Workers' Liberty #55


The story of Yugoslavia

Serbia was on the side of the victors in World War One. Yugoslavia after 1918 was a small Serbian Empire. In World War II, the conquering Nazis set up a separate state of the Catholic Croats. Of the one and a half million Serbs in that territory, half were killed by gangs of Croats who at gunpoint forcibly converted those they did not kill to Catholicism.

The Titoite Stalinists won control of Yugoslavia in a bitter war on two fronts - against the German occupiers and the Chetnick Serbian monarchists. Under the slogan 'brotherhood and unity' the post-war Yugoslavian state became a federation of Six Republics. It was at first a full scale totalitarian Stalinist state and then, from the '50s, a looser, authoritarian one-party, more 'liberal' Stalinist state, topped by a centralised state bureaucracy.

In 1974, a new Constitution gave the Six Republics and two provinces (Kosova and Vojvodina) a lot of autonomy. Simultaneously 'nationalists' were purged from the central 'Yugoslav' apparatus in order to strengthen its capacity to resist tendencies towards separation.

In 1980, President Tito died. In the '80s Yugoslavia went into deep economic crisis. There was chronic mass unemployment, high inflation, falling living standards, heavy foreign debt. Movement in favour of market economics accelerated. Unrest spread. By 1981 Kosova was under martial law.

In 1986 the trumpet blast for a full-scale revival of Serb chauvinism was sounded by the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences. In a 'memorandum', the academicians argued that Yugoslavia politics had long been dominated by an anti-Serb conspiracy. The Serbs should have primacy!

Late in 1988 there were strikes against worsening conditions throughout Yugoslavia. Milosevic organised a campaign of mass nationalist demonstrations in Serbia. Milosevic's Serb nationalist demagogy in favour of the Serb minority in Kosova inflamed the situation, but won him Serb support. Kosova, hundreds of years ago the Serb heartland, has a special emotional significance for Serb nationalists.

In January 1990, the Yugoslav 'Communist' Party collapsed. There were multi-party elections in the various Republics. In August 1990 Serb 'autonomous regions' were created in Croatia and Bosnia. Serbia and the Federal Army prepared for war.

In May 1991 the Federal Presidency collapsed and in June Slovenia and Croatia declared themselves independent. A major war now began in Croatia. Horrors like those that Trotsky had described in his pre-1914 war correspondence now once more engulfed the peoples. In 1992 a UN-sponsored cease fire in Croatia left Serbia in control of a third of the country. Now Bosnia-Herzegovina declared independence and war broke out there. A long and terrible process of slaughtering, moving and concentrating the peoples began. By 1995, ethnic sifting and separation in Bosnia was complete. In September 1995, NATO bombed Serbia. At the end of 1995 the Dayton Peace Accord was signed.

Then it was Kosova's turn.

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