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12 Questions and Answers About the War in Yugoslavia
1. How is NATO justifying the bombings?
NATO is justifying the attacks in the name of helping the people of Kosovo and has also said that they want to bring democracy to Yugoslavia. But NATO and American imperialism have never defended democracy. They've organized dozens of military interventions and coup d'etats (overthrow of the government) all over the world. The coup that brought Pinochet power was planned and supported by the American government. They've never cared about the freedom of oppressed nationalities: while they're destroying Yugoslavia they fully support the Turkish government's savage repression of the Kurdish minority and that of the Israeli government against the Palestinians.
2. Have the bombings achieved any of their stated aims?
No. The situation facing the Kosovan people is infinitely worse today than at the start of the bombings. Even the CIA had warned the American government that Serb repression would increase if NATO bombed Serbia and the result would be a wave of refugees. NATO has no solution to the problems of the refugees and uses their suffering to justify the continued attacks. As for Yugoslavia, Milosevic can now present himself as the victim and his position is stronger today than before the bombings. In fact, before the bombings there had been demonstrations against the extension of military service (for the purposes of sending more people to Kosovo) and against Milosevic's policies of privatizations. Thanks to the bombs these have, for the moment, stopped.
3. What is NATO really trying to achieve?
The capitalist economy is now in crisis in 75 % of the world, and the powerful nations are fighting each other's business interests in every parts of the world. Behind every war in Africa or other parts of the world we find the conflicting interest of different imperialist powers, who don't hesitate to start wars or stage coup d'etats to install governments who will guarantee their economic interests. The world's number one superpower, the USA, cannot tolerate anyone questioning its supremacy. After threatening Milosevic various times, it couldn't carry on making empty threats without its authority being questioned. With these bombs America is trying to show the world who is in charge, and at the same time it's using the situation to strengthen its military presence in a region which is both strategically important and tremendously unstable. Its military presence serves to intimidate Russia, a country which despite now having a government which is compliant to the demands of imperialism could emerge as a rival to Western capitalism. That's why the West can't tolerate a country like Yugoslavia, traditionally allied to Russia, becoming a regional power in the Balkans. For all these reasons, this intervention is characterized as imperialist. In this way we are able to understand the type of bombing campaign they are conducting. The Serb troops in Kosovo have hardly been affected. Therefore they have made savage attacks on the Yugoslav economy (bridges, roads, railroads, factories, oil refineries, hospitals, etc.) in order to guarantee that, however the war ends, Yugoslavia will be in a position of weakness. Different sources have estimated the Yugoslav economy will need between ten and twenty years to recover from the extensive damage. There are an estimated 500,000 more unemployed as a consequence of the destruction of roads, bridges, factories, etc. Once again those affected by the bombings have been working people who are in no way to blame for Milosevic's atrocities. NATO's bombs have already caused several thousands civilians deaths. ("smart" bombs!)
4. Who stands to gain and who stands to lose in this war?
The capitalists and their outdated system stand to gain, imposing their interests on the world; especially the US , stepping up their military presence in the region; the arms industry stands to gain, seeing their shares go up on the stock-exchange; Eduardo Serra, the Spanish Minister of Defense stands to gain, he's on the board of all the main arms business in Spain; the mafias who sell arms stand to gain; the most extreme wing of Serb nationalism stands to gain, their reactionary positions appear more legitimate. The Kosovars stand to lose - they're suffering more repression, they're watching their country be destroyed and are further than ever from realizing their national aspirations; the workers of the whole of Yugoslavia stand to lose, they'll be paying for years for the destruction caused by the war; the thousands of people killed by Serb militias and NATO's bombs stand to lose; the workers and youth of the whole world stand to lose, we'll be paying for the bombs with new cuts in public spending and higher unemployment.
5. Is the UN (United Nations) a solution to the conflict?
No. The UN has never had a policy different from that of American imperialism. When the UN looks like it might make the "wrong" decision , the US simply exercises its veto and uses other institutions, in this case NATO. It's the UN who is responsible for the sanctions and economic isolation of Iraq, which in less than ten years has caused the deaths of almost 1.5 million people from lack of food, medicine, clean water and other basic infrastructure. This genocide has been carried out under the auspices and using the legitimacy of the UN, whose only objective is that the Western powers and their multinationals control this key oil producing region.
6. What's the character of the Milosevic regime?
It is a repressive, authoritarian, pro-capitalist regime. It's been trying for years to lead Yugoslavia towards capitalism, carrying out sweeping program of privatizations. for the benefit of the country's new rich. To keep himself in power, Milosevic has been playing a reactionary nationalist agenda, blaming other nationalities for the economic crisis and trying to divide the working class along national lines (remember the old motto; "divide and rule"). Among his collaborators are known fascists like Seselj and Arkan who have made their fortunes from the black market and the war in Bosnia.
7. What about Humanitarian Aid?
The Western governments who are destroying Yugoslavia are spending twenty times more on missiles and bombs than on the humanitarian aid. Quite simply, they're using the suffering of the Kosovar refugees to justify the bombings. More than 500,000 refugees are herded together like animals. Illness is widespread and an estimated third of humanitarian aid goes directly into the hands of local mafias who resell the materials on the black market. NATO's cynicism knows no bounds. For example, the Spanish government has announced $50,000,000 to be spent on "Humanitarian Aid". In reality, more than 85 % of this is to be spent to fund the cost of having Spanish troops in Albania. Of course, Aznar doesn't have any problem being photographed with the 200 refugees who've been allowed into Spain (what a pitiful example of "humanitarianism" - only 200 out of 100s of thousands!).
8. How is it possible to defend the rights of the people of Kosovo?
The people of Kosovo have suffered for years the denial of their national rights. In 1989, Milosevic withdrew its autonomous status. Since then repressive policies have steadily increased. Faced with this, the only way forward lies with the mobilizations of the Kosovar masses making a call to the Serb workers for a united struggle against Milosevic and in defense of the interests of working people and the national rights of the Kosovars. The politics of the KLA (Kosovar Liberation Army) have been disastrous. A combination of nationalist politics and bombings of businesses and police stations have only served to justify Milosevic's repression. The KLA today is a puppet of imperialism. National freedom for Kosovo will never be achieved by NATO's bombings of Yugoslav workers. The most it could achieve would be a kind of protectorate under American control, which would only fuel hatred between Serbs and Kosovars and be a source of permanent instability.
9. What can workers and youth do to stop the war?
In reality, it's perfectly possible for us to stop the war. A mass movement would force the government to call a halt to the bombings. In 1991, during the Gulf War, Spanish School Students Union launched mobilizations that saw hundreds of thousands of students in the streets and CCOO and UGT (the main Trade Union Federations in Spain) called a two hour General Strike against the war. In fact, the government had plans to send Spanish troops which they never carried out due to this mass pressure. In Italy and Greece there have been massive mobilizations against the war in Yugoslavia which have left their governments hanging by a thread. The Greek Transport Union has declared that if NATO decided to use ground forces it will go on strike to block troop movements. The Trade Unions and youth should organize a wide campaign leading to mass mobilizations against NATO's war in Yugoslavia.
10. Are the peoples of Yugoslavia condemned to permanent confrontation?
No. They lived together in peace for decades. Nationalism has revived as a consequence of the economic crisis that began in the 1980s. The Yugoslav beaurocracy opened up to the market during the 1980s and lead the economy to collapse. The workers of all the republics that made up Yugoslavia (Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Montenegro and Macedonia) came out to fight together in order to defend their quality of life. To break up this mass movement, the Stalinist bureaucrats in each of the different republics played the card of nationalism; the Slovene bureaucrats blamed the Serbs, the Serb bureaucrats blamed the Croats, etc. The lack of a revolutionary alternative that could unite the whole working class in defense of a democratically planned economy under workers' control allowed the bureaucrats to play off the workers against each other, maintaining themselves in power and opening the way for capitalism. This criminal process was backed, planned and financed by the western capitalists. Germany especially, encouraged the independence of Slovenia and Croatia. Today, these economies are totally dependent on the German capitalists. Afterwards, the war spread to Bosnia where Croats (backed by Germany) and Serbs (backed by Russia) fought to extend influence, and business as they tried to put themselves in the best possible position for the return to capitalism. The US backed the Muslims in order to get its troops in there. Today, the Bosnian government in its turn is totally dependent on America. As we can see, behind each nationalism hide the interests of the bureaucrats of the different republics and of different capitalist powers. In all of this, workers and youth are the big losers.
11. Is there a diplomatic solution?
No. Although anything that brings the war to a standstill would be important, there's no way it would provide a lasting solution. It would be a "lesser evil" that would end up falling apart and becoming an even worse evil. Recent experience is very significant. The Dayton accords, which brought an end to the war in Bosnia in 1995, in fact gave approval and legitimacy to three years of ethnic cleansing and separated the population according to their nationality. More than a million of those displaced during the war are still not able to return to their homes. This fragile "peace" could blow up at any moment.
12. Is there a solution to the national confrontations?
Yes. During the 1940s when Yugoslavia was occupied by the Nazis, Croatia's fascist government organized ethnic cleansing and wiped out half a million Serbs. Despite this, the united struggle of working people in the Partisan militias, lead by the YCP (Yugoslav Communist Party), threw first the Italians, then the Germans out of Yugoslavia. Not only that - the Partisans made internationalist appeals in German and Italian, and by the end of the war thousands of Germans and Italians had deserted and were fighting with the Partisans ! Today the situation is once again in the hands of the workers - those who gain nothing from national confrontation. The alternative is once again a united fight against imperialism and the reactionary nationalism of Milosevic and Tudjman. Any solution based on the creation of new capitalist states is bound to fail. The idea of an "independent" Kosovo is an illusion. It wouldn't be much more than an American protectorate and a source of permanent instability. The only way forward that can guarantee a future of peace and stability lies with the struggle for transformation of Balkan society, throwing the capitalists and their lackeys out on their ear. A democratically planned economy and a society lead by the working class would both do away with national hatred and free up the tremendous human and material resources that exist. The alternative is clear: as long as the social inequalities caused by capitalism continue to exist, there will always be capitalists and bureaucrats willing to exacerbate national conflict in order to stay in power.
The only realistic solution lies in the creation of a Balkan Socialist Federation!
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