Editorial: ‘Peace’ in Kosovo, a moment of imperialist war

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The world we live in is a little mad. In Kosovo we discover crimes against humanity every day; other less spectacular but equally horrible conflicts in Africa and Asia; economic and financial crises which break out suddenly, unforeseen and destructive; growing poverty in many parts of the world...” (quoted in Le Monde, 22/6/99). Ten years after the end of the Cold War, the break-up of the Eastern bloc and the disappearance of the USSR, ten years after the enthusiastic declarations about the “victory of capitalism” and the opening of a new “era of peace and prosperity”, this is the disillusioned - or rather discreetly cynical - observation of one of the bourgeoisie’s principal leaders: Jacques Chirac, president of France. Another eminent bourgeois politician, ex-US president Jimmy Carter has much the same to say about capitalism’s reality since 1989: “When the Cold War came to an end ten years ago, we expected an era of peace. Instead, we have had a decade of war” (quoted in International Herald Tribune of 17/6/99). The situation of the capitalist world is catastrophic. The economic crisis has reduced billions of human beings to abject poverty. According to Le Monde Diplomatique of June 1999, “Half the world’s population lives with less than $1.50 per day, and a billion men and women live with less than $1". Every continent is ravaged by the atrocities of war. This madness - in J. Chirac’s words - is implacable, devastating, bloody; it is the consequence of the historic impasse of the capitalist world, and its latest expressions are the wars in Serbia and Kosovo, and between India and Pakistan, these two latter in possession of nuclear weapons.


As the air war comes to an end in Yugoslavia, and the great imperialist powers once again cry victory, as the media develop huge campaigns on the humanitarian benefits of NATO’s war and the noble cause that it defended, as the talk is of reconstruction, peace, and prosperity for the Balkans, it is good to bear in mind these discreet confidences - offered in a moment of weariness? - of Carter and Chirac. They reveal the reality behind the deceitful propaganda that we are subjected to day after day.

For us communists, they are nothing new. Marxism[1] has always insisted within the workers’ movement that capitalism could only lead to an economic impasse, to crisis, poverty, and bloody conflicts between bourgeois states. Marxism has always, especially since World War I, insisted that “capitalism is war”. Peacetime is only a moment in the preparation of imperialist war. The more the capitalists talk of peace, the more they prepare for war.

During the last ten years, the columns of our International Review have denounced, over and over again, the talk of a “victory of capitalism”, the “end of communism”, the “prosperity to come” and the “disappearance of war”. We have constantly denounced the “peace that prepares war”. We have denounced the responsibility of the great imperialist powers in the proliferation of local conflicts around the world. The imperialist antagonisms between the main capitalist countries are responsible for the vivisection of Yugoslavia, the explosion of robbery and murder of every kind on the part of the smaller nationalist gangsters, and for the unleashing of war. In this Review, we have already denounced the inevitable development of military chaos in the Balkans: “The butchery which has now been raging in ex-Yugoslavia for three years is not about to end. It is potent proof of how the wars and chaos born out of the decomposition of capitalism are aggravated by the big imperialist powers. And also that, in the name of ‘humanitarian intervention’, the only alternative they can propose is either to bomb the Serb forces or to arm the Bosnians. In other words, faced with the war and chaos provoked by the decomposition of the capitalist system, the most powerful and industrialised nations can only respond by adding more war” (International Review no.78, 3rd quarter 1994).

When this was written, the alternative was between bombing the Serbs or arming the Bosnians. In the end, they bombed the Serbs and armed the Bosnians. As a result, the war claimed still more victims; Bosnia is divided into three “ethnically cleansed” zones and occupied by the armies of the great powers; the population lives in poverty, many of them are refugees who will never return home. Populations that lived side by side for centuries are now torn apart and divided by blood and slaughter.

Great and small imperialisms sow terror and death

In Kosovo, “learning the lesson of Bosnia”, the great imperialisms straight away bombed the Serb forces and sent weapons to the Kosovar UCK, adding still more to the war. The enthusiastic admiration of military experts and journalists for NATO’s 1,100 aircraft, the 35,000 sorties, the 18,000 bombs and missiles used to “treat” - it’s the term they use - 2,000 targets, are sickening. The result of this terror exercised by imperialisms great and small, by NATO, the Serbian forces, and the UCK: tens of thousands of deaths, appalling crimes committed by the soldiery of the minor imperialist gangsters, by the Serb paramilitaries and the UCK, a million Kosovars and 100,000 Serbs forced to flee, leaving their houses burning and their belongings looted, held to ransom by both sides. The great imperialist powers are responsible for the terror and massacres perpetrated by the Serb militia and the UCK. The Serb and Kosovar populations are the victims of imperialism, just as the Bosnians, Croats, and Serbs were during the war in Bosnia, and remain to this day. Since 1991, the nationalist and imperialist division of Yugoslavia has been the cause of more than 250,000 deaths and 3 million refugees.

What do the democratic states have to say to this? “We have to accept a few deaths in order to save a greater number” (Jamie Shea on 15th April, quoted in the supplement to Le Monde of 19/6/99). This declaration by the NATO spokesman, to justify the murder of innocent Serb and Kosovar civilians by the “collateral damage” of the “great democracies” is no better than the fanaticism of the dictators demonised for the benefit of propaganda, whether they be Milosevic today, Saddam yesterday, or Hitler before them. This is the reality of the “humanitarian interference” by the great powers. Democracy and dictatorship both come from the same capitalist world.

Imperialism has ruined the Balkans and caused an ecological disaster


As Chirac and Carter have shown us, it does sometimes happen that the bourgeoisie tells the truth. Sometimes it even keeps its promises. NATO’s generals promised to destroy Serbia and retard it by 50 years. They have kept their word. “After 79 days of bombing, the [Yugoslav] federation has been taken 50 years back to the past. The power stations and oil refineries have been, if not completely destroyed, rendered incapable of supplying sufficient energy - at least for the winter; the transport and telecommunications infrastructures are unusable, the rivers virtually impracticable. Unemployment, which stood at 35% before the bombing began, will probably double. According to the expert Pavle Petrovic, economic activity has shrunk by 60% since 1968” (Le Monde, op. Cit.). Yugoslavia’s ruin has been an economic disaster for its neighbours - Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, Rumania, already amongst the poorest countries in Europe - as a result of the influx of refugees, the paralysis of their economies, the end of trade with Serbia, and the disruption of transport by road and the Danube.

The bombardments have been an ecological disaster for Serbia and the surrounding countries: unused bombs dropped in the Adriatic, much to the alarm of Italian fishermen, acid rains in Rumania, “abnormal levels of dioxin” in Greece, “atmospheric concentrations of sulphur dioxide and heavy metals” in Bulgaria, and frequent oil slicks on the Danube. “In Serbia, the ecological damage seems much more worrying (...) According to one UN official, speaking under cover of anonymity, ‘in other circumstances, nobody would hesitate to call this an environmental disaster’” (Le Monde, 26/5/99). As our brave anonymous official says, “in other circumstances”, many would be indignant - the ecologists to start with. But in today’s circumstances, the Greens in power in Germany and France have been amongst the worst warmongers, and they share responsibility for one of the greatest ecological disasters of our time. They took part in the decision to launch graphite bombs, which spread carcinogenic particles which will have incalculable consequences for years to come. They did the same for the cluster bombs - whose effects are the same as anti-personnel mines - which are now spread over Serbia, and above all Kosovo, where they are beginning to kill children (and British soldiers...)! Their “pacifism” and “defence of the eco-system” are at the service of capital and anyway subordinated to the fundamental interests of their national capital, especially when these are at stake. In other words, they are pacifists and ecologists as long as there is no war. In reality, in imperialist war and for the needs of the national capital, they are war-mongers and large-scale polluters just like all the other bourgeois parties.

The lie of NATO’s “just and humanitarian” war

Wasn’t it necessary to intervene to stop Serb state terror against the Kosovars? Didn’t we have to stop Milosevic? This is like the pyromaniac fireman. The arsonists who lit the fuse in 1991 are using their own misdeeds to justify their intervention. Who allowed the worst nationalist Mafia cliques in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, and now Kosovo, to unleash nationalist hysteria and bloody ethnic cleansing, if not the great imperialist powers? Who, if not Germany, pushed for the unilateral declaration of independence by Slovenia and Croatia, encouraging and precipitating the unleashing of nationalism in the Balkans which led to the massacres and exile of the Serbian, then the Bosnian populations? Who, if not Britain and France, turned a blind eye to the repression and massacre of the Croat and Bosnian populations, and the ethnic cleansing perpetrated by Milosevic and the “Greater Serbia” nationalists? Who, if not the United States, supported and equipped the different rival gangs depending on how their rivals were positioned at any given moment? When they justify the bombing campaign on the grounds of “humanitarian interference”, the “Allied” western democracies demonstrate an unlimited hypocrisy and duplicity. Just as the rivalries between the great powers liberated and precipitated nationalist hysteria by provoking the break-up of Yugoslavia, so NATO’s massive intervention allowed Milosevic to increase his repression against the Kosovars, and to give free rein to his soldiery. Even the bourgeoisie’s own experts recognise this - discreetly of course - when they pretend to wonder: “The intensification of the ethnic cleansing was foreseeable (...). Was the massive ethnic cleansing at the beginning of the bombing campaign foreseen? If the answer is yes, then how can the low level of NATO operations [ie to help the refugees] during the first month, until the Washington summit, be justified?” (François Heisbourg, president of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, quoted in Le Monde supplement of 19/6/99). And yet the answer is clear enough: a million refugees, their terrible stories, the conditions of their expulsion, the threats and mistreatment they suffered at the hands of the Serb militia, were cynically used to justify the military occupation of Kosovo (and an eventual ground war “if necessary”) in the eyes of the great powers’ own populations. Today, the discovery and media use of mass graves is again being used to justify the continuing war situation, and to hide where the real responsibilities lie.

But in the final analysis, has not NATO’s military success restored peace and allowed the refugees to return home? Some of the refugees (“It is already clear that many Kosovar Albanians will never return to their devastated homes”, Flora Lewis, International Herald Tribune, 4/6/99) will return to find the region devastated, and often enough, their home a smouldering ruin. As for the Serbs living in Kosovo, they in their turn have become refugees - whom the Serb bourgeoisie does not want, and whom it is trying to push back into a Kosovo where they are the target of universal hatred - unless they are simply assassinated by the UCK. As in Bosnia, a river of blood and hatred now separates the different populations. As in Bosnia, the entire area must be rebuilt. But also as in Bosnia, reconstruction and economic development will remain mere media promises of the great imperialist powers. A few repairs will be done to roads and bridges, to allow the rapid movement of the KFOR occupying army. The media will use these for a new wash of propaganda on the “humanitarian benefits” of military intervention. We have no doubt that there will be no recovery in a Kosovo already poor before the war began. By contrast, the war situation will not come to an end. NATO’s pyromaniac firemen have poured oil on the fire, and destabilised the region still further: the occupation and division of Kosovo between the different imperialist powers in KFOR uniform has reproduced the situation in Bosnia, where IFOR, then SFOR, have occupied the country since 1995 and the Dayton “peace” agreement. “Along with Bosnia, the whole region will be militarised by NATO for 20 or 30 years” (William Zimmerman, the last US ambassador in Belgrade, quoted in Le Monde of 7/6/99). What about the local population? At best, and at first, they will enjoy an armed peace in the midst of a ruined country, poverty, prey to the militias and under the reign of armed gangs and the local Mafia. This will be followed by new military confrontations both in Kosovo and in the surrounding region (Montenegro, Macedonia...?), expressions, yet again, of the great powers’ imperialist rivalries. Kosovo will then endure the reign of petty warlords and different Mafia clans, often in UCK uniform, behind which each imperialist power - especially in the zone it occupies - will try to hold its rivals in check.

Had we any doubts about this, they would be dissipated by the spectacle of Russian parachutists racing to be the first in Pristina, and to occupy its airport; this action is an open caricature of the implacable logic that drives the great imperialist gangsters. They have no hope of making any economic gains, either to win the “reconstruction market”, or even to gain control of a few wretched mineral resources. Direct economic interest in the war in Kosovo is non-existent, or else so minimal that it is in no way a reason, even one of the reasons, for the war. It would be absurd to think that the war against Serbia was aimed at controlling Serb economic resources, or even at gaining control of the Danube, important thoroughfare though it is. In this war, what matters for each imperialism is to secure the best possible position in the irreversible development of great-power rivalries in order to defend its imperialist interests: in other words, its strategic, diplomatic, and military interests.

One of the main consequences of capitalism’s economic impasse and the resulting frantic competition, is that this economic competition is taken to the imperialist level, to end in generalised war, as the two world imperialist wars this century have shown. Though they are historically the consequence of an economic impasse, imperialist antagonisms have their own dynamic: they are not the direct expression of economic or commercial rivalries, as we can see from the various imperialist line-ups throughout the century, particularly during and immediately after the two world wars. More and more, the search for direct economic advantage is only a secondary imperialist motivation.

An understanding of the strategic stakes in the present war can be found amongst some of the “thinkers” of the bourgeois class (though of course only in publications aimed at an “enlightened few”, not at the working masses): “As for the final goals, the real aims of this war, the European Union and the USA are each pursuing, for very different motives, separate plans which are very precise but never public. The European Union is involved for strategic reasons [while for the US] the Kosovo business provides an ideal pretext for settling an issue that is of prime concern to them: renewing the legitimacy of NATO (...) ‘because of the political influence that it gives the US in Europe, and because it blocks the development of a strategic system to rival that of the USA’” (Ignacio Ramonet in Le Monde Diplomatique of June 1999, quoting William Pfaf’s article “What good is NATO if America intends to go it alone?” in International Herald Tribune 20/5/99).

Imperialist rivalries are the real cause of the war in Kosovo

This implacable logic of imperialism, consisting of increasingly sharp rivalries, antagonisms and conflicts, expressed itself in the way the war broke out and the way it unfolded. The unity of the western allies in NATO was itself merely the result of a momentary and unstable balance of forces between rivals. At the Rambouillet negotiations, under the auspices of Britain and France - and from which Germany was absent - it was at first the Kosovar representatives who rejected the conditions for an agreement under the pressure of the USA. Then, with the impromptu arrival of the American Madeleine Albright in response to the impotence of the Europeans, it was the Serbs who rejected the conditions that the USA wanted to impose on them, and which in fact demanded the complete capitulation of Milosevic without a fight: NATO forces were to have the right to freely circulate, without any authorisation, anywhere in the territory of Yugoslavia[2]. Why such an unacceptable ultimatum? “The showdown at Rambouillet, one of her (Mrs Albright) aides said recently, has ‘only one purpose’: to get the war started with the Europeans locked in” (International Herald Tribune, 11/6/99). Yet another rebuttal of the humanitarian lies of the bourgeoisie about the reasons for the war. And indeed it was the case that the British and French bourgeoisies, traditional allies of Serbia, got “locked in” to the military operation against Serbia. Refusing to join in would have put them out of the game at the end of the conflict. From then on, all the imperialist forces belonging to NATO, from the biggest to the smallest, had to take part in the bombing. Absent from Rambouillet, Germany then had the “humanitarian” opportunity to get back into the game and participate in a military intervention for the first time since 1945. The direct result of these antagonisms was to offer a carte blanche to Milosevic to get on with “ethnic cleansing”, and to plunge millions of people in Serbia and Kosovo into a sheer hell.

The imperialist occupation and carve-up of Kosovo: a success for Britain 

And today, the result of these imperialist divisions has been the division of Kosovo into five occupation zones - with a Russian occupation force in the middle of it all - in which each imperialism will play its cards against the others. The murderous imperialist game will take on a new form, with a new alignment of forces. If Britain and France had not participated in the air war against Yugoslavia they would have been relegated to the same level as Russia. Participating in the NATO bombing gave them much better cards, especially the British, who are now at the head of the land occupation. Leading KFOR, occupying the centre of the country and its capital, British imperialism has emerged considerably strengthened both at the military and diplomatic levels. Today in Kosovo, from the end of the bombing and the beginning of the land intervention, Britain holds the best cards, both as the historic ally of Serbia (in spite of the bombings), and thanks to its ability to send the biggest number of soldiers faster than anyone else, and thanks also to the extreme professionalism of its ground troops. Hence the incessant calls from Tony Blair for a land intervention throughout the war. The American bourgeoisie, absolute master of the air war, by trying to sabotage each diplomatic advance, tried to delay the agreement of a ceasefire in which it would totally lose control of events[3]. France, though to a much lesser degree than Britain, is still in the game, as is Italy, though more as a neighbour than as an important great power. Finally, Russia has managed to grab a foothold but one which does not allow it to play any decisive role, except as a troublemaker.

A new step in the imperialist ambitions of  Germany

But throughout this last bloody decade in the Balkans, there has been only one imperialist power which has really advanced towards its objectives: Germany. Whereas the USA, Britain and France - to mention only the most important powers - have been against the break-up of Yugoslavia since the  beginning of 1991, Germany has made the Yugoslav affair its battle-horse[4], pursuing a strategy always aimed at the Serb “bad guy”. The most recent expression of this has been its arming and financing of the KLA while building up a strong position in Albania. Germany has been advancing its imperialist pawns throughout this decade. The dislocation of Yugoslavia has enabled it to enlarge its imperialist influence from Slovenia and Croatia to Albania. The war against Serbia, its isolation and ruin, has allowed it to participate in air and land military operations for the first time since 1945. Germany was excluded from Rambouillet, but it was in Bonn and Cologne, under its presidency, that the G8 - the group of the richest countries plus Russia - discussed and adopted the peace accords and the UN resolution. With 8500 soldiers, it is the second biggest army in KFOR. At the beginning of the 90s Germany was called an economic giant and a military dwarf; but since then Germany has been the power that has scored most points against its rivals.

Helmut Kohl, the former German chancellor, expressed the hopes and objectives of German imperialism very well: “For a long time the 20th century has been bi-polar. Today there are many, including the USA, who are attached to the idea that the 21st century will be uni-polar and American. This is an error” (Courier International, 12/5/99). He doesn’t say it, but he certainly hopes that the 21st century will be bi-polar with Germany as America’s rival.

The division of Kosovo aggravates the rivalries between the big powers    

All the imperialist powers are thus squaring up to each other in Kosovo, directly and militarily. Even if direct armed confrontations between the big powers are not on the agenda in the present period, this face-to-face represents a new aggravation, a new step, in the development and sharpening of imperialist antagonisms. Directly on the ground for “twenty years”, as the former US ambassador to Yugoslavia put it, all of them will be arming the armed gangs and their local proteges, Serb militias and Albanian mafia bands, in order to embarrass and entrap their rivals. All sorts of trip wires and provocations will be used. In sum: for rival geo-strategic, i.e. imperialist interests, millions of people in ex-Yugoslavia have been through hell and will carry on paying for the imperialist “madness” of the capitalist world in misery and despair. 

The war in Kosovo will lead to a multiplication of local conflicts

There can be no doubt: the infernal machine of imperialist conflicts is going to be further accentuated and aggravated, going from one from part of the globe to another. In this devastating spiral, all continents and all states, small or big, will be hit. The outbreak of the armed conflict between India and Pakistan at a time when these two countries have embarked upon a frenzied arms race is an expression of this, as are the recent confrontations between the two Koreas. The armed intervention of NATO has already poured oil on the flames globally and heralds the conflagrations to come: “The success of the multinational coalition led by the US in Kosovo will reinforce the dissemination of missiles and arms of mass destruction in Asia...It is now imperative for nations to have the best military technology” (International Herald Tribune, 19/6/99)

Why this imperative? Because “in the period of capitalist decadence, ALL states are imperialist, and take the necessary measures to satisfy their appetites: war economy, arms production, etc. We must state clearly that the deepening convulsions of the world economy can only sharpen the opposition between different states, including and increasingly on the military level. The difference, in the coming period (after the disappearance of the eastern bloc and the USSR) will be that these antagonisms which were previously contained and used by the two great imperialist blocs will come to the fore. The disappearance of the Russian imperialist gendarme, and that to come of the American gendarme as far as its one-time ‘partners’ are concerned, opens the door to the unleashing of a whole series of more local rivalries. For the moment, these rivalries and confrontations cannot degenerate into a world war  (even supposing that the proletariat were no longer capable of putting up a resistance). However, with the disappearance of the discipline imposed by the two blocs, these conflicts are liable to become more frequent and more violent, especially of course in those areas where the proletariat is weakest” (International Review 61, February 1990).

This position has been confirmed throughout this decade. At least at the level of local imperialist conflicts. But what does this mean for our position on the role of the international proletariat in the evolution of the situation?

The proletariat and war

The international proletariat has been unable to prevent the outbreak of local imperialist conflicts throughout this decade. Even in Europe, in Yugoslavia, a stone’s throw from the main working class concentrations in the world, the impotence of the proletariat at this level has been shown again by the war in Kosovo. Neither the international proletariat, still less the proletariat in Serbia, has expressed a direct opposition to war.

Of course we are in solidarity with the Serb population which has demonstrated against the return of its soldiers in coffins. Just as we are in solidarity with the collective desertions which took place in connection with these demonstrations. They are a clear refutation of the shameful lies of the NATO powers which present all the Serbs as torturers and murderers united behind Milosevic. Unfortunately these reactions against the war did not develop into a real expression of the working class, which alone is capable of offering even the beginnings of a proletarian response to imperialist war. It was essentially the international isolation of Serbia, the despair amongst significant factions of the Serb bourgeoisie faced with the destruction of the country’s economic apparatus, the prospect of a NATO land intervention, and the exhaustion of a population subjected to daily bombings, which pushed Milosevic to sign the peace agreement. “We are alone. NATO isn’t going to collapse. Russia will not aid Yugoslavia militarily and international opinion is against us” (Vuk Draskovic, Milosevic’s vice-premier who changed his colours on 26/4/99, quoted in Le Monde’s Supplement, 19/6/99).

Does this mean that the proletariat was completely absent faced with the war in Kosovo? Does this mean that the balance of forces between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie at a historic level has no weight in the present situation? No. In the first place, the present historic situation, deriving from the end of the imperialist blocs, is the result of the balance of forces between the two classes. The proletariat’s opposition, throughout the 70s and 80s, to economic and political attacks has also been expressed, particularly in the central countries of capitalism, by its resistance and ‘insubordination’ towards the defence of national interests at the economic level, and thus towards the defence of the nation’s imperialist interests (see the article on the historic course in International Review no.18). And this historic course, this proletarian resistance, has once again been confirmed by the way the war in Kosovo evolved, even if the proletariat was not able to prevent it.

During this war, the working class remained a constant preoccupation of the bourgeoisie. It spent a lot of time and effort, an intensive media barrage, to make sure that the themes of the propaganda campaign were accepted - not without difficulty, and somewhat by default - and obtained a small majority in favour of the war in the public opinion polls in the NATO countries. And this wasn’t the case in all countries. And certainly not at the beginning. It needed the dramatic and unbearable pictures of the exhausted, starving Albanian families for the bourgeoisie to get a minimum of acceptance (you can’t really say that it was a positive support). And despite this the “Vietnam syndrome”, i.e. disquiet about the land war and the risks of popular reactions to the return of dead soldiers, was an obstacle for the bourgeoisie in the commitment of its armed forces. “The option of the air war aims to preserve the lives of the pilots as far as possible, since the loss or capture of a few of them could have negative effects on public support for the operation” (Jamie Shea, Le Monde Supplement 19/6/99). And yet with most of the western armies you are talking about professional soldiers rather than conscripts. It’s not we who say this; it’s the bourgeois politicians themselves who are obliged to recognise that the proletariat of the big imperialist countries is an obstacle to war. Even if “public opinion” is not identical to the proletariat, within the population as a whole the latter is the only class that carries any weight with the bourgeoisie.

This “insubordination” - latent and instinctive - of the international proletariat has also been expressed in various workers’ actions. Despite the war, despite the nationalist and democratic campaigns, significant strikes took place in certain countries. The railway workers’ strike in France, against the advice of the main union federations, the CGT and the CFDT, and against the introduction of added flexibility under the cover of the 35-hour week; a demonstration organised by the unions which attracted more than 25,000 municipal workers in New York; these are two of the most significant expressions of the slow but real rise in workers’ militancy and “resistance”, at the very moment that the war was being unleashed. In contrast to the Gulf war which created a feeling of apathy and powerlessness in the working class, the war in the Balkans has not caused the same disarray.

Of course this working class resistance is limited to the economic terrain, and the link between the economic impasse of capitalism, its economic attacks, and the proliferation of imperialist wars has yet to be made. This link must however be made because it is an important, essential element in the development of revolutionary consciousness among the workers. From this point of view, the interest we encountered while distributing our international leaflet denouncing the imperialist war in Kosovo - for example the discussions it raised at the demonstration in New York, even though this had been called for another reason altogether, are encouraging. It is up to communist groups not only to denounce the war and defend internationalist positions, but also to facilitate  the development of consciousness about the dead-end that capitalism has reached[5]. Its economic crisis raises economic rivalries and competition to a higher level and pushes ineluctably towards the sharpening of imperialist antagonisms and the proliferation of wars. Even if economic rivalries don’t always correspond to imperialist ones, which have their own dynamic, the economic contradictions which are expressed in the crisis of capitalism are at the source of imperialist war. Capitalism is economic crisis and war. It is poverty and death.

Faced with the war, and at moments of massive media “bombardment”, in the midst of intense media campaigns, revolutionaries cannot sit and wait for things to blow over, to hold onto their internationalist positions for a brighter day (see in this issue the article on the ICC’s appeal about the war in Serbia). They must do all they can to intervene and defend internationalist positions within the working class, as widely as possible, as effectively as possible, while still seeing their activities in a long term perspective. They must show the working class that there is an alternative to this barbarism, and that this alternative grows out of the workers’ “insubordination” at the economic and political level. That it grows out of the rejection of sacrifices in living and working conditions  and the rejection of sacrifices for imperialist wars. If in the last instance imperialist wars are the product of the economic failure of capitalism, they are also a factor which aggravates the economic crisis and so lead to the terrible accentuation of economic attacks on the workers.

The intensity of the war in Kosovo, the fact that it has broken out in Europe, the bloody military participation of all the imperialist powers, the repercussions of this war on every continent, the dramatic aggravation and acceleration of imperialist conflicts on a planetary scale, the extent, the depth and the urgency of the current historical stakes, place the international proletariat and communist groups in front of their historic responsibility. The proletariat is not beaten. It still bears within itself the possibility of overthrowing capitalism and ending its horrors. Socialism or the aggravation of capitalist barbarism is still the historic alternative.

RL 25/6/99


[1] Let us once again remind our readers that marxism and communism have nothing to do with Stalinism, nor with the Stalinists - like Milosevic - who once held power in the Eastern bloc, nor with the Stalinists of the Western CPs, nor with the Maoists and ex-Maoists who today pullulate in the milieu of Western intellectual warmongery. Historically and politically, Stalinism in the service of the Russian state has always been the negation of marxism and the murderer of generations of communist militants.

[2] This condition was only revealed following the outbreak of the war and was confirmed at the ceasefire agreement: “The Russians obtained important concessions for Milosevic, said the officials whose final offer made to Belgrade was an improvement on the previous western plan imposed on Serbia and the Albanians at Rambouillet” (International Herald Tribune, 5/6/99). In particular, “there was no longer any question of authorising NATO forces to circulate freely throughout the territory of Yugoslavia” (J Eyal, Le Monde, 5/6/99).

[3] As a result of history and of geographical proximity, the European powers have more political, diplomatic, and military means, and also more determination, to counter-act and reject American leadership in this area than, for example, in the Gulf war. The military capacity to “project” their forces - especially in the case of Britain - into Europe weakened US leadership once the air war was over and the “peacekeeping” operation began. The concretisation of this reality  is expressed by the fact that KFOR is headed by a British general whereas an American one commanded the air war.

[4] We have analysed the role of Germany in the dislocation of Yugoslavia since 1991: see, among others, International Reviews 67 and 68. The bourgeoisie itself also quickly understood this policy: “Germany has a very different attitude. Well before the government itself took position, the press and the political milieus reacted in a unanimous, immediate and almost instinctive manner: they were straight away unreservedly in favour of the secession of  Slovenia and Croatia... However, it is difficult not to see here a resurgence of the hostility of German policy to the very existence of Yugoslavia since the treaties of 1919 and throughout the inter-war period. German observers must have been aware that the dislocation would not be a peaceful process and would meet with strong resistance. Nonetheless, German policy remained deeply committed to the dismemberment of the country” (Paul-Marie de la Gorce, Le Monde Diplomatique, July 1992).

[5] In rejecting our proposal to do something together against the war, the groups of the International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party have tried to ridicule our analysis of the influence of the proletariat in the present historic situation. In its letter refusing to hold a joint public meeting the CWO declares that “We cannot stand together to fight for a communist alternative if you are suggesting that the working class is still a force to be reckoned with in the present situation...we do not want to be even minimally identified with a view which states that everything is fine for the working class”.  We ask the CWO to look at our analyses with a bit more attention and seriousness than this.




General and theoretical questions: