Yugo: country versus town

Bryan A. Alexander bnalexan at umich.edu
Mon Sep 18 06:46:11 MDT 1995

Good Stalin cite, Chris.  What's that from?  (Weird feeling of appearing
on someone's bibliography next to Stalin...)
	The mention of the Balkan Wars as peasant wars is vital, I think.
First of all, this is how most citydwellers in Bosnia and Croatia view the
war (when they're against it), as a cthonian conspiracy of the peasants
against civilization.  Great theories abounded, like the "scientific
proof" that it takes four (4) generations to breed out rural
characteristics from peasants newly come to the city, to Rabelasian fears
of peasant secret clans and societies infiltrating the good townsfolk.
	Second, it helps explain in large measure the hostility towards
cities and large accumulations of capital in particular.  It's been a
while since I read Wolf's book, alas...  But I remember Pugachev's forces
razing estate after estate, and the French peasants breeding the Great
Fear out of the dead landowning holdings.  One of the best images I had of
destruction in Mostar was of a massive hole punched through the sign of
the local energy company.
	Third, some politics become more clear.  How do we react to
peasant unrest?  I leave this question to those more accustomed to this
theme.  Even Pat...
	Not sure about the Muslim conversion class aspect.  Bosnians were
*extremely* exercised about this question, btw.  I'll get back to you on

Bryan Alexander
Department of English
University of Michigan

On Sun, 17 Sep 1995, Chris Burford wrote:

> Chris:
> ------
> I am very glad Bryan raised the contradiction in fY between country and
> town as I was also thinking this is a relevant part of the matrix.
> a) I have being reading the sinisterly named DoctorB on zamir.chat
> and he compained of how unfair a fifty fifty territorial division
> of Bosnia would be, because many of the Serbs were farmers and therefore
> should have more land. It is clear that the Serb farmers used to be
> selling their produce to the Muslim townspeople. Hence the shallow
> nature of the claim that the Serbs in this part of former Yugo,
> represent a full nation rather than a national minority.
> b) I still remember the extraordinary reports in 1991 of Serb nationalists
> in Krajina I think, killing old Croats and leaving them in the road beside
> dead pigs, to make the point. These people are
> peasants left over by the former socialist Yugoslavia, who are used to
> killing living things abruptly and unmercifully. This war has all the
> brutality not just of a civil war but also of a peasant war.
> c) Historical analysis generally seems to say that the muslims were
> people who took muslim names to accommodate to the Ottoman Turks. In
> a crude sense they were middle class and this would be consistent with
> them being more concentrated in towns. Hence television has shown to
> Westerners that the dreaded muslims are actually people trying to
> live a tolerably civilised middle class life in European towns.
> d) Stalin in 1925 on Yugoslavia, clearly synthesising a lot of serious
> work before he subsequently became very arrogant on the national
> question, argued -
> >>>it is also undoubted that the peasant question after all constitutes
> the basis and intrinsic essence of the national question. It is this
> that explains the fact that the peasantry represents the main army of the
> national movement; that without the peasant army, there is not nor can
> there be a powerful national movement. This is what is meant by saying
> that the national question is *virtually* a peasant question.<<<
> Bryan's analysis is particularly interesting that
> "the militias involved are overwhelmingly rural, and that a majority of
> their targets urban centers"
> and that
> "In short, forces of reaction are developing and using this
> antagonism for their own ends - which are of course the furtherance of
> state capitalism (different degrees in each nation)."
> This seems to me to be particularly interesting and the potential start
> of a serious concrete marxist analysis of the class forces in this war.
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