Serbia: Elections results reveal instability

Neo-liberals victory means attacks on working people

"No one in Europe wants Serbia-Montenegro to remain outside Euro-Atlantic integration. They don’t want that empty hole between Slovenia and Thessaloniki," Vuk Draskovic – Serbia Foreign Minister.

"Serbia needs a president who is a good friend of the EU and who will be a friend among friends, because the future president will dramatically increase Serbia’s chances to become an EU member," Javier Solana – EU Foreign Policy Chief.

These quotes, and numerous others, show that imperialism undoubtedly feared the worst going into the Presidential run-off election in Serbia on Sunday 29 June. As it happened, their preferred candidate, Boris Tadic of the Democratic Party (DS), came out on top. He beat his rival, Tomislav Nikolic, of the right-nationalist, Serbian Radical Party (SRS), by approximately 300,000 votes. (Tadic 53% – Nikolic 45%)

Imperialism is no doubt buoyed by this result. The head of the EU in Serbia, Geoffrey Barrett, expressed this when shortly after the result, he said: "This is a very good result for Serbia and for democracy in Serbia, which will help clear up the political scene. We in the EU are very, very pleased with this result."

Neo-liberal victory will be short lived

Despite the short-term triumphal attitude of the representatives of imperialism, who see this result as some sort of final victory on the road to EU integration in the Balkans, the future for Serbia will be anything but a quick, smooth journey towards a western-European style ‘democracy’ and living standards.

The victory of Tadic came with the support of Kostunica’s governing coalition, made up of the DSS and other minor parties. Tadic’s DS and Kostunica’s DSS hate each other. This short term alliance to defeat Tadic is unlikely to translate into a long term working relationship. New parliamentary elections in the near future, against a backdrop of the neo-liberal parties feuding, could yet again plunge Serbian politics into crisis, giving the imperialist powers yet more sleepless nights.

The inability of the neo-liberal parties to establish a stable Western European style ‘democracy’ in post-Milosevic Serbia is what has led to the prolonged political crisis. Whilst in part this is down to their particular failings and constant feuds, on a higher level, it is symptomatic of the failure of capitalism to lead to a prosperous and stable Balkans.

The DS President, Boris Tadic, and the DSS-led coalition government, still face the same insurmountable problems as they did before. This election victory is nothing but a short respite for them and for their imperialist masters. Given the almost assured failings and endless squabbling that lie ahead, the Serbian Radicals are not a spent force. The far-right radicals still pose a threat in the absence of a mass party of the working class providing a clear alternative to the neo-liberal chaos.

The neo-liberals in power are being urged to embark down the road of reform at break-neck speed by imperialism. However, resolving the final status of Kosovo/Kosova, fully co-operating with the International Court of Justice, as well as completing the necessary economic and military reforms needed to progress towards EU and NATO membership, will be extremely difficult, if not impossible to accomplish. A backlash against the pro-Western government in Belgrade is almost guaranteed. The question is in what direction, to the left or right? Former Milosevic-era officials and paramilitaries, the mafia, as well as the ultra-nationalists, will resist from the right. Unless the working class assert their power and enter the political stage then the right-nationalists could still threaten to fill the vacuum in society.

Kosovo/Kosova unresolved status

The Pristina daily, ‘Koha Ditore’, recently carried an editorial containing advice for the newly appointed head of the UN mission to Kosovo/Kosova: "First advice: Dear Sir, don’t come!" The Kosovo based paper then went on to say: "You will catch yourself thinking: is it worth all this trouble? You will think about your family, your environment, your friends, and about when you had far fewer responsibilities. You will see more and more poverty, you will read about the growing number of people leaving Kosova, you will see people becoming more critical towards you, and you will have associates around you with fewer and fewer powers, experience, or will to work. You will curse the day when Annan flattered you, telling you he considers you as the most serious candidate for such an important mission as Kosova."

This highly pessimistic editorial sums up well the impossibility of the Western powers to find a final solution to the Kosovo/Kosova problem. In 1999, US-led NATO powers went to war against Serbian leader, Milosevic, supposedly to ‘save’ the majority Muslim population of Kosovo, who have long resisted incorporation in Serbia. However, the primary reason for imperialist intervention was to prevent the Kosovo conflict spiralling out of control and dragging in neighbouring states in a wider war, and also to enhance the strategic and economic interests of US imperialism in the region.

But today Kosovo remains highly unstable. The ethnic Albanian Kosovans are still denied self-determination and right wing nationalists are growing in power. Ethnic riots a few months ago led to the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of many minority Serbs, as the UN forces stood by. Poverty and unemployment are rife.

In the upcoming elections in Kosovo ‘province’, the ultra-nationalist parties that demand complete independence from Serbia could well make gains. But the Western powers will resist any attempts at separation, fearing it could unleash moves towards a ‘Greater Albania’ and the unleashing of a new Balkans war. As the CWI warned at the time of the 1999 NATO war, ‘liberators’ can soon become seen as oppressors holding back a move towards full independence.

No stability under capitalism

Attempts to create stable states in the Balkans, on the basis of capitalism and neo-liberal policies, will not succeed. ‘Solutions’ imposed by the imperialist powers from above to the national, ethnic and religious conflicts will be short lived. Long term solutions will only come about as the result of a mass movement from below, a movement that unites all the peoples on a class basis, in a struggle for socialism.

As we have repeatedly stated, only the working class has the power to lift the Balkans out of its current impasse. The urgent task is to build the workers’ organisations, including a new mass party of the working class. The threat of renewed ethnic violence and resurgent right-nationalism can only be averted if workers take the lead. They must make sure that the opposition to the imperialist backed neo-liberal government is from the left.

The revival of the workers’ movement, in any one of the Balkan states, could act as a spur to working people of the region. A united struggle to overthrow capitalism and to expel imperialism from the region, together with the establishment of a voluntary, socialist confederation of the Balkans, could rapidly transform people’s lives, lifting them out of poverty, ending exploitation, and removing the basis of national, ethnic and religious conflict, once and for all.

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June 2004