bosnia report
New Series No. 3 March - May 1998
Democracy Before Any 'Yugoslavia'
by Slobodan Inic

Many analysts, both international and domestic, considered at the time the destruction and break-up of the Second [Tito's] Yugoslavia a wholly regressive phenomenon. Such a judgement was based on the knowledge that the former Yugoslav formation, with its relatively 'liberal communism', was closest to the processes of democratic transformation and transition from one social order to another. A second type of advantage consisted in the fact that, with respect to the position of nations and national groups, the former model of the Yugoslav community was quite reminiscent of its Brussels counterpart, which in principle facilitated the country's eventual inclusion in European integration.

In short, taking into account both advantages of the former Yugoslavia - its 'liberal communism' with transforming potentialities, and its polycentric type of internal organization as a complex state corresponding to its multi-national complexity - it could far more easily than the other countries of Central and Eastern Europe have joined Europe as a natural component. Yet that did not happen.

Stalinism and chauvinism

This means that the internal forces which re-Stalinized the existing system and then imposed upon it a chauvinist character were far stronger. The result was the country's destruction, leading to its final break-up. Even if we need today to re-examine once again our assessment of the character and fact of the destruction and break-up of the Second Yugoslavia, we should still retain the view that its disappearance was deeply regressive in the sense that it appeared far more capable than other socialist countries of carrying through a democratic transition and joining Europe. But if we take account of what actually happened with the Second Yugoslavia, and of the fact that its very destruction and break-up were the final consequence of a renewed Stalinist chauvinism in Serbia, whose ambitions were to preserve the existing system of Communist Party rule - which had already left the historical stage - and thereby to impose a new unitary system on the country, then both its destruction and the break-up that followed had a deeply progressive character!

For the further survival of the Second Yugoslavia would not have had any justification if the fortress-Belgrade forces of repression and darkness had prevailed. Its peoples, especially the non-Serb ones, would have had to live their lives under a doubly reactionary system: a system of re-Stalinized socialism, with the decadent forms of power of one family in Serbia; and a return to the system of state hegemonism that is perhaps best illustrated by the current position of the Kosovo Albanians within the 'Third Yugoslavia' - something the Belgrade SerbÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÔ s indeed advocated as a solution to the former Yugoslav crisis - and by the constant attempt to subordinate Montenegro to the ruling interests of Serbia. It would have been a 'prison-house of peoples'. But economically and socially too it would have deepened the existing crisis to undreamed of dimen- sions, which would have had especially grave consequences in view of its multi-national character. Such a Yugoslavia would have been just as great a threat to Europe as present-day Serbia, and in constant conflict with it. And in the end things would still have culminated in some kind of internal war that would have led to the country's dissolution.

In that sense the destruction and break-up of the Second Yugoslavia, by virtue of the mere fact that they occurred earlier, were progressive in character. For no Yugoslavia whatsoever could in and of itself justify the continued existence of such backward social forms as Stalinism and chauvinism, either separately or, worse still, in combination. The survival of Yugoslavia was conceivable only with a progressive system of social relations, since only such a system might have 'objectivized' and reconciled the different interests of the Yugoslav peoples.

Finally, the progressive character of the destruction and break-up of that kind of Yugoslavia consists in the fact that in this way the non-Serb peoples were able, by dissociating themselves from Serbia and Montenegro, to save themselves from the hegemonistic ambitions of Belgrade - irrespective of what was to happen to them at that moment or later. However, time will confirm their decision as all the more progressive in so far as the former Yugoslav republics arrive sooner at democratization on the basis of a democratic transition than could have been anticipated in the common state.

This will hold true especially in so far as they display towards other ethnic communities and groups a much better attitude than they could have expected towards themselves had they remained in the Second Yugoslavia. The progressive character of their decision will equally be confirmed in so far as they can demonstrate greater economic efficiency with more social justice than could have been achieved in a re-Stalinized, chauvinized Yugoslavia. And, by this very means, in so far as they can sooner become a part of European space and a factor in the integration of Europe.

In the opposite event, something else will be demonstrated, with far more serious consequences: that the Second Yugoslavia was as much of an obstacle to democratic transition and the free life of its peoples and nationalities as were all those - separately and collectively - who composed it!

Montenegro's democratic rights

The same is true today with respect to the Third Yugoslavia, especially in the light of the most recent Serbian-Montenegrin clashes. A Yugoslavia opposed to any democratic transition to European integration does not deserve a continued existence, any more than did its predecessor; just as its name cannot be a trademark for the sake of which its peoples will renounce a better life, or which can serve to conceal a reactionary, criminal and murderous regime with its false slogans about patriotism. But even less can it justify its existence because of a man who needs one more state simply so that he can be its president!

A serious clash with Montenegro would merely confirm an old thesis about the non-viability of any kind of Yugoslavia at all, because with the Serbs no kind of community is possible. If it really came to such a break-up, especially in the way in which the former Yugoslavia broke up, then it must at once be concluded that this break-up too would be no less progressive than the dissolution of the Second Yugoslavia.

One rule might serve here as a criterion for reaching a judgement on the possible break-up of the country. The break-up of every Yugoslavia is progressive and historically justified in face of the forces of Great-Serb nationalism, because the latteÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÔ r is precisely the cause of its destruction and break-up. Furthermore, no Yugoslavia deserves to exist beneath the diktat of Belgrade, just as at the same time it cannot justify that diktat!

Therefore, the association of Serbia and Montenegro in the 'Third Yugoslavia' is not for the latter's sake, since neither the Serbs nor the Montenegrins need any new and different state when they already have their own old state formations. If this association is not based upon common interests in the creation of a democratic-transitional state (political democracy, market economy, legal state and human rights), then such a Yugoslavia has no reason to exist or be justified. Conversely, as such it becomes even an anti-democratic factor.

A democratic society is more important than Yugoslavia, and such a society alone can realize the democratic coexistence of Serbia and Montenegro within Yugoslavia or give the latter a democratic character, since any other society - whether one of a re-Stalinized kind or a system of state hegemonism - leads to the recurrence of a tragedy we have already experienced.

Slobodan Inic teaches sociology at the University of Belgrade. This article is translated from Monitor (Podgorica), 13 February 1998


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