Deja Vu All Over Again

1. The Kosovo Crisis is the greatest military disaster since the Vietnam War. The war has achieved exactly the opposite of its official aims: Despite the massacre of civilians, the appalling damage, and the reinforcement of the pathological disease called ethnic hatred, or to put it more respectably, patriotism, this gives us reasons for cautious optimism. The attitude of revolutionaries - like Wildcat - in a catastrophe such as this is not to complain about it, but to take advantage of the crisis to reinforce every doubt in the wisdom and integrity of the people who run this society, and to prepare for their overthrow in the only war worth fighting, the only war which really does lead to peace - the class war.

There is a tendency to see every disaster for the working class as a victory for capitalism. This is not the case. The two classes do have some things in common: the desire to avoid nuclear war, for example. It follows that a massacre of the working class can be a catastrophe for capitalism, and can lead to mass opposition to it. This was not the case with World War II. It was the case with the Vietnam War.

2. The Vietnam War coincided with the most important wave of class struggle this century. Mass strikes, riots and mutinies shook the world in the late sixties and early seventies. In contrast to the proletarian movements of the early part of this century, work itself was questioned. The international capitalist class had to overcome this setback. The Gulf War of 1991 was the celebration of their success. The New World Order was announced by George Bush following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Bloc, and the united assault on Iraq - or rather, the proletariat of Iraq - by almost the entire world.

3. The period of peace initiated by the Cyprus settlement, and extended by the agreements in Northern Ireland and Bosnia, has now ended. NATO is destroying the New World Order. The triumph of the West has not produced peace: it has produced war.

4. As usual, the left wing of capitalism support the war. Social democracy has confirmed its class allegiance. The Greens have also reached the end of the parliamentary road, sponsoring the greatest environmental disaster in European history. Today's crusaders follow the banner of "human rights". The modern left, graduates of the school of victim studies, the human rights do-gooders and pacifists, share the blame for this disaster. In their worship of diversity, their determination to divide the world into ethnic "communities", they supported the creation of Bosnia and Kosova. This cannot happen without military intervention against Serbia. Feminists gleefully spread stories about "rape camps" organized by Serbs. Noam Chomsky is reduced to explaining to his comrades why they should not support the war. In short, the left are enemies of the working class.

In the USA, most of the pseudo-opposition from within the system has come from conservatives, who declare that no American interests are involved in the Balkans. Most Republicans voted against the war in Congress. It's pseudo-opposition because the White House can veto it. Despite their inability to actually stop the war, the right are trying to warn their liberal friends of the danger of this war to their class, in the coded language of politics.

For "No American interests are involved" read "We might lose". For "Europeans should sort out their own ethnic conflicts" read "Our soldiers might mutiny, like they did in Vietnam". For "It's too expensive" read "It could cost us the carefully constructed regime of class peace we have been building since the end of the Vietnam War".

The European Left say America is pulling the strings, the American Right claim they are being used for European aims. This argument is irrelevant to the working class.

The only effective opposition to the war has come, as always, from the proletariat. Greek sailors have mutinied, other workers have blockaded the Corinth canal, and millions have demonstrated in cities and outside the air bases. Explicitly political strikes against the war effort are needed. This is particularly important in NATO countries, but the workers of Yugoslavia also need to fight against the nationalist gangs who have taken them hostage. Against the minority of capitalist commentators who cheer on the Serbs from their armchairs, calling on them to fight to the last man, woman and child, we call on the Yugoslav workers to overthrow the government which has led them into this disaster.

Wildcat has published some of the most coherent analyses of the war in Yugoslavia. We have also done our best, with what we can without risk of overstatement call limited resources, to actively pursue solidarity with our class comrades in the region. We were still taken by surprise by the ferocity of NATO's attack. NATO's confrontation with Russia does not fit into our theory that the world is ruled by one unified civilization for the first time in history. We spoke too soon.

6. Do not laugh at those who complain of the illegality of the attack on Yugoslavia. There are serious reasons so many commentators are mentioning it. The law isn't simply a fig leaf over the naked violence of capitalist relations of production. The various codes devised by the United Nations, the Human Rights courts and so on, despite their uneven application, do express some basic truths about capitalist society. NATO has contemptuously dismissed these laws. This weakens capitalism.

Opponents of intervention in Yugoslavia from within the US political right point out that only Congress has the right to declare war. Ignoring these representatives is costing Clinton support.

NATO's charter claims it is defensive. It exists to protect its member states against attacks by any other country. As it reached fifty, it was transformed into a world policeman. It doesn't actually prevent "ethnic cleansing" - indeed, it makes it worse - but from now on, no-one would be able to do it with "impunity". Numerous commentators have pointed out the hypocrisy of choosing which ethnic cleansing to support, and which to prosecute. NATO ignored the ethnic cleansing of Krajina by the Croat Army, and positively endorses the massacre of Kurdish villagers by its member state, Turkey.

Article Two of the United Nations Charter prohibits the use of force against a sovereign state which has not used aggression against another. Following the Gulf War in 1991, the UN was on course to become a world government. The New World Order established the triumph of democracy, the free market, and international law, the bridge to the 21st century. NATO has bombed that bridge.

NATO has declared an oil embargo against Yugoslavia, again in defiance of the UN Charter.

The British Government is being reported to the International Criminal Tribunal for it's crimes against Yugoslav civilians. See Submission to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, requesting the indictment of Prime Minister Tony Blair, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and Defence Secretary George Robertson of the United Kingdom at

The Geneva Convention prohibits attacks on journalists. Blair and Clinton decided that the Serbian media were a legitimate military target because they spread military propaganda. The consequences of this reasoning are too delicious to spoil by spelling out.

To cite The Boston Globe, 28 April:
In chosing to defy the Geneva Conventions protecting civilians and journalists in a war zone, NATO not only tempts Slobodan Milosevic to retaliate against the many foreign journalists covering the Balkan conflict; it loses moral ground in its stand against the Yugoslav president's butchery. The Globe thinks first of the danger to journalists. Then, it worries about the danger to NATO's moral legitimacy. They are not so much objecting to the massacre of innocent civilians per se, as the consequences.

Churchmen have pointed out that the Kosovo adventure fails the test of what has been called "Just War" theory, more accurately referred to as the conditions for justifiable war. They include the conditions for initiating conflict (right cause, last resort, right authority, and a reasonable prospect of success) and the conditions that relate to actions during the conflict (proportionality, discrimination between combatants and non-combatants).

We do not of course agree with that theory. We do not support Just Wars. The people who built Auschwitz and bombed Hiroshima are the same class of people who are now killing civilians in Belgrade and Pristina. However, it does not mean they are free to abandon the pretense of humanity whenever the fancy takes them. The outrage which has greeted their clumsy attempts to cover up their massacres ia turning into a more active opposition. We do not need to dignify the argument that the war was started to prevent genocide with a response. Few wars start out with so many, and such a wide variety, of opponents. There is growing doubt in the ruling class. Compare the Gulf War, whose support was virtually unanimous.

This war has led to asking the unthinkable - Was the Second World War Worth 56 Million Lives? - A N Wilson, The Independent, 25 April.

Why was the war was continued when it was obviously failing to achieve its objectives, and why is there so much establishment opposition to the war? They are afraid of losing face. This is not simply pride. If they lose their credibility, we will lose our fear of them. Certainly, we are afraid of their death squads and their nuclear weapons. But there is only one thing more dangerous than opposing war, and that is not opposing war. Fear of the ruling class runs deeper than fear of physical violence. It is the inbred belief in the superiority of the ruling class. Even people who hate politicians see them as somewhere between Machiavelli and the Devil. But Bill Clinton is a sexual harrasser and a pathological liar, Madeleine Albright isn't all that bright, and Tony Blair is, as Yugoslav TV pointed out just before it was destroyed, "the little man with complexes".

So why was the war started? This is almost a leading question. It assumes that the warmongers have rational aims. This certainly appears to be the case in the Gulf War and the recent smaller scale wars in the Balkans. As Wildcat has explained in detail, war is useful for crushing the proletariat. It reinforces nationalism, destroys class unity, and creates hordes of desperate people who will work for next to nothing. But given the risks, does this really explain the current attack on Yugoslavia? The ruling class is usually rational. Its very survival in the face of the fact that the mass of humanity have an overwhelming interest in its elimination proves this. But it consists of human beings, who make mistakes, and even go mad. This, indeed, is what has happened. Lyndon Johnson's escalation of the bombing of North Vietnam in the mid-sixties was an understandable middle course between abandoning the South and invading the North. The Kosovo imbroglio is nowhere near as well thought-out as America's intervention in Vietnam.

7. Revolutionaries have always used capitalism's communication systems against it. In world war one, printed anti-war propaganda was passed from hand to horny hand. In Vietnam, the television stations exposed the lies of the ruling class - eventually. The Kosovo intervention is being undermined by the Internet. Anyone with access to the Internet - or anyone who knows anyone with access to the Internet - can quickly find many alternatives to the official lie machine. Through this inhuman technology, you can read the human reaction of human beings in Serbia to this inhuman war. They're not baby-eating monsters!

8. The political effect inside Yugoslavia appears to have been to strengthen Slobodan Milosevic's government. Usually when a war strengthens the power of a ruler, we assume the politicians starting the war know this and are acting deliberately. The Gulf War propped up Saddam Hussein's regime, defeating the Iraqi proletariat. But though strengthening Milososevic has helped him defeat the working class - at least temporarily - it has also defeated the democratic opposition. There is no evidence that this was a deliberate manouver - it is a sign of the idiocy of Clinton, Schroeder and Blair.

9. The 20th century was the fitting climax to 10,000 years of civilization - 10,000 years of work and war. The attempt to create a peaceful world order has already collapsed after 10 years. Throughout civilization, the oppressed and enslaved have fought back, sometimes with spectacular results, but have never yet attacked the foundations of civilization itself.

10. A specter is haunting America. The analogies between Vietnam and Kosovo are too obvious to point out. As the South-east Asian disaster progressed, the foundations of capitalism confidence were undermined. Opposition to the war in Kosovo is growing many times faster than opposition to the Vietnam war, which took over a decade to really get started. The Kosovo catastrophe could be the beginning of a new period of crisis for capitalism.

Richard Tate, 29 April 1999