In his article, ‘Imperialism and The Albanian National Question’, (‘Revolutionary Democracy’ Volume VIII, No. 2) Laver Stroka makes a feeble attempt to convince the reader that his analysis and justification for self-determination is based on a Marxist-Leninist premise. His only convincing analysis is merely some leftist phrasemongering to mislead the reader of his utter petty-bourgeois nationalism in which he hypocritically tries to masquerade his pro-imperialist apologetics.
Stroka’s grievous errors are found in his complete lack of understanding not only of the dialectical materialist but the historical materialist concepts of this crisis. He merely presents the cause of the Balkan crisis as being ‘Serbian chauvinism’ resulting from the ‘fascist policy of the Milosevic clique’. In all of the acres of print and millions of television programming devoted to this crisis, there has been virtually no coverage, and much less, Marxist analysis of its underlying causes. It is no wonder the bourgeoisie has succeeded in keeping the working-class in ignorance and in disunity when Marxist-Leninists’ parrot the propaganda used by the bourgeoisie to justify their continued imperialist redivision of the world.
The attempt to reduce the complex political and historical issues of the Balkans and attribute them to one man whose thirst for power is the source of all evil is absurd and reveals an ideological laziness on the part of Stroka and others. If the reader considers the contradiction of the highly traumatic experiences of Serbian history it becomes clear that no political leader would accept the intended humiliating ultimatum dictated to Milosevic by the imperialists. The conflict in the Balkans must be placed in its historical context and how this has led up to the present contradictions that have ripped the Balkans apart and not to the absurd attribution of Milosevic’s personality.
The pro-imperialist apologists merely reduce the Balkan crisis to either Milosevic or Tito’s revisionism all the while applauding the intervention of imperialism, in particular, US imperialism, just so long as they qualify it by mentioning that the imperialists must then be asked to leave after thanking them for their assistance in class struggle. Are these pro-imperialist ‘Marxist-Leninists’ so naive that they do not realize that the crisis is based on the class antagonism between the bourgeoisie and proletariat? Are they so naive as to not realize that this class antagonism must be resolved by the class struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie? And are they so naive to not believe that the imperialists are part of the bourgeois class, and therefore, cannot in any way assist the proletariat in their class struggle against the bourgeoisie?
It is pathetically absurd to believe that the crisis in the Balkans is a case of spontaneous combustion caused by ancient ethnic hatreds embodied in one man’s policies. A closer look at the root causes reveals that these hatreds did not just explode into modern-day barbarism. Rather, war exists in the Balkans as a result of the intervention of outside imperialist powers. In this process the US bourgeoisie has not been an innocent bystander or a neutral party. The reality is that the US bourgeoisie not only supplied the fuel for this fire but provided the match, lit it and has continued to pour fuel on the fire.
This recent fire started by the US bourgeoisie is found in the multifaceted forms dictated by the IMF that devastated an already failing economy as I previously outlined. The result was growing social polarization throughout Yugoslavia between those with capital and those without, as well as between the wealthier republics and the poorer ones. What we are witnessing in the Balkans began long before Milosevic. Yugoslavia stands at the crossroads of an oil trade and transportation route combining Emperor Charlemagne’s dream of a great European waterway with the Silk Road. The importance of joining these two trade routes was summed up in 1997 by William Ramsay, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Energy, Sanctions and Commodities: ‘We think oil and gas pipelines, roads, railways and fibre optics can make this 21st century Silk Road a superhighway linking Europe and Central Asia.’ This imperial optimism is based on the reports of the US Geological Survey (USGS) that Caspian Sea oil reserves are estimated at 100-200 billion barrels. Regional natural gas reserves are estimated to be three times larger than those of the US. In comparison, the Kuwait oilfields recaptured from Iraq during the Gulf War are estimated at 94 billion barrels with Iraq sitting on the 2nd largest oil reserve in the world. In November 1997 on a visit to the Caspian Sea region, US Energy Secretary Pena stated the urgency of opening this route, ‘the next 12 to 18 months are a crucial period in Caspian development.’ Then on September 8, 1998 the Transport Corridor Europe Caucasus Asia (TRACECA) programme was implemented at Baku to provide sustainable access to Trans-European and Trans-Asian transport networks. The European Union then initiated the INOGATE programme designed to promote the security of energy supplies and internationalize trade routes. On April 24, 1999, the Silk Road Declaration was designed to ‘promote the effective use of the international transport corridor Europe - the Caucasus.’ The first secure pipeline from the Azerbaijan Caspian Sea port of Baku to the Georgian Black Sea port of Suspa was opened in December 1998 and the first oil tanker, destined for Spain, was loaded in March 1999.
The importance of Yugoslavia to this 21st century superhighway is evident from its position straddling the Danube along the Danube-Main-Rhine canal connecting the Black Sea with the North Sea. Remarkably, Yugoslavia was the only country west of the Ural Mountains that was deliberately excluded from the TRACECA and INOGATE programmes because Yugoslavia was perceived by the bourgeoisie to be an island of nationalism. The bourgeoisie then decided that somehow Yugoslavia would have to be pacified and assimilated into the Western sphere of capitalist influence in order to ensure a safe capitalist economic climate for ‘free trade.’ This ‘free trade’ came in the form of the IMF ordered reforms.’
The role of the US bourgeoisie is made even clearer by a report in the Intelligence Digest: ‘The original US-German design for the former Yugoslavia [included] an independent Muslim-Croat dominated Bosnia-Herzegovina in alliance with an independent Croatia and alongside a greatly weakened Serbia.’ (Intelligence Digest, ‘Bonn’s Balkan’s-to-Tehran Policy’, 1-25 August, 1995). The role of the US bourgeoisie is also seen when Richard Holbrooke, the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs made official the position of the US bourgeoisie as being a ‘European power’ and outlining the US bourgeoisie’s ambitious plans for all of Europe in the ‘New World Order’ when he further stated: ‘This time, the United States must lead in the creation of a security architecture that includes and thereby stabilizes all of Europe - the West, the former Soviet satellites of Central Europe and, most critically, Russia and the former republics of the Soviet Union.’ (‘Foreign Affairs’, ‘America, a European Power’, March-April, 1995, p. 39).
In other words, this is the official policy of the US bourgeoisie to move towards the integration of all of Europe under a Western political and economic system under ‘American leadership.’ With this policy we begin to see the interconnection of contradictions regarding the geopolitics of oil and the need for imperialism to destabilize the oil rich countries, to include Iraq, as well as those countries not vital to oil resources but vital to the transportation routes needed for oil and gas. By 1990 most all of the Eastern European countries caved in to the US bourgeoisie’s pressure and demands to begin ‘reforms’ except Yugoslavia under Milosevic and now Iraq under Saddam Hussein. This resistance has led to the propagandistic demonization of both men, not to assist any ‘self-determination’ movement, but to stabilize the region for capital investment and the expropriation of vital resources.
Any political schoolboy can see by reading the Intelligence Digest and Foreign Affairs articles by the US bourgeoisie that ‘self-determination’ was and remains an imperialist design to install nationalistic regimes motivated by the desire to carve out for themselves a position enabling them to acquire as much of the profits as they can in the support of US imperialist interests. Any serious examination of Yugoslav history will reveal that the eruption of nationalism in the present is not the inevitable expression of ‘self-determination,’ but the outcome of definite economic policies. Thus, the Yugoslav crisis has its source, on the one hand, in economic dislocations resulting from the pressure of capitalists as well as in the promotion of nationalism by the emerging bourgeoisie who seek to preserve their power and establish a profitable connection with foreign capital.
In Kosova, just as in the earlier wars, demands for self-determination and national independence are counterposed to conceptions of national sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Albanian nationalists in Kosova claim their rights can only be assured by forming a separate state. Serbian nationalists seek to justify and gain support by evoking Kosova’s past as the centre of Serbian religion and culture and by recalling the World War II atrocities carried out by Albanian units organized by the Nazis. With the disintegration of the economy and the rise of fraudulent ‘liberation movements’, nationalist parties and militias gained the upper hand. To understand this, the reader must also consider the absence of revolutionary leadership in the working-class. The revisionists adopted policies based on nationalism and support for the profit system by rejecting the struggle for the international unity of the working-class against capitalism. Given this political vacuum, the emerging bourgeoisie was able to divert the immense discontent with the social conditions into right-wing and chauvinist channels by joining forces with extreme nationalist and fascist groups rising out of the past to engage in fratricidal struggle in order to carve out new ethnically homogeneous territories. People who would be considered criminals and psychopaths were elevated into heroes and political leaders. Unemployed youth, school graduates without any prospect of finding work and other oppressed strata, rather than finding a revolutionary road, were recruited to slaughter one another in ethnically based armies and militias such as the Kosova Liberation Army. The type of fratricidal slaughter taking place in the Balkans did not simply appear but is the result of an absence of revolutionary leadership and perspective. It is this fact that makes so reactionary the attempts by ‘Marxist-Leninist’ pro-imperialist apologists to masquerade this degenerative development as a struggle for ‘national self-determination.’
In order to understand the ideology of the KLA, the reader must look to the historical materialist conditions over centuries of development. Albanian nationalism did not find its basis in cultural unity or liberal principles but is based almost exclusively on ethnicity.
During World War II, Albania had two distinct partisan movements. The Communists led by Enver Hoxha, and the Balli Kombetar which was a Muslim movement based in northern Albania and Kosova. The Balli Kombetar supported the Germans against the Communists and it was these collaborationists who became the 21st Albanian SS Mountain Division known as ‘Skanderbeg.’ It was these Albanians who rounded up and deported the entire Jewish community of Kosova to the German concentration camps. It is from this historical materialist background that Albanian nationalism gave rise to the neo-fascist and nationalist movement which produced militias such as the KLA.
The KLA leadership has openly admitted that, ‘ We do not have an ideology, we do not have time for such things.’ So, the question must be asked, if we are to accept the KLA as a Marxist-Leninist organization, how can a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat claim they have no ideology? Such a self-made claim exposes them as not being Marxist-Leninist but an aberration of the great former socialist state of Albania and a product of the revisionism which embraced nationalism by throwing away its internationalism.
When the reader considers the recent historical materialist development of the KLA it is seen that the KLA is a splinter group of many factions that includes the United Democratic Movement (LBD), Democratic League of Kosova (LDK), and the Levizja Popullore e Kosoves, or, Popular Movement For Kosova (LPK). The LPK evolved out of an organization called the Popular Movement for the Republic of Kosova (LPRK) which was founded in 1979 as a Marxist-Leninist youth group supported by Enver Hoxha and the then socialist state of Albania. When socialism in Albania was overthrown by reactionary revisionists who sided with the US bourgeoisie, the LPK was formed as an underground movement. The LPK was established during the riots of 1981 when a number of nationalist and communist organizations merged together. As long as the LPRK remained an exclusive communist organization prior to the collapse of socialism, it received financial and other backing from Hoxha. It is during this period that the LPRK was in fact a Marxist-Leninist organization but with the merging of nationalist organizations into the LPK it lost its communist ideology and became smothered in the ideology of nationalism. It is the utopian dreams and wishes of idealist Marxist-Leninists that want to hold on to the past that compel these idealists to claim that the KLA is somehow a Marxist-Leninist organization fighting for ‘self-determination.’ The KLA has its origin in the merging of these nationalist and communist organizations which accounts for it ‘not having time for an ideology.’ Even though the historical materialist development of the KLA has its roots in Marxism-Leninism, so has many other organizations and states that have succumbed to revisionism. According to an LPK cell leader known as Sejdiu, ‘Many people who command the KLA have spent years living in exile in the West,’ and have no desire to live in a communist system. Sejdiu further reveals the non-Marxist-Leninist ideology in that ‘we Kosova Albanians did not self-destruct as much as the Albanians under Hoxha. Even though Kosova Albanians and Albanians feel like brothers, in reality we have separate political cultures.’ Given the historical materialist concept of KLA evolution it becomes clear that the KLA is nothing more than a result of a long line of Albanian ethnic terrorist organizations based on nationalism. Ultimately, the reader must conclude that while individual members of the KLA may hold strong ideological beliefs of one persuasion or another, the KLA as a whole does not and this is where pro-imperialist Marxist-Leninists make a serious error in supporting the KLA as if they were an idealistic united front of some kind concerned about self-determination to be supported from a Marxist-Leninist perspective. The question now becomes, with such a diverse range of ideological perspective, for which the KLA openly admits they have no time for, what is it then that unifies these Albanians into a force against Yugoslavia? The answer to this question is the same as it has been, the nationalist goal of creating a ‘Greater Albania’ which has absolutely nothing to do with ‘self-determination’ based on criteria that would compel support by Marxist-Leninists.
Contrary to the pro-imperialist position and arguments of certain ‘Marxist-Leninists,’ Marxism has never based its attitude toward war on such issues as who fired the first shot or which side was responsible for the greatest atrocities. Militarist aggression has always been understood as one link in a complex chain of events. Wars are not accidental but are prepared by the social, economic and political developments which precede them. The arguments of the pro-imperialist Marxist-Leninists are based on utopian ideals of returning to a former order of things as they were. But, even the utopian wishes of these pro-imperialist Marxist-Leninists are based on whiffs of nationalism and not Marxism-Leninism which advocates the class struggle for the international unification of the working-class to turn imperialist war into civil war and motivate the revolutionary mobilization of the working-class in every country against its ‘own’ bourgeoisie. The struggle against fascism is the task of the working-class and cannot be entrusted to any section of the imperialists and this is the very message of Hoxha, Stalin and Lenin.
Marxists have always accepted the thesis that war is merely the continuation of politics by other means. They judge the character of any given conflict not on the basis of moral revulsion over the crimes carried out by one or another of the combatants or the superficial impressions over which side represents the ‘aggressor.’ Rather, they seek to make a scientific analysis of the social forces underlying the conflict, the class nature of the contending regimes and the class significance of the politics which have preceded the war and determined its general form. This is also part of the grievous errors committed by the pro-imperialist Marxist-Leninists, they give the illusion of presenting a scientific analysis of what is nothing more than a chronology of events based on their utopian hopes for the support of a return to the past, in so doing, they fail to base their political line on the class struggle and concomitantly, share a profound scepticism toward the revolutionary role of the working-class, thus, being swept along by powerful class forces that they only pretend to comprehend and thereby opportunistically adapting their Marxism-Leninism to the ideology of the various bourgeois nationalist movements.
In so doing, these pro-imperialist Marxist-Leninists have substituted proletarian internationalism for the poison of national chauvinism and have arrived at the position that nationalism, and even imperialism, has an inherently progressive role to play not only in the Balkans, but in proletarian class struggle in general. Such pro-imperialist Marxists are nothing but petty-bourgeois leftists who no longer pretend to base their political line on the theoretical legacy of Marxism-Leninism or to approach political phenomena from a class standpoint. Pro-imperialist ideology, based on the belief that the working-class is incapable of class struggle advocates and supports the dependence of the working-class on the imperialists. This opportunistic theory gives rise to a revisionist political line of revolutionary morality that allows these opportunists the ability to create an obscure, but all the same, revisionist line to support their analysis by dressing it up in Marxist rhetorical phrasemongering. This revolutionary morality allows the pro-imperialist opportunists to become the mouth-pieces of the bourgeois media by decontextualizing the violence and reducing it to dualism, thereby, confusing the working-class as to the nature of the class struggle and their historical responsibility in the class struggle. The end result of the opportunism of the pro-imperialist Marxist-Leninists becomes a bourgeois imperialist morality that only serves to hand the working-class over to imperialism and on this basis, it is impossible to prepare the working-class for its historical responsibilities for the great struggles which it is faced with. We can now see the revisionist nature of this opportunism when we place it side by side with Karl Marx’s great achievement, which based on philosophical revolution, was to introduce the method of historical materialism, raising politics above the level of moralizing and revealing the class struggle to be the motor force of history. The revisionism of the pro-imperialist Marxist-Leninists reverse this theory by eschewing historical materialism and the nature of class struggle to a dependence on the US imperialists to be the motor force of history.
How did Lenin approach this question? ‘A federal Balkan republic is the rallying cry that our brother socialists in the Balkan countries have issued to the masses in their struggle for self-determination and complete freedom of the peoples, to clear the way for a broad class struggle for socialism.’ (‘Lenin’s Struggle for a Revolutionary International’, Documents 1907-1916; The Preparatory Years, New York, 1986, p. 85). Astonishing! Lenin, contrary to our pro-imperialist opportunists calls for a single Balkan federation created not by a dependence on the bourgeoisie but quite the contrary, ‘a broad class struggle for socialism against the bourgeoisie! Also contrary to our pro-imperialist opportunists, Lenin never upheld the defence of the right to self-determination as if it were some timeless principle or rigid dogma to apply to every single situation. Lenin upheld a definite historic objective, that self-determination was to combat nationalistic influences over the working-class and oppressed masses as well as striking down ethnic and linguistic barriers characteristic with a belated capitalist development. His historical materialist approach to this issue was indicated by his division of the world into three types of countries with respect to the self-determination of nations. In the countries included in both the second and third categories, there have been tremendous transformations due to immense revolutionary convulsions and the social relations which exist in these countries in the present era so they cannot be mechanically compared to those which prevailed in 1915.
Lenin was never a champion of national separatism having developed his conceptions in the shadow of the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 where he saw and learned the lessons of imperialism’s subjugation of that region by fomenting national divisions which continue today. His perspective was diametrically opposed to the kind of chauvinism that is promoted even today by our pro-imperialist opportunists. Lenin believed in a single federation that would tear down the economically irrational boundaries of the petty states manipulated by imperialism. Lenin stated that, ‘The championing of this right, far from encouraging the formation of petty states, leads, on the contrary, to the freer, fearless and therefore wider and more universal formation of large states and federation of states, which are more to the advantage of the masses and are more in keeping with economic development.’ (‘Socialism and War’, 1915, Lenin, ‘Collected Works’, Moscow, Progress Publishers, 1970, Vol. 21, p. 298).
The primary contradiction in the dialectics of this issue that had a progressive feature that unified national movements to which Lenin addressed in this epoch was that of a profound economic content which had absolutely nothing to do with ethnology. Lenin stated that, ‘Throughout the world, the period of the final victory of capitalism over feudalism has been linked up with national movements. For the complete victory of commodity production, the bourgeoisie must capture the home market, must have politically united territories with a populations speaking a single language and all obstacles to the development of this language and to its consolidation in literature must be removed.’ Lenin further stated that, ‘Therefore the tendency of every national movement is toward national states, under which these requirements of modern capitalism are best satisfied.’ (‘The Right of Nations to Self-Determination’.)
It is obvious that terms which had a definite social and class content in one period often come to represent something quite different in the next based on vast changes in the world economic and political relations. Marxism-Leninism is based on dialectics which indicates a fluid motion of change and that things are not static. This is another error of our pro-imperialist opportunists who long for a return to the past, they approach this issue from not only a highly mechanistic manner, but as if there have been no historical transformations, so they become dogmatic in their opportunism. What Lenin explains is that for self-determination to be progressive - it must put an end to all forms of national oppression and when we base a scientific analysis on the historical materialist conditions, self-determination cannot be realized in the present crisis in the Balkans by dividing it up into a collection of ethnically based petty states. The historical materialist conditions have clearly revealed that these petty states can never be anything more than the protectorates and semi-colonies of the imperialist powers who have intentionally exacerbated national chauvinisms by simply reproducing and intensifying the very forms of economic and social oppression which existed long before their creation.
According to the Central Committee of the CPSU(b) in 1948, ‘The political acrobats from the newspaper ‘Borba’ must be clear in their minds that Marxism and nationalism are incompatible, that nationalism as a bourgeois ideology is antagonistic to Marxism. It must be clear to them that Marxism cannot reconcile with nationalism or nationalist leanings in the Communist Parties and that they must eliminate nationalism in whatever form it covers itself in the name and interests of the workers, in the name of peoples’ freedom and friendship and in the triumphant construction of socialism.
’Lenin says: ‘Bourgeois nationalism and proletarian internationalism are two ceaselessly incompatible slogans that correspond to the camps of the two large classes of the whole capitalist world and reflect two policies (even more so, two world perceptions.)’
’In circumstances when the power of the bourgeoisie has already been put an end to, the exploiter class and its agents are trying to use the poisoned weapon of nationalism in order to re-establish the old formation.
'Regarding this Stalin says: ‘Nationalist leanings are an adjustment of the internationalism of the working class to the nationalism of the bourgeoisie...nationalist leanings are a reflection of the attempts by ‘our nationalist bourgeoisie to restore capitalism.’ (‘Where is The Nationalism of Tito’s Group in Yugoslavia Leading To’, quoted from ‘Revolutionary Democracy’, Vol. VIII, No. 2, Sep 2002).
When the historical conditions are seen from a dialectical materialist perspective, it becomes obvious to a political schoolboy that the ‘Great Game’ being played out in the Balkans is the same as it was in the 1800s. It becomes even clearer that the Balkans are being ripped apart by the imperialist powers for the redivision of the world with the US bourgeoisie in a race for the hegemonic role of ‘The New World Order.’ A truly scientific Marxist-Leninist analysis reveals that the conditions in the Balkans do not in any way compel Marxist-Leninists to support the ‘self-determination’ of Kosova being based on a highly reactionary nationalist programme to consolidate their own relations with the capitalist world market. The pro-imperialist Marxist-Leninists who advance the opportunistic demand for ‘self-determination’ through national separatism and bourgeois rule are responsible for the global consequences of their revisionist position.
Again, any political schoolboy can realize that all of these conflicts demonstrate the basics of Marxism-Leninism that make it clear that there can be absolutely no answer to the problems of national divisions created by imperialism outside of the struggle to unite the workers of all nationalities in the struggle for socialist revolution. The answer cannot be found by relying on the imperialists to ‘create more favourable conditions’ nor can the answer be found in relying on terrorist organizations like the KLA to conduct the class struggle. The only answer can be found in uniting and educating all workers to their historical role as the ‘grave diggers’ of capitalism. It is the proletariat alone who can overthrow the bourgeoisie and realize the success of revolutionary socialism. Anything short of this is the politics of petty-bourgeois chauvinism which, like our pro-imperialist opportunists, merely apes the imperialist bourgeoisie and their media.
At every stage of our political work, Marxist-Leninists must consider the implications of the policies they advocate, not just in how they relate to isolated contradictions, but in the complete context of the developing struggle of the international working-class. The revolutionary Marxist-Leninists must fight vigorously against all deviations of Marxism-Leninism of which the essence is that the working-class is an international class which alone can resolve the contradictions imposed by capitalism and its opportunistic agents through the overthrow of capitalism and the creation of a new and higher order of socialism through proletarian revolution. The dialectics of Marxism-Leninism is based on human relations to the mode of production and that the proletariat alone can be victorious in the class struggle and the consolidation of their dictatorship - to base an analysis on nationalistic concerns that are void of these basic but dominate foundations of Marxism-Leninism is not a scientific analysis but a complete rupture of Marxism-Leninism into a reactionary political bankruptcy.
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