Thursday, August 18, 2005

Yugoslavia and History: With fascist or anti-fascist Serbs?

Yugoslavia and history

By Michael Karadjis

Jerome Fitzgerald (“Write on”, GLW #348) correctly points to the importance of history and the need to get our facts right. Unfortunately, he repeats some common views on the conflicts in Yugoslavia which lack any basis in fact.

Fitzgerald states that Kosovo has been part of Serbia for 1000 years. A host of reactionary regimes use such irrational “history” to justify rule over regions inhabited by oppressed nations.
There were no states in the modern sense 1000 years ago. The Albanians' descendants, the Illyrians, preceded the Slavs in the region by 2000 years. In the 14th century, there was a large Serbian-ruled empire which dominated many nationalities, including Albanians -- this is the origin of the idea that Kosovo has “always been part of Serbia”.

Serbia rebelled against the Ottomans in the 19th century and gained independence. The other peoples had their own movements for independence, including the Albanians. There were no “natural” or “legal” borders, just regions of greater or lesser concentrations of one or another ethnic group.

The strongest new capitalist states -- Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia -- seized the remaining Ottoman possessions in Europe, including Kosovo and Macedonia, in 1912-13.
Kosovo's population was overwhelmingly Albanian and resisted furiously. The Serbian monarchy was pitiless in its suppression. According to the investigators of the Carnegie Commission: “Houses and whole villages reduced to ashes, unarmed and innocent populations massacred en masse, incredible acts of violence, pillage and brutality of every kind ... with a view to the entire transformation of the ethnic character of regions inhabited exclusively by Albanians.”

Following World War I, under Anglo-French auspices, a new Yugoslav state was formed for the south Slavic peoples, headed by the Serbian monarchy. The monarchy suppressed the aspirations all other non-Serb peoples. The outlawed Communist Party called for the right to self-determination and the radical restructuring of Yugoslavia into an equal federation of all its peoples.

The Albanians were not Slavs, and they were Muslims. For those reasons, the ruling dynasty felt they were best eliminated. The Albanian population was reduced by half, as about 400,000 people fled to Albania or Turkey.

In World War II, the resistance movement against the Nazi occupation of Yugoslavia swept across every part of the country, led by Tito and his Communist partisans.

Fitzgerald claims, “the Serbs fought against Hitler's fascists, all the others in the Balkans were on the Nazi-fascist Hitler's side”. Unfortunately, this argument is widely believed by many on the left, who, in a most “un-left” fashion, confuse whole nations with political currents, as if nations don't consist of different social classes.

Hence all Serbs are seen as progressive (“only Serbs” fought against Hitler), while all Croats are fascists and supposedly supported the genocidal Nazi puppet state, led by the Ustashe, in German-occupied Croatia.

In Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia, there were two main puppet states, the Ustashe in Croatia and the regime of Serb General Nedic in Serbia, which contained the core of the pre-war Serb monarchical state. “Serbian” Belgrade was the first city in Europe to be declared Judenfrei (free of Jews). The regime formed an organisation called the Chetniks which terrorised its opponents.
Serbian Chetnik forces initially fought against the Ustashe regime, as its goal of a “Greater Serbia” was in conflict with the Ustashe's “Greater Croatia”. But the Chetniks' main enemy was the partisans and they eventually became full-scale collaborators of the Nazis.
After the war, Tito's Communist government executed the Chetnik leader Mihailovic.

Just as collaborators existed on all sides, so did partisans. The overwhelming bulk of resistance activity occurred in Bosnia and Croatia. According to Yugoslav statistics, at the height of the war in late 1943, there were 122,000 partisans active in Croatia, 108,000 in Bosnia, and only 22,000 in Serbia.

Of course many partisans in Croatia and Bosnia were ethnic Serbs, but many were from other nationalities -- in Croatia, 61% of partisans were Croats and 28% Serbs. While figures do not exist for Bosnia, a large proportion were also Muslims, who were being slaughtered by all sides.
Only the partisans promised a Bosnian republic within their proposed Yugoslav federation. The Muslim clergy in 1941 issued resolutions condemning atrocities being carried out by Ustashe and Chetniks, and condemned persecution of Jews and Serbs. Bosnian Muslims suffered the highest per capita losses of any nationality in Yugoslavia.

Tito himself was a Croat, and current Croatian president Tudjman, whatever his right-wing sins today, was a partisan leader in the war. The last Yugoslav federal president, the Croat Stipe Mesic, had much of his family murdered by the Ustashe. In Yugoslavia's dying days, Slobodan Milosevic slandered Mesic as Ustashe and blocked his presidency.

Tito's Yugoslav federation was a big advance over capitalist Yugoslavia for the non-Serb nationalities, because they now had their own republics. Kosovo's Albanians, although one of the main population groups in Yugoslavia, were not granted a republic, but merely autonomy within the Serbian republic.

However, under pressure from the rising Albanian national movement, Tito upgraded Kosovan autonomy in the 1974 constitution, allowing it equal representation with the six republics on the federal level.

This move was the target of the rising Serb nationalist movement in the late 1980s, which, as “market forces” crept into both the economic system and the ideology behind it, aimed to create a new “Greater Serbia” for the rising Serbian bourgeoisie.

Milosevic came to power on this wave, and set about destroying all his opponents who still believed in Tito's slogan “brotherhood and unity”. The line went that the entire post-war federation was a gigantic anti-Serb plot hatched by the Vatican and the Comintern in the person of the Croat Communist Tito.

In 1989, the Milosevic forces unilaterally and illegally abolished Kosovo's constitutional autonomy, beginning the process that led to the end of Yugoslavia.

In Kosovo, Milosevic introduced wage differentials between Serb and Albanian workers, sacked hundreds of thousands of Albanian workers from the state sector, left hundreds of Albanian doctors and thousands of Albanian teachers without jobs, and hence Albanians without these services, and made the Serb language and the Cyrillic alphabet compulsory in all official dealings. The Albanian majority have the right to fight such apartheid.

The Chetniks were revived, and this is the origin of the parties who are now Milosevic's “Socialist” Party's coalition partners. Milosevic's party dumped its communist ideology in favour of nationalism.

The main Chetnik parties are the Serbian Revival Movement led by Yugoslav deputy prime minister Vuk Draskovic, which concentrates on monarchy, church and tradition, and the Serbian Radical Party led by Serbia's vice-president Vojislav Seselj, which is violently racist.
Among the Bosnian Serbs, the party that led the genocide against Bosnia's Muslims, the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) led by Radovan Karadzic, also harks from the Chetnik tradition. It is these forces that are “fascist”, not Serbs in general.

For example, in 1991, Seselj boasted in the Serbian parliament that his forces had gouged the eyes out of a dozen Croats and claimed the only solution was to “cut the throat of every Croat”.
Karadzic in late 1991 told the Bosnian parliament that unless Bosnia remained in Milosevic's “Yugoslav” rump, the Bosnian Muslims “would disappear from the face of the Earth”. These fascist forces in coalition with Milosevic in the Serbian and Yugoslav governments allow him to keep power.

Serb opposition

On the other side, thousands of Serbs refuse to be drafted to fight in Kosovo, and during the Bosnian war, thousands of Serbs fought in the multi-ethnic Bosnian army alongside their Muslim and Croat comrades.

General Divjak, who led the defence of Sarajevo against the Chetniks, is a Serb. The Serb Civic Council was formed by Serbs who lived in government-controlled regions and refused to accept the Chetniks as their representatives at peace talks. The imperialist powers took no notice and only recognised the SDS.

In the part of Bosnia controlled by the SDS, half the Serb population fled so as not to be drafted into the Chetnik army. In Serbia proper, the Living in Sarajevo coalition, made up of a large assortment of anti-fascist Serbs, took action against the war. In Belgrade, 88% of draft-age men refused to heed the call-up.

Which Serbs are we with? Those anti-fascist Serbs, who continue in the partisan tradition, or those who continue the Chetnik tradition and hold power in Belgrade?

I agree with Fitzgerald's opposition to the entry of NATO troops into Kosovo. However, when he “hopes the Serbs will fight again”, we must recognise that Serbs constitute only 10% of Kosovo's population, so it is unclear how and where they will fight.

The illusion of many Albanians that NATO will “protect” them stems from the unbearable repression and massacres they have endured. However, the best protection is armed self-defence. Yet the role to be assigned to the NATO forces is the disarmament of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

Milosevic and NATO may well come to blows over the former's opposition to NATO troops on “his” territory, but this opposition is due to the embarrassment of seeing NATO doing his work for him!

Once NATO troops arrive, those who believe Kosovo was always part of Serbia can be assured it will remain that way. All the western powers are in total opposition to Kosovan independence -- despite this being the wish of virtually the entire Albanian population.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are so full of crap man ! Take your miserable head out your serbian-hating anus.