The War Continues

War is the most effective weapon of capitalism against the working class. Every force involved in the Yugoslavia conflict - the armies, independent militias, NATO, the KLA and the Russians - are doing what they can to keep the conflict they started going. In the 1980's Yugoslavia was riven with class struggle and almost free of ethnic conflict. During the 1990's the international ruling class succeeded in reversing this situation.

The Independent, 14 June, says that NATO is "clearly unable to control the explosive passions of Serbs and Albanians". As usual, the media claims it's the ethnic groups attacking each other, rather than murderous gangs claiming to belong to one ethnic group attacking various others (and sometimes its "own", as when the KLA kills Kosovar Albanians it doesn't like, or the Serbian Army indisciminately bombards multi-racial villages). As always, the media project their own racism onto the innocent victims of war.

According to the papers, the Serbian civilians of Kosovo are afraid of "revenge" by returning Kosovar Albanian refugees. The implication is that "the Serbs" are responsible for crimes carried out by military forces. If they are not responsible, attacks on them are not "revenge", but terrorism. This view was explicitly defended in the New Republic in "Milosevic's Willing Executioners". The truth is, a different gang of terrorists - the KLA, backed by NATO - is terrorizing a different set of working class civilians, to the detriment of the interests of all of them. To reiterate most banal but essential lesson we draw from history: if the working class allows itself to be divided by race, it cannot achieve the unity needed to fight back against the reduction in its living standards demanded by capitalism's managers.

It was several days before NATO started producing what it claims is evidence of atrocities carried out by the Serbian police, military and paramilitary. The burned bodies may have been caused by NATO missiles. Again, we don't deny that Serbian forces, official and unofficial, have carried out racist attacks on Albanian Kosovars. But given the paucity of evidence, and the need to demonize Serbs to justify murdering them, we expect that these attacks have been exaggerated. At the same time, violence against Serbian civilians has been downplayed or ignored. The media never mention how Albanians came to become a majority in Kosovo - a combination of affirmative action and ethnic terror. This is now escalating with NATO participation.

The only good news has been the death of a few journalists in Kosovo and the continuing doubts about the worthiness of NATO's victory. It hardly needs saying that the working class has just suffered a massive defeat. Though the world is now more dangerous - conflict has increased in Korea, Kashmir, Ireland and Iraq - it looks like the superpowers have resolved their differences by brinkmanship. Viktor Chernomyrdin's dire warnings were a bluff, and Russia contented itself with embarrassing NATO by seizing Pristina airport while the Allies squabbled about which of them was going to get there first.

We overestimated the confrontation between the superpowers. The New World Order is back on track. Clinton and Cook mean what they say when they talk about policing the world by military intervention. What they don't say is they are bombing the working class, not minor bureaucrats like Milosevic. As has often been pointed out, if they chose their targets according to the brutality of the countries' rulers, they'd have bombed Indonesia and Turkey before Yugoslavia. Hardly anyone has mentioned the reason for this seeming inconsistency - they attack working classes whose rulers are having difficulty controlling - forcing and enabling them to attack their workers in the name of national unity. Many people noticed that Slobo and Saddam were both strengthened by the bombing of their countries. It remained for us to suggest that this was deliberate. The upper ranks of the ruling class sort out their differences fairly well, and generally agree to their pecking order, occasionally brandishing their nuclear weapons more to terrorize us than each other, forcing smaller fry to do most of the dangerous and dirty work of crushing the proletariat.

The reasons for the savagery of the attack on the working class in the Balkans are covered in detail in this article about the class struggle in Yugoslavia from 1996, to which we can add the uprisings in Albania which took place since then. The working class of the region was increasingly ungovernable. It had the militancy, but not the consciousness or organization to resist a systematic fightback by the ruling class. It was unable to prevent the ruling class and its military outfits herding it into racial and religious ghettoes. This is the progressive war Tony Blair talks about. This is what the ruling class means by "diversity". We can only continue to oppose racism, of the left or right, wherever it rears its head, and promote class against nation.

June 15, 1999