Yugoslavia, People’s Republic Of

Yugoslavia, People’s Republic Of
   After the end of German occupation in World War II, Yugoslavia emerged deeply split along ethnic and national lines. Josip Tito and his Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY) succeeded in uniting the country behind the cause of communism, and one of the few Marxist states to veer significantly from Soviet orthodoxy came into being.
   Tito’s communists had risen to prominence during the battle to free Yugoslavian lands from the clutches of the Third Reich, receiving Allied assistance along the way. This had left them in a far superior position to other pretenders to Yugoslavian governance, principally the Karadjordjević dynasty. Accordingly, the CPY won 90 percent of votes in the elections of November 1945, banished the Karadjordjević regime from the country, and announced the beginning of the People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. Paramount in the CPY’s attainment of political stewardship was their uniting of the many factions in the country, replacing it instead with recognition of the uniqueness of each group, and placing a stress on the importance of mutual equality. They overcame the two ideological mainstays of the first half of the 20th century, Serbian primacy and Yugoslavian unitarism, by replacing them with a coalescing creed of Marxism. To match ideological unity with practical unity, the KCP’s 1946 constitution created a federal state, based largely on the Soviet model, that embodied the six republics of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Serbia, and recognized the relative autonomy of the Serbian provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina. In a further similarity with the Soviet system, this federal framework was in reality subordinated entirely to the directives of the CPY.
   Having gained power in 1945, the CPY initially pursued a fairly orthodox Stalinist approach to the economy. Industry and banks were nationalized, a five-year plan was adopted in 1947, and in 1949 moves began to collectivize the countryside. However, the split between the Soviet Union and Tito’s Yugoslavia in 1948 and strong resistance from peasants meant the drive for collectivization was soon relaxed. The division between the two nations, which was to have a determining effect on the development of the Yugoslav route to communism, had occurred over the issue of foreign policy. Tito’s brand of aggressive, self-autonomous foreign relations sat uncomfortably with Josef Stalin who wanted the Soviet Union to be the commanding power in the communist bloc. Having tolerated the initial differences between the Soviet way to communism and the Yugoslav one of “national communism,” Stalin finally decreed that Tito’s insistence on pursuing his own foreign policy merited Yugoslavia’s expulsion from the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform), and accordingly the termination of relations between the two regimes.
   Faced with the problems caused by this economic, political and military isolation from the Soviet Union–dominated Eastern Bloc, the CPY was forced to conceive and tread its own “separate road to socialism,” through the creation of workers’ councils and by introducing elements of self-management into enterprise. This ideological about-face represented a rejection of orthodox MarxismLeninism, and according to the CPY a return to an original form of Marxism that had been distorted by Stalin and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). The self-management scheme shifted the means of production into the hands of workers and out of those of the state. Price fixing was abandoned and collectivization reversed as the Yugoslavian government sought to create an economy situated somewhere between centralized planning and the free market.
   However, the party, as of 1952 renamed the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (LCY) to signify their disconnection from the Soviet Union, in allowing economic freedoms but stifling debate so that all decisions remained in its hands, trod a path different from the Moscow one, but like the CPSU retained tight control of society. Further reforms were carved out in the first half of the 1960s, following an intraparty split between secret police chief Aleksandaer Ranković’s authoritarian group, and Edvard Kardelj’s reformist band of LCY members. The 1963 party constitution had seen the principle of self-management extended to workers in the public sector, and this further decentralizing measure had the effect of prompting a call from Kardelj and others for similar measures to be put in place in the financial and industrial sectors. In spite of opposition from Ranković’s conservative faction, in 1964 Tito decreed that the federal control of many economic and political departments should shift to republic level. To further parry the threat of Yugoslavian fragmentation, the LCY followed up these decentralizing measures by enshrining them in the constitution of 1974. While authority was distributed among the members of the federation, at each level and in each country it was still the all-powerful LCY that directed policy, with the party line centrally formulated and filtered outwards via local LCY branches. This was perhaps the basis on which Tito affirmed at its Tenth Party Conference that the LCY was still pursuing the Leninist concept of democratic centralism, despite the maintenance of a federal model.
   Internationally, Yugoslavia became a leading player in the NonAligned Movement (NAM), standing apart from both sides of the Cold War and retaining relationships with East and West depending on which was most advantageous at any given time. By 1961, there were 51 officially nonaligned states, primarily from colonized or formally colonized Asian and African countries, with each consenting to promulgate three core principles: a repudiation of colonialism, a strong condemnation of apartheid, and a demand that military action against national liberation movements be halted. Following the Yugoslavian split with the Soviet Union, Belgrade received economic assistance from the United States, and, in contrast to other Eastern Bloc states, maintained trade with the Western world. There was a brief reconciliation with Moscow following Stalin’s death, but the two powers remained at arms distance, no more so than when Tito condemned Warsaw Pact military intervention in the 1968 Prague Spring and the Brezhnev Doctrine as an act of imperialism. Yugoslavia’s standing in the nonaligned world remained strong throughout the communist years, with African regimes such as Idi Amin’s Uganda providing ardent support for Tito. However, membership in the NAM alienated the country from the West, eventually playing a part in the collapse of the government as Western European nations increasingly began to shun Yugoslavia, leading to a dramatic increase in its trade deficit.
   The beginning of the end for the communist regime in Yugoslavia came when Tito died on 4 May 1980. The collective leadership that took the reins of power inherited a Yugoslavian economy in turmoil and perpetual decline, with an end to growth, crippling foreign debts and food shortages adding to simmering ethnic tensions to create a hugely volatile landscape. Sensing this, the nationalist Serbian League of Communists leader Slobodan Milošević hatched a plot that resulted ultimately in the breakup of the Yugoslavian union. By appealing to the nationalistic tendencies of the populations of the individual republics and mobilizing mass support, in 1988 Milošević succeeded in bringing about leadership changes in Kosovo, Vojvodina and Montenegro, which in turn led to the neutralization of the weak Titoist leaderships of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia.
   The breakup of the federation was hastened by events elsewhere, as communist regimes fell one by one, robbing Titoists of potential allies and moreover trading partners. A year later, the Slovene and Croatian communist parties moved toward democratization, scheduling multiparty free elections for 1990. The election results provided a mandate for the disaffiliation of the two countries from Yugoslavia, and coupled with the strengthening of Serbian independence and Milošević’s abolishment of Kosovo and Vojvodina, the collapse of the federal system was nigh. Civil war ensued, until by 1992 each of the former republics of Tito’s communist Yugoslavia had attained independence, with the rump country now consisting of just Serbia and Montenegro. Successor parties, often espousing a more social democratic approach, replaced the communist parties and the republics started out on the long road to westernization.
   The Marxism practiced in the former Yugoslavia represented the most radical departure in Eastern Europe from the Soviet model of Marxism–Leninism. The break with Stalin in 1948 allowed the country freedom of actions other nations in the Soviet bloc did not have. The key difference was the market-based approach to economics that worker self-management fostered, as Tito led the country away from the centrally planned, command systems of the rest of the Soviet bloc in a firm rejection of Stalinist bureaucracy.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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