26 AprilPrior to the commencement of NATOs attack on Yugoslavia last month, the Serbian leadership claimed that it would only take their police and military a week to ten days to mop up the Kosovo Liberation Army "terrorists," who controlled almost half of the predominantly Albanian province. As soon as NATOs bombs began to fall, the Serbs launched a military drive to smash KLA strongholds and depopulate their "base areas." The result was an exodus of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians who poured across the borders into Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro. NATO publicists, and the imperialist media, downplayed the Serbs military campaign against the KLA, and depicted the torrent of refugees as a diabolical and unforeseeable tactic devised by Milosevic to embarrass the great powers.
For their part, the Serbs suggested that Kosovos Albanians were fleeing NATOs bombs and noted that some tens of thousands of Serbs had also fled the region. NATO did bomb Pristina, Kosovos capital, and a desire not to end up as "collateral damage" doubtless motivated some of the refugees. But the flood of ethnic Albanians was primarily the result of the Yugoslav armys previously advertised offensive against the KLA. Similar forced population transfers were used by U.S. forces in Vietnam in the 1960s and the Salvadoran military in the 1980s in their drive against leftist insurgents.
The KLA has been regarded by the imperialists as an unsavory bunch of thugs heavily involved in the heroin trade and connected to dangerous Islamic fundamentalists. At points during the negotiations leading up to the Rambouillet "peace" settlement, the KLA assumed a non-compliant posture. This is hardly surprising, as the deal called for KLA units to be disarmed, while NATOs army of occupation set about constructing a new, suitably tractable, political regime for the region. In the end, the KLA delegation signed the Rambouillet contract hoping that Belgrades refusal to cede Kosovo to NATO would lead to an imperialist assault.
Revolutionaries oppose Serbian "ethnic cleansing" and all other crimes against the Kosovo Albanians. The military struggle of the KLA against the Yugoslav army and police was a just oneand their aspiration to gain independence from their Serb oppressors was entirely supportable. The commencement of NATOs campaign to "degrade" the Serb military did not automatically change this. Yet the configuration of forces made it highly likely that the ethnic Albanians struggle for freedom would soon be subsumed by the imperialist assault on Yugoslavia.
The Yugoslav military effectively minimized casualties in their campaign against the KLA by avoiding close combat and instead using tanks and artillery to first surround and then bombard villages held by the insurgents. Equipped only with light weapons, the KLA was unable to offer any effective resistance to Serb armor and was destroyed as an effective military force within a matter of weeks. As the Serb campaign against the KLA wound down, the flood of refugees abated. This was portrayed by the Western media as yet another fiendish and unpredictable trick by Milosevic. At the same time, Belgrades attempts to initiate diplomatic contacts with a view to ending NATOs bombing were rebuffed.
Meanwhile the KLA remnants which regrouped in northern Albania sought a tighter relationship with NATO. In our 30 March statement (reprinted above) we anticipated such a possibility and qualified our support to the KLA accordingly:
It is possible to trace the course of this development through accounts published in the British press. The 12 April issue of the Independent reported:
On the same day, another London paper, the Daily Telegraph, reported:
A few days later, on 18 April, the Sunday Telegraph reported:
On 22 April, Robert Fisk, one of Britains better informed print journalists, wrote an article in the Independent under the headline: "Nato resorts to war by proxy." The KLA is today exactly that: a proxy for NATO. This relationship is a product of the crushing military setbacks suffered by the KLA on the one hand, and the failure of NATOs air strikes to deliver a quick and painless victory on the other.
Military defense of Yugoslavia against imperialist attack does not negate the right of Kosovos Albanians to resist Serb oppression, nor, on the level of principle, their right to separate from Serbia. The Kosovo Albanians are entitled to determine their own future, like every other people. But the right to self-determination cannot be exercised through NATO occupation. In subordinating itself to NATO, the KLA, which currently constitutes the only visible leadership of Kosovos Albanian population, has been essentially transformed into an instrument of imperialist policy. The KLA still talks about achieving "independence," but it is in fact supporting NATOs drive to turn Kosovo into an imperialist protectorate on the Bosnian model.
We stand in the tradition of Vladimir Lenin who, in the midst of World War I, asserted that: "To be in favour of an all-European war merely for the sake of restoring Poland is to be a nationalist of the worst sort..." ("The Discussion on Self-Determination Summed Up"). Lenin observed that Marxists do not regard the right of self-determination as a categorical imperative:
The KLA can no longer be considered as any kind of national liberation movementit is today simply a cats paw of imperialism. We have therefore dropped the call for "Independence for Kosovo" as an immediate, agitational, demand because in the present context it can only serve as a cover for the schemes of the imperialists.