Paul Phillips comments on Yugo stats (from PEN-L)

Owen Jones owen_jones at
Wed Aug 23 09:18:49 MDT 2000


 Does this fascinating piece by Paul Phillips not demonstrate what Johannes
and I have been saying all along - that the former bureaucracy, with
Milosevic at its head, commenced the restoration of capitalism in order to
transform what was a privileged caste into the new bourgeoisie? Does it not
also reveal the extent of dysfunctional, so-called "gangster capitalism"?
Comrade, the so-called "black economy" accounts for about half of the
Serbian economy. Given the fact that Serbia went through a disastrous
economic collapse that rivals that of Russia, with the biggest inflation in
history, how on earth do you think the Serbian working class could have
survived without "gangster capitalism"? Such is the extent of this
dysfunctional, transitional capitalism that "gangster capitalists" run mail
order services for a range of products, not least MP3s!

 Indeed, the official unemployment rate is around half the working class. Is
it conceivable that the Serbian proletariat could have survived even with
the remains of a welfare state which the restoration of capitalism has yet
to devour? The gangster section of the bourgeoisie employ workers for
extremely cheap labour - they are desperate after all. So, these are not
simply criminal petty-bourgeois elements, but are out-and-out bourgeois and
probably the biggest employers in Yugoslavia! Officially, they do not exist,
but that's rather ironic since they are the ruling class of Serbia and run
the regime in Belgrade.

 There is a pretty good indicator of the existence of a Serbian bourgeoisie
- and that is the existence of bourgeois parties. The Democratic Party, the
Serbian Renewal Movement, the Radical party and the other groups are
bourgeois parties. They represent the direct interests of Serbian capital.
The Socialist Party, meanwhile, is a bourgeois workers' party, and the
strong Serbian proletariat exercises a certain degree of influence on the
regime accordingly, meaning the restoration of capitalism happens at a
slower rate; otherwise, they would have faced the wrath of the Serbian
working class. This goes for other former Stalinist states that have had
bourgeois workers' parties in power - the counterrevolution was continued,
albeit at a slower pace. Serbia, however, is the only country apart from
Byelorussia for this to occur constantly (though for example such a party
took power in Mongolia, even though its leader models himself on Tony Blair,
but they have promised to commit to restoration at a slower pace).

 To answer about the hostility of imperialism towards Yugoslavia. This is a
complicated question, and not one comrades should find simple answers for.
It certainly fits in perfectly with the restoration of capitalism in the
East, and the sudden moving of Western imperialism to divide up the markets
and capital that had suddenly appeared - to divide up the plunder. With
German imperialism, it resorted to its old policy of "moving East". To gain
its own imperialist sphere of influence, in terms of markets, it encouraged
republics like Croatia and Slovenia to secede. It is pretty obvious why this
would entail hostility towards Yugoslavia, whose destruction it and American
imperialism desired.

 The remains of Yugoslavia were still the dominant force in the imploded
Balkans, with all of its little statelets that were dependent on Western
capital for their very continued existence. Yugoslavia was large enough to
avoid this and resist the absolute domination of Western capital, and hence
the fact now imperialism has condemned it to death and is preparing for a
suitable time to split off Montenegro - which could possibly spell the end
of any possibility of Serbia's continued existence independent of
imperialism, since access to the sea would be cut off. As far as I know,
Serbia is the only state that is independent of imperialism in Europe (apart
from, perhaps, Byelorussia).

 Yes, the selling off of state property has occurred at a more gradual,
slower pace. Yet the only reason you can find for this is that Milosevic is
a Titoist who is truly anti-imperialist. That is bollocks. Milosevic doesn't
believe in anything. Even if he did it would have no effect on the balance
of social forces in Yugoslavia. Neither does his wife, hence her "socialism
and capitalism are dead" speeches. Milo is a former dull bureaucrat who
seized power on the basis of restoring capitalism and transforming the
bureaucracy into the new bourgeoisie. The reason it has happened at a slower
pace is because of the strength of the Serbian proletariat. In order to
avoid a revolt when the counterrevolution was commenced, the bureaucracy
whipped up hysteric chauvinism over Kosovo (a nasty old trick). What do you
think all the other wars were about? Building a medieval-style Greater
Serbia? No, they were to avoid an explosion at home. It worked, but only
because Serbia has been at war nearly constantly for 10 years.

 But yes, imperialism is also deeply hostile to Serbia because of its
reluctance to commit to a swifter restoration of capitalism. One could
almost feel sorry for the Milosevic regime if it were not for the fact it
was full of Chetniks who had helped drown the Balkans in blood - for this
regime has been torn between its own working class and the imperialist
bourgeoisie of the West. But really this can be seen as a fight between
imperialism and the Serbian proletariat.

 The reason they went to war with Serbia seems deeply obvious to me; I am
not sure if you read my post on the matter. "They came to the aid of
Albanian nationalism in order to suppress it", is how I summarise it. They
were absolutely terrified that the war in Kosovo could escalate into drawing
in first Macedonia, then Bulgaria and Greece, and then of course Turkey -
which would then split the imperialist alliance and threaten Western capital
in the region. Their war DID manage to prevent the nightmare scenario of
imperialism - but only temporarily. Not just to weaken Serbia and open it to
the domination of Western capital, but to prevent the biggest disaster for
imperialism since 1945 when the Soviets marched into Eastern Europe. But in
many senses imperialism has in fact shaken up a bottle of lemonade whose top
is about to fly off. The lights are going out.

 On Montenegro, since the war against Yugoslavia, in all certainty, is to
resume this year, I will of course unequivocally support Yugoslavia and
oppose any attempt by the proxy regime in Podgorica to secede. I am not
content to sit back and watch the ultimate victory for imperialism in the

 And no, I do not read the Trotskyist press. I am subscribed to the "Weekly
Worker", but then that is the journal of the Communist Party of Great
Britain (Provisional Central Committee), who, despite not being Stalinist,
still use vocabulary like "Trotskyite" (don't get me wrong, they are great
comrades who I get on well with). I also read a reformist rag called "Labour
Left Briefing". Reading "Workers' Liberty" usually makes me vomit. I know
you seem to have stereotyped me as a Big T Trot, but I am not, and I do not
really work with Trotskyists.



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