Former Yugoslavia: a capitalist, not an ethnic, war
ILCL - International Library of the Communist Left
[last] [home] [content] [end] [search]

FORMER YUGOSLAVIA: A CAPITALIST, NOT AN ETHNIC, WAR
If linked: [French] [German] [Italian] [Spanish]


Content:

Former Yugoslavia: a capitalist, not an ethnic, war
The bonds that bind
Obedient international institutions
Capitalist savagery
Just a link in the chain
Time is now
What peace now?
Once more, the historic alternative
Source


Former Yugoslavia: a capitalist, not an ethnic, war
[top] [content] [next]

To speak of the war in the former Yugoslavia as of an «ethnic war» is absurd and misleading. Forty-five years ago, in an article called «The Proletariat and Trieste», we wrote: «the 'nationality principle' easily lends itself to all plastic operations of the modern «pimpy» diplomatic surgery. That is especially true in those areas, as the unfortunate Balkans, where it is impossible to draw the ethnic, linguistic and national borders on the geographic map, where the Turkish, Greek, Serbian and Bulgarian villages, with their own priests, are just a step away from each other. Hatred, war and force will never settle those lands on the basis of the 'nationality principle'» (1).

Thus, the main characters in the tragic sequence of war events in those regions were not (and are not) the ethnic groups, which form an inextricable knot on the territory of former Yugoslavia - Bosniac Muslims siding with Serbia, Serbians or Croatians seceding from their so-called mother-country, and so on. The main characters were (and are) the «national» bourgeoisies which grew up as a consequence of the breakup, originally, of the Ottoman Empire (second half of the last century), and then, after WWI, of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In the following period, these «national» bourgeoisies were held together in the Kingdom of Serbians, Croatians and Slovenians. WWII came, and that union was violently broken up. And when WWII ended, those «national» bourgeoisies were again put together within the Federal Republic of «Southern Slavs» (i.e. Yugoslavia). But this «new» reality was even more contradictory: on the one hand, in fact, by aggregating them in a single state structure, it brought these «national» bourgeoisies closer together; on the other, through the «self-management» myth, it fed their centrifugal thrusts.

What we are here talking about are the Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, Slovenian bourgeoisies (not to speak of the Albanian Kosovo or of the «Turkish» Macedonia), and, of course, of their respective states - all of them eager to enlarge to the detriment of their neighbours, all of them interested in fuelling the fire of ancient hatreds and rivalries (of race or of religion) with the only object of cutting a larger and tastier slice of the cake for themselves (2).

The bonds that bind
[prev.] [content] [next]

The clash is thus exquisitely of a capitalistic nature. We can detect such a nature not only in the savagery founded upon an ultra-modern war equipment. We can detect it also in the strict political, economic, diplomatic, and military bonds, which bind both the states which became independent in the 1990-1991 period and the big imperialist powers, interested in the control and exploitation of the Balkan area.

These bonds were a constant over the past 150 years. Originally, they were exclusively held by Austria, in perennial competition with Tsarist Russia. Then, after WWI, came France. During WWII, Germany and, in a subordinate position, Italy profited by them. And, when Tito's federal structure crumbled to pieces, it was Germany that pressed for an immediate recognition of the new state structures, laid its hands, politically and economically, on Slovenia (by now, its peaceful annex), and blessed the rebirth of Croatia and, above all, armed it. In retort, against Germany's influence, France and Great Britain contributed to the reconstruction of Serbia, even if Serbia was and is politically oriented towards the new Russia. The US, on their part, while doing business with all the newborn republics, showed themselves particularly fond (and not only for European interests) of Muslim Bosnia.

Obedient international institutions
[prev.] [content] [next]

The variety and strength of these bonds with imperialism on part of the local bourgeoisies explains on the one hand the inevitability of the main world powers' intervention in the Balkan interstate conflict, and on the other hand the uncertainties, the misunderstandings, the cautions which characterised the behaviour of international institutions such as the UN, the NATO, and so on, all of them obeying the orders of powers which in their turn were divided by contrasting interests and thus loath to act according to a common plan. Whatever the outcome of the present or future peace agreements, it is easy to foresee that deep-rooted conflicts of interest will surface soon again among the members of the so-called forces of quick intervention - on the political level first of all, and on the military one afterwards (also because Washington's interest is of not turning away Russia, the patron - however fragile - of Belgrade's rulers).

Capitalist savagery
[prev.] [content] [next]

Once more, the savagery which marks the current war is not an ethnic peculiarity, either Serbian or Croatian or Bosnian. It is the savagery inherent in the nature of three bourgeois States. It is that self-same cruelty which, since mid-century, delighted us with a myriad so-called «local» wars (the Korean one being the first one), in reality involving the whole planet with their long-term effects. A savagery which, in the period which was so effectively described not as a period of peace but of «cold war», filled with nuclear weapons the arsenals of even minor powers (3). It is such a cruelty which, after so much blathering of diplomatic interventions aimed at a «peaceful» solution of the Balkan crisis, led to the use of large-scale air raids in order to... hasten peace. A peace which, were it signed, would only be a miserable compromise, heralding new, insoluble conflicts.

«If you want peace», Romans said, «prepare war». Today's current version of the famous saying is «making war with the pretext of establishing peace». Fifty years after, floods of tears are shed upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki: but for what reason were those bombs dropped if not - it was claimed at the time - to establish peace? And yet, today, even leaders of the so-called far left have praised the appeasing virtues of the air raids upon the Serbian postings - as if Serbians were, today as yesterday, the only ones to massacre helpless civilians or brutally try to impose this or that «solution» to this tremendous conflict...

Just a link in the chain
[prev.] [content] [next]

The «Yugoslavian» war is but a link in the endless chain of bloody signs of the general crisis which hit the present mode of production and of associate life. Someone wrote that, with it, WWIII has begun. But when did WWII ever end, in the real meaning of the term? The nightmare of a total war against everybody, its experimentation upon several different countries in turn, the run of commercial and monetary wars where guns aren't thundering - were (and are) not these our daily bread over half a century? Marxism teaches that war is inherent to capitalism in general, and to its extreme imperialist phase in particular: could it not delight us in all these fifty years of so-called peace? Numberless international institutions were in time created with the hailed aim of assuring at least a comparative peace everywhere: the tragic destiny of former Yugoslavia is the umpteenth proof of their uselessness (or else, of their only function as armed hands or screens for the bellicose and expansionist main powers and for the effort of each of them to hold the ground conquered to the detriment of the others).

This inexorable process can be ended (or even slowed down) by no diplomatic agreement, no pontifical preaching, no pacifist moaning (however accompanied by huge as well powerless demonstrations), no declaration of «popular will», no parliamentary or democratic artifice. The system's crisis is permanent. And permanent is the real (even if not declared) state of war. Let this be, at least, the teaching of the Yugoslavian tragedy, for those who have been and are still suffering it.

Time is now
[prev.] [content] [next]

Time is now that at least a minority of the exploited class understands that the infamous cycle of recurring crises and wars can only be ended by the proletarian revolution - i.e., by a radical and international, classist and anti-gradualist revolution. The development itself of the capitalist system creates its objective conditions. On their basis, it is necessary to work in order to build the subjective conditions: that is to say, first of all, the existence, continuity, political and organisational rigour of the class party - the party which rejects all compromises with the enemy, the party which declares war to the death to capital, to its agents, to its lackeys.

Had such a party existed in Yugoslavia, from the very start it would have proclaimed the desertion and fraternisation of the soldiers of the two or three sides. Only its call to the class struggle, everywhere, here and there, would have been and would be able to scatter the hollow ghosts of cowardly pacifism, powerless democratism, suicidal interclassism. And thus to direct the oppressed's efforts and attempts against the heart of the system instead of its periphery, against its substance instead of its appearance. Time is now that all workers and sincere fighters abandon the practice which was so common in these sad, long decades: that of stooping to the idols of social peace, of harmony among the classes, of voting as a tool of redemption, of the peaceful and parliamentary conquest of the power, of giving up to that internationalism which, on the contrary, is (and must become again) the first principle in the program of emancipation of the exploited masses.

Outside this perspective (of fight without quarter in defence of their own class), proletarians can only expect the gangrenous perpetuation of wars which only seem to be local and peripheral, the one fiercer and bloodier than the other.

The Yugoslavian tragedy sufficiently teaches it!

What peace now?
[prev.] [content] [next]

Far from being a solution, what is now taking shape in the area is an armed truce - both among the exhausted local bourgeoisies, eager to launch out into the post-war reconstruction and to further exploit the disarmed local proletariat, and among the main imperialist opponents aiming at the partition of the Balkans, first of all Germany and the US.

Germany amply foraged Slovenia and Croatia, assimilating them to the Deutschmark area (4), but must now accept a joint presence in the area, with the US. On their part, the US encouraged the ambiguous and fragile Croatian-Bosnian Confederation in March 1994 and financed the reorganisation of the Bosnian army, thus allowing its military counter-offensive. Now, they are «sponsors and promoters» of the new «peace plan» (i.e.: «division» and partition not so much of Bosnia as of the whole area). Thanks to it, they allowed Croatia to get back the strategical Krajina in complete tranquillity, they established military connections with Croatia, they launched a «reconstruction plan» assessed between $4 and $12 billions, and they limited Germany's role within the financial consortium which will have the task to manage it. Besides, thanks to the substitution of NATO forces (50 thousand soldiers, half of them Americans) with UN ones, the US will have a logistic base on a field, and will thus block all frenzies both of Germany and of UK and France (which had tried to manage by themselves the interests of their own bourgeoisies in the area) or of Russia, once more constrained in its research of an access to Adriatic Sea.

All this shows how the «armed peace» which will take shape, not without other starts, is the result of the relative superiority which US imperialism can still boast of, over its own opponents.

But whatever the outcome of the future peace talks and agreements, the Balkan area won't be pacified. The fire under the cinders will very probably move, along the line to which German expansionism is confined, towards the Macedonia-Greece-Albania triangle. And there is also Turkey - another knot of conflicts among big and small national bourgeoisies and a clear demonstration of the crisis which has been troubling world capitalism for years. In fact, its cangrene is shown by the devastations of economic recession as well as by the «quality» of wars and their destructions, both the products of the impossibility of peaceful and devised solution to the problems posed by overproduction and, in the last analysis, by the fall of the average rate of profit.

Between 1992 and 1994, bilateral and multilateral military treaties and agreements were signed by Turkey, Bulgaria, Albania and Macedonia. Turkey itself contributed to the «revitalisation» of the Bosnian army. The strengthening of the German army went on (it is now the first one in Europe as to conventional weaponry and finally ready to be used as a tool of international policy of a bourgeoisie which is less and less conditioned by «the defeated syndrome» and more and more resolved as well as obliged to defend its own national interests in all areas of the world).

Once more, the historic alternative
[prev.] [content] [next]

The capitalist crisis has by now entered a chronic phase, made up of sudden plunges and weak recovers. And this makes the tensions among capitals and states even worse and more destructive. History thus poses again the alternative between the bourgeois natural solution to the crisis (i.e., an imperialist war which, through a massive destruction of productive forces, allows for the rebuild of the conditions necessary to reactivate the accumulation process with higher profit rates) and the proletarian solution (i.e., a violent break of the capitalist mode of production through the world communist revolution led by the proletarian Party).

Wars like the one raging in the former Yugoslavia in fact necessarily (and well beyond the bourgeois will itself) prepare the «conclusive» world imperialist war. And, against it, of no use are the reactionary and idealistic humanitarian and pacifist utopias, ready as they are, at a given moment, to play the role of militarism's auxiliary forces. While the working class keeps being imprisoned between the bourgeois states' militarism and the opportunist «left» parties' pacifism, the necessity is objectively reaffirmed of a methodical and painstaking preparation to class war and defeatism against one's own bourgeoisie. And it is true that the daily «guerrilla» waged by proletarians against the yoke of capital, side by side with the loosening of the material conditions which bind them to capital, will surely help this preparation. But also true is the fact that, as a century-old experience and theoretical ... show, a really victorious outcome will only be possible thanks to the organised presence and leadership of the Communist Party. Then the historical alternative will be posed again, irresistibly: either the perpetuation of the bourgeois dictatorship or the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship!

Of this, the Balkan tragedy is but another lesson.

Notes:
[prev.] [content] [end]

  1. «Il proletariato e Trieste», in «Battaglia comunista», n.8, 1950: now in Amadeo Bordiga. «Fattori di razza e nazione nella teoria marxista» (Milano: Edizioni Iskra, 1976), p.131. A French translation («Facteurs de race et de nation dans la théorie marxiste») is also available «Le prolétariat et Trieste». [back]
  2. Slovenia kept (or was kept) out of the conflict: not thanks to a special pacifist calling, but for a clear opportunistic plan on its part and on the part of its main patrons, Austria and Germany. [back]
  3. In the days of Mururoa we could read that, in the fifty years following the «end» of WWII, the so-called «necessary» and «safe» nuclear experiments were over two thousands, with the direct and indirect consequences upon human life which it is easy to imagine! [back]
  4. Germany is Croatia's main support and first commercial partner. It partakes of 25% of its foreign trade and secures almost 40% of its foreign investments. According to «Jane's Defence Weekly» the supply of German weapons to Croatia, between April 1992 and April 1994, amounted to almost $320 millions. [back]

Source: «Internationalist Papers», n.5, June 1996, p.23-29

[top] [content] [last] [home] [mail] [search] [webmaster] [get pdf]


you arrived from:

pagecolour: [to the top]