Workers assert themselves in Yugoslava

Owen Jones owen_jones at
Wed Oct 25 11:24:58 MDT 2000


 Frankly I am lost for words as to why exactly you maintain this bizarre
fantasy that Serbia remained some form of workers' state under Milosevic's
regime. Here are two excerpts from a Guardian article dated Friday 03/10/00:

<<In the early 1990s, as a crude market economy and phoney privatisation
spread through eastern Europe, Mr Milosevic joined the bandwagon. He allowed
large companies to break into smaller units and fix their own commercial
contracts. Union leaders were as eager as managers to exploit the new chance
of riches.

"The trade union secretary practically ran this company," said Mr Jelic. "He
got rid of the last managing director in 1995 and chose the new one. Under
privatisation the trade union secretary formed a company called Sind which
built upper-income flats in Belgrade.

"They won their workers' loyalty by paying them DM5 (£1.50) an hour,
while other workers here get DM100 (£30) for a whole month," he

<< To prevent another round of musical chairs, the strike committee at
Trudbenik wants a proper system of accountability in the company, credible
financial public accounts and no further role for party politics in factory
appointments. It will not just blindly put its faith in Dos. >>

 Clearly what happened in early October was that the bourgeois opposition
called a general strike in order to use the working class as a battering ram
against the old regime. Unfortunately for them, they served as a catalyst
for something altogether more spontaneous, and lost complete control as
workers seized control of factories, mines and services in direct
contradiction to the wishes of the new regime, whom have appointed a
multimillionaire businessmen and former crony of Milosevic, who made his
fortune in a tin-can making business, to tour factories to try and convince
workers to surrender control.

 As you can tell from the first excerpt, the reporter makes it very clear
that Milosevic led a capitalist counterrevolution in Yugoslavia. What he is
incorrect about is the fact Milosevic's regime began the said
counterrevolution a couple of years before his fellow bureaucrats in the
rest of Europe, as indeed the Socialist Party's web site boasts (or rather
used to boast, for one I hear his ugly mut face has been removed).

 What is completely absurd is that you even disagree with Milosevic's former
party about whether or not they restored capitalism to Yugoslavia. If you
remember I printed some excerpts from their election programme which would
not have been out of place in "Adam Smith: A Beginner's Guide", which
boasted their market credentials.

 There is a reasonable argument that many revolutionaries I know adhere to,
which is that capitalism has not been restored fully yet in Russia; this
could also be applied to Serbia, I would imagine.

 By the way, speaking of Russian gangster capitalism, a recent article by
the Guardian's Larry Elliot claimed that Russia had an economic system that
had the worst of both worlds ("capitalism and communism"), which is not
unlike some of the "evidence" you have accumulated to prove that Serbia is
some form of workers' state. I should also note that when Primakov was
appointed prime minister by good old drunken Boris, even the most
left-liberal of the bourgeois papers like the Guardian hysterically ranted
about this signifying a return to "communist economics" and the "command
economy". When privatisations were reversed under Primakov's regime, they
were even more agitated, not unlike Christian Science Monitor or whoever as
regards Serbia. In reality we as Marxists do not look at how much of an
economy is nationalised, but rather which class is organised as the ruling
class of the state; such nationalised sectors are in reality "state
capitalism" under bourgeois rule.

 The case of ICN is an exception, frankly (although the article splendidly
illustrates exactly what Milosevic's "social ownership" was, and that is
workers supposedly owning shares in the company, as exists in America,
Britain and other capitalist countries - social ownership indeed). The
general trend is workers spontaneously seizing control of the means of
production in direct contradiction to the wishes of the new Kostunica
regime. To believe that workers who bravely resisted Milosevic's
privatisations are complicit in laying the foundation for new mass sell-offs
is completely absurd.

 The ICN case simply demonstrates that the Serbian ruling class is
completely divided, and Panic's reclaiming of his business simply
demonstrates the victory of one section of the ruling class over another
(which was what Kostunica's victory over Milosevic symbolised). We of course
stand for the Serbian working class to break from their bourgeoisie, and
there is evidence of this happening with this mass independent action. The
strike committees are of course always the potential for the construction of
a new workers' state. Of course I realise that a seizure of power by the
Serbian proletariat is out of the question in absence of any genuine
revolutionary leadership - unfortunately I doubt Andrej's band of anarchists
are that, and they're just about the only people in Belgrade who call
themselves revolutionaries apart from some Maoist party composed of some
bloke, his wife and maybe his cat (the NKPJ).

 A comparison with the NEP is also completely outrageous. The NEP was a
conscious change of policy by a revolutionary leadership to save a workers'
state in dire crisis. It cannot be argued that the Milosevic regime was
carrying out these privatisations as part of a conscious course of action to
save a workers' state suffering from the ruin of the means of production,
the decimation of the working class, mass starvation, etc... Rather it was
to supersede the privileges of the bureaucracy for direct ownership of
property; in other words, the stabilisation as a class, the bourgeoisie.

 Meanwhile, when you produced "evidence" from some leftist economist from
another list, he compared the Croatian and Serbian regimes and made the
point that there was a higher level of public ownership in Croatia, which is
hardly up for workers' state candidacy in your book, is it?

 How Milosevic's government can be seen as the regime of a workers' state is
also verging on the obscene considering some of the most
counterrevolutionary scum on the continent of Europe were in the coalition -
the Radical Party (formerly the Chetnik Movement), most of whom were rightly
imprisoned under Titoism for their extreme chauvinism, whom are as
anticommunist as any fascist, whose militia spent half of the 1990s kicking
pregnant Muslim women to death, and whose leader Votislav Sesijl issues
colourful quotes about slitting the throats of Croats with rusty knives,
dreaming of a Greater Serbia, and going into detail about the most efficient
manner of expelling the Kosovar Albanian population.



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