Rat Out...Rat In

Revolutionary Worker #1074, October 15, 2000

The first week in October, a deep political crisis ended Slobodan Milosevic's government in Yugoslavia. After the September 24 elections, opposition figures took over many local governments. A general strike, spearheaded by coal miners, demonstrated deep discontent. Crowds of people rallied in the capital, Belgrade, insisting that Vojislav Kostunica, of the DOS opposition coalition, had defeated Milosevic in the September 24 presidential election. Crowds attacked symbols of the ruling government-including the national parliament, where Milosevic's coalition maintains a majority. The police and army refused to intervene, and on Friday, October 6, Milosevic announced he would leave the presidency.

One reactionary rat has been driven from power in Belgrade-to be replaced by a new rat, hand-picked by the U.S. and NATO.

The Final Act of War

The U.S. media portrays the change in Belgrade as "the will of the people." But it really represents the will of NATO-the war alliance whose main powers are the U.S., Britain, Germany, and France. Over two years, NATO has used their armies and intense economic sanctions to force Yugoslavia to adopt a new government.

In the Spring of 1999, the NATO war alliance carried out thousands of bombing runs, attacking this poor country of only 10 million people for 72 days and nights. NATO warplanes shattered the country's economic backbone-bombing rail lines, communications, factories, hospitals, government offices and military installations.

After NATO troops occupied the Kosovo region in June 1999, the major imperialist powers established a strangling blockade on Yugoslavia-making economic recovery impossible. One striking miner told the New York Times, "I used to make $1500 a month. Now I make $80."

Meanwhile, the U.S. worked to "destabilize" the Yugoslav government from within. In addition to the hidden CIA operations, money was openly sent to Yugoslav opposition structures through the National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House, the U.S. Information Agency, and the Soros Foundation, among others. This intervention created the network of pro-NATO organizations, radio stations and newspapers upon which the so-called "democratic opposition" was built.

On Sept. 25 (one day after the Yugoslav elections), the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 1064, offering over $100 million dollars to any Yugoslav government opposing Milosevic. A few days later, DOS representatives were already conferring with NATO and IMF officials in Sofia, Bulgaria.

In other words, Western imperialist powers have spent two years giving the ruling class of Yugoslavia "an offer they could not refuse." The collapse of the Milosevic government has nothing to do with the "will of the people" (in Yugoslavia or anywhere else). It is a final episode of the war launched by NATO against Yugoslavia in 1999.

Representatives of the Serbian Capitalist Class

Milosevic lost power, but not because the masses seized power from his hands. The largely Serbian ruling class of Yugoslavia decided to dump him. They decided to bow to the intense war pressures of NATO-to abandon their previous favorite, Milosevic, and adopt a government that will operate within the regional framework imposed and dictated by the NATO alliance.

The DOS opposition is openly committed to Western-style capitalism. Their speeches promised the Yugoslav people a "normal life"-which is supposed to mean peace and prosperity in the country. But, as people know in the ghettos and barrios of the U.S.-and as people in Russia found out-"normal life" under U.S.-style capitalism means exploitation and poverty for millions of people.

DOS leaders include Veselin Vukotic, who oversaw the World Bank austerity plans for Yugoslavia in 1989. DOS economic plans speak of the "shock treatment" they plan for the country. The working people of Yugoslavia are not being offered a luxury seat at the table; they are slated to remain exploited at the bottom of capitalist society. "Becoming part of Europe" means being even more tightly tied to the needs and whims of international capital.

The Milosevic government has sometimes been called "socialist" and even "communist"-and these labels have confused some people (as they are intended to do). Some people assume that the Western attack on Yugoslavia has represented an attack on socialism (or "socialist remnants"), and that Yugoslavia now, for the first time, faces Western penetration and exploitation. This is not a correct analysis of the history and class nature of Yugoslavian society. Yugoslavia was a capitalist country long before the 1999 war started, and it remains a capitalist country today.

The RW examined the history and nature of Yugoslavia in two previous articles, "How Capitalism Caused the Balkan Wars" (RW #1001) and "U.S. Predators Stalk the Balkans-The imperialist motives behind the NATO war on Yugoslavia" (RW #1002). These articles are available online at rwor.org. Some key points from that analysis need to be pointed out here to understand the recent events.

Yugoslavia, a multinational country in the Balkans, emerged from the World War 2 resistance to Nazi Germany. Josef Broz Tito, Yugoslavia's leader, played an important role in uniting the many peoples of the Balkans into a single multi-national federation that included Croats, Slovenians, Serbs, Bosnian Muslims, Albanians and other nationalities. But Yugoslavia never became a socialist country. Tito betrayed the revolution and took the capitalist road. For the first time in history, political forces who called themselves "communist" constructed and profited from a capitalist social order. Tito's Yugoslavia formed a semi-official military alliance with the U.S. and NATO.

The imperialist penetration of Yugoslavia took the form of international loans for state-owned enterprises. In the 1980s, Yugoslavia sank into a classic "IMF crisis"-rooted in $1.8 billion of debt to international finance capital. And the imperialists demanded a series of "austerity" measures. The masses of working people were exploited and squeezed in typical capitalist ways.

It was during this period that Milosevic rose to the leadership in Serbia, the largest republic of the Yugoslav federation. He started as a leader in Serbia's largest bank. He was a vocal advocate of "market economics," and negotiated the linking of Yugoslavia's currency, the dinar, to the German deutschmark. His "Milosevic Commission" carried through new "free market reforms"- expanding direct foreign investment in the country.

Milosevic was a capitalist figure from the earliest days of his career and came to power in Serbia under a banner of reactionary nationalism. Milosevic proposed holding together the Yugoslav federation by building a "Greater Serbia"-and by militarily suppressing neighboring republics who tried to declare independence. He is a Serbian chauvinist who promoted harsh domination over Muslim, Croatian and Albanian people in places like Kosovo and Bosnia. At first, in the late 1980s, the U.S. supported this program-they had great influence within the central Yugoslav government and did not support breaking it up. Milosevic was seen as "their guy" and James Baker, U.S. Secretary of State in the Bush administration, endorsed Milosevic's armed attack on Slovenia to prevent their withdrawal from the federation.

Conflict Between Milosevic's Yugoslavia and NATO

Milosevic fell out with the Western imperialists. First, Germany supported Croatia's bid for independence with shipments of high-tech weapons. And that meant that Yugoslavia would not succeed in holding the larger federation together. As the region entered into a series of bitter wars, this ended the U.S. support for Milosevic.

A larger Yugoslavia had been in U.S. interests, but ongoing wars and instability in this region were not. These conflicts threatened the U.S.'s main strategic interest in this part of the world: building up Turkey as regional power and maneuvering to bring the oil-rich Caucasus countries out of Russian dominance and under U.S. control.

First Germany, then the U.S. and the NATO alliance, demanded that Belgrade's government accept a smaller, shrunken Yugoslavia. When conflict in Kosovo threatened to spill into new wider war, Milosevic's government faced all-out attack from NATO.

There was nothing "anti-imperialist" about Milosevic's methods. When his ties to Western imperialists worsened, he tightened his ties with the Russian imperialists who have been pursuing their own interests in the region.

Imperialist Gangsters

Ever since the September 24 elections, President Clinton and Secretary of State Albright have been telling people what to do, like they are the kings of the world. They have tried to dictate whether Yugoslavia will have runoff elections, or whether the head of Yugoslavia's government will stay, or go into exile or face trial for his actions. There have been naked threats about possible NATO intervention-while the U.S. fleet practices invasions in the nearby Adriatic sea.

The officials in Washington DC babble about the "democratic will of the Yugoslav people" in one breath-and then, in their next breath, try to dictate what this independent country should do in its own internal affairs. It is naked imperialism.

It may never be clear if Kostunica really beat Milosevic in the presidential elections of September 24. But it is clear that those elections were not an act of "democratic will" by the people of Yugoslavia. More pliant, pro-U.S. elements of the Yugoslav ruling class have come to power after the masses of Yugoslav people have been battered, impoverished and threatened by NATO. This new government is no more representative of the interests of the people than the old one.

The only change is that the NATO alliance has now imposed its will on the Yugoslav/Serbian ruling class. The global imperialist financial institutions, like the World Bank and IMF, will now rush back in to resume their sinister work in Yugoslavia. The lives and work and resources of the people of this region will now face a "restructuring" designed to wring even more wealth out of the Balkans.

And the U.S., in particular, can focus more on its takeover moves in the Caucasus and the "southern tier" of the former Soviet Union. The U.S. wants to seize and exploit huge oil reserves in the Caspian Sea-and to weaken the Russian imperialists by depriving them of those resources. And even while bringing the Russian government in to approve the events in Belgrade, the U.S. imperialists are maneuvering to strengthen their position at the expense of rival imperialist powers.

The moves of the imperialists will provoke new conflicts throughout this part of the world. The U.S. spokespeople are already predicting that any new DOS government may only have a brief "honeymoon" -- before new struggles and demands arise from the people.

Within the inevitable turmoil, there will new opportunities for the people of this region to resist their oppressors, to develop new forms of unity among themselves, and to take the revolutionary road toward a liberated society.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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