The Guardian March 15, 2000


A confident Yugoslavia

Rob Gowland, member of the Central Committee of the CPA and a 
Guardian staff member attended the Fourth Congress of the Socialist 
Party of Serbia (SPS) as the representative of the CPA. The Congress took 
place in Belgrade on Feb 17. Here is the first of two articles on his 
experiences.

The Congress had two main items of business: the economic reconstruction 
and reform, and opposition to the New World Order being imposed everywhere 
by the USA. Yugoslavia's refusal to docilely accept the diktat of 
Washington resulted in the country being bombed for 78 days. Yet it was a 
defiant Socialist Party that met in the huge conference centre attached to 
Belgrade's Intercontinental Hotel.

The SPS, the ruling party of Serbia and Yugoslavia, has 630,000 members 
organised on a locality basis. It seeks to recruit still more members by 
encouraging the establishment of interest-based associations of members, 
which they are convinced "can provide for the accession of a large number 
of members to our party and their better involvement in party life and 
work".

There were 2,500 delegates at the Congress as well as between 90 and 100 
delegations from foreign parties, including the Communist Party of 
Australia. The foreign delegations included some 35 other communist or 
workers' parties, as well as socialist, social democratic and Green parties 
and organisations like the ANC, ZANU (from Zimbabwe), MPLA (Angola), PLO 
(Palestine), FMLN (El Salvador), FRELIMO (Mozambique), NDC (Ghana), NRM 
(Uganda), KANU (Kenya), the Sandinistas (Nicaragua) and the General 
People's Congress of Libya.

The one-day Congress was the culmination of a process during which the main 
documents had been discussed and amended. At the actual Congress, the 
delegates from the floor who spoke were all regional representatives who 
reported on their district.

The splendidly-presented Congress hall had a low two-tiered stage on which 
was a double row presidium  the front row comprised eight men and seven 
women, the back row had 11 men and four women. They were flanked by 
impressive phalanxes of Serbian and Yugoslav flags and the SPS logo.

Behind the presidium was a giant video screen (made up of squares as at a 
football match). Each delegate speaking was simultaneously displayed on the 
left half of the giant screen, while a montage of scenes from the district 
he or she represented was screened on the right hand side. A lot of thought 
and effort had gone into the occasion.

The district reports were often critical (we need such and such in our 
district, we have been left out of this that or the other) but they were 
always positive, confident that their various needs would be met in due 
course.

More united

The reports brought out strongly the multi-ethnic character of the country 
(the delegate from Srem noting that there were 16 ethnic groups in his 
district). They also brought out the fact that NATO has succeeded in making 
them more united than they have been in decades.

As well as Serbs and Montenegrins, there were reports from ethnic 
Romanians, Hungarians and Albanians. Particularly poignant were the 
contributions from Kosovo SPS members who are working under blatant 
terrorism, with the KLA now installed as the "police" and the UN force 
standing by while the Albanian terrorists and thugs carry out their ethnic 
cleansing of the region.

The speakers focussed their anger directly on the US as the ringleader, not 
bothering with secondary bodies like NATO or the EU (one speaker refered to 
"the 19 developed countries that attacked us").

A disconcerting feature of the Congress at first was the extravagant praise 
lavished on President Slobodan Milosovic. He was mentioned in virtually 
every contribution, and every time his name was mentioned the hall 
applauded.

One district delegate, who mentioned Milosovic four times, said Yugoslavia 
had one great advantage over the US: "We have President Slobodan Milosovic" 
(applause).

When Milosovic entered the hall everyone stood and clapped. This regard is 
not sycophantic  certainly within the SPS it is a mixture of admiration, 
affection and pride.

Despite the best efforts of imperialism, his political leadership succeeded 
in keeping Serbia out of the civil wars that have embroiled the other parts 
of the old Yugoslavia.

His position in the country has been inestimably strengthened by his 
leadership during the NATO air war last year. No wonder NATO tried to kill 
him with a missile attack on one of his residences, and launched another 
missile attack on a building being visited by his wife, killing one of her 
entourage.

Milosovic

In his closing speech at the Congress, President Milosovic said that 
development in Yugoslavia since 1994 showed an upward curve despite the 
most precarious conditions. In 1997, after the lifting of most of the US-
inspired sanctions over the war in Bosnia and the easing of Serbia's need 
to support the Serbs outside Serbia, "construction and creative activities 
were in the ascendant" and trade was restored with Serbia's former 
partners.

These positive results, he said, did not "fit into the picture of the fate 
assigned to this part of the world.

"That picture envisaged a disintegrated society, a degraded state, puppet 
government, and disoriented people accepting the rule of a single 
government over the whole world and even being happy to serve that 
government.

"The bill (for refusing to accept this neo-colonial status) came a year 
later. The repression of more than a million innocent Albanians by Serb 
chauvinists and terrorists was concocted. The genocide against Albanians 
was invented as a pretext for genocide against the only disobedient 
European people."

In discussing the ramifications of the air war launched against Serbia on 
the pretext of the alleged genocide in Kosovo, Milosovic said: "The 
textbook on fascism is not completed yet. The most convincing pages are yet 
to be written on the experience of exterminating the Serbs.

New fascism

"The erstwhile pogroms of Jews, communists, Slavs and Gypsies required a 
wide territory for their operation. ... It required a lot of arms, armies 
and time. In 1999, new fascism focused on little Serbia, with a tendency of 
singling out several streets with maternity hospitals.

"Has anyone in the world failed to understand that message? I doubt it. 
That is why I believe in rebellion, resistance, protest.

"Because that message is not addressed only to one people that it will be 
exterminated if it disobeys. The message is universal and it is addressed 
to all those who have the courage to rebel, to think differently, to live 
as they themselves choose, to believe that every nation in the world is 
equally worthy and important and that all have the same right to freedom 
and development."

Milosovic called on all parties in Yugoslavia, including the parties of the 
right, to join in the government "on the basis of patriotism and resistance 
to evil" to defend the country from a colonial status, where the armies of 
another country will march in and Yugoslavia's culture will be destroyed.

Profiteers and criminals

He castigated the so-called opposition (as I was flying home opposition 
leaders were being feted in Croatia by Madeleine Albright): "We in 
Yugoslavia don't have an opposition", he said. "We have a group of 
profiteers and criminals using money from abroad and offering to bend their 
knee and their back to those same foreign interests."

Like the Serbian janissaries, (who served the Ottoman empire in the 18th 
century), he said, these "present day janissaries hurried to kiss the hand 
of the aggressors who had just attacked their homeland".

The Western media made a big splash of opposition demonstrations when the 
bombing stopped, with large crowds calling for the ousting of Milosovic and 
the SPS.

The leaders of the New Communist Party of Yugoslavia (NCPY) told me that 
these demonstrations were similar in make up to those organised against 
Allende in Chile: the bulk of the demonstrators were lumpen proletarian 
youths, disoriented students, and people people who were paid to be there.

When Milosovic's government did not become destabilised, and when the 
public showed their hostility to the demonstrators ("no one likes 
quislings" said the NCPY), they faded away. But they have access to large 
amounts of money and powerful friends, so they will probably be back.

The Congress adopted a major document on the economic revival of the 
country, entailing a shift towards more market orientated policies. Because 
of the wars and sanctions, Serbia has had a net capital outflow for the 
last 12 years.

Assistance to develop small to medium enterprises will be stepped up. Loss-
making enterprises cannot be supported and will have to be assisted to 
become profitable or close.

Well-being

Ambitious plans were endorsed to improve the economic well being of the 
workers and peasants and all the people of Yugoslavia.

The Congress was favourably assessed by all the representatives of 
fraternal parties that I spoke to, especially the emphasis on the need for 
a united response to the USA's New World Order. Either we work together to 
oppose imperialism or it will roll right over us, was a widely expressed 
opinion.

* * *
Next week: The story of Yugoslavia's reconstruction after the bombing.

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