Balkans

A young Marxist from Yugoslavia has written to us about how things used to be in Yugoslavia before the events of the late 80s and 90s which tore the country apart. By Vladimir Unkovski.

The New York Times of Saturday, March 27, quotes Laura Leslie, a senior from Miramonte High School, San Francisco: "I don't want to see another thing like what happened with Hitler, with a terrible person taking over countries". Laura reads the newspaper and listens to the news, and in her innocent way sums up the message of the propaganda war-supporting machine. She is not to be blamed for oversimplifying what is going on in Kosovo and why her country is at war again. The media and the President try to convince you that this is true and that you should support the men and women of your armed forces for the sake of your values and your children's future. But I would like to offer you a

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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.

Nato is to send 3,500 troops to Macedonia with the stated aim of disarming the Albanian rebels who have been involved in armed conflict with the Macedonian army. NATO is going in because Macedonia is on the verge of open civil war. If this were allowed to spread and get out of control it would have far greater consequences than simply that of destabilising Macedonia itself. It could bring Greece and Turkey (both NATO members) into a war where they would be fighting on opposite sides thus seriously weakening NATO's south eastern flank.

We have received this article from Alek Atevik in Skopje, Macedonia. It analyses the historical background and the situation facing Macedonia today. Particularly striking is the reference to workers strikes. As the author points out, when it is a question of defending jobs and wages, such as at the Yugohrom factory, there is no divisions between Albanians and Macedonians. Workers' unity cuts across the ethnic divide!

Below we publish a letter we received commenting on our article 'Macedonia - the next powder keg?' What is particularly interesting is what is said about places where the local population is mixed, Albanian and Macedonian speaking. Apparently some form of militia has been formed to protect all the population from attacks from the Albanian guerrillas.

What is unfolding in Macedonia today [March 2001] confirms what we have always said. There will never be a solution to the National Question on the Balkans so long as the underlying economic and social problems remain. After they thought they had brought the situation in Kosovo under control, the situation across the border in Macedonia is flaring up.

Two correspondants from Belgrade provided us with an almost day-to-day account of last week's events in Serbia. These accounts show clearly how the intervention of the working class was decisive in toppling the old regime. What is also clear is the attempt on the part of both the old regime and the "opposition" to curb the spontaneity of the masses.

Following on from the collapse of the Milosevic regime, the working class of Yugoslavia have moved to reassert their class interests. While Vojislav Kostunica attempts to restore "order" after the mass movement that overthrew the old regime, miners, carworkers, lecturers and other layers turned on their old bosses.

There is a very old tradition in Balkan politics to resort to conspiracy theories to explain everything. There is always some dark plot brewing in some foreign chancellery or other, some obscure forces that are supposed to be manipulating events for god knows what purpose. Such stuff is as inseparable from Balkan political comment as Hail Marys from a nunnery or sex scandals from Bill Clinton's bedroom. After the overthrow of Milosevic, we are now informed that it was all the result of a conspiracy...

The events in Yugoslavia represent a political earthquake. In the space of 24 hours the entire situation has been transformed. The decisive element in the equation has been the sudden eruption of the masses on the scene. The scenes of an avalanche of humanity descending on Belgrade, the strikes, the confrontations with the police, the storming of the Parliament, have captured the imagination of the world. What is the meaning of the events in Yugoslavia? What is the nature of this movement? And what attitude should Marxists take towards it?

Dear Comrades,

As you probably can see on your TV screens, the situation has became very radical. The opposition (DOS) claims that the police and some other vital parts of the regime have collapsed. This is true of the Belgrade city police. DOS (the opposition) is now organising the constitution of a new Federal Parliament, and I think that it is going to be a decisive moment.

The events in Yugoslavia represent a political earthquake. In the space of 24 hours the entire situation has been transformed. The decisive element in the equation has been the sudden eruption of the masses on the scene. The scenes of an avalanche of humanity descending on Belgrade, the strikes, the confrontations with the police, the storming of the Parliament, have captured the imagination of the world. What is the meaning of the events in Yugoslavia? What is the nature of this movement? And what attitude should Marxists take towards it?

Over the last year Socialist Appeal has carried a number of articles on the Balkans conflict which have challenged the official interpretation of events. This is also considered in depth by a number of the contributors to "Degraded Capability: The Media and the Kosovo Crisis." Although, as the title suggests, this book deals mainly with the role and actions of the media, it does start with a consideration of the conflict itself.

A 4 part document by Alan Woods and Ted Grant. The question of nationalities has always occupied a central position in Marxist theory. In particular, the writings of Lenin deal with this important issue in great detail. It is true to say that, without a correct appraisal of the national question, the Bolsheviks would never have succeeded in coming to power in 1917. This document reviews the rich Marxist literature on this issue and applies it to today's conditions.

During the NATO bombings in Serbia and Kosovo the propaganda machine of the media in the West, with a few noble exceptions, obediently put forward the line that it was necessary to concentrate the armed might of the nineteen most powerful nations of the world, in order to stop the "ethnic cleansing" of the Kosovar Albanians. All the news was aimed at justifying everything NATO was doing.

During the NATO bombings in Serbia and Kosovo the propaganda machine of the media in the West was in full swing in order to justify everything NATO was doing. On 16th January ITV broadcast a documentary by Jonathan Dimbleby which confirms most of what was reported at the time were lies and propaganda. Fred Weston reviews.

The press in the West have been highlighting the opposition movement that has been developing in Serbia. They have been announcing the imminent fall of Milosevic ever since the ending of NATO's bombing campaign. Thus on 4th August The Guardian published an article under the headline 'Campaign to oust Milosevic gathers pace'. The television reporting has been particularly insisting on this angle. But when one looks at the real situation on the ground one gets a completely different picture.