Serbian Masses Take the Streets: Last Hurrah of Neo-Stalinism



The clumsy and bullying attempts by the Milosevic regime to retain power in the face of clear popular repudiation have touched off a mass uprising that none of the established political leaderships wanted, including the imperialists and the pro-capitalistYugoslav opposition.

As we go to press on Oct. 5, the mass demonstration called by the opposition to demand that Milosevic respect its victory in the Sept. 24 elections has brought hundreds of thousands of protesters into the streets. They have overwhelmed police and occupied the parliament building and the central TV broadcasting studios.

This explosion finally released all the frustration that has been accumulating for a decade in response to the disasters inflicted on the Serbian people by the neo-Stalinist regime. It has thrown the question of power into the melting pot and could open the way for a more profound social revolution.

The period immediately before and after the Sept. 24 Yugoslav federal elections was marked by complicated maneuvering by the opposition, the imperialists, and Milosevic. And for the week after the opposition’s electoral victory, different possible outcomes of the crisis flashed across the screen of history.

But it was clear that the Milosevic regime had suffered a decisive political defeat, and with it the entire neo-Stalinist current that has arisen in the workers states in response to the crisis of the bureaucratic systems.

Milosevic did not have to hold elections now. He obviously did it because he needed a show of popular support in order to withstand the pressures the imperialists have mounted against him since the outbreak of crisis in Kosovo. He did not get it.

The state elections board itself had to concede that Milosevic ran more than 10 percentage points behind Vojislav Kostunica. Moreover, it did this after initial claims that the Serbian strongman was running well ahead.

When the extent of Kostunica’s lead became too obvious, the election commission gave a result that was just below the 50 percent Kostunica needed to win the first round. That apparently was the most the commission thought it could get away with.

Moreover, Milosevic conducted his election campaign as a virtual civil war, denouncing his opponents as agents of inimical foreign powers who had inflicted ruin and atrocities on the country only a year and a half ago.

His mouthpiece, Politika, even published a long interview in its Sept. 19 issue with a reactionary Orthodox cleric, Bishop Filaret, who hailed Milosevic as the defender of Eastern Orthodoxy against Islam and Western secularism:

“If the West did not want to destroy us, why is this happening today with the Greek church?” This is a reference to the Greek government’s attempt to separate church and state by removing religious designations from identity cards.

And further: “Some of these [opposition] leaders come to Prijepolje and they promise the Muslims an autonomous district. Serbs, think about that. And these people did not go to get the blessing of Saint Sava; Saint Sava does not mean anything to them!”

Milosevic, in short, after throwing every conceivable emotional anathema at the opposition- and using his control of the media and the formidable instruments of state propaganda, intimation, and election fraud-still failed.

In fact, Milosevic has had no difficulty in showing that the imperialist powers are pouring money into the opposition. The imperialists are advertising their role themselves. Indeed, the weekly magazine Nin even wrote in its post-election issue that the United States seemed to want to keep Milosevic in power by trumpeting about how much money they are giving to the opposition.

Such reports must have helped Milosevic with many voters. But they did not help enough. He is so discredited that the imperialists apparently find it in their interest to advertise their support for the opposition, to try to demonstrate to the people of their own countries and probably to many people in Yugoslavia as well that they are champions of democracy.

Ironically, the same Western pollsters that predicted the opposition victory reported in January that between a fourth and a third of Yugoslavs blamed Milosevic for the NATO bombing-ignoring the massive imperialist bombing.

Milosevic’s defeat will have repercussions throughout Eastern Europe. It points up the political incapacity of the neo-Stalinsts to combat imperialism, which is their self-proclaimed objective. The neo-Stalinist formula relies essentially on exploiting reactionary nationalism, the chauvinism of the dominant nationalities, even pan-Slavist exaltation of “Eastern” backwardness against Western modernism.

In the defense of his regime, Milosevic went so far as to enlist support from the Russian fascist madman Vladimir Zhirinovsky, whose remarks were played up in the Sept. 29 Politika.

Clearly this line offers no solution to the problems of the masses hard hit by the attempts of the Stalinist bureaucracy, including the neo-Stalinists, to restore capitalism. This is obvious in particular to the youth, who voted overwhelmingly for the opposition in the Yugoslav elections and are now in the forefront of a mass uprising in Belgrade.

After his defeat, Milosevic’s only hope for surviving was in making a deal with the pro-capitalist opposition and its imperialist friends. They have shown in the past, that they would accept a continuation of the present regime, if they got enough face-saving concessions, rather than risk an uprising that could get out of their control and give the working people a chance to take their fate into their own hands.

The situation has indeed now gotten out of hand. The strike of the coal miners in Kolubara and the mass mobilization in their defense was the turning point. A revolutionary process is now underway that can change the face of the Balkans and possibly all of the post-Stalinist countries.

The dilemma of the working people in Yugoslavia today has been fundamentally no different than elsewhere in Eastern Europe. They have been disorganized and demoralized by unemployment. The long rule of Stalinist totalitarianism deprived them of any organization of their own.

Only the bureaucrats, their Mafia shadow, and the protégés of imperialism have money. But none of the pro-capitalist forces is able to offer any solution to the problems of the masses. And so the situation remains unstable, open to sudden revolutionary explosions-as in Albania in 1997.

The scope of this uprising in the ruins of Yugoslavia may offer the working people an opening for the first time to overcome this dilemma. In the next days, very powerful forces will be at work and the stakes will be extremely high.

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