ON MACEDONIA - PT. 1

curtis price (cansv@igc.apc.org)
Tue, 23 Jan 1996 00:25:30 +0000


THE MACEDONIAN QUESTION AND THE RECENT WAR IN YUGOSLAVIA IN
HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

TEXT BY: TPTG, POB 76149, NEA SMIRNI 17110, ATHENS, GREECE
POSTED BY : COLLECTIVE ACTION NOTES, BALTIMORE, USA

LET US KNOW IF THIS DID NOT GO THROUGH PROPERLY!
CANSV@IGC.APC.ORG

What is everywhere and almost on a daily basis proved is that the
propaganda of the ruling class is not relied solely upon the hired bands of lackeys (media scum and academics), but it is also proppe
d up by the confusing ideologies of their self declared enemies. The
rulers' power lies in their skill in stuffing their slaves with words to the point of making them the slaves of their words, Vanei
gem once said. And he was right.

During the last year there was much political debate between
Greekand (Slav) Macedonian bureaucracies upon the name, the constitution and the symbols of the new Macedonian state. Two large nationali
st demonstrations were held by the major political parties in Greece
in order to put pressure on EEC bureaucracy to stop backing our neighboring nation-state's claims on the name "Macedonian". The fi
rst one took place in February 92 in Thessaloniki and the second one
in Athens last December. Over one million people took part in them (that is one in ten Greeks) and apart from the Trotskyists and
some other Leninists whoopposed the demonstrations, agitating for
"the right of (Slav) Macedonia to self-determination" - a bourgeois statist concept derived from Lenin, which cost them harsh persecu
tions on the part of the Law- few "anti-authoritarian" groups managed
to confront nationalist propaganda,at least on theoretical terms. The majority of the so-called anti-authoritarians and anarchist
s, never having inquired seriously into thecomplex concrete
interconnection between representative democracy, nation-state, army and wage system, found themselves agitating for anti-militarist and, s
imultaneously, pro-nationalist ideas! The reason of this confused
state of mind is to be found in the fact that people -"anti-authoritarians" being no exception to this- have constantly determined th
emselves and arranged their relationships in line with the ruling
ideas of their epoch; ideas of God, of normality, of nationality,etc. To paraphrase Marx and Gabel, the nationalist ideology,which is
an ideology of the ruling class, tends to build on people's false
consciousness of their actual life-process a pseudo-history, which instead of explaining,e.g. the "Greeks" through history,claims to
explain history through the "Greeks". The nationalist
pseudo-historical method consists of theoretical crystallizations that rest on the continuous repetition of familiar, fixed signs and on the rem
embrance of historical events interpreted metaphysically. We need to
debunk this ideology whose starting point is a certain form of consciousness taken as a living individual.

HISTORY AS A NIGHTMARE

According to the nationalist ideology there are no autochthonous
minority ethnic groups in Greece. Whenever one indignantly points them out,this is what the lackeys answer back: "Real Greeks, who so
meone,somehow,sometime converted them to another religion or language
or just peasants who are behind the times, not yet completely integrated into civilisation". One of these "non-existant" ethnic g
roups are the Slav-Macedonians living-or, according to the
bureaucrats, supposed tolive in nothern Greece. Their politically correct name is "bilingual Greeks". According to official historiography t
hey were among those fighters that liberated Macedonia -this "sacred
place of Hellenism for over 3000 years"- from the domination of Turks and Bulgarians. Contrary to what is generally believed, inve
nting myths is an expensive hobby and some people, whether they like
it or not, will have to foot the bill. Slav-Macedonians became "our compatriots" by anything but peaceful means. Even Evangelos Ko
fos, a representative of the Greek state's foreign policy, admitted
during the sixties, that the dictatorial government in1936, for one, had adopted a policy of forced assimilation:"In a series of ad
ministrative measures, the Slavophones were forbidden to speak their
Slavonic dialect in public,and deportations to the islands assumed a non-discriminatory character"(1). Those "Slavophone" peasants
calledthemselves Makedontsi, a word with a rather regional than
national connotation. Ethnologically speaking, they are kin to the Slav-speakers of the former Yugoslav Macedonia.

Before being turned into a battleground for competing nationalist
scum, Macedonia was just a geographical entity, part of the Ottoman Empire.This ethnologically mixed region,which included Kosovo (s
ee map 1),was mainly inhabited by Turkish and Albanian Muslims and
Orthodox Slavs,Greeks and Vlachs. According to Hilmi Pasha's census (1904) the Orthodox Greek-speakers of Macedonia constituted 10%
of the entire population,while in Aegean Macedonia, which nowadays is
part of the Greek state, 30% of the population were Greek-speakers, 30% Slav-speakars, 30% Muslims and 10% Vlachs, Jews, Gypsies
and others (2). It's obvious that prior to the nationalist wars for
Macedonia in the early 20thC, the identity of the inhabitants was determined by religion, and to a lesser degree, language.

The ecclesiastical dispute that broke out in the 1860s between the
Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Bulgarian Exarchate was soon transformed into a nationalist confrontation between
Greeks and Bulgarians. On the one hand, Greek nationalists, fearing
that the neutral attitude of the Ecumenical Patriarchate towards nationalist disputes could not serve their goals, sought toHellen
ize the institution of the Church in Macedonia. On the other hand,by
the early 1890s a narodnik group, known as IMRO(Internal MacedonianRevolutionary Organization), advocating a peasant uprising agai
nst Ottoman administrators and landowners, was founded by
Slav-speaking democrat federalist intellectuals. According to the Articles, the aims of the organization were to "gather into one entity all
discontented elements in Macedonia and the area of the Aegean,
regardless of nationality, in order to achieve, by means of revolution, complete political autonomy for these areas" (3). From the very
beginning, IMROcame into direct opposition to the Bulgarian Church
and the most chauvinist Bulgarians in Sofia who tried to bring them under their own control.

After the Ilinden peasant uprising organized by the Slav
revolutionaries in 1903 (4), the Greek state reacted to a possible escalation of the Slav-Macedonian uprising and the Bulgarian propaganda.Th
ey formed numerous armed gangs and sent them to Macedonia where they
co-operated with the Turkish army and the great landowners against the Bulgarian and Slav-Macedonian bands as well as the poor pea
sants who were mostly indifferent in nationalist disputes. During the
"MacedonianStrugglett (1904-1908), the Bulgarian and the Greek gangs tried toHellenize or Bulgarize the Christian population viol
ently. According toKofos, "terrorism in Macedonia was the culmination
of a quarter of century of conflicting nationalist propagandas in a region whose peoples had, more or less, no formulated nationa
l consciousness, but were guided by the expediency of the moment and
the instinct for self-preservationt.(5)

We know from the memoirs of the fighters of the "Macedonian
Struggle" that a certain faction of the Patriarchal clergy contributed largely to the nationalist struggles. Under duress or under threat
of ecclesiastical anathema, the Slav population of Macedonia was
changing from "Bulgarian"to "Greek" from one day to the next. Greek nationalist ideology found itself in more favourable conditions, s
ince a large section of the Christian peasant population of
Macedonia, especially in the central and southern areas, were loyal to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, a religious institution of the Byzantin
e and the Ottoman Empires, which, although a supranational
organization, was under the control of a Greek-speaking hierarchy and had never ceased to be a vehicle of the Greek language, which was the
official language whereby Christian ideology had been spread through
the centuries.

Nationalist use of Christianity in Europe. It's always the same old
story! "All the members of the clergy", Mirabeau declared in theAssembly in August 1789, "are merely officials of the state. The s
ervice of the clergy is a public function; just as the official and
the soldier, so also the priest, is a servantof the nation". Rudolf Rocker was right in regarding national consciousness and nation
al citizenship as a political confession of faith. "National states",
he wrote in 1933, "are political church organizations; the so-called national consciousness is not born in man,but trained into h
im. It is a religious concept; one is a German, a Frenchman, an
Italian, just as one is a Catholic, a Protestant, or a Jew" (6).

"When the great war comes, Macedonia will become Greek or Bulgarian
according to who the winner is. If it is occupied by Bulgarians, they will render the population into Slavs. If we occupy it, we wi
ll Hellenize them all till Eastern Rumelia".
Harilaos Trikoupis, Prime Minister of Greece, at several times
between 1875 and 1893.

The fate of Macedonia was decided during the Balkan Wars
(1912-13),when the concerted efforts of the Greek, Serbian and Bulgarian armies managed to end Ottoman rule in the European provinces of the
Empire.Since there were no beforehand negotiations concerning the
drawing of the lines of their future territorial settlement in Macedonia, the three powers were determined to grab as much territory
as they could and embrace any opportunities resulting from the
military or diplomatic situation. By the end of the wars Serbia and Greece had hit the jackpot in Macedonia, since Bulgaria had paid mor
e attention to the Thracian Front where it beat Turkish army almost
completely, a fact that turned the great European powers against it.

After a series of treaties from 1913 to 1920, Bulgaria annexed 10%
of the Macedonian territory, while Serbia and Greece annexed 38% and 52% respectively. The Greek state not only had the lion's shar
e occupying rural territories where no Greek-speaking population
could be found but it also succeeded in conquering the most advanced financial centres in Macedonia.

The compulsory exchange of the Greek-speaking and the Slav-speaking
population of eastern Macedonia between Greece and Bulgaria in 1920 as well as the dramatic transfer of a million, mostly Greek-sp
eaking,Christians from Turkey to Greece and 350.000 Muslims from
Macedonia toTurkey, under the treaty of Lausanne in 1923, marked the final stages in the national bureaucracies' efforts to organize e
thnic-linguistic and cultural homogeneity in their newly constructed
cages.

So the notorious Eastern Question ended: in blood and
tears...Thousands of Greeks, Turks and Slavs died in the refugee shanty towns away from their native lands. Nevertheless, every cloud has a silve
r lining! Those of the refugees and the soldiers who had survived the
wars, were given full citizenship and became small land holders or a cheap labor-force. Once the nation-states in the Balkans had
, in one way or another, been formed and the agrarian reforms and the
new labor markets had come into operation, one could have supposed that from then on capitalism would start functioning "peaceful
ly". However, this was not true, since nationalist ambitions and
lower classes' demands had in no way been satisfied. At least as far as Slav-Macedonians (or Croats) were concerned.

During the inter-war period, the Yugoslav governments (composed
mainly of Serb bureaucrats) renamed their part of Macedonia to Vardar Banovina and thousands of landless Serb peasants were transfered
to the region to assist in the assimilation of the native Slavs. The
official Serbo-Croat language became compulsory in schools and public life.

The situation was even worse in the part of Macedonia under Greek
occupation. The bulk of the Greek-speaking refugees were settled in Macedonia and this was a "national scheme" far more systematic t
han the previously mentioned Serbian one. It is of great importance
to note that, contrary to recent Greek nationalist propaganda, the Greek government of 1926 declared Slav-Macedonians a distinct et
hnic minority which could have schools in its own language. However,
since Bulgariansdemanded the use of the Bulgarian language and Serbs the Serbo-Croat one as the languge of those schools, Greek bu
reaucrats started treating this minority as non-existant and began
changing the names of the Slav inhabitants and their villages into Greek, forbidding, as we have already mentioned, any public use o
f their language and deporting or imprisoning hundreds of dissidents
-a campaign that lasted until the late 50s. Today this assimilation process has almost been completed.

In Bulgaria, things worked out in a different way. After the
BalkanWars, the lMRO militants took refuge in Bulgaria and were soon transformed into a political and financial racket supporting whomeve
r,from extreme right to the left, was willing to forward their
nationalist plans (7).

NATIONALISM AND LENINISM

In early twenties, after having crushed the proletarian revolution
in Russia, the Bolsheviks began employing the Comintern as the main organ of their foreign policy. In such "underdeveloped" countri
es as in the Balkans, where there was no significant and politically
organized workers' movement to be utilized, they favoured collaborations betweenthe "communist" parties and the nationalist, alleg
edly national liberation, movements. lMRO was one of these movements.
In 1924, the Bulgarian "communist" party entered into an alliance with IMRO in order to set the seizure of power in Bulgaria goin
g. In a few months the alliance had broken up but the leftist faction
of IMRO remained loyal to BCP's project of a Balkan federation that would include a "united and independent Macedonia" (8).

What is important in all these political manoeuvres is that from the
twenties onwards the Balkan Leninists had become a significant vehicle of nation-building projects in the area. In the forties, M
arshall Titers stalinist party, which had beat the Nazis and won the
Yugoslav civil war leading the anti-fascist struggle of the multi-ethnic peasantry, would re-interpret the federalist ideology of
the twenties. It created a federal state and recognized,
theoretically at least, to each of the "nations of Yugoslavia" the "right to self-determination, including the right to secession". Besides Sl
ovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, a "state
of the Macedonian people and the Albanian and Turkish minorities" was created. The YCP's initial objectives were to create a Maced
onian republic that would include Pirin (Bulgarian) Macedonia as well
as a part of Greek Macedonia and also form a South-Slav federation that would include Bulgaria and Albania under their hegemony.
Stalin's conflict with Tito in 1948 brought an end to such ambitious
plans. The Greek and Bulgarian stalinists sided with Coninform and Tito stopped supporting the Greek guerillas giving a fatal blow
to the stalinist-led rebellion in July 1949. 35.000 Slav-Macedonian
partisans were forced to emigrate from Greece and many of them took refuge in Yugoslav Macedonia (9).

CITIZENSHIP AND THE INCORPORATION OF THE PEASANTS AND THE WORKERS
INTO THE NATION-STATE
"Political emancipation is certainly a big step forward. It may not
be the last form of general human emancipation, but it is the last form of human emancipation within the present world order. Needl
ess to say, we are here speaking of real, practical
emancipation".Karl Marx, On the Jewish Question

The new Macedonian state, whose first premier was Dimitar Vlahov,
the old leader of the leftist faction of IMRO, was the political outcome of the anti-fascist and anti-imperialist struggle of its in
habitants against Nazi/Bulgarian occupation and Great Serb
chauvinism. It was on this basis,as well as on the material concessions to peasants that the Macedonian bureaucracy traced a route to nation
-building .The creation of the new nation was patterned on the
schemes concocted by all previous Balkan bureaucracies during the nineteenth and twentiethcenturies' social and political struggles. The
new state class declared themselves liberators of the people; turned
a regional name -Makedontsi-into national; transformed the Slav Macedonian idiom -on which theBulgarian language is based as well
- into a "pure" literary language; set up an autocephalous Macedonian
Orthodox Church; invented a unique Macedonian history and a distinct Macedonian tradition; proposed an unredeemist ideology of th
e "brothers who are still in bondage" and, here you are, a new nation
in the Balkans was born in the same way that the Greek, Serbian and Bulgarian imagined communities had been created.

The nationalization of the European peoples was the main political
and social consequence of the last two centuries' class struggles. These class struggles were mainly peasant struggles against the
landowners and the foreign conquerors and were given voice through
the nationalist-democratic ideology, the people's army and its leadership. They led up to the formation of the modern bureaucratic c
lass which was shaped bythe collaboration of old and new rulers
(politicians, democrat intellectuals, administrators, the military, eta). Their greatest preoccupation was to organize the nationalist
indoctrination of the younger generations, disintegrate the peasant
communities and the guilds and legitimize the civil society, which was already under formation, through law regulations; a society
where a person sacrifices her/himself to the abstract notion of the
citizen, i.e.the private individual, the mere member of the multitude. Thus the bureaucrats paved the way for the merchants, the in
dustrialists and the bankers, who themselves had taken part in the
social struggles, at least as financial supporters, and who managed to reorganize human work into "free" labor, i.e.wage labor, cutt
ing the communities into seperate households, adaptable to changes in
space and time and suitable for overt exploitation. The myth of the nation, enveloped in sentiments and memories of the "liberati
on" struggles, unites these separate parts. Equality in the heaven of
the nation-state's universality counteracts inequality in the earthly, real life. The state that poses as aguardian/representativ
e of an allegedly undifferentiated society is the universal power
that unifies the competitive private interests. The contradiction of the political nation-state lies in the fact that it unifies the
seperate parts through seperation, since it issimultaneously the
mediator that safeguards and guarantees the perpetuation of the private interests and the continuation of the dissociation of private
and public life (10). The internationalist proletarian movement of
the 19thC, the only social movement that could put an end to the extension of the nationalist-democratic ideology, because it was se
eking for real, practical emancipation beyond the present world order
(11), gradually degenerated after the promising period of the First International and the federative Commune of 1871,and split in
to national parliamentary "workers"' parties. Those parties
identified socialism with "nationalization of the means of production"as well as seizure of the political power and led the proletariat to
the leninist-stalinist tragedy. After World War II, the second
proletarian assault on class society, culminating in the struggles of the late sixties and strengthened by a large scale revolt of the m
iddle class youth of the "developed" capitalist countries, brought
the internationalist perspective to the fore again and provoked the western bureaucrats and capitalists to act accordingly. In the E
astern bloc things took a dramatic course. After the events in
Hungary in 1956, the stalinists could not impede the spreading of the class struggles, in other words they could not organize scarcity a
nd silence effectively anymore. The successive struggles and
especially those in Poland during the 70s and the 80s, exposed the counter-revolutionary nature of the non-market, industry-based variatio
n of the Oriental despotism of the Russian empire. Besides that, the
non-soviet empire as well as theYugoslav federation to some extent, were prison houses of nations and various ethnic groups. The e
astern proletariat being unable to act against the bureaucrats as a
class seeking for its self-suppression, stood against the emperor as if he was a mere conqueror, that is on a national basis, hence
they climbed the chariot of the nationalist-democratic ideology of
their leaders (Walesa,Yeltsin,Tudjman,Milosevic,...) (12).- Wherever these leaders -mostly former members of the disintegrated bure
aucracy and now ambitious "national heroes"- have been involved in
free-for-all wars, the proletariat at the worst of times has become cannon fodder and at the best mere defendersof their lives.

THE WAR OFFICERS TURN TO PEACE-MAKERS (AND VICEVERSA)

There are three methods of approach to the war in former Yugoslavia
that certainly lead to false considerations on the social and political situation there. The first and most popular of them is dom
inated by the humanitarian-pacifist beliefs and it assumes that the
war is simply the product of evil-minded politicians and thugs and rests its hope for a cease-fire on the military intervention of
the United Nations of Amerika. The second one is based on the
Leninist ideology and sees through the war a struggle of oppressed nations for "national independence". The third one holds that behind t
he so-called civil war, the various nationalist factions are serving
the divergent interests of the great western powers. It reminds us of the one-sided estimation of Rosa Luxemburg who, during the B
alkan Wars and the First World War, supported the view that "Serbia
itself is only a pawn in the great gameof world politics" (13). The first method and especially the last oneare the most absurd of
all since they bring out a police concept of history. The events in
Yugoslavia cannot be understood in terms of good or evil individual action neither can be explained as the result of an externalact
ion. As far as the Trotskyist illusions are concerned, the
"heroic"era of the so-called national liberation struggles has long passed. One has to turn one's attention to the history of class antagoni
sms in former Yugoslavia after World War II.

Wedged between Western capitalist and Stalinist regimes, theYugoslav
"communist" bureaucracy managed to survive thanks to its longstanding reconciliation with the proletariat and the peasantry (see
the law on workers' self-management in 1950 and the redistribution of
land after the war). The reconciliation drew to an end in the sixties when the disputes between the centralists, the local state
officials and the enterprise managers over matters of development
policy led to the1965 liberal economic reform. According to Neil Fernandez, the liberal-conservative strife was "a confrontation betw
een on the one hand rulers who stressed a degree of Croat and Slovene
independence along with economic efficiency, and on the other hand those who were concerned with the preservation of the machiner
y of centrally directed investment, the all-round development of the
national capital, and the pre-eminence of Belgrade and the largely Serb administrative apparatus" (14). So, the reforms not only l
egitimized capitalism in Yugoslavia by decentralizing investment
policy, reducing wages and jobs (esp. in the so-called"political" factories) and liberalizing foreign trade; they also revealed that t
he economic and political conflicting interests were rapidly being
transformed into North-South nationalist confrontations.

The failure of the internationalist radical wing of the Belgrade
student movement in 1968 to unite themselves with workers fighting against wage-freezes and income inequality (15) -and vice versa- an
d thus put forward continuous autonomous struggles for a truly
self-managed society, was followed by large-scale demonstrations in Pristina in November 1968 calling for Kosovo's autonomy and, most re
markably, nationalist demonstrations in Croatia in 1971-2 that led
eventually to the establishment of a new constitution in 1974. Theconstitution turned Kosovo and Vojvodina into autonomous provinces
and made Yugoslavia a confederation of semi-sovereign states with
independent economic policy, their own police force and the right to put a veto on any new federal laws.

The League of "communist" bureaucrats tried to preserve their
central unifying role as "representatives of the workers" by reinforcing the only two all-Yugoslav institutions, i.e.the army and the so
-called workers' self-management. In the following years, both
attempts to militarize social relations to some extent and cast the "workers' councils" for the part of a reformist political party in t
he Yugoslavery comedy failed completely. By the mid '80s the
technocratic leadership cadres and the local bureaucrats had prevailed over the centralist ideologues. The Yugoslav "People's" Army could
not offer a bond to hold the country together because it was the
armed hand of the Party and as long as the Party was rapidly disintegrating it merely became the armed hand of the most powerful natio
nalist faction in the Party: the "Great Serb" nationalists.

The Belgrade intellectuals' petition of January 1986 to the
authorities to act against the alleged "genocide" of the Serb minority in Kosovo, was the kick-off for the regeneration of Serb nationalis
m. The constitutional changes and the Serb military rule which
incorporated Kosovo into the body of the Serbian state, gradually prompted the rest of the local bureaucracies to start moving towards t
otal independence. But the very root of the nationalist resurgence is
to be found in the class struggles of the second half of the eighties.

During 1986-9 the federal government, by general consent of every
local leaderip, tried to totally integrate the Yugoslav economy into the restructuring world cappitalism. Their first move, in Febru
ary 1987, under the guidelines of IMF -their main foreign creditor-
was to cut wages and increase unemployment and was soon followed, in 1988-9, by the change of the legal framework of the capitalist
relationship: abolition of pseudo-self-management, liberalization of
the labour market, decentralization of the banking system, etc. The strike wave that broke out in early 1987 against the bureaucr
ats, the trade unions and the workerist cadres in the mines and the
factories of Croatia and Serbia was astonishing and the government threatened to send troops and tanks against the workers. The str
uggle continued without a break: 1623 strikes and 365000 strikers in
1987;1360 strikes in the first 9 months in 1988. Among the demands was the100% increase in wages! The local bureaucracieswere obli
ged to play their last card: nationalist ideology.

Nationalism that had already been used in previous decades to
regiment social contradictions by convincing workers in one republic that their poverty is due to the inefficiency of the workers and th
e leaders in the other republic, reached in the late 80s its
explosive point. Social control could no longer be exerted by discredited "socialist" ideologues. A renewed legitimation of bureaucracy an
d capitalism could only be achieved through the creation of
nation-states which would manage to divide, police and recompose the proletariat on the basis of a new reconeiliation between state and civ
il society. The leaders clearly saw that in order to maintain and
extend their power they had to create new social cages by inventing a new form of citizenship, a new type of "general interest".By 19
89 the mass demonstrations had already become nationalist parades.
Things were on the right way... And they still are...(16)

War-making against real or factitious "external enemies" is part and
parcel of nation-state making. The members of the western ruling class are well aware of this, the nationalization of peoples in
their states having been completed long ago. Professor John
Mirshimer, for example, wrote in New York Times, two months ago, that the creation of homogeneous states in former Yugoslavia calls for the
mapping out of new borders and the transfer of populations. On March
25,1991 Tudjman and Milosevic met secretly in Karadjordevo and agreed to partition Bosnia between them (17), thus forcing through
war a non-nationalist, non religion-fanatical population to take
sides. The partition was backed up by the great powers in a London conference in August 1992. Ethnic cleansing was carriedout not onl
y by Serbian and Croat army and gangs but by UN convoys as well. They
organized the evacuation of Muslim refugees from Srebrenica and other places and the exchanges of hundred thousand prisoners. Now
the Serbian army has occupied 70% of the Bosnian territory and 20%
is in Croatian possession (see map 2). Peace'is just going to bring to an end whatever war has left incomplete (18). We can't say f
rom here whether the proletarians and the peasants, regardless of nationality, will r