Correspondence (mostly about Kosovo)

--letter from ZN and our reply--

(from Communist Voice #22,. October 9, 1999)


22 August 1999

Dear Communist Voice --

. Thank you for printing my letters [referring to correspondence printed in our previous issue-- CV]. You seem to think you have demonstrated their "errors," but I hope that your readers may come to different conclusions.

. The situation in the Balkans is indeed unstable. But one may hope for some positive movement, if one does not demand revolutionary changes which are impossible at this time. The Serb opposition is becoming less nationalist & more reasonable, as a result of their defeat, & the bad economic situation resulting from the bombing & their international pariah status. No, I don't expect them to launch a Leninist revolution, but I would consider the removal of such a nazi monster as Milosevic progress, even when the goal of the opposition now seems to be something like a European-style social democracy acceptable to the EU.

. Meanwhile the KLA continues to struggle for independence for Kosovo. You describe the KLA as bourgeois nationalist. I don't know that this is correct. I have heard them described in the media (TV news) as Maoist. I tend to believe this. The media has also talked about how the KLA used drug dealing to pay for arms. I consider this doubtful. The West has been anxious to work with the Serb opposition, but not with the KLA. We know that the West has no problem working with bourgeois nationalists or drug dealers, but does have a problem with Maoists. That's why I tend to believe the KLA may indeed have Maoist tendencies. The West wanted to avoid coming to the aid of the KLA, but really had no choice. The KLA wanted to avoid relying on NATO, but really had no choice.A strange situation has resulted. The KLA felt they had no choice but to turn in most of their weapons & become a "democratic" party. So they may no longer meet your revolutionary standards. But NATO has found that the Kosovars really do look to no one but the KLA as their political leadership.So NATO's enthusiasm has disappeared. They have no one with which to work to create the kind of mediocre Western-style "democracy" they would like. The non-KLA Kosovar politicians have been rejected by the Kosovars for collaborating with the Serbs. So NATO does its "peace-keeping" job half-heartedly, while the KLA actively organizes to fill the political vacuum. This is not a bad thing, & the situation has possibilities for relatively radical development, as long as we understand that the KLA still cannot take on the capitalist world militarily.

. Have you noticed that Diana Johnstone's argument in favor of the "progressive" nation Serbia's right to rule over backward nations is right out of Mein Kampf? Johnstone claims that the oppressed nations should be oppressed because they are "reactionary" & "fascist," & this is used to justify their fascist domination by reactionary Serbia.

. It should be noted that socialist development of Yugoslavia was very unequal, with Tito ignoring the Manifesto's point 9:

"Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries;gradual abolition of the distinction between town & country, by a more equable distribution of the population over the country."

This has of course been ignored by all Stalinists, being the forgotten "garden city" ideal of 19th century environmentalists. In the case of Yugoslavia, Serbia was developed industrially, while Kosovo remained essentially undeveloped, a peasant region, & the poorest area of Yugoslavia.So much for the idea that Tito reduced ethnic conflict via socialist egalitarianism rather than Stalinist brutality.

. You condemn Trotskyites for defending Stalinists, but of course until recently Trotskyites attacked the Stalinist Soviet bloc that Trotsky had been expelled from, claiming that Trotsky continued the true Leninist line. The Trotskyites defend Castro as being less brutal than the European Stalinists, & as being a socialist thorn in "democratic" America's side. (I agree.) But I too was amazed at Freedom Socialist's defense of Milosevic, after condemning less brutal, non-nazi Stalinists.(1)

. The Kosovo situation again proves Mao's point that revolution in Europe is difficult if not impossible at this time, & that the Third World is the current battleground. (Thus my support of the Kosovars is based on socialist humanism, not revolutionary hopes.) How about a little attention to Colombia? I feel certain that that country's enthusiastic but often politically incorrect revolutionaries could use some constructive criticism.



CV replies

. In the last issue of CV, we carried an exchange of views with ZN over a wide range of subjects, ranging from the errors of Maoist "three worldist" strategy (as we see it) to whether countries like China, North Korea, and Cuba are state-capitalist societies or socialist ones. These are questions which affect the orientation of the progressive movement. We are happy to welcome ZN back to our correspondence page. This time, his letter mainly deals with the issue of Kosovo.ZN and ourselves are in agreement in supporting the right to self-determination in Albanian Kosovars.We too are disgusted with writers like Diana Johnstone, whose pro-Serbian chauvinist history of the Balkans was influential among sections of the left searching for excuses to support the tyrannical Milosevic regime.

. It seems that in general, however, ZN tends to paint too rosy a picture of various world developments, and underestimate the extent of the crisis facing the revolutionary movement. He portrays these forces as more radical that they really are, thus missing the lack of independent class organization among the masses and the importance of the rebuilding of a distinct proletariat trend. In the last issue, for example, we exchanged views with ZN on whether one should expect, say, positive developments from sections of the ruling party in China.

. Here ZN seems optimistic among the political opposition to Milosevic in Serbia. Yes, it is carrying out demonstrations, but it is still a bourgeois opposition. Maybe it will overthrow Milosevic, maybe there will be a war with Montenegro before the crisis deepens further. In any case, if Milosevic and his authoritarian system is dismantled, rather than simply seeing a new leader like Vuk Draskovic inherit it, this will be an important political step. But unless the workers organize an independent trend of their own, they will be at the mercy of the appeals for more sacrifice, now demanded in exchange for whatever steps of liberalization are taken. They will face neo-liberal privatization. And moreover, not just Vuk Draskovic, who was actually one of the vice-premiers of Yugoslavia in the Milosevic government as it massacred Kosovars, but the other main opposition figures are also imbued with chauvinism toward the Albanian Kosovars. They have not accepted Kosovan independence, nor is there evidence they would treat the Albanian population as equals.

. ZN also seems to have exaggerated hopes that the KLA will turn out to be a radical left force. This seems to be what is behind his contention that the KLA may be Maoists and his doubts about whether they are bourgeois nationalists, as CV articles have said. Along the same lines he mistakenly claims that NATO's failure to support the KLA is due to the KLA's opposition to working toward "mediocre Western-style democracy." Actually, the main conflict between NATO and the KLA is not that the KLA has rejected Western-type capitalist society, but that NATO has been opposed to Kosovo independence. Nor does the fact that NATO may not see the KLA as their ideal partners for various reasons necessarily mean the KLA really must have a radical platform. As for Maoist influence in the KLA, what matters most is not that some KLA members may have been radical leftists at some time, but the stand of the KLA at present, which is simply for independence and does not deal with the social and class issues.

. ZN also briefly refers to some other issues besides Kosovo. He notes that we condemn Trotskyism for defending various Stalinist regimes. However, he mistakenly thinks that Trotskyist support for state-capitalist regimes is only a recent development, and contradicts their past criticism of such regimes. Actually, the majority of Trotskyists have long combined their complaints about Stalinist bureaucracy with support for these regimes as deformed or degenerated workers' states. Most Trotskyists hold that the economic base of these regimes is basically socialist, despite the bad rulers. With this theoretical base, time and again the Trotskyist groups have wound up defending various atrocities of state-capitalist regimes, be they the former Soviet Union or Yugoslavia, or present-day China, Cuba, Serbia, North Korea, etc.

. And Maoism to the contrary, the revolutionary movement in the Third World faces many obstacles similar to those elsewhere. There may be more armed struggles in the Third World, but the movements there, as well as in Europe, face the crisis of revolutionary orientation and the lack of proletarian organization.

. Finally, we agree that the situation in Colombia merits attention, although we have not yet been able to cover it in our journal. For now, I simply add the collective voice of CVO in supporting the mass struggle against the Colombian exploiters and denouncing the U.S. government's growing military intervention against the anti-government guerrillas.

Revolutionary regards,

Mark, for Communist Voice



(1) ZN refers here to the Freedom Socialist Party (FSP). But, although the FSP did not have a good stand during the Serbo-NATO war, he may be inadvertently confusing the FSP with the International Socialist (IS) trend, whose whitewashing of the Milosevic regime is discussed in some sections of Mark's article "The right to self-determination and opposing Milosevic and NATO' in the last issue of CV (see especially p. 35). [It turned out, as he clarified in his next letter, that ZN was referring to FSP]-- CV.

Back to main page, write us!

Last changed on October 16, 2001.