Kosovo and the Former Yugoslavia
For nearly two decades, what was the former Yugoslavia has been slowly disintegrating into little fiefdoms in the service of US Imperialism and European Capital. What was Yugoslavia has seen in those two decades destructive war, ethnic cleansing, and the growing misery of millions of the poor masses of the Balkans. The story of Yugoslavia is intricate and complicated, there are no clear heroes, there are plenty of villains, and it speaks all too much of the need for real national liberation. Kosovo now declares itself independent, but the question is what kind of independence is this? We recognize the Albanian people as a nationally oppressed people, whose history has been a struggle against Imperialism, who have a diasporic community through the world, from Italy to America, but what is happening in Kosovo is not liberation but another step in the sellout of the Albanian people in Kosovo to foreign capital. The people of Kosovo will not have liberation through its government’s heel to toe goose step with the countries of NATO. Throughout the Balkan region, nations are suffering from poverty, uneven development, and tremendous debt. While countries have legal independence and recognition from the UN, they are not liberated from the yolk of Imperialism and will be forced to march its tune.
The former Yugoslavia and the nations that comprised it can only be discussed in relation to an outlining of its history. For centuries the area known as the Balkans was dominated by Austrian, Hungarian, Venetian, and Turkish interests. Such powers shaped the area we know, and such influence is preserved in the culture of the peoples of the area, where there is a diversity of religion, language, and life styles. These nations were encamped with these foreign powers out of necessity and pitted against each other in war. Following the Italo-Turkish war, the sovereign nations of Serbia, Greece, Montenegro, and Bulgaria went to war against the Ottoman Empire and eliminated most of Turkey’s influence in the area. Only a few months later, the nations were at war with each other over territorial gains. The second war in the Balkans set the stage for the First World War in 1914, and interested Imperialist powers sought to consolidate or win influence in the area by proxy Balkan states or outright belligerence.
After WWI, the Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian Empires had all toppled, the Kingdom of Italy which was promised the coast of what is now Croatia by British and French Imperialism was only given the city of Trieste in what is now Slovenia. A united Serbia and Montenegro turned to the big territorial winners at the end of the first world war; it would soon become the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Internal strife was immediate, the Yugoslavian king reorganized the administrative structure from 33 oblasts to 9 “banovinas” (states). The merging of such “banovinas” were more of a matter of geography than it actually was acute to nationality and ethnicity. King Alexander of Yugoslavia became an absolute monarch and was subsequently assassinated by Macedonian nationalists in 1934, aided by Croatian fascists known as the Ustashi.
Imperialist territorial interest was renewed in the Balkans. Nazi Germany alongside the fascist and right-wing governments of Italy, Hungary, and Bulgaria launched an invasion of Yugoslavia. In the occupation of Yugoslavia, territory was ceded, annexed, and the kingdom was broken up. The Ustashi specifically became the armed tool of Nazi Germany in the area committing atrocious crimes including organizing concentration camps and mass murders of Serbs and Jews. Albanian fascists in Kosovo were used as a buffer and spring board against Serbs by Italy. Croatian fascists joined the ranks of the SS, and committed these crimes alongside Nazi Germany.
With the war turning against Nazi Germany and its puppet states, Communist partisans were able to push the fascists outside of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was reorganized after the war as a “federated socialist” state, which incorporated 6 national republics, and two autonomous provinces in the Serbian republic (one was Kosovo). The Federal Socialist Yugoslavian Republic was at all first sights a multinational state; its political leader, Joseph Broz Tito, was himself Croatian and Slovenian. In comparison to the previous regimes of Yugoslavia and the national struggles in the area the state promoted the official motto of “Brotherhood and Unity.” However, the history of Yugoslavia is bound to Serbian history itself and its struggle, which created a definite Serbian national-chauvinism within the state. This was exemplified in its relations to neighboring Albania, a socialist nation, which saw Tito’s Yugoslavia as threatening to the sovereignty of the Albanian nation. This was one of the causes that led Albania to break relations with the Yugoslavia for decades and militarize the border against a possible Yugoslavian invasion.
After Tito’s death in 1980, the revisionist Yugoslav Communist League1 began liberalization while trying to hold on to power. In the late 80s, a faction of the Serbian party that was led by Slobodan Milosevic pushed for power with a more openly national-chauvinistic position. They dismissed officials who were neutral or advocated for more autonomous rights within Serbia. Albanians in Kosovo began protests to demand Kosovo be recognized as a constituent republic in the Yugoslav federation rather than an autonomous province within Serbia, this movement was suppressed. With Western European backing by 1991, Slovenia seceded after a brief conflict with Yugoslavia, Croatia seceded after a brutal but brief war that saw atrocities committed against Croats and Serbs, while Macedonia’s secession was peaceful. In 1992 Bosnia seceded but was immediately in the midst of civil war between Muslim Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs. The war ended by limited NATO intervention on the side of a Bosniak-Croat alliance in 1996. The Kosovo Liberation Army began its campaign against Serbia in 1996, as an armed militant organization with a base in the Albanian population of Kosovo. The KLA waged a brutal struggle against Serbian authorities, aided by the reactionary right-wing government in Albania. Before 1998 it was considered a ‘terrorist’ outfit and listed by such countries like the US, but this was eventually dropped in the interest of US and European Imperialist interest to drive yet another wedge into what was left of Yugoslavia. The Milosevic regime, in response to the KLA’s campaign, became committed in its own program of terror against the Albanian people in the region. NATO once again proceeded to thrust itself into these events against the Serbian government, in bombings against civilians in Belgrade. Kosovo remained a part of Serbia but was specially administered to by NATO.
Kosovo is now out of the hands of the Serbian national-chauvinists. We won’t take the opportunist line of supporting Serbian national-chauvinism against the Albanian masses, or to take the bogus and revisionist aim of making Slobodan Milosevic into an anti-Imperialist hero. Further we believe it historically correct for oppressed peoples to fight against reactionary power, it is in fact “Right to Rebel.” However right now they are in the hands of US and European Imperialists. The Single Spark Collective supports national liberation, which means liberation under the leadership of the oppressed peoples of the world. It means revolutionary change to social relations and relations between communities, not patently false pretensions of the comprador bourgeois sellout that is happening in Kosovo right now to European capital and US Imperialism. The Kosovo government can only serve in making their nation a spring board for further US militarism and European neo-liberal pursuits. The Albanian masses can’t win liberation as the servants of US Imperialism, and neither will the rest of the Balkan nations. The people of Kosovo who have struggled against oppression need to bring revolutionary change, communist change. Thus, we now call for the Kosovan peoples to refrain from attacks on minorities within their new nation-state and to ready themselves for communist revolution. The struggle for national liberation is over, now the struggle for liberation from capitalism and Euro-American imperialism begins.
The Single Spark Collective
March 4, 2008
The Yugoslav Communist League was a league of Communist Parties within the federated system of Yugoslavia. Rather than one party, there were multiple parties for each of the republics such as Croatia and Slovenia. Kosovo being a autonomous region but still within the territory of Serbia was forced to have adhesion with the Serbian Communist Party.1