War in Yugoslavia and the Global Crisis


The American-led imperialist attack on Yugoslavia is only the latest symptom of global capitalism’s gradual descent into what is rapidly becoming a social, economic, political, and military quagmire.

American capitalism, now serving as world imperialism’s chief cop, has two minimum goals in Yugoslavia: To let President Slobodan Milosevic know who is boss; and to send another message to the rest of the world that defying an order from world imperialism’s commander-in-chief will bring destruction raining down on their heads.

Clinton, who never misses a chance to lecture the world on “morality” and the “rule of law,” has repeatedly carried out immoral and unlawful violations of the sovereignty of nations.

The U.S. bipartisan capitalist government seeks the sanction of the United Nations only when it knows it has the unanimous support of the imperialist-dominated Security Council. (It takes just one major power on this body to block it with a veto.)

Lately the U.S. ruling class has bypassed seeking the “lawful” sanction of the UN. Instead, it has either acted unilaterally, as in the latest bombings of Iraq, or under the “legal” cover of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization-U.S. and European imperialism’s collective military arm-as in the current assault on Yugoslavia.

Law of the capitalist jungle

The unfolding crisis of overproduction is rapidly slipping out of the control of the IMF and other international financial institutions assigned to maintain the equilibrium of the global economy.

As unsold goods pile up, world markets become saturated, and in accord with the law of supply and demand, prices fall, the competition between capitalists in each country and among countries intensifies. The law of the capitalist jungle takes over and the weaker capitalists are ultimately devoured by the stronger.

At the same time, world imperialism and its dependent countries, driven by the pressure of unbridled competition, seek to save themselves at the expense of their workers and other victims.

“Austerity!”-but only for its exploited and superexploited masses-is the battle cry of the world’s capitalists in their ruthless, albeit hopeless, struggle to keep the rate of profit from crashing through the floor.

Whoever else may be contributing to the disintegration of capitalist “civilization,” imperialism-with U.S. imperialists leading the pack-is its source. President Clinton is now crying crocodile tears over the suffering Albanian majority in Kosovo.

However, world imperialism created the objective conditions that led to the current crisis and contributed to the conquest of power by the reactionary President Slobodan Milosevic.

History of Yugoslav federation

The current war waged by the imperialists against Yugoslavia is better understood in the context of that country’s history. Modern Yugoslavia was born in a united struggle by its constituent nations against German imperialism’s military occupation of the entire region during World War II.

After their military victory over the Nazi army, the Communists, at the head of the armed resistance, took power and established the new federation of nation states-Yugoslavia.

The multinational Yugoslav Communist Party established the federation in 1945 as a union of states, with each nation guaranteed the right to self-determination-including the right to separate.

Moreover, soon after the Yugoslav federation was set up, the new government-based on the working class of the federated national republics-carried through a social revolution.

Yugoslavia’s revolution expropriated the nation’s capitalists and established a planned, nationalized economy, which opened the door to relatively rapid economic development. The resulting increase in the country’s wealth-together with a constitution granting the Yugoslav federation’s national republics the right to self-determination-made it possible to avoid the internal conflict that can come when there is extreme hardship and the rights of minorities are not protected.

Thus, the juridical equality of the federated nations, the formal right to separate, together with rising living standards, effectively served as the glue that held this multinational workers’ state together for several decades.

Paradoxically, the road to proletarian solidarity was made possible when Stalin tried to block the Communist Parties in the region from establishing a workers’ government and overthrowing capitalism. The Communists, led by Marshal Tito (Josip Broz), however, defied Stalin and mobilized Yugoslavia’s workers for the socialist revolution.

But while they broke with Stalin, they failed to make a clean ideological break with Stalinism. When Stalin expelled the Yugoslav CP from the world Stalinist movement, and the latter were left to fend for themselves without any help from the Soviet Union, they nonetheless followed the Soviet Stalinist strategy of survival in a hostile imperialist world.

They followed a policy of seeking a strategic accommodation with imperialism-which can only be on imperialism’s terms. And the price that imperialism demanded for “peaceful coexistence” was for Yugoslavia to grant implicit or explicit political support to imperialist policy.

Consequently, the degeneration of the Yugoslav economy was inevitable. Once such dependency is consolidated, imperialism is able to extract ever more favorable trade relations for itself.

The effect is what we see happening in the former Soviet bloc countries, and to a lesser degree in China-workers’ states degenerating into semi-colonial nations in transition toward third-world capitalist states.

The resulting economic decline gradually eroded the glue holding the country together, as each nation’s bureaucracy sought to save itself at the expense of the others. However, the dominant Serbian bureaucracy bears major responsibility for the collapse of the Yugoslav federation’s solidarity.

Serbian nationalism

In 1989, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, adapting to the most rabid Serbian nationalists, stripped Kosovo of its constitutional right to autonomy. By this act, Milosevic gave an impulse to the most reactionary chauvinist elements in the Yugoslav federation.

Propelled by the wave of Serbian nationalism he had triggered, Milosevic elbowed aside his superiors in the Communist Party bureaucracy and launched himself into power as the president of Yugoslavia.

The country disintegrated, with Slovenia and Croatia exercising their right to separation in 1991. Milosevic attempted military repression but failed there and later in Bosnia.

Imperialism intervened in the name of “peace,” but it was a peace in which their interests would best be served. Now, Milosevic, along with his opponents in the former Yugoslavia, is following the deadly logic of the nationalism of the oppressor.

The glue of proletarian internationalism that post-World War II Yugoslavia was founded on has virtually dissolved, with each nation’s ethnic majority oppressing its ethnic minority and with imperialism oppressing all and using one against the other. The entire region now descends into chaos.

The nationalism of the oppressed is understandable and is justified when there is no alternative. But it is no solution, especially in a world dominated by imperialism. The problem of oppressed nationalities, and all of the nations in the former Yugoslavia oppressed by imperialism, in the long run can only be solved in the context of a world socialist society.

And the only road to world socialism is international working class solidarity. This must be based on the struggle in every land for the liberation of humanity from a global capitalism rapidly degenerating into a variety of self-destructive barbarism-which will destroy every social, economic, scientific, and technological conquest gained by the human race in over 5000 years of civilization.

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