Revolution or Counterrevolution Part One
An Interview with Loukas Karliaftis
On April 6th 1993 a veteran Greek Trotskyist Loukas Karliaftis was interviewd about the current crisis in the Balkans. Loukas was personally involved in organising the Archeiomarxists in northern Greece in the 1930’s when the question of Macedonian independence was debated with Trotsky. With the possibility of a wider Balkan conflagaration, the issue is once again the subject of international attention. It should be of particular interest to Trotskyists around the world to read the views of a leading participant in the struggles against capitalism and Stalinism in the Balkans
Following on from the Gulf war, imperialism has wider aims. It is attempting to impose Bushs ‘new World Order’ on the Balkans and the ex-USSR. The demagogic call for the liberation of Kuwait was a subsidiary issue – similar to the call for the liberation of the oppressed peoples that was made prior to the Second World War. I have already written an article linking the Gulf War (during which incidentally, I didn’t support the slogan ‘Victory to Iraq’ with the situation in the Balkans and the USSR.
The imperialists decided to enter the Gulf arena because of the collapse of the regimes in eastern Europe. They were encouraged by the fact that the demonstrations in the West against the intervention were not as strong as they might have been and were essentially pacifist. The slogan ‘Imperialism out of the Gulf’ wasn’t enough – it should have been ‘Defeat Imperialism’. Bush wouldn’t have embarked on a new military operation if the class struggle in the United States hadn’t been at such a low ebb.
Before they intervened in the Balkans, the imperialists attacked the USSR with a so-called coup so that Yeltsin could take power. It wasn’t a real coup – it was like the Reichstag fire. Of course, the Yeltsin/Gorbachev bureaucracy allied itself with the West in the Gulf war. From this it is clear that imperialism is intervening in the Balkans with the clear aim of smashing Serbia.
The perspective ont eh Balkans must be farsighted: the US will move into the region with the USSR as the final target. Their military adventures against the Serbians are part and parcel of the New World Order. Many people isolate the developments in the Gulf from those in the Balkans and therefore incapable of drawing the correct conclusions. My view is that imperialism intends to smash any remnants of Tito’s regime. Under Tito there were representatives from each republic on the ruling executive – the US always wanted to dissolve this.
The first move of the US was to support the Croatian representative on this ruling council so that he could take over the presidency of the Federation. This was successful. Then the significant issue of Slovenian and Croatian independence came to the fore. Just as before they had used the issue of the national liberation of Kuwait (and of the colonies in the Second World War) so the US used the national liberation of Croatia and Slovenia to break up Yugoslavia. The West supported democratic restorationist forces inside Croatia initially in their attack on the Serb population in Croatia and then on Serbia itself. Serbia resisted these pressures and this led to war.
Of course under the previous Yugoslavian regime (before Milosevic) the various national minorities were attacked. But the declarations of Slovenian and Croatian independence was done in the name of the counterrevolution and we would not support this.
The US sent an aircraft carrier to the Adriatic in the defence of Slovenian and Croatian independence and all the countries that intervened in the Gulf now entered this new conflict to attack Serbia. Even Greece has sent a little ship, just as it did in the Gulf war when the government of Mitsotakis grovelled 100% infront of the US. Its clear that Greece has entered the war against Serbia, not just the economic embargo but also the military preparations. Our slogan should be defeatist. In the Gulf War they were: ‘Down with the War – For the defeat of Greece’ now it is ‘Hands off Serbia – for the defeat of Greece’
We must emphasise that the leaders of the USSR and Serbia have become counterrevolutionary and bourgeoisified , the leaders that is not the people. There are remnants of the old the old workers states, but the aim of the NWO is to smash the workers movement internationally and in any independent manifestation it may take. The Stalinist bureaucracy has collapsed and degenerated its top layers becoming bourgeoisified. It contains as Trotsky said, ‘Reiss and Butenko’ factions from top to bottom. There are also differences between the political and military leaders. The lower ranks of the military wanted an even stiffer resistance to Croatia.
We still defend the remnants of the degenerated workers states, without giving anything to the new leaderships. We combine the call for political revolution with demands against the new bourgeois elements. We defend Serbia against US intervention without defending its leaders in the same way that we defended the Vietnamese against intervention. We are distinct from other groups in that we say ‘Hands of Serbia’ rather than ‘Imperialism out of the Balkans’ – because the other Balkan governments are with Imperialism.
There are differences over imperialism among the imperialist over who is going to take a cut out of Yugoslavia. Mitterrand sent in ships first, Germany has Slovenia, Croatia and the Bosnian Muslims in its pocket and aims to use them to crush Serbia; Italy and Austria entered the arena, sending tanks to the border with Slovenia and laying mines- they all want a piece of the cake. The Italians also aim to take over Albania and via Albania, Kosovo as well. Austria and Hungary take their places alongside Germany in seeking control of northern parts of Yugoslavia. Germany is growing in military strength through the unification process through the conquest of central Europe and through the conquest of central Europe and through its influence in the Ukraine (where of all the imperialist powers it has the most contacts). It is also getting nuclear weapons from Ukraine and and Kazakhstan. The new division and conflict within imperialism is between Germany and the US over who gets the most out of Yugoslavia. This gives rise to a perspective for a third world war. We cant predict when this will occur, but we have entered the period when the dangers of the third world war are becoming greater.
Due to the rhythms of development the ex USSR and Yugoslavia are in particular danger – the conflict between Germany and the US will play a major role in deciding the future course of events. Of course the decisive factor will be what course the proletariat takes and whether proletarian revolution can stop the descent into war.. If you really want to understand the Serbian issue, you can only do it from the international perspective. You mustn’t isolate Serbian developments from the world arena.
After Slovenia and Croatia passed over to the West, the issue for imperialism became Bosnia and the Yugoslav minorities – Skopje (Macedonia), Kosovo, etc. The issue of the self-determination is theoretically and practically posed for the minorities. According to Lenin, there are generally speaking, two types of secession and national self-determination movements. There are those led by bourgeois nationalists (today these are ex-stalinists and turned restorationists) and those with other kinds of leaders who if led by the proletariat can go towards socialism. Lenin said we must distinguish between the progressive national liberation movements of the period of the collapse of feudalism and the birth of capitalism when nation states were being created and those of the imperialist epoch where the issues are different. In the era of the decay and the decline of capitalism, it is not national liberation per se which is the issue, but social liberation – ie the permanent revolution.
When the October Revolutoin occurred the national movement in Russia entered a new phase. After the Revolution, the issue became the extension of the proletarian revolution, through which the national question will be solved. On the red flag of the workers, democratic demands are secondary to proletarian demands. The issue of socialist revolution is far higher than national self determination which is a democratic issue. Under capitalism in Russia, centralising forces were at work. This process was accelerated by the socialist revolution and led to the planned economy. After the revolution, we do not support demands to leave the planned economy and split and divide the post capitalist society, although we do support the rights of minorities if they are oppressed in any other way. This is the way Trotsky viewed the call for Ukrainian independence. For precisely this reason we cannot support the independence of the bourgeoisified Yugoslav republics which are directly in the pay of imperialism.
The dissolution of the Yugoslav Federation is a step back in history, not a step forward. The right of self-determination of nations, if its used to split up Yugoslavia is a reactionary right. For this reason our central slogan is for a United Socialist Balkans and for a United Socialist Planet. From the birth of communism the call for a Balkan Socialist Federation has been the centre of our programme.
Lenin called for self-determination up to and including secession for the minorities in the capitalist Balkans. Roza Luxemborg replied that there were countless nationalities why didn’t they all become one? Both Lenin and Luxemburg were correct but which one of them is more correct?
From 1902 Lenins position on the national question dominated the RSDLP. The leader of the Greek socialists at the time, Benarogias, put forward the view in the Second International that the national question in the Balkans would be solved under the Ottomans. This was accepted by Rakovsky and became the position of the 2nd International. During this period (ie prior to the First WW) there was bourgeois development taking place in the Balkan peninsula. This bourgeois development taking place in the Balkan peninsula. This bourgeois development which occurred under the separate Balkan states, proved Luxembourg wrong. It was possible for bourgeois states to develop – Lenin had been proven right.
After the Russian revolution, Luxembourg said it was a mistake to create a Federation rather than have a single entity. She also said that land shouldn’t have been distributed to the peasants, which was totally wrong. If land hadn’t been given to the peasants, the Bolsheviks wouldn’t have had any impact on them and therefore wouldn’t have been able to influence the minorities. Luxemburgs position was that nationalities should only have autonomy, not the ability to break things up. Under conditions in the Balkans now, the slogan for Self-determination has become 100% reactionary