Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Independence for Montenegro?

Here's my piece from today's Guardian.,,1781039,00.html

1 comment:

David Broder said...

Your understanding of independence is off the mark on a number of points. While it is true that the new state is largely subject to the rules of international capitalist organisations such as the EU, IMF and NATO, this does not denigrate the essentially democratic character of self-determination

You write that "today's "independent" Balkan republics had, if anything, more independence when they were autonomous republics inside the Yugoslav Federation. In place of one militarily strong, internationally respected, non-aligned nation, there now exists a number of weak, economically unviable EU/IMF/Nato protectorates". This glorifies the Stalinist Yugoslavia, which suppressed the democratic right of self-determination in a crude display of "internationalism". Montenegro was annexed by Serbia after World War I, leading to a December 1919 insurrection bloodily suppressed by the government of a multi-national country whose origins lay only in the plans of the victorious powers.

You even justify the bureaucratic-Stalinist economic system of the former Yugoslavia "The dismantling of Yugoslavia, with its alternative economic and social model, has suited western capitalism fine" - the idea of 'workers' control' in the Titoite era fails on the count that bureaucratic plans always dominated, and the totalitarian state allowed no opposition to what it decreed. Workers' control was a hollow myth. The fact that western capitalism has been able to take advantage of the fall of Stalinism does not mean that the 1989-91 bourgeois democratic movements were historically reactionary - there was nothing democratic or socialist about the bureaucratic exploitation and domination of the working class. But you even eulogise about how fondly the Yugoslav people reminisce about Marshall Tito.

An alternative to capitalism, yes - but of what character? You should think about working-class politics and working-class power before making grandiose judgements about the fall of Yugoslavia.

Your article talks of the fiction of freedom for Montenegro as if any country existed independently of capitalist-imperialist structures like the IMF or NATO. The fact that we live under a bourgeois order is no reason to object to Montenegrin self-determination, any more than we would say that Irish, Chechen or Palestinian independence were irrelevancies because "capitalism rules anyway".

You also talk as if capitalist Yugoslavia were not a bourgeois economy and state - you decry the fall of the "socialist led government" as instrumental in Thatcherite-led privatisation. The "socialists" led by Slobodan Milosevic, no? The "socialists" who carried out ethnic cleansing against Bosnians and Kosovans?

It seems rather more likely to be the case that Montenegrins seceded from Serbia to secure self-determination 90 years after a colonialist annexation, rather than simply that right-wing agents of the EU/IMF/NATO wanted Montenegro to break away from the heroic "anti-capitalist", "socialist", "independent" Yugoslavia.