By NAT WEINSTEIN
On Feb. 21, an estimated 25,000 to 100,000 ethnic Albanian Kosovars marched on the Serbian-controlled portion of Mitrovica justly demanding that this important mining and industrial city be placed under the control of the people of Kosovo.
The terms of the agreement reached by U.S.-led imperialism and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic ending the 78-day bombing war maintained the legal status of Kosovo as a province of Serbia. The agreement, moreover, provides for the division of Mitrovica into two parts, with the valuable Trepca mining and metallurgy complex centered in the Serb-controlled northern half of the divided city.
The big question is why did the U.S.-led NATO forces allow Kosovo to remain, at least nominally, a province of Serbia and why did they leave the Trepca industrial complex in the hands of the current Serbian majority of northern Mitrovica?
And the even bigger question is whether imperialism intends to abide by the terms of the agreement ending the fighting-at least for the time being-or will it find a pretext for a renewed military assault directly into Serbian territory?
The reaction to the ethnic Albanian march on Mitrovica by NATO spokespersons was ambiguous and larded with conflicting signals.
On the one hand, seeming to register NATO/United Nations approval of the march from Pristina and smaller neighboring cities, troops under the command of the United Nations accompanied the march to Mitrovica. And to assure the protesters demanding the return of ethnic Albanians to their homes in the Serb-controlled northern half of Mitrovica of NATO support for their demands, various NATO spokespersons told Albanian protesters that that, indeed, was NATO’s intention.
On the other hand, it became clear by Feb. 29 that despite repeated pleas for more troops by NATO commander Gen. Klaus Reinhardt of Germany, virtually none were forthcoming. In other words, the United States and other imperialist nations participating in the Kosovo “peacekeeping” operation show little interest in sending more troops to Kosovo or northern Mitrovica.
A New York Times report datelined “Washington, Feb. 29” begins with this interesting report on the status of the Kosovo operation: “Irritated that American troops had to retreat from a bottle-throwing mob in Kosovo, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Henry H. Shelton, has written to NATO’s supreme commander, Gen. Wesley K. Clark, telling him not to use American troops outside their designated sector.
“The letter, according to Pentagon and NATO officials, told General Clark that other countries involved in the NATO peacekeeping operation had to send more troops to Kosovo before significant numbers of American troops would again be allowed on a mission outside the sector assigned to the United States control.”
The article went on to report “a mood of discontent” in the Senate Armed Services Committee reflecting its “anger at European allies” for not contributing enough troops needed to enforce the Kosovo “peacekeeping” operation. Several senators, moreover, complained that there had been a deal reached between the Americans and the Europeans in which the United States would “lead” the bombing attack on Yugoslavia and, in return, the Europeans had pledged to lead the “peacekeeping” in Kosovo “but had failed to live up to their promise.”
The article ends with Gen. Clark noting that “the Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic, was very much in control in Serbia and that he was unlikely to be defeated or disappear any time soon.”
What does it all mean? It means one of two things and perhaps both: Either the NATO nations are in deadly fear of a renewal of the war, this time on the ground in very hostile Serbian-controlled territory, and thus the likelihood of very heavy casualties to be suffered by NATO troops and civilians with a resumption of hostilities.
Or, it means that the NATO nations are convinced that Milosevic is their best bet-and is in the best position-to carry through the real aims of world imperialism in Yugoslavia; that is, to most effectively carry out the privatization of the Yugoslav economy.
It appears at this point of the unfolding crisis in the Balkans that both explanations are closest to the truth. That is, imperialism would rather that Milosevic disappear, but at the same time they need his services and fear the American people’s reaction to a resumption of the war, this time on the ground, with the terrible casualties that it would entail.
Let’s take a closer look at one of the most compelling factors supporting our explanation of the real motives behind the imperialist war on Yugoslavia and the spurious imperialist rationalization-that it was motivated by the “humanitarian” goal of saving the ethnic Albanian majority of Kosovo from “genocide.”
Imperialists compete for shares of Trepca mines
Michael Karadjis, a free-lance political commentator, analyzes the role of the Trepca zinc, lead, cadmium, gold, and silver mining and metallurgy complex in the north of Kosovo as the motive behind the U.S.-led imperialist war on Yugoslavia.
He quotes Chris Hedges, the Balkan writer for The New York Times, who described the Trepca complex as the “most valuable piece of real estate in the Balkans…. [And that] the Stari Trg mine, with its warehouses, is ringed with smelting plants, 17 metal treatment sites, freight yards, railroad lines, a power plant and the country’s largest battery plant.”
The Trepca complex is nominally a state-owned enterprise centered in northern Kosovo but spread throughout Yugoslavia. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has been gradually selling off parts of Trepca to private shareholders in the major imperialist countries of the world. Milosevic himself, to be sure, has transferred a large portion of the Trepca mining and industrial complex into his personal property as well.
This is the key to understanding the current seemingly schizophrenic attitude by world imperialism toward Milosevic and his gang of chauvinist Stalinist bureaucrats and emerging capitalists.
The fact is that after the economic crisis that struck much of the Balkans, including Yugoslavia, at the end of the 1980s, imperialism saw the Milosevic regime as the force that could most effectively carry out an austerity campaign designed to cut the living standards of the working class of the federated republics of Yugoslavia.
It is also a well-known fact that imperialism could not itself make the workers of Yugoslavia pay the usurious interest on debts owed by that country to imperialist banking institutions. For the task of enforcing imperialist demands, an indigenous force was indispensable.
Milosevic, who had from the first proved himself a reliable collaborator with imperialism, was its obvious choice. In all such situations, imperialism requires native rulers to do their dirty work for them. They decided long ago that Milosevic was the man best suited for the job of chief enforcer of imperialist interests.
Imperialism certainly understands the quid pro quo basis of such collaboration, in the course of which its indigenous agents personally build their own independent fortunes as they privatize the Yugoslav economy for the mutual benefit of imperialists and their native lackeys. To be sure, however, such a partnership is predicated on the condition that imperialism gets the lion’s share of the loot.
However, as inevitably happens, Milosevic and company’s assault on the living standards of the Yugoslav working class set in motion a growing resistance by workers against the imperialist austerity campaign, enforced by the Milosevic regime after Yugoslavia was unable to make the usurious payments on its debts to imperialist bankers. Moreover, the related campaign of privatization of the collectivized economy aroused further resistance among the Yugoslav working class.
Milosevic, thus threatened by an increasingly rebellious working class, sought to lighten the debt-burden of his primary base of support among Serbian workers by transferring a larger portion of the debt onto the backs of workers in the other Yugoslav republics.
In Kosovo, for instance, Milosevic drove down the living standards of miners and other workers in the Trepca complex centered in Mitrovica. And when miners organized strikes and other measures of resistance, he found it necessary to secure his base in his own Serbian working class and pacify them somewhat, by ousting ethnic Albanians from their jobs, replacing them with Serbs.
That is the classic strategy of divide and conquer invariably followed by any ruling minority, whether they are bosses or bureaucrats.
This monstrous crime by Milosevic and his gang of pro-capitalist bureaucrats against the fundamental principle of working-class solidarity was what set into motion the fratricidal conflict between Serbians and non-Serbians in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and ultimately the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo’s Albanian majority.
Milosovic’s abolition of Kosovo’s autonomy within the framework of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1989 was only the first step in his ruthless chauvinist attack on the unity of the Yugoslav working class.
The other equally chauvinist Stalinist regimes in the Yugoslav federation, predictably, responded similarly by refusing to base their opposition to Milosevic on his violation of the principle of proletarian internationalism, which had been the glue holding the workers’ republics of Yugoslavia together in defense of their common class interests.
Thus, it is no mystery who bears major responsibility for the formerly united peoples in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia having been cast into its current purgatory of unending civil and ethnic conflict-and thus impotence against its imperialist oppressors and its aspiring pro-capitalist junior partners among the Stalinist bureaucracies in each of Yugoslavia’s federated republics.
Class-collaborationist vs. class-struggle strategy
Under the impact of the Milosevic regime’s assault on the ethnic Albanian majority of Kosovo, leaders of Milosevic’s victims made the mistake of having perceived imperialism as the enemy of their immediate enemy, their Serbian oppressors. But that is only half true. The real enemy of imperialism was not Milosevic, it was the working class of all of Yugoslavia-Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, and Kosovars alike!
Thus those who looked to imperialism as an ally in their struggle for self-determination did not understand that imperialism had reasons other than defending Kosovo’s right to self-determination. On the contrary, imperialism refused to so much as promise the ethnic Albanian majority its support for Kosovo’s right to govern itself and to decide its own fate as laid down in the central provisions of the notorious Rambouillett Treaty, under which the horrific 78-day air assault against both Serbia and Kosovo was ruthlessly executed.
The real reason for imperialist intervention everywhere in the world, from Vietnam to Iraq to Yugoslavia, to mention only a few of their many violations of the right of oppressed nations to self-determination, can be boiled down to world capitalist imperialism’s insatiable quest to expand their fields of investment into new markets now closed to them, and thus open the door to ever larger profits.
But before we try to look for an alternative strategy to the one now being followed by those in the leadership of the people of Kosovo, we must first attempt to prove that the aims of the imperialist assault on Yugoslavia is not motivated in any way by concern for the Kosovar victims of the Milosevic regime’s barbarous oppression. Rather, it is a classic instance of the relentless drive by world imperialism for the conquest of new markets in a shrinking world marketplace.
Essential nature of the problem and its solution
In order to better understand the conflicting sides of imperialism’s campaign to expand into Yugoslavia and the other workers states in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, it’s important to perceive the following four main factors involved in imperialism’s shorter-term and longer-term goals:
1) The combined struggle by all imperialist powers is to break down the resistance of workers in the former Soviet bloc countries to a capitalist takeover of their economies and the destruction of the remaining conquests of their socialist revolutions.
2) At the same time, there is already sharp economic competition among the world’s imperialist powers for the largest shares of the new fields of investment and profits-a competition slated to become explosive when the expansion of the productive forces of global capitalism saturates the markets when the multiplying mass of commodities being produced cannot find buyers.
3) The struggle within the workers states between the gangs of bureaucrats and emerging capitalists in each of these nation states against their own working classes will be intensified when the bubble economy bursts. Unlike before the forced march toward capitalist restoration began, the workers states are now at least partly dependent on the stability of the global capitalist economy. Thus, when the impending crisis breaks out of control, their already declining economies will sharply drop further.
4) And finally, like the developing conflict between capitalists, the conflict between each of these gangs of bureaucrats morphing into capitalists against each other will also reach crisis proportions.
This last factor explains the conflict by the Serbian gang against its counterparts in the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
The only real solution to Kosovo’s deadly dilemma
While the people of Kosovo had no choice but to resist with everything they could muster against the Milosevic regime’s barbarous and deadly ethnic cleansing and expulsion from their homes and land, independence in itself is not a solution to their problem. Without finding a solution to the social, economic, and political underpinnings of oppression, the problem of oppression can be somewhat reduced but not eliminated.
Neither, however, is there any solution for the Serbians, Croats, Bosnians, and the other peoples of Yugoslavia of their oppression by world imperialism strictly within and of themselves. Such a problem is for them also not fully achievable based on their own resources alone.
There are few oppressed peoples anywhere that have the power based on their own resources alone to liberate themselves from far more powerful oppressors. Even in the best case, it is absolutely necessary to win reliable allies in order to ultimately prevail.
Revolutionary Cuba, for instance, has so far succeeded in maintaining its national independence from the U.S. imperialist Goliath just 90 miles from home only because Cuban leaders maintained internal class solidarity and to the extent of their ability extend it to other suffering victims of capitalist imperialism in Latin America and Africa.
Though blockaded by the American imperialist colossus, Cuba has educated and produced a large supply of medical doctors for export, free of charge, to those peoples under the heel of imperialism which had driven them down to lowest possible depths of impoverishment.
Such superbly honorable sacrifices made by this island socialist republic of some 11 million souls in the name of human and class solidarity has strengthened Cuba against imperialism, and will come back in spades when the developing global economic crisis breaks loose and leaves workers everywhere with no choice but to find their way back to the class struggle road to freedom.
As distant as a common working-class offensive against imperialism and the capitalist-restorationist Stalinist bureaucratic agents of world imperialism may appear at the moment, it is the only way out of the dilemma faced by the workers of Yugoslavia, the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Asia-and, to add the obvious, the fundamental challenge facing the world working class.
I will conclude with the historic slogan of revolutionary socialism: “Workers of the World Unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains and a world to gain!”