By Clara Sorrenti
In 1999, a 78-day NATO bombing campaign devastated the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and killed hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent civilians. The NATO bombing campaign on Yugoslavia marked the second major combat operation in its history, following the 1995 NATO bombing campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It was also the first time that NATO had used military force without the approval of the UN Security Council. As a response to the International crisis in Yugoslavia, The International Meeting of Communist and Workers Parties was established at the Initiative of Communist Party of Greece. From the 21st to the 23rd of May 1999, 55 Communist and Workers’ Parties from 46 countries gathered in Athens, Greece. The theme of the first IMCWP was “The capitalist crisis, globalisation and the response of the labour movement”. It marked the first major meeting of Communist and Workers Parties’ since a counter-revolution lead to the dissolution of USSR in 1991.
Among those who attended were several Communist and Workers’ Parties from the Balkans, who, throughout the meeting, had issued a press statement. In the statement, it noted that, “A meeting took place between six Communist and Workers’ Parties from Balkan countries. At this meeting, each party informed the others about the activities each developed in their own country to protest against NATO’s attack on the peoples of Yugoslavia and on the threat of war that hangs over all the Balkans. There was a common agreement on the need to strengthen cooperation and coordination and for the parties to develop common actions to confront the aggression and murderous bombings of civilians by the US and its NATO allies. In this direction, it was decided to make 2 June a day of common action in the Balkan countries with rallies and demonstrations using predominantly the slogans: WORKING PEOPLE OF THE BALKAN COUNTRIES: ONWARD TO STOP THE WAR and
NATO: HANDS OFF THE PEOPLES OF YUGOSLAVIA.”
By the end of the first 1st IMCWP, the participants of the meeting agreed upon and issued an Appeal on the War of NATO against the people of Yugoslavia. The appeal covered eight points:
– We condemn the ongoing criminal bombing of NATO and US against the people of the F.R. of Yugoslavia.
– We stress the fact that, by this unjust and aggressive Intervention, the principles of the UN
– Charter and of the International Law are being brutally violated.
– We stress that this intervention does not in any way take place in defense of any human right whatsoever. Many innocent civilians, both Serbs and ethnic Albanians have already been killed.
– We consider this war waged by NATO against a country and its people that has chosen to defend at any costs its national independence, its sovereign rights and territorial integrity, is a most crude way of expressing the new orientations of this aggressive organization. By its new doctrine, ratified officially during the summit meeting of April 1999 in Washington, NATO appears with the possibility of intervening arbitrarily, and whenever it considers its interests at stake.
– We express our deep concern on the extensive ecological impact of NATO weapons in the Yugoslav territory and the whole Balkan area.
– We demand the immediate stop of the NATO criminal bombing and the prevention by any means of any escalation of the war through the use of ground forces.
– We call for a solution in the UN framework should guarantee the respect of the FRY territorial integrity and the inviolability of its borders, as well as the autonomy for the Kosovo area and full rights for all minorities living there, providing the return of refugees to their homes as well as the rehabilitation of the huge material losses.
– We call upon all peoples to intensify their mobilization against the war on Yugoslavia and for peace throughout the Balkans, for the increase of the solidarity and peaceful coexistence of all peoples. The above Appeal has been signed by the representatives of the following Parties.
One month later after the meeting ended, NATO had declared victory. The bombing campaigns ended, and Kosovo separated from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo was established. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia dissolved seven years later, in 2006.
It has now been almost twenty years since the first International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties took place. This year, 90 Communist and Workers’ Parties from across the globe came together to meet in Athens. The theme of the meeting was “The contemporary working class and its alliance. The tasks of its political vanguard – the Communist and Workers’ Parties – in the struggle against exploitation and imperialist wars, for the rights of the workers and of the peoples, for peace, for socialism”.
The first day of the meeting began with an Introduction by the host party, the Communist Party of Greece. A video was presented to the meeting detailing the major landmarks and accomplishment of the International Communist Movement from the creation of the Communist Manifesto in 1848, to the Paris Commune of 1871, to the Russian Revolution in 1917, culminating in the 100th anniversary of their Party.
When the video ended and the lights slowly faded back on, participants from the Communist Party of Greece waved their Party flags and shouted Communist slogans to the applause of the entire meeting. As The Internationale began to play over loudspeakers, all the participants of the meeting began to rise in unison and give red salutes; the meeting began without a hitch.
From November 23rd to 25th, participating parties had the opportunity to give their perspective on the International situation. Several participants noted the rise in far-right and outright fascistic movements across the world. Along with that was a noted socialist resistance and the fact that almost twenty years ago the first IMCWP had forty six participating Communist and Workers’ Parties while the 20th IMCWP had ninety is a testament to that fact.
The final day of the meeting began with a commemoration of Fidel Castro. A statement was introduced by the Turkish Communist Party, “We address that, despite the ceaselessly encountered challenges and attacks, the 60 years of experience of Cuba, at a very close distance to the bastion of the world imperialism, is the living proof of the historical legitimacy of socialism against capitalism,” the statement said.
As the meeting wound down, participants headed to a concert to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party of Greece, which began as the Socialist Workers Party of Greece (SEKE) on November 17th, 1918 in Piraeus, Greece. Approximately 20,000 people were in attendance which reaffirmed to world watching that the Communist movement is not dead, and despite our losses over the last several decades, our movement is growing.
Watching the 20th International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties gave me and hundreds of other people I know hope about the future of the Communist movement in North America. Even though right now our numbers are small, to quote Fidel Castro, “I began the revolution with 82 men. If I had to do it again, I would do it with 10 or 15 and absolute faith. It does not matter how small you are if you have faith and a plan of action.”
Clara Sorrenti is an organizer for the Young Communist League and member of the Communist Party of Canada in London, Ontario.
Photo by Stathis Stathopulos, member of the Communist Party of Greece