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Kosova and Genocide

I AM AMAZED at the sheer ignorance of some "self-styled" socialists such as Dave Richards ("Ethnic Oppression in Kosova", What Next? No.15) when it comes to the Balkans and Kosova in particular. He seems totally unaware of the fact that the attempted Serb genocide of the Albanian Kosovars was planned in meticulous detail well before the crisis which led to the NATO intervention.

Let the words of the Belgrade regime leadership speak for themselves. Here is deputy prime minister Vojslav Seselj, leader of the Serb Radical Party, addressing his party congress in October 1995: "The colonisation of Kosova and Metohija should be carried out quickly and conclusively. Through political propaganda, colonists could be portrayed as Serbs populating Serb land and it is all the same which part of the country they live in as long as they live in their own land. These Serbs should also be supplied with equipment and long-term loans so they can cultivate the land they are granted which would make them stay there. Most of the Croats from Janjeva and Letnica [two Kosova regions where some Croats lived and still do], guided by ethno-centrism, left for Croatia without any pressure whatsoever."

Seselj went on: "To broadcast special radio and TV programs in the Albanian language which would aim at eroding their patriarchal and tribal mentality by offering the most decadent values of the West, which can be easily adopted by primitive people. The Serb enclaves could be spared from such programs primarily." He also left no doubts about what the mass expulsion by the Serbs was designed to achieve: "In regard to revising ownership status a special law should be promulgated by which all Albanian-owned land and other wealth will be given back to Serbs and the Serb Orthodox Church in Kosova and Metohija." He concluded: "Conquering territories in this way is more efficient than ’planting’ individuals in Albanian communities, for it does not raise ownership issues. The first method provides far more security for colonists, while the second is a more lasting process."

The simple fact is that there was an attempted genocide. I myself met Albanian refugees who had fled for their lives before the start of the NATO military action. One group I met actually included a Jewish family from Pristina. Among them was an elderly man who had survived the SS Einsatzgruppen squads in the Baltic states in 1940 and had emigrated to the then Yugoslavia after the war. He had been protected by the mainly Muslim Albanian Kosovars from the Serb fascist paramilitaries (including those affiliated to the Serb Radical Party).

In common with too many others on the British left, Dave Richards objects to the way in which he believes the KLA exploited the sympathy of NATO. I believe they had every right to do so (as James Connolly had every right to seek German aid for the 1916 rising). Only those who stood with the Kosovars can expect to have any influence with the majority population in defending the democratic rights of the Serb and other minority communities now.

John Palmer

Trotskyism and Social Democracy

I AM REPLYING to the ongoing debate in the pages of your press on the subject of Lambertism and all things associated with it. It is clearly the case that a discussion is needed.

Back in 1988 the PCI published a long piece on the state of French politics in the FI/ICR journal International Tribune. The article attacked the political line of the LCR, the USec’s French section, of the main opposition in the LCR and of several ex-members like Julien Dray, then an aspiring parliamentarian. This was followed by a debate between the leaders of the FI/ICR and the Filoche tendency in the LCR.

The LCR was then already on the road to the "left of the left" as they themselves called it, chasing after the Communist renovateurs and refounders, looking for alliances with the likes of Pierre Juquin in order to build a new party. Filoche and Matthieu criticised this course, and many in the ISG/Socialist Outlook, the British section of the USec, agreed with them. The leaders of the ISG, Hudson and Clarke, denounced their French comrade, LCR leader Krivine, both internally and less overtly in public. They argued, internally, that the USec majority was hell bent on self-destruction.

In an article published in the January 1989 issue of International Tribune, Filoche and Matthieu also argued against the PCI, making much ado about the nature of the French Socialist Party and why the PCI were wrong to leave it and abandon their previously held conceptions on the united front, which, Filoche pointed out, the PCI and his tendency had been the only French currents to agree on.

For their part, the editors of International Tribune defended their line of standing for the presidency and building a new workers’ party – sound familiar, does it? Since then the PCI has attempted to systematically build a workers’ party to the left of the Socialist Party, just as the left groups in this country seek to do now.

My point is to illustrate to comrades how even in France, where the political culture of the working class and the students is much higher than here, it is a course that has taken many years to bear any fruit at all – and even then only to the point of five MEPs elected on the LO/LCR slate in 1999 and a few councillors. The most successful leftists remain those like Dray and others who are now members of the French parliament through organising themselves as a tendency within the French Socialist Party, though this has been characterised by an adaptation to reformism.

Filoche ended up authoring a book entitled The Buglers of Maastricht in which he defended the capitalist European Union. It split his tendency in two, half staying in the LCR around Matthieu and half following him out into the Socialist Party, where along with Dray’s Questions Socialistes current they helped to establish the Gauche Socialiste. Filoche now edits their journal Democratie et Socialisme, and sits on an editorial board that includes Dray, Harlem Desir (founder of SOS Racisme), former Lambertist turned government minister Jean-Luc Melanchon, former LCR youth leader Alexis Corbiere, Marie-Noelle Lienemann (another minister in Jospin’s cabinet) and many other notables from the Trotskysant milieu.

My suggestion is that comrades should heed the lessons. They should not turn their backs on the Labour Party but fight to preserve its cadres. The link with the trade unions is what which gives the party its class character, and the struggle goes on to preserve this link. However, while building a left current within the Labour Party, comrades should beware that to follow the Drays of this world leads to adaptation to social democracy.

We also need to keep our eyes on the fact that the left has come together for the first time in thirty years or more to form the London Socialist Alliance. Even though it remains an electoral front, and nothing more as yet, that is an important step, showing that comrades can collaborate in a meaningful manner in spite of the disparity of size and so on.

These first signs of unity are not to be sneezed at, and as Blair implements his policies of eroding the union link and implementing proportional representation things will change. There will be a need to stand candidates against the Labour Party where it becomes viable and have comrades working inside and outside. This is the same tactic that Leon Trotsky advised us to adopt in the 1930s anyway, and comrades cannot go on reciting the mantra of total entry as if this is the key to building the party of 10,000-plus. In this respect those like Ted Grant and Socialist Appeal are very wrong!

There is no right time to split from the Labour Party and no wrong time. We live in an imperfect world. Comrades should think about working both in and out of the Labour Party along with the rest of the far left. This is the basis on which effective unity can be built.

Henry Balfour

Coltrane and the Jazz Revolution

ALTHOUGH Jim Stuart ("The Jazz Revolution and Frank Kofsky", What Next? No.15) adopts a rather polemical tone in his reply to my review of Frank Kofsky’s book John Coltrane and the Jazz Revolution of the 1960s in issue No.14, I don’t necessarily disagree with much of what he says.

To describe progressive rock as the "main influence" on the jazz fusion movement, as I did, was indeed an oversimplification, and I would share Jim’s view of how the musical potential of that movement was destroyed by commercial pressures. Nor would I seek to detract from Kofsky’s good intentions in defending the music and radical politics of African Americans.

On the other hand, I do think that the extreme free form character of Coltrane’s late period music did raise the problem of where to go from there. Nor is it entirely true, as Jim claims, that we have no idea what path Coltrane would have taken if it hadn’t been for his premature death in 1967. The subsequent albums issued by his widow Alice presumably give us some indication of the direction they were heading in, and I don’t think that the musically plodding mysticism of these records provided a solution to the problem.

I also stand by my criticisms of Kofsky’s reductionist approach. His statements formally rejecting too exact an equation between politics and music were obviously intended to deflect such criticisms and did not prevent him from presenting precisely such a crude equation throughout his book.

Robert Wilkins