Self-determination for Kosovo?

Louis' post on this is excellent.

It is a rather sad indictment of so much contemporary Trotskyism that questions such as self-determination have been ripped out of their actual historical context, turned into a fetish-slogan and raised up to timeless principles.

In the case of Yugoslavia, the formation of that country was surely a great step forward for its people. It gave them the opportunity to actually break out of being dominated by foreign powers who had long controlled the Balkans and opened up the path to some greater level of socio-economic development.

What is curious about the infatuation with self-determination in Yugoslavia is that it is divorced from any real materialist analysis of what is going on there and from any really anti-imperialist politics. Breaking up Yugoslavia simply puts the various new states under the hegemony of some imperialist power, instead of rule from Belgrade. It is difficult to see how this can be considered any advance over the pre-1990 situation.

Moreover the division of Yugoslavia has been largely economically driven. The restoration of the market meant, among other things, that the wealthier areas of the country wanted to opt out of subsidizing the poorer areas. So Slovenia and Croatia raised the slogan of 'self-determination' for themselves. Their 'self-determination' was about defending privilege. They could hardly said to be terribly oppressed within the old Yugoslav federal state.

How should Marxists respond? I would be more inclined to give the same response that Abraham Lincoln gave to Jefferson Davis and the southern slaveowners in 1861! (OK, I'm aware that this isn't a great analogy as we are dealing with a different time etc, but you know what I mean!)

The great powers have been up to their eyeballs in political and diplomatic manoeuvring in the area over the past decade. Germany, for example, was very interested in Slovenia and Croatia becoming independent as this was a way of incorporating them into an expanding German imperialist sphere after the implosion of the Stalinist states in eastern Europe. Germany is also keen to whitewash the activities of the Croatian fascists in WW2.

What is going on in Yugoslavia seems to me to be a very bogus kind of 'self-determination'. Surely one of the advantages of Marxism is that it gives us the tools to look below the surface appearances and analyse the real forces at work. I would think we should be very wary indeed about 'self-determination' in the Yugoslav context.

When the self-determination of people all over the world is being denied by a rampant imperialism (Haiti, Iraq, Somalia, NATO's attacks on Yugoslavia, western troops in Rwanda, etc etc etc), I would have thought Marxists and other anti-imperialists would have quite enough to contend with without supporting bogus market-oriented and imperialist-orchestrated attempts to smash up the Yugoslav federal state.

Philip Ferguson


Wilson'