News/ 27 March 2019
Yugoslavia (Almost) Thirty Years After
‘Yugoslavia is the European unconscious,
or: the Unconscious is structured as Yugoslavia.’
‘What was Yugoslavia, why does this country not exist anymore, and what has replaced it’? German historian Holm Sundhaussen has dedicated a monumental study to dealing with these questions about the country established on 1 December 1918 – a bit more than a century ago and destroyed almost thirty years ago. Many intellectuals of my generation – journalists, poets, activists or writers born in the last decade of Yugoslavia's existence, leftists in a broad sense, are in some way obsessed with these issues, and even those who are not obsessed are affected by them. Right-wingers have an obsession with Yugoslavia of their own, albeit of a different kind: It is that object of hate which enables their whole world to exist, a demon which they perpetually reanimate, a zombie-like creature which gives meaning to their lives. We on the other side – all of those who believe in liberté, égalité, fraternité –have suffered an irrevocable loss. Our personal histories are widely different: Some of us were directly affected by the war, those coming from pro-Yugoslav families were raised in an internationalist spirit, and some are former nationalists who, although raised in a climate of chauvinism and hate, were intelligent enough to discern its lies. What we have in common is the sense of loss, and I did not mention by chance those political ideals of Enlightenment, never and nowhere truly realised. Because, as German historian Marie Janine-Calic reminds us: ‘At the beginning of the South Slavic idea was the Enlightenment’, and its ideals of progress, humanism, reason and science had materialised in the South-Eastern Europe as a concrete political project: Establishment of the Yugoslav state, ‘Yugoslavia’ meaning ‘The Land of the Southern Slavs’.
Return to Blut und Boden
It is logical that some of the people in former Yugoslavia mostly opposed to Yugoslav idea belong to that same pseudointellectual scum, bigots who are now preaching anti-vaccination, the flat earth theory, banning homosexuality and similar evil, destructive nonsense. For, with Yugoslavia's destruction, the powers in the Balkans were released which are eagerly trying to reverse the last two centuries of civilisation’s development: Separation of Church and State, emancipation of women, human rights in the broadest sense, evolution theory. What they preach is a return to the Dark Ages, fantasy of premodernity, but under modern social conditions. Of course, there were those liberal dreamers, idealists who really believed that once socialist Yugoslavia was destroyed – with its article 133 of the penal code which seriously limited the freedom of speech and thought, with its political prisoners who served prison sentences because of what they have said or wrote, with its ‘Law on the protection of the image and work of Josip Broz Tito’, with the kitschy cult of the autocrat's personality, with bigoted Communist Party's ideological gendarmes who dictated the limits of freedom, etc. – who believed that when the so-called Balkan dungeon of nations was destroyed, democracy and progress would prosper. Certain Croatian authors at the time coined a term which should perfectly denote the future in which we were supposed to live: Crossing the liberal with the nationalist imagination, they termed it ‘DemoCroatia’.
After almost thirty years of national independence, they look pitifully naive and foolish. The current system looks suspiciously perfidious in comparison to the previous one, which was ‘without doubt a non-democratic order’ – says journalist and writer Viktor Ivančić, editor-in-chief of Feral Tribune, the most significant newspaper which ever existed in the region – ‘to put it simply, if you wanted to struggle for the free public space, you had to break the written laws. However, the situation was not as cynical at that time as it is today. The rules of the game were clear. The real madness started in the 90s, when you had constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of speech, a multiparty system and all the democratic standards, but in reality you had tyrannical system which persecuted freedom of speech on a nationalist basis – and is doing it mercilessly. That is the real social hypocrisy’. Although the system evolved from the early 90s, and today's preferred way to silence critics is to fire them – an existential blackmail – recently a citizen in Croatia, a war veteran himself, was sentenced to jail on probation for shouting in public that the first Croatian president, Franjo Tuđman, is a war criminal.
What we got in these thirty years is almost full rehabilitation of quislings and Nazi-sympathizers. The salute under which Croatian fascists committed genocide in World War II is publicly allowed. Franjo Tuđman is described by the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia as an important part of the Joint Criminal Enterprise. Its goal was ethnic cleansing of parts of Bosnia, followed by their annexation by Croatia, and it was perpetrated by the full-scale destruction of cities, rapes, concentration camps, shelling and abuse of civilians. Yet in Croatia, Tuđman is the ‘father of the nation’, after whom squares and even an airport are named with numerous monuments erected in his honour all around the country. The Catholic Church acquired immense economic and ideological power, while a great number of doctors refused to practice abortions. A recent survey among the young showed that the generations raised in a new Croatian state, out of all social institutions, have the most trust in the army, police and religious institutions, while a quarter of them highly value premarital sexual innocence: A comprehensive 19th century Blut und Boden package. In Serbia the situation is similar, if not significantly worse, with perpetrators of genocide in Srebrenica and other war criminals honoured as national heroes.And we have still not even mentioned all the injustices and the social destruction which the introduction of capitalism caused in this periphery of Europe, existential insecurities, unemployment and so on – issues which are probably more important for the majority than sheer freedom of thought.
Yugoslavia as Utopia
Yugoslav peoples have, for centuries, been ruled by foreign empires – the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires, and the Venetian Republic, as well. Even more, the borders of these empires cut exactly through the South Slavic territories. Thus, the experience of periphery and border is constitutive for the Yugoslav experience. It is, therefore, not surprising that even the first, monarchical Yugoslavia,which never managed to be a functional parliamentary bourgeois democracy – or, to lower the ambitions, even to be a functional state at all – had a utopian aura. In the words of historian Branka Prpa, for Yugoslav intellectuals Yugoslavia was ‘the epochal chance of history, a project of the South Slavs realised in a way in which they could not believe that it is possible even in utopian predictions. Two crucial elements were related to Yugoslavia: Modernisation and the solving of the national question, i.e. liberation from foreigners. Yugoslavia was the Enlightenment project of the political and cultural emancipation of its peoples’. In 1918, writer and politician Milan Grol stated, commenting on what it would mean not to accept the Yugoslav project: ‘Everything is better than to live in that jailhouse – and that is what a restored Serbia would be’; his words sound prophetic by looking at the Serbia in 1991, or 2018, as well.
The Kingdom of Yugoslavia, an authoritarian, undeveloped and poor state, almost a piece of the Third World on the edge of Europe, was created in the aftermath of the First World War as a union of the Kingdoms of Serbia and Montenegro with the Slovenian, Croatian and Serbian parts of Austria-Hungary. In the beginning, only these three related peoples were considered as political subjects; after 1945, others were recognised, as well. Yugoslav territory was highly heterogeneous: In 1981, the most numerous group – Serbs – made up 36% of the 22.4 million-strong population, followed by the Croats, with 20% and Bosniaks with 9%. Four more nations had more than 5% of the population. These nations spoke at least four different languages, belonged to three different religions – Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Islam, and wrote in two different alphabets. In Sundhaussen’s words: ‘Measured by the “ideal” of the ethnic homogenous nation-state, Yugoslavia was a quite daring, post-national-seeming construction, which was difficult to classify: Was it born either too soon or it was a chimera from the start, a utopian past or the post-imperial relict? Or a neo-imperial creation’?
From its inception, Yugoslavia has been troubled by instability. The main cause was the conflict between its nations about how the county should be organised. In a way, this issue haunted it till the very end. Should the new state be organised as a unitary state, as was the dominant position of Serbian politicians? Or should it be organised as a federation – a United States of Yugoslavia, as one opposition member articulated, and as was advocated by most Croats and Slovenes? If it was to be a federation, how much independence should the federal units have? Unable to solve this issue, Yugoslavia disintegrated into World War II, its constituent peoples involved in mutual extermination. Croatian fascists – Ustashasor ‘those who stood up’ – erected what was probably the most murderous and most criminal of all the Europe's quisling regimes, which organised the genocide of hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Roma people and Jews, as well as the extermination of thousands of Croats who opposed them. Serb nationalist Chetniks– also collaborators - struck back, killing tens of thousands of Croats and Bosnian Muslims. And, while Yugoslavs massacred Yugoslavs, Germans and Italians mercilessly butchered civilians as a revenge for any resistance.
However, one group defied them all. In the summer of 1941, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY) led by Josip Broz Tito, organised a mass uprising and fought against Germans, Italians, Ustashas, Chetniks and other collaborators. Some two-hundred-and-fifty CPY members were battle-hardened in the Spanish Civil War, helping to turn the rebels – most of whom were peasants – into the most powerful resistance force in Europe. Apart from national equality in a federal Yugoslavia, CPY offered social revolution as well, a promise of class equality in one of the most backward corners in Europe, where toilers of the soil barely managed to survive. During the four years of enormously brutal war, the National Liberation Army heroically fought against all odds and defeated a great number of Axis divisions and hundreds of thousands of pro-Axis Yugoslav troops. So, in 1945, it was Tito's partisans and the CPY which took the power. Their final victory was stained by the execution of tens of thousands of surrendered collaborators. And, despite the fact that a very significant part of the population strongly supported Tito and the CPY, the new regime spared no effort to eradicate any form of opposition, using terror and Stalinist methods when needed. Still, the partisan victory over the forces of darkness had almost mythical proportions. In addition to the fact that Yugoslavia was one of the most brutal theatres of Second World War, it was also the only ideological conflict fought in this region ever, a mini-scale version of, as Enzo Traverso would put it, ‘European civil war’. From the abyss of total destruction arose a new, socialist Yugoslavia: Now a federal state of six republics and two autonomous provinces, its official motto being brotherhood and unity – brotherhood of nations, unity of the working class. This new Yugoslav working nation was to be based on exactly the opposite ground than that of the classical bourgeois nation, and its peoples are now united not because of ethnic identity – not because they are kinfolk, but because of the common struggle against fascism.
In the European satellites of Moscow, local communists came to power on Soviet tanks – ‘almost foreigners in their own native countries’, as Beatrice Heuser wrote. Without their own power base, they were mere puppets of Stalin. On the contrary, the Yugoslav revolution was a grassroots one, not an imported one. No matter how much its leaders professed love for the Soviet Union and Stalin, they were not ready to accept blind obedience. So, when, in 1948, that was finally requested, they defied it, even under the immediate danger of the country being invaded. American historian Henry Williams Brands labelled the Tito-Stalin split as ‘potentially the most important event since the Japanese capitulation’. It was a global sensation: The most fanatical follower of Moscow turned itself into a rebellious renegade and a tacit ally of the Western Bloc – a communist ally. In the early 1950s, the United States poured massive aid into Yugoslavia – which was considered to be the most threatened country in Europe – including arms. In 1955, Nikita Khrushchev publicly apologised for Stalin's threats against Yugoslavia, an act which seemed almost like a symbolic capitulation. After Hitler, the CPY defied Moscow, as well: Another mythical victory.
Though Yugoslavia broke with Moscow, it did not stop considering itself as a socialist country. This caused ideological confusion: With the Soviet threat of aggression, the world of the Yugoslav communists fell apart. Was everything they ever believed in wrong? The CPY's leading theoreticians, such as Edvard Kardelj and Boris Kidrič, went back to reading Marx and Marxist classics. Their conclusion: In the Soviet Union, the bureaucratic class hijacked the revolution and built the totalitarian system which exploits the majority, thus bureaucratic state socialism was a degeneration of the communist idea. In Kidrič's words, Soviet-Yugoslav conflict was ‘a confrontation of an old, already petrified revolution, with a young and vigorous one’.
If the Soviet system was degenerate, Yugoslavs could not continue building their country according to the Soviet model. The solution to this riddle was an unprecedented experiment in history, a giant radical effort of the democratisation of both the economy and society. The CPY decided that the factories and other economic subjects needed to be given directly to the workers, who would run them and decide about everything – from investments to wages – themselves. Hundreds of thousands of worker's councils were created all over Yugoslavia. In the beginning, as the first laws were introduced in 1950, they had limited power, but it was progressively increasing; the new category of social propertywas introduced, as distinct from both private and state property. This was supposed to be the true realisation of the revolutionary mottos ‘Factories to the workers, land to the peasants’.
The CPY renamed itself to the ‘League of Communists of Yugoslavia’. From now on the LCY was not supposed to shape all spheres of life in a totalitarian manner, but it should be an overseeing force which sketches only the most important directions of society's development – although still the only legally-allowed party. In 1974, a very complex system of voting was introduced, and Yugoslavia was supposed to become – in Tito's words – a state built after the example of the ‘Paris Commune or Leninist Soviets’. The new social and political system was, since its beginnings in the 1950s, named self-management or self-managed socialism.According to some writers, the ultimate goal of Kardelj – chief Yugoslav ideologue – was the realisation of Engels, according to which the development of socialism would cause the state itself to wither away, and the society would be run by free associations of workers.
Yugoslavia as Modernity
For the peoples of the collapsed federation, there is a solid answer to the question ‘Why Yugoslavia?’, no matter how ignorant they or their political and intellectual elites may be at the moment. Calic has stated it clearly: ‘Tito's communist system represented up to that time the most ambitious and the most comprehensive effort to counteract the excesses of capitalism through industrial progress and social justice, and at the same time to establish modernity in the first place. Socialist Yugoslavia was the most serious effort at modernisation in South-East Europe ever, but it also stood for the ideal of the better world, in which alienation and class conflicts would be surpassed through a modern social order based on solidarity’. The decades after 1950 were, in many senses, the golden years of Yugoslavia. GDP per capita rose constantly by more than 6%, and real wages rose by 150% till 1977. Citizens of Yugoslavia lived better than ever before in history, and Yugoslavia was the most liberal of all socialist countries.
Yugoslav modernity was evident in its aesthetics. While, before 1948, one of the CPY's ideologues, Milovan Đilas, could write that ‘America is our mortal enemy, and so is jazz, its product’, by the end of 1960s, Yugoslav pop culture and society were so Americanised that historians termed it ‘Coca-Cola socialism’, and in the Yugoslav movie Battle of Sutjeska, the role of Tito was played by Richard Burton. Much more radical modernity was evident in architecture, most of all in monuments to the antifascist struggle; their utopian, abstract aspects were highlighted in the recent exhibition at MoMa titled Towards a Concrete Utopia, while one previous show in Berlin was titled Raumschiff Jugoslawien –‘Spaceship Yugoslavia’. Not to mention that, in the 1980s, the country developed one the most interesting New Wave musical scenes in Europe, while a decade before the film directors of the Yugoslav ‘black wave’, such as Aleksandar Petrović or Dušan Makavejev, were winning awards at Cannes and the Berlin Film Festival. Yugoslavia attracted leftist intellectuals from all around the world, its ‘socialism with a human face’ being discussed as a modernity possibly superior both to Western and Eastern ones. Jürgen Habermas, Erich Fromm and Henri Lefebvre – to name just a few – were among those who were coming to Yugoslavia to participate in philosophical discussions. Their Yugoslav hosts published the magazine Praxis, one of the more important Marxist publications at the time. And in geopolitical terms, thanks to the singular Cold War constellation and to a widely ambitious and ingenious foreign policy – Marshal Tito's founding of the Non-Aligned Movement, together with Gamal Abdel Nasser and Jawaharlal Nehru, and the leading role Yugoslavia played in it – in 1979 the US National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, wrote that Yugoslavia is ‘besides the US and USSR the only country in the world which affirmed itself as a factor on the global level’. All of these were reasons for the statement attributed to the famous black wave director, Živojin Pavlović, that ‘Tito's time will be remembered as the Pericles time of the South Slavs’.
Nationalisms of Yugoslav Nations as Self-Destruction
Of course, the Yugoslav project ended in a disaster. The reasons are complex and manifold, with no single cause able to explain even the breakdown, not to speak of the violent Armageddon with which it was accompanied. I can't here discuss in-depth the reasons for catastrophe, but I will name some of the most important aspects. Starting with the early 1980s, deep economic crises began. Inflation rose rapidly: In 1979 one dollar was worth nineteen dinars, in 1987 it was 1244 dinars to a dollar. Wages were falling and the cost of life rose rapidly. In the early 1980s, agreements with the IMF were signed and austerity measures introduced. Yugoslav federalism was complicated and flawed. Republics turned into ever more independent entities, and conflicts arose between richer and poorer federal units. Yugoslavia proved unable to achieve convergence: Over 40 years the development gap between the richest union member, Slovenia, and poorest, Kosovo, dramatically increased. The Party itself became a technocratic structure and was losing legitimacy with the masses. In 1945 the CPY was a peasant party, while in 1980s it made up less than 3% of the party members, although 30% of the population still lived from agriculture.
While I won’t go into the usual critiques about how self-management was highly inefficient, it certainly did not function according to the way it was presented, as the LCY never completely gave power away. There was a contradiction between avant-garde ideals, the existing – but limited – democratisation of society, and the dictatorial structures and mentality. At the end of 1960s, the system stood at the height of its success, however it proved unable to continue democratisation. In the early 1970s, Tito and the LCY returned to authoritarianism, with both nationalists and liberals purged with iron-fist methods. The state itself made it impossible for a magazine like Praxisto continue publishing, and film director Lazar Stojanović ended up in jail, because of his avant-garde movie Plastic Jesus. And maybe the most important, the Yugoslav revolution did not create institutions which could handle the ever-rising conflicts in the democratic process. The party ruled the country in an authoritarian way, and the role of main arbitrator was always reserved for charismatic Tito. From a historical distance, maybe even the thesis could be supported that this proved to be the main guarantor of revolution and stability of the multinational union. But of course, he had to die, as he did in 1980. His funeral was the greatest state funeral in history, with representatives of 128 countries and various liberation movements.
A decade, later Yugoslavia sank into a devastating serious of wars, which saw genocide, mass expulsion, ethnic cleansing – the term itself entered international law during the Yugoslav Wars – large-scale destruction of cities, concentration camps, all of that, it could hardly be believed, in Europe at the end of the 20th century. The complete extermination of the Yugoslav project was carried out in the name of nationalism, which was also partially resurrected because of the monolithic politics of memory which the LCY enforced. There was never a truly open ‘dealing with the past’, confronting the catastrophe of the 1941-1945 war outside of the simplified black-and-white CPY narrative, even if it was not wrong in its main arguments. Once returned, nationalism not only inflicted enormous suffering on the opposing nations. It was also often responsible for the mass tragedy of the hundreds of thousands of members of its own nation, which was considered an acceptable price to pay for the establishment of Great Serbia or Great Croatia. It meant the thorough destruction of the achievements of the Yugoslav modernisation project, as well. It happened not only in cultural terms, but also in its thorough deindustrialisation, reduction of worker's rights and reduction of the Yugoslav area back to the economic-cultural periphery: In 1980, the Irish GDP was two times less than Croatia's; today it is two times higher.
The most powerful, most destructive and primary force was Serbian nationalism – and it forced most of its destruction upon both the Serb and other nations – but Croatian nationalism was not that far behind. As philosopher and theorist of culture Boris Buden summarised: ‘Ustashism is that moment in which the classical Croatian bourgeois, i.e. petty-bourgeois nationalism, turns into the phase of the national self-destruction, in which so-called patriotism exterminates the real object of its love. (...) Ustashas defeated in 1945 returned in 1991 to complete their project, and they have succeeded. As the Ustasha state was the bare resource of German capital (...) so is today's Croatian state – with its people, with all of its natural, material and human potential – a resource of global capitalism, and the role of the national elite is to allow the unobstructed extraction of these resources. This sheds a completely different light on the so-called communism period of 1945-1990 (...) Communists, who were not a-national at all, tried to endow some kind of content to the nation, social, economic, some kind of political meaning, to secure sovereignty within realistic framework. Historical communism in our region was not utopian at all; on the contrary, communists were authentic political realists’.
Yugoslavia as a Spectre Haunting Europe
‘Men who have suffered attain knowledge. Men who are shipwrecked objectify their most authentic existence through knowledge. Just as pearls are formed in the clam through injuries by foreign particles, the most truthful knowledge derives from the deepest injury short of death’, wrote Jaspers, explaining his concept of injury. It is tricky and far-fetched to translate existential philosophy into historical analysis. But it is, in a way, valid that all of us who identify with Yugoslavia's – however flawed – Enlightenment project have suffered a historical defeat.
Two remarks should be highlighted. First, although all of the inhabitants of former Yugoslavia, in their everyday life, suffer the consequences of the destruction of that project – if nothing else, by living in what Dejan Jović calls ‘the ethno-totalitarianism of everyday life’, where everything has a tendency to be subjected to an ethnic community – of course, it is a quite abstract suffering in relation to the hundreds of thousands whose lives have been materially destroyed. It would be quite arrogant and detached from reality to equate these two modes of suffering, but both are suffering, nonetheless. Secondly, it is possible that we idealise the Yugoslav project, attributing to it qualities it did not have in reality. But even if it is just nostalgia, it says a lot about the present time.
Have we, who are shipwrecked by the Yugoslav catastrophe, learned anything from the Yugoslav example? It is tricky to make macro-historical comparisons. However, looking at the current economic, social and political situation in Europe, it is hard to miss a whole range of similarities, while not disregarding the differences. As socialist Yugoslavia was in 1980s, the today's European Union is a multinational structure facing crises. A nationalist-populist, anti-establishment movements calling for the return to national sovereignty reminds us of some aspects of Slobodan Milošević's ‘anti-bureaucratic revolution’ which was the beginning of Yugoslavia’s final breakdown. Discussions during the Eurozone crisis about ‘who is exploiting whom’ – do the debtor countries of the south, such as Greece, exploit the ‘core’ of Germany and other industrialised states, or is the ‘core’ exploiting the non-industrial periphery as a market for its products? – as well looks curiously similar to the economic conflicts between Yugoslav republics. In 2015, Slovenian former minister of finance, Jože Mencinger claimed, commenting on the Eurozone crises: ‘We are at the point where Yugoslavia was in 1985.’
Sundhaussen highlights that, in the 1980s in Yugoslavia, Deutungseliten –which could be translated as ‘elites tasked with interpreting the world’, e.g. writers, clergyman, journalists and politicians – successfully manipulated the rest of population and created the mainstream in which ‘nation’ became the dominant standpoint, and the world has been divided in the ‘Friends’ and ‘Enemies’. This is the painfully appropriate description of the circumstances in which the Brexit referendum was organised, or the circumstances in which the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) became a powerful political force. The common Yugoslav citizens were exposed to a flood of information, which they were unable to critically sort out and interpret: Anyone can see the similarity with what is today fashionably called fake news.
Attending the PEGIDA protest in Dresden in 2016, I felt disturbed in a strange manner. The contradictory slogans, total ideological confusion of the protesters, the feeling that the elites had let them down, anger towards the establishment and the need to find the scapegoat: Maybe the best expression for what I felt would be what Freud calls the unheimlich or ‘uncanny’ – something very familiar and very strange in the same moment. It took some time to understand, before I grasped it: These phenomena are very much familiar to me. The strange part, though, was that I am used to them in the countries of former Yugoslavia. Germans aren't supposed to behave that way.
For this reason, I have, as the epigraph of this text, copied the same quote by Mladen Dolar, originally used by Buden as the epigraph to his text from 1990. It is well possible that today it is more striking than it was at that time. The European Union and the prevailing neoliberal system, characterised by the union of parliamentary democracy and capitalism, is losing legitimacy over the continent. In the Brexit referendum, it was clear that the issue was at least partially one of class, with the lower-classes voting against, as they feared they were losers in the game of globalisation. In Germany, the rise of the AfD can be partly explained by the neoliberal reforms of Agenda 2010. Speaking about the relation between the evaporating legitimacy of the German social market economy and the hate towards refugees, sociologist Horst Kahrs said: ‘If your maximum possible expectation is that you do not live worse than you live now, then any new person who arrives is a threat per se – because you cannot even suppose how it would be possible otherwise’.
To summarise, there are a lot of arguments for the thesis that the current rise of right-wing movements across Europe – from Poland to Marine Le Pen in France – has, as one of the significant causes, rising inequality and class issues. The prevailing system in Europe today is non-democratic in significant aspects. It is not only ‘Brussels bureaucracy’ – actually a minor issue – but the fact that it is favouring the capital at the expense of the working masses, private property at the expense of public, profit at the expense of social wellbeing. In the Yugoslavia in the 1970s and 1980s, the difference between the various factions of the LCY were greater than in a many of the multi-party systems today. Yet their leaders were united by the stance that the LCY does not have, and never should, an alternative, as most of the current political parties, apart from the ‘radical’ left ones, hold that current capitalism has no alternative. Speaking about current democracy, Greek people may vote however they wish, in the end they have to do what the Troika orders, i.e. bailout the German and the French banks. And yet it is possible that only the thorough restructuring and deep economic democratisation could the right-wing tide be reversed, which could potentially have catastrophic consequences.
The spectre of Yugoslavia is haunting its peoples, both as the scapegoat satanised by the current elite and as counter-history, a remembrance of the past not based on ethnic hate and the reversal of modernity.This is the reason why, for us, it is the name for the resistance to, and for the betrayal of, the current anti-Enlightenment Balkan reality. Yugoslavia was a complex project, with lots of contradictions. Its experiment in radical democracy was flawed, incomplete and controlled by the party oligarchy. Yet Yugoslavia is also a name of a unique construct, a rich history and heritage from which much can be learned to inform our present struggles.
Finally, Yugoslavia is an unconscious of Europe. Is the fate of Yugoslavia a spectre haunting Europe? We should remember that the unconscious often breaks into consciousness in a violent and highly unpleasant way. It is maybe impossible to avoid it, but looking at the two multinational structures, we should remember Sima Marković's words. The communist deputy in the Yugoslav parliament shouted, in 1920: ‘Yugoslavia shall be a democratic state, or it shall not survive’!
By Jerko Bakotin