Questions about "Slobo"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Thu Feb 14 06:56:21 MST 2002

John Cox wrote:
>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.

The more important question is how the imperialist ruling class viewed
Milosevic rather than how he measures up to some standard the revolutionary
left has established. They viewed him as an impediment to the consolidation
of privatization in Eastern Europe. A search for "privatization" and
"Milosevic" on lexis-nexis will turn up 347 articles. For example, a June
23, 1997 Financial Times article reports that 96 per cent of the country's
assets are still in state hands. It doesn't really matter that the managers
were skimming off the top. Wall Street banks and the State Department
wanted them to be privatized--if profitable--or shut down. Which is exactly
what's happening today. The FT adds, "But while Serbia has stagnated in
isolation, other former Yugoslav republics, especially Slovenia and
Croatia, have forged ahead with economic stabilisation and privatisation.
They have created strong, convertible currencies backed by growing foreign
currency reserves and attracted foreign investment." This is of course is
an old tune. If you follow the dictates of the market, milk and honey will
follow. If not, Nato will bomb the shit out of you.

>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.

We are not that interested in "control". We are interested in ownership.
Two different things entirely.

>I also question how intransigently, or how effectively, Milosevic resisted 

Not very well actually. He was an inward-looking, plodding bureaucrat when
the situation demanded a Lenin or a Castro.

>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.

Titoism was never really the kind of socialism that folks like us embrace.
Nonetheless it was characterized by a respect for democratic rights and
respect for the material needs of working people. We should not denigrate
that. If you want to understand the difference between Yugoslavia and
Romania or Albania, just consider the fact that Djilas wrote "The New
Class" and nothing happened to him. This would have been impossible in
Romania or Albania.

>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.

This is difficult to answer since it involves a variable that did not exist
in Czechoslovakia 1968, namely 10 years of war and economic blockade. If
Yugoslavia had not been torn apart by civil war and subject to embargo, it
is doubtful that the workers would have risen up. After all, Yugoslavia had
free elections that put Milosevic into office. Like it or not, he did
reflect the class interests of many older workers and the vast majority of
the peasantry by all reports. I imagine that the college students in
Belgrade hated his guts, however.

>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.

Of course there were massacres. No one is denying this. What is being
denied is that the Serbs were Nazis inflicting wanton cruelty on innocent
villagers. All evidence points to Srebrenica as a response to it being used
as a base camp by a particularly vicious Muslim warlord who used to
entertain visitors to his home with videos of Serbs being shot or blown up.

Louis Proyect
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