Response by Noel Malcolm
5 May 1999
Response by Noel Malcolm to Amos Perlmutter's op-ed "Who Will Run Kosovo",
published in the Washington Times 4 May 1999
The claim that the KLA consists of Stalinists and fascists may have a pleasing symmetry to it, but I very much doubt that it is true. On the
'Stalinist' side, it is true to say that the main diaspora political group which claimed early on to be organizing the KLA, the Levizje Popullore
e Kosoves, was Marxist-Leninist and admired Enver Hoxha. But since Milosevic's policies last year acted as a recruiting-master for the KLA on a huge scale, the self-styled leadership of the KLA outside Kosova does not reflect the political complexion of the actual membership of the KLA on the ground, which is now simply a cross-section of the ordinary Kosovar population. Indeed, in several areas (especially in Western Kosovo), what happened last year was that the local leadership of the LDK (Rugova's party) simply transferred itself to the KLA. Of course one might say that Stalinists are skilled at imposing their political system on populations that do not themselves believe in Stalinism; but the main examples of that are from Eastern Europe after
1945, when Stalin himself, through the Red Army, was largely controlling what happened politically anyway. Does anyone seriously imagine that, if Kosovo is liberated by NATO forces and a Kosovan political system is then set up under the guidance of NATO governments, it will then
be possible for an unrepresentative Marxist-Leninist political fringe to accumulate all political power and create a Stalinist system there? I can't believe it, anyway.
As for the 'fascists', or 'rightists', the claims made by Chris Hedges here strike me as perhaps the weakest part of his article. What is his evidence? He doesn't give any. All he says is that these people are the 'sons and grandsons' of fascists -- a strange case of an ideology becoming
a congenital defect. His description of the Kacak rebels of the 1920s as 'rightist' is historically either meaningless or false: apart from their desire for self-government and the right to use their language, etc., and their resistance to Serb colonization, the Kacaks did not have any sort of political programme that could be placed on a right-left spectrum. Insofar as attitudes towards them in the wider realm of Albanian
politics could be located on such a spectrum, it was the Right (Zog) that opposed them, and the centre-Left (Hasan Prishtina) that supported them.
Hedges also mentions the Skanderbeg division, which achieved a total strength of 6,491 men: many of these were killed at the end of the war, and some fled into exile. The number of their direct descendants in Kosovo, among a pre-deportation population of 1,800,000, must be fairly small. Without more concrete evidence, I am not inclined to believe that such descendants are a major component of the KLA today. And, even if a few such people could be located, what would this prove? Even those who believe that ideology is hereditary must being by showing that the
ideology was there in the first place. Many people joined the Skanderbeg division not because they had any interest in Nazism or fascism (unlike
their counterparts in the French, Belgian, etc. volunteer SS), but merely because it was aimed at fighting Tito, who was understood by the Kosovars
to be planning a restoration of rule by Belgrade over Kosovo.
As for other 'fascist militias', Hedges doesn't say what he means by this, but the sources from whom he derives this idea may have in mind two groups, neither of which can properly be described in this way. The first is the political party Balli Kombetar. Post-war Communist
history books routinely describe the 'Ballists' as fascists, reactionary landowners, etc., but there was in fact nothing fascist about their
political position, unless you count Albanian nationalism as fascist per se. Politically, they derived from the old centre-Left and Left
opposition to Zog: the more Left-wing elements of that opposition(followers of Noli, etc.) tended to become Communists, while the Ballists were just anti-monarchy, pro-republican and anti-'feudal'.
The other group, routinely described by Yugoslav historians as fascists, consisted of people who supported Shaban Polluzha's
anti-Partisan rebellion in Kosovo in the spring of 1945. Once again there is no justification for describing this as a fascist movement: Polluzha himself had actually raised a volunteer force for the Partisans in the last part of the war.
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