Questions about "Slobo"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sat Feb 16 11:31:42 MST 2002

On Sat, 16 Feb 2002 12:59:20 -0500, Mike Friedman wrote:
>Actually Titoism was not "characterized" by a
>respect for democratic rights. Tito was very
>much in the Stalinist mold when it came to
>democracy, and Yugoslavia was similar to other
>eastern european "socialist" states with regard
>to press and trade union rights, opposition
>organization and individual rights. I believe I
>can even still dig up documents from comrades in
>the Fourth International attesting to
>persecution of Yugoslav trotskyists. Titoism was
>best known for market socialism and the relative
>autonomy and decentralization enjoyed by
>economic enterprises, and regions within the
>federation. And Tito's victorious  -- and
>legitimately autochthonous --
>guerrilla movement that enabled him to resist

I think that Mike's characterization is more accurate than the one I
dashed off. That being said, it is still a big error to group
Yugoslavia with countries like Albania or Romania. While Yugoslavia
did not enjoy anything like socialist democracy, it did allow an
element of personal freedom that was unknown in the Soviet bloc. For
example, citizens of Yugoslavia enjoyed the right to travel abroad.
There was also more attention to consumer goods than in typical
Stalinist countries. This, of course, was related to the sort of
market socialism being developed from the top.

With all its flaws, the Yugoslav economic model still should not been
sneered at. Mike refers somewhat clinically to the "autonomy and
decentralization enjoyed by economic enterprises." In fact, what
Yugoslavia had was an extensive system of worker self-management.
Ernest Mandel salutes this in v. 2 of Marxist Economic Theory:

"It has been enough, however, in Yugoslavia, for the experience of
self-management of enterprises to give the workers concerned the
feeling that their activity in the sphere of management has a real
and positive, effective on their standard of life, for an increasing
proportion of the working masses to participate in the work of the
workers councils."

Furthermore, although there were Stalinist elements of arbitrary and
bureaucratic control, alongside this there were rather exceptional
features to Yugoslav life. As I mentioned earlier, the Praxis group
at the University of Belgrade was considered to be in the forefront
of creative, Marxist thought even though it had periodic run-ins with
the authorities.

Finally, if Stalinism is marked by the heavy-handed oppression of
non-majority nationalities, then we can not apply this label facilely
to Yugoslavia. Despite the rather shrill denunciations of Serbia,
Kosovars were allowed a very high degree of autonomy. Of course, they
would be satisfied with nothing less than secession since by the
1980s this was tantamount to rejection of communism. If socialist
Yugoslavia was subject to all the hardships of being on the outs with
the IMF and western banks, no wonder the various republics would
begin to try to jump ship. Especially when the CIA and its flunkies
in the East promised these peoples the moon.

Louis Proyect, lnp3 at on 02/16/2002

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