Kosova: After elections – before explosions

Western capitalist powers unable to resolve burning national question

Assembly elections took place in the UN protectorate of Kosova (referred to as Kosovo by Serbs) on 17 November. The outcome of the election changed nothing in the power structure in the region which is still formally a Serbian province but under UN administration – the UNMIK. But despite this fact, the crisis in Kosova will deepen as the election has revealed the deep dissatisfaction of the masses.

Only 38 to 43 percent of the electorate (according to different sources) turned out to vote. Of those who did participate, 34 percent voted for the Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK) led by the former Kosova Liberation Army (KLA) leader Hashim Thaci. The PDK replaced the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) as the strongest parliamentary group but will not be able to form a ‘government’ on its own. But these two major bourgeois political forces do not have any fundamental differences but rather represent different factions of the Kosovan elite which have managed to enrich themselves in the eight years since the NATO war against Serbia brought Kosova under UN control.

Since then the status of this region, which has a population made up 90 percent of Kosovan-Albanians, and around five percent each of Serbs and other minorities such as Roma, has been under dispute. This year the so-called Ahtisaari plan (named after the Finnish UN representative) called for “conditional independence” in which self-governed Serb enclaves were to be formed but control and final decision-making would in reality still lie with the imperialist powers – now the European Union. Many Kosovan-Albanians reject this plan as it would mean de facto ethnic division and no real self-determination while Serbia and Russia reject it because it would mean the end of formal Serbian rule over Kosova. Russia sees any solution with the label ‘independence’ as a dangerous precedent for regions like Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Chechnya or Transdniester where independence movements could see a formally independent Kosova as tailwind for their aspirations.

For the Kosovan workers, youth and unemployed the decisive question, however, is which programme can lead to an end of poverty, hunger, mass unemployment and economic backwardness and for full democratic and national rights.

Today 40 percent of the population live in poverty and another 15 percent in extreme poverty. Mass unemployment is estimated to stand at 60 percent. Mines have not re-opened after the 1999 war because of disputes around the question of ownership and privatisation – in a country with rich natural resources of brown coal, lead, zinc etc. Privatisation in other sectors of the economy has led to lay-offs and workers not receiving their wages. No wonder that worker and youth protests are increasing. They see how the UN administration loots their country while the ordinary working people don’t know how to survive.

Given this situation, the western imperialist powers must fear that without granting some kind of ‘independence’ there could be a revolt or even possibly a civil war, against foreign control of Kosova. They favour giving more power to their vassals in the Kosovan political elite while keeping final control in their hands. At the same time, they face a dilemma because anything which is called ‘independence’ could spark off further conflicts in other Balkan countries such as Bosnia-Hercegovina where the Serb population may use such a development to demand formal independence for their ‘Serb Republic’, which is still part of Bosnia.

How to achieve democratic rights and to change society?

Some, like the Movement for Self-Determination (LPV), think that only on the basis of real self-determination (which certainly would lead to independence) and an end to foreign domination can a solution for the Kosovan masses be found. This movement seems to receive growing support especially amongst the youth as they speak out both against foreign control and against social inequalities, privatisation, lay-offs, etc. It claims to stand in the tradition of national liberation struggles and says that its policy is not directed against ordinary Serbs with who they want to live together on the basis of equal rights. The LPV was able to organise mass demonstrations in February of more than 10,000 at which two peaceful demonstrators were shot by UN police. Since then their leader Albin Kurti was first arrested and now is under house arrest (the terms of which were loosened a bit on 14 November ).

In general, The CWI supports the right of self-determination for oppressed nations, up to and including the right to separation. For socialists, this is linked to the struggle for the social and economic liberation of the working class from capitalism. But the nationalism of the PDK, LDK and other bourgeois forces has not national and social liberation as its goal but the creation of an Albanian elite which in collaboration with western governments and corporations can exploit the majority of the population. This right-wing bourgeois nationalism is also posed against the national minorities who live in Kosova. Its aim is to split the area along ethnic lines in collaboration with UNMIK and its plans for an EU protectorate.

On a capitalist basis, the backwardness of Kosova, the exploitation and dominance through multinational corporations and corrupt Albanian elites, mass poverty and unemployment cannot be overcome. An independent capitalist Kosova could neither develop a strong national industry, nor real independence or real democracy. To achieve this, a change in the basic social structure of society and in the logic of the economy is necessary – away from production for profit to a production to fulfil the needs of the population; away from capitalist exploitation to a socialist democracy. This would have to be based on public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy under democratic control and management. A democratic economic plan to fulfil the needs of society would have to be developed.

An independent socialist Kosova would give equal rights to all national minorities and would allow for language, cultural and other minority rights, including up to full autonomy rights, if the Serb minority so desired. Only on this basis can the fear of minorities ending up nationally oppressed in an independent, Albanian-dominated Kosova be taken away and real unity achieved. This would, at the same time, be a clear signal to the working classes of the other Balkan countries that an independent socialist Kosova wants to overcome nationalism on the Balkans and wants cooperation of the Balkan peoples. A call would have to be directed to the workers and peasants of the peoples of the former Yugoslavia and of Albania to take a socialist path as well and to build a joint, voluntary, democratic and socialist federation of the countries of the Balkans.

  • No to any form of privatisation.
  • Introduction of a decent minimum wage which gives everyone the opportunity to a life in dignity.
  • Reduction of the working week without loss of pay.
  • Fight corruption and the enrichment of the Albanian elites.
  • For a massive public investment programme into education, health and infrastructure.
  • Immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all foreign troops and dissolving of UNMIK.
  • End to the house arrest against Albin Kurti and release of other political prisoners of the LPV.
  • Elections to a genuinely democratic constituent assembly, including full representation for workers, the unemployed, rural workers and youth.
  • Fight all forms of discrimination against national and religious minorities, full equal rights and granting of political and cultural minority rights.
  • Building of a fighting and multi-national trade union movement to defend the immediate interests of the wage labourers.
  • Build a mass democratic, socialist party of the working class and poor.
  • For an independent socialist Kosova, with full rights for minorities, as part of a voluntary democratic socialist federation of the Balkans.
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