Capitalism Restored in Serbia?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Aug 21 18:36:13 MDT 2000

Owen Jones:
> Between 1989, when the Milosevic wing of the ruling bureaucracy had
>effectively consolidated power, and 1995, the restoration of capitalism had
>occurred at full throttle. State property was privatised in the
>transformation of the old bureaucracy into the bourgeoisie, with other old
>state property (such as telecommunications and power) being sold off to
>foreign bourgeoisie, largely Greece, Italy and France.

I would give anything to get a detailed account on this. I can tell you
that Paul Phillips, a Canadian economist who posts on PEN-L and who has
written numerous articles on Yugoslavia based on first-hand experience, is
not sure of the extent of privatization.

> The other reason, which I do not pluck out of thin air but discussed with a
>Workers' Aid comrade who has worked in Yugoslavia throughout the continuing
>civil war, was the strength of the Serbian working class.

It's good that you are consulting such unbiased sources of information.

> How can one tell that a deformed workers' state no longer exists? The
>indicator of this is not how much property is in the hands of the state, but
>which class is organised as the ruling class of that state.

This is useless jargon.

> What we can agree on, however, is that there is a bourgeoisie in
>Yugoslavia, to which you can respond that there was a nascent bourgeoisie
>under the NEP in Russia of course. Yet modern-day Yugoslavia cannot be
>compared with this, and indeed the only Russia to which it is comparable is
>that which exists today - except I would argue that dysfunctional,
>"gangster" capitalism is much more extreme than anything Russia has even
>come near to.

This is your conclusion. What facts do you base it on?

> In Serbia, the banks are privately owned. Around half the economy is


>The regime itself is full of bourgeois, particularly in the
>party of Markovic (Milosevic's wife) - the Yugoslav Left (JUL) - which the
>bourgeois media calls "neo-communist"; this basically served as a similar
>vehicle for the conservative wing of the bureaucracy with a vested interest
>in state property and something to lose from the restoration of capitalism
>as the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. However, as these
>bureaucrats became the new bourgeoisie, the leadership of JUL is full of
>prominent capitalists.

For all of this talk about capitalism, there is nothing in your post about
how the Yugoslav economy functions. Is there a stock market? Are
unprofitable firms allowed to go under? Most importantly, is the 'new
bourgeosie' a bourgeoisie in the Marxist sense or just factory managers
with enormous privileges. The Marxist definition of a bourgeoisie takes
place within the overall context of property relations defined in terms of
the accumulation of capital. Key to this is profit. In a workers state,
profit does not underpin the economy.
I can tell you, by the way, that to answer these questions requires much
more in-depth understanding of the Yugoslav economy than can be derived
from an outfit like Workers Aid, which sided with the Kosovars in the
recent war. You need to go to the library and find scholarly material. I
have tried to do this at Columbia University, the most well-endowed
research institution in the city of New York, and there is ZERO on the
post-1990 Yugoslavia economy.

> Not only that, but another member of the coalition is not just bourgeois,
>but effectively quasi-fascist. The Serbian Radical Party, formerly known as
>the Chetnik Movement, is led by the Sesijl whose interests include speeches
>calling for the necks of Croats to be slit with "rusty knives", writing
>interesting articles in the journal "Greater Serbia" such as one
>particularly colourful exposition of journalism in 1995 where he detailed
>plans to expel the Kosovar Albanian population, and spearheading the
>privatisation movement.

I guess all the reports I've been getting about clashes between Milosevic's
party and ultranationalists have been falsified.

> Now, perhaps you wish to hear the views of the "Socialist Party" of
>Slobodan Milosevic, which now professes itself as a Western-style
>social-democratic party that, according to its programme, agrees with the
>ideas of the Socialist International and its Western parties and wishes to
>join it. According to its programme:
>"The fact that our objectives and ambitions are realistic is best
>corroborated by the preserved production and technological facilities,
>educational and vocational attainments of both workers and managers in the
>industries and the market orientation we have opted for long before the
>other East European countries."

I guess that settles it. Why provide hard figures when you can rely on a

The problem with your analyis is that you can't make the connection between
the retention of state property in Yugoslavia as a function of "being under
siege" and why that siege is taking place. Let me try to connect the dotted
lines. In the drive to transform Eastern Europe, the Serb republic was
reluctant to go the route of Croatia, Slovenia, Poland, Czechoslovakia,
etc. Since Yugoslavia had an independent military that was not part of
NATO, it was seen as a threat to imperialism's goals. In order to isolate
the Serbs, it was necessary to demonize the regime. This explains all of
the false reports coming out of George Soros-funded NGO's which sought to
destabilize Yugoslavia politically, so that it could be carved up and sold
to the highest bidder. A section of the radical movement became disoriented
by this campaign, especially the Trotskyists and post-Trotskyists who
boosted the reputation of Branka Magas. Magas, who was cited as an expert
by Against the Current as soon as the war began, later denounced her
sponsors for not supporting Nato. In the United States another longtime
campaigner against the Serbs was Joanne Landy, on the editorial board of
the left Shachtmanite "New Politics". Her outfit "Campaign for Peace and
Democracy" which organized anti-Serb teach-ins, was funded by George Soros.
A nasty business all in all.

Louis Proyect
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