Wednesday, December 20, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Three [14]



This section starts off reasonably enough; the first paragraph plausibly states that Serbia and Slovenia were the two republics most inclined to push for reforms after Tito's death. It is true that there was strong criticism of the mismanagement of the economy coming from both Slovenia and Serbia; her claim that these two republics also were ahead of the others in their criticism of the "political restraints" under the old system is, on some level, true, but would need some serious qualification if the author were at all interested in an honest analysis. I'm not necessarily pointing fingers at Serbia's leadership--Tito's death preceded Milosevic's rise by a few years, for example.

The paragraph concludes with the following quote:

"The political polarization between Serbs and Slovenes which dominated Yugoslav politics throughout the 1980s may be considered the most lethal blow dealt to Yugoslav unity from within."

So much for the promise of the first few paragraphs. Johnstone is attempting to turn a genuine contributing factor--the increasingly independence- and separatist-minded actions of the Slovene leadership--into the key factor in the breakup of Yugoslavia. I'm not suggesting that this was not a contributing factor; but compared to the rise of Milosevic, and the rise of Serbian nationalism, the restlessness of the Slovenes can hardly be considered decisive. One must be willing to overlook the revocation of autonomy for Kosovo and Vojvodina, for example, to consider the Serb-Slovene rift the "most lethal blow dealt to Yugoslav unity from within."

And note the "from within" qualifier; suggesting that external factors might have been even more decisive. The 'suggestion' will become stronger later in this chapter, and is explicit in Chapter Four.

The second paragraph concerns the frequency with which the Yugoslav constitution was revised during the forty-five years of communist rule. Johnstone makes the argument that the defining trend of this ongoing "permanent revolution" was to weaken the federal state while strengthening the republics. Not a baseless claim, although Johnstone as usual ignores concrete reality in favor of the purely (heavily biased) abstract--the reality was that, whatever the various constitutions said, Tito held the reins at all times. The problem with the communist system in Yugoslavia is that it completely relied on Tito, who simply could not give up absolute power, even in death. The absurdly cumbersome rotating presidency almost seems to have been his attempt to prevent anyone from replacing him in status and power even after he died.

Despite my above-mentioned reservations, Johnstone has at least brushed against some valid concerns so far. In paragraph three, as we shall see, she begins to, predictably enough, go off course.

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