On the Resolution of the Central Committee of Partija Rada on the National Question in Yugoslavia

Our Response

The resolutions of Partija Rada on the national question and on the presence of NATO forces in former Yugoslavia have caused much criticism and dispute. Although these resolutions were written in 1997, they are still relevant today because of the position which one Marxist-Leninist party took in historical conditions that were full of contradictions.

We may distinguish a few positions on the war in former Yugoslavia, and on solving the national question, by parties which call themselves Marxist-Leninist.

The first position came from those parties which call themselves Marxist-Leninist, but which are essentially very nationalist, and some of them Orthodox-fundamentalist. All of these parties openly supported the regime of Slobodan Milosevic; they were his tool which the regime supported in certain activities. These parties are mainly from countries of the so-called Orthodox region.

The second position came from parties which think that anybody who opposes imperialism deserves support. That is why these parties agreed to participate in many gatherings for the ‘unification of progressive forces’ to resist imperialism, organized by the Belgrade regime.

The third position came from those parties which made a correct evaluation of Slobodan Milosevic’s regime, but believed that at the time of NATO’s aggression against Yugoslavia, any position other than a condemnation of the aggression was a form of reconciliation with imperialism.

The fourth position agreed with the attitude of Partija Rada on the national question but was of the opinion that Partija Rada made serious mistakes because, instead of struggling against imperialism, it made its main goal the struggle against local-imperialism.

It is normal that there are positions on the national question and the presence of NATO forces in Yugoslavia that are similar to those of Partija Rada.

We recall that the essence of the criticism of Partija Rada’s attitude was in the assertion ‘that the intervention of imperialism was in the interest of the Yugoslav peoples.’ The criticisms, here we emphasize the criticism of George Gruenthal published in Revolutionary Democracy (Vol. VII, No. 2, September 2001, pp. 96-7), come from the understanding that imperialism can never play a progressive role, and that imperialism intervened in the Balkans for its own interests, and not to protect human rights, which was just an excuse for intervention.

Partija Rada in defence of its resolutions emphasizes:

Local-imperialism broke up Yugoslavia as a single entity. With that act it weakened the defensive power of the country, and facilitated the entry of NATO forces into Bosnia and Herzegovina and into Kosova.

In the area of former Yugoslavia there was no organized political and military force which could successfully oppose the military force of Slobodan Milosevic, and the full domination of nationalist ideology. There was a real threat of extermination of some nationalities. In such circumstances, the Bosnian and Albanian peoples were forced to begin armed struggle, although they were weaker militarily. That is why the Bosnian and Albanian peoples, as the most endangered, welcomed the NATO forces as liberators.

Local-imperialism, as an oppressor of other nations, could not play a role as the unifier of those nations for the struggle against imperialism. Milosevic’s local-imperialism did not even try to do that when his interests were in opposition to those of imperialism; he continued to suppress the Albanian population to achieve his goals.

The local-imperialist regime in Belgrade, because of its character, which was shown to be an open dictatorship, and which continued to rob its own people, did not have the support of its people for real resistance to imperialism.

With the crushing of local-imperialism (concretely the regimes in Belgrade and Zagreb), the obstacles to unification of the Balkans peoples were removed, as well as the obstacles to their unification in anti-imperialist struggle.

The relation between the imperialists and the puppet regimes in crushing any resistance to their policy, has created conditions for the rise of the anti-imperialist struggle in the Balkans to a higher level.

Partija Rada never denied that imperialism intervened in the Balkans for its own goals; quite the contrary. Also, Partija Rada did not claim that imperialism was a positive factor, but only that imperialism in that concrete situation was a factor in resolving the problem. That was due to the fact that it stopped the reactionary war, crushed the local-imperialisms and prevented the persecution and extermination of some nations. This role of imperialism in resolving the problem in the sense of stopping the war does not mean that it will solve the national question in the Balkans. Its oppressor role in new historical circumstances will bring all the Balkans peoples closer in unified struggle against imperialism. After all, Partija Rada in its resolution on the presence of NATO forces in former Yugoslavia concluded with the support for resistance to NATO as an occupying force.

Central Committee of Partija Rada
Belgrade, January 15th, 2002

It is good that Partija Rada has replied to the criticisms of its position on the national question in Yugoslavia. However, the only new element in the reply is that Partija Rada has raises its misevaluation of the Milosevic regime to a theoretical level, characterizing it as ‘local-imperialism.’ This is a serious misunderstanding of the nature of imperialism.

Lenin scientifically summed up the essence of imperialism as having 5 basic features: ‘1) The concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life; 2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this ‘finance capital,’ of a financial oligarchy; 3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance; 4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist combines which share the world among themselves, and 5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed’ (‘Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism’, Chapter VII, ‘Imperialism, as a Special Stage of Capitalism’).

Where was the export of capital by Milosevic’s Yugoslavia? Where were the Yugoslav combines trying to gain their share of the world? How has Yugoslavia attempted to share in the territorial division of the world? Clearly, Yugoslavia is not only not a big actor on the world stage, such as the U.S., Britain or Germany. It is not even a small actor such as Belgium (which is still involved in the exploitation of its former colony, Congo) or Canada (which exports capital to many parts of the Caribbean).

The term local-imperialism is not scientific theoretically, and is practically incorrect in application to Yugoslavia. Milosevic may certainly have been a Great-Serb chauvinist, who oppressed other nations in former Yugoslavia, but this is not the same as imperialism, local or otherwise.

The real imperialist powers, particularly the U.S., are going after every country in the world that refuses to submit to their exploitation or to serve as a loyal lackey. In the process, the imperialists do not only attack revolutionary countries and movements, but also local bourgeois (not imperialist) governments that oppress their own people, sometimes in very unpleasant ways. Such has been the case with the U.S. attack on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, on Slobodan Milosevic’s Yugoslavia, or the Taliban’s Afghanistan. In such cases, it is the duty of all anti-imperialists, and all Marxist-Leninists in particular, to concentrate their fire on the imperialists and to support the countries that are the victims of these attacks. And Marxist-Leninists within these countries must find some way of uniting even with their ‘own’ bourgeois governments in the fight against imperialism (while maintaining their own independence).

Two last points. Partija Rada states that ‘local-imperialism broke up Yugoslavia as a single entity.’ But this also ignores the role of the real imperialist powers. National oppression may have set the stage for the disaffection of the various peoples of Yugoslavia. However, it was the U.S. government that refused to give ‘aid’ to any republic that had not broken with Yugoslavia, directly leading to the secession of Bosnia and Herzegovina. And it was Germany that supported the secession of Slovenia and Croatia, which had been part of Germany’s (and Austro-Hungary’s) sphere of influence since before World War I.

Finally, it is good that Partija Rada recognizes that ‘imperialism intervened in the Balkans for its own goals.’ But it is quite wrong in stating that imperialism’s ‘oppressor role in new historical circumstances will bring all the Balkan peoples closer in unified struggle against imperialism.’ Imperialism’s intervention has only heightened the national contradictions in the region, turning one people against another, thus leaving imperialism in a stronger position.

If we cannot recognize who is the main enemy in any given situation, we fall into serious errors, and a position that begins as genuine internationalism can turn into its opposite and can lead to conciliation with imperialism. We sincerely urge Partija Rada to consider the consequences of its positions.

George Gruenthal
1st February 2002

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