The Serbian regime of Slobodan Milosevic is for certain the most brutal and most murderous regime in Europe. Serbian expansionist chauvinism, central to the Belgrade government, has in the last decade destabilised and disrupted former Yugoslavia and made it into a slaughter-house for its national component parts.
The Serb regime pursues policies akin to primitive dark ages imperialism in which non-Serbs are massacred or driven out and Serb colonists planted in their place, making the territory organically part of "Greater Serbia". It is a "geno-imperialism" whose objective is genocide and whose methods are genocidal. The thing is not new, but in face of Slobodan Milosevic's policies in the 90s a new term has been coined: "ethnic cleansing".
Chauvinism and primitive "volkist" nationalism such as that of Serbia, calls forth or encourages things like itself in those it targets: but the history of this conflict leaves no room for doubt as to where the prime responsibility lies.
Now it is Kosova's turn. Kosova was an autonomous province of Serbia. In one of the earlier moves in Milosevic's Serb chauvinist offensive, its autonomous status was revoked. Ninety per cent of its population are ethnic Albanian. Ruled from Belgrade it became in effect an internal colony of Serbia. As with other nationalities of former Yugoslavia, confronted with Serb expansionism, relations between Serbia and Kosova have edged towards war. The Kosovar Liberation Army attacks representatives of the Serbian state; the Serbs massacre ethnic Albanians.
By every principle of democracy and socialism, the ethnic Albanians are entitled to self-determination, to control their own destiny. They are entitled to independence if they want it. By every principle of democracy and socialism they are entitled to the backing and support of consistent democrats and socialists.
Yet we have the strange phenomenon of many socialists backing ... the Serbs against the ethnic Albanians! The Morning Star - "the Paper of the Left" - reports events from the point of view of Milosevic and uncritically reproduces and echoes the Serb government's comments on the KLA. Tony Benn is a friend and defender of Serbia; so are many less eminent Labour "lefts". Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party is for Serbia. So are various kitsch-Trotskyist groups.
What leads them to this betrayal of the elementary principles of democracy and socialism? They are "anti-imperialists". Yes,what else but imperialism - and of a very primitive sort - is Serbia engaged in? No, not that imperialism! The important imperialists here are the German imperialists! Didn't Germany rush to recognise Croatia, thus triggering the break-up of Yugoslavia? This idea - not as "anti-imperialism", but as old-fashioned British anti-Germanism - is what seems to guide Tony Benn and similar people into Milosevic's camp.
There is no doubt that the collapse of the USSR has opened up great fields for the expansion of European Union and specifically German influence in the East. It is the nature of great powers to do this. Should socialists try to thwart the big powers by automatically backing their antagonists - in this case Serb imperialism (which in contemporary Europe has far, far more points in common with Hitler's old genocidal German imperialism than with any other existing European power)?
To say "Yes" here is to abandon all independent working class politics. It is to subordinate everything to being against "Germany" or "imperialism" (arbitrarily defined). In this case it is to make oneself an apologist for the prime mover in the imperialism of ethnic cleansing and genocide in the former Yugoslavia, Milosevic.
Arthur Scargill's paper, Socialist News, put it with refreshing crassness last December. Germany "led the pack" of imperialists by recognising Croatia and Slovenia. But "the sole challenge to this meddling was an unanticipated level of Serb resistance to the carve-up of Yugoslavia," despite some "muddle" for Milosevic ... So it is better if "Yugoslavia" remains as a Serb empire oppressing all the other people in the old Yugoslavia? Why?
"Can the hard-won 'workers' state' tradition", asked Socialist News, "continue to maintain resistance?". That "this resistance", this "thorn in the side of the West, continues to describe itself as socialist can only pour more salt in imperialism's wounds." "The current wave of anti-Serb 'genocide' propaganda is driven by the spectacular failure of the Kosovar Liberation Army (KLA) secessionists to put a dent in Belgrade's influence [sic: influence!] - which makes Western imperialist meddling look stupid and outmanoeuvred (again)."
But suppose all this is true: that the only imperialism is German and EU imperialism, that Serbia's little "Yugoslavia" is a workers' state or has a "workers' state tradition" – for socialists this means what, exactly?. For socialists, there is still the fact that 90% of this province is ethnic Albanian. that they were deprived of autonomy, and are now, bloodily, being deprived of self-determination. From what point of view other than that of Serb chauvinism and racism would opposition to German policy outweigh the elementary democratic and socialist duty to back the right of the ethnic Albanians to self-determination. They don't count? They are a "reactionary people" who forfeit all rights?
Back in the days when the "socialist" USSR led one of two great imperialist blocs, the left, Stalinist and Stalinist-influenced official-Trotskyist, more or less automatically took sides with the USSR against the other imperialism and rationalised from that fixed star. Now that the USSR is no more and there is only a "workers' state tradition", this "method" is still dominant amongst these disgraceful socialists who back Milosevic, and act as apologists for Serb chauvinism.
Where a "good" "socialist" imperialism counterposed to our own imperialists does not exist, they invent one, and plump for - the nearest thing to Hitler's Germany in contemporary Europe! They long for a socialist or anti-imperialist Fatherland - and settle for Milosevic's genocidal imperialism! Victims of the long ingrained habit of believing what they need to believe, they draw conclusions not from analysis and exploration of the world as it is but out of the fantasy and imagination of minds from which both the facts of the real world and all remnant of democratic or socialist principle were long ago banished!
They are the reductio ad absurdum of a once powerful current, the obscene last kick of a degenerate line.