Questions about "Slobo"

John Cox hazel_motes52 at
Thu Feb 14 05:57:44 MST 2002

1. Milosevic has received a certain amount of praise on the listserv for 
standing up to the IMF and the World Bank and otherwise defending his 
country from the dictates of international capital. My questions are: how 
has this opposition been manifested, at what point did Milosevic decide to 
tell the IMF to "fuck off," and what are his motivations. It seems probable 
that any opposition to imperialist banking institutions were based more on 
personal interests--and the interests of those close to him--than on 
anything resembling socialist principles.

Milosevic, his wife Mira Markovic, and a few others close to him controlled 
substantial segments of industry and media outlets, as well as private 
capital. (I believe he had a son who was a leading mafiaso, but I don't 
recall the details.) So his aversion to the IMF/World Bank could well have 
been motivated by a desire to avoid scrutiny, as well as competition; the 
devastation of the wars of the 1990s also rendered Yugoslavia somewhat less 
attractive to international investors than, for example, the Czech Republic.

I also question how intransigently, or how effectively, Milosevic resisted 
privatization. Approximately one-third of the Serbian economy was already in 
private hands by the late 1990s, and Milosevic was negotiating a telecom 
deal with an Italian firm at the time of the NATO bombing. Of course, 
"Slobo," to use his affectionate nickname, also had serious disputes with 
his former deputy prime minister, Danko Djunic, and other, quite fervent 
apostles of the so-called free market. But could any anti-imperialist 
pronouncements or actions also have amounted to hollow populism? Again, I 
will be happy to be enlightened by more factual evidence about his 
resistance to international capital, and I do not claim expertise on this 

On the one hand, we would defend any leader of an underdeveloped or 
oppressed nation who rejects the prerogatives of the IMF, regardless of the 
motivation; on the other, if the leader in question is motivated primarily 
by corrupt reasons, we cannot expect this "opposition" to last very long or 
to be very effective.

2. "Titoist socialism," the remnants of which Milosevic was presumably 
defending, has been invoked at least once on the listserv. I have never seen 
a reference to "Hoxhaite" or "Ceasescuite" socialism, to refer to two other 
leaders who pursued an independent path to so-called socialism, I assume 
because we are in agreement that neither  Rumanian nor Albanian Stalinism 
created anything resembling socialism. My question is, did "workers´ 
self-management" really offer an alternative to Stalinist, counterfeit 
"socialism." I have never read anything that indicated that "workers´ 
self-management" was anything than a fraud, at least by the late 1950s.

Unlike most other Eastern and Cental European post-war states, Yugoslavia 
was, of course, the product of a genuine, popular revolution. Yet the LCY 
and its leaders--beginning with the Moscow-trained Tito--wasted little time, 
from what I can tell, in imposing an anti-democratic, bureaucratic regime. 
Not all of these societies were the same, and some--Hungary, Poland, and 
Czechoslavakia are good examples--experienced fairly dramatic shifts, at 
various times, in openness, freedom of criticism, etc. (this point is lost 
not only on bourgeois commentators, but on many left parties, such as the 
U.S. SWP, which makes absolutely no distinction between, for example, 
Albania and Poland).

At any rate, the Titoist leadership and their system of supposed 
self-management encouraged competition between enterprises as well as 
between republics, weakening the foundations of nationalized property. The 
1965 "reforms," the New Measures, virtually eliminated central planning and 
state control over investments, facilitating international investment and 
promoting unequal development among the republics. Individual enterprises, 
as well as republics were free to trade on the world market; simultaneously, 
"Titoist socialism" was just as capable as other variants of Stalinism of 
creating the most absurd inefficiencies. Macedonia poured millions of 
dollars into an iron ore processing plant in Kavadorci despite common 
knowledge of the poor quality of the local ore. The plant was eventually 
closed, but for many years its administators could claim to be "fulfilling 
the quota."

3. What was the nature of the revolt, coup, or what-have-you that toppled 
Milosevic. Several contributors to the listserv have argued that the 
"opposition" (was there only one "opposition"?) was beholden to U.S. 
imperialism and/or NATO. I do not wish to dispute that Kostunica is proving 
to be a more pliable friend of imperialism than his predecessor, or that 
this was predictable. Yet it seems obvious to me that the reality was a 
little more complicated, and contradictory, than these suggestions that 
either a. Milosevic was overthrown by a popular revolution from below, or b. 
all of his opponents were paid by the CIA.

A certain amount--perhaps quite a large amount--of Kostunica´s support from 
students and workers derived from his claims that he would be "independent 
from both Washington and Moscow," and his stated opposition to NATO-run 
tribunals and slander of Serbia etc. A law professor who drove around in a 
beat-up Yugo, he also had the appearance of someone untainted by the squalor 
of Yugoslav politics.
So to the degree that people took to the streets in support of Kostunica, 
they did not have to be paid by the CIA; but of course many 
people--including student and women´s group who had been organizing against 
Milosevic for several years--held no illusions about Kostunica, and had 
their own reasons for participating in the protests that brought down 
"Slobo." Strikes of transport workers, miners in Kolubara, and other workers 
also were pivotal in deposing the Milosevic government, and of course many 
factories were occupied, and remained so after his fall (needless to say, 
Kostunica did not support such measures, and would act against them). So it 
seems that there really was popular involvement in the protests, regardless 
of the illusions of many participants, the interests and covert activities 
of the imperialists, and subsequent developments. If we are going to group 
all the protestors and strikers under the umbrella of "CIA-paid Kostunica 
supporters," we'll have to do the same with workers who rose up against the 
various Stalinist regimes between 1989 and 1991.

4. I have been surprised to read that the Srebrenica massacres were an 
invention of the Western media. Certainly the situation was more complex 
than presented--some military actions had been launched from the town, and 
the massacres themselves took place mostly in the surrounding forests, to 
which the victims had fled. But I've looked through a few books lately to 
rekindle my memory, and checked on the Balkan reporting of Robert Fisk, not 
a stooge of Washington or London, and it certainly appears to me that 
Serbian forces undertook a massacre of unarmed people. Yet the onus on this 
listserv appears to be on anyone who invokes this massacre, rather than on 
its deniers. Yet I am open-minded, and would genuinely like to see some 
compelling argument refuting the news stories.

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