Another match in the Balkan tinderbox

What We Think

Another match in the Balkan tinderbox

THE FIGHTING that raged between Albanian guerrillas and government troops last week showed once again that imperialism has no solution to the problems that beset the Balkans.

The guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (NLA) are accused by the Macedonian government of seeking a ‘greater Albania’, while the NLA, (formerly the Kosova Liberation Army – KLA), say they are fighting for equal rights.

The NLA is mobilising ethnic Albanians to join the fight. Many young Albanians in Tetovo complain of discrimination and support the guerrillas.

Meanwhile, thousands of Macedonian Slavs, the country’s majority ethnic group, have demonstrated in the capital Skopje demanding to be armed against the rebels.

Macedonia emerged as an independent state in 1992 following the break-up of Yugoslavia. Around one-quarter of the population is ethnic Albanian and two-thirds are Slav. Its government is a shaky pro-capitalist coalition of the main Slav party VMRO-DPMNE and the Democratic Party for Albanians.

Former Liberal Party leader Paddy Ashdown, who is visiting the region, warned the conflict could “lead us to the wider Balkan war that everyone has feared”.

The Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI – the socialist international organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated) opposed the NATO-imposed Balkans ‘peace deal’ in June 1999, saying:

“On the basis of capitalism there is no solution to the problems facing the working masses of the Balkans. Even if the Kosova issue is ‘contained’ for a temporary period, new areas of the Balkans are ready to explode. NATO’s bloody attempt to firewall the Kosova national question has only exacerbated other flash points. Macedonia with its massively increased Albanian population and Slav majority, is a tinderbox.

“Outright civil war and break-up of the state is possible, dragging in other states like Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey.”

From friend to foe

LESS THAN two years after NATO’s K-For troops occupied Kosova, the Western powers are increasingly bogged down in a political quagmire.

Hypocritically, during the war with Milosevic’s Serbian regime, the KLA was a British SAS-trained, proxy NATO force fighting the Serbian army. Now the KLA and its NLA heirs are again seen in the West as a destabilising force. The prospect of self-determination for Kosovars in a NATO-run Kosova was an illusion. And, as we predicted, the realisation of this deceit would turn the KLA from NATO ally into foe.

Now, NATO has allowed Serbian troops to re-enter southern Kosova’s ‘buffer zone’ to suppress NLA separatists.

The situation is increasingly seen as NATO’s ‘Balkan Ulster’; a reference to Northern Ireland in 1969 when British troops were initially welcomed as peacemakers by Catholics but who in a short time were seen as oppressors.

The Macedonian government is critical of the West for not sealing Kosova’s southern border with its country – the NLA’s military supplies come from across the border in Kosova. But K-For fears being sucked into fighting the NLA.

Socialist solution

THE ‘NATIONAL question’ in the Balkans flows directly from capitalist restoration in Yugoslavia in the late 1980s. This led to a scramble for wealth and power by competing groups of former ruling Stalinist bureaucrats who used nationalism to maintain their privileged rule.

By dividing the working class they unleashed the nightmare of ethnic cleansing. Sections of Western imperialism, keen to re-establish markets and strategic control of the region, consciously assisted the break-up of Yugoslavia and unleashed the poisoned genie of nationalism.

A lasting resolution of the national question can only be brought about through a united working-class struggle.

Linking this struggle to the establishment of a voluntary socialist confederation of Balkan states would allow all peoples of the region to decide their future and guarantee their rights.

Then a socialist planned economy would release the resources to enable workers to plan society for the benefit of all and remove the poverty and scarcity that has allowed reactionary gangsters to whip up sectarian hatred.