As the missiles were falling on Iraq, fighting resumed in Kosovo between the Kosovan Liberation Army, and the Serbian armed forces. Once again, the civilian population has paid the price of this new outbreak of violence: massacres, forced evacuations, etc. The bourgeois media have headlined with the bloodbath in the Kosovan village of Racak. But the publicity given to the dozens of butchered and mutilated civilians is nothing but an opportunity for the great western 'democracies' to make a show of their 'horror'. It will also serve as a pretext for any future military intervention by the greintervention by the great powers - 'for peace', of course. But whatever their mock outrage today, it is none other than the western ruling classes who are responsible, and guilty of the killings in ex-Yugoslavia. Once again, a few hundred miles from the Western European heart of world capitalism, the sound of arms reminds us that there is no peace possible under capitalism, especially not in the strategic region of the Balkans, which remains at the centre of the confrontation between the great powers.
In January, we witnessed once again, as in the early months and the autumn of 1998, the confrontation between Milosevic's Serbian armed forces and the Albanian army for the 'liberation' of Kosovo, the KLA. If Serb repression of any move towards the independence of Kosovo has been so ferocious, it is because Serbia cannot do without the province, in particular because it offers an opening towards the Mediterranean. More than anything, however, it represents the front line in the confrontation between the great powers, above all between the US super-power and German imperialism, which is still discreetly pursuing its Balkan offensive towards the south.
This situation is characteristic of the situation opened up by the collapse of the Eastern bloc, and the end of the Western bloc: a period of 'look after number one', of the 'war of each against all' - and especially between the ex-Allies of the bloc lead b by the USA, given the desire of the main European powers to settle accounts with their one-time godfather. This is why all the European powers have invited themselves to the crisis in Kosovo: from France and Britain, who have been forced for the moment to line up behind Uncle Sam just to keep a stake in the game, to Italy, which wants to play a lone hand and defend its 'historic' pretensions on the eastern shore of the Adriatic.
Last year and again today, the fighting has been sparked by Germany pushing the Kosovan independentists onto the offensive. This could only endanger the Pax Americana set up by the Dayton Accords to stifle the war in ex-Yugoslavia - a war which was itself begun in 1991 by Germany's attempt to advance through Croatia towards the Mediterranean.
In the first months of 1998, the KLA was badly mauled by the Serbian army. Lately, however, it has recovered its strength thanks to finance and weapons from Germany. Other third-rate European powers have also lent a hand. Switzerland especially, has been financing the rearmament of the KLA, and since the withdrawal of Serb forces has also taken part - under 'humanitarian' cover of course - in the reconstruction of Kosovo, and of 'local forces'.
Just as the US was making its show of strength over Iraq, the KLA came back into the open, trying to undermine Serb rule. German imperialism wa was once more on the offensive, threatening the status quo defended by the US. As we wrote in December 1998: "Bonn aims to break up the present Yugoslav republic dominated by Serbia (...) A weakened Serbia would open the door to German expansion in the region and towards the Mediterranean" (RI 285). Faced with the threat, Washington had no choice but to cover and support Serbia's new campaign of repression and 'cleansing' in December-January. Despite NATO's military presence in the region, strengthened since the discovery of the Racak massacre, supposedly to put pressure on a Serbia guilty of 'violating human rights', US policy aims to block Germany and so rejects any suggestion of independence for Kosovo. The US has thus done all it can to avoid hindering Serb pressure on the Kosovans. This support for Serbia is not new: in 1998, NATO only intervened after the Serbian offensive had defeated the KLA forces.
The sound of marching boots in ex-Yugoslavia confirms once again that capitalism can only drag humanity down into barbarism. War today is only a foretaste of those to come, when this or that 'nation' or ethnic group on the ex-Yugoslav chessboard enters the fray, encouraged by this or that imperialist shark. Today, as yesterday, the civilian population will be the pawns of imperialist appetites, and many will perish in the endless confrontations between rival imperialist gangsterss. 1999 begins as 1998 ended: to the sound of gunfire, showing once again that capitalism's only 'progress' is towards more wars and barbarism. HPL (22/1/99)