The 21st century is rushing towards us in the form of Serbian Interior Ministry troops, automatic rifles at hand, woollen ski masks covering their faces, packing tens of thousands of terrified Kosovar women, old men, and children onto jammed trains, and dumping the bodies of the young men they have murdered into mass graves.

The 21st century is rushing towards us in the form of laser-guided bombs and cruise missiles raining down on Serbian cities like Belgrade, Novi Sad, and Nis, turning apartments and factories into piles of rubble beneath which terrified civilians are buried.

This is not the decomposition of capitalism. It is the murderous logic of capitalism at work - a logic already announced more than half a century ago at Aushwitz and Babi Yar; at Hiroshima and Dresden!

The mass death which has long been visited on the population of the Third World, in Rwanda and Sierra Leone, in Vietnam and Iraq, has now come to the heart of Europe. The brutal ethnic cleansing which had turned Bosnia, Vukovar, and the Krajina into a charnel house has now come to Kosovo. And for the first time since World War Two, the great powers - the US, Britain, France and Germany are at war in Europe.

The destruction of Serbia is justified as a humanitarian mission to save innocent Kosovars, to prevent genocide. But the unleashing of the NATO air war has already provided Slobodan Milosevic with the cover needed to complete the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. And the West, which stood by while genocide was perpetrated in Rwanda (or, in the case of France, abetted it), which permitted mass slaughter at Srebrenica, which encouraged the ethnic cleansing of the Serbs of the Krajina by its Croat allies, now mobilizes its mass media to whip up popular opinion in the service of a "democratic" and "humanitarian" (sic) war against Yugoslavia.

This war has nothing to do with saving innocent civilians, but is motivated solely by the Realpolitik of the NATO governments. The murderous conflicts in the ex-Yugoslavia are not the continuation of ancient ethic battles, but the death agonies of a modern capitalist state, which in its post-war form was created to serve as a buffer between East and West during the Cold War, and in which capitalist order could best be maintained in its aftermath, and in the face of a devastating economic crisis, by imposing a new ideological framework, one based on nationalism, xenophobia, and a mythologized past, shaped by fear and hatred of the "Other."

If NATO intervenes today after nearly a decade of bloody wars to divide up Yugoslavia, it is because war in Kosovo now has the potential to destabilize the Balkans, flooding Western Europe - already confronting massive unemployment - with hundreds of thousands of refugees, destroying the fragile buffer state of Macedonia, and raising the prospect of a new round of Balkan wars, this time directly involving NATO countries like Greece, Turkey, and Hungary. The West has no problem with ethnic cleansing as long as it doesn't disturb its vital interests, but it does have a problem with Serbia now. As the possessor of the once formidable Yugoslav army, with a central geographical position in the Balkans, its policies in Kosovo constitute a danger to stability in the whole region. Serbia's wings had to be clipped. A high-tech air war which would significantly diminish Serbia's military capacity was NATO's response.

Whether or not NATO underestimated the determination of Milosevic and the Serb ruling class to resist its Diktat; whether NATO failed to take into consideration the extent to which the Serb ruling class is a prisoner of its own ideology, and incapable of surrendering Kosovo; whether or not NATO unity can survive a long military campaign, one whose logic may lead to demands for the use of ground troops in order to "win," and which may exacerbate the differences between the US and Europe; whether Washington will get its way, and the number of civilian targets in Serbia will be expanded, and a naval blockade to starve the Serbian population imposed: all remain open questions. What is clear, however, is that in this war both sides, Serbia and NATO, obey the murderous logic of capitalism. Whatever the outcome, the ruling classes on both sides plan on surviving, even as they spread death and destruction in both Kosovo and Serbia. The crisis of capitalism will only deepen in the coming years, and as the present conflict shows, racial, ethnic, and religious antagonisms will be fomented by the ruling class as it struggles to maintain its power. We can expect a hundred Milosevics to bloom. And in the West, humanitarianism and democracy will be exploited as the justification for war, an ideology which the left is especially adept at wielding. Who better than the left, than Clinton, Blair, and Schroeder to orchestrate a campaign of mass murder in the name of humanity? The Democrat, Clinton, and the Socialists, Blair, Schroeder, and Jospin, head the war governments, and are proud of their role. The Greens, like the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Joska Fischer, loyally and actively back them up. The whole lot shape the "democratic" hysteria which is spreading death in Yugoslavia. The logic of capitalism is implacable, and will remain so as long as humankind is subject to its laws of motion.

This murderous logic can only be opposed by a struggle to destroy a capitalist system which is no longer compatible with the survival of the human species, a capitalist system which can offer us only a future of mass death! We must realize that the problem is capitalism itself, not age-old conflicts. Humankind possesses the resources and capability to create the bases for a human community, where the expansion and satisfaction of needs, not profit, productivity, and class domination, determine social life. What is lacking is the consciousness of the global producing class that it can and must rid the world of a system - capitalism - that can only provide us with a future of interminable crisis, poverty, ethnic cleansing and technological destruction.

Internationalist Perspective
May 1999

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