We are reprinting the resolution of Partija Rada below because overall it takes a correct position on the national question. There is no other party or organization in Yugoslavia that we know of that upholds the right to self-determination of the various nations there. That country has been torn by wars between the different nationalities, especially (but not only) in the last 10 years. Marxist-Leninists have long recognized the right to self-determination as the only democratic solution to the national question, a solution which can only help the development of the class struggle. We support the right to self-determination not because we are in favour of small states, but because we know that genuine unity can only be based on equality.
However, we cannot reprint this resolution without adding some strong criticism. Although it was written in 1997, two years before NATO’s barbaric attack on Yugoslavia, the resolution already showed clear signs of a serious misevaluation of the role of imperialism. For example, it states that ‘the intervention of the USA and Western powers… became a factor in the solution, not only of the question of Bosnia and Herzegovina… but also of Kosova and Montenegro.’
It should be clear to all anti-imperialists, and especially to Marxist-Leninists, that imperialism cannot be a positive factor in the solution of the national question. The imperialist intervention in Yugoslavia is solely for their own interests - to keep Yugoslavia under their total domination while they contend with each other over spheres of influence there. In particular, their 78-day war of bombardment, which caused so much misery to all the peoples of Yugoslavia, was certainly not intended to help the Kosovar Albanians, despite the hypocritical claims of the imperialists. Kosova, far from having gained its right to self-determination, has been turned into a virtual protectorate of NATO.
It will certainly be asked by some forces, given these criticisms, and the current situation in Yugoslavia - why reprint the resolution at all? There are two reasons. First, because the right to self-determination is crucial in multi-national Yugoslavia, for if Yugoslavia had recognized this right it would not only have deprived the imperialists of their excuse to intervene, but could have led to a united confrontation of all the nations of Yugoslavia with imperialism. And second, because the errors of Partija Rada are of a different nature than similar errors of organizations in imperialist countries. For groups in the U.S., Britain, France, Germany or Canada, any position other than a clear-cut denunciation of NATO’s role could be seen as, and would actually be, a form of conciliation with imperialism.
However, for an organization within Yugoslavia such as Partija Rada, their error does not stem from conciliation with imperialism, but from localism. Partija Rada sees its own local ruling class, at the time of the resolution, led by Milosevic, as representing the main enemy regardless of circumstance. It has taken a forthright stance against great-nation chauvinism, and in particular against Serb chauvinism, and sees this as the key question, again regardless of circumstance. Partija Rada’s error stems from always directing its main fight against its own local ruling class, not of conciliating with it.
However, their error is still a serious one. A comrade once correctly compared the situation in Yugoslavia to that of the Aztec empire at the time of the Spanish conquest. The Aztecs at that time actually oppressed many other people of what is now Mexico, particularly the Tlaxcalans. Cortez, the Spanish conqueror, made an alliance with the Tlaxcalans, which helped him defeat the Aztecs. Of course, the result was not freedom for the Tlaxcalans, but some 300 years of Spanish domination over all the peoples of Mexico. If we do not see that the main enemy in Yugoslavia today is imperialism and its local allies, then we will be looking at the world from the position of the Tlaxcalans.
‘Of all human feelings, the strongest, mightiest and deepest is the national feeling.’ This thought of Lenin’s best expresses the great importance of national feeling in the lives of all people. That is why revolutionaries pay a great deal of attention to the national question.
Lenin and Stalin considered the national question as a revolutionary question and an integral part of the socialist revolution. It can be correctly and fully solved only under socialism according to the principle that each nation has a right to self-determination up to separation and the creation of an independent state. According to that, we should not confuse rights with duties. The revolutionaries of the oppressor nation should be, unconditionally, for the right to separation of the oppressed nations, and the revolutionaries of the oppressed nations for closeness and unification.
Yugoslavia is a multinational state. Due to historical circumstances, the peoples of Yugoslavia have been so intermingled until today, that now there is not one republic which is nationally homogenous. They are all, by composition of population, multinational.
First, Yugoslavia was shaken to its foundation by the national question because of Great-Serb national oppression, and second, because of attempts at restoration of Great-Serb hegemony. Twice in fifty years this has led to broad fratricidal wars, which brought into question the biological existence of the peoples who participated in them.
Because of the great importance of the national question, Yugoslav revolutionaries paid special attention to it. After some wandering at the beginning, Yugoslav revolutionaries adopted Leninist principles and carried them out consistently in multinational Yugoslavia. Starting from the internationalist principle of brotherhood of peoples, during the Second World War the national question was solved as a constituent part of the socialist revolution. With the victory of socialism in Yugoslavia, the national question was solved on the basis of full equality of peoples. But, with the Titoist nationalist-bourgeois counter-revolution, the liquidation of socialism and its replacement with state capitalism, with the rule of the party-bureaucratic bourgeoisie, the national question burst out in full acuteness. The rebirth of great-state chauvinism and the mutual struggle of national bourgeois over territory led to fratricidal war and the disintegration of Yugoslavia. That process is not yet finished. The national question on the territory of ex-Yugoslavia is still not solved. It will be solved when Serbian and Croatian great-state chauvinism suffer a full defeat and when all the nations of ex-Yugoslavia are in a position to achieve their national sovereignty.
The intervention of the USA and the Western powers with troops from the NATO alliance has become a most important factor. It became a factor in the solution, not only of the question of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the implementation of the Dayton agreement, but also of the question of Kosova and Montenegro.
In its approach to the national question, Partija Rada always starts from internationalist principles. If we look at the past, we can proudly maintain that PR consistently obeyed those principles. Practice irrefutably proved that its analysis and foresight were correct, that its principled, patriotic, and internationalist position has been completely confirmed by life. PR was from the very beginning unconditionally against the criminal war of conquest of Great-Serb nationalists in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Partija Rada was consistently on the side of the Slovenian, Croatian and Bosnian-Moslem peoples in their just, defensive wars. It was consistently for a united Bosnia and Herzegovina, and was against the shameful agreement between Milosevic and Tudjman for the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina and for the creation of Great Serbia and Great Croatia. PR sharply condemned the criminal war of Tudjman’s pro-Ustasha army against Bosnian-Moslems. Our Party was, and will be, for the free and safe return of all Serbs to Croatia, for their equality, for national and social rights, and for the safe return of all refugees to Bosnia and Herzegovina and for their citizen and national rights. Partija Rada has always been on the side of the Albanian people in Kosova and their just struggle against Great-Serb occupation and the apartheid imposed on them, for their right to decide their own destiny, for their sovereignty and their state. Our Party supports those forces in Montenegro which are leading the struggle in defence of the sovereignty and statehood of Montenegro, against the aspirations of Great-Serb nationalism. Our Party supports the struggle for autonomy of Vojvodina, it mercilessly condemned the terror and crimes against Bosnian-Moslems of Sandzak and supports their right to political and cultural autonomy.
But, PR did not, nor it does it, support every national movement. It treats the national question as a whole. If one part is contradictory to the complete solution of the national question, it must be rejected. Our Party does not support those national movements which help any imperialists, large or small, to achieve their wars of conquest and policies of oppression. That is why PR was, and is, against the pro-Ustasha nationalist movement of Croats in western Herzegovina, not only because of its fascistic-mafia character, but above all, because it is the long arm of Great-Croat policy, for the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina and for the creation of Great Croatia. Also, PR was against the Chetnik Great-Serb movement in the so-called Republic of Srpska, because it was the champion of Great-Serb nationalism, and because it was for the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina and for Great Serbia.
Partija Rada is also against those national movements whose policy is in contradiction with the interests of revolution and socialism.
The main goal of members of our Party from oppressor nations is resolute struggle against great-state chauvinism of their nations, and for the unconditional right of oppressed peoples to self-determination. ‘A nation which oppresses other nations can not be free.’ Revolutionaries from oppressed nations must fight consistently and persistently against national narrow-mindedness, and for closeness and unification with other peoples. The main path of development marked by history is: first, full independence of each nation, and then economic, cultural and political closeness, assimilation and unification in a broader state entity. Therefore PR supports the struggle of all peoples of Yugoslavia for their independence, and then for the restoration of Yugoslavia. The crazy, chauvinist idea that ‘we can’t live together,’ as earlier events have already shown, would lead to the total physical destruction of all peoples of Yugoslavia. Previous experience clearly teaches us - we must live together or we will destroy each other. All the reasons that existed for the creation of the first and second Yugoslavia still exist now, much more than ever. The third Yugoslavia will inevitably be created, and for that Partija Rada will fight. That Yugoslavia will be better than the two previous ones, since this time it would be created only by the full, freely-expressed will of all peoples, and on the basis of absolute equality.
The path toward the creation of that goal is marked out. Every idea that is grasped by the masses, whether progressive or reactionary, becomes a material force. The idea of nationalism and great state chauvinism came into the consciousness of the masses in Serbia and Croatia. Only by decisive, patient, and constant work for the liquidation of nationalist consciousness, and its replacement with the internationalist consciousness of brotherhood of all peoples, it is possible to achieve that goal.
After the restoration of Yugoslavia, the next goal of PR would be to work and struggle for the closeness and unification of Balkan peoples, because the peoples of the Balkans are so intertwined and intermingled that the national question in the Balkans, which are a geographic, economic and cultural entity, can be solved only by the unification of the Balkan peoples in a united state entity.
‘Programme and Statute of Partija Rada,’ pp. 84-90.
Click here to return to the September 2001 index.