LRP Statement on the War Against Yugoslavia

Adopted by the CC 4/16/99

1. We condemn the current U.S.-led attack by NATO forces on Serbia as an act of imperialist aggression. It is an attack on the working class in the Balkans and a threat to workers internationally.

We are for the defeat of the NATO forces and for defense of Serbia against NATO. We do not give any form of political support to the bourgeois regime of Slobodan Milosevic. In the U.S., we campaign for the end of the attacks, for the withdrawal of NATO forces from the Balkans and for their military defeat.

The imperialists’ “humanitarian” pretensions are pure hypocrisy. The U.S.’s dominant interest in the Balkans and beyond is to maintain its hegemony over its imperialist rivals (strengthening NATO serves to check German ambitions), its subordinate junior partners, and above all the masses of working people increasingly restive over the mounting world economic crisis. In the past it has done this by backing the two local strongmen, Milosevic in Serbia and Tudjman in Croatia. Now it has to show the world that Milosevic, like Saddam Hussein in 1990-91, cannot get away with going beyond the bounds that U.S. imperialism has set for him.

All the imperialist powers wish to block the spread of other mass upsurges, many of which take a nationalist form, which could mean a wider conflagration spreading to Macedonia, Albania, Greece and Turkey. As well, the European powers are afraid of even larger numbers of Kosovar refugees emigrating across their borders. NATO’s “concern” for the refugees is obscene, given their history of persecuting both refugees and immigrants within their own borders.

2. The U.S. understands that the air attacks it used in Bosnia to force Milosevic to deal would be insufficient in Kosovo, but Clinton has originally promised not to send in ground troops except as an occupying “peacekeeper” force. Clinton’s hands are tied by the Vietnam syndrome – the fear of domestic unrest if U.S. lives are lost. He has either to break his vow, with the risk of major domestic and Congressional opposition; or to ask for European NATO troops to go in, with the risk of shattering the already fragile NATO coalition. Major sections of the ruling classes in the U.S. and Western Europe are campaigning to win public opinion to favor the troops option.

3. Milosevic, like Saddam Hussein, has tried to push the limits of his sub-strongman role. He has based his power on Serb nationalism, ever since the economic crisis hit Yugoslavia hard in the 1980’s. To consolidate his power, he canceled Kosovo’s autonomy within Serbia and deprived the Kosovars of numerous democratic rights on ethnic grounds. Now he is engaged in a policy of “ethnic cleansing.” Because the nationalist stakes are higher for Milosevic in Kosovo than they were in Bosnia, he is calling Clinton’s bluff and is fighting NATO mainly by stepping up Serbia’s victimization of the Albanian Kosovars.

4. The bourgeois nationalist Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), in signing the Rambouillet agreement with the imperialist powers and supporting the NATO attack, has actively joined the imperialist side. Thus we can no longer give it general military support. The KLA has in effect abandoned the struggle for national self-determination in favor of accepting, at least temporarily, the prospect of an imperialist protectorate. (It is a myth that the imperialists support independence for Kosovo.)

We continue, however, to support the military defense of the Kosovar people against the Serbian attacks aimed at the ethnic cleansing of the province; we are for the defeat of the Serb forces in those attacks. We can also consider military support to KLA forces in conflicts with Serb forces when it is specifically defending civilians from Serb attacks. Serbia’s armed forces have no right to occupy Kosovo. But since there are at the moment no anti-Serb armed forces not subordinated to NATO and imperialism, we are for the military defense of the Serb forces against the KLA when its military alliance with NATO is the dominant issue, even in Kosovo.

5. We remain in favor of the right of the Kosovars to national self-determination. Even though independence is no solution for a tiny, economically backward nation, Trotskyists side with the oppressed in our mutual struggle against imperialism and other forms of oppression. We aim to remove the national question from the agenda so that the workers and peasants are freed from illusions in their own bourgeois and petty-bourgeois politicians, and can confront their own ruling class head-on. Self-determination for Kosovo cannot be achieved by siding with NATO. But it must be demanded by the working class in Serbia as well as in Kosovo, as a key political method in defending Serbia from NATO’s attack – and by workers in the U.S. and the other imperialist countries of NATO who must not accept the imperialists’ insistence that Kosovo remain part of Serbia.

6. Both the eruption of Serbian chauvinism and the betrayals of the Albanian Kosovars by their bourgeois nationalist leaders, from the pacifist Ibrahim Rugova to the guerrillaist KLA, prove once again that nationalism is no solution to oppression: it is a deadly enemy that inevitably betrays the masses to imperialism. Only during those historical instants when nationalists are forced to concretely fight imperialism in order to maintain their grip on the oppressed and the working class do communists side militarily with their struggle. At all times we assert the necessity of proletarian socialist revolution and for a socialist federation of the Balkans.

In the U.S., our prime task is firm opposition to the greatest enemy of the exploited and oppressed masses here and abroad, American imperialism, and its agents in the working class and on the “left.” In working for its military defeat, we must also work to separate support for the Serbian struggle against imperialism from the chauvinist and racist anti-Albanian line pushed by Serb nationalists, and by those on the left who act as their shills in the name of Marxism.

U.S./NATO/U.N.: Hands Off the Balkans!
Defend Serbia Against U.S./NATO Aggression!
For the Right of Kosovo to National Self-Determination!