Large-Scale Fighting Resumes in Kosovo

By GERRY FOLEY

On Christmas Eve, the Serbian military mounted a major attack on the village of Podujevo in Kosovo. The attacking force reportedly included about 40 tanks. The action seemed to bear out Ernest Luma’s prediction in the Dec. 17 issue of the exile Albanian weekly Zeri i Kosoves, (published in Switzerland), which supports the Kosovo Liberation Army KLA: “Indications are that Kosovo is again on the verge of a heavy offensive before the end of the year.”

Serbian forces withdrew after fierce fighting, apparently because the KLA had defended itself better against armored vehicles than they expected. The New York Times, however, claimed that the Serbian withdrawal was a success of Western diplomacy. But only two days later, the Serbian army launched another assault on the Albanian village of Obranca, near Podujevo.

The pretext for the armored assault on Podujevo was the assassination of Serbian police inspector Jovic on Monday, Dec. 21. The Serbian authorities gave a similar pretext for the attack on Obranca. In past weeks there has been a series of mysterious murders in Kosovo for which the Milosevic regime has sought to blame the KLA.

In its Dec. 25 issue, the cautiously oppositional Belgrade weekly magazine Vreme reported that the Serbian police had arrested a number of men accused of being members of the KLA and that “Albanian sources” had reported that large numbers of people were beaten in searches of Albanian neighborhoods.

The Vreme correspondent noted statements from Albanian leaders, including Adem Demaci, a Kosovar politician chosen as spokesman by the KLA, that indicated that at least one of the Serbian victims, Zvonek Bojanic, was regarded as a friend by the Albanian population. “We are 100 percent certain that Bojanic did not die by an Albanian hand,” Demaci said.

The article went on to quote Demaci as saying, “We are convinced that these acts are a continuation of the scenario created by General Daljevic and others.” According to the Albanian leader the objective was to “arouse Serbian public opinion by bloody deeds.”

Zeri i Kosoves speaks of large numbers of Albanians being arrested and held under inhuman conditions by Serbian police (more than a thousand), indicating that the official cease-fire in place between the KLA and the Serbians has not halted Serbian repression.

Furthermore, earlier reports in the on-line Albanian daily Kohe Ditore(which has not appeared since Dec. 10) indicated that the Serbian military after the ceasefire shelled Albanian villages in order to prevent the people from returning to their ruined homes.

The threats by the Western powers to take reprisals against the Serbs if they did not stop their assaults on the Kosovo population have clearly had little real effect. Instead of reporting the continuing Serbian terror, the Western capitalist press focused on claiming that the KLA was taking advantage of the ceasefire to build up its forces.

In fact, Vreme, which only a few weeks ago was celebrating the demise of the KLA in its cynical anti-Communist style (it considers the KLA leadership “Marxist-Leninist”), now reports that the organization is everywhere and is beginning to set up a civil administration.

After the last full-scale Serbian offensive, the Western press was also writing what have now been proved to be premature obituaries for the KLA. Both the Western and the Serbian liberal press apparently made the classical mistake of believing their own propaganda, that is, closing their eyes to the political realities on the ground.

The Western powers were obviously expecting that the suffering inflicted on the Albanian people would revive the fortunes of the “moderates” represented by Ibrahim Rugova, who was given an international peace prize in the wake of the Serbian offensive. Some Western diplomats even said that the Serbian offensive was having a good effect at least in taking the wind out of the sails of the KLA. Clearly the result has been the opposite.

The hatred of Serbian rule inspired by ruthless military operations that drove more than 300,000 of them from their homes has rallied the Kosovar people behind the KLA, their only defenders and the only support of their dignity.

The Serbian attacks on the KLA strongholds merely spread the organization like an oil slick throughout Kosovo. Furthermore, as their fighting experience has accumulated, the KLA have become much more effective in combating the professional Serbian military and police. This is a process that probably has not been much affected by the formal ceasefire imposed by the Western powers.

The Western pressure in reality has probably been more effective in hobbling the KLA than the Serbians. The ethnic Albanian organization has to take account of the political attitudes of the Kosovar masses. And the latter have tended naturally to hope that the great powers will defend them against the Serbian crimes against humanity.

However, the positions expressed by Zeri i Kosoves and the statements of the Command Staff of the KLA that it cites indicate that the Kosovar liberation forces have not yielded much ground politically to Western pressure to get to agree to remain under an “improved” form of Serbian rule.

Political Statement No. 19 of the KLA Command staff says that it would accept the status of a republic in the Yugoslav confederation for Kosovo but only for three years until a referendum could be held on independence.

Zeri i Kosoves itself overflows with contempt for Western diplomacy, which it denounces for “playing dirty games with the fate of a people,” as well as the Kosovar leaders who are looking to the West for salvation, like Rugova.

Thus, it seems evident that the Kosovar liberation fighters have far less illusions about the concern of the Western powers for the welfare of their people than the Bosnians did. That represents a step forward in the development of political consciousness of the Balkan peoples, who have been ravaged by the conflicts driven by the breakdown of Stalinist rule and by the capitalist powers’ manipulation of the various bureaucratic factions.

However, in order to maintain and deepen the mobilization of the Kosovar people, the liberation fighters will need to draw general conclusions about the nature of the capitalist powers-and therefore about bureaucracy’s attempt to restore capitalism in the Balkans.

They will have to begin to move toward offering a general alternative to the spread of capitalism in their region and to imperialist domination of it. That alternative can only be to revive the perspective of socialism and collaboration of the working people of the region on the basis of democracy and equality.