"Milosevic ... never recanted"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Sun Oct 10 10:15:03 MDT 1999

NY Times, October 10, 1999

In the New Yugoslavia, a Familiar Dead Hand


BELGRADE, Serbia -- Communism may have died 10 years ago in Eastern Europe,
but it lives on, after a fashion, in Yugoslavia -- both in patterns of
power and habits of mind. The failure of political and social
transformation helps explain why efforts to oust President Slobodan
Milosevic are faltering. . .

One obvious reason for this durability of the old leaders and their style
of rule was the nature of Titoism -- a softer brand of Communism that
rejected Stalinism and the higher authority of Moscow. . .

Standing proudly, even contemptuously, outside the Soviet bloc, with a
better living standard, a freer press and easy access to the Western world
for ordinary citizens, the old Yugoslavia became a model for Soviet
reformers like Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

And Belgrade was also insulated from the crisis of Soviet-bloc Communism
that led to its collapse.

The flexibility of Yugoslav Communism, with its commitment to private
agriculture and some private business and employment in service industries,
allowed the system to bend rather than snap.

Here there was less repression aimed at ordinary citizens and more freedom
of expression, especially after Tito died in 1980. . .

Yugoslavia has been different from the rest of Eastern Europe for a long
time, Mr. Viskovic said.

"People didn't suffer so much as in other countries, and the standard of
living was pretty high. So people didn't feel such a need for a dramatic
change of the system." The Serbs, Bosnians, Croats and Slovenes "tried to
free themselves from the others, instead of from the system of economics
and power," he said. "Led by their political and intellectual elites,
people chose to go to war instead of changing the system."

While Mr. Milosevic renamed the party, he has never recanted or disowned
any part of the ideology. Yet he is an authoritarian coalition-maker, not a
dictator, and this is a multiparty state with the possibility of change
through elections.

Of course, given the basic tenets of Communism as it was practiced --
social ownership of the means of production and a single-party state -- the
Yugoslav version doesn't really qualify, says Ljiljana Smajlovic, an
independent journalist originally from Sarajevo.

"Still, Ms. Smajlovic said, "this place is more like the old Yugoslavia
than any of the other broken states.

"People cling to what is left, a little frozen in time." she said.

"They still put their confidence in the army and the education system. They
no longer have salaries, but 40 percent of people are afraid of
privatization. They hold to the notion of socialized medicine and of job
security when there is none. They have lost the reality of social security
but they are convinced they are clinging on to it. . ."

(complete article at

Louis Proyect

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