The contradiction of Yugoslavia PDF Ispis E-mail
Sunday, 14 February 2016

ImageYugoslavia is a contradiction: communist, yet a free society. The explanation is that it is no longer purely communist, yet there are anomalies which westerners would regard as serious limitations of freedom. Above all, Yugoslavia is highly self-disciplined. Its system of self-management and decentralisation defies accurate comparison. One might be tempted to think Yugoslavia as westernised as, say, Italy; but the League of Communists still plays the leading role, and it pays to belong to the Party.

While Yugoslavs would not accept Kremlin communism, they do not want a society based on private capital. Nor do they admire British democracy — with its party whips and an Opposition dedicated to overthrowing the Government — or the American system with its wheeling and dealing, remote from ordinary people. In theory, the League of Communists is divorced from the State. In fact all the Federal and Republic Ministers and leading functionaries are Party members. The Party no longer issues directives; it lays down principles upon which Government should act. Government will argue tactics but would no more think of going against the Party view than the Irish Government would condemn advice from Rome.

It is essential to be a Party member if one wishes to become a Minister, almost essential for election to the assemblies, and essential in an army officer and among diplomats. The directors of most factories and institutions are members.

On the other hand, on the ordinary level, Party membership is a matter of choice, and it is easy to leave. If a factory director is a paid-up card-carrier, his chief engineer is likely not to be. The Macedonian information ministry representative who drove me around was not a member. Nor are many professors.

More important is the trend of reducing government interference at almost every level. This and decentralisation are so advanced that many communists are trying to restore some sort of central influence.

They do not, however, necessarily want a return to Soviet communism (although there is a "Cominformist" faction which would like centrally controlled ideological principles), but rather some sense of Yugoslav national policy to bring together the fiercely independent trends which self-management creates.

There is, too, the natural strain between progressives and conservatives, between rich and poor. The rich north subsidises the often extremely poor south. Concepts of left and right become muddled.

Marshal Tito, who is both a progressive and a conservative, presides over the pushing and shoving with monarchical prestige.

The dividing line between Party power and civic independence is difficult to draw. Many Yugoslavs claim that they have achieved their revolution so that Party membership is less and less important.

One junior Minister said: "We are no longer too reliant on principles. They get in the way. We are much more pragmatic."

The bad old days are explained away thus: "We are trying to telescope what Oxford and Cambridge and Harvard and Yale achieved in 250 years into 25 years. We were an occupied country, too, and old memories from those days still remain. What happened after the revolution was absolutely necessary. Now things are different."

theguardian 21.2.1970.

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