National Sections of the L5I:

Yugoslavia: strikes launched to oust Milosevic

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The President of the rump Yugoslav Federation, Slobodan Milosevic, lost the 25 September elections. But so far he has prevented his rival, Vojislav Kostunica, from taking his job.

The outcome of the Yugoslav election made it clear that many workers rightly hold the Milosevic regime responsible for the economic collapse of the economy and for starting the four bloody ethnic wars that contributed mightily to this collapse.

But the elections themselves were far from free. None of the candidates or parties represented workers? interests. And Milosevic's rival, Vojislav Kostunica, is as rabid a Serb nationalist as Milosevic himself.

Kostunica's ability to establish himself as the main opposition candidate rests on the fact that as a professor of Law he was never personally implicated in the policies or the corruption of Milosevic?s regime.

But his Greater Serbian chauvinism goes as far back as the 1970s when he opposed Tito?s constitutional reforms because they gave a degree of autonomy to the non-Serb republics of Kosova and Vojvodina.

When multi-party politics returned to Serbia in the 1980s, Kostunica was among the founding members of the Democratic Party, but he left in 1992 because he considered it was not sufficiently nationalist.

His newly-established Democratic Party of Serbia then formed an alliance with the charismatic Vuk Draskovic's royalist Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO). Within a year this alliance broke up and Kostunica actually moved closer to the fascist leader, Seselj.

When most of Serbia's opposition parties came together to form the 'Zajedno' alliance in 1996, Kostunica formally joined it but stayed aloof. He boycotted the mass public protests in late 1996 and early 1997.

The revival of Serb nationalism with the escalation of the Kosova conflict gave Kostunica another chance. His radical nationalism, his condemnation of Nato, his anti-Milosevic record, but at the same time his support for entry into the European Union, provided maximum electoral appeal.

Unlike opposition leaders like Zoran Djindjic or Milo Djukanovic of the 'Alliance for Change' who led the mass protests two years ago, Kostunica never received the open backing of the imperialist powers.

At the same time, unlike Vuk Draskovic of the SPO, he has not made compromise deals with Milosevic. Kostunica could pose as an intransigent opponent of Milosevic, while not appearing as an open agent of Nato.

But this is already changing fast. Kostunica has promised to work with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). At the same time he promises to 'safeguard Yugoslavia'. This is a flat contradiction. The coalition has already announced its subordination to US and European imperialism by opening negotiations with the IMF.

Already two prominent members of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia have met with representatives of the IMF, the World Bank and the Nato governments at a so-called 'donor conference.' A draft 'Letter of Intent' already exists. This includes a 'Memorandum on Economic and Financial Policies'.

These policies envisage an end to government price controls, the introduction of 'free markets', cuts in social spending and public transportation, a credit freeze to enterprises with the consequent massive layoffs of workers and drastic pay cuts and a pledge that reconstruction work on Nato bomb damage be entrusted to companies from the Nato countries.

These policies mean that food prices would rocket, enterprises would be driven into bankruptcy and foreign capital would seize all the key sectors of the economy.

Milosevic's position has never been weaker. Internationally, his staunchest ally, Russia, has said it will recognise any winner in the second round of elections and has backed off from siding with Milosevic.

Internally, the Serbian Orthodox Church has demanded that Milosevic stand down immediately.

Milosevc's ally in government the Radical party has made overtures to Kostunica. The election results proved conclusively that his previous ability to claim the backing of the majority of the population has gone.

Although he remains in power courtesy of his backers in the state machine, even this is weakening. Up to two-thirds of the army voted for Kostunica and this has clearly coloured the army command?s outlook.

The army chief-of-staff, General Nebojsa Pavkovic, is personally loyal to Milosevic but has said that the army will respect the will of the people.

In addition, discontent is widespread among the soldiers themselves. Especially in the south, where the opposition parties are strongest, armed units have blockaded roads as they demanded unpaid wages.

The working class is now engaged in a necessary and legitimate struggle against the reactionary Milosevic regime. But although Kostunica clearly won the election this does not mean that the working class should accept him as the legitimate Head of State.

The working class should not let itself be bound by the results of an election in which its voice could not be heard. Instead, the current turmoil must be used to assemble politically independent working class forces, both political and trade union, in Serbia.

Within the protest movement, class conscious workers have to fight for the most militant forms of working class direct action such as strikes and occupations up to and including a general strike to bring down Milosevic

But equally importantly they have to oppose all attempts to harness the struggle of the working class and rank and file soldiers into support for the bourgeois opposition and their imperialist backers. No confidence in or support for Kostunica and the Opposition!

Action councils elected from the factories and barracks must take the initiative from the bourgeois opposition in calling demonstrations against Milosevic. They must assert their right to control townships, throwing out both Milosevic?s governors and their bourgeois replacements.

Against economic hardship, they must take control of the distribution of supplies and mobilise the masses against the hoarders and speculators.

Across the country, every opportunity must be taken to unite workers? and peasants? organisations not only to strengthen their forces but to stop the regime from playing one region off against another.

The aim should be a nationally co-ordinated workers? movement, independent of the bourgeois parties. To ensure working class control of the movement all elected leaders must remain accountable and recallable by their electors.

Within the working class movement, revolutionaries fight for a programme that can lead workers from the demands of the democratic movement to the overthrow of the regime and its replacement by a revolutionary workers? government based on the workers? councils and defended by a workers? militia.

* Fight all attacks on democratic rights! For full freedom to assemble, to demonstrate and to publish! Down with state censorship! Employees of papers, state radio and TV and the mass protest movement must put all media under their control!

* Disarm the local police! Arm the people! For armed defence of demonstrations! Soldiers should distribute their weapons to organised self-defence units of the masses! For a workers' militia to defeat the troops loyal to Milosevic and the armed gangs of fascists and reactionaries!

* To finish off the threat of Great-Serbian chauvinism once and for all, it is crucial for the mass movement to support the right of national self-determination for all national minorities inside Yugoslavia (Hungarians, Moslems in Sandzak etc.).

* For unconditional and immediate recognition of the republic of Kosova! No to the continuing repression of the Albanian minority inside Serbia! No ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Kosova! On the basis of this free recognition of the national rights of the minority peoples, the struggle for a socialist federation of the Balkans can take place.

* No to any military coup by Milosevic against the Montenegrin government!

* For an emergency plan of the working class! Milosevic's regime and NATO have ruined the country - now is the time to reorganise the economy and to rebuild the country. For workers' control of all big enterprises! For a public debate on where to put the limited resources of the country!

* For the immediate expropriation of the Milosevic clan and all their corrupt cronies! Nationalise all big enterprises under workers' control!

* For international trade union solidarity! Build links with the unions in Kosova, Albania, Macedonia, Croatia and Greece! Solidarity with the struggles which are underway at the moment in Greece, Croatia and Serbia!

* Nato forces out of the Kosova, and the whole of the Balkans! Finishing the Milosevic dictatorship is the job of the workers in Serbia, Montenegro and Kosova, not the Western powers!

* Down with all sanctions against Balkan countries!

Instead of recognising a Kostunica government, and its plans for an IMF dictatorship over the economy, and Nato ?democracy?, Serbian workers must demand immediate elections to a Constituent Assembly. These elections should be under the control of mass action councils!

* Class conscious workers' delegates would fight inside such a Constituent Assembly for a revolutionary workers' government which would introduce a democratically planned economy and a regime of workers' democracy.

* Such a Constituent Assembly should also debate and agree on the future state of Yugoslavia (centralised, federation or confederation) whilst recognising the rights of minority nationalities.

* Put Milosevic and all leading figures of the police and army in front of a workers' tribunal where both Serbian and Albanian delegates should judge them! Find out all those who are guilty of war crimes in Kosova in the past and put them on trial!

* Overthrow Milosevic but do not replace him with his erstwhile allies or the current allies of the Nato killers!

* For a government based on action councils of workers, peasants and soldiers!

* For an international workers' campaign to force the imperialist powers to finance the rebuilding of Serbia and Kosova without any conditions.

* No delays in financing Serbia's reconstruction until Milosevic is removed. Put reconstruction funds into the hands of new democratically elected local councils and a Constituent Assembly!

* Down with the reactionary regimes in all Balkan countries who rob their people to enrich themselves and spread national hatred. For workers? and peasant revolutions in the whole of the Balkans. For a voluntary, socialist federation of all the Balkan peoples!

* Militant tactics and mass mobilisations can gain time for the working class in the coming months, but will not spontaneously create a leadership committed to such a revolutionary programme. It needs to be developed, understood, explained and propagated by a conscious nucleus of revolutionary activists. To build such a revolutionary organisation in Serbia (and in all other Balkan countries) is the highest priority today.

The last decade of war, ethnic cleansing and imperialist bombardment has made it more clear than ever that the future of the Balkans is bound up not only with the future of Europe, but of the whole world. It is equally true that the creation of a revolutionary party in the region has to be part of the building of the new, revolutionary international - that is the goal of the LRCI.