Issue 231 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published June 1999 Copyright Socialist Review


It is not true that...

We reject these false dilemmas:

  • Support Nato intervention or support the reactionary policy of the Serbian regime in Kosovo?
    The Nato air strikes, forcing the withdrawal of the OSCE forces from Kosovo, have facilitated and not prevented a ground offensive by Serb paramilitary forces; they encourage retaliation against the Kosovan population by the worst Serb ultra-nationalists; they consolidate the dictatorial power of Slobodan Milosevic, who has crushed the independent media and rallied around him a national consensus which it is necessary on the contrary to break in order to open the way to peaceful political negotiations over Kosovo.
  • Accept as the only possible basis of negotiation the 'peace plan' elaborated by the governments of the United States or the European Union--or bomb Serbia?
    No durable solution to a major political conflict internal to a state can be imposed from the outside, by force. It is not true that 'everything has been tried' to find a solution and an acceptable framework for negotiations. The Kosovan Albanians' negotiators were forced to sign a plan which they had initially rejected after being led to believe that Nato would involve itself on the ground to defend their cause. This was a lie which maintained a total illusion: none of the governments which support the Nato strikes wants to make war on the Serbian regime to impose the independence of Kosovo. The air strikes will perhaps weaken a part of the Serbian military apparatus but they will not weaken the mortar fire which, on the ground, is destroying Albanian homes, or the paramilitary forces who are killing the fighters of the Kosovo Liberation Army.
    Nato is not the only or above all the best fulcrum for an agreement. One could find the elements of a multinational police force (embracing notably Serbs and Albanians) in the ranks of the OSCE to enforce a transitional agreement. One could extend the negotiations to include the Balkan states destabilised by the conflict: Bosnia-Hercegovina, Macedonia, Albania... One could at the same time support the right of the Kosovans to self government and the protection of the Serb minority in Kosovo; one could try to respond to the aspirations and fears of the different peoples concerned by links of cooperation and agreements among neighbouring states, with Serbia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Macedonia, Albania... None of this has been tried.
    We reject the arguments which seek to justify the Nato intervention:
  • It is not true that the Nato air strikes are going to prevent a regional flare up, in Macedonia or in Bosnia-Hercegovina: they are going on the contrary to feed the flames. They are going to destabilise Bosnia-Hercegovina and without doubt menace the multinational forces responsible for applying the fragile Dayton accords. They are already setting Macedonia alight.
  • It is not true that Nato is protecting the Kosovan population and its rights.
  • It is not true that their bombing of Serbia opens the way to a democratic regime in Serbia.
    The governments of the European Union, like that of the United States, perhaps hoped that this demonstration of force would compel Slobodan Milosevic to sign their plan. Haven't they thereby displayed naivety or hypocrisy? In any case this policy is leading not only to a political impasse, but to the legitimation of a role for Nato outside any international framework of control. This is why we demand:
  • An immediate halt to the bombing.
  • The organisation of a Balkan conference in which the representatives of the states and of all the national communities within these states take part.
  • Defence of the right of peoples to self determination, on the sole condition that this right is not fulfilled on the back of another people and by the ethnic cleansing of territory.
    This letter, signed by Pierre Bourdieu, Daniel Bensaid, Pierre Vidal-Naquet and other leading French intellectuals and published in Le Monde, 31 March 1999, has now been endorsed by the following academics and writers, mainly from the the English speaking world:
    Prof Edward Said, Columbia University
    Prof Noam Chomsky, MIT
    John Arden. writer, Galway, Ireland
    Margaretta D'Arcy, writer, Galway, Ireland
    Prof Robert Brenner, University of California, Los Angeles
    Mike Davis, writer, Los Angeles
    Sheila Rowbotham, University of Manchester
    Professor Immanuell Wallerstein, Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, Paris
    Tariq Ali, writer and broadcaster
    Robin Blackburn, Cambridge University, editor New Left Review
    Prof Alex Callinicos, University of York (UK)
    Prof Susan Mendus, University of York (UK)
    Prof Chris Norris, Cardiff University
    Ellen Meiskins Wood, co-editor Monthly Review
    plus over 1.000 other signatories

    Colonial set up

    As most of your 'Bosnia: the great carve-up' article (May SR) draws on empirical material from my book Bosnia: Faking Democracy After Dayton, I feel I must write in to distance myself from the article's conclusions.
    The point of the book was that elected representatives from ethnic groups in Bosnia have no say in how the state is run. Gareth Jenkins' conclusion that Serbs and Croats have partitioned the state flies in the face of the rest of his article and the book from which it was drawn. No ethnic groups or nationalist politicians are shaping the division of Bosnia. The High Representative's colonial powers are enough to undermine any cohering institutions that could overcome the politics of ethnicity and to fragment and atomise Bosnian society.
    Peace and stability cannot be imposed on Bosnia, or Kosovo, by colonial fiat. Only a negotiated compromise between the different ethnic constituencies can give people a stake in the future and provide legitimacy for new state institutions. At the moment the Bosnia protectorate precludes any possibility for this process to take place. This means that local and parochial allegiances are as important as they were during the war, when the state institutions fell apart. The fact that nationalist parties have strong support and that the state is highly fragmented does not mean there is a causal relationship; these are both consequences of colonial rule and the denial of any democratic autonomy.
    Dr David Chandler

    In the right category?

    There is fascism in Kosovo. I can understand why the SWP wants to argue that Milosevic is not a fascist. The pro-war lobby invoke the 1930s and appeasement against fascism as arguments for Nato's actions. As you argue, he is not the 'new Hitler', and Serbia is not the economic giant that Germany was, but this is an argument about scale and size, not category. As far as the latter is concerned, the Serbian military and police are carrying out fascistic policies in Kosovo.
    The left is happy to label the BNP's policy of repatriation, voluntary or not, as fascist. As in Kosovo, this is a policy of ethnic cleansing, even though the fascist groupings in Britain do not have the same power that Milosevic's regime does.
    Racism is the systemic discrimination against ethnic identity. Fascism extends this discrimination into physical liquidation and planned violence. Many Kosovan Albanian men have been liquidated, and the rest of the population have had planned and systemic violence displace them from their homes. Your definition of fascism is exclusively linked to the fate of workers' organisations, a class reductionism that looks faintly absurd given the realities of what is happening in Kosovo. Admitting that there is fascism may make it harder to mobiIise an anti-war movement, but it is, nevertheless, the truth.
    Mike Wayne
    East London

    The profits of doom

    Blair says humanitarianism is the reason for bombing Yugoslavia. This is rubbish. I work for GEC-Tarmac, one of the railway infrastructure companies. GEC makes weapons of mass destruction. Tarmac builds major infrastructure projects throughout the world. The bombing taking place in Yugoslavia will benefit both of these companies--when the war ends, Belgrade's infrastructure will probably be rebuilt by one of the major construction companies.
    The same bosses are attacking workers in this country. That's why we held an anti-war meeting for tube and rail workers. We know other workers in Europe are opposed to the war. The meeting decided to build a network of workers who not only want to fight against the war, but want to fight against the bosses in this country.
    Bill Ashcroft

    Independent Steel?

    I would like to support Pat Stack's views on the Guardian (May SR), and urge readers of that paper to switch to the Independent, to complain to the editor of the Guardian about the sacking of Mark Steel and to suggest to the editor of the Independent that he starts a Mark Steel column.
    The Guardian tells me that 'a great many other columnists in the Guardian both now and in the future are robustly critical from a left wing view point as well as being witty and amusing'.
    However, I suspect that John Carvel, the education editor of the Guardian, hints at the truth in his book Turn Again Livingstone: 'The bigger cheers went to Mark Steel when he urged people to vote for Livingstone [as Labour's candidate for Mayor of London] "because we want to blow a great hole in their rancid, weaselly New Labour project".'
    Terry Ward

    We welcome letters and contributions on all issues raised in Socialist Review. Please keep your contributions as short as possible, typed, double spaced if you can, and on one side of paper only.
    Send to: Socialist Review, PO Box 82, London E3 3LH

    Return to
    Contents page: Return to Socialist Review Index Home page