Issue 230 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published May 1999 Copyright © Socialist Review
A Saturday with a difference, hopefully to make a difference. I got up at 6am this morning [on 10 April] and caught the train to Newcastle to attend the Unison-led march to demand a decent minimum wage for the people of this country.
Initially I made the mistake of going to the Newcastle Civic Centre, but a quick jump on the amazing clean and wicked Metro system got me over to Gateshead in no time. Incidentally, from my time up there it just struck me how absolutely clean and beautiful the city is in contrast to, say, London. Why's that?
Coming out of Gateshead Metro terminus I was greeted by some friendly stewards who pointed me in the direction of the civic centre. I went around the corner, and the street was absolutely buzzing with people handing out leaflets, selling Socialist Worker, Morning Star etc. When I got to the civic centre the assembly point in the car park was rammed full of people from all over the country: trade unionists, political groups, activists, but--and this is the main thing--it was just people, 'real down to earth people. I'd never really experienced anything like that at all, this swarming mass of people, all there, all united for a cause. White, black, pink, old, young, anarchists, crusties, pensioners, shop stewards, employed, unemployed--all turned out to fight this fucking stupid system we're being shoehorned into.
I wanted to cry. I wanted to laugh. The sheer sense of amazement at what was going on was overwhelming. I was fucking humbled. I picked up one of the SWP placards 'Low Pay No Way--Make The Rich Bastards Pay' from the pile, held it aloft, and off we went through the streets of Newcastle with thousands of others.
I'm not sure what to say. It's all a whirlwind blur--one of those experiences that was so utterly life changing and incendiary that I can't really comment. I remember being on the bridge over the Tyne talking to an old man about the shipbuilding industry, the fact that I was walking with some black guys from Lambeth and we were together in what we were doing. I remember the procession stopping outside the railway station in the pouring rain and the atmosphere being electric.
If there is one thing, and believe me there are more, that I could conclude from the day it is that socialist opposition to the current system is the only thing that stops us walking blindly into a New World Order Orwellian state. FIGHT THE POWER--too right.
The fuse has been lit.
I am a Greek student in London and I would like to comment on the war launched by Nato against Yugoslavia. It is very difficult for me to express my disgust for what Nato is doing again in the Balkans. Yugoslavia is a sovereign federal republic and according to the UN charters and resolutions the current Nato offensive is completely illegal and unjustified. However, for the warmongering generals of the imperialist alliance of Nato--who insist that they intervene into a 'sovereign state' in order to 'save and protect' the rights of the Kosova-Albanians--such UN charters and resolutions are of no significance.
It seems that western imperialism has 'double standards' according to which they conduct international policy. They seem to completely forget the right to self determination for so many other nations and ethnicities--such as the Kurds in Turkey, the Palestinian Arabs in Israel, the East Timorese or the people of Kashmir and Tibet in Asia. They also seem to forget about the ethnic cleansing against the Serbs in Krajina, where 250,000 Serbs became refugees in 1995 and were never allowed back into Croatia. They forget about the 120,000 Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot refugees who were forced to leave their homes in Cyprus in 1974-75.
They seem to forget about the right to self determination when it comes to the large Greek minority of Southern Albania, which has wanted independence ever since the Great Powers in 1914-15, and then again in 1919-21, closed their ears to their demands and handed them over to the Western backed new state of Albania. And what about the 'Slav-Macedonian' and Turkish populations of Greece and Bulgaria? Why have they no right to self determination? Is it maybe because Greece and Bulgaria are important 'strategic allies' of the west and their 'destabilisation' would possibly mean that the west loses a solid basis from which it enacts its local imperialist policies? Finally, what about the 2 million strong Hungarian minority of Romania? Don't they deserve the right to self determination too?
I believe that the war in Yugoslavia is just one of the many imperialist wars that humanity has witnessed this century and it will not be the last as long as the capitalist system goes on completely unchallenged. It seems that 'overproduction of value' is imminent and poses a threat to the stability and further expansion of the world capitalist system. Hence, destruction of much of the value produced in the west is needed if profitability is once again to be restored and accumulation to continue. And this possibly takes more military expenditure in the west and new wars in the capitalist periphery. I believe that this is the correct context--though not necessarily the only correct one--for approaching the question of imperialist aggression and conflict in the Balkan region today.
In addition, Russia, the other 'diehard' imperialist superpower, is already in deep crisis and cannot allow for any further Nato expansion eastwards. However, Russia seems unable to prohibit it--recently Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic were absorbed by the aggressive military alliance of Nato and, in that sense, Yugoslavia is the last 'fortress' left to Russian imperialism outside its very frontiers. That is why it gets extremely difficult for Russia to tolerate the kind of western intervention now taking place within its own 'backyard' (ie in the Balkans) without causing much 'instability'--even a military coup--inside Russia.
However, the Yugoslav bourgeoisie will not wait to watch its own demise by the west nor will it wait forever for the promised Russian military aid (that may never come after all!) without trying to secure its interests. The Yugoslavs will not only fight western aggression in Kosovo if Nato ground troops ever get there but they can also prove to the west that they are indeed a very considerable opponent.
This also means that the Yugoslav ruling classes would certainly try to destabilise the region if, for instance, they faced a direct Nato invasion with ground troops or protracted Nato bombing. They can simply claim the Serbian ruled part of Bosnia and quite possibly demand a large part of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) inhabited by a large Serb minority. In strict military terms, then, an isolated Yugoslavia cannot go on forever fighting against Nato. Hence, if Nato imperialist aggression does not immediately stop then the real danger arises for the conflict to spread to other countries.
Western imperialism cannot in the short term defeat Yugoslavia. The European version of a Vietnam is a quite possible scenario. it seems as if Nato doesn't care if the conflict spreads to neighbouring countries. However, if Greece enters the war then the forces of Nato would split right down the middle and Nato will be forced to 'exit' the conflict and let the Balkans burn in the fire that Nato initially started. It is not at all impossible for Greece to enter the war. If, for instance, the 'national' interests of the Greek bourgeoisie become 'threatened'--and that would be the case if Albanian refugees from Kosovo begin in their thousands to move in southern Albania causing the 'discontent' and 'discomfort' of the extremely nationalist Greek minority there--then the Greek bourgeoisie would quite probably enter the war.
To end Nato imperialist aggression the workers of Britain, France, Germany and the US should not allow for the 'new world order' to be imposed upon the least developed nations. They should not allow for Nato to enslave the less advanced countries of the Balkans and tie them to the chariot of 'neo-imperialism' and of 'Pax Americana'. If this is allowed to happen, it will become extremely difficult for workers in the capitalist periphery to break with their 'own' national bourgeoisie and capitalism. This is what is happening right now with the Serbs of Yugoslavia.
Another 'war of redivision' in the Balkans might be the only means necessary for the major imperialist nations of the west to 'bypass' recession but, this time, the price for the peoples of the Balkans is too high to bear. Socialists everywhere should fight for an immediate end to Nato bombing without preconditions. As for socialists in the Balkans, they should argue for an end of the many imperialist and sub-imperialist rivalries in the region, as well as for respecting the rights of all ethnic minorities to land and peace.
It was interesting to read the two articles on the English Civil War (April SR). The 350th anniversary of the Diggers setting up camp on St George's Hill in Weybridge, Surrey, was commemorated recently. About 300 people took part in a march and demonstration. The long term aim is to have a memorial stone erected in a publicly accessible place. Much of the St George's Hill area is a very exclusive private estate these days! The events were staged to remind people about land rights issues in Britain today.
It was also good to be reminded by the articles that there was a time, for a while, when we were not a monarchy! A slightly saner society, you could argue. I think that we need to make republicanism a long term campaign issue. We need to build a popular movement geared towards the removal of Mrs Liz and Mr Phil Windsor from the apex of our class society.
History helps us envisage a saner tomorrow.
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