Capitalism Restored in Serbia?

Owen Jones owen_jones at
Tue Aug 22 13:12:49 MDT 2000

 Reply to comrade Louis.

> 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.

 Frankly, I am not sure if anybody is. In Serbia, the line between private
ownership of the means of production and "state ownership" is a very thin
one. What exists in Serbia is dysfunctional capitalism, which is probably a
temporary transitional form to "normal capitalism" as illustrated by other
former-Stalinist countries, and accordingly much of nominally state owned
industry is not, but run by capitalists who exploit the labour power of the
workers for profit. State monopolies exist in Russia too, but many of them
are not state capitalism but are looted by the bourgeoisie under the
protection of their corrupt state. Unfortunately the problem with this
dysfunctional capitalism is that half the working class is unemployed, the
ruling class are a bunch of gangsters and anarchy in production is true in
the most literal and extreme sense.

 On a diversion, I would personally like to investigate the Milosevic clan
rather carefully. A husband and wife run two leading parties in the same
coalition together. If that's not plain bizarre and an illustration of
dysfunctional bourgeois democracy, I really don't know what is. I would also
like to know where Milosevic got all his millions from, particularly those
locked up in foreign banks. Their son also happens to be a leading young
businessman with lots of handy Balkan gangster connections, running
expensive (but apparently pretty good) night clubs and theme parks. He is
reviled in Serbia, largely by a working class which has suffered the worst
disaster in the counterrevolution in Europe apart, possibly even worse than
Russia. They are the standard gangster bourgeois family of the New Balkans.

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

 Unfortunately it is hard to get people who actually work on the ground in
such an environment who are not biased. I mean, are you trying to tell me
that Jared isn't biased? As it is, suggesting that the reason the
restoration of capitalism has been slower because of the strength of the
Serbian working class could be considered "pro-Serb" if anything. Workers'
Aid have lots of Yugoslav trade union contacts, although it's a tad
frustrating when they occasionally get assassinated.

>> 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.

 No it isn't. Some on the Left have this habit of seeing the amount of an
economy in state hands as socialism. That isn't socialism. What matters is
which class is the ruling class; the nationalised sections are "state
capitalism", which is precisely their role in Serbia. As it, in the former
Stalinist states even where the entire economy was under state hands, one
still did not have socialism, but a society sharing characteristics of both
capitalism and socialism which could go either way. Serbia today is a
caricature of bourgeois democracy and capitalism. The question is - can the
bourgeoisie accomplish a properly functioning market and accompanying
democracy, or are they incapable of doing so? Is this dysfunctional
capitalism the final product of the counterrevolution or just a transitional
form? After the capitalist "oligarchs" have divided up the loot, will they
finally settle for a properly functioning bourgeois state?

>> 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?

 Read "The Serbs" by Tim Judah. Yes he is a bourgeois journalist, but the
entire purpose of the book is to reverse the demonisation of the Serb
population; he himself has lived in Belgrade for many years. The gangsterism
in Belgrade makes 1920s Chicago look like an exposition of law and order.
When the counterrevolution began, all the Yugoslav gangsters returned to
their homelands from countries like Germany. These lumpen scum, largely
Croatian and Serbian, went around the Balkans indulging in acts like
slitting the throats of pregnant Muslim women. They go around Belgrade in
limousines engaged in nightly gang warfare. The leading officials of the
Belgrade regime who recently got bumped off only got publicised in the
Western bourgeois media because of their positions, but are just the tip of
the iceberg. So dysfunctional is Serbian capitalism that leading gangsters
run the government. By the way this largely goes for the Montenegrin regime
as well.

 Also on the counterrevolution, if we abandon economic analysis for a second
- but much of an outright counterrevolution can be judged by the abandoning
of the old symbols that represented the former regime. What occurred all
over Eastern Europe was that everything associated with the regime, from
statues to passports, was destroyed.

 In Yugoslavia, it was no different. The former apparatus of the
bureaucracy, the Communist Party, was dismembered, divorced from the state
as the bureaucracy became the new bourgeoisie, renamed the Socialist Party
and reborn as a supposedly standard Western social-democratic organisation.
The old symbols and statues were destroyed. Towns associated with the old
regime were renamed, such as the capital of Montenegro, formerly Titograd
which was promptly renamed Podgorica, or, since it is in the news at the
moment, Titovska-Mitrovica, which was renamed Kosovska-Mitrovica. The old
Communist symbols, such as the hammer-and-the-sickle, disappeared.
"Socialist" was taken out of the name of the states and provinces.

 Arguably, more symbols have been trashed in Serbia than in Russia, where
many soldiers and sailors still have uniforms with hammers-and-sickles on

 A bourgeois parliamentary system similar to those across Western Europe was
constructed. The constitution was created as a basic framework for the new
bourgeois state. All the leading parties committed themselves to the "market
economy". Serbia is a bourgeois democratic parliamentary republic - although
a dysfunctional one, just like Russia and many other former Stalinist
states. The restoration of capitalism has produced this dysfunctional

 And in this counterrevolution, the former bureaucracies were perfectly
happy and content to drown the entire Balkans in blood

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

 This was a document by the US government dated 1998, I will have to dig it
out again.

> For all of this talk about capitalism, there is nothing in your post about
> how the Yugoslav economy functions. Is there a stock market?

 In a dysfunctional capitalist economy under siege? Are you joking? Comrade,
the capitalist counterrevolution has not been completed in the former
Stalinist states, and if you read the SPS official programme they are aiming
to consolidate its restoration when they win the election. Who wins the
election is irrelevant to me, because it is a competition between two
reactionary camps.

> Are
> unprofitable firms allowed to go under?

 According to the official programme of the Socialist Party of Serbia:

"In a market economy, bankruptcy is the penalty for poor performance of an
enterprise and its failure to meet its commitment."

 Adam Smith would smile with pride.

> 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.

 Comrade, I frankly know the difference between a bureaucrat and a
bourgeois. Undoubtedly the Serbian bureaucrats who run the state industries
enjoy vast privileges and pay checks like other capitalist states, but they
do not extract profit from the labour of the proletariat. What I was
referring to is those industries that have been privatised and are now run
by members of the bourgeoisie who are former Stalinist bureaucrats who only
fifteen years ago were expressing their devotion to Marx and Lenin. These
multimillionaire bourgeois oligarchs exploit the labour of the working class
for profit. Clearly presently Serbian capitalism is dysfunctional as a
product of greedy bureaucrats in their transformation into the new
bourgeoisie robbing and raping state property (like starving kids heading
for a cake), but the Socialist Party of Serbia's programme indicates it is
aiming for a functional capitalism. The bourgeoisie have no interest any
longer in this dysfunctional system that exists, not just in Serbia, but in
Russia where they are aiming for a proper legal market structure now they
have looted the place.

> 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.

 If I cannot comment on the Yugoslav economy unless I am a Cambridge
Professor in Yugoslav Economics than I will shut up about the matter.

 I think the fact there is no information proves that there is a world-wide
cover up. The bourgeoisie don't want their workers to know about the
Socialist paradise in Serbia or they may be inspired to follow their
example. The ruling workers in Serbia are simply having a whale of a time.

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

 Every marriage has arguments now and then. And yes they are married since
they are in the same government. Sesejl makes Haider look like a timid
liberal. Does it not concern you that one of the leaders of the coalition in
Belgrade makes announcements calling for the necks of Croatians to be slit
with rusty knives or writing articles for journals with names like "Greater
Serbia" detailing plans for the expulsion of the Kosovar Albanian

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

 What I have quoted is not a speech. I have provided several quotes from the
official programme of the Socialist Party of Serbia, whose nominee for
Yugoslav president is Slobodan Milosevic.

 Milosevic and all others who conspired to set the Yugoslav working class at
each others throats in their dirty quest to form the new bourgeoisie and
restore capitalism to the Balkans will face their justice yet. For the
highest judge in the world is the proletariat and there is a limit to how
much they will take in 10 years.



More information about the Marxism mailing list