Freedom for Kosovo!

Independence fight

Last Monday 68 fighter planes from 12 Nato countries flew within miles of the Yugoslav border. Worried by the threat to stability in the Balkans caused by a possible knock-on effect in Albania, Macedonia and Romania, imperialism wants to force Serbia to end its bloody onslaught against the Kosovar people.

Kosovo, with its overwhelmingly Albanian population, had autonomous status within Tito’s Yugoslavia. However, this status was revoked in 1989 by Serbia’s president, Slobodan Milosevic, as bureaucratic socialism began to crumble. He declared Kosovo to be an integral part of Serbia, pointing to its historical heritage and ignoring the wishes of its present inhabitants.

Driven by brutal repression - not only of their right to self-determination, but also of their right to associate politically and even use their own language - Kosovars adopted many forms of resistance. Some hoped to win concessions by peaceful means and did not necessarily back those who took up arms. But as oppression has given way to full-scale assault, wiping out whole villages in a desperate bid by Serbia to regain control of its former province, virtually the entire Albanian population has been won over to the side of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

A large part of Kosovo is now under the effective control of the KLA, with the Serbs only holding a few metres either side of the main north-south road. The area around Malisevo is run completely by its forces.

Of course the prime concern of the imperialist powers is not at all the right of Kosovo to self-determination, but to stamp their own unchallenged authority on this area, as over the entire planet. The United States has won complete hegemony in shaping the post-USSR world, but as usual its most reliable ally is the UK. After Iran, Libya and Iraq, Serbia is just the latest ‘rogue state’ that needs to be brought to book.

With the US at the helm, Nato is threatening air strikes against Serbia - and not just against its positions in Kosovo. The USA is no longer particularly concerned with the niceties of gaining formal approval from the United Nations. Secretary of state Madeleine Albright stated that this was not necessary, as article 51 allowed states to defend themselves against “grave threats”. The US has the effrontery to claim that the “risk of instability” constitutes such a threat to itself - although Britain and other Security Council members are said to be “uncomfortable about the legality” of this position.

Commenting on the possibility, under the New World Order, of a Nato strike without UN backing, The Daily Telegraph wrote:

“In doing so, they will lack the sort of authorisation which has lain behind UN action to curb Saddam Hussein. They will be invading a sovereign state against the wish of its government ... Nothing better illustrates the change in alliance perspectives since the collapse of the Warsaw Pact adversary on the north German plain a decade ago” (editorial, June 13).

The Telegraph understands of course why the imperialist powers feel compelled to act: “They fear that independence for Kosovo would encourage the disaffected ethnic Albanians of Macedonia to follow suit, thus creating a power vacuum at the heart of the Balkans.” Nevertheless the paper considers that on balance, “Independence for the province should become western policy.”

Communists also call for independence, but for very different reasons and from a very different perspective. Our concern is not imperialist “stability”. We unconditionally support the right of all nations and nationalities to self-determination and back the armed revolutionary fight to achieve it. But we are not nationalists and in normal, peaceful circumstances advocate that the right to self-determination should be exercised in favour of a voluntary union.

However, in cases where violence and oppression have been so intense and national distrust so deep-rooted, as in Kosovo, it is clear that a complete break can be the only solution. Being for an independent Kosovo would lay the basis for cooperation between Kosovar and Serb workers on equal terms and bring about the possibility of united class action. Full rights for Serbs still living in Kosovo would have to form a part of this.

It should be noted that the situation is completely different from that in Bosnia, where Serb, Croat and Muslim nationalists fought a reactionary war for domination and control - each at the expense of the other two groups (the largest group, the Muslims, refusing to recognise the right of Serbs or Croats in Bosnia to self-determination).

Many Kosovars today are looking to imperialism to deliver then from oppression, and even to force Serbia to concede independence. Last week hundreds of Albanians demonstrated in London, demanding that the UK and US launch a strike against Milosevic. But, despite the call of the Telegraph, Nato believes, as in Bosnia, that its interests would best be served through avoiding a further fracturing of the Yugoslav federation. According to The Independent, any strike against Serbia must have “well defined political objectives ... It must include some means of persuading the Kosovo Liberation Army to disarm [sic] and negotiate” (June 10). Nato limits the nature of the future settlement it hopes to impose to some undefined “new status” for Kosovo.

The same paper’s correspondent in Kosovo, Robert Fisk, reported that the British minister of state for foreign affairs, Tony Lloyd, had given great comfort to the Serbs. Lloyd had reportedly announced in Pristina, the Serb-occupied Kosovar capital: “There is no military solution to the problems of Kosovo ... The future is meaningful negotiation - and meaningful negotiation within the Yugoslav federation” (June 12).

Nevertheless the threat of military action against Serbia is very real. After Monday’s Nato ‘exercises’ foreign secretary Robin Cook warned: “President Milosevic ought to look very closely at what is happening just over his border and remember that all options are open.”

Kosovars should not rely on imperialism and place no trust in Nato. Genuine self-determination can only be won through their own efforts - with the support of the world’s working class.

Peter Manson