The Kosovo Question: Some Radical Perspectives
The Kosovo Question: Some Radical Perspectives
Andrej Grubacic (The Multi-Ethnic Dream of Kosovo Znet June 11, 2004) provides an interesting perspective on the apparently intractable question of Kosovo. What is his perspective and how should we evaluate it?
Andrej offers a self-avowedly â€œutopian program of transformationâ€ based on grassroots movements agitating around common social issues that foster cross-ethnic â€œorganic solidarityâ€ as a counter to inter-ethnic conflict, leading to a â€œparticipatory societyâ€ from below as the ultimate answer to â€œthe separation of Albanian and non-Albanian populationsâ€. In this way, Andrej argues, ethno-nationalism will retreat in Kosovo and we will, at last, be able to transcend the bloody and divisive logic of â€œnew ethnic border linesâ€.
This sweeping vision is indeed a captivating ideal to which every radical should aspire, and be inspired by, as the ultimate answer to the social question in the Balkans, as elsewhere. But it is nevertheless the case that ideals, however captivating, too often fail to guide us adequately or sufficiently when, as radicals, we are faced with the pressing need to provide concrete answers to concrete questions, such as those raised by the national question in Kosovo. This is arguably the central weakness of Andrejâ€™s perspective.
The national question in Kosovo, like all national questions, is a pre-eminently political question. Of course, it is inextricably intertwined with deeper economic and social issues which need to be addressed and ultimately resolved. But the most concrete, the most immediate and the most pressing expression of any national question is invariably to be found on the level of politics, and so it is also on this level that we have to provide answers.
It is precisely here that Andrejâ€™s â€œutopianâ€ perspective proves unsatisfactory; indeed, it would be more accurate to say that, by socialising the national question, his perspective represents an avoidance of politics and thus an avoidance of the national question in its proper sense. To offer a captivating social ideal as the answer to a pressing political problem is akin to drivers whose eyes are so intently fixed on the horizon that they cannot adequately negotiate the immediate obstacles that lie in their path.
It is these immediate obstacles that a radical politics has to negotiate when it comes to the question of Kosovo. There are not a few that need negotiating. Should we oppose or support Kosovoâ€™s right to self-determination, the right to form an independent state in its current borders? Should we oppose or support the UN regime that the
There are two other perspectives radicals have offered on Kosovo which are also worth examining.
The Balkan Federation Idea
The first is one often proposed by much of what Andrej himself calls the â€œold leftâ€ in the former
Like Andrejâ€™s perspective, this too is a captivating ideal to which every radical should aspire, and be inspired by, as the ultimate answer to the national question in the Balkans. But it is also unsatisfactory because, while it is certainly an attempt to address the national question on the level of politics, it provides an abstract answer rather than a concrete one to the central political issue that needs addressing: the right of Kosovo to self-determination, to its own independent state.
Instead, this perspective is too often presented in the form of at best a tacit avoidance of that central issue â€“ a Balkan federation is the best answer to the Kosovo question â€“ or at worst in the form of an explicit rejection of it â€“ no to another statelet in the Balkans, yes to a Balkan federation. Such an overriding emphasis on the idea of a Balkan federation at a time when the dominant political trend is still in the direction of independent statehood is unlikely to have the kind of daily political purchase on individuals and movements radicals should seek.
Yet, in other ways, the Balkan federation idea certainly has the potential to offer answers to the other pressing political questions that come up â€“ no to UN colonial rule in Kosovo, no to Serbiaâ€™s claims to Kosovo, no to partition. Nevertheless, all these answers are in the end fatally vitiated by the failure to answer concretely and directly the one central question that currently dominates any political discussion of the Kosovo question: the right to self-determination.
Chomsky and Partition
The other answer to the Kosovo question that has emerged from a radical source is that of territorial partition, to which Noam Chomsky, in an interview last year with Radio Television Serbia, has given his support (On the Nato Bombing of Yugoslavia RTS Online, April 25, 2006, published in Serbiaâ€™s leading newspaper Politika 7 and 8 May 2006). Chomsky stated:
â€œMy feeling has been for a long time that the only realistic solution is one that in fact was offered by the President of Serbia I think back round 1993 [Chomsky is referring to the proposal of former Serbian President of Yugoslavia, Dobrica Cosic], namely some kind of partition, with the Serbian, by now very few Serbs left, but what were the Serbian areas being part of Serbia and the rest be what they called "independent" which means it'll join Albania.â€
While Chomskyâ€™s view certainly has the virtue of providing a concrete answer on the level of politics, it is nevertheless highly questionable whether it represents an adequately radical solution to the Kosovo question. There are two main reasons why this is so.
Firstly, Chomsky proposes by partition precisely what Andrej opposes - the drawing of yet another set of ethnic border lines in the Balkans. The consequences of doing so are not difficult to envisage. Even if partition were limited to
Secondly, and no less importantly, the inter-ethnic strife between Albanians and Serbs that is likely to intensify in the course of the partition process would very likely derail the most positive and significant political development in Kosovo since the 1999 war â€“ the recent emergence of a Kosovan anti-colonial movement.
The Kosovan Anti-Colonial Movement
On 10 February this year, a 3,000 strong mass demonstration in Pristina, Kosovoâ€™s capital, demanding immediate independence from Serbia and an end to UN rule of the province, was dispersed by UN and Kosovan police using tear gas and rubber bullets. Two demonstrators were shot dead and 82 received hospital treatment. That evening, the premises of the Movement for Self-Determination (MSD), which organised the demonstration, were raided, and its leader, 31 year old Albin Kurti, was arrested. A further demonstration on 3 March demanded Kurtiâ€™s immediate release but, at the time of writing, he continues to languish in prison.
MSDâ€™s opposition to UN rule marks nothing less than the birth of a Kosovan anti-colonial movement. Its activists, regularly arrested and harassed by the authorities, condemn the UN for being an â€œabsolute rulerâ€ whose â€œcolonial occupationâ€, based on â€œforce not justiceâ€, prides itself â€œon being here to build democracy [but] is itself completely undemocraticâ€. They lambast the UN for not even ending Kosovoâ€™s drastic electricity shortages seven years after the 1999 war. Moreover, UN rule has been conspicuously unable with its privatising neo-liberal programmes to alleviate Kosovoâ€™s desperate levels of poverty, or to resolve Albanian-Serb hostilities with its notoriously top-down approach to this critical issue.
At the same time, despite its uncompromising demand for independence from
MSD has also led opposition to the new Kosovo Peace Plan, the immediate cause of the Pristina demonstration, which the UNâ€™s envoy, Marti Ahtisaari, announced in February. Proposing that Kosovo should have the right to join the UN and its own flag and anthem, he stopped short of calling for independence. Instead, he offered rule by an EU governor, supported by an EU-led police force and Nato troops. Unmik becomes Eumik, Kosovo remains a colony, and nothing changes. The refusal to call for independence was motivated by one overriding geopolitical fear â€“ that an alienated
MSDâ€™s appearance therefore marks a shift in Kosovan politics from a destructive focus on Albanian-Serb hostilities to a focus on the struggle against the autocratic neo-colonial power the UN currently wields over Kosovo. It is not difficult to see that partition, and all it would entail, would derail this movement because it would bring back the focus on Albanian-Serb hostilities that MSD has been assiduously shifting in an anti-colonial direction.
Some Concrete Radical Perspectives
It is therefore important that radicals today support Kosovoâ€™s right to self-determination, to an independent state within its current borders. This is neither a distant dream nor an abstract solution; on the contrary, it is politically concrete, but it is also radical not least because the demand for Kosovan independence today is assuming an anti-colonial character as the struggle to free Kosovo from autocratic UN or EU rule begins to gather steam.
It is through such concrete political acts of internationalism by Serbs who support Kosovan Albanian national rights that agitation around social issues of common interest which Andrej points to, such as opposition to neo-liberal privatisation, can fruitfully begin. In this way too, it is possible to begin to build the kind of basic political trust between Serbs and Albanians that will make the idea of a Balkan federation a more feasible topic for mutual discussion.
One thing is certain, however: it is only by first giving concrete political support to Kosovoâ€™s right of self-determination that left radicals in