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Kosova: After the elections - before the explosion
A FINAL round of talks held in Baden, Austria last week between Serbian and Kosovan diplomats (mediated by the EU, US and Russia) to resolve the disputed province of Kosova's future, ended in failure. This has increased the possibility of the ethnic Albanian 'government' in the territory unilaterally declaring independence after 10 December. Sascha Stanicic reports on the failure of the main powers to resolve the province's national dispute and its chronic social and economic problems.
ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS in the United Nations (UN) protectorate of Kosova took place on 17 November. The outcome of the election changed nothing in the power structure in Kosova which is, formally, still a Serbian province under UN administration - the UNMIK. However, the election has revealed the deep dissatisfaction of the masses and this will deepen the long-running crisis in region.
Only 38%-43% of the electorate (according to different sources) turned out to vote. Of those, 34% voted for the Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK) led by the former KLA (Kosova Liberation Army) leader Hashim Thaci.
The PDK replaced the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) as the strongest parliamentary force but will not be able to form a 'government' on its own. These two major capitalist political forces represent different factions of the Kosova elite who have managed to enrich themselves in the eight years since the NATO war against Serbia brought Kosova under UN control.
Since then the status of this region (whose two million population is made up of 90% of Kosova-Albanians, and around 5% each of Serbs and other minorities such as Roma), has been disputed.
This year, Kosova's 'final status' as a political entity is meant to be settled. The so-called Ahtissaari plan (named after Martti Ahtissaari, the Finnish UN representative) has called for a "conditioned independence" in which self-governed Serb enclaves are to be formed but control and final decision-making would, in reality, still lie with imperialist powers - now the European Union.
Many Kosova-Albanians reject this plan as it would mean a de facto ethnic division and no real self-determination. Serbia and Russia also reject it.
For Serbia it would mean the end of its formal rule over Kosova, while Russia sees any solution with the label "independence" as a dangerous precedent for its regions like Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Chechnya or Transdniester where independence movements could see a formally independent Kosova as tail wind for their aspirations.
For Kosova's workers, youth and unemployed the decisive question however is 'which way can lead to an end of poverty, hunger, mass unemployment and economic backwardness and for full democratic and national rights - in a country with rich natural resources of brown coal, lead, zinc, etc?'
Today 40% of the population live in poverty and another 15% in extreme poverty. Unemployment is estimated to stand at 60%. Mines have not re-opened after the 1999 war because of disputes around the question of ownership and privatisation.
Privatisation in other sectors of the economy has led to lay-offs and unpaid wages. No wonder then that workers' and youth protests are increasing. They see how the UN administration loots their country while the ordinary working people don't know how to survive.
Given this situation the western imperialist powers must fear that without granting some kind of independence there could be a revolt, or possibly a civil war, developing against foreign control of Kosova. They prefer to give more power to their vassals in the Kosova political elite while keeping ultimate control in their hands.
At the same time they face a dilemma because anything which is called 'independence' can spark off further conflicts in other Balkan countries such as Bosnia-Hercegovina where the Serb population may use such a development to demand formal independence of their "Serbian Republic" which is still part of Bosnia.
Some, like the Kosovan LPV (Movement for Self-Determination), believe that only on the basis of real self-determination (which certainly would lead to independence) and an end to foreign domination, can a solution for the Kosova masses be found.
This movement seems to be growing, especially amongst the youth, as it speaks out both against foreign control and against social inequalities, privatisation, lay-offs etc.
It claims to stand in the tradition of national liberation struggles and says that its policy is not directed against ordinary Serbs, with who they want to live together on the basis of equal rights. The LPV was able to organise mass demonstrations in February 2007 of more than 10,000 at which two peaceful demonstrators were shot by UN police. Since then their leader, Albin Kurti, first was arrested and now is under house arrest (which was relaxed a bit on 14 November).
In general, socialists should support the right of self-determination for oppressed nations, up to and including the right to separation. This is linked to the struggle for the social and economic liberation of the working class from capitalism. But the nationalism of the PDK, LDK and other capitalist forces is really about the creation of an Albanian elite, which in collaboration with western governments and corporations can exploit the majority of the population.
This right-wing capitalist nationalism is also posed against the national minorities who live in Kosova. Its aim is to split the area along ethnic lines in collaboration with UNMIK and its plans for a EU protectorate.
On a capitalist basis the under-development of Kosova, the exploitation and dominance of multinational corporations and corrupt Albanian elites, mass poverty and unemployment, cannot be overcome. An independent capitalist Kosova could neither develop a strong national industry, nor real independence nor real democracy.
To achieve these a change in the basic social structure of society and the economy is necessary - away from production for profit to a production to meet the needs of the population, ie away from capitalist exploitation to a socialist democracy.
This would have to be based on public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy under democratic control and management. In addition, a democratic economic plan to satisfy the needs of society would have to be developed.
An independent socialist Kosova would give equal rights to all national minorities and would allow for full language, cultural and other minority rights. This could include autonomy for the Serb minority if desired.
Only on this basis can the fear of the minorities ending up as nationally oppressed people in an independent, Albanian-dominated Kosova be overcome and real unity achieved. At the same time this would be a clear signal to the working classes of the other Balkan countries that an independent socialist Kosova wants to overcome nationalism in the Balkans and seeks the cooperation of the Balkan peoples.
A call would have to be directed to the workers and peasants of the peoples of the former Yugoslavia and of Albania to take a socialist path as well and to build a joint, voluntary, democratic and socialist federation of the countries of the Balkans.
- No to privatisation.
- Introduce a decent minimum wage.
- Reduce the working week without loss of pay.
- Fight corruption and the enrichment of the Albanian elites.
- For a massive public investment programme into education, health and infrastructure.
- Immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all foreign troops and dissolving of UNMIK.
- Elections to a genuinely democratic constituent assembly, including full representation for workers, the unemployed, rural workers and youth.
- Fight all forms of discrimination against national and religious minorities. Full equal rights and granting of political and cultural minority rights.
- End the house arrest against Albin Kurti and release other political prisoners of the LPV.
- Build a fighting and multi-ethnic trade union movement to defend the immediate interests of the wage labourers.
- Build a mass democratic, socialist party of the working class and poor.
- For an independent socialist Kosova as part of a voluntary democratic socialist federation of the Balkans.
In The Socialist 6 December 2007:
Workplace news and analysis
What we think
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party review
Post Office and CWU