Behind U.S. policy in the Balkans

By Sam Marcy (April 21, 1994)

If an unprovoked U.S. military intervention had taken place 100 years ago, let us say, the halls of the U.S. Congress would have rocked with oratory.

Not that the class composition of Congress at that time was fundamentally different than today. But there was at least a measure of respect for the population as a whole, given the enormous risk involved in even a small-scale military intervention.

Yet now the U.S.--by virtue of its naval and air power--has taken upon itself the murderous bombing of what used to be the peaceful population of the Socialist Federation of Yugoslavia. And there is not a peep out of Congress.

That Yugoslavia has been brutally torn into pieces and dismembered can only be explained by the orientation of U.S. monopoly capital. It seeks not only to maintain diplomatic and economic predominance in Europe but also to safeguard it by means of military intervention.

Let it not be said that the U.S. foreign policy establishment is engaged in some foolish and wholly unnecessary military exercise. No. The issue is what has been called "hegemony" for almost half a century--who will have hegemony over the European theater.

Is Europe threatening the U.S. militarily? That, of course, would be regarded as absurd almost anywhere. Why, then, this exhibition of naked military muscle?

The answer does not lie in any logical explanation of military strategy alone. Even changes in military strategy have little to do with it.

Then what lies at the bottom of the struggle?

It has to do with significant and overpowering developments in the sphere of economics. The basis for this was laid more than a century ago--when the so-called peaceful, competitive stage of capitalism, which had been the prevailing form of capitalist development, was first converted into monopoly capitalism. The monopoly stage became evident at the close of the last century and was blatant in the years preceding World War I.

In 1902, the English economist John A. Hobson in his book Imperialism explained the development of competition into monopoly. Rudolf Hilferding, a leading social democratic theoretician, then included some of Hobson's data in an analysis of finance capital from the viewpoint of Marxism, as it was then understood.

Lenin's classic study, Imperialism--the Highest Stage of Capitalism, drew on both Hobson and Hilferding. Its most significant point, however, was that the phase of monopoly capitalism inevitably leads to imperialist wars. The monopoly stage of capitalism is the immediate precursor, in a historical sense, of the socialist revolution.

Conflict not ancient but modern

If one tries to view the struggle over Bosnia in purely empirical and unhistorical terms, it either makes very little sense or seems to be just a repetition of age-old conflicts like those that preoccupied the warring European factions before the stage of fully formed capitalism.

That is not what is happening today. The U.S., a power external to Europe, is attempting to dominate this gateway to a highly technological and industrial area. It should be said that from the point of view of economic development and scientific know-how, it is still a question, as it was before World War II, whether the U.S. or Europe has the overall edge.

It had seemed in the years immediately following that war that Europe had sunk to the position of dependency. That was certainly the prevailing view in U.S. diplomatic and military circles that was bandied about in the bourgeois press.

But the truly remarkable resurgence of capitalist development in Europe has put it back in at least second place to the U.S. Of course, one may say that Europe today is not much of a military power compared to the U.S. Neither is Japan, for substantially the same reasons and regardless of the differences.

But capitalist Europe is nevertheless making slow but sure progress, at least in a limited sense, against the encroachments of the U.S. worldwide.

It is from this point of view that one has to view the struggle over Bosnia. The essence of it is buried in endless dialogues conducted in language that by and large is understandable only to the diplomatic corps of the imperialist powers.

All the more is it important for working-class leaders, and revolutionary socialists in particular, to clarify the real meaning of the struggle. The masses in the U.S. must be shown how their vital interests may be affected should there be a turn of events, incapable of being controlled by the imperialists, that causes the outbreak of hostilities on a large and escalating scale.

Such a war could go far beyond the borders of what used to be called the Socialist Federation of Yugoslavia. The destruction of the Yugoslav federation at the hands of the imperialist powers brought about developments which have become a condition precedent, as the saying goes in bourgeois law, for further aggravating the international situation and all that may follow from it.

Of course, historical development might have taken an entirely different route had it not been for the collapse of the USSR, a truly catastrophic development. It removed the one great cause for restraint by the imperialists.

Generals and diplomats

When the U.S. finally decided to move into Yugoslavia, the Pentagon was most anxious to push aside the diplomatic corps, who had been there for some time but failed to get the kinds of results President Clinton and the Pentagon were looking for.

Not long after the U.S. military arrived in Yugoslavia to more or less take over, they had visions of calling together representatives of the various nationalities. The mere presence of the military, they thought, would be sufficient to enable the U.S. to achieve a solution to the national problem there.

It's the kind of thing that the U.S. military thought would happen in Korea once they stepped into what was a revolutionary situation after World War II. They thought that, by virtue of their military power, they would knock the heads of the contending forces together and achieve a unified Korea under imperialist domination.

The Korean War was a lesson to the U.S. military at a great cost in human lives and resources that their solutions are not viable agents of history.

It is important to keep this in mind in discussing the U.S. role in Yugoslavia, even though here it would seem that the national question is the paramount difficulty.

Why were the Yugoslav communists under the truly magnificent leadership of Tito able to achieve a united Yugoslavia, whereas the bourgeois politicians and their imperialist mentors and guides have been unable to?

The Yugoslav communists aimed from the very beginning to unite Yugoslavia on the basis of working-class leadership. They proceeded from a socialist perspective and fought against the landlords and bourgeoisie and for the workers and peasants.

What a world of difference from the imperialists. They are trying to find a solution based on the divisive concept of private property, bourgeois ownership of the means of production, and land to the landowners.

It would be dangerous for the U.S. imperialists to embark on a plan to really unify the broken federation. Indeed, they need to split up what remains of the socialist federation, to invoke nationality as the supreme objective, and have the rule of the bourgeoisie as the underpinning for any new federation.

Unable to even put this on paper, they have resorted to what comes naturally to them, imperialists and colonialists that they are. They can come up with only makeshift plans to gain control over each and every one of the nationalities. To do this, they have to revive ancient national animosities.

Shift on Serbia

One should remember that originally the U.S. imperialists courted Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic in an effort to wean him and the Serbs over to a pro-imperialist position. Their efforts were directed at Serbia first and foremost because it is politically the most influential republic. Also, there are Serbs in all the other republics.

For a while it seemed that these Serbs were amenable to U.S. entreaties. But all this came to grief when the imperialists found out that while the Serbs might have seemed willing to make concessions to their demands, they were not at all ready to surrender any part of their sovereignty or to curb their influence in the rest of Yugoslavia.

This is still the basic problem the U.S. faces today. Because of its bankrupt policy in relation to Serbia, it has resorted to "uniting" the other nationalities against Serbia. It hopes to establish some hodge-podge patchwork from which will emerge an imperialist dominion.

Washington is now well aware that it has a huge problem in Yugoslavia. Yet the lesson of Somalia has apparently not sunk in to the extent that they can quietly extricate themselves. It is a real question whether they can do that in view of their ambitions with respect to Europe.

All this has significance in the struggle of the imperialist powers against the oppressed nations. It is also crucial in the inter-imperialist struggle, which occasionally serves as a stumbling block obstructing further expansion in the insatiable search for super-profits.

What it means to the working class and the oppressed masses in the United States should be clear from the viewpoint of revolutionary Marxism. International class solidarity is a cardinal principle in the achievement of a socialist order of society. In pursuit of this goal, the workers in the imperialist countries have a double responsibility.

They have to struggle against the capitalist class to free themselves from the domination of imperialist finance capital. But this struggle cannot be viewed as a national one concerning only the workers and oppressed people in the U.S. against the capitalist government. It has to be viewed in a truly global sense as never before.

Wherever there is a spot on the globe with even a remote possibility for exploitation and super-profits, surely one will find there the architects and engineers of Wall Street and Washington.

What has to be understood most of all in connection with a truly internationalist and working-class approach is that no nation can ever be free if it enslaves others. Nowhere is this adage more observable than in the U.S.

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