is dominated by the US, which decides Nato's structure, its strategic policy, and its military tactics. The European leaders, like Clinton, took the decision to go to war without any reference to their national parliaments. Although claiming to be acting on the basis of UN resolutions, the Nato leaders completely by-passed the UN Security Council.

  In the case of Bosnia, Nato insisted on acting as the military arm of the UN. With Kosova, the UN has been totally excluded. Nato has claimed for itself the role of a protecting power, whose leadership is unmistakably in the hands of the US.

Founded in 1949 as a defensive alliance, it is now being transformed into a permanent instrument for intervention in crises outside Nato's borders. The capitulation of the European social-democratic leaders to US imperialism is the counterpart of their total capitulation to the neo-liberal policies imposed on the world by the US and its agencies, the IMF and the World Bank. The support of Blair, d'Alema, Jospin, Schröder and company for Nato's first war marks the final stage in the bourgeoisification of the social-democratic parties.

  top     Colluding in ethnic cleansing

DURING THE FIRST phase of violent 'ethnic cleansing' in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia, which accompanied the disintegration of the Yugoslav Federation after 1991, the US and the Western powers largely stood back, ready to let the conflict burn itself out. Public outrage at the atrocities taking place, however, put pressure on the US and the European powers to appear to be taking some action to end the carnage. The horrendous death and destruction inflicted on the civilian population in former Yugoslavia undermined the claims of the US and the European powers to be able to uphold - whether through the UN, Nato or their own direct influence - a peaceful and stable world order. Continued conflict, especially in Europe's backyard, seriously undermined the credibility of the capitalist powers, especially of the US superpower, which claims the right to act as the world's protector - that is, the world's policeman.

  The UN peace-keeping forces sent into Bosnia-Hercegovina, however, had little effect in preventing conflict. The UN-protected safe havens were overrun by both Serbian and Croatian forces. In fact, in 1995 the US and European powers armed Croatian and Bosnian-Muslim forces to drive Serbs out of areas of Bosnia and to drive 200,000 Serbs out of the Krajina (within Croatia) where they had lived for centuries, a massive episode of 'ethnic cleansing' which enormously intensified the anger and resentment of Serbs everywhere. Nato then bombed Serbian forces in order to pressure Milosevic into accepting the Dayton agreement. Despite previous pledges by the Western powers that they would never accept the partition of Bosnia, Dayton largely 'legitimised' the previous 'ethnic cleansing'.

Following Dayton, there was an escalation of the conflict in Kosova, partly as a result of the rotten Dayton compromise. Forced to retreat from Bosnia-Hercegovina and abandon the idea of incorporating the Bosnian Serb rebublic (Republika Srpska) into Serbia itself, Milosevic stepped up the pressure against the Kosovar Albanians. At the same time, bitter disappointment among Kosovar Albanians that Dayton was silent about the future status of Kosova, led to an upsurge of activity by the Kosova Liberation Army (KLA).

  Faced with the unfolding of another episode of barbaric ethnic pogroms, the US attempted to do another deal with Milosevic. Under the Rambouillet agreement there was to be a three-year transition to autonomy for Kosova. Milosevic would be allowed to keep 1,500 army border guards and 2,500 police in Kosova, but would have to accept a 28,000-strong Nato peace-keeping force in the province. The KLA would have to hand over its arms to Nato. The US twisted the arm of the Kosovar Albanian leaders, most of whom eventually accepted this new rotten compromise. But Milosevic refused. Nato - in reality the US - decided to bomb Serbia, believing that (as with Dayton) Milosevic would back down within a few days. Nato blundered into a major war. Having engaged in armed conflicts and failed to achieve its immediate objective, the credibility of Nato and the US superpower was more than ever at stake.
  top     Inner-Nato tensions

PERHAPS APPROPRIATELY, ON 23 April Washington DC was "like a ghost town except for the police... a semi-police state", as one report put it (Financial Times, 24 April). Ninety thousand Federal government workers were told to stay at home and citizens of 'the world's greatest democracy' were cleared from the streets as the representatives of the 19 Nato members and 25 friendly states met for the Alliance's 50th Anniversary meeting. Brass bands and most of the other planned celebrations were cancelled. Publicly, there was a great show of solidarity; behind the scenes, an intense debate on strategy. How to salvage Nato's credibility from the US superpower's initial blunders? Above all, when to send in ground forces? Under what conditions, by what route(s)? Looking beyond Nato's immediate terms for a cease-fire with Milosevic, the Western leaders were also beginning to wrestle with the outline of a workable peace 'settlement' for the Balkan region.

  Officially, Nato strategy and tactics remained unchanged. Clinton and US officials who gave the Alliance line emphasised that the bombing would continue, there were no plans for an invasion by Nato ground forces. The aim was still for an autonomous Kosova, not independence. Nato's terms for a cease-fire remain the same: withdrawal of all Serbian forces from Kosova, return of the Kosovar refugees, acceptance of a Nato peace-keeping force, and negotiations 'in good faith' over Kosova's future. Nato leaders had no difficulty rejecting Milosevic's recent offer of a cease-fire conveyed by Yeltsin's special Balkan representative, Chernomyrdin. Milosevic reportedly offered acceptance of 'an international presence', but apparently hinted that it should be an unarmed peace-keeping force and possibly that it should exclude US forces. Nato leaders, however, were careful not to reject Russia's mediating role or rule out further negotiations with Milosevic.
  Behind closed doors, however, there were clearly tensions between the different Nato powers. Leaders of the French, Italian, and especially the Greek governments were critical of the intensive bombing of Serbian non-military targets, widened to include TV stations and Milosevic's residences even as Nato representatives were arriving for the meeting. "Yugoslav officials say that the damage from Nato bombs has reached the $100 billion mark. By some estimates, the bombing has set Yugoslavia back one or even two decades". (International Herald Tribune, 26 April)

As the bombing campaign escalates, many Nato governments face mounting opposition at home. The Greek ruling class has traditionally been allied with Serbia against other Balkan rivals. Representatives of the French and Italian ruling classes, moreover, have serious reservations about the advisability, from a capitalist point of view, of smashing Serbia. Apart from Serbia's potential importance as a market and field for investment, they foresee that a collapse of the Serbian state would have profoundly destabilising effects throughout Central Europe and the Balkans. Many European leaders also resent US domination of Nato strategic policy, with key decisions being determined by the US superpower's insistence on maintaining its primacy and also heavily influenced by the president's domestic political problems.

  Tony Blair, however, flew into Washington crusading for the rapid intervention of Nato ground forces against Serbia. Although his Foreign Secretary, Cook, repeated the line that ground forces would not go in against hostile resistance by Serbian forces, there was nothing secret about Blair's advocacy of ground forces. Blair's retinue of spin doctors put it about that the great Britannic premier was casting himself in the same heroic role as Thatcher in 1990, after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, when she claimed to stiffen the wavering President Bush to launch an all out war against Saddam Hussein's regime.

With a commanding majority in parliament and no opposition within the Labour Party (apart from the lonely opposition of Tony Benn and a tiny handful of MPs), Blair does not have the difficulties of Clinton, who faces strong opposition from sections of Congress. Although opinion polls suggest that US public opinion is overwhelmingly (60%-70%) in favour of the air-war and is increasingly swinging towards ground intervention, Clinton remains fearful of a political backlash as soon as there are US battlefield casualties.

  In their inner councils, many Nato leaders have no doubt come to recognise that, from their own strategic standpoint, bombing Milosevic without backing it up with the positioning of ground forces demonstrating Nato's power to intervene, was a costly error. Commenting on this, David Owen, a former British foreign secretary and EU representative for Yugoslavia 1991-95, said: "It is necessary for Nato to admit to itself that it was a mistake not to build up large conventional forces around Serbia, demonstrating to President Milosevic that Nato was ready, if necessary, to invade Kosovo. Had such a build-up been started before and during the Rambouillet negotiations, then Milosevic would have negotiated more seriously and very likely neither Nato bombs nor missiles would have been used". (The Independent, 23 April)

Even with the bombing, US commanders are frustrated by the political restriction on operations in the air. Flying at 15,000 feet (4,500 metres) minimises the risk of Nato losses, but makes it extremely difficult to knock out mobile Serbian fighting units on the ground. It is clear that US military commanders are telling Clinton's policy-makers that it will be extremely difficult to inflict a decisive defeat on Milosevic and especially to occupy Kosova without sending in ground forces.

  Clinton's reluctance, at least at the moment, to move in this direction, shows that the 'Vietnam syndrome' still affects the US superpower. As with the Vietnam war, which ended in defeat for the US, there is fear of 'mission creep', of being sucked in ever deeper once ground forces are committed to battle.

There is fear of a 'quagmire', a tangled swamp of ever increasing complications which are impossible to resolve. Above all, there is fear of the body bags arriving home draped with the stars and stripes. Despite Bush's claims at the time, the Gulf war did not exorcise the Vietnam syndrome. US imperialism is still constrained by the prospect of a social revolt against US casualties in foreign wars - when the US itself is not threatened.

In 1990-91, when the former Soviet Union was collapsing, there was an exceptional international conjuncture. With the blessing of Gorbachev, the US was able to put together a broad military coalition of Western powers and some Arab regimes, and mobilise an absolutely overwhelming land force of around 500,000 troops for an offensive across flat desert. The US was even able to hand the bill for most of the cost to Japan and the Gulf states. The intensive air bombardment of Iraq was not intended as diplomatic pressure but was the opening tactic of a much broader strategy. Strategic mistakes apart, the US faces a much more complicated, problematic situation with regard to Serbia/Kosova.

  top     When will ground forces go in?

CLINTON FACES AN acute dilemma. Mobilising ground forces carries political risks. But delay in dispatching ground forces capable of securing Nato control of Kosova will also be risky. Even before the Nato summit, Cook, while ruling out 'an opposed intervention' against Serbian forces, repeatedly suggested that Nato forces would go in once there was 'a permissive environment'. Clinton, however, appealed repeatedly for other Nato leaders to allow the air campaign time to succeed, and this was effectively the outcome of the summit meeting.

Blair and others proclaimed that 'victory is the only exit', but the summit really failed to clarify the Western powers' military strategy or political aims in the Balkans. The International Herald Tribune (26 April) summed up the summit's outcome: "Without a clear prospect of ending the war in Yugoslavia, Nato talked massively about winning at its summit-turned-war-council. But victory was never defined in its broadest implications. Nato came out of its 50th anniversary meeting with its leaders saying at incantation level that the Alliance would win, prevail, see-this-through and set-this-right, but without bringing precision to the military process of extracting Yugoslav forces from Kosovo or agreeing to a viable political formula for achieving peace.

  "The summit meeting produced no more real clarity on the eventual use of ground troops and no single view on whether an end to the Milosevic regime meant its capitulation or a half-life that could blur its defeat". 'Degrading' (smashing) Milosevic's forces sufficiently to create a 'permissive environment' could require a long period of bombing. The well-known economist, John Kenneth Galbraith, formerly head of the US Strategic Bombings Survey after the end of the second world war, reminded US leaders that the survey "concluded that the great strategic air attacks had not appreciably reduced German war production. Nor had they effectively shortened the war". The same applied to the Korean war and also to Vietnam: "Twice the weight of bombs dropped on Germany did not affect the outcome of the war in Vietnam". Bombing he writes, "avoids the domestic political effect from body bags being unloaded... all that is lacking is military effectiveness and tolerance from the enemy civilians being bombed". (IHT, 26 April)

With Nato already running short of purely military targets, the bombardment will inevitably destroy bigger and bigger sections of the Serbian social-economic structure, claiming an increasing number of civilian casualties. This will undoubtedly strengthen opposition throughout Europe to the Nato bombardment, putting increasing pressure on European governments. The aerial bombardment will be accompanied by a tightening of economic sanctions, and the imposition of a naval blockade (preparations for which are already under way, with additional Nato warships now being set to the Adriatic Sea).

  This could provoke an open rift between the Nato powers and the Russian regime, which is supplying oil and other materials to Serbia. While Yeltsin appears to be trying to avoid outright conflict with Nato, he faces intense pressure from within Russia and the CIS, where the Nato bombing has provoked a massive wave of anti-Western feeling. Moreover, as sanctions are tightened, they will have a devastating effect on the civilian population, as in Iraq. A prolonged air war will inflict terrible homelessness, hunger and disease on the population of Serbia and Montenegro, in addition to the deaths and injuries directly resulting from the Nato blitz. The longer it goes on, the harder it will be for the US to hold the line with all its Nato allies, who will have to deal with mounting outrage.

Fearing these problems, there are some signs that Clinton is edging 'incrementally' towards the build-up of land forces. There is a steady build-up of Nato forces in Macedonia and Albania. This is being accompanied by a diplomatic offensive to persuade the Balkan states to allow the passage of Nato forces and materials for an invading force, with various inducements if they cooperate. Seven front-line states have been offered 'security guarantees' (effectively, temporary membership of Nato) against any possible threat from Serbia. Under diplomatic pressure from Nato, Slovakia recently announced that it would allow the passage of Nato forces, opening up the possibility of heavy ground forces being sent from Western Europe via the new Nato members, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

  Nevertheless, Nato faces formidable difficulties in putting in ground forces. Nato commanders unofficially say they will need at least 70-80,000 troops to control Kosova. Even under favourable conditions, it would take several months to position and supply such a force. In this case, however, there are great political and geographical obstacles in the way. The Greek government is at the moment opposed to a land intervention, and may not allow Thessaloniki - the only adequate port in the region - to be used as a landing point. While Albania has promised free access to Nato forces, its infrastructure is primitive. Lacking adequate roads, Nato vehicles are already becoming bogged down in the mud. It has taken many weeks to prepare Pristina airport for the arrival of US Apache ground-attack helicopters, and it may be several weeks before they are operational. Then the route to Kosova is through a high mountain pass, posing extreme physical difficulties and vulnerability to attack from Serbian forces.
  The possibility of sending Nato forces either from the west, via Croatia, or from the north, via Hungary, has been mooted. The northern route, however, would mean an invasion of Serbia itself - which would mean a long, bloody struggle on a colossal scale. Some warmongering Western commentators are advocating an all-out assault on Serbia to topple Milosevic. Nato's military commanders, however, are much more realistic about the terrible costs of such an invasion. This does not rule out that Nato will build up forces to the north of Serbia, as what Napoleon called 'an army of observation' - in other words, a demonstration to Milosevic of a powerful potential invading force.

In a Nato occupation of Kosova without a cease-fire, the line between a 'permissive environment' and open warfare is likely to be messy. Kosova is only about the area of the state of Kentucky. But given the destruction wrought by Milosevic's forces and the Nato bombardment, establishing firm control with lines of communication and supply, is likely in itself to be a lengthy and difficult task for Nato forces.

Anything short of control of Kosova and the return of the great majority of Kosovar refugees would be a defeat for Nato. Nevertheless, the possibility of Nato negotiations with Milosevic, either openly or secretly, possibly through the mediation of Yeltsin's government, certainly cannot be ruled out. Nato and especially US leaders are under intense pressure to minimise the human and material costs of the war - and to keep to a minimum the inevitably ensuing long-term commitment to provide occupying forces. David Own has argued that, in effect, Nato should try to cut its losses as soon as possible by offering Milosevic "a largely non-negotiable alternative to Nato invasion". The 'largely' hints at some room for an element of compromise with Milosevic. Some commentators still suggest Serbia should be conceded eastern Bosnia (Republika Srpska) and a section of northern Kosova, including the historic Serbian sites. With war already in progress, however, such concessions, especially partition of Kosova, would be seen as a Nato defeat.

  top     A patchwork of Nato protectorates

MILOSEVIC, RUSSIA AND the UN, writes David Owen, 'should be under no illusions that once any ground attack commences, all peace offers are off the table'.

Nevertheless, every war has to be concluded at some point, and this still raises the question of what the possible terms of a cease-fire might be. Clearly Milosevic would have to withdraw Serbian forces from Kosova. But what would be the status of the province? Officially, Nato's position is still that it should be an autonomous province within Serbia. But given the terrible events since the Rambouillet talks, this will be unacceptable to the vast majority of Kosovar Albanians.

  The Western powers, however, are still fearful of the repercussions of an independent Kosova, especially the possibility that the Kosovar leadership would push for unification with Albania, which would especially antagonize the Greek ruling class and threaten to further destabilise the region. The Nato leaders' caution on this issue is reflected in their attitude towards the KLA. Nato commanders are clearly cooperating with KLA forces operating within Kosova, and are almost certainly providing them with material support, though this is officially denied. At this point, however, Nato is not prepared to give official backing to the KLA, because of its demand for independence and, at least for some of its leaders, a Greater Albania.

The Western powers will probably try to side-step the issue for the time being. One proposal being discussed behind the scenes is to establish a Nato-occupied Kosova as a UN or EU 'protectorate' whose international status will be decided at a later date. Owen proposes that, under UN Charter trustee provisions, Kosova should be declared a Strategic Trust Territory run by a UN administration under the Security Council. If Russia blocked such action by the UN, however, Kosova would become a Nato Trust territory. Either way, it will be Nato forces that control the country for years to come.

  "Nato is warming to the controversial idea of creating a sort of international protectorate in Kosova", reported the Wall Street Journal (12 April). "The region would be governed and policed by the international community, giving Nato the leading role while others come up with the reconstruction funds". The real meaning of such proposals was bluntly spelt out by Observer columnist Andrew Marr: "We are probably looking at a patch work of EU or Nato protectorates which add up to a new Western colonialism. I think we should grasp this nettle". (11 April) In order to put an end to the bloody feuds, Marr writes, "we should not shrink from the notion of a colony - though since traditional colonies were created to be exploited, rather than to be subsidised and helped, the term anti-colony would be more accurate". The sanitising prefix 'anti', however, will not change the reality: Kosova will be 'helped' according to the interests and by the methods of the Western powers.

Nothing is more uncertain than war, and it is impossible to predict how events will unfold in the coming months. The leaders of imperialism themselves do not have a clear idea of what will happen. But, whether through a cease-fire or a crushing military defeat of Serbia, it is certain that Nato or UN forces will occupy at least Kosova, with bases and support forces in a number of the surrounding states. This will inevitably militarise the region. The Western powers will attempt to exert a decisive influence over local regimes and economies. Huge modern armies and support services will establish garrisons in some of Europe's poorest societies. This will give rise to local business parasites who will feed off the occupiers and an economic mafia which will get rich on the rich pickings from reconstruction. The overwhelming majority will remain poor and oppressed. The Nato occupation of Kosova will not provide a happy ending to the Balkan horror story: it will merely open a new chapter.

  top     The right of self-determination

WE ARE TOTALLY opposed to the Nato bombing of Serbia. It has already been proven, since the Nato assault began on 23 March, that bombs and missiles are incapable of protecting the Kosovar Albanians. Far from resolving the Balkan crisis, a long bombing campaign will leave Serbia shattered, like Vietnam and Cambodia after the closing stages of the Vietnam war - sowing the seeds of future conflict.

We are also totally against any intervention of Nato ground forces or of Western capitalist forces under the banner of the United Nations. A land invasion, to defend the power and prestige of the Nato powers, would inflict further death and destruction on the region, but would be as incapable as bombing of resolving the underlying problems.

Historically, 'settlements' imposed on the Balkans by the Western powers are largely responsible for the bloody catalogue of ethnic and national conflicts and inter-state wars, from the Balkan wars of 1912-13 down to the present day. The recent intervention of Nato and UN 'peace-keeping' forces in Bosnia-Hercegovina, which largely enforced the 'ethnic cleansing' already carried out by Serbs and Croats, completely failed to resolve the regional conflict - which has now spilled into Kosova.

  We support the right of the Kosovar Albanian people to self-determination, which now means an independent state of Kosova. Given the events of the last few weeks, there is no way the overwhelming majority of the Kosovars will willingly accept autonomy within the Serbian state (or Serbia-dominated Yugoslavia). At the same time, we defend the democratic and cultural rights of the Serb minority within an independent Kosova.

National liberation, however, can only be successfully accomplished by the people themselves. It will not be achieved by the forces of the capitalist powers, who always intervene fundamentally to protect their own strategic interests. Nato has not officially abandoned the autonomous status within Serbia proposed for Kosova at the Rambouillet talks. Even if the Nato leaders decide in favour of Kosova independence, however, it would be the colonial-style 'independence' of a Nato (or perhaps UN) protectorate, dominated by the US and run by a Nato army of occupation.

In the present situation, self-determination obviously presupposes an end to ethnic purges and the right of all dispossessed Kosovar Albanian refugees to return to their own places of residence. To guarantee their ability to return in safety we support the organisation of Kosovar workers, labourers, peasants and small traders into democratic armed militias capable of defending their communities against Serbian forces, local warlords and gangsters, and Nato forces.

  Socialists cannot endorse the policies of the leadership of the KLA. In reaction to the atrocious assaults of Milosevic's forces, it is not surprising that hundreds of Kosovar men and women, both from within Kosova and from exile in Western Europe and the USA, are joining the KLA. The leadership of the KLA is nationalist, and politically they are closely tied to Kosova's landlord and business elite who aspire to rule their own capitalist state. Most of the KLA leaders, under intense pressure from the US, eventually agreed to collaborate with US proposals, accepting autonomous status within Serbia, the disarmament of the KLA, and a Nato peace-keeping force. Although it is strenuously denied by Nato leaders, various reports suggest that the US is providing material support to the KLA through undercover channels. The KLA will only be able to lead an effective mass resistance struggle against the forces of the Serbian regime if they maintain independence from the Western powers and link national liberation to a struggle for social change in the interests of the overwhelming majority of Kosovars.
  We are in favour of the overthrow of Milosevic's corrupt and repressive regime. While totally opposing Nato intervention against Serbia, we reject the idea that there is anything progressive about Milosevic's regime. Behind a scanty veil of parliamentary elections, Milosevic has maintained the main elements of the old Stalinist state machine. He rules Serbia through the repressive apparatus of the security police, the military machine, and an army of state bureaucrats. But while a sector of state industry remains, Serbia is no longer a planned economy. As in Russia under Yeltsin, there has been creeping privatisation, the development of a vast 'grey economy', and the flourishing of mafia-style capitalism (in which Milosevic's family and cronies play a prominent part). State and economy are infested with corruption at every level.
  top     The way out of the Balkan quagmire

RECENT HISTORY SURELY makes it clear that there is no way out of the Balkan quagmire on the basis of nationalism and capitalism. As socialists, we must raise the idea of a struggle to overcome national and ethnic conflicts on the basis of workers' unity. Only the working class is capable of securing self-determination and democratic rights for all nations and minorities. Such rights will only be achieved by overthrowing all exploiters - capitalists, landlords, warlords, and dictators - and through raising the living standards of the whole population of the region. To achieve this, the working class has to struggle to take power into its own hands and reorganise society on the basis of socialism.

Following the long decline and eventual collapse of Stalinism, the Balkan economies are in a state of ruin. The neo-liberal, free-market economies now being adopted by Balkan governments under the pressure of the IMF and the World Bank, will accelerate the polarisation of wealth between a rapacious new capitalist class and the majority of working people and small farmers. The workers' movement must return to the idea of a planned economy, not the discredited bureaucratic Stalinist form, but a planned economy under democratic workers' control and management.

  National liberation cannot be achieved by every national grouping narrowly pursuing their own nationalistic aims. The working class must link the demand for self-determination and minority rights to the ideas of socialism and internationalism, striving to unite the Balkans on the basis of working class unity.

The former Yugoslav Federation is dead, if not entirely buried. The present Federation, which consists of Serbia and Montenegro, is seen by Milosevic as a stepping-stone towards a Greater Serbia - and even now the Serbian regime threatens the independence of Montenegro. But the only hope for the peoples of this region is a new Socialist Confederation of the Balkans, formed on the basis of the free association of peoples and ethnic groups and built on the foundations of a socialist planned economy, which would begin to eradicate the impoverished conditions which breed sectarian hatred and conflict.

Understandably, workers everywhere feel pity and outrage at the terrible suffering of the people of the Balkans. They feel that something must be done to prevent bloody conflict and destruction. In reality, however, it is only the revival of the workers' movement which can provide a way out. Tragically, the totalitarian regime of Tito's Yugoslavia and the national conflicts which accompanied its break-up have divided, disorganised and disorientated the working class. Nevertheless, there will be a revival of the workers' movement, which socialists should be promoting. The revival will be a complex process, which will no doubt take some time. But any idea that, in the meantime, progress towards peace and prosperity for the Balkan peoples can be made on the basis of Nato bombs or military intervention is a profound mistake.

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