A democratic socialist federation of the Balkans: the only road to real peace

72 days of NATO bombing have shattered Yugoslavia, its infrastructure, its economy, the homes and jobs of hundreds of thousands of Serbs and Kosovars have been destroyed, not to mention the lives lost, and for what?

72 days of NATO bombing have shattered Yugoslavia, its infrastructure, its economy, the homes and jobs of hundreds of thousands of Serbs and Kosovars have been destroyed, not to mention the lives lost, and for what?

"Victory!" they declare from the morning front pages, yet when you read the small print what do we discover - Milosevic remains in power, Kosovo remains part of Yugoslavia, and the KLA are to be disarmed. What have the "allies" gained - a UN (not NATO) peacekeeping force to make Kosovo a "protectorate". So much for autonomy, or independence. The presence of Russian troops in the north and Nato forces in the south offers the unedifying prospect of a de facto partition of Kosovo, not stability but unending instability.

The only certainty is that a new period of uncertainty, instability and insecurity now opens up for the people of the Balkans which prepares the way for new conflicts in the future. Surely after 72 days of Nato's bombing campaign, the wanton destruction of lives and communities any peace deal should be welcomed? We can have no faith in imperialist deals.

Despite all the lies in the press, NATO has not achieved its war aims. The conflict began when Milosevic refused to sign the Rambouillet accord. This insolent piece of paper demanded the abject capitulation of Yugoslavia which was to prostrate itself before imperialism. NATO troops were to be given unlimited access to the whole of Yugoslavia with no legal constraints. For example point 6a "NATO shall be immune from all legal process, whether civil, administrative or criminal" NATO troops were to be allowed "free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the territory of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia" with control of the mass media at their disposal, "the parties shall...grant all telecommunications services, including broadcast services, needed for the Operation, as determined by NATO...free of cost." In short they arrogantly demanded to occupy a country they had not even defeated in war.

Last but not least was the imposition of the free market, "the economy of Kosovo shall function in accordance with free market principles." This clearly demonstrates their real intentions - the submission of the peoples of the Balkans to the power of international finance.

At the outset the imperialists arrogantly believed they could bomb Milosevic into submission in days. 10 weeks later their contempt for the lives of Serb and Kosovo civilians and the hypocrisy of their humanitarian claims exposed, they have been left with no option other then to sign a deal which has effectively been on the table for weeks.

Many of Milosevic's war aims, the integrity of the territory of Yugoslavia, the disarming of the KLA, the emptying out of Kosovo, and remaining in power (always high up on his agenda) seem to have been achieved. Most of NATOs have not. The Rambouillet demands no longer feature in the new agreement brokered by Russia and the G8. In other words as far as the aims with which they entered this conflict are concerned, NATO failed.

Phillip Stevens in the Financial Times (4/6/99) writes "We should be wary of celebrations. Those who supported NATO's war against Slobodan Milosevic were always going to find it hard to applaud any settlement that left the Serbian leader in power...For as long as (the refugees) remain in the camps of Albania and Macedonia, NATO cannot proclaim victory."

Ordinary Serbs, workers in the NATO countries and the Kosovars gain nothing from this latest diplomatic manoeuvring. In reality NATO must take the blame not only for the lives of hundreds of Serbs, both military and civilian, but also for the horrendous plight of the million and more refugees, many of whom have lost their homes and their jobs, many have paid with their lives. The bombing campaign was a desperate act, frustrated in their aim to gain domination of the Balkans, gunboat diplomacy turned to aerial bombardment. They violated their own rules of war, not only through their "accidental" bombing of civilian targets, including hospitals and refugee convoys, not to mention their accidental bombing of Bulgaria and Albania (so much for pinpoint accuracy and smart bombs), but the deliberate bombing of civilian targets, a TV station, bridges, power stations and factories. The workers of Serbia and of Kosovo have paid a very high price indeed to salvage the prestige of Nato and imperialism.

The destruction of the Danube bridges alone has further impoverished the peoples of the whole region, pushing up already inflated prices. The attempt to restore capitalism across eastern Europe has had a similar impact to that of a war, the workers of Yugoslavia have had to endure real bombs as well.

For the Kosovars the whole episode has proven to be an unmitigated disaster. They leaned on imperialism for support and now find themselves used, discarded and betrayed. The KLA became a puppet force for the imperialists, and they have been duly rewarded with NATOs acceptance that they must be disarmed. All those who attempt to deal with imperialism, will suffer the same fate - betrayal. The refugees are to be allowed to go home. If their homes are still standing that is. As the ancient historian Tacitus once said "they make a desert, they call it peace." More than a million refugees will now be told they can return, but Milosevic will still be in power, and their houses, their farms and their factories have been bombed out of existence. It would be ironic if it weren't such a tragedy, that the "peacekeeping" force may find itself with the job of rehousing these refugees, even by force.

What now of the comments of Jacques Chirac that at the turn of the 21st century there was no room for leaders like Milosevic in Europe, or Clinton and Blair's comparisons of Milosevic with Hitler?

What of the great moral and humanitarian imperatives? Nato forces may well find their new duties include the disarming of the KLA, and the forced resettlement of Kosovar refugees. As we warned from the outset, their concern for these poor people never stretched far beyond their use as propaganda material. Now they are to be cast aside for the price of a deal from which they can save face and claim a victory in the face of defeat. In reality the new deal is no different to the one proposed by the Russians, and accepted by Milosevic, weeks ago.

Milosevic whose pro-capitalist and nationalist policies were responsible for this mess in the first place, in particular removing Kosovo's autonomy, remains in power. Kosovo is to remain within Yugoslavia, with an unspecified but substantial measure of autonomy. Imperialism never supported the KLA's demand for independence fearing above all a further destabilisation of the whole of the Balkans. If Kosovo is to be a protectorate under UN (not NATO) control then in reality they won't even have a limited autonomy. Instead they are merely sowing the seeds of future wars.

There can be no solution to any of the problems of the Balkans on the basis of imperialist deals. The only route to a genuine autonomy for the Kosovans will be on the basis of a socialist federation of Yugoslavia, and a socialist federation of the Balkans.

Under Tito, despite the many crimes of Stalinism, all the republics enjoyed a large measure of autonomy. This provides us with a glimpse of what could be achieved on the basis of genuine socialism.

The war aims of NATO have been defeated. They wanted to occupy Yugoslavia to gain control over the Balkans for imperialism. That is still their aim in the long run. They wanted to maintain the stability of the Balkans, fearing that the conflict in Kosovo might spill over its borders. They have made an even bigger mess, destabilising the whole region. Albania lies in ruins, thanks both to western economic and military policies. Overflowing with refugees the country is collapsing under the strain. The involvement of Bulgaria, Hungary, Greece at various stages of this conflict has further destabilised the whole region. A new period of instability in Montenegro and above all Macedonia threatens further conflicts, not a new era of peace.

Despite their enormous relief that after 10 weeks of vicious bombing, they may now enjoy a night's sleep without the wail of the air raid siren, nevertheless, this agreement cannot prove a satisfactory solution for the people of Serbia, or the peoples of the Balkans as a whole.

Doubtless there will be a growing mood of opposition to Milosevic in Serbia now. The bourgeois opposition is divided between extreme nationalists like Seselj who will denounce Milosevic's betrayal of the fatherland, and the weak liberal layer who tried to put themselves at the head of the opposition movement two years ago only to be bought off with government posts. Only the workers and the youth can finish Milosevic and his regime. They began such a movement before the bombing began. They will now begin that fight again in spite of NATO's campaign not because of it.

On the basis of capitalism and imperialist interference new wars will be inevitable unless and until the workers of Yugoslavia and the Balkans establish a new genuinely democratic socialist federation alongside a socialist federation of the rest of Europe. There can be no solution, no long term peace on the basis of imperialism and capitalism.