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Facing threats and bribes

Will Yugoslavia resist U.S.-backed counter-revolution?

By Sara Flounders

The corporate media would like everyone to believe that an authentic, national popular movement independent of the U.S. and NATO is rising up against the Yugoslav government, and especially President Slobodan Milosevic. But to believe this would be a serious mistake.

That's because the media leave out that Washington and its European allies have subsidized this movement's leadership with huge sums of money, bolstered them with enormous political support, exhausted the Yugoslav population with war threats and sanctions, demonized Milosevic by spreading lies and false charges, and goaded the opposition to Milosevic to risk civil war.

The U.S. leaders don't just want to remove Milosevic, they want to smash Yugoslavia with a counter-revolution that overthrows whatever remains from the 1945 socialist revolution.

The opposition, though it led the first round of the presidential election by 49 percent to 39 percent, has as of Oct. 4 refused to participate in the runoff election scheduled for Oct. 8. Instead it is trying to force a confrontation with the government through strikes and demonstrations.

Washington tries to buy election

The U.S. government has admitted to authorizing $77 dollars to bankroll the opposition movement. On Sept. 25 the U.S. House of Representatives voted another $105 million to fund the "democracy movement" in Yugoslavia.

In comparison George W. Bush has raised $177 million to fund his presidential bid. Al Gore has raised $126 million. (Federal Election Commission data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.)

Yugoslavia is about the size of the state of Ohio, with a population less than 4 percent of the United States. If you also account for the difference in average income, this would be comparable here to a $30 billion donation from a foreign enemy to a U.S. presidential candidate. And this is in an economy that has been strangled by U.S.-led sanctions.

As in the U.S. election campaign, there are also lots of soft money donations. The congressional appropriation is just the tip of the iceberg. Both the Sept. 20 New York Times and the Sept. 19 Washington Post describe the suitcases of money handed over at the border. Advisers, pollsters, TV, radio and newspapers are all paid for by the U.S. government.

And this sum omits whatever the Soros Foundation or Germany and other West European powers pumped in.

Despite all this foreign funding, the opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica claims that he is an independent who would refuse to turn over any government official to the Hague Tribunal. He promises Serbia will remain intact.

Kostunica counts on the U.S. and European Union's promises to lift sanctions if Milosevic is no longer president. He seems to have forgotten that the U.S. also promised Milosevic that if he signed the 1995 Dayton Accords on Bosnia, the sanctions would be lifted. Milosevic signed. The sanctions remained.

Washington clarifies its goal: counter-revolution

A new bill before Congress makes Washington's aims in this election clear. HR 1064, called the Serbian Democratization Act of 2000, stipulates that sanctions will remain in place until Yugoslavia agrees to "cooperate fully with The Hague and hand over anyone charged." A new government must agree to detach Kosovo, grant "autonomy to Vojvodina"--the region in the north of Serbia--and "give up any claim to previously owned property of the Yugoslav Federation, including its missions, offices and consulates."

U.S. intervention is hardly limited to funding the opposition and planning for its administration after the election. Part of Yugoslavia--Kosovo--is under military occupation by the very forces funding the opposition. The Pentagon held joint military maneuvers with Croatia--whose government is hostile to Yugoslavia--and a landing invasion exercise on an island off shore in the Adriatic Sea during the Sept. 24 elections.

Washington's goals go far beyond gross interference in an election campaign against one man, Milosevic. That's why the U.S. strategists wanted Kostunica to refuse to participate in the runoff election. They are not satisfied with an orderly transfer of some government positions if Milosevic's Socialist Party-led coalition would still command the Yugoslavia Parliament, whose control it retained in the Sept. 24 election.

Strikes and shutdowns organized by the opposition show that Washington's real aim is fomenting a civil war and the violent overthrow of the whole government apparatus, replacing it with a weak government completely compliant to U.S. demands. The U.S. especially wants to destroy the Yugoslav Army, which has its roots in the socialist revolution of 1945.

Kostunica and G17

Why are all the imperialist forces throwing such enormous support to Kostunica?

Kostunica is backed by a coalition of 18 parties called the Democratic Opposition of Serbia. DOS embraces the reconstruction plan of a group of Yugoslav economists called the Group of 17-Plus. The mission statement of the G17 openly brags that many of the groups' economists work for the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

For anyone who holds illusions that the NATO countries--the imperialists--might actually be supporting a "democratic alternative," it would help to review the economic plan of the G17 to understand the enthusiasm of U.S. and West European banks and corporations for Kostunica.

Michel Chossudovsky is a professor of economics at the University of Ottawa and the author of a well-known book on IMF policies, "The Globalization of Poverty." Chossudovsky showed that the G17 is funded by the Washington-based "Center for International Private Enterprise" which is an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In an article co-authored by Jared Israel and available on www.tenc.net, and developed in depth in the book "NATO in the Balkans," Chossudofsky shows the role of the IMF in dismantling Yugoslavia.

This whole apparatus is directly funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, which the U.S. Congress created in order to finance operations that the Central Intelligence Agency used to fund clandestinely. This is not speculation. Allen Weinstein, who planned the NED, said, "A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA."

The G17 is wholly committed to capitalism, free markets and the dismantling of the public sector. They are committed to doing away with programs that subsidize food, rent or transportation, along with free medical care. World Bank and IMF policies in country after country force businesses, both public and private, into bankruptcy. Then foreign corporations buy them out at rock bottom prices. A dependent colonial economy is the result.

IMF experiment led to breakup

Yugoslavia went through a wrenching experiment with IMF privatization in 1989. Professor Veselin Vukotic, now elder statesman of the G17, was then the minister of privatization under Yugoslav Premier Ante Markovic.

Vukotic worked on a World Bank plan to privatize Yugoslav industry. Yugoslav companies were selected for bankruptcy or liquidation. This plan orchestrated the breakup of 50 percent of Yugoslav industry, wiping out 1,100 industrial firms. Over 614,000 industrial workers were laid off, out of 2.7 million. Industrial output shrank by 21 percent.

As social programs were unraveling, unemployment skyrocketing and wages plunging, Yugoslavia as a federation began to unravel. There were strikes and worker actions. But the economic chaos also gave rise to separatist tendencies among the six republics that made up the Socialist Federation of Yugoslavia.

In the 1991 elections Serbia and Montenegro tried to reject these disastrous economic policies. The regimes in other republics cast their lots with the plans of the Western bankers.

In January 1991 U.S. Foreign Appropriations legislation ordered a cutoff in trade, loans or aid to any republic that held elections that the State Department did not approve. The Foreign Appropriations bill each year legislates all manner of strangulation against the economy of any country not moving fast enough toward a capitalist market economy. For attempting some resistance to the plans of the World Bank, Serbia was targeted.

In the years of economic strangulation caused by the sanctions that the West imposed on the two remaining republics of Yugoslavia, many of these economic plans have been reversed, increasing public ownership. The G17 promises that Kostunica's election would mean Yugoslavia would quickly adapt "free market" policies and privatize the entire economy.

The miners' strike

Reports in the Western media on the Kolubara miners' strike indicate that the government has lost at least some of the support it once had in the working class, and that workers are dissatisfied with the decline in their living standards.

No one sympathetic to the workers' struggle can be pleased that police have to be sent in against workers. The world should remember, however, what happened to the Polish shipyard workers in Gdansk who led the struggle against the Polish government. The new neo-liberal regime shut the shipyard as it was no longer profitable on the world market, and all the workers lost their jobs. Miners in Russia and Romania faced the same IMF shutdowns.

It would be foolish to believe that the U.S. government, which has suppressed democracy and overthrown legally elected popular governments from Guate mala to Iran to Greece to Chile to Grenada to Haiti, is interested in democratic process in Yugoslavia. What it wants is to impose savage capitalism on Serbia and Montenegro.

Kostunica claims Yugoslavia under his administration will become a "normal Western government." But what does that mean when there are only two kinds of status for countries in Europe today?

Yugoslavia can't join the imperialist powers like Germany, France or even Austria, which held colonial empires and whose economies today have a global reach. Its only choice is to share the fate of Bulgaria, Romania, Albania and Ukraine.

The economy and the standard of living in these countries is worse than it is in Yugoslavia, even after 78 days of NATO bombing and eight years of international sanctions. The people in these countries are the victims of 10 years of economic restructuring. Colonial subjugation and the dismantling of industry have been imposed on them. And that's the choice Kostunica and his U.S. tutors offer Yugoslavia.

What to do

The International Action Center has issued a call directed to those in the United States who want to show solidarity with Yugoslavia and its struggle to resist counter-revolution and a U.S./NATO takeover.

In response to the U.S. and Western Europe's blatant use of funds to influence the Yugoslav election, the IAC and its founder, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, have called for a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the full extent of U.S. intervention in the Yugoslav elections. It is seeking evidence of this intervention and hopes to expose it as a crime, just as it did with the war crimes the U.S. and other NATO forces committed against Yugoslavia in 1999.

Interested readers can contact
the IAC at (212) 633-6646 or
e-mail [email protected] Information is also available
on the Web site www.iacenter.org.

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