Tuesday, July 26, 2005

US in even-handed betrayal of Kosovo - early 1999

US in even-handed betrayal of Kosovo

By Michael Karadjis


New atrocities against Albanian villagers by the Serbian occupation forces in Kosovo have further highlighted the western powers' “even-handed” policy. Even more than last year, virtually every commentary in the media has stressed that both sides -- the occupation forces of the Milosevic regime in Serbia, and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which is fighting to rid Kosovo of its 85-year oppression -- are equally at fault.
In a situation of brutal and illegal occupation, to be even-handed means to side with the oppressor. Putting equal blame on the KLA means demanding it end its armed struggle and accept continuing Serbian occupation.
Thus, following the massacre of 45 Albanian civilians in Racak, NATO's General Klaus Naumann, warning of western air strikes, said, “Both sides must be made to understand that they've reached the limit”. What had the KLA done to deserve this universal “equal” condemnation by western powers?
Last October, the United States intervened with a draft of a pro-Serbian plan for very limited autonomy for Kosovans -- far inferior to the autonomy they had enjoyed before 1989 in the old Yugoslav constitution -- in exchange for the withdrawal of only certain special units of the occupation forces.
According to most reports, the KLA's sin was to reoccupy the regions these special forces had withdrawn from. Western governments regard it as a crime for a liberation movement to move into areas where it has overwhelming support from the population.
The KLA, however, denies it has done this. On the contrary, while the KLA was not a signatory to the cease-fire, and was opposed to the blatantly pro-Serb plan which Milosevic's friends in the State Department handed down, it insists that it stuck to the cease-fire despite the cost being great suffering of the Albanian people.
“They also insist that the cease-fire enables Serbian forces free movement on the territory controlled by the KLA and therefore made it easy for them to carry out armed operations in which mostly the Albanian population suffered”, according to Pristina-based journalist Fehim Rexhepi.
In addition, the cease-fire brought in the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM), the unarmed international monitors. The KLA has been highly critical of the KVM's interpretation of the cease-fire, which it claims prevents the KLA from aiding people who are under attack from occupation forces.
Now, after the massacre in Racak, the “safety” of the unarmed mission is being used as an excuse for western powers supposedly being incapable of aiding the Kosovans or intervening against Milosevic.
The same trick of sending a lightly armed “peacekeeping” force into a war zone was used for three and a half years during the war in Bosnia.
Then, the Milosevic regime and Bosnian Serb fascist forces were given the entire arsenal of former Yugoslavia by the US-inspired Vance plan in January 1992, and were allowed to withdraw them from Croatia into Bosnia. Meanwhile, NATO navies in the Adriatic Sea and UN (mostly British and French) troops at Bosnian airports enforced an arms embargo against the Bosnian government.
The presence of these UN troops, and many others providing “aid”, was used as an excuse for the west being incapable of either bombing the Bosnian Serb heavy weaponry or of lifting their criminal arms embargo. This was despite repeated calls by the Bosnian government, from 1993, for the UN occupation forces to get out.
In Kosovo, the Serbian occupation forces acted with impunity under the noses of the “peace verifiers.” The “cease-fire” included a major attack on the region of Podujevo on New Year's Eve, which drove out 5500 Albanians.
Offensive resumed
Following continuing violations, the KLA finally relaunched its offensive on January 8, arresting eight Serb officers who had entered KLA territory and attacked civilians.
NATO Secretary General Javier Solana immediately demanded that the officers be released, without mentioning the KLA's demand that some of its fighters be released in exchange. The head of the “peace verifiers” claimed, “The irresponsible actions of the KLA are the main reason for the significant increase of tension in Kosovo”.
When the latest massacre again put the spotlight on the Milosevic regime, some circles in the west immediately tried to cast doubt on what had happened. The French newspaper Le Figaro, generally close to ruling circles, attempted to blame the KLA for the massacre, despite journalists' reports from the large numbers of refugees who had fled the village after watching relatives be killed.
The same disgraceful tactic was regularly used by British and French leaders during the Bosnian war, when particularly gruesome massacres by shells fired into Sarajevo were claimed to have been the result of Muslims killing themselves to gain world attention.
Western interests
All western powers are completely devoted to Kosovo remaining part of Serbia and to the fiction of “Yugoslavia”, i.e., the federation of Serbia and Montenegro. “Yugoslavia” is held together only by brute force and is under the total control of the clique around Milosevic, his new deputy Vuk Draskovic of the moderate Chetnik Serbian Renewal Party (which wants to bring back the monarchy) and Serbian vice-president and war criminal Vojislav Seselj, head of the extremist Chetnik Serbian Radical Party, which is allied to Le Pen's National Front in France.
Despite Serb nationalist propaganda about Kosovo being Serbia's “Jerusalem”, there are far more material reasons for the continuing occupation, including the plan announced last year for the fire sale privatisation of Kosovo's rich mineral assets. From the point of view of the US and west European leaders, opposition to Kosovan independence (and even meaningful autonomy, judging by the US plan) has several roots.
At every important step since 1989, the western powers have aided the Belgrade regime: first in its attempt to control all of Yugoslavia and, when this was no longer possible, to keep control of as much of the region as possible.
Western bankers opposed independence for the ex-Yugoslav republics, especially the smaller and weaker ones, because they believed they would be unable to repay their debts. The collapse of Yugoslavia changed the preferred option to a division of the region between Serbia and Croatia; this meant the partition of Bosnia between them. In this set-up, Kosovo is part of Serbia.
West European states with their own restive minorities are opposed to “fragmentation” of Serbia because this might be an example at home; a “strongman” to keep “stability” in the region is necessary, even if they would prefer the strongman were less brazen at times.
Further, independence for Kosovo won by a revolutionary army could threaten the stability of the southern Balkans, including Albania and Macedonia.
The only thing which has fundamentally changed has been the emergence of the KLA to challenge this status quo. This was made possible by the liberation of thousands of weapons during the revolutionary uprising in Albania in 1997, many of which slipped across the border.
That is why current talk of air strikes is being directed at both sides; yet this is also the reason that substantial air strikes are not likely to occur. Air strikes on Serbian heavy weaponry, relatively easy due to their size and visibility, would give the advantage to the KLA if left at that.
Ground troops
Hence there is more talk than last year about the possibility of NATO sending ground troops. If it is necessary to defend “stability” in the region through air strikes, the west is preparing to occupy the region so that the KLA does not take advantage of the situation. This would then permanently freeze the situation and crush the Kosovans' struggle for independence.
What happens, however, depends on how outrageous Milosevic's thugs are in face of world opinion, and to what extent instability is heightened either by too ferocious ethnic cleansing or by victories by the KLA. But much of the US rhetoric about air strikes and the reluctance of the European powers is more related to US-Europe issues.
Since the end of the Cold War, the US has needed new reasons for the maintenance of NATO, which ensures US control over European military forces.
Its main need for NATO, however, is for action outside of Europe, especially in the Middle East, outside of NATO's brief. Throughout this period, it has pushed for NATO to be used “out of area” and to be able to act without UN approval, and has struggled against Franco-German ideas of an independent European security force.
European states like France and Germany have been less than enthusiastic at times about their forces being used for operations of primarily US interest, as in the Gulf.
The contradiction between aggressive rhetoric and years of complete lack of action is due to the fact that, while Yugoslavia provides a good excuse for establishing this “out of area” principle, it is against US interests to attack Milosevic in any kind of way that would aid the KLA. The US and the Europeans fundamentally agree that Kosovo must not be independent. Thus if any bombing does occur, this will be unlikely to target Serbia’s massive supply of heavy weaponry in Kosovo.
The US and the Milosevic regime may well come to blows, but this will be due to the latter refusing to allow a NATO armed force into occupied Kosovo which it considers to be “its own” – it is difficult to insist that Kosovo is ‘holy Serb land’, too holy for Albanians to have any rights, but then welcome in NATO. This is despite the fact that NATO’s role would be to disarm the KLA, which NATO believes it can do better than the bumbling Belgrade regime, whose tactics have only boosted it.The real US aim is freedom of action in the oilfields of the Middle East. Thus in Bosnia, the US's Dayton partition plan of 1995 was far more pro-Serbian than the previous European Union plans. Its current autonomy plan for Kosovo is likewise more pro-Serbian than the official EU position. There is thus little doubt in whose interests any NATO occupation force would act.

Kosovo betrayed: What NATO is really up to 1998

Kosovo betrayed: What NATO is really up to

By Michael Karadjis


Just who is kidding whom about Kosovo? NATO is ready to bomb Serbia ``to force it to back down''. US special envoy Richard Holbrooke holds hours of talks with Serbian ruler Slobodan Milosevic, and comes out saying that Milosevic has ``backed down'' under the threat of force.
In fact, Milosevic has agreed to a US peace plan that was devised several weeks ago, and which was so blatantly pro-Serb that the entire spectrum of Kosovo Albanian leaders rejected it out of hand.
One of the Albanian negotiators, Shkelzen Maliqi, claimed the US plan ``legalises acts of Serb violence, and it demands from the Albanians to subject themselves to a destructive destiny, to accept humiliation and the situation created by violence''. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) likewise rejected the US plan.
The plan gives limited self-administration to Albanian majority areas in Kosovo within the Republic of Serbia, but considerably less autonomy than that enjoyed by Kosovo in Communist Yugoslavia before it was suppressed by Milosevic's regime in 1989.
For example, in the old system, Kosovan autonomy included representation at the federal Yugoslav level, recognising the fact that, after Serbs and Croats, the Albanians were the next largest national group in Yugoslavia. The current plan gives them no such thing, even though Montenegro, which is ethnically Serb, has full republic status within the fiction of ``federal Yugoslavia''.
The reality would most likely be a series of ethnic Albanian ghettos.
Albanians claim that ``it is absurd to negotiate about rights and institutions that the citizens of Kosovo once enjoyed and which were then abolished by force and unlawfully'', according to Kosovan journalist Arben Krasniqi.
The Albanian masses and every political current among their leadership reject anything short of complete independence. Years of monstrous oppression, open apartheid and now seven months of genocide have erased any illusions in ``autonomy'' within this kind of Serbia or Yugoslavia.
The minimum some may accept would be full republic status, equal to Serbia and Montenegro, within Yugoslavia. What the US offers them is less than they've ever had.
Diplomatic theatre
Milosevic loves it, but needed it to appear that limited concessions were being forced by the west, rather than by Albanian victories. The theatre of western pressure ``forced'' Milosevic to accept his own plan!
Milosevic has always rejected any return to the situation prior to 1989, but he needs to stabilise his southern colony. Given that the ethnic cleansing of the whole Albanian population would be impossible, he required some kind of deal that gave the Albanians less than before.
Whether NATO was serious about air strikes is hard to tell; it is certainly clear that previous threats throughout the year were not.
However, the situation was getting out of hand, and something needed to give. In the past seven months, Serb occupation forces and fascist militia have driven 300,000 Albanians from their homes, killed up to 1500 people, according to the Pristina Committee for Human Rights, and completely destroyed 400 villages.
These hundreds of thousands of refugees, and the likelihood that many will freeze to death in the coming Balkan winter, prompted NATO to appear serious.
There are already 300,000 Kosovan refugees in western Europe who have fled in the last 10 years. Europe does not want any more, and neither does it want the embarrassment of them dying en masse an hour's flight from major European capitals.
However, as Steve Pratt, director of CARE Australia's relief mission in Yugoslavia, put it, ``I cannot see how bombing the Serbs is going to help displaced ethnic Albanians. What is most needed is blankets and food and shelter.''
Pratt is right, but one other thing is urgently needed by the Albanians: arms.
In all the discussions of how Kosovo is such a difficult problem to solve, the obvious question rarely arises: why should the Albanians, who are 90% of the population, not be able to defeat the occupation forces themselves, and hence protect relief workers and supplies and lead their own people back to their homes and villages, all without NATO?
The answer is that this population does not have the arms to fight the occupation forces, which have one of the most powerful armies in Europe, largely due to decades of NATO viewing Yugoslavia as a bulwark against the Soviet Union.
One of the first moves by NATO when the current crackdown began in March was to increase surveillance along the Macedonian and Albanian borders of Kosovo to prevent arms reaching the KLA.
Western hostility to the KLA and its goal of independence has been blatant. NATO's backdowns after the last three or four bluffs about air strikes have been explained by its not wanting to shift the military balance in favour of the KLA. According to the US News and World Report in July, one option being discussed by NATO was to ``bomb 'em both''.
However, bombing the Albanian liberation forces would have been difficult to explain. It seems that NATO therefore reconsidered, giving Milosevic longer to complete the crushing of the KLA.
It is hardly surprising that NATO has only appeared serious about doing something since Milosevic announced that the KLA had been defeated and most Serb objectives had been accomplished. Western intervention would thus freeze the battlelines, to the overwhelming advantage of the Serb occupation forces, as also occurred in Bosnia in 1995.
Geoff Kitney, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, summed up the position of the major western powers: ``... the Serb authorities did have a legitimate internal security problem to deal with. Albanian separatists ... began a campaign of violence against the Serb authorities several years ago, one that was becoming more and more brutal ... Milosevic has a legitimate claim to maintaining security in the region.''
For the imperialist powers, the Serbian occupation of Kosovo is an ``internal'' security issue. Milosevic has a ``legitimate'' right to crush opposition to his foreign occupation.
Kosovo had a high degree of autonomy, with its own government and federal representation, in Communist Yugoslavia. After Milosevic took power in 1987 and began pushing World Bank-dictated economic reforms and political centralisation, he abolished Kosovo's autonomy, sent in the army, instituted apartheid and destroyed the Yugoslav constitution. There was nothing ``legitimate'' about any of this.
For the west, however, self-determination is a problem. Struggles by Irish, Basques, Corsicans and others in western Europe threaten the ``stability'' of major European states based on national oppression. Hence there is a fundamental solidarity with Milosevic, however embarrassing his methods.
Furthermore, an armed mass movement would be outside western control. It could invigorate last year's revolutionary uprising in Albania, and probably lead to the fall of Milosevic -- and the CIA has claimed there is no reasonable alternative to him.
Moreover, there appear to be elements in the KLA with a leftist or Marxist background. Western leaders still worry about the ``nightmare scenario'' of instability in Kosovo spreading south to Macedonia with its Albanian minority and bringing in NATO allies Greece and Turkey on different sides.
For this reason, western control is an important issue. Revealingly, during the genocide against Bosnia's Muslims, when British defence secretary Malcolm Rifkind was asked why Britain considered lifting the arms embargo on Bosnia ``the worst possible option'', he replied, ``Because it would mean we lost control''.
`Muslim threat'
And of course the Albanians are largely Muslims, like most Bosnian victims. As a French diplomat pointed out during the Bosnia war, Europe wanted to prevent the emergence of a Muslim state in Europe: “Our interests are closer to the Serbs' than you think. We worry more about the Muslims than the Serbs.”
The idea that Bosnia or Kosovo would become a “radical Muslim threat” to Europe was fanciful nonsense, but Muslims as a legitimate part of multi-ethnic states, with their own state power, would undermine the growing racism of “fortress Europe” and its policy of excluding vast numbers of economic refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, also largely Muslim.
Of course, arms for the Albanians are not a solution by themselves. There need to be serious negotiations, including about the rights of the Serb minority in any future Kosovan state.
But the reason endless negotiations have never got anywhere, or else end up giving the oppressor the best possible deal, is that those with massive quantities of heavy weapons feel no pressure to negotiate with a defenceless population.
If the local resistance had the arms to turn Kosovo into Serbia's Vietnam, it would increase the present tendency of the bulk of Serbia's youth to resist conscription or desert. Despite the propaganda about Kosovo being Serbia's “Jerusalem”, most Serbs would rather flee the country than be sent to Kosovo.
On the other hand, western military occupation to “control” the region, while inflaming Serb nationalism, would block arms getting through to the KLA and entrench Serbian occupation, as the US plan makes clear.
NATO's creeping occupation of the region, from Macedonia in 1994 to Bosnia in 1995 and now possibly Kosovo, has been justified by the threat of Serb expansionism, but in each case it has carried through a deal with Milosevic to guarantee a more sustainable victory to Greater Serbia.

Sale of Kosovo behind Serbia's aggression 1998

Sale of Kosovo behind Serbia's aggression

By Michael Karadjis


Serbian troops in the occupied region of Kosovo are carrying out ethnic cleansing on a scale not seen since the war in Bosnia. Villages have been bombed by helicopters, fighter planes and heavy artillery or completely burnt, whole families have been massacred and up to 85,000 people driven from their homes. More than 11,000 have crossed into Albania, many dying along the way.
In what the western media calls “the Serbian province of Kosovo”, the Albanian population has been carrying out a “Ghandian” resistance, including setting up alternative government institutions to the brutal occupation by the Serbian army and ultra-right militia. This occupation, begun in 1989, and the subsequent abolition of the autonomy Kosovo had in Communist Yugoslavia, was the first attack on the Yugoslav constitution by the nationalist regime of Slobodan Milosevic, which culminated in the federation’s destruction by “Greater Serbia”.
However, why did the latest, most massive wave of ethnic cleansing occur just after the visit to Belgrade in mid-May of US special envoy in the Balkans, Richard Holbrooke?
Holbrooke pressured Milosevic and Ibrahim Rugova, the leader of the “parallel” Kosovan parliament, to come to the negotiating table, even though the conditions set by the Albanian side -- third-party involvement, cessation of hostilities and withdrawal of Serbian special forces -- had not been met.
“Unfortunately, experience teaches us that where Holbrooke passes, democracy usually does not flourish”, said Ognjen Pribicevic and other speakers at a recent discussion at the Belgrade Media Centre.
Serb/western alliance
Holbrooke is no stranger to the region. He was behind the Dayton Accord in 1995, which legitimised the ethnic partition of Bosnia, giving half the UN member state to an ethnically cleansed “Bosnian Serb Republic”.
It was not entirely coincidental that virtually the minute Holbrooke finished his 17 hours in Belgrade, Milosevic launched a three-pronged attack on oppositional voices: the suppression of broadcasting rights of nearly all electronic media, the ending of the Tito-era autonomy of the universities and the illegal replacement of the federal government and appointment of Momir Bulatovic, a Milosevic man who was recently crushed in Montenegro's election, as federal prime minister, against the recommendations of Montenegro's government.
Holbrooke got what he wanted, publicity about the US “creating peace talks”, while Milosevic was assured of the west dropping its sanctions threats and of western silence about the strengthening of his dictatorship. It also bought time for Milosevic so that, under the cover of the “negotiations”, he could get on with much more vigorous ethnic cleansing.
Whatever happened at the Milosevic-Holbrooke meeting, it is clear that, tactical differences between the Serbian regime and the main western powers aside, they are in fundamental agreement on two points: that the solution to Kosovo must be found within “Yugoslavia” (the name used by Serbia and Montenegro), despite the express wishes of virtually every Albanian resident, and that the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) must be defeated.
The western powers could live with the dreadful repression and apartheid there, and are only threatening intervention now that there is a serious challenge from the local Albanian population. In recent months, the KLA has grown from small groups of dedicated fighters to a highly organised, mass-based people's army, with the support of the bulk of Albanians inside and outside Kosovo. Estimates of armed fighters range up to about 30,000, controlling 30-40% of the territory.
Such a revolutionary force, outside the control of local states or imperialist powers, threatens the “stability” of the region. Only last year, a revolutionary uprising threatened the progress of capitalist restoration in Albania itself, and a similar eruption in neighbouring Macedonia, with its large Albanian minority, could bring regional countries in, including NATO allies Greece and Turkey. Western powers appear to be taking a “harder” line on the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo than they did in Bosnia because the repercussions of a mass refugee exodus (let alone the prospect of a revolutionary resistance) could be much wider.
Early in the offensive, US State Department spokesperson James Jolly claimed the increased presence of the Serbian army on the Albanian border was “legal and legitimate”, while Holbrooke spoke of his fears of a “Ho Chi Minh Trail” for arms from Albania to Kosovo. These concerns are behind the current western threats to intervene.
Intervention is mainly aimed at placing NATO forces along Albania's border with Kosovo, with the cooperation of a pliant Albanian regime, to prevent arms getting to the KLA. In fact, this is already happening. In exchange for considerable credit from the International Monetary Fund, Albania has agreed to some 100 international police training Albanian government forces to block the supply of arms over the border.
One reason for the spectacular success of the KLA is that last year's uprising in Albania liberated some 700,000 weapons from the regime's armed forces, many ending up in the hands of the KLA.
If western air strikes take place against some Serbian forces, there is little doubt it will be after Milosevic has achieved his strategic aims in Kosovo, as was the case in Bosnia. However, why does the west want to aid Milosevic's strategic aims? And does he have any, or is this just another attempt to regain support at home by whipping up the tired nationalist card?
Milosevic's aims
An ethnically pure Greater Serbia was the slogan of the rising Serbian bourgeoisie as it broke out of Communist Yugoslavia. However, the presence of 2 million Albanians inside its borders, the inability to pacify them, the continued pretense of a “Yugoslav” federation together with ethnically Serb Montenegro, and the remaining unclarity of Serbia's final relation to the “Republika Srbska” half of Bosnia, create a permanent instability and identity problem for the new bourgeois nation.
According to Sonja Biserko, from the Serbian Helsinki Centre, the continued unclarity about borders and what exactly Serbia/Yugoslavia is, is a major block to the completion of Serbia's privatisation campaign.
Milosevic's Serbia began to lead the privatisation drive in the late 1980s, but the break-up of Yugoslavia and years of war, conquest and massive population movements held it back significantly. At the same time, this period allowed an enormous accumulation of “illegal” wealth by the clique around the ruling party through war profiteering. These people now want to further legitimise their wealth by the latest privatisation law, which aims to sell the 75 largest companies. As the Kosovo war goes on, a scramble for posts in state industries about to be privatised is going on to ensure the clique around the party leaders get the lion's share. A stronger dictatorship will mean they can do this without too much fuss.
Last year's sale of Serbian Telecom to Italian and Greek investors was a big step, but further foreign investment is unlikely as long as the situation remains unstable. Further, a “solution” is needed for Kosovo to make sure the privatisation goes ahead in that region as well, where many important industries are based. Almost the entire economy of Kosovo is up for sale, at outrageously low prices. The Albanian majority will be excluded from taking any shares.
According to Rugova, “the Serbian regime has put on sale the major economic facilities of Kosovo, like Trepca, the Electric Company, Feronikl etc., which is just a form of economic pressure on Kosovo and its citizens. We appeal to the international community and the UN to exert pressure on Belgrade to terminate this process. Legitimate institutions of the Republic of Kosovo avail themselves of the opportunity to warn foreign companies that every contract signed with this intention ... will be null and void.”
In the attempt to crush Kosovo to this end, it is not viable to drive out the entire population. However, if the Albanian population can be driven out from the north, the border with Albania, the main cities and all the regions with important industries, a version of the dream of the “father” of modern Serb nationalism, writer Dobrica Cosic, might be achieved. This vision was of the Balkans divided between Greater Serbia, Greater Croatia and Greater Albania. Indeed, beginning the offensive in Drenica, an Albanian “wedge” between eastern and western Kosovo, fits well with such a scenario of territorial division.
If a small remaining part of Kosovo, overcrowded with Albanian refugees, then chooses to declare “independence”, the Albanian masses in their bantustan could continue to be a source of cheap labour. If it joins Albania, Milosevic can tell the imperialist powers, so concerned with preserving “the borders of Yugoslavia”, that it wasn't him that changed the borders. Kosovo could then be colonised by Serb refugees from the previous wars.
The west preferred a different solution -- improving human rights while insisting the whole remain within “Yugoslavia” -- which was far less destabilising than Serbia's risky choice.
However, since future “stability” in the region depends on a strong Serb ruling class which can complete the privatisation process, western leaders aren't blind to the special needs of this class. An imperialist intervention inside Kosovo would have the effect, as in Bosnia, of freezing confrontation lines in favour of the aggressor, delivering Milosevic a victory while allowing him to blame the loss of part of Kosovo to NATO intervention, and allowing western leaders to send more occupation troops to keep stability in the region under the pretext of keeping the peace.

Kosovars step up demand for independence 1998

Kosovars step up demand for independence

By Michael Karadjis


The slaughter unleashed by Slobodan Milosevic's Serbian regime in the occupied region of Kosovo, killing 80 innocent villagers in the region of Drenica, has provoked western condemnation. However, this has little to do with sympathy for the Albanian masses, who make up 90% of the region and have suffered 10 years under Belgrade's ferocious repression. Rather, an eruption in Kosovo has the potential to spread out of control.
What is feared is that a major outbreak in Kosovo would spread to the Albanian minority in Macedonia, and possibly provoke a wider Balkans war that could bring in Albania, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. The last two, in theory NATO allies, could possibly end up on opposite sides.
Further, last year's revolutionary uprising in Albania took months to contain. The relative stability of the Socialist Party government of Fatos Nano, which, despite promises, has stepped up privatisation and policies favouring western investors, could be threatened by mass anger at massacres of their brethren in Kosovo.
The western powers in the “Contact Group”, set up in 1994 to partition Bosnia, while condemning Belgrade's tactics, have also condemned the supposedly “terrorist” activities of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).
Indeed, the reference in Belgrade by US special envoy Robert Gelbard, to the KLA as “terrorists”, was interpreted by Milosevic as the green light for a crackdown, especially because it followed a recent improvement in US-Serbian relations.
Milosevic may have misinterpreted the US overture, aimed at helping him politically rather than encouraging new adventures.
The Contact Group demanded that Belgrade open dialogue with Kosovan leaders, and has imposed an arms embargo. The massively armed Serb regime is unlikely to be affected by this.
Western aims would appear to be the prevention of increasing “instability” from both sides: NATO also approved a plan to help the Albanian regime stem the flow of arms and guerilla units into Kosovo.
The western powers have also made it very clear that they are completely opposed to independence for Kosovo. “The future of Kosovo lies within the borders of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia”, according to Gelbard.
However, when the Kosovo assembly carried out a referendum on independence in 1991, it was supported by 97% of voters! In 1996, the Serbian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, carrying out research into the views of various minorities within Serbia, was struck by the 100% support for independence.
The Helsinki Committee concluded that such unanimity was impossible. However, the depth of repression and the exhaustion of other options suggest that that is indeed the view of the overwhelming majority.
Yugoslav federation
Following the victory of Tito's partisans after World War II, the new Communist Yugoslavia was created as a federation of six republics, based on national groups. The overwhelmingly Albanian region of Kosovo was not accorded the same status, because at the time Tito hoped that Albania would become part of the new federation.
This fundamental inequality of the Kosovans caused much conflict over the years, Albanian struggles for republican status being met with brutal repression by the Belgrade authorities.
In 1974, Kosovo was granted “highest level” autonomy, while officially remaining within the Serb republic. This move forever demonised Tito to Serb nationalists, who consider Kosovo “the heart of the Serb nation” because 600 years ago Serb armies made their last stand there against the advancing Ottoman Empire.
Kosovo remained the poorest part of Yugoslavia, its vast mineral wealth sucked into the Serb-dominated central bureaucracy. Unemployment in 1980 stood two and a half times higher than in Serbia, while per capita income was only one seventh that of Slovenia.
Kosovans believed relief from their plight was possible only with full republican status, which they fought for with mass demonstrations and strikes in 1981, following Tito's death.
This upsurge met ferocious repression by the new rulers. Hundreds were killed and tens of thousands brought before the courts.
Yugoslavia in the 1980s had more political prisoners than anywhere in Eastern Europe -- 70% of them Albanians. Throughout this time, one in three Kosovans spent at least “a few hours or a few days” behind bars, according to Kosovan writer Ismael Kandare.
Having a member of one's family in jail meant children could not study. Their economic plight continued to worsen as the regime brought in the IMF, which imposed austerity and privatisation packages that ravaged the poor to pay for the lavish lifestyles and disastrous policies of the Serb bureaucrats.
The tensions in the region combined with its economic woes to create a drift of the local Serb minority northwards to the wealthier areas of northern Serbia and Vojvodina.
This was used by a rising layer of anticommunist academics who dominated the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences. In a 1986 manifesto they claimed that “the Serb nation” was threatened with “genocide” at the hands of the Albanians, and that this was part of a Vatican-KGB plot going back to the time when Tito (incidentally a Croat) created the federation “to weaken Serbia”.
Riding this nationalist wave, Milosevic seized power in Serbia in 1987, on a program mixing more radical market “reform” with a monstrous Serb nationalism.
Through 1988-89, Serb masses were organised on a fiercely nationalistic basis to smash the old Communist rulers in Vojvodina, Montenegro and Kosovo, in a so-called “anti-bureaucratic revolution” -- in reality replacing them with new and nastier bureaucrats loyal to the new order. His first victim was Kosovo.
Apartheid established
In 1989 Kosovans, led by militant miners, erupted in a general strike against repression and the threats to strip tem of their autonomy. The federal army crushed the upsurge in blood and occupied the region. Soon after, its autonomy was abolished, and its parliament and all municipal councils shut.
Since then, a state of complete apartheid has existed in Kosovo. Albanians were driven out of all state institutions. The teaching of Albanian was banned, and only the Serb language and the Cyrillic script allowed in official dealings.
Wage differences between Serbs and Albanians were introduced. Tens of thousands of Albanians lost their jobs, including hundreds of doctors, while half a million children cannot attend school.
This imposition of apartheid drew little criticism from the western powers, which at this time did not have the same fears about the spread of instability because they still believed that maintaining the “unity of Yugoslavia” was the best bet, and that Milosevic was doing that.
On July 2, 1990, the banned parliament declared independence, and on September 7 proclaimed the Republic of Kosovo. This republic is not recognised by any of the imperialist powers, despite having overwhelming support within Kosovo.
“Europe has ignored us; our official representatives are not invited to the conferences”, according to Dr Skender Gashi of the Democratic Party of Kosovo.
Under the leadership of Ibrahim Rugova, Kosovans have opted for a peaceful struggle, setting up a whole country of “parallel institutions” of government, education and so on. However, the Albanian masses are taxed twice, by both their unofficial institutions and by the Serb occupation authorities.
The frustration of years of this peaceful struggle getting nowhere led to the current turn to violence by small numbers of Kosovans.
However, the “terrorism” label applied by Belgrade and the western leaders is no more appropriate than when applied to Palestinians or others resisting oppression. Their targets are the armed occupation forces or those they consider Albanian collaborators.
More than 200 operations have been carried out since 1991, most in recent years. According to Albanian journalist Fehim Rexhepi, the Kosovo Liberation Army “consists of groups of local population organised for self-protection from major and minor police punitive expeditions. There is no doubt that these groups have the full support of the local population.”
For months leading up to the current outbreak, the occupation forces tightened the noose around the Drenica region, the heart of this resistance. From at least the end of January, residents lived in an unproclaimed state of war, in which “almost a day could not pass without at least a single person killed, wounded or kidnapped”.
When the major crackdown occurred in early March, it consisted of attacks on villagers by helicopters and other heavy weapons, killings by troops and militia and the large-scale destruction of houses, forcing out a massive wave of refugees.
Yet in the demonstrations which followed, the Kosovan masses remained uncowed, for the first time in 17 years throwing stones at occupation troops in the city streets, while armed resistance in other villages is continuing.
The Milosevic regime is in a bind. The degree of bloodshed necessary to put down the armed struggle would ignite the region in a way that scares the imperialist powers.
The dilemma might have been avoided if the regime had reacted more positively to western pressure for negotiations with the Rugova leadership, with the aim of an improvement of human rights followed by gradual restoration of autonomy. Yet it has rebuffed this for years; even an agreement between Milosevic and Rugova last year for more Albanian rights in education was later ripped up by Milosevic.
This attitude seems illogical, compared to Belgrade's cooperation with the western powers in ending the Bosnian war and isolating the most chauvinist wing of the Bosnian Serbs, resulting in the lifting of most UN sanctions.
Last year the US even offered to lift the “outer ring” of remaining sanctions -- giving access to IMF and World Bank funds to complete the privatisation program -- if Milosevic would hand his former ally turned enemy, Radovan Karadzic, to the war crimes tribunal. No mention was made of Kosovo. Why blow up these opportunities?
The difference is that while in Bosnia Milosevic could claim to have won half of that state as a “Serb republic” in the US-imposed Dayton agreement, in the case of Kosovo he would lose everything. Kosovo was the issue that the whole ideology of the last 10 years was based on.
All the major parties within Serbia -- the ruling Socialist Party, the monarchist Serbian Revival Movement of Vuk Draskovic, the Democratic Party and the fascist Serbian Radical Party of Vojislav Seselj -- are at one on Kosovo being the “eternal heart” of Serbia. Any defeat or retreat by Milosevic on this would lead to his downfall.
Faced with the very strong showing of Seselj's Radicals in recent Serb elections, the ruling “Socialists” are trying to put together a government coalition with the SPO. Both parties are accused by the Radicals of “selling out” on Bosnia and being “soft” on Kosovo.
Seselj assures Serbs he would drive the entire Albanian population out. Milosevic and Draskovic perhaps want to prove that, while not that “radical”, they will deal with “terrorism”.
However, whatever Belgrade and the “international community” may want, the time for “autonomy” talks has passed for the long-suffering Kosovan population.

Mass Protests shake Serbian regime 1997

Mass Protests Shake Serbian Regime 1997

By Michael Karadjis


For weeks on end, hundreds of thousands of people have daily poured into the streets of the Serbian capital Belgrade, demanding that the ruling party of Slobodan Milosevic recognise the victory of the opposition Zajedno (``Together'') coalition in local elections last year. As they grow -- the largest was that of 400,000 people on Orthodox New Years Eve -- the demands have turned more and more towards the complete overthrow of the regime.
While democratic rights and an end to the 10-year iron rule of Milosevic are what inspires the struggle, the main leaders of the opposition coalition are from the old right-wing opposition. Years of right-wing nationalist hysteria, cultivated by the Milosevic regime and leading to the destruction of Yugoslavia and genocide in Bosnia, have tended to create a similarly right-wing opposition leadership.
There is very little to distinguish the policies of the main opposition leaders from those of Milosevic and his Serbian Socialist Party.
Already in the forefront of capitalist restoration in Eastern Europe with its system of ``market socialism'', the Serb-dominated Yugoslav federation plunged headlong into this process from the mid-1980s. It was a section of the ruling party itself which led the massive privatisations, austerity, closing of ``unprofitable'' factories, hyperinflation and unemployment surpassing anything before seen in postwar Europe.
By leading the capitalist restoration, the Serb ``Communist'' bureaucracy was able to make sure its members got their hands on the new private wealth.
Naturally, the thieving of the privatised assets was not to the liking of new middle class layers which believed the wealth should rightfully be theirs in an even ``more free'' market. From these layers, the main opposition groups had emerged by the early 1990s, including those leading the opposition today: the Serbian National Renewal of Vuk Draskovic, and the Democratic Party of Zoran Djindjic.
The ideology of these groups was also little more than a variation of the ideology created by Milosevic. On seizing power in Serbia in 1987, Milosevic launched a gigantic ideological offensive against the postwar order created by Tito, based on the federation of six republics, representing the six nations of Yugoslavia. In reality, this formal equality masked a growing Serb domination of the central bureaucracy and the federal army. Now even this formal equality was ripped up.
It was proclaimed that the Communists, led by the Croat Tito, had deliberately created the federal system to weaken the Serb nation, whose power now had to be restored. The anticommunist Chetniks, who fought against Titos partisans in World War II, were made heroes. All Serbs had to live in one state, a Greater Serbia, if necessary by driving non-Serbs out of mixed areas in other republics. Within the Serb republic, the Albanian minority was subjugated into a state of apartheid.
Nationalism was used to stir up the masses against ``foreign enemies'', directing their energies away from fighting the abysmal economic situation which capitalism was creating. The new Serbian business class also had an interest in ensuring their domination of the region when Yugoslavia ultimately collapsed -- so nationalism was needed for the territorial expansion of Serbia in the wars of 1991-95.
Chetnik ideology
The new right-wing parties took over this Chetnik ideology. But when the nationalist hysteria led to full-scale war in 1991-2, first in Croatia, then in Bosnia, the group led by Draskovic had a change of heart. While maintaining a medievalist and Orthodox Serb nationalism, Draskovic decided war was the wrong way to achieve Greater Serbia and came out trying to head the mass antiwar movement that had developed.
On the other hand, the Democratic Party of Djindjic fervently supported the war, as did the even more right-wing Serbian Radical Party of Seselj. Both these parties have strong links to the similarly anticommunist Serb Democratic Party, the leading force among the Bosnian Serb chauvinists who, backed by Milosevic, carried out the genocide against the Bosnian Muslims.
When Milosevic finally decided that the conquest of half of Bosnia was all that was feasible, he signed the US-drafted Dayton peace accords, splitting Bosnia with Croatia. Serbian capitalism had reached its ultimate expansion; it now needed stability to develop further.
At this point, the likes of Djindjic all accused Milosevic of ``betrayal'' for not fighting on forever. As Zarco Korac, from the Social Democratic Union, pointed out: ``Many of the basic supporters of the nationalist plans of Milosevic are now against him: the church, the Serb Writers Union, most nationalists. They are against him because they feel betrayed, and because they are deserting the sinking ship."
Draskovic and Djindjic were on opposite sides regarding the war. The fact that they could unite only underlines that the reactionary politics of both have little to do with the mass democracy movement. On the contrary, research by the Institute of Sociological Research in Belgrade in December made it clear that the aims of the demonstrators had little in common with the right-wing leaders.
``These demonstrations are neither mainly anticommunist nor nationalist ... only 8.3% are consistent nationalists." The research showed that of the demonstrators, ``51% are members or support Zajedno, while 30% are neither members nor support them."
Also, the student movement, the core of the protests, ``is keeping its distance from the opposition coalition'', according to Branca Kalgevich in Belgrade. The students were the core of previous uprisings against Milosevic in 1991 and 1992, when they also opposed his chauvinist policies. Following the crushing of those protests, more than 200,000 Serbian students fled the country in order not to be drafted.
Workers alienated
While the organised working class initially held well-grounded suspicions of the opposition, the growing demonstrations obviously include large numbers of workers, and the crushing defeat of Milosevic in the southern industrial city of Nis, a former base of his SP, shows that workers are even more hostile to Milosevic.
This was further shown by his total inability to mobilise workers against the demonstrators, even though his SP has a stranglehold on the union leaderships -- independent unions were crushed several years ago, and anti-union laws have gutted the official unions. Unemployment of 50% and grinding poverty, while the ``Socialist'' mafia gets rich, have clearly alienated workers.
The business classes may no longer need such a vile regime. Much of the hard work of repression and economic change has been done. On the other hand, peace also meant that the horrendous socio-economic situation of Serb workers could no longer be covered up by war and nationalism.
It is not surprising that a similar mass democracy movement has erupted in Croatia, which joined Serbia in the carve-up of Bosnia and similarly used extreme nationalism, while members of the ruling HDZ have also done well from the privatisations.

Behind the attacks on Albania’s revolution

Behind the attacks on Albania’s revolution

By Mike Karadjis


For several weeks, the Albanian working people have been in armed rebellion against the corrupt US-backed Sali Berisha, whose free market rampage robbed the bulk of Albanians of everything and transferred $2 billion to nine large"pyramid" companies connected to his regime.
Faced with an armed people, organised into committees throughout the south, and the desertion of most of the police and army, Berisha submitted to western pressure and formed a coalition government with the opposition. The aim is to cajole the people into laying down their arms.
The committees rejected this. The National Salvation Council of the People, formed by the committees, put the ousting of Berisha as the minimum condition for laying down arms. Many committees have included the demand for the return of all stolen assets.
For the new capitalist rulers of the Balkans, and their western backers, armed popular committees taking over cities are a frightening example which could undermine the process of capitalist restoration throughout south-eastern Europe.
Bashkim Fino, the new Socialist [former Communist] Party prime minister, called for western intervention: "We are at the edge of civil war and we face danger. Europe must help us in these difficult hours." All parties in the new government called for NATO military intervention.
On March 17, the European Union agreed to send military and police "advisers" "to assist in the restoration of order and political institutions", including "control over the restitution of arms and munitions".
US and Greek warships are patrolling nearby, while Greek troops have massed on the border. Greece, Macedonia and Serbia have closed their borders, and UN troops in Macedonia are on high alert.
The National Salvation Council denounced plans for intervention: "The arms in the hands of the people are the guarantee of the overthrow of the dictator Berisha ... we consider invalid any foreign military presence, whose only aim would be the disarming of the people."
But how to justify sending troops to crush a radical democratic uprising against a bloody free market dictatorship?
To this end, the rebellion is being vilified, partly by calling it "chaos" and "anarchy". Sydney Morning Herald journalist Julius Strauss claimed the rebellion was being led by "hoodlums".
There may well be a few hoodlums running around with guns, but it is the people's committees in the south that are able to keep order. Most of the random violence has taken place in the capital, Tirana, where the armed population has not taken power.
"Saranda already has a leader, a defence council, and a surprisingly effective chain of command", according to the March 10 Christian Science Monitor. "Theres a very simple order: no-one can shoot unless it is against Berishas people", said Gjevat Koucia, who heads the defence council. Five thousand people out of a population of 25,000 take turns at looking after security for the town.
The propaganda makes a crude distinction between north and south, because the rebellion so far has been most successful in the south. Ports in the south, close to Italy, have been important links to the mafia and "havens for smuggling -- oil for the rump Yugoslav state, drugs, guns and humans for Europes sex trade", according to Andrew MacCathie in the Sydney Morning Herald. MacCathie implies that such elements are linked to the revolt against "the north".
The Heralds March 8 editorial was more explicit. Headed "Albanian peril", it claimed that much of the criticism of Berisha was "unfair" because of "the nature of some of the opposition". It suggested that the rebels owed something to "the power of organised crime ... Even the infamous pyramid investment schemes, whose collapse two weeks ago has been seen as the catalyst for the present crisis, are said to be linked with criminal money-laundering."
The distinction between north and south is nonsense. Most of the main population centres are in the south. The only major northern city is Shkoder, where, as if to finally disprove the lies, the people took up arms on March 13. Armed rebellion has since erupted in at least five northern towns.
Moreover, it is a mystery how the Herald decided that criminal elements were "opponents" of Berisha, rather than the mainstay of his regime. When the people take up arms against people who have robbed them, when they attack and burn the offices of these crook companies, the Herald depicts the crooks as leading the rebellion.
Berishas links to the pyramid companies is common knowledge. As for mafia links, according to Andrew Gumbel in the London Independent, "Intelligence services from different countries have been reporting unambiguously that Albania has turned into a repressive one-party state where corruption is rife at all levels and a largely gangster-based economy is under the strict clientelistic control of the ruling party".
According to Gumbel, "Drugs barons from Kosovo, the Albanian-dominated region controlled by Serbia, operate in Albania with impunity, and much of the transportation of heroin and other drugs across Albania ... is believed to be organised by Shik, the state security police ... intelligence sources are convinced the chain of command in the rackets goes all the way to the top ..."
Further, the company that enjoyed a monopoly on the export of oil was run directly by the Berisha's Democratic Party and chaired by Tritan Shehu, his deputy prime minister and foreign minister. It is alleged that this was used to sell guns and oil to Serbia throughout the war in Bosnia.
According to Damianos Papdimitopoulos writing in the Greek leftist paper Epohi, the links between the Berisha regime, elements of the old Stalinists, pyramid schemes and smuggling well personified in the military commander of the old regime who had control of the radar over the Adriatic Sea -- the smuggling routes to Italy. He kept that position under Berisha. He is the owner one of the biggest "pyramid" banks. Pursued by Interpol for criminal activities in the west, he lives in a villa in Albania.

Revolution in Albania 1997

Revolution in Albania

By Michael Karadjis


A people's power revolution is taking place in Albania, where a furious plundered people have taken up arms against the thieving, US-backed regime of Sali Berisha.
The rebellion began with a peaceful rally on January 15, which was brutally attacked by Berisha's riot police. Every rally thereafter was attacked -- six times as many people have now been killed in protests against the "Democratic" regime as were killed during the fall of the old Stalinist regime in 1991.
On March 1, police tried to oust 42 hunger striking students from the university in the port city of Vlore. Thousands of demonstrators instead dispersed the police. Protesters then burned down the headquarters of the secret police, prisons and police stations and distributed arms. A general strike was declared in the city and in most of the south of the country.
Most of the major cities of southern Albania have been taken over by the armed population. Police stations, army barracks, Democratic Party offices, offices of the failed pyramid schemes and government buildings have been attacked, burned or seized. Berisha's own villa in Vlore has been looted. In some cases banks were broken into and forced to distribute their wealth, and prisoners freed.
The latest town to fall was Argirocastro, which is also home to the large Greek minority, on March 9. According to the Greek newspaper Kosmos, the night was a huge celebration.
With police and army largely deserting, the "Democratic" regime is relying on the secret police force, the Shik, whose members are paid up to 10 times the average wage of $65 a month, according to Peter Lennon in the Guardian.
Western backing
For years, the US and other western governments have showered support on the right-wing, undemocratic and chauvinist regime, because it was opening up rapidly to "the world market." The market has now left the vast majority of Albanians with nothing of the little they had, following the collapse of "pyramid schemes" organised by crooks with close links to the Berisha regime.
The regime was being pushed as one of the most successful in the transition to the "free market". The first east European government to apply for NATO membership, it has received military aid from the US and $585 million in European aid between 1991 and 1995, more per capita than anywhere in eastern Europe.
These powers have reacted with shock to the example of an armed people taking over their own affairs. Every attempt is being made to whitewash Berisha, the protests have become "riots" and "anarchy", and the opposition initiative of a "national unity" government is being pushed as a great "hope" that the people can be swindled into giving up their arms.
The unpalatable truth is that the regime is corrupt to the core. It is completely linked both to organised crime and the pyramid schemes, and to elements from the old Stalinist regime which have sought to enrich themselves in the new capitalist order.
In last October's elections, posters for Democratic Party candidates featured the names and symbols of their pyramid company sponsors. These companies donated generously to Berisha's election campaign. Democrat politicians regularly appeared at functions held by these crooks, especially Vefa Holdings Group, the biggest thief.
Vefa is Albania's biggest capitalist company, and also has branches in Germany and Italy. While the government banned pyramid companies following their collapse in January, it has declared continued support for Vefa and other former pyramid companies which also carry out "productive investment".
In an article entitled "The Gangster Regime We Fund", Andrew Gumbel in the London Independent claimed: "Classified documents have circulated in Western capitals for the last two years citing evidence of collusion and active participation by members of the ruling Democratic Party in drugs trafficking, illegal arms trading and, until the end of the war in Bosnia, large-scale sanctions-busting via oil sales to Serbia and Montenegro". Much of the drug trafficking, he reported, was organised by the Shik.
Nor is it true that Berisha brought democracy to Albania. The 40-year Stalinist regime of Enver Hoxha was the most xenophobic in the region, keeping the Albanian workers and peasants isolated from the world, with its anti-Marxist line of "self-sufficiency" in the backward agricultural country.
In the early 1990s, market reforms were already under way under the regime of Hoxha's successor, Ramiz Alia. Alia's regime, not Berisha's, began democratic reforms and relaxed the iron grip of the ruling party, allowing outbursts of struggle by workers and peasants.
The Democratic Party was set up in 1990 with a more radical capitalist program, by disgruntled former Stalinist officials and academics. Berisha himself was high in the leadership of the Albanian Workers (Communist) Party, and was Enver Hoxha's doctor.
The Albanian masses voted Alia's reformed Socialist Party back in the first elections in March 1991. As in Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia, a new version of the old Communist Party was charged with the transition to capitalism, enabling old bureaucrats to get their hands on new wealth.
Spreading impoverishment and unemployment led to huge strikes and mass protests. Alia's regime responded by killing protesters in December 1991, resulting in a landslide victory of the Democratic Party in the1992 elections.
From the time of coming to power, Berisha increasingly relied on repression. In 1993, the leader of the opposition Socialist Party, Fatos Nano, was arrested on fraudulent charges and has remained in jail ever since.
To divert the masses from the economic disaster, Berisha turned to Albanian chauvinism. Five leaders of the Human Rights Union, the party of the Greek minority, were given huge prison sentences in 1993 after midnight raids, falsely accused of stockpiling weapons.
The 1996 national and local elections were so thoroughly rigged that even Berisha's western backers had to admit "irregularities". Thousands of protesters came into the streets in protest, but were viciously beaten or jailed by Berisha's cops. The Socialist Party has refused to take its seats in parliament in protest.
The western powers put considerable pressure on Berisha to form a "national unity" government with the opposition coalition, which consists of the SP and various right and centre parties. Faced with a real revolution, the SP showed how unsocialist it is: it called on the people to lay down their arms.
The people's committees unanimously refused. Meeting after meeting across the south declared they would not give up their arms until Berisha resigned. The other demand raised by many committees is the return of all plundered money.
The regime cannot fulfill this demand. Eighty per cent of Albanians have lost everything. When Stalinism ended, the houses they were living in and farms they were working became "their" property. Now everything has been seized by nine big companies. The estimated theft is about $2 billion, over half the gross domestic product.
The government singled out two schemes for scapegoating, but this accounts for only 17% of lost funds. In Vlore, the local pyramid is estimated to owe $500 million, but none of these assets have been frozen.
The new rich will no doubt keep what they have robbed. Under new company names, they will be the ruling class of capitalist Albania. It is this realisation that is prompting the people to hold onto their arms, as the only way of creating a new system, based on the expropriation of this new ruling class.
Some of the western media rhetoric about "anarchy" and "mafia links" may aim to soften public opinion for possible NATO or other military intervention. The Greek army has massed on the border.

US supports racist fanatic in Bosnia 1997

US supports racist fanatic in Bosnia

By Michael Karadjis


ATHENS -- The US/NATO-controlled “stabilisation forces” occupying Bosnia have come out openly on the side of Bosnian Serb President Biliana Plavsic in her power struggle with the clique around former president Radovan Karadzic. This has included direct intervention by US troops to help Plavsic replace pro-Karadzic forces in the police stations of Banja Luka.
Plavsic is being portrayed as a “moderate” compared to the “hardliners” around indicted war criminal Karadzic.
However, Plavsic was a fanatical advocate of the Serb nationalism which led to the murder of 200,000 people in 1992-95 – the great majority of whom wee Muslims - and the ethnic cleansing of all non-Serbs from the 50% of Bosnia now known as “Republika Srpska”.
A founding member along with Karadzic of the ultra-nationalist Serb Democratic Party (SDP) in Bosnia, she never showed any moderation while this party and its heavily armed militias carried out their plans for a single state for all Serbs wherever they lived, even as a minority.
When this included the systematic massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys following the capture of Srebrenica in July 1995, Plavsic stood with those advocating more of the same.
`Most radical of all'
The leader of the massacre, General Mladic, believed that with 70% of Bosnia in their hands, there was no need to do the same to Gorazde and Bihac, which could entail risks of foreign intervention. Criticising Mladic, Plavsic boasted, “I was the most radical of all, because I believed that in a war, every soft solution demands more lives”.
NATO's “moderate” has some interesting views. Of Seselj, the ultraright leader of the Serb Radical Party inside Serbia and the Chetnik militia in Bosnia, which carried out the most atrocious crimes in 1992, Plavsic said: “He came to us, he went to the front, his presence meant so much to those people. The news that Seselj was at the front hit the morale of our enemies fearfully.”
Of the butcher Arkan, she said: “When I went to Bielina, when I saw the young heroes, when I saw what they had done there, it immediately occurred to me that all his actions were of such nature, and I said: `That is a Serb hero'.” What she saw that “they had done”, was hundreds of dead bodies in the streets of Bielina in April 1992.
On Bokan, leader of the terrorist “White Eagles” militia, she claimed, improbably, that “Bokan is a man who has a great deal to offer in the intellectual field”.
And on Karadzic himself, in May 1996: “Who should surrender Karadzic [to the international tribunal for war crimes]? I can't imagine any Serb who could do such a thing.”
Plavsic has not moved a centimetre on the central question of maintaining an ethnically pure Serb state. The US claims that Plavsic is in favour of implementing the Dayton Accords, while Karadzic is trying to block them, but it does not have in mind the central humanitarian point of Dayton: the right to return to their homes of the more than 2 million refugees, mostly Muslims previously living in what is now Republika Srpska.
Only several thousand refugees have returned anywhere in Bosnia, almost none to Republika Srpska. Several attempts by Muslim refugees to return to their homes have been violently turned back by racist mobs, without any attempt by the “stabilisation forces” to help.
Different bases
The Plavsic-Karadzic struggle centres on the geographic separation of their two power bases. Karadzic's power base is in Pale in eastern Bosnia, which borders on Serbia. But 80% of the population of Republika Srpska lives in north-west Bosnia, around the capital Banja Luka, from where Plavsic rules.
The two sections are linked by a tiny corridor around Brko in the north. Tens of thousands of Muslims and Croats were slaughtered in this largely non-Serb region to create this corridor.
Similarly, the small population of eastern Bosnia is due to the fact that before the war, the overwhelming majority of the population were Muslims, who were all expelled. The region around Banja Luka always had a strong Serb presence -- here they had to expel “only” 50% of the population.
Karadzic and the clique around him have engaged in massive theft since the beginning of the war. They control the companies Centrex and Select Implex, which monopolise all cross-border trade in arms, drugs, cigarettes, alcohol and fuel -- legal and illegal.
The Karadzic clique has amassed immense wealth while the bulk of the population live in misery. That's what the war of conquest was all about: Serb nationalism was a useful cover for careerists to grab control of former state property. In similar vein, Arkan is now a big-time banker in Serbia.
Plavsic has rallied against this theft because it is leaving the rest of her state a desert. Teachers and doctors get their pay six months late, while unemployment reaches 90% in some areas.
Young people in particular choose to leave en masse. According to Miodrak Zivanovitz from the anti-nationalist Liberal Party, “Sure we now have our own country with its own constitutions and institutions ... soon, however, we won't have any people.”
Such conditions are a particular problem for north-west Bosnia, not only because most Serbs live there, but because, far from the Serbian border and almost enclosed by the other half of Bosnia (the Muslim-Croat Federation) and Croatia itself, its economic survival depends on developing economic relations with these states.
That can occur only if concessions are made at least to the superficial aspects of the Dayton agreement. Dayton stipulates that the two halves of Bosnia are still part of a very loose confederation.
For Plavsic, this is meaningless enough to accept, to allow economic development; the hot-heads around Karadzic can openly talk about splitting from Bosnia and merging with Serbia precisely because, with their wealth, they don't need to consider the consequences.
US interests
In her drive to get rid of Karadzic, Plavsic's interests have merged with those of the US. US domination of the region depends on its ability to be seen as the power broker between the mutually hostile Serb, Croat, Muslim and multi-ethnic forces.
As the US has no interest in pushing the right of return of refugees, it needs a high profile, symbolic action, also part of Dayton: the trial of major war criminals. At the top of the list is Karadzic.
A trial of Karadzic, and perhaps Mladic and some other outstanding butchers, would allow the US to get on with the real business of rebuilding its old bridges with the Serb nationalist forces and sweeping under the carpet the bulk of those responsible for ethnic cleansing.
Their extreme anticommunism and their stated desire to save Europe from “Islamic fundamentalism” could make them natural US allies, especially given the old political and economic links between the US and the Serb regime, which it initially saw as a bulwark against a pro-German Croatia in 1991.
For the same reasons, the US has pressured Croatia's President Franjo Tudjman to hand over some prominent war criminals and allow Serb refugees to return. This will allow a similar whitewash of Tudjman, although the war criminals claim he gave the orders.
Dilemma for Milosevic
For the Slobodan Milosevic regime in Serbia, the Plavsic-Karadzic struggle is a dilemma. Both despise Milosevic, whose ruling Serb Socialist Party they still see, improbably, as a continuation of the old Yugoslav Communist Party.
In particular, both see him as a traitor for signing the Dayton accords. Plavsic has long refused even to talk to Milosevic due to this “betrayal.”
Now, however, the views of Plavsic essentially agree with those of Milosevic. He knows that adhering to certain legal niceties of Dayton is the best way to preserve his “greater Serbia”.
He has no interest in adventurous plans by Karadzic and his own right opposition for absorbing the Republika Srpska into Serbia. He knows that the new Serbian bourgeoisie will reign supreme in the half of Bosnia now totally Serb, while economic relations with Croatia, and through Croatia with Europe, would be threatened by unnecessary illegal actions.
Economic relations with the outside world through the lifting of remaining sanctions also require the sacrifice of Karadzic and Mladic. But here Milosevic has a major problem.
If Karadzic and Mladic are forced to testify at the war crimes tribunal, Milosevic himself will be implicated. At the opening of the war it was Milosevic and his army that armed, trained and financed the butchers loyal to Karadzic, Mladic, Seselj and Arkan.
Meanwhile, Plavsic's “pure” Serb state will remain a monstrosity. Not only will she not discuss the return of Muslim and Croat refugees -- the majority of the population -- but the Republika Srpska hardly represents Bosnian Serbs.
Its population of 800,000 includes 200,000 Serb refugees, mostly those expelled from Croatia in 1995. However, the pre-war Bosnian Serb population was about 1.4 million. Around 200,000 Serbs remain in their original homes in what is now the Muslim-Croat Federation, while about 600,000 Serbs fled abroad during the war, in order to escape being drafted.

Victories for multiethnic candidates in Bosnian elections 1997

Victories for multiethnic candidates in Bosnian elections 1997

By Michael Karadjis


TUZLA -- The recent municipal elections throughout Bosnia-Hercegovina reveal a polarisation between the three ethnic-based parties on the one hand, and multi-ethnic or anti-nationalist forces on the other.
The victories of parties opposed to the ruling nationalists in important cities such as Tuzla and Banja Luka were achieved despite enormous pressure by the ruling parties -- the Serb Democratic Party (SDS), the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and the Muslim-based Party of Democratic Action (SDA).
In the case of the first two, this pressure included “murdering returnees [refugees returning to vote in their original towns] and planting explosive devices in party premises of rivals or homes of returnees”, according to the Alternative Information Network.
Of particular significance was the victory of the United List '97 (57.4%) in the industrial city of Tuzla in the Muslim-Croatian Federation, which was the key centre of multi-ethnic Bosnian resistance by all three communities against the Serb nationalist drive throughout the three-year war.
In particular, the trade union federation of Tuzla played an important role in keeping Serb and Croat workers united with the Muslim majority of the city, and anti-nationalist forces, led by Mayor Selim Beslagic, have always had control of the city council.
This reaffirmation came despite considerable pressure and intimidation from the SDA, which declared it a strategic aim to take control of Tuzla, and threatened that Tuzla would not receive aid from the federal budget if it did not win.
“The victory of Beslagic and of Tuzla may be the beginning of the new direction of resistance to nationalist homogenisation. The message of Tuzla is the victory of human values against all the nationalist barbarism”, according to Leonida Hatziprodromidis, a writer who has spent much time in Bosnia.
The attempt by the HDZ to boycott the elections was due to its fear of the votes of Muslim and Serb returnees it had ethnically cleansed from its fief in western Hercegovina.
The western guarantors of the Dayton peace agreement (which split Bosnia in two in 1995) foiled this attempt by doing a deal allowing elections not to take place in one area of HDZ-controlled Mostar where Muslim returnees would have made a difference to the votes. A similar deal was done with the SDS in the Brko region, where tens of thousands of Muslims and Croats had been “cleansed” during the war.
Nevertheless, large numbers of Serbs who were cleansed by the HDZ and the Croatian army in late 1995 from Drvar and Grahovo in western Bosnia registered to vote and gave victory to the Coalition for Return. In particular, it was a victory of the wing of this movement led by Marceta, which stood on an anti-nationalist program, counterposed to the Serb revanchism of some other forces.
The same situation occurred throughout the north-west section of “Republika Srpska” controlled by the SDS. An opposition coalition centred on the Socialist Party won a decisive victory in Banja Luka, the largest city, and Sipovo, Mrkonjic Grad, Celinac and Gradiska.
While originally set up by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Serb Socialist Party, in practice the Bosnian version has adopted a more left-wing position, confronted as it is by the right-wing SDS in power. The SP has supported moves to properly integrate Republika Srpska into Bosnian institutions, and the right to return of refugees.
The allied Social Democrats also won in Laktasi and Srbac.
These victories in Republika Srpska have been interpreted as a victory for Biliana Plavsic, the RS president, who was expelled from the SDS for opposing the massive state corruption of the ruling clique around indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic.
This is despite the fact that her own Serb nationalist politics have always been at least as fanatical as those of Karadzic. However, due to the economic impoverishment brought about by the activities of the Karadzic clique, she has recently moved to support for some superficial aspects of Dayton, regarding all-Bosnian institutions, while insisting that her entity remain a Serb state.
The opposition victory in fact had little to do with Plavsic. The opposition in Banja Luka first manifested itself in 1995, and in last year's all-Bosnian elections for the presidency and the House of Representatives, the anti-SDS opposition took around 35% of the vote. Therefore, they have increased their vote only slightly: the combined vote of the SDS and its allied ultraright Serb Radical Party of Vojislav Seselj this time was 59%.
Certainly, there was a huge reduction in the SDS vote, from 55 to 37.5%, partly as a result of Plavsic's revelations about the criminal activities of the Karadzic clique. However, her reliance on US imperialism in strengthening her position through control over police stations and media was designed to undercut the anti-nationalist opposition on the left, and its effect was to produce a nationalistic reaction.
This explains the massive increase in votes for the SRS, from 7% to 21.5%. The correlation is close, and SRS candidates won in many areas where the SDS candidates were associated with organised crime.
Nevertheless, the overall results -- which also include the victory of a string of other anti-nationalist independents in many regions, and victories by the United List '97 in some Sarajevo municipalities -- are signs of a clear shift away from nationalist politics by a considerable section of the people.
The fact that the Bosnian working class, the most ethnically mixed section of society, has maintained this political character to a large degree is evidenced by the anti-nationalist victories in major working-class centres such as Tuzla and Banja Luka.
On the other hand, that several hundred thousand refugees voted for candidates in their home towns is only a partial success, given that the official number of refugees and displaced persons is over 2.5 million. Moreover, most of them, especially those whose homes were originally in Republika Srpska, are unable to return to the areas where they voted.