“The working class can see the blood and sweat they and their children shed”: Interview With a Balkan Communist

GA, Port Láirge

How are the communists in the Balkans faring in the era of Covid-19? Below is an interview carried out with a member of the clandestine Marxist-Leninist organisation, Partija Rada (Party of Labour). Our discussion was enlightening and covered a broad range of topics, from imperialism to Covid-19. It can be said that seeing world events from a new angle, from people of different countries, is one of the best ways to learn. As communists we must always do our best to learn from the wider international movement, and this dialogue between the CYM and friendly comrades in the Balkans provides a crucial and invaluable piece to the internationalist puzzle.

As we have been told by the revolutionary leader Chairman Mao:  “A frog in a well says, ‘The sky is no bigger than the mouth of the well’. That is untrue, for the sky is not just the size of the mouth of the well”. Being internationalists, our perspective on events in Ireland is just one single part of the global situation, and discussions such as this are priceless to our movement.

First off I’d like to give my warm greetings to you and your organisation, within the European communist movement; many appreciate the hard work of our dedicated comrades in the Balkans. Could you please give a rough overview of what Partija Rada stands for and the work it is doing?

Partija Rada is a revolutionary, anti-revisionist communist (Marxist-Leninist) party. Since its founding, Partija Rada adheres to the principles of democratic centralism, proletarian internationalism, anti-imperialism, and other fundamental communist theoretical, practical, and organisational principles.
Currently, our party has three basic goals:

  1. Struggle for the victory of proletarian consciousness in the masses. Without it, the masses will not be able to recognise their interests in the first place.

  2. Preparing the masses for the destruction of the capitalist society and the struggle for Communism. The puppet regimes of the Balkan bourgeoisie economically and politically completely depend on the multinational capital whose interests preclude everything but exploitation and profit. Worsening of working conditions, increased imperialist exploitation and plundering, unemployment, the housing crises, paralysing state-corruption, increasingly alarming environmental issues, etc. are all direct consequence of capitalism, and the imperialist exploitation of the region and the world as a whole.
  1. The consolidation and victory of the united anti-imperialist front – Also known as the “Balkan Resistance Movement” – Balkanski Pokret Otpora (in Serbo-Croatian).

    By completely politically subduing the Balkan region, the imperialist bourgeoisie and her local quislings led to a dire economic impoverishment, cultural deterioration, and marginalisation of the social role of the working class. In order for all of Balkans to be freed from imperialist exploitation, the constitution and organisation of a strong and united anti-imperialist Front is an absolute necessity. The aim of our party is to organise both legal and armed struggle for the economic, political, and cultural emancipation of exploited classes of the region from imperialist fascism embodied, among other, in the NATO occupation of the Balkans.

The struggle for a firm international proletarian alliance is a necessary prerequisite for the realisations of our goals. Our party actively promotes the principle of proletarian internationalism ever since its foundation. We strongly believe that the advancement of the international communist movement will be impossible if the proletarians from different countries fail to become firmly and concretely united through the effective involvement in each other’s struggles. 

How has your movement been developing of late? What has impacted this?

We are not yet a fully formed revolutionary party; that would imply armed struggle. Currently, we function as a (member-oriented) party, building-up the mass movement. However, it is important to understand that the Party of Labor is currently the only revolutionary party in all of the ex-Yugoslavia which consistently fights and denounces revisionist tendencies, and firmly maintains the party line in accordance to the class-scientific principles of Marxism-Leninism.

The current state of affairs comes as a consequence of a long history of overtly revisionist and opportunist political conduct which characterised the Communist Party of Yugoslavia since the rejection of the famous Resolution of the Comintern in 1948. That effectively meant the victory of the counter-revolution in our country. What followed was the strengthening of ties between socialist Yugoslavia and the imperialist West, and Yugoslavia became an openly disruptive element in the international communist and workers’ movement. When the reactionary classes, led by the nationalist bourgeoisie, finally succeeded in completely overtaking the higher ranks of the ruling party and the military, they openly proclaimed their intentions to reorganise the country through privatisation  of social and state property, and along the lines of nationalist-chauvinist ideology. This led to the destruction of Yugoslavia through a series of ethnic and religious armed conflicts. Afterwards the NATO occupation followed. The new bourgeoisie immediately surrendered her feeble sovereignty to multinational capital, with the consequence of further increasing the proletarianization of the masses. The latter slowly started to acquire class-consciousness, as they realised that the regimes established in the Balkans are but slaves of imperialist bourgeoise – mainly American and European. These conditions led to the formation of many new groups on the left; and although Partija Rada rejects sectarianism and fully opposes the reformist opportunist trends, some local and strictly tactical alliances that help the Balkan Opposition Movement to develop as a larger anti-imperialist front are being considered.

“Peace between nations – war between classes!”


What level of impact has the Covid-19 pandemic had on your country and its working class? What do you think of the government’s response?

The impact of the recent Covid-19 situation on the working class of ex-Yugoslav societies has been and continues to be catastrophic. Already before the situation with Covid-19 social medical services were characterised by a permanent crisis, due to the lack of government funding. Medical and sanitary measures undertaken by the governments of ex-Yugoslav republics were largely arbitrary and openly displayed theatrical and farcical traits; economic measures undertaken were obviously aimed to benefit the upper classes and capitalist ventures. The working class was confronted with dramatic unemployment increase, reduction of basic workers’ rights, and an unprecedented level of impoverishment accompanied by mass evictions.

What unique challenges does the working class face in your country?

In the first place, we would like to clarify that Partija Rada is present and active on the whole ex-Yugoslav territory (Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro etc.). Apart the problems that stem from the capitalist exploitation in forms common to the majority of semi-peripheral regions of the imperialist west, the working class of all ex-Yugoslav republics face similar problems and challenges appearing as consequences of the religious and ethnic divides heavily re-actualised during the armed conflicts in ex-Yugoslavia. The presence of a nationalist-chauvinist false conscience among the working class is a very difficult problem that significantly conditions our struggle. The war brought by the reactionary-chauvinist bourgeois elements at the end of the 1980s only aggravated the problem of self-determination and the development of self-consciousness of the masses. In this respect, the ideological struggle and organisational activity appear as our main courses of action.  

How has your country’s past affected political organising today? What about the legacy of the Tito regime?

As it is well known, Yugoslavia was destroyed by an orchestration of reactionary nationalist wars from the part of internal capitalist and bourgeois elements. We still feel the consequences of this fact, especially when it comes to our efforts concerning the unification and organisation of the working class in the region. The rise of nationalism that occurred in that period is certainly not something that belongs to the past. One vivid example of this is offered by the character of relations between Serbia and Kosovo. Overcoming the nationalist and religious (false) consciousness in Serbia (and elsewhere) is perhaps the greatest challenge we face (aside from imperialist exploitation) as a party acting on the whole of ex-Yugoslavian territory. As far as Tito’s legacy is concerned, his revisionist clique did enormous damage to both Yugoslavian and international communist movement. We discussed some of those aspects in our answer to your second question.

In our organisation, we have to grapple with sectarian tensions in the North. How do working class activists in the Balkans deal with a legacy of ethnic tensions?

Mainly through propaganda and education. One must realise that the ethnic factor in the contemporary western societies has lost any content that they previously may have carried (let alone the progressive one). Today, especially in modern western consumerist societies, the concept of ethnic identity (especially when countered to the struggle for social progress) appears devoid of any actual meaning; it is completely reduced to an idealistic element of bourgeois manipulative propaganda.

 
Tell me about how relevant the “China question” is to activists in Europe and the rest of the world.

The “China question”, as you call it, is of great importance for the international communist movement. Every communist organisation must assume the correct stance on China, otherwise it will be assuming the position of our class enemy and betraying the world’s proletariat. The Chinese imperialists, alongside the American imperialists, are currently the greatest plunderers of the third world. A communist organisation which seriously believes that China is socialist, or going down the socialist road, is neither communist, nor proletarian, and therefore shouldn’t be taken seriously in that respect.

What has Chinese investment done to your country in the past few years? What direction is Serbia moving in with regards to the Chinese “Belt and Road”? How has this affected the relation of the working class to the communist movement?

The Balkans is currently under the almost complete domination of western imperialism whose interests are guaranteed by the omnipresence of the NATO military. As far as Serbia is concerned, the Russian imperialism succeeds in realising its interests there quite effectively. Turkish imperialism has also established its positions in the region. The Chinese imperialists try to wedge-in Eastern Europe, in order to achieve solid grounds for further proliferation of their interests; to a certain, lower degree, Chinese capitalists are present in Croatia, but their influence is much more felt in Serbia and Montenegro. The Chinese imperialists own mines, factories, infrastructure, agricultural land, ports, etc… all of these places have horrid working conditions, and pay salaries below the bare minimum.

The working class is not stupid. It is not a thing to be thrown around… The working class can see the blood and sweat they and their children shed. Therefore, more and more working class people are becoming consciously revolutionary.

Are there any first-hand experiences you’d like to share on this subject?

Many of those employed as low-qualified workers in Chinese factories constantly complain about the unbearable working conditions. On some known occasions, workers with serious work injuries were even denied medical care and were forcefully prevented from leaving company premises. Afterwards they were fired with no further prospect of getting any kind of compensation for their injuries, and the cancelling of their working contract.

 As someone living on the receiving end of the export of “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” model, what would you say to comrades in Western Europe who view the Beijing government positively?

China is an imperialist country, and it is our firm stance that nothing more can be added to this characterisation of China’s socio-economic model. 

 What sort of relationship do you see between Washington’s imperialism and Beijing’s imperialism?

We consider American imperialism and Chinese imperialism to be essentially the same. However, it would be in the best interest for Balkan and world proletarian masses if the Western imperialism first collapses or suffers a defeat from his Chinese imperialist antagonist. That would greatly facilitate the struggle of the proletarian masses against all the other imperialisms.  

Give me your thoughts on political issues such as revisionism and the need for a strong political line. How has political and theoretical struggle affected your work?

Revisionism is the single greatest threat to the communist movement from within. Revisionism must be fought decisively and without compromise, wherever it appears in our movement. Revisionism is bourgeois ideology infiltrating the communist movement with the only aim of changing its class character. Social practice confirmed this. Without correct theory, there can be no correct practice. One of the most important instruments for the struggle against revisionism is the Marxist-Leninist principle of criticism and self-criticism of the party cadres. It should be done continuously and it should rely on a firm and thorough knowledge of the party theory and its implementation in practice.

To you, what is Marxism-Leninism, and how can it be applied to the Balkan struggle? How can it be applied to Ireland?

Dialectical materialism is the only valid, scientific world outlook of every Marxist-Leninist party. It is the core of the class philosophy of Marxism-Leninism, and together with historical materialism (application of dialectical materialism to history), Marxist-Leninist political economy, and scientific communism, it forms the necessary theoretical instrument for the revolutionary achievement of socialism and communism in practice, through the social creativity of the masses led by the Party as their class vanguard. All cadres of a truly communist organisation should know and study the principles of Marxism-Leninism and the contributions made to that science by other great founders of socialism in practice. Knowledge of Marxist-Leninist philosophy allows for a proper consideration of the real circumstances and enables us to reflect this in our practice in Ireland, on the Balkans, and everywhere else.

And finally, what advice would you give young Irish comrades today?

The most important principle that guides the internal life of the party and enables its further internal structuring with respect to the necessity of practical organisation of proletarian masses, and party work in general, is the principle of democratic centralism. The consistent implementation of democratic centralism is a necessary condition for the existence and proper practical functioning of every communist organisation as such. Also, the work with the masses should preclude any form of sectarianism. The examples to follow in party work should in all circumstances include only those parties and movements that consistently prove their revolutionary character in practice. That of course, does not mean that comrades should blindly copy their ways, but find their own, circumstantially conditioned, paths.

 

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