NATO Bombings of Yugoslavia: War Against the Working Class

Statement of the IBRP, 25.3.99


The NATO bombings in Yugoslavia cannot be understood as a single event. They are part of a continuing story of contemporary capitalism. All the features that make up the horrors of life under this decaying social system are present. The first is the capitalist crisis. The crisis of accumulation first arrived in the early 1970s. At first it brought a new wave of class struggle but by the 1980s the stagnation of the world economy led to a new level of capital concentration. Western states were forced to deregulate and privatise their economies in a competitive effort to increase inward investment. In Eastern Europe, where the state was both main banker and main capitalist, the crisis brought economic ruin. This provoked the collapse of the both the USSR and the old Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia.

The crisis of Yugoslavia in the late 1980s also provoked a wave of strikes. Hundreds of thousands of workers were on strike by 1990. This was when the local ruling class played the nationalist card. Tudjman in Croatia, Izatbegovic in Bosnia and Milosevic in Serbia may have all been rivals but they had a common purpose - to drown the class struggle in “ethnic” conflict. The International Bureau has explained this before (See “From Titoism to Barbarism” in International Communist 11). Today the conflict is returning to where it really began in Kosovo. It was here in 1987 that Milosevic first proclaimed to the Serb minority that “You are Serbs. No-one will ever beat you”. Kosovo immediately lost its statute of autonomy but the Albanian-speaking politicians waited for the US to restore this once they had “solved” the Bosnian crisis. However, at Dayton Kosovo was not mentioned (it was not in US interests to raise yet another issue with Milosevic at that time). As we said then, this was only another reason why Dayton was a fake peace.

After Dayton the KLA sprang up on the basis of German finance. US military attaches benignly watched as arms went over the border from Albania into Kosovo. The US (under its guise as the United Nations) then ordered the Serbs to withdraw their forces from Kosovo. This they did, only to see the KLA occupy most of rural Kosovo. The Serb reconquest with all its brutalities is the consequence of all this manoeuvring. So we can forget all the hypocritical talk about “bombing for peace” (Blair actually spouted this nonsense) or a NATO “humanitarian mission”. The bombing has only increased the sum of human misery of both Serbs and Kosovans (who face reprisals at the hands of Serb gangsters). In every sense this is a war of a small minority of the nationalist ruling class on both sides who can easily terrorise each other’s “supporters”. The immense majority will suffer and imperialist interference has increased, not diminished, that suffering.

The Stakes for the NATO Powers

So much for the story. Why is NATO so interested in a place of such minor economic significance as Kosovo? The answer lies in the uncertainty of the great power line-up since the end of the Cold War. In truth none of the so-called “Great Powers” has a perfectly clear understanding of what their main interests are. They all know that not being involved would leave the field open to their rivals. At the bottom of it all lies economic rivalry for control of the world’s resources. Kosovo might be a good distance from the oil fields of the Caucasus (where a ferocious commercial rivalry is going on) but what happens in Kosovo (Serbia is a traditional ally of Russia going back to the last century) will be a warning to Russia that NATO has the power to strike close to its territory. There are now NATO troops in Poland and 10,000 currently in Macedonia. This is why the crisis in Yugoslavia is potentially more dangerous than that in the Gulf. The Gulf Crisis was basically about a former Western ally, Iraq, being put in its place when it tried to become a regional power in its own right. Milosevic is an elected leader (despite all NATO propaganda about him being another dictator) who was only elected by playing the Greater Serbia card. He has not attacked another state as Iraq did. More significantly, he is also a protege of Russia. NATO has now demonstrated that if the alliance means anything in a post-Cold War Europe it is going to be the vanguard of US imperialism in Europe and Central Asia.

The Internationalist Position

We must therefore be quite clear that we give no support to either side. We do not play stupid games such as giving “critical” support to either the KLA or the Serbs (on the basis of their supposed greater oppression). Nor do we only condemn the Great Powers because they are more powerful. None of these forces offers anything progressive for humanity. This is a war against the working class everywhere. We offer our solidarity, as we do in every imperialist conflict, to those Serb and Albanian workers who try to organise against the war. We do everything in our, as yet, limited power to weaken the war machines that emanate from the states where we find ourselves. At the moment we share the impotence of the rest of the working class when faced with a war over which we have neither been asked to express an opinion nor been asked to materially take part in. This will not stop us doing what we can to ensure that wider and wider layers of workers understand what is going on. The choice is becoming starker. Either capitalism gives us more war, more starvation, more massacres, in short, more barbarism or else an international working class revolution puts an end to capitalism and imperialism once and for all.

The statement here was issued on the day after the first bombings in three languages (English, Italian, Spanish) and has since been translated into French and Farsi). Other translations should follow. If you can help to distribute it contact us either at our addresses or by e-mail. Leave messages of support on our web site.

Capitalism means Imperialism, Imperialism means War

What cynicism! What hypocrisy! Day in, day out millions upon millions of human beings all over the world are exploited like animals for starvation wages. Millions more live in absolute poverty. None of this offends the delicate consciences of the gentlemen of the bourgeois press who are trying to convince us that the bombing of Serbia is for the “humanitarian purpose” of preventing massacre of civilians in Kosovo.

What cynicism! What hypocrisy! They are shameless liars! Of course, they are just capitalism’s hired hacks. They only obey one logic. This is the logic of the capitalist who exists only to realise the greatest amount of profit even if it means stepping over the corpse of his own mother!

In reality the game that is being played out in the Balkans is just one episode in the confrontation between the various imperialist powers in order to gain control of sources of oil, oil revenues and commercial and financial markets. It is a ferocious conflict for domination of the planet. The United States is trying to prevent the formation of a new imperialist bloc which might be able to compete with them for primacy in the world. This why they have expanded NATO throughout the entire Balkan region and in Eastern Europe. Having armed, clothed and equipped the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) they aim, with the stabilising presence of their troops in Kosovo, to secure control of the oil of the Caucasus region, to finally relegate Russia (which still remains the world’s second military power) to the role of onlooker and - perhaps the most important thing - to deliver a heavy blow to European hopes of playing an independent imperialist role.

The Europeans, in their turn, are putting a brave face on things by supporting NATO military action only to avoid the risk of being totally excluded from an area of such vital importance. Meanwhile Europe is hoping to create a common military apparatus in line with its common currency.

Serbia itself, though posing as the sacrificial victim, really hopes to exploit its own strategic position better. It is trying to carve out a role as regional power which would allow its bourgeoisie to pocket a huge income. To do this it has never hesitated to tighten its grip on workers’ necks (including those in Kosovo). In the period of greatest economic crisis the Serbian Government imposed a wage freeze, despite the fact that inflation was 2000% per year; revoked all forms of political and economic autonomy, and drowned in blood the anger of millions of workers. This is no different from what the ruling class is doing the world over.

War is not caused by “humanitarian meddling” nor “defence of the nation”. The root cause of war is capitalism’s incessant drive for greater profit, whatever the cost. For genuine communists the choice therefore is not between imperialisms. We don’t distinguish between the small and large imperialisms. The politics of choosing the supposed lesser of two evils is opportunist and dishonest. Any support for this or that imperialist front is support for capitalism. It is a betrayal of the international working class and the cause of socialism.

The only way to escape from the logic of war is through the revival of class struggle, in Kosovo as well as the rest of Europe, in the USA as well as Russia. The solidarity of internationalist communists is reserved exclusively for the workers of Kosovo and Serbia who are suffering under the double weight of capitalist exploitation and the dramatic and direct consequences of imperialist war.

Down With War! For a Return to Class Struggle!

Down With Capitalism! For Rebuilding the Revolutionary Party!