Anti-bombing protest gives left cover to Serb chauvinism

June 23, 1999

By Chris Lotham

SYDNEY — On June 6, around 750-1000 people participated in a rally and march opposing NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia. The protest, organised by an ad hoc committee called Australians for Peace in Yugoslavia, highlighted the impact of the bombing on the workers of Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, however, the organisers deliberately avoided confronting the real issues that would be in the minds of most people concerned about the war.

The protest failed to address in any way the question of Kosovan Albanians' democratic right to self-determination — including independence if they so choose. None of the publicity for the protest mentioned the democratic rights of Kosovan Albanians or the terror campaign being conducted by the Yugoslav army and Serbian paramilitaries in Kosova.

The effect of this orientation was to convert a protest against NATO's aggression into support for the Serbian chauvinist regime of Slobodan Milosevic.

This chauvinist character was reflected in a number of incidents. The crowd booed Pru Wirth, Sydney University Student Representative Council education officer, the only speaker to attempt to criticise the Milosevic regime. A large section of the protest marched under Chetnik and Serbian monarchist flags chanting "Kosovo is Serbia". Resistance and Democratic Socialist Party members who attended with placards stating "Stop the bombing. Freedom for Kosova" were told, "If you support Kosovan Albanians, you are not welcome" and "If you support Albanians, you are anti-Serb and pro-NATO".

The most shameful aspect of these events was that the protest was organised primarily by left organisations — the Communist Party of Australia and the International Socialist Organisation. This gave left cover to a protest that identified opposition to NATO's war drive with denial of or support for the "ethnic cleaning" of the Serb chauvinist regime in Belgrade.

The position of the CPA is not surprising, since it never supports national rights that are under attack by reactionary governments with which it maintains "diplomatic" relations. But the ISO claims to support the Leninist position on the right of oppressed nations to self-determination.

When the rally was being organised, members of the DSP and Resistance proposed slogans that would oppose NATO's bombing and support the democratic rights of Kosovans. Members of the ISO argued that Kosovars' rights should not be mentioned, in order to make the protest "as broad as possible". At the march itself, they said, they could then explain issues like the right to national self-determination to the "broad" audience that had been attracted.

In fact, no member of the ISO present had the moral courage of Pru Wirth.

The extra "breadth" achieved by the CPA and ISO's unprincipled politics consisted of a platform for chauvinists and monarchists. This opening to the right and ultra-right ensured that there was no possibility of attracting the potentially much larger numbers of people who support peace and national rights for both Serbs and Kosovans.

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