1990s >> 1999 >> no-1138-june-1999

Editorial: The Balkan war (continued)

NATO’s war to complete the final break-up of the former Yugoslavia continues with increasing civilian casualties.

NATO claims to be waging war to save the Albanian-speaking population of Kosovo. If this really were their aim then their war would have to be pronounced a failure. The Albanian-speakers of Kosovo are manifestly worse off than they would be had there been no war. Burned out by the one side and bombed by the other, in the biggest displacement of population since the end of the last world war, the majority of them are now languishing in miserable refugee camps in Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro.

But NATO’s aim never was humanitarian. It has been, in the words of their Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark last March when it started, to “degrade and diminish” the old Yugoslav army, the one military machine in the area capable of standing up to them, and which had been thwarting their plans to turn the former Yugoslavia into a collection of weak, ethnically pure states in which the economic laws of the market could operate unimpeded, for the benefit, as they always do, of the strongest—in this case Western capitalist enterprises.

Wars are inevitable under capitalism because of the economic competition between states that is built-in to it, but is normally only a last resort when a state’s “vital interest” is involved. In this war that Serbia’s vital interest is at stake is clear, but it is difficult to see that this is so for the NATO states. Serbia under Milosevic was not that much of a threat to their interests and they have learned to live with dictators before—indeed they have learned to live with General Tudjman’s regime in Croatia whose record of ethnic cleansing is just as bad as Milosevic’s.

Probably NATO expected that the threat of war, or at most a short bombing campaign, would suffice. If so, they miscalculated and are now in a real mess from which they can only extricate themselves, unless they are prepared to admit defeat, by a further sacrifice of working-class lives and a further destruction of the civilian infrastructure in both Serbia and Kosovo.

What is going on is a turf war with the Serbian ruling class fighting to defend their already considerably reduced territory and NATO trying to grab Kosovo from them. It is for these sordid aims that the Albanian-speakers of Kosovo have been driven from their homes and that the workers of Serbia are being bombed and deprived of basic amenities such as water and electricity.

Capitalism is an abomination and a crime against humanity. It ought to have been done away with ages ago.

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