NATO out of the Balkans - Serbia out of Kosovo - NATO joins the war against the Balkan people


The NATO bombing of Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo sees another force brought into play against the people of the Balkans. The bombs do not damage the rotten Serbian regime (nor any of the other rotten Balkan warlords). They are targeted at the Balkan people, of whatever ethnicity. Throughout the bombing anarchists from ex- Yugoslavia have been posting reports to the internet. One from Belgrade observed: "When the smoke from the bombs clears away, the social differences will be even bigger, the poverty even worse, the authorities even more harsh. And the matter of Kosovo WON'T be solved!". We call for Irish people to demand the immediate end to the NATO attacks.

International Interventions

Since the war in Kosovo began, directed primarily against the ethnic Albanian population by the Serb state forces, there have been many calls for international intervention. We oppose all and any such intervention. The history of 'humanitarian' interventions by Western powers clearly shows that such interventions have nothing to do with humanitarianism. The Western powers intervene only when they judge it to be in their interests to do so.

In particular, calls for military intervention by liberal commentators, concerned about humanitarian issues, have close similarities to the 19th century liberal support for colonisation as a 'civilising' and 'humanitarian' mission. If there did exist some organisation capable of intervening in a truly 'neutral' manner when governments attack the human rights of their people, there would be barely a state on earth which would not be bombed. However no such neutral independent body exists, for obvious reasons. Those who delude themselves into thinking that the UN, or even more absurdly NATO, can be a neutral humanitarian force are choosing to ignore every single piece of historical evidence.

NATO: a humanitarian force?

If NATO is a neutral humanitarian force, why did it stand aside when Croatia forced 160,000 Serbs to leave Krajina in the mid-1990's? Why does NATO include Turkey, a country that refuses all rights to the 20 million Kurds living in the South East, right down to not only banning their language but refusing to acknowledge their existence. 1994 in Turkey was "the year of the worst repression in the Kurdish provinces" according to reporter Jonathan Randal but it was also when Turkey became "the biggest single importer of American military hardware and thus the world's largest arms purchaser." Why does NATO include France, a country that carried out nuclear tests in the South Pacific against the wishes of the people there and responded to the attempts of environmentalists to stop it by blowing up their ship (Rainbow Warrior), murdering two of the crew members. Why does NATO include Britain, whose army continues to occupy the north of Ireland and has killed dozens of civilians there over the last 30 years. Why does NATO include the USA, whose army has invaded Panama and Grenada in recent years and whose record in previous 'humanitarian interventions' is barbaric, in Somalia alone the US army killed thousands of civilians, many of them children.

NATO has billions of dollars to spend on bombs to drop on Serbia and Kosovo, yet it seems it was completely unable to find a few million to prepare homes and food for these refugees on whose behalf we are to believe it is acting.

As a particular example of Western 'humanitarianism' look at Iraq. By most commonly accepted estimates half of a million children have died because of economic sanctions which include medicines and sanitation equipment. Over five thousand children die each month in Iraq, in order for the Western powers to maintain their absolute control over the world's major oil- producing region. Last year US secretary of state Madeleine Albright was asked on US television: "We have heard that half a million children have died (as a result of sanctions), I mean that is more children than died at Hiroshima ...Is the price worth it?". She replied "We think the price is worth it". (1)

Calls for military intervention ignore the fact that the Western powers will only act to promote their own interests, often at the expense of the people who they are purporting to defend. The NATO bombing of Serbia has had the entirely predictable result of escalating the scale of repression in Kosovo, fuelling nationalism in Serbia and allowing the Yugoslav state to quell internal dissent. Meanwhile a resolution is not one centimetre closer.

The failed Paris talks

The details of the proposed peace settlement which was composed by the Western powers, shows once again how Western 'diplomacy' is driven by their own interests, rather than by the interests of those whom they are apparently assisting. The failed peace deal was formulated without the agreement of the Kosovar people. It was basically framed towards the needs of the US, the world's only superpower.

We claim no special insight into the minds of the NATO planners as to why they are carrying out this campaign. Perhaps it is simply a demonstration of strength to show who is in charge in the New World Order. Perhaps it is because weakening the rump Yugoslavia will make it all the easier to complete the process by which the Balkans are becoming a neo-colony of the European Union, technically self governing but in reality tied to the European economy as cheap manufacturing and assembly bases. Certainly the international arms trade cannot be complaining, every missile fired and bomb dropped will have to be replaced at a cost of billions of dollars to the tax payers of the NATO countries. The demonstration of the superiority of NATO weapons cannot but help sales and let's not forget that NATO countries are responsible for over 60% of the worlds arms trade. Perhaps, in 50 or 100 years time, long after the dead of this war are forgotten by NATO we will be told the real reasons but the record of the NATO countries rules out any humanitarian motive.

Internal Opposition in Yugoslavia

Throughout the Yugoslav wars, there has been a significant opposition to Milosevic in Serbia itself. This has included anti-war movements, independent trade unions and students. Just over a year ago Milosevic's police force violently repressed demonstrations of over 200,000 people in Belgrade. Now, when a vastly powerful military machine goes to war against a country, it is easy for opposition movements to be painted as enemies of 'national unity'. Milosevic's regime has fully taken advantage of the bombing in a number of ways internally. The Yugoslav state secret police have been arresting opponents and shutting down all media outlets not directly controlled by the regime. In the words of one Serbian anarchist: "[with] no independent electronic media and press, civil society is almost completely isolated and destroyed".

Milosevic has also begun to reverse many of the gains which workers have won in the years since the Bosnian War. For example another Serbian anarchist reports: "And one more great thing in which NATO "helped" us. Capital punishment (or death penalty). It has recently been abolished from Yugoslav Constitution and I believe it one of the biggest successes of our hard fight for democracy, constitutionalism and normal life values. Tonight, the Minister of Justice in the Serbian Government, Dragoljub Jankovic proposed that it should be introduced again while we have the State of War. I don't have reasons to doubt that it will be introduced in these circumstances".

Yet despite their seriously weakened position, a coalition of 16 opposition groups circulated a statement on April 6th, calling not only for an end to the NATO bombing, but also for an immediate end to all ethnic cleansing and a return of the refugees.

Serbian nationalism and Kosovo

The Serbian army has quite clearly been involved in a campaign of terror against the inhabitants of Kosovo. We utterly condemn this war waged against the Kosovar people. Yet again the lives and homes of thousands of entirely innocent people have been destroyed in the name of a ludicrous abstraction called nationalism. The Serbian armies have used the full range of barbarities: summary executions, vicious acts of ethnic cleansing and mass terror against a defenceless civilian population. This has not happened by accident. The Bosnian war saw the same pattern of conscious atrocities aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions and creating an atmosphere of hatred and fear. While it is not true that 'Serbs' are the monsters portrayed in the Western media, the Serbian regime depends upon its ability to reinforce the militaristic nationalism which allows thousands to go forth to slaughter and be slaughtered for the benefit of a few cynical rulers. Milosevic, NATO and all the nationalistic regimes of the region stand on the same side against the people of the Balkans.

Kosavar Independence and the KLA

Since it seems that a large majority of Kosovars wish for independence we defend their right to form an independent state. While we defend this right, we don't believe that the people of Kosovo have much to gain from the realisation of this wish except in the immediate (and significant) sense of getting rid of the Serbian army and its paramilitary hangers on. An independent Kosovar state, under the influence of the KLA, would simply amount to exchanging one bunch of nationalist bosses for another. It is quite possible that they would, in turn, seek to expel the Serbian minority. They have exposed themselves as more of the same through their attacks on Serbian civilians living in Kosovo and through their demand for NATO intervention. Furthermore the KLA's programme for creating a 'Greater Albania' would probably lead the Kosovars into another bloody war, were they to gain power.

What we can do

While we can offer no instant solution to this disaster there are ways in which Irish working people can show real humanitarianism and solidarity with the suffering Kosovar people.

Oppose the escalation of the war by NATO

Firstly we can oppose any and all Western intervention in Kosovo, which will only serve to further the interests of the imperial powers. The real victims of the escalation of the war by NATO have been the Kosovar and the Serbian people, who have had to endure a vicious backlash by the Yugoslav state. NATO will not be militarily defeated in this war, if they are to be thwarted, opposition by workers in the NATO states will have to play a large part. If the war becomes drawn out there is a real possibility of a mass international anti-war movement emerging. Previous mass anti-war movements, like the anti-Vietnam war movement, have created confidence and momentum to challenge the power of the ruling elites in the imperialists' country. What's more they constrict the ability of imperial powers to act with impunity.

In Ireland we should especially oppose any proposals to join the NATO 'Partnership for Peace' grouping. The Irish government wishes to enter this military alliance without even consulting the Irish people. The current situation shows the reality of NATO's 'peacekeeping' missions. Unless we can stop them, next time there could be Irish 'peacekeeping' soldiers waging war. We must also be on the watch for Irish airports being used to aid the NATO war effort and oppose all such uses. In particular NATO aircraft must not be allowed to refuel at Shannon, as they did during the Gulf War.

Support progressive groups in Yugoslavia.

Secondly we can attempt to build links between workers' organisations in Ireland and progressive groups in Serbia who oppose the war. By the end of the Bosnian war a large anti-war movement had started to emerge in Serbia. The NATO bombing has weakened them at the moment. We must seek ways of showing concrete solidarity with these movements.

Asylum for the displaced people

Finally the most important act of solidarity that we can show is to demand that the Irish government offers refuge to the terrorised, displaced people of Kosovo. We have heard much about the refugee crisis coming from Kosovo. It's only a crisis for the refugees themselves. We should demand that our government give serious cash to the relief organisations and offer asylum to those Kosovar refugees who want to get out of the Balkans. Both NATO and the KLA see them as pawns to be manipulated for their war games. It is up to the people themselves, to decide where they wish to seek refuge. This is the real meaning of humanitarianism, the offering of assistance and solidarity to those unfortunate enough to be the victims of disasters. If our government was truly committed to humanitarian values the government jet would be busy ferrying refugees out of Kosovo instead of tacitly supporting the escalation of the war.

In the future

This latest 'humanitarian crisis' is just the latest in a string of excuses that the west has used to intervene following the ending of the Cold War. While many hoped for a 'peace dividend' as military spending was re- directed into education and health care the reality is that it has remained constant or is increasing. We should oppose any attempts to draw Ireland further into this cycle of intervention and in particular oppose entry into the NATO front organisation 'Partnership for Peace'. Beyond this though we need to look towards building a movement that can oppose all such interventions in the future.

1 John Pilger in the Irish Times March 27 1999


Truth - the first casualty of war

The experience of the Gulf War warns us to be careful of accepting atrocity stories manufactured by the western military and fed to a compliant press. In that war we were told that hundreds of Kuwaiti babies had been dumped from hospital incubators and left on the floor to die, after the war this story proved to be a easily disprovable lie intended to drum up the support of the western populations for the war. However even if there may be some considerable exaggeration it is quite clear that the Serbian state and the paramilitary forces controlled by it have been responsible for terrible atrocities


For a mass uprising

Although this is a bosses war a defeat for NATO would have one advantage for the world's workers, it would discourage future interventions elsewhere. A mass uprising in the Balkans which could defeat the NATO forces there would give every western soldier a choice, desert or face the consequences of fighting for the western bosses. In such circumstances we could only be for the defeat of the west.

On a more abstract level the defeat of the US in the Vietnam war discouraged military intervention for many years after this. The apparent invincibility of the western forces in Iraq where they suffered negligible casualties reversed this deterrence. So all actions which weaken the western war effort from individual acts of sabotage to transport strikes are to be welcomed. The Serbian military is not capable of defeating the west but every plane they shoot down will have the effect of discouraging future western interventions. Recognising this fact should not discourage us from supporting all anti war movements, strikes and mutinies in the Serbian population and army. Vietnam also showed that a nationalist victory means no long term gains for the working class, just a new set of bosses.


Why anarchism

The Workers Solidarity Movement is anarchist organisation. We believe in a revolution by the working class which will overthrow the bosses and their governments, and create a society run and controlled by those who actually produce the wealth of the world. We believe that it is possible to live without government and to put in its place councils and assemblies where the "ordinary people" can decide what happens to this wealth. We believe in the equality of all and that maximum solidarity is needed between workers and other oppressed groups if we are to defeat those who live off our sweat.

Anarchists are against chaos

When you hear about anarchists you are led to believe that we are mad bombers. Every other group that lets off a bomb is immediately labelled 'anarchist' whether they be nationalists, socialists or even fascists. The myth is created that we believe in violence for the sake of it. The other myth is that anarchism is chaos It is claimed by politicians, bosses and their hacks in the media that if there was no government there would be chaos. But did you ever wonder about society today and come to the conclusion that perhaps we are already living in chaos. The price of butter is scandalously dear yet every year the EU has to deal with a butter mountain. Thousands of people are dying of starvation around the world yet millions of pounds are spent every day on nuclear arms which have the potential for wiping us and the world out.

You might ask why is this so? We say that there is one big reason - PROFIT! At the moment we live in a society in which there are two major classes - the bosses and the workers. The bosses own the factories, banks, shops, etc. Workers don't. All they have is their labour which they use to make a living. Workers are compelled to sell their Labour to the boss for a wage. The boss is interested in squeezing as much work out of the worker for as little wages as possible so that he/she can maintain high profits. Thus the more wages workers get the less profits the bosses make. Their interests are in total opposition to each other.

Production is not based on the needs of ordinary people. Production is for profit. Therefore although there is enough food in the world to feed everyone, people starve because profits come first. This is capitalism.

What is the State?

There are other classes in society such as the self- employed and small farmers but fundamentally there are workers and bosses whose interests are in opposition to each other. For workers needs to be fully met we must get rid of the bosses. But this is no easy task. The bosses are organised. They have the media on their side. They also have the State and the force of the army and police that go with it. We only have to look at the Australian dockers strike to see how the forces of the state can be used against the working class. We only have to look at the North to see to what extent the ruling class are prepared to go to protect their interests.

The state (i.e. governments, armies, courts, police, etc.) is a direct result of the fact that we live in a class society. A society where only 7% of the people own 84% of the wealth.

The state is there to protect the interests of this minority, if not by persuasion then by force. Laws are made not to protect us but to protect those who own the property. Look at how the building workers were flung into jail when they decided to fight against the Black economy.

Compare this with the treatment handed out to the multi- nationals who are able to take 500m in profits out of the country tax free without the government even knowing about it. If you think that the state is there to protect you, think about the fact that PAYE workers pay 88% of all income taxes while the rest - farmers, self- employed ,and multi-nationals pay only 12% between them.

Socialism from Below

Central to our politics is the belief that ordinary people must make the revolution. Every member of the working class (workers, unemployed, housewives, etc.) has a role to play. Only by this participation can we ensure that anarchism is made real. We believe in a revolution that comes from the bottom up and is based on factory and community councils. Freedom cannot be given, it has to be taken.

So we say it is up to ordinary people. Some ask is this possible? Would it not be chaotic? Of course not. At the moment capitalism would collapse without the support of the working class. We make everything, we produce all the wealth. It is possible to organise production so that the needs of all are met. It is also possible to create structures that allow everyone to participate in making the decisions that affect them.


Text of Anarchist News No 20, April 1999

This article is from Workers Solidarity No 57 published in March 1999