Letter to Serbian Socialists

The break up of the former Yugoslav federation has been a disaster for all its peoples. There is nothing progressive about it whatsoever. In all the states that have been created from the break up, reactionary governments have come to power. Tudjman in Croatia and Milosevic in Serbia do not defend the interests of the Croat or the Serb workers. The same is true of Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Slovenia.

The governments of the former Yugoslav republics have thrown the people into one fratricidal war after another. What have the people gained from this? It has been an absolute disaster, in every sense of the word.

The causes of the break up of the former Yugoslavia are to be found in the economic crisis that started in the 1980s, compounded by the manoeuvrings of Western imperialism which saw in that crisis the opportunity to expand its sphere of influence. German imperialism, in particular, pushed for Slovenia and Croatia to secede from the Federation. Later they played the same dirty game with Bosnia.

In this the bureaucracy of the ex-League of Communists played a despicable role. Unable to solve the economic crisis that was devastating the country, they decided to turn to nationalism as a means of maintaining their own power base. This prepared the ground for nearly ten years of bloody conflict. Of course, these leaders were sitting safely in their offices while the ordinary workers and youth of Yugoslavia were forced into a position of having to take up guns against each other. This is an unforgivable crime against the peoples of Yugoslavia.

For decades after the Second World War the Yugoslav federation under Tito was able to achieve significant economic growth. On this basis it was possible to heal the wounds of the past. However Marxists cannot close their eyes to the real nature of the Tito regime and of Stalinism in general.

The 1917 Russian revolution brought the workers of Russia to power. It was the first and only genuine socialist revolution in history. The Soviets were a genuine expression of workers' democracy. Unfortunately the backwardness of Russia and the isolation of the revolution to one country prepared the ground for the Stalinist degeneration. A bureaucratic clique usurped power from the Soviet working class and created a monstrous caricature of socialism. While the economy remained in state hands control passed from the workers to that of a privileged state bureaucracy. The genuine Bolsheviks were massacred. By 1940 not one of the Bolshevik leaders that led the 1917 revolution was still alive, apart from Stalin himself.

The bureaucracy that emerged from this counter-revolution had its own separate interests counterposed to those of the workers. A monstrous totalitarian one-party dictatorship emerged as a result. At the end of the Second World War this model was imposed on Eastern Europe as the Red Army marched into these countries.

This had a double-sided effect. On the one hand the expropriation of the capitalists and the introduction of a planned economy was an enormously progressive step forward. But there was no genuine workers' democracy. The control of the plan was in the hands of Stalinist bureaucrats.

In Yugoslavia things went a little differently. Tito did not come to power on the basis of the Russian Red Army, but on that of his own partisan armies. This went against the plans of Stalin who had agreed at Yalta that Yugoslavia would remain under the western sphere of influence. This was part of the carving up of Europe between Russia and the West.

This later led to the conflict between Tito and Stalin and Yugoslavia became a so-called "non-aligned" country. However there was no fundamental difference between the nature of Tito's regime and that of the other East European countries. Despite the talk of "workers' self-management" at factory level, nationally control of the economy was firmly in the hands of the state bureaucracy.

Leon Trotsky, co-leader of the Russian Revolution with Lenin, (later assassinated by Stalin's agents), explained how the bureaucracy would block economic development at a certain stage. Back in 1936 in his famous work The Revolution Betrayed, he explained how the bureaucracy would eventually become an absolute fetter on the development of the productive forces and that on this basis the bureaucracy would attempt to transform itself into a capitalist class and become owners of the means of production. This prediction was brilliantly confirmed by the events in Eastern Europe in 1989, in Russia in 1991 and in Yugoslavia over the past ten years.

In Yugoslavia Tito developed a Constitution which attempted to guarantee that no nationality would dominate over the others. On this basis a federation of republics was set up. This, however, led to the development of national bureaucracies each with their own vested interests. So long as the economy was going forward this structure could be held together. But as soon as the crisis of the economy began to be felt each national bureaucracy started to play the nationalist card. The bureaucrats were unable to solve the crisis and so to maintain their base they started playing on nationalist sentiment.

In the 1980s we saw a movement of all the workers of Yugoslavia, from Slovenia to Kosovo, against the government of bureaucrats. Unfortunately this movement had no clear leadership, no independent party of the working class and was therefore defeated. In its place rose the monster of nationalism on all sides.

Milosevic and Tudjman knew that they could not solve the crisis afflicting Yugoslavia on the basis of the bureaucratic control of the economy, so they decided that they could best maintain their base by detracting the attention of the masses away from the real social and economic problems by laying the blame on the other nationalities. Thus in Croatia it was "the fault" of the Serbs, in Serbia "the fault" of the Croats and Kosovar Albanians, etc. etc.

The cynicism of these individuals can be seen by the way they carved up Bosnia. Milosevic and Tudjman sat round a table deciding where the border between the Serb and Croat-Muslim republics of Bosnia should be, while hundreds of thousands of ordinary Serbs, Croats and Muslims were being "ethnically" cleansed on all sides.

At the same time as the local nationalists were playing their dirty game, Western imperialism did not idly stand by, but participated in the carve up. Germany egged on the Slovene and Croat bureaucrats to break away from the federation. The USA helped Croatia to build up its army and even gave advice on how to carry out the "ethnic cleansing". In the process over 200,000 Krajina Serbs were expelled from Croatia. And Milosevic did little to help them. The Italian government played its part in pushing the Montenegrin government to support the secession of Slovenia and Croatia. The madness then spread to Bosnia with further disastrous consequences.

The latest disaster to hit what remains of Yugoslavia has been the NATO bombings. NATO placed before the Milosevic regime conditions (the Rambouillet "Accords") that no country could have accepted. They were demanding access to the whole of Serbia for NATO troops. It was tantamount to transforming the whole of Serbia into a colony of NATO. Once Milosevic refused the Rambouillet Accords, NATO began its bombing campaign. The excuse was the defence of the Kosovar Albanians.

While it is true that the Kosovar Albanians were discriminated against by the Milosevic regime the real reason for NATO's intervention was not "humanitarian". They indiscriminately bombed ordinary civilian targets, hospitals, schools, TV stations, bridges, railways and ordinary residential areas, killing thousands of innocent Serbs and Kosovar Albanians. At the same time they did not stop the killings of Kosovar Albanians, which actually intensified as a result of the bombings.

The real reason for the bombing was that the NATO powers want to dominate the whole of the Balkans. They want to impose their economic objectives on all the Balkan countries. They have destroyed the Serbian economy, including that of Kosovo. They have created hundreds of thousands of unemployed. Now they are offering so-called "aid", but in exchange the countries of the Balkans must speed up the programme of privatisation. The Western multinational corporations and banks want to buy up the more profitable sectors of the economy and close down the rest. This was the real objective of the war.

Genuine socialists, Marxists, opposed this bombing campaign from the very beginning. We also opposed the break up of Yugoslavia. We explained that such a break up would lead to a disaster for all the peoples involved. Unfortunately our predictions have been confirmed.

But for Marxists it is not a question of crying over this disaster. It is our duty to understand why it took place. We must understand the historical, economic, social and political roots of this catastrophe.

History has shown that Croat, Serb, Moslem... workers can join together in a common struggle. In spite of the atrocities carried out by the Chetniks and Ustashe during the Second World War, eventually the workers across Yugoslavia joined forces against the common enemy. The partisan armies defeated the Nazis and built a federation uniting all the people.

In the 1980s we saw a united movement of all the workers of Yugoslavia. Even in the dark days of the civil war in Bosnia we saw the example of Sarajevo where the people attempted one last stand against the nationalists on all sides.

The only solution to the crisis gripping the former Yugoslavia lies in the unity of the working class. The workers have no interest in fighting each other. Conflict will emerge again and again so long as power is in the hands of bureaucrats and capitalists. The end of the present conflict does not mean an end to war. It can blow up again in Montenegro or Macedonia.

In the final analysis, so long as no solution is found to the crisis of the economy, so long as unemployment and poverty are widespread, then ethnic conflict will be never-ending. Stalinism has failed, but capitalism also offers no solution. Milosevic has been busy privatising big sectors of the economy, making sure that the clique around him get the biggest share of the cake. This has led to the closure of factories and to a high level of unemployment. In Macedonia and the other former Yugoslav republics, there is a similar situation.

The only answer lies in a common struggle of the workers for the socialist transformation of all the former Yugoslav republics. Unfortunately the word socialism has been dirtied by the Stalinist bureaucrats who paraded as "socialists" for nearly half a decade. Many people see socialism only in its caricature version where a clique of privileged bureaucrats dominated society. That has nothing to do with genuine socialism. Genuine socialism means the workers themselves deciding their own destiny. It means a nationalised planned economy but with democratic control in the hands of the workers themselves.

However, the struggle for socialism cannot be limited to the former Yugoslavia. All the countries of the Balkans are facing a severe economic crisis. In all these countries the former Stalinist bureaucrats are trying to transform themselves into capitalists. Along this road lies disaster for the peoples of the Balkans. Therefore the only solution is that of creating an all-Balkans Socialist Federation.

This would be a step towards an all-European Socialist Federation and eventually a World Socialist Federation. However, as even the Soviet Union demonstrated, socialism is not only not possible in one country, it cannot be maintained even in a large federation such as was the Soviet Union. Capitalism is an international system and it can only be combatted on the international arena. No country in the world has all the resources to develop independently. That is why planning must be developed.

Within a socialist federation the resources of the area could be used to alleviate all the social and economic problems facing the workers, through a nationalised planned economy. And within such a federation every nationality would be granted autonomy, with the right to use its own language, to develop its own culture, without any nationality being discriminated against. On this basis the terrible fratricidal wars we have seen in recent times could finally become a thing of the past. The peoples could live peacefully side by side.

But to achieve this it is necessary to overthrow all the regimes at present governing the Balkan countries. The only force that can achieve this is the working class. The tragedy of the situation is that no party or organisation that defends the genuine ideas of socialism exists in the Balkans. It is our duty to rediscover the real traditions of Marxism and rebuild the socialist movement in this part of Europe. The solution for the workers lies in the building of a Marxist organisation across the whole of the Balkans.

Once the advanced workers of the Balkans grasp the ideas of genuine Marxism they will never allow the ethnic hatred to develop again. The atrocities we have witnessed in the past period have not been carried out by the workers and the ordinary people, but by the reactionary paramilitaries on all sides.

The present web site will attempt to provide the ideas, the analysis, the programme that can show to all those workers and youth in Serbia who are looking for a solution to the problems that have devastated this country that there is an alternative, the socialist alternative.

Workers of all countries unite!

Join us

If you want more information about joining the RCI, fill in this form. We will get back to you as soon as possible.