The Kosova conflict and the CPA

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The Kosova conflict and the CPA

By Doug Lorimer

The April 7 issue of Green Left Weekly carried a two-page statement by the national executive of the Democratic Socialist Party condemning NATO's bombing campaign against Serbia and supporting the struggle of the Kosova Albanians for independence from Serbian rule. The April 28 issue of the Guardian, the weekly paper of the Communist Party of Australia, carried a lengthy criticism of the statement by CPA general-secretary Peter Symon.

The DSP statement argued that the goal of the NATO powers' policy in the Balkans has been to "ensure that the capitalist states that have emerged" out of the disintegration of Yugoslavia in 1991 "are economically and militarily dependent upon the Western powers, and therefore subservient to Western corporate interests". The statement ended with the following points:

"The NATO aggression against Serbia will not, and nor is it intended to, produce a just solution ... It aims to advance the predatory interests of the Western powers. This is why the DSP and Resistance unequivocally condemn NATO's air strikes against Serbia and call for their immediate cessation.

"There can be no just solution to the Kosova conflict without the establishment of the fullest and most consistent democracy in the relations between the national communities inhabiting Kosova. In the first place, this means ending the Serbian campaign of terror, repression and 'ethnic cleansing' against the Kosovar people and recognition of their right to independence from Serbia.

"Short of a mass movement in Serbia forcing the Milosevic regime to end this campaign and to withdraw all its armed forces from Kosova (a development which the NATO aggression has made extremely improbable), the only viable force on the ground that could do this is a decisively strengthened KLA [Kosova Liberation Army].

"The KLA should be provided with all the resources, without political strings attached, needed to defeat the Serbian armed forces in Kosova."

According to Symon, "With only slight variations all these conditions could be easily endorsed by NATO in the present situation". In reality, they would require a 180 degree turn in its policy.

Symon argues that the DSP statement is wrong to state that the chief purpose of the NATO occupation force provided for in the Rambouillet treaty was "to disarm the KLA and thus make the Kosovars completely dependent upon, and under the military and political control" of NATO.

"A reading of the Rambouillet document", he writes, "shows that it does not even mention the KLA ... On the other hand the military forces of the Yugoslav Government ... would be obliged to withdraw completely from the province of Kosovo ...

"Only a small police force would remain in border regions and even this force could be reduced on the decision of the NATO occupying forces."

If, as Symon correctly points out, the only non-NATO force to be allowed under the Rambouillet document's plan is "a small police force", how will this be achieved without the disarming of the tens of thousands of KLA guerilla fighters?

Ethnic cleansing

"Throughout the DSP statement", Symon writes, "the alleged 'ethnic cleansing' of Albanians has top billing which is also the main element of the ceaseless propaganda of the mass media".

He denies that the Serbian state has carried out a campaign of terror, mass murder and forced deportation of the Kosova Albanians. According to Symon, the hundreds of thousands of Albanians who have left Kosova for neighbouring Albania and Macedonia are simply fleeing the NATO bombing.

As "proof" of this claim, Symon poses the question, "If the Serbian Government is hell-bent on throwing out all Albanians why is it that the 100,000 ethnic Albanians living in Belgrade are unaffected?". Mightn't this be because the ethnic Albanians living in Belgrade constitute a small minority of the population there and therefore do not pose a problem for the rule of the Serbian state over the city?

A more relevant question, which Symon does not bother to consider, is: if the Serbian state has not used the NATO aggression as a cover to systematically drive Albanians out of Kosova and the inhabitants of Kosova are only fleeing NATO's bombs, why has there not been a single Serb among the almost 1 million Kosovars who have cross into Albania and Macedonia?

Symon claims that the "DSP statement says that the NATO aggression is to advance the 'predatory interests of the Western powers' but fails to draw the necessary conclusions". Surely the "necessary conclusion" is the one drawn in the DSP statement, i.e., it is necessary to "unequivocally condemn NATO's air strikes against Serbia and call for their immediate cessation"?

Apparently not. The "necessary conclusions" for Symon thinks are that socialists should not support the right of the Kosova Albanians to national self-determination, because, he claims, "the 'predatory interests' of the Western powers include the separation of Kosovo as a province of Yugoslavia, thereby destroying her sovereignty".

If this is the imperialist powers' goal, why does the US government continue to oppose Kosovan independence and insist that Kosova must remain part of the Serbian state?

While asserting that the DSP statement's proposals for a just solution to the Kosova conflict could be endorsed by NATO "with only slight variations", Symon agrees with the NATO powers that Kosova should remain a province of Serbia.

"The Albanians", he argues, "do not have any exclusive right to that piece of territory. The historic Serbian claim has also to be recognised."

Symon's first statement simply introduces a red herring. The DSP statement did not argue that the Albanians have an exclusive right to Kosova, i.e., that Kosova should be "ethnically cleansed" of all its non-Albanian inhabitants. Rather, it argued that the only just solution requires "the fullest and most consistent democracy in the relations between the national communities inhabiting Kosova", which includes the democratic right of the Kosova Albanians to national self-determination.

Symon's second sentence is simply an accommodation to Serbian national chauvinist mythology: because Serb-speaking feudal landlords ruled over Kosova and its predominately non-Serb inhabitants during the 14th century, the Serbian nation has some "historic claim" to rule over Kosova today.

Symon denies that the Kosova Albanians have a right to national self-determination because they "fired the first shots and committed the first killings and over a number of years forced Serbians off their land just as the Israelis have been forcing the Palestinians off their historic settlements". This is all Symon tells his readers about the history of Kosova!

Symon's attempt to compare the Kosova Albanians to the Zionist colonisers of Palestine is simply grotesque. In reality, it is the Serbian state which has and is today acting like the Zionists.

A year after the Albanians won their national independence from the Ottoman empire in 1912, the Serbian state, with the support of the imperialist powers, annexed the majority Albanian-inhabited territory of Kosova (along with northern Macedonia). In the years after this, more than half a million Albanian peasants were forced to emigrate, and their vacated lands were taken over by Serbian colonists.

Lenin's position

Ignoring the Serbian state's national oppression of the Kosova Albanians, Symon tries to justify his opposition to their right to national self-determination with the argument that the "status of nationalities in a multi-national state is always a complicated one" and that "the shortsighted and simplistic demand for an Albanian state" does not "offer a lasting solution".

Pre-revolutionary Russia was a multinational state, and yet the Russian Marxists led by Lenin did not regard the status of nationalities as too complicated to be able to offer a lasting solution, i.e., the right of all the nations within that state to self-determination, including political secession.

Marxists, Lenin declared in his 1916 article "The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination", "cannot remain silent on the question of the frontiers of a state founded on national oppression, a question so 'unpleasant' for the imperialist bourgeoisie" — and, it appears, for Peter Symon. Lenin argued that Marxists "must struggle against the enforced retention of oppressed nations within the bounds of the given state, which means that they must fight for the right of self-determination".

In another article, "The Discussion on Self-Determination Summed Up", also written in 1916, Lenin took issue with those socialists who objected to the right of national self-determination on the grounds that this would mean "erection of new frontier posts in Europe".

Lenin explained that Marxists fight for "the establishment of democracy in all spheres, including the delineation of state frontiers in accordance with the 'sympathies' of the population, including complete freedom to secede".

"However you may twist and turn", Lenin wrote, "annexation is violation of the self-determination of a nation, it is the establishment of state frontiers contrary to the will of the population".

Lenin explained that socialists who denied the right of the oppressed nationalities to secede from the oppressor state were simply arguing "against the annexed waging a war for their liberation from those who have annexed them", and consequently were, in practice, annexationists.

"No socialist party", Lenin argued, "would risk taking this stand: 'We oppose annexations in general but we sanction annexations for Europe or tolerate them once they have been made' ..."

Symon, however, adopts exactly that approach toward Kosova. He is against annexations "in general", but he sanctions the annexation of Kosova by the Serbian state and opposes the Kosova Albanians waging a war for their liberation from those who have annexed them.

Symon's position on the conflict is completely devoid of the communist principles of working-class internationalism and amounts to mere apologetics for the national-chauvinist policies of Slobodan Milosevic's reactionary bourgeois regime.

[Doug Lorimer is a member of the DSP national executive.]