The war which has just broken out in ex-Yugoslavia, with the bombardment of Serbia by NATO forces, is the most serious event on the scene of world imperialism since the collapse of the Eastern bl of world imperialism since the collapse of the Eastern bloc in 1989. Although the forces in operation remain far fewer, for the moment, than during the Gulf War in 1991, the significance of the present conflict is of a different order of magnitude altogether. Today, the barbarity of war is unleashed in the heart of Europe, no more than a couple of hours away from its major capitals. This was already true during the previous conflicts which have ravaged ex-Yugoslavia since 1991 and which have already claimed hundreds of thousands of victims. But this time, it is the great capitalist powers themselves, including the USA, which are the direct protagonists of the war.
This war in Europe is of such importance because this is the continent where capitalism was born, which is still the worlds major industrial region, and which has been both the major prize and the epicentre of all the 20th Centurys great imperialist conflicts, from the First and Second World Wars onwards. Europe was the stake in the Cold War which opposed the US and Russian blocs for more than 40 years, even though the episodes of open war were fought out in the periphery (Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East, etc). Amongst other things, the present conflict is taking place in a particularly sensitive area of the continent: the Balkans, whose geographical (far more than its economic) position has made it one of the most fought-over places on the planet ever since World War I. We should not forget that World War I began in Sarajevo.
Finally, another element gives a particular dimension to the present conflict: the direct and active participation of Germany in the fighting, and in an important position. For more than 50 years, its defeat in World War II has forced Germany to forego any military intervention. The fact that the German bourgeoisie has today returned to the battlefield is indicative of the general aggravation of military tension, which can only get worse as decadent capitalism sinks further into its insoluble economic crisis.
The politicians and media of NATO present the war as an action in defence of "human rights", against a peculiarly revolting regime which is responsible, amongst its other misdeeds, for the "ethnic cleansing" which has stained Yugoslavia in blood since 1991. In reality, the "democratic" powers care not a jot for the population of Kosot a jot for the population of Kosovo, just as they are completely indifferent to the fate of the Kurd and Shiite populations of Iraq, which they left to be massacred by the troops of Saddam Hussein after the Gulf War. The sufferings inflicted by dictators on persecuted civilian populations have always been the pretext for the great "democracies" to unleash "just" war. This was the case, in particular, during World War II, when the extermination of the Jews by the Hitler regime (which the Allies did nothing to stop, even when they could have done so) served as a justification for the crimes committed by the "democracies": amongst others, the 250,000 killed by Allied bombardments in Dresden alone during the night of 13th-14th February 1945, or the civilian populations liquidated by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6th and 9th August 1945. If the media have been inundating us for weeks with images of the tragedy of hundreds of thousands of Kosovo Albanian refugees fleeing Milosevics barbarity, it is to justify NATOs military campaign, which was initially greeted with considerable scepticism, if not outright hostility, by the populations of the NATO countries. It is also intended to gain their support for the last phase of Operation "Determined Force", should the bombing fail to subdue Milosevic: a ground offensive, which could lead to extensive casualties amongst Allied troops as well as the Serbs.
In reality, the "humanitarian disaster" of the refugees from Kosovo was both foreseen and desired by the "democracies", to justify their war plans: just as the massacre of the Kurds and Shiites in Iraq was provoked deliberately when the Allies called on them to revolt against Saddam Hussein during the war.
But it is not at Belgrades door, or even Washingtons, that we should lay responsibility for this war. It is capitalism as a whole that is responsible for the war, and the barbarism of war, with all the massacres, genocide, and atrocities that it brings in its wake, will only come to an end when capitalism is overthrown by the world working class. Otherwise, capitalism will drag the whole of human society down with it in its death throes.
Communists have a duty of solidarity in the face of imperialist war and all its atrocities. But this solidarity does not go to this or that nation or people, which include both victims and executioners, the exploited and the exploiters, whether the latter have the face of a Milosevic, or the nationalist clique of the KLA which is already forcibly recruiting men of fighting age from the refugee columns. Communist solidarity is class solidarity, towards the workers and exploited whether Serb or Albanian, to the workers in uniform who are killed or transformed into assassins in the name of the "Fatherland" or "Democracy". And it is first and foremost up to the world proletariats biggest battalions, the workers of Europe and North America, to demonstrate this solidarity, not by marching behind the banners of pacifism but by developing their struggles against capitalism, against their exploiters in their own countries.
Communists have the duty to denounce with equal force both the pacifists and the warmongers. Pacifism is one of the proletariats worst enemies. It cultivates the illusion that "good will" or "international negotiations" can put an end to wars. By doing so, it maintains the lie that there could exist a "goie that there could exist a "good" capitalism, respectful of "peace" and "human" rights, and so turns the workers away from the class struggle against capitalism as a whole. Worse still, they become the recruiting sergeants for military "crusades", with the argument: "Since wars are provoked by bad, nationalist, bloodthirsty capitalists, we will only have peace when we liquidate these bad capitalists... by making war on them if need be". We have seen exactly this in Germany, where the main leader of the 1980s pacifist movements, Joschka Fischer, is today the man mainly responsible for his countrys imperialist policy. He is even proud of it, declaring that "For the first time for a long time, Germany is making war in a good cause".
From the first days of the war, the internationalists, with their modest means, have spoken out against the imperialist barbarism. On 25th March, the ICC published a leaflet which it is distributing to the workers of 13 countries, and which our readers will find in our territorial publications. Nor was our organisation the only one to react in defence of the internationalist position. All the groups which consider themselves part of the Communist Left reacted at the same moment, putting forward the same internationalist principles (1). In the next issue of the International Review, we will return in more detail to the positions and analyses developed by these different groups. But we must start by emphasising everything that unites us (the defence of internationalist positions, as they were expressed at the conferences of Kienthal and Zimmerwald during World War I, as well as in the first congresses of the Communist International), and which opposes us to all those organisations (Trotskyists, Stalinists, etc.), which while claiming to belong to the working class inject the poison of nationalism or pacifism into it.
Obviously, the role of communists is not limited to defending their principles, however important and fundamental this task may be. It consists also of providing an analysis which will allow the working class to understand what is at stake, what are the elements in play, what are the main aspects of the international situation. The analysis of the war in Yugoslavia, which had only just begun, was one of the main axes of the un, was one of the main axes of the ICCs 13th Congress, held at the beginning of April. In the next issue of the International Review, we will return to this Congress, but in this issue we are publishing the resolution on the international situation which it adopted, much of which is devoted to the present war.
10th April, 1999
1) International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party, Partito Comunista Internazionale -- Il Programma Comunista, Partito Comunista Internazionale --
Il Comunista, Partito Comunista Internazionale --
Il Partito Comunista.