State Centralism, Peripheral Nationalism- From Serbian Memorandum to Croatian Independence

The death of Tito was to provide the catalyst for a shift in the political centre’s addressing of the cumbersome nature of national power relations within the Yugoslav state. Though the sum total of the Titoist era would see the emergence of a revived centre and weakened political periphery, the legacy of past cycles of nationalist oriented protest activism had shown that the periphery, though marginalised, would be more than ever acutely aware of the nature of the state sovereignty. In this chapter I will chart the rise of the final cycle of activism that would inherit the knowledge of past campaigns and utilise them into a coordinated attack that would ‘mimic’, frame by frame, the reactivation of the centre’s counter-movement. Until there would be no other choice for the LCC, but exclusion from a Serb dominated political structure ,ie, independence.

In this way, I have no intention of saying that Yugoslavia could not have been reformed like Spain, or kept in limbo like Northern Ireland, through the successful circumvention of the cycle of protest. Rather, I wish to show how the path to populism chosen by the Serb elite left the Croats with little choice but to seek the radical option of state independence. Thus, I desire to demonstrate how the Croat movement, under the guidance of the LCC, purposefully ‘mimicked’ the actions of Belgrade with the full intention of exploiting the cycle of action-reaction-action initiated by Milosevic to ensure the polarisation of Yugoslav political society. A polarisation that would prove to be the catalyst for a decline in communal relations and the impetus needed for the reemerging national movements. Hence, without the state centre’s intransigence, without their willingness to consolidate their power at all costs, there was no way that the cycle of protest-reform-protest could have emerged by which the peripheral Croat movement could have so readily exploited to their advantage.

The trigger was the expansion of repertoire in coordination with similar centre expansion, so as to never directly threaten the state through the implementation of VDA, as occurred in Northern Ireland and the Basque Country. Thus, ensuring that the institutions would be put in place through consolidating national formalisation, via electoral participation that would provide a state organisation alternative in direct opposition to the ideological option proffered by the state centre.


Revolving Presidency and Spiralling National Claims: The Death of Tito and the Immediate Aftermath for the Resolution of the National Question.

The core political changes that occurred after the death of Tito in Yugoslavia were derivative of a fundamental shift in political organisation that had its base in the grass roots movements of the 1970s that were steeped in anti-state cultural movement activism (Ramet 1992: 7). VDA had become inconsequential, yet alternative means to social mobilisation seemed to provide necessary cultural structures that could be utilised to create space within cleavages that emerged from the dynamic inter-relationship between consolidating state centre and mobilising periphery. Much of this was a response to the refusal of the LCY to move away from a narrow perspective of state power, through excluding the adaptation of any pluralist notion that would threaten their monopoly of power (Stokes 1993: 228). The cleavage in political society that emerged was between elite and masses, centre and periphery, and the ability to create a larger scope for structures of communal and individual advancement through the very struggle between Serbia and Croatia for predominant, and autonomous, political development respectively (Bose 1995).

The revolving Presidency that emerged in the wake of Tito’s death failed to provide a sufficient bulwark to the increasing demands coming from the Council of Nations (Dimitrijevic 1995: 64). With the ascension to power of a new President every year there emerged a scenario whereby each republican elite would place their own demands at the centre of the political agenda each time they held office; subsequently negating the aims of the previous competing Presidency. Thus, according to Janjic (1995. p35), what emerged on the periphery of Yugoslav society were “autonomous political spheres.” This led to a rise in the occurrence of popular movements, protest actions, political gatherings and popular demonstrations in response to the increased polarisation of the Presidency.

The very populist nature of the movements was highlighted by the lack of resistance to such reform from the very institutions of the Yugoslav state that were designed to relieve ethnic competition (Prazauskas 1991: 581-583; Malcolm 1994: 203). This could be attributed to the communist regime identification with the state, leading the periphery to view the state as an extension of the ethnic rule of one core elite over another (Banac 1990: 147). The regime, and hence the state in the eyes of the populace, became associated with the growing disparities in economic development and power sharing throughout the Federation, so nothing but the complete dismantling of its constitutional base would suffice for the majority of the population on both sides (Dodan 1991: 253). Kecmanovic (1996: 94) feels that with the death of Tito a new environment emerged whereby this new doctrinal push would be the institutional key to how the state effected protest awareness of peripheral activism as a means of seeking political redress. One in which strategically placed movement elites could exploit the cycle of action-reaction-action emerging from centralist elites in order to gain maximum advantage. The problem was that with each move to engage the state to react, and with each expansion of protest repertoire, there would be a similar rise in state sponsored counter-movements.


The Formation of Counter Social Movements as Ideological Challengers to the Innate Pro-Serbian Line of State development.

The nature of the state monopoly was to lead to the formation of nationalist elites on the periphery that were innately anti-Serb, but not yet anti-Yugoslav (Denitch 1994: 36-40; Malcolm 1994: 211). There was still a belief that if the centre could be wrested away from the LCS, then a decentralised Federation could placate the national demands of the periphery (Silber & Little 1995: 50; Lampe 1996: 347-349). The 1980s would become a period of redefinition of strategy as the period of national movement inactivity in Croatia would slowly dissipate, which came to be called the “Great Silence” (Bilandzic 1990: 20). The key was that of the LCC, which would, through political opportunity structures offered by the Federation in transition, take on the trappings of Croatism as an ideological principle of counter movement to the intensive centralism that was emerging from Belgrade (Banac 1992: 157).

The 1981 Kosovo Uprising, and the 1981 to 1982 Vojvodinian autonomist rallies, were all significant in their ability to mobilise non-Serbian populations of the provinces through utilising Yugoslav nationalist ideals and rhetoric (Horvat 1989: 18; Banac 1992: 149; Ramet 1995: 201-203). Yet, the nature of state repression was to leave little doubt in the eyes of most activists that Yugoslavia as a unitarist state was constructed to the advantage of the Serbian population (Bilandzic 1986: 73-74; Stokes 1993: 231). More importantly, it was to place the attainment of the nation-state at the centre of all future nationalist demands, as the fight for titular republican status was seen by many Kosovars and Vojvodinians as the sole guarantor of national political development (Pupovac 1995: 142). Nationalism was the vehicle set within the Yugoslav power sharing framework that guaranteed a community its continued separate development (Stokes 1993: 232).

Per capita, Albanian Kosovars and Croats were the most arrested political activists in the Federation (Horvat 1989: 189; Bennett 1995: 78). What the Croatians feared most was the further isolation of their political elite, that was slowly reconsolidating much of the ground that they had lost in the wake of the collapse of the Spring Movement. With the peripheral nature of movement activism, it soon became plausible to establish that these anti-centralist forces were truly anti-Serb, for otherwise why would they be so blatantly trying to wrest power away from Belgrade (Banac 1992: 149)? The fact that the unitarists had failed at the Twelfth Party Congress in 1982 to restructure the state away from republican self-determination had signalled to the Belgrade elite that for Yugoslavia to survive, a strong hand was needed (Lytle 1995: 240).

What the Kosovo uprising had taught the LCC was, no matter the rhetoric of national unity and the Federation as the guarantor of the continuance of historic national movements, the LCS would prove to be the agent of centralist mobilisation and state expansion into the public and cultural sphere (Horvat 1989: 18). Vesna Pesic (1994b: 9) believed that this would “influence the first wave of nationalism in Croatia” as the political arena was being defined by Serbia within a cyclical reemergence of national iedntity to suit the popularisation of centralist doctrine. Yugoslavia was dividing along conservative and liberal nationalist lines, as it had done in 1966. With the formation of the collective Presidency on May 15, 1984, a new period of debate arose as Milka Planinc was re-elected for a further two years as Prime Minister (Lampe 1996: 320). A politician who had relinked the LCY with the LCC in the wake of the collapse of the Spring Movement, she had gained her reputation in ousting nationalist elements within the LCC (Tanner 1997: 200-201). Her statements made in support of the political status quo were in fact dated, and belied the true nature of the disenchantment that the nation was feeling with the established political order. More significantly, it was a sign that the LCC was willing again to play with the concept of mass movements as moral justification for elite inspired change in the name of further decentralisation (Singleton 1985: 283).

This move towards mass movements was to come fully to the fore by the mid-1980s as the LCY was moving towards a unitarist stance through the development of separate political platforms between the various Republics (Ramet 1992: 8). The strength of the decentralist argument lay in the expansion of Serbian influence, not only within the political sphere, but also the economic field (Dodan 1990, 1991). The ability to harness the crisis of class, and national and urban-rural identity, that emerged with the death of Tito, would create political undercurrents as issues of social discontent, economic poverty and ideological rigidity would become associated with the centre’s inability to deal with peripheral demands (Kecmanovic 1996: 163). The restructuring, that commenced under Stambolic, but was completed by Milosevic, saw the rate of contribution to the Fund for Economic Development of Impoverished Regions between 1985 and 1989, which was coincidentally under Serbian bureaucratic auspices, increase in Croatia and Slovenia from 25.28% to 26.42% and 14.72% to 23.77% respectively; correspondingly in Serbia it would drop from 38.16% to 27.42% (Vojnic 1995: 102).

The October 1984 plan, for further recentralisation of state funds and judicial legislation by the LCS, with the tacit backing of the LCY, was to mobilise the LCC into a strong anti-centralist stance at the 14th Central Committee Plenum (Ramet 1992: 15). Serbia’s response to the claims, by the Slovene delegate Andrej Marinc, that the centre was playing with nationalism in order to reconstitute the state was summed up in Milosevic’s reply:

We have been threatened with a political crisis if we continue to discuss these problems. All right, let us enter that political crisis. This is going to produce a great uproar about the question of unity or separatism. In such a crisis, separatism will not prevail, because the people have accepted unity. Those leaders incapable of seeing this will lose the public’s confidence. If separatism is not opposed, our country will have no prospects for the future. It can only disintegrate (Ramet 1992: 16).

This is a tacit recognition, on Milosevic’s behalf, that a crisis would only lead to the success of the centre, and as such should have been taken for the threat it was. Yet, he neglected to read the signals that suggested that without the figurehead of Yugoslavism, Tito, any justification for a stronger centre would only serve to provide a reason for anti-centralist popular mobilisation that a marginalised Croat elite was searching for. The fact that the Vlaskalic Commission, that was convened to prepare the Party ideological line for the 13th Party Congress held from June 25 to 28, 1986, was to demand the defeat of decentralists and the serious consideration of the role of Yugoslav national identity, with the role of the LCS in achieving this, highlighted the state’s role as oppressor (Ramet 1992: 17-18). It was here when Stambolic was overthrown by Milosevic that the liberals within the central state apparatus were to dissipate (Letica: 1996b 177).

The ascendance of the Bosnian Croat leader Branko Mikulic to the Premiership in the wake of the 13th Party Congress was to be viewed by the centralists in Belgrade as an example of how Croat heritage would innately be related to the push for decentralisation (McFarlane 1988: 61-65; Malcom 1994: 210). His 1987 admittance of the misuse of borrowed funds by the Presidency for use in regional development was perceived as an attack on the centre’s desire to dictate economic development (Bennett 1995: 69; Woodward 1995: 253-259). The legitimation process was soon to take the form of pandering to Serbian mass popular opinion, as well as the role of the Serbian state as the guarantor of constitutional unitarism. The ascendancy of Ante Markovic to power in March 1989 was to be the last opportunity to save the Federation (Stokes 1993: 239).

The state was to respond by a total misreading of the situation. At the core was the Markovic ‘Long Term Stabilisation Programme’ of 1983 (Crawford 1996: 71). The aim of this programme was to alleviate social division of development through the introduction of a more equitable long term economic programme (Malcolm 1994: 210; Lampe 1996: 347-348). Yet, in a country fed up with ‘five-year plans’, any solution that did not redress the national question could not be fully acceptable (Cviic 1995: 55). Milosevic read this as such, and rightly saw that what the Croat Spring had taught the Yugoslav populist was that national sentiment was a tiger to be ridden, and any state willing to embrace their nationalist constituency would have a loyal cadre ready to break the restrictions of the federal cage (Denitch 1994: 105). Lane (1996: 41) would classify these tactics by Milosevic as the classic strategy of an ideological policy of ‘counter offensive’. In many ways, he sought to dance with the extremists in the same manner that Major courted Paisley (Sharrock & Devenport 1997: 387-389). Unlike Major, however, he had no minority coalitions within the Serbian Republic to deal with. This provided an advantage for the Croat movement that the Irish and Basques never had. That of a clear message that the centre would never negotiate.

I fully concur with Lytle (1995: 239), who felt that where the LCY had failed was in that it refused to recognise that it was viewed as a transitory government in the greater national development of both the Serb and Croat national movements. Markovic’s attempts to formulate a strategy based on the 1958 unitarist doctrine of Jedinstvo (Unity), that was created by Rankovic the father of contemporary Serbian state unitarism, was bound to be exploited by the centre searching for new means, outside outright military intervention as in 1971, of diminishing the power base of the fledgling movements on the periphery (Lane 1996: 41). This very federalist structure had indeed fostered an environment balanced by competing ethnic ideologies which would lead to the eventual downfall of reforms designed to bring all Republics into line (Djilas 1995: 85). The heart of the demands from the periphery concentrated on complete autonomy from the centre, as it was realised that centralism advantaged Serbia more than any one else, a point annunciated further by Pupovac (1995: 142):

The process of democratisation within the political framework of the former Yugoslavia was led by nationalist movements with the primary objective of establishing nation-state.

The new direction that the LCS was to follow would arise simultaneously with the political ascension of Slobodan Milosevic.1 Even when succeeding Ivan Stambolic to the top of the Belgrade LC in 1984, Milosevic was at worst considered a consumate apparatchik (Bennett 1995: 83-85). Yet, it was through his ascendancy within the financial and industrial core of the Yugoslav bureaucracy that he was to see the advantage of formulating an alliance between the state bureaucracy and the Serbian nationalists outside the Party, through the push for a state sanctioned nationalist platform (Lampe 1996: 338-341).

This possibility aroused deep concern among many Serbs who saw a potential loss of status and privilege on an individual and communal basis. However, it also offered an opportunity. New elites could attempt to use this tension to carve out a greater role for themselves in the shifting structure of power within society, as existing forms of political legitimacy frayed and anxieties escalated (Cigar 1995: 20).

By associating national identity with strong centralism, Milosevic was able to bypass the liberals of the LCY through exploring the benefits of mass populism as a means of pressing his political claims (Sekelj 1993: 198-205).

In a sense, Milosevic is more an exceptionally malignant symptom or manifestation of the terminal crisis of the superstructure of the Titoist state in relation to the infrastructure of Yugoslav society (or perhaps societies) rather than its cause (Bose 1995: 109).

Greenfeld (1996: 306) felt that the ease in which Milosevic and the Serbian unitarists were able to shed the Marxist doctrine for the nationalist one lay in the similarities between both ideologies. Though Marxism is an internationalist doctrine, I agree with Greenfeld (ibid.: 307) when she points out that in the Yugoslav case, Marxism slimly camouflaged national aspirations of Republican elites behind a doctrine of mass legitimation through movement mobilisation of organic political sentiment. It was a doctrine that could be manipulated without having to be necessarily responsive to the periphery once it was consolidated in the form of the state. Of course, on the periphery perceptions were different, and lent much to equating the development of national movement activism with freedom of political expression (Simms 1996: 254).

The traps that the Basque and Irish movements had to face once they achieved full enfranchisement was, unlike the Croats, their centre had the foresight to provide semi-acceptable structures for peripheral advancement in their new democracies. The advantage for the Croat political elite seeking re-engagement was that the Serb centre gratefully supplied, unwittingly, the necessary polarisation that the Irish and Basque peripheries could only supply through VDA. An option that also tends to consolidate the peripheral community rather than stratify the conflict.

The willingness of the state to embrace populist nationalism in order to check the periphery would come to the fore in the Summer of 1987 (Almond 1994: 202; Ramet 1995: 211). On April 24, 1987 some 60 000 Serbs of Kosovo signed a petition orchestrated by the Party against the ‘genocide’ of the Serbian population that would be presented to the Council of Nationalities and the Federal Executive (Bennett 1995: 92-93). Frustrated with the inability, or unwillingness, of Mikulic to deal with the unitarists, both the LCC and SLC attempted to bring around a no confidence vote in his Premiership (Lampe 1996: 341). An action that was backed by the trade unions as 5 000 workers from Vukovar and Borovo were to picket the Federal Parliament building in Belgrade at the beginning of July, to be eventually joined by tractor factory workers in Rijeka (Ramet 1995: 38).

For Milosevic official state nationalism provided the necessary ideological control of the state apparatus that excluded those individuals and communities that opposed his reshaping of the state in times of socio-political transformation (Pupovac 1995: 142; Greenfeld 1996: 309). For the LCC this provided the mobilisation that would be more difficult to achieve in more stable times. One that could utilise mass politics in order to influence the media and other areas of information dissemination to the benefit of the bureaucratic state elite (Kupchan 1995a). In this respect, Milosevic’s rhetoric was designed to polarise Yugoslav society along ethno-nationalist lines which left little choice but for republican elites to respond in similar means (Simms 1996: 67). The Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) manifesto, The Proposed Serbian Church National Programme, that would be published correspondingly on the 28th of June 1989, the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo would clearly place the onus for the protection of the Serbian nationalist aspirations on the shoulders of Milosevic (Popovic 1994: 327; Cohen 1996: 41). Such rhetoric was exemplified in his speech at the commemoration of the Battle of Kosovo:

I want to tell you that you should stay here. Here is your land, here are your houses, your fields and gardens, your memories... [By leaving] you would betray your ancestors and disappoint your descendants. But I do not propose that in staying you continue to endure a situation with which you are not satisfied. On the contrary. We have to change it... Don’t tell me that you can’t do it alone. Of course you can’t do it alone. We will change it together, we in Serbia and everyone in Yugoslavia. No one will ever beat a Serb again... No one has the right to beat the people! (Stokes 1993: 233).

The prime example of Milosevic’s willingness to embrace nationalist populism emerged at this mass rally when in 1989 he granted permission for the bones of Prince Lazar to be exhumed and placed on display at the monastery at Gracanica.2 After having been transported by train throughout ethnic Serb territories, mass demonstrations of faith were evoked that had not been seen since similar exhibitions of popular expression of sorrow for the funeral cortege of Tito (Sells 1996: 24). Under the Chetnik Movements pro-monarchist slogan of “Only Unity Saves the Serbs,”3 the LCS would declare its role as protectors not just of Yugoslav unitarism, but Serbian national predominance of the state (Kecmanovic 1996: 35). More significantly, the subsequent campaign that surrounded the festivities, including an icon poster for sale that included Jesus Christ, Prince Lazar and Milosevic together, left no doubt of whom the LCS considered was to be representative (Malcolm 1994: 213). Milosevic had arrived.


The Serbian Memorandum as a State Response to Peripheral Liberalisation: A Declaration of Serbian National Intent or an Attempt to Dictate the Pace of reforms?

The LCS had become the last bastion of conservative bureaucrats, with Milosevic at its head, who saw the predominance of reformists within the LCY as a direct threat to their privileges (Gagnon 1994: 120). 1985 would prove to be a year of much structural reform which would see the state seeking to align itself with popular undercurrents within Serbian society. Especially, with the disenchanted nationalist intelligentsia, so as to provide the necessary popular base that could challenge the populist movement emerging on the periphery. Kosovo, and the imagery of its history within the collective psyche of the Serbian people, would become a key to this (Schöpflin 1995: 56-57).

The alignment between the Serbian Association of Writers and Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts was to produce a state programme that was to be placed in an historic continuum of the development of the Yugoslav state as the protector of Serbian political predominance (Crnobrnja 1994: 97-100; Mestrovic 1994: 45; Cohen 1996: 40). This new, essentially literary oriented, movement was to play an integral role in defining the state’s reaction to the push from the periphery for greater liberalisation (Sells 1996: 32). The death of Tito had enabled the desire for Serb sponsored unitarism, that had been repressed since the dismissal of Rankovic in 1965, to gain political legitimacy amongst the state bureaucracy searching for new means of controlling the ever dissident peripheries (Conversi 1996: 254).

The academics Dobrica Cosic, Ljubomir Tadic and Mihailo Markovic, who were to play a major role in unifying the Serbian polity behind the state, produced the Serbian Memorandum Conversi 1996: 254; see also Pavkovic 1994). First drafted in 1985, by 1986 it would provide the moral justification that most centralists were searching for (Bennett 1995: 81; Alter 1994: 110). What was more fearsome for the Croat elite was that much of the work was penned by Cubrilovic and Cosic, who both had written a similar Government memorandum in 1937 (Simms 1996: 67). The 1937 document had been similarly utilised by a unitarist Serbian Government to assimilate Albanians within the Monarchy immediately prior to the commencement of World War Two (Cohen 1996: 40).

These first moves to embrace the rhetoric of the historical national movement of Serbia, by placing state unitarism at the core of state, through development referring to the images of the loss of independence on the Field of Blackbirds in 1389, the desecration of Orthodoxy under the Ottomans and the decimation of the Monarchy by the Partisan forces with a Croat at its head, Tito, were an open dance with the ghosts of unfulfilled populism (Sells 1996: 24). It also questioned, how far the Federation could accept the notion of popular movement as the base for its legitimacy. Considering that the state now would proffer an ideological movement in direct conflict of the periphery’s. Milosevic desired to create out of the Kosovo issue what Sells (1996: 31) called the “Serb Jerusalem”. What the Memorandum had granted the centralist LCS, was intellectual legitimacy for the new centralist doctrine (Höpken 1994: 235; Cigar 1996: 58).

The greater mythification of the national cause was aided by the rehabilitation of nineteenth century Serbian and Montenegrin romantic literature in works like Bishop Petar II Njegos’ The Mountain Wreath, where the Moslem Slav is further vilified as the traitor within, who will always oppose the right of the Serb ascendancy until they are disposed of (Banac 1992: 150; Ramet 1992a: 28-29; Sells 1996). Similar to the mythology of the Siege of Derry and the defence by the Apprentice Boys becoming integral to the ideological justification for a homogeneous Ulster state (Ignatieff 1993: 169). Though, as one Croat activist ironically told me “this was somewhat similar to the way we perceived Serbia. We are more alike than we like to admit.”4 Nonetheless, the rhetoric of national betrayal and the concept of the metropole as the bastion of the continuance of an historical movement would become integral in Milosevic’s attempts at mobilising the nation behind the state (Banac 1992: 150). A passage from the Memorandum (1986), seems to highlight such objectives of maintaining the centralist state’s pro-Serbian development:

The economic reform of 1965 was in essence a change in the basic strategic direction of social development: the project political democratisation was substituted for a project of economic liberalisation. The idea of self-management, whose essence is the disalienation of politics, was substituted for the idea of decentralisation, which brought about the establishment of regional centres of alienated power. The ethics of solidarity and social justice were substituted for the spirit of possessive individualism and apology of group interest. Political voluntarism, which was daring and dynamic in the first post war decades, when it could count on the mass support of the people, now became static and determined in the defence of the system, even when it became evident that the system is inconsistent and ineffective.

This ideology required for the recentralisation of state was in fact supplied through the Serbian Memorandum (1986). Essentially, it was designed to shape the intellectual atmosphere considered necessary for the emergence of populist political action as a means to facilitating systematic change (Pesic 1994a: 132-133). This change in values was seen as important as many of the values espoused by the new doctrine would normally be viewed as contrary to the development of equality within a given system. In fact, Ivan Stambolic stated in an address to the student body at Belgrade University on October 30 1986, as quoted in Cigar (1995: 24), that such a doctrine was atavistic and revanchist in ideology and would be far from acceptable in any normal developing social order:

The so-called Memorandum is not new. It is the old chauvinist concern for the fate of the Serbian cause with the well-known formula that the Serbs win the wars but lose the peace... In short, the so-called Memorandum, more precisely and with an easy conscience, could be entitled ‘In Memorandum’ for Yugoslavia, Serbia, Socialism, self-management, equality, brotherhood, and unity... Essentially, it is diametrically opposed to the interests of the Serbs throughout Yugoslavia.

The strategic core came from the father of the Greater Serbian ideology, Ilija Garasanin’s 1844 publication Nacertanije (1991).5 Constructed on the theory that places the security of the Southern Slavic people within a unitarist state dominated by Serbia, Milosevic sought to align dissident historical, ideological and national movements to the state’s centralisation platform in a bid to counter the emergence of oppositional movements that were determined to liberalise the state at all costs (Simms 1996: 65-66). By aligning Vuk Stefanovic Karadzic’s 1836 theory “Serbs all and everywhere” (1991)6 with Rankovic’s concept of Jugoslovenstvo, Yugoslavism, Milosevic was able to produce an official doctrine of state placing Serbia in the position of guarantor for the continuous development of Southern nations into one ethno-national state core. An aspect of ethno-specific national development that Greenfeld (1996: 306) felt was integral to contemporary Serbian state national development.

More disturbing for the LCC and the fledgling oppositional movement was the call by the Orthodox Metropolitan of Zagreb-Ljubljana, Jovan Pavlovic, who was a major contributor to the Memorandum, for the placing of the reevaluation of the status of Serbia’s position within the Federation vis-à-vis its relation with Croatia at the centre of a recentralisation of the state. If this occurred then one movement would be placed against the other, simultaneously defining the struggle in terms of one national movement ‘mimicking’ the other, and further entrenching the centre-periphery nature of the debate.

At the core of this development had been the reciprocal development of state and periphery as separate, yet, competing national identities that perpetuate one another in their constant battle for political recognition. I agree fully with the cyclical analysis of Pinson (1993: xi), which demonstrated that the forging of national identity in the Balkans was a result of a perpetual mobilisation of competing peripheries within cycles of state centralisation and peripheral rebellion. Pinson (ibid.) noted that one of the peculiarities of national development in the Balkans is that the movement seeking national consolidation, through political mobilisation against the other, must possess “sufficient identity in the eyes of its neighbours and rulers to be perceived to be separate and to be discriminated against.” The raison d’être behind the Memorandum was the realisation that the centre itself could not fully define who it was, and hence justify the reason for it being in a perpetual stage of mobilisation, without separating itself from the periphery (Crnobrnja 1994: 97-100; Ramet 1995: 403). Thus, even the state centre ‘mimics’ the action of the peripheral movement. A situation of the action of one vilifying that of the other.

The feebleness of the civic sphere means, at the same time, that reference to nationhood can be used to legitimate propositions or to delegitimate opponents- indeed, in this connection they become “enemies,” “traitors to the nation,” rather than political opponents who share the same basic commitment to the state as citizens (Schöpflin 1995: 61).

This places the national movement on the periphery leaving them little choice but to fully challenge the right of the state to hold sovereignty over them. Especially, if they are now cast as the “enemy of state.” In Northern Ireland, this took the form of the vilification of Catholics by the Ulster Protestants once Catholicism was equated to radical Republicanism (Clayton 1996). Similarly, in Spain the criminalisation of the Basque cultural expression throughout the 1950s and 1960s would lead to the radicalisation of ETA (Jáuregui 1981, 1986). A situation, according to Horowitz (1994: 35), whereby the state responds by implementing policies that ensure a further marginalisation of the periphery due to their ethnicity, in a mobilised sense, being ideologically incompatible to the continued development of state. I agree with Kupchan’s argument (1995b: 182) that the core of this lies in the perceived need by one ethnic elite to exercise control over another as an extension of identifying their national aspirations with the state as opposed to being an extension of nation-building processes per sé.

In Yugoslavia, the questioning of the role of national guilt in the compliance with war-time occupation, and who was the true torch bearer for the Yugslav ideal, was seen as such an attempt to equate any re-emergence of the Croatian national ideal in the guise of a social movement with fascism and, hence, retrogradism (van Evera 1995: 147-151; Cigar 1996: 53-57). Much in the same way MI5 attempted to portray the IRA as Nazi sympathisers (Taylor 1997), and Franco the Basques as anti-Falangist. The reality of the Croat national movement, according to Cushman (1996: 189), was that the republic itself had been absorbed into the Yugoslav polity as a direct result of political hegemonisation of the state. Yet such an ideological marginalisation was sufficient enough for many Croats to feel that the whole apparatus of state was designed to repress them:

Because Croatia was pressured by Serbian hegemonisation, naturally they were the first people who wanted reforms because they could see them as a resource that could guarantee them their national situation and cultural autonomy. It was not just separatism but it was a symbol of a crisis of the totalitarian state.7

Correspondingly, the formation of alternative movements within Croatian urban centres, through the amalgamation of the punk movement and national symbolism, could be viewed as attempts to formulate a cultural identity juxtaposed to that of the official state centre’s (Ramet 1995: 250-254). Especially when, through internal migration and years of state repression of folk identity, the organic traditional ways had been lost. The state, thus, defines the rift between centre and periphery along cultural ideological terms, whilst the structure of the Federation had done so along national lines. These movements were anti-statist, hence, if the state would define itself in terms of a specific national community, true rebellion would further be enhanced through the re-embracing of the national identity that most symbolised the oppositional core of the official state’s ideology. An ideology that was defined and consolidated in the state reactionary stage of the cycle of action-reaction-action.


The Reemergence of Croatian Nationalist Doctrine as the Raison d’être for Social Movement Mobilisation against the Predominant Unitarist Ideology of State.

For the emerging Croat movement this emphasised the importance of portraying a civic face, as well as a protest strategy designed to show how only via the granting of their national aspirations could human equality and civil rights be guaranteed (Cushman 1996: 186). This was a repeat of the “politics of the people” of the late 1960s, which ensured that political legitimacy could only be attained through the expression of popular will in a country bereft of a democratically elected parliament (Banac 1992: 153). The LCC, soon realised the only way to counter Milosevic’s populist rhetoric was to counter it frame for frame.

It was through this “punk nationalism,” as Friedman (1996: 196) calls it, that civil protest groups in Slovenia such as “New Slovenian Art” (NSK),8 and the fledgling Croat underground, under the guidance of the “New European Order” (NEP)9 movement in the 1980s, that new spaces were created in order to proffer an alternative solution to state centre forms of ideological organisation (Ramet 1987, 1992a). These groups were independent, yet without the sanction of the LCC and SLC they could provide only an intellectual bulwark to the Memorandum (Ramet 1995: 307). Yet, these were not the classic ‘New Social Movement’ proffered by Habermas (1981, 1982) and Touraine (1995). Even though they proffered an alternative to the state, they never sought to minimise the role of the state as the core of ideological mobilisation. In fact, in the manner of Melucci (1992a, 1996) and Giddens (1981, 1994), they themselves desired a redefinition of state ideology in their favour, as Budisa explained:

My main political goal was to create an independent Croatian state. We did not have an idea about creating a pluralistic system, we wanted to change a Stalinist system. But the movement itself was innately pluralistic in nature. What we wanted was a radicalisation of the problem, but we were against militantism.10

In Croatia, the original social movement activism was careful not to flirt openly with the nationalist question. In 1986 at the Philosophy Faculty of Zagreb University, an independent ecology association was established that would be followed quite rapidly by a citizens action initiative within the Zagreb-Trnje district conference at the Socialist Youth League of Croatia which was to deal with ecological, pacifist and feminist issues (Sklevicky 1987). Eventually, with governmental tolerance of the initial debates, action was expanded to include movements set up to deal with human, artistic freedom and gay rights issues throughout Zagreb, Ljubljana and Belgrade (Ramet 1995: 42).

The problem with movements like NEP was that its intellectual base was to give an almost aloof status to a movement that struggled to create space for itself in an environment that was frequently being reshaped within the battle between the competing nationalist aspirations of the centre and periphery (Ramet 1995: 226). The LCC realised that peripheral movements could only succeed if they sought to prove their arguments within the historic continuum of the cyclical, yet parallel development between Serb centre and Croat periphery.

It is Gagnon (1994: 118) who I feel comes closest in understanding the ideological movement nature of the centre’s push to embrace integrationist nationalism as a means to popular mobilisation when he points out that the slide to war was orchestrated by a minority elite within the LCS who realised that they could not benefit from liberal and democratic reform. Hence, hatred and fear was as much a construct as was the perceived inorganic nature of the Yugoslav state. The embracement of the Serbian Memorandum was a state response to the upswing in peripheral activism which was seemingly ensconced in a more organic ideology, vis-à-vis the national movement’s elite, and the relevance of its platform to its constituent population. Yet, the state would remain the target, be it as a goal of attainment or the fulcrum of popular discontent due to what Prazauskas (1991: 581-583) views as the innate polarising agency of federative structures.

The initial reasons for constructing Communist Yugoslavia in the wake of the Second World War had not been resolved some forty years later (Banac 1990: 150; Dodan 1991: 253). What the Serb centralist had refused to realise was that Croat nationalist aspirations had as equal an amount of justification, constitutionally, as their own. No matter what the role of the extreme-Right Ustasa movement played, from 1941 to 1945, in dismantling the old Monarchist regime. The automatic absorption of the quisling state of the NDH into the Communist Federation had failed to provide the sufficient self-analysis needed to question the role of mobilised Croat nationalism in anti-Yugoslav activism (Cigar 1996: 53).

Cushman (1996: 190), I believe, is correct when recognising that the Ustase ideology itself was largely a foreign doctrine, Italian in origin, whilst communist federalism was seen by most Croat activists throughout the 1980s as a solution best utilised for the Soviet Union for whom it was initially designed. The LCC’s strategy, of legitimacy through mass movement mobilisation, grew from the autochthonous nature of the resistance movement throughout World War Two which brought anti-fascist liberation (Ramet 1995: 28-30). Thus, what emerged in the mid-1980s was seen as a direct response to the hawkish nationalism emerging from the centre. As Sosic, a founding member of Matica, told me:

Croatians were not allowed to be Croats in Croatia, we were not allowed full rights and what occurred was a ghettoisation of the Croatian nation and they acted accordingly.11

In this way Croat nationalism was viewed as autochthonous and, hence, a legitimate means to societal self-determination outside the direct control of a state elite searching for unitarist solutions (Ost 1993: 463; Vojnic 1995: 98-99; Djilas 1996). A position that the Irish could not, nor the Basques until 1979, hold due to the lack of constitutional recognition of their right to sovereignty. The LCC could exploit this from the Yugoslav Federal structure. In my opinion, this suggests that the contemporary form of Croat nationalism that emerged in the late 1980s had more to do with the state’s push for greater centralisation than a spontaneous outburst of national aspiration:

While the resurgent Croatian nationalism of the late 1980s certainly had deep historical roots, and in many respects could be seen as reenacting (though going beyond) the Croatian nationalist movement of 1967-71, it was in crucial part a response to the destabilising Serbian bid for hegemony within Yugoslavia (Brubaker 1996: 70).

National liberation, hence, became equated with freedom of expression and democratisation of the political system. In Serbia, this was seen as the re-emergence of Croat reactionism and a movement designed to dismantle a state rather than fully become enfranchised within the centre (van Evera 1995: 147). But the Croats themselves felt that the key to the re-emergence of national movements lay in the push for further state unitarism which threatened the gains made throughout Tito’s thirty-five year tenure of power in Yugoslavia (Lane 1996: 44). For the competing elites this forced a re-evaluation of previous strategies of linking governmental reform with mass populism in order to find new methods of mobilising popular opinion (Mestrovic 1994: 76).

Yet, the spectre of Ustasa Right-wing radicalism still hung over the heads of the activists who desired to take up the state’s challenge of utilising the nationalist debate as the corner stone of the transition (Magas 1993: 241; Denitch 1994: 107; Almond 1994: 216). So much so that much of the LCC elite still desired to embellish their nationalist aspirations in pro-Yugoslav rhetoric. The fact that, of the 100 070 combatants in the Anti-Fascist Front, some 60 703, 60.66%, were Croat seemed to matter little, as Belgrade still symbolised the centre of Yugoslav ideology (Banac 1992: 154). What the Yugoslav state failed to recognise, however, was that this expression of national discontent was an extension of their own inability to solve “the central problem of legitimation” (Ramet 1995: 4). Only through popular and mass mobilisation to political activism could the LCY achieve this, at least within the Serbian community.

The re-emergence of cultural symbols of autonomy such as the grb (the Croatian checkerboard coat of arms), the language, and cultural organisations in their political roles such as traditional Matica Hrvatska were seen as attempts by the established LCC elite to embrace nationalist popular sentiment in order to achieve the necessary grass roots movement base that was required to legitimise a reformist doctrine (Cushman 1996: 191-192; Cushman & Mestrovic 1996: 14). It is Mestrovic (1994: 61) who points out that the Communists themselves had already provided, and utilised, symbols, be it in the cult of the Red Star or the paternal leader, for the mobilisation of sentiment in the past. Thus, it is little wonder that the emerging national movement elite sought to use a form of social conditioning that already existed as a pretext for future political development and mass mobilisation. More importantly, it provided a counterpoint of ideological, communal and movement reference to the state’s ever encroaching centralist doctrine.

The rehabilitation of the imprisoned Spring elite in the late 1980s, especially Budisa, Gotovac, Veselica and Tudjman, was a sign that Suvar, the head of the LCC, was willing to foster a nationalist block of sorts if the Markovic reform package was to fail (Banac 1992: 158). From the perspective of the LCC themselves, it was after Milosevic had labled Ivica Racan, the LCC’s representative to the Federal Presidency, “Ustasha” that the LCC fully realised that the time had come to play the nationalist card as mass mobilisations in Belgrade pointed to a radicalisation of the centre’s own populist agenda (Malcolm 1994: 214). The decision to engage the state through ‘mimicking’ their action, so as to control the nature of reform and its rate of implementation, was a direct response to these state initiated populist pressures.


The Media Campaign by the State and the Croat National Movement’s Alternative Media Agenda in the Mobilisation of the People to Rebellion.

The most important tool to popular mobilisation proved to be media engendered propaganda that came to the fore with two created events. The first was the Martinovic affair which involved the claims by Serbian ultra-nationalists that on May 1 1985, a group of Albanians had anally penetrated a Serbian farmer, Mr Martinovic, with a bottle that subsequently broke (Almond 1994: 203-204). The resultant media campaign slandered the Albanian minority, as well as those who supported their decentralist tendencies such as the LCC (Letica 1996b: 95).

The tactic was to vilify the Albanian community and all their supporters in order to paint the LCS as the moral authority overall state doctrine. It was later revealed that Martinovic’s injuries were self inflicted, yet, the aim was to invoke historical analogies of Ottoman impaling of innocent Serb peasant folk and the Islamic threat, rather than the truth (Letica 1996b: 95). This auto-eroticism, with a sadistic bent, was a key in vilifying the Albanian and recreating the “Turk.” Thus, opening up space for the second campaign that by late 1989 would utilise images of the Croat fascist to recreate the “Ustasha”, in order to mobilise Serbian popular opinion as a counter movement to those of the periphery (van Evera 1995: 147-151). A powerful image for Serbs who still held painful memories of the Ustasha regime, and who had learnt of the harshness of Ottoman rule on the laps of their grandparents. As Cviic (1996) stated:

Milosevic encouraged the mass media in Serbia- particularly Belgrade Television- to step up the dissemination of allegations about Albanian ‘terror’ with the aim of radicalising Serb opinion and building a new and aggressive populist movement.

The media initiated campaign of demonising Muslims in general, through the hostile stereotyping of Muslims in Vuk Draskovic’s Noz (Knife) in 1982, was to play a major role in vilifying opponents of centralists as enemies not just of the Serbian people but the continued historic development of the Southern Slavic state.12

Overall, Muslims, as well as Croatians, were depicted routinely as virtually non-people, essentially being labled- with little historical basis- as Serbs who converted to Islam or to Catholicism, but who were lacking consciousness of their very roots and identity (Cigar 1995.: 26).

Letica (1996b: 96) feels that the majority of the Croatian intellectual elite failed to respond well enough to this campaign. Analysis was negated because it was seen as being complicit to the dreaded ‘national silence’ that had existed in Croatia throughout the 1980s (ibid.). Janjic (1995: 29) noted that out of this environment the Croat nationalist opposition began to align with the decentralist aspirations of the titular Republic. The Republican run state mass media was utilised, along with other means of manipulation, to create an environment that espoused nationalism and national sovereignty as the doctrines of state fulfilment of popular political aspirations (Ramet 1995: 214). In republics such as Croatia, the transition was achieved even more smoothly due to pacts between the old regime and fledgling oppositional forces (Janjic 1995: 38). At the core was a new wave of investigative journalism that seemed more content on exposing national wrongs committed by opposing elites than to review the innate corruption of the federal system (Tanner 1997: 209). As Mladen Maloca the editor of Danas confided:

Our goal was not to bring down Yugoslavia, but expose the dangers of the nationalist divide in the LCY. It just opened a pandora’s box though.13

The rise of discontent and the desire to establish a stable civil society eventually would gain a public voice in the youth publications of Mladina (Youth) in Ljubljana, Katedra (Chair) in Maribor and Studentski List (Student Paper) in Zagreb. It is not clear when the LCC and SLC decided to join forces with the dissidents, but the April 1986 LCY of Slovenia 12th Congress, held in Krsko was to prove instrumental in commencing an attack on the nature of the LCS’s use of Serbian nationalist rhetoric in justifying its centralist policies (Ramet 1995: 42). The Congress ended with the following recommendations;

  1. that no one organisation had a monopoly on what the truth was;
  2. a call for direct election of officials to higher levels of government;
  3. greater autonomy for the press;
  4. the formation of an all native civilian national force for conscientious objectors; and
  5. the abolition of legal constructs that would guarantee wider privatisation.

Ramet (1992: 11) noted a link between this upsurge in press freedom and the desires of the LCC to formalise behind a campaign of ensuring regional autonomy as the prime most political activity. At the centre, the LCS, would commence similar campaigns through the centralist state controlled media in order to provide an ideological bulwark to national movement activism that was constantly being relayed through the non-centralist media (Denitch 1990: 82-83; Lampe 1996: 340-341; Letica 1996a: 103).


The Rise of Mladina and the NSK Scandal and Re-Awakening of the North.

What was developing in the North was a LCC and SLC inspired national movement media campaign that sought new means to popular mobilisation through the advancement of technology, especially in concepts of multi-media and televised demonstration of protest activism (Thompson 1992: 43-47). A point of constructed mobilisation to national consciousness that Letica (1996a: 100) feels would not have arisen without the media campaign orchestrated in Start, Danas (Today), and Studentski List (Student Paper). Bennett (1995: 101) was to call this the ‘golden age’ of culturo-political activism, as both Croatia and Slovenia would manipulate communist ideology to express the bankruptcy of the Marxist-Leninist ideology as a solution to the fledgling movements on the periphery. Slovenia, more so than Croatia, was renowned as being pro-Yugoslav, and began to develop a civic movement that was frequently using anti-unitarist and anti-Serbian rhetoric (Almond 1994: 25).

Illegal polls were increasingly becoming a popular gauge of national discontent. A prime example of this occurred in 1985 in Split, a city renowned for being the capital of pro-Yugoslav and anti-fascist Dalmatia, where 750 Split high school students were surveyed about famous personalities, and the results showed that a Catholic nun, Mother Teresa, polled the largest vote, the Pope third and Lenin last out of 24 personalities (Danas 28.I.1986: 22-25). For the LCC, the fact that conservative religious, and potentially nationalist personalities, were making a come back in the most radical of provinces suggested that there was a fundamental change in attitude over the relevance of the Federation and unitarism in the day to day existence of the average Croat (Ramet 1995: 270).

This was to scare the centre even more than any campaign of mass demonstrations could achieve. The obvious wit and creativity of this new generation of intellectuals could be broadcast safely into the homes of the middle-classes and apparatchiks, which had proven nigh on impossible during the Spring Movement some fifteen years earlier (Denitch 1994: 180-181). Once again the media, or more correctly, the manipulation of the media’s coverage of events, was to become an integral tool of expressing peripheral discontent with archaic solutions from the state centre (Robinson 1992; Thompson 1994; Kuzmanovic 1995). Unlike in Northern Ireland and the Basque Country, however, it was not VDA that was to prove the main part of the protest repertoire. Rather, it was the opening of the national debate through presenting nationalism as an extension of the right to communal and free communication, via visual art, music and the playing with propaganda imaging, that would highlight the ridiculousness of ‘double speak’ emanating from Belgrade (Bennett 1995: 104).

Yugoslavia did not possess the democratic structures in which VDA could be absorbed, whilst moderates, or a non-nationalist middle class, could campaign peacefully for the people (Linz & Stepan 1992: 131). This placed the Irish and Basques at a distinct disadvantage whereby, even in the wake of an escalation in campaigns of VDA, as the means had been pre-established that would ensure that the state, due to its democratic principles, could not fully repress the periphery without losing substantial legitimacy as an agent of democratic enfranchisement (Bunce 1992; Bunce & Csanadi 1993; Ost 1993). This lack of democracy in Yugoslavia served to further polarise the Croat national movement, to the extent that the state was deemed irreformable (Bugajski 1995; Plestina 1995). A position that would allow the LCC to manipulate cycles, as it did throughout the 1950s and 1960s, and expand repertoires with the knowledge that there could only ever be one solution without fear of compromise (Bose 1995: 103; Vojnic 1995: 108). It was a tradition of ‘patronage’ that enabled the cyclical development of the Croat national movement to rebellion.

Practically, we had to ensure that every centimetre gained had to be done slowly so we would not give the opposition the chance, the excuse to stop everything. We had to give it an evolutionary feel that was spontaneous without being repressed... No one could be anti-Yugoslav because we would have been suppressed immediately. Thus we had to elongate the complete process of change. 14

The most influential anti-centralist peripheral movement, NSK, emanated from Slovenia, not Croatia (Thompson 1992: 43). Formed by Slovenian artists, NSK was designed to parody not only Yugoslav society, but, the very Marxist-Leninist brand of Titoism which they blamed for the Yugoslav nation becoming a collectivist nation of sheep (Silber & Little 1995: 49). NSK was headed by the rock band Laibach, who would intermittently release doctrinal statements during ad hoc concerts, whilst wearing military uniforms and spouting dictatorial philosophy (Tomc 1989: 113-134). Soon, the NSK, became the mouthpiece for dissident liberals throughout the former Habsburg provinces.

In May 1986, matters came to a head during the ‘Day of Youth’ celebrations when the LCY belatedly realised that they had given permission for the Youth organisation of the SLC to release a flier that turned out to be the exact replica of a Nazi youth poster from the 1930s (Bennett. 1995. p104). It was here that the Youth Organisation had become the focal point for the opposition (Thompson 1992: 44). Much of its popular support was being gained through the increased readership of its weekly magazine Mladina amongst young intellectuals throughout Yugoslavia (Silber & Little 1995: 51-57). In fact, they succeeded in forcing the early resignation of the Minister of Defence Branko Mamula (Gow 1992: 78-80). This was attributed to the publication of a series of articles that demonstrated how Mamula had used JNA novices to build himself a villa in Opatija in Croatia, as well as how he had been instrumental in smuggling arms to the oppressive Ethiopian and Libyan Governments (Stokes 1993: 236). On May 31, 1988 the LCY, and the JNA, reacted by arresting the Mladina journalist, Janez Jansa,15 who exposed the scandal on charges of stealing military secrets and treason (Bennett 1995: 105). Though, they did not publish the relevant documents (Denitch 1994: 110).

The SLC, with Croat assistance, would revolt through mobilising reformists in a concerted effort to prove the nationalist nature of the curtailment of freedom of speech. Many of these motions were to gain popular support amongst the intellectuals, with the renowned Yugoslav oriented member of the LCC, Branko Horvat, urging for the legalisation of private enterprise throughout the entire Federation (Ramet 1995: 44). The subsequent trial in 1988 of the editorial board of Mladina was to have a significant role in the revolt of the media in Croatia as the trial was in essence convened over an event that occurred in Croatia (Gagnon 1994: 122). I feel this did much in breaking the long ‘Croat Silence’, as the broadcasting of the television imagery of mass street protests in the most conservative of Republics, Slovenia, was to question the Croats appeasement of Serbia. The SLC’s mustering some 50 000 protesters out of a population of 300 000 outside the Ljubljana courthouse questioned the validity of outright constitutional modes of action and constitutional strategies that had been hereunto proffered by the LCC (Bennett 1995: 105). NEP would lead the civic campaign as the LCC would search for means of extracting concessions from the centre.

Once again, the issue of press and cultural freedom was leading to a polarisation of Yugoslav political society (Denitch 1994: 110). Yet, unlike twenty years before, the LCS no longer hid their desire for a reconstitution of the state behind pro-Yugoslav rhetoric (Ramet 1995: 307). After the internal coup that toppled Stambolic at the LCS’s Eighth Party plenum, Milosevic was free to implement his new strategy for state integralism (Letica 1996a: 103). By 1989, all wings of the Serbian media were under his control. His subsequently ability to mobilise up to 100 000 citizens for each rally he led, from Vojvodina in 1988 to Kosovo in 1989, would allow his populist doctrine to be portrayed as the choice of the Serbian people (Malcolm 1994: 211-212; Letica 1996a: 103). What emerged here was a new ideology of state that clearly desired no compromise, and more significantly, offered no structures of enfranchisement for differing ideologies within the proffered new statist paradigm.

The awaited showdown emerged in Kosovo but would soon, with the aid of the media, send a message to Croatia that any dissent would be dealt with swiftly (Lampe 1996: 345). The staged for television repression of the civil action undertaken by some 1 300 Kosovar miners on February 29 1989, and the usurpation of the regional government under the newly proclaimed ‘counter revolutionaries’, Azem Vllasi and Kaqusha Jashari, provided powerful images for thought (Tanner 1997: 217-218). What was more chilling was Milosevic’s playing of the nationalist card at the 600th anniversary of the the fall of the Kingdom of Serbia on June 29, 1989. Named the “Third Serb Uprising” by the government press, the call to arms at the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo, which saw some one million Serbs rally behind Milosevic, was the first time that the LCS would fully attempt to usurp popular historical culture as a means of mobilising the Serbian masses behind the centre (Blitz 1996: 195; Letica 1996a: 104). A reaction that the LCC would manipulate to their advantage (Simms 1996: 142; Tanner 1997: 217), in a way that the Irish and Basques could not, because their political leaders never fully appreciated the implications of complete exclusion for these minorities from processes of policing and control when engaging in the reactionary end of the cycle of action-reaction-action.

Significantly, the utilisation of religious media outlets throughout Serbia by the LCS, such as Glas Crkve (Voice of the Church) and Pravoslavije (Orthodoxy), was to align the state to the reactionary core of the Serbian national movement, thus, polarising the communities on non-negotiable ethno-religious lines (Popovic 1994: 327; Cigar 1995: 32). In Northern Ireland there was a complete division between church elites, whilst the Basques faced the political reality of sharing the same faith with their oppressor. The move to embrace distinctively separate cultural symbols was one that would ensure that the state was in itself becoming more than the target of the cycle, but the symbol of the continuation of one national movement’s development over the other. As Blitz (1996: 195) pointed out:

Government-sponsored disinformation proved to be an effective means of mobilising the Serbian public behind an exclusive nationalist ideology.

The LCC responded by allowing for a series of articles to be published in a magazine called Start,16 that questioned the nature of the oppression in Kosovo; the utilisation of Serb nationalism as a tool of Party mobilisation, and the consequences of such populist mobilisation for the development of an autonomous Croat civil society (Tanner 1997: 208). The cycle was now open for exploitation, and the media was to play an integral role in the mobilisation that would last well into the attainment of independence. An aspect of ideological mobilisation that was denied the Basque and Irish due to the de-monopolisation of media outlets that occurred as a by-product of full-enfranchisement.


The Rejection of the Yugoslav State and the Move towards Opening up the Political Opportunity Structures of State: The Cycle as Catalyst.

The Yugoslav elites began to polarise behind their retrospective national goals as the Serbs, as the predominant nation, clearly defined themselves in terms of the necessity to “save” Yugoslavia (Puhovski. 1995. p131). It would, though, be incorrect to believe that the Serbs were totally against the democratisation of the LCY. They did not question the need for the expression of democratic will. What they were against was the call for republican elections before the federal election; as this was seen as an attempt to derail the development of the state towards a more unitarist line (ibid.). The LCS realised as much as the other republican elites, that if a general election was called first, then the Serbian majority with their client states could be called upon to justify the continued existence of an overtly centralist Yugoslav state (Lampe 1996: 325). The LCS were trying to reformulate the Spanish model to their own needs (Linz & Stepan 1992).

This was to become a key aspect in the breakdown of the Federation, as the populist card was to become ever more associated with the notion of nationalist legitimacy (Janjic 1995: 36). Realising the potential, the LCC and SLC moved fast to hold elections so that at the federal level they could effectively claim to be representative of the national interests of the majority of their constituencies (Magas 1993: 3-76; Cigar 1996: 52; Puhovski 1996: 133). At this level, no other doctrine but nationalism could suffice, as a true shift to the development of a civil society would weaken the level of collective reform available at the republican level.

The weakened LCY, too, had virtually abdicated power to the republic parties- the real locus of influence- and became more a forum for those parties. In effect, then, Yugoslavia came to have a multiparty political system with the elite of each republic vying for influence and resources for their own party structure (Friedman 1996: 188).

The political opportunity structures offered by the state came through the pre-existing communist elites (Necak 1995: 25). The question was not how one could achieve enfranchisement through political reform, but, how was one able to gain access for one’s group so as to create a block that could defend the gains recently attained? Thus, competition between national elites became synonymous with the pre-existing order (Bose 1995: 107).

The last valiant attempt to resuscitate the Federal structures riddled with aspirations of competing state and counter-state nationalisms was the ascendancy of Ante Markovic to the Premiership in March 1989 (Malcolm 1994: 210). The main strategy of his reform plan was to outflank both conservative centre and republics alike through minimising the negotiating process, by heading straight to the legislature, thus diminishing the status of republican elites whilst ignoring their separate right to economic development (Esterin & Takla 1992: 266-270). At the core was the establishment of a meritocratic order that would bypass traditional party boundaries (Lampe 1996: 347-349). By December 1989 he had placed suitable cadre into the ministerships under his direct control, so as to successfully push through his legislative redraft of the role of the Parliament in economic development.

A market oriented communist, and a Croat, Markovic stressed deregulation, privatisation of small business, and the creation of capital markets (Esterin & Takla 1992: 266-277). Like Balcerowicz in Poland and Klaus in the Czech Republic, he believed that through controlling inflation one could gain control of the macroeconomic situation. Through the process of writing off all contaminated debts (Lampe 1996: 348), produced from worthless promissory notes exchanged between companies, the push for control over money supply had begun (OECD 1990: 46-48). Markovic introduced a new ‘heavy’ dinar that was convertible at seven to the Deutschmark, balanced the budget, brought in restrictive monetary policies and froze wages for six months whilst freeing all prices except for 20% of all retail and 25% of all industrial (Stokes 1993: 239). The results were to prove amazing. Inflation fell to practically zero after a few months, whilst foreign exchange reserves rose dramatically leading to a decline in foreign debt (OECD 1990: 48-49). Between 1990 and the first few months of 1991 nearly 3000 foreign corporations signed agreements worth up to $1.2 billion for the entire country (ibid.). However, inside Yugoslavia he was unpopular as almost all communities saw him as the only man standing in the way of their national aspirations (Lampe 1996: 345-346).

What Markovic failed to comprehend was that he would gain little support in Serbia due to being portrayed by the centralist sponsored media as a Croat, rather than a Yugoslav politician (Gagnon 1994: 123). The Markovic Government had failed to realise that though they had succeeded in tackling the 250% inflation rate in 1988, all political sides had already legitimised their respective stances, vis-à-vis the state, behind competing nationalist doctrines (Stokes 1993: 240; Malcolm 1994: 210). In Croatia, where the LCC were funding Serbia’s economic development, hard fiscal realities held little political currency when the Federal Parliament was clearly distinguishing elites along ethnic lines (Lampe 1996: 344-345).

The movements that emerged in Croatia, in the wake of the state’s dance with extremist Serbian nationalist rhetoric, tended to be reactionary and spontaneous expressions of cultural opposition to the order of things as dictated by the state (Vojnic 1995: 99; Simms 1996: 68). The subcultures that were to merge into a unified political undercurrent from rock music, football and church groups in Zagreb, Split, and Istria, were to be united by this common feeling of not belonging to the closed definitions of what Serbian unitarism meant (Debeljak 1994: 6-7; Letica 1996a: 100). The more the state attempted to suppress peripheral pressures, the more they would increase the perceived public discontent with the centre.

Slovenia had rebelled with President Kucan ensuring that the SLC would follow the coalition DEMOS17 nationalist bloc’s push for de-monopolisation of official state ideology (Bugajski 1994: 112). The Belgrade based LCY would see 54 amendments pushed through the Republican Parliament between September 1989 and the Fourteenth Congress of the LCY in January 1990 (Bennett 1995: 110). The lines had been drawn, and for the peripheral republican elites that had relied on mobilised populism to counter the centre’s own populist push, Markovic’s reforms would have to be rejected in order to keep their place within society (Puhovski 1995: 129). Yugoslavia was polarised, and this was further exemplified when the Slovene delegates walked out of the Fourteenth Congress of the LCY between January 20 and 22, 1990. They were soon followed by the Croat delegates (Djilas 1995: 91).

Milan Kucan, the first democratically elected President of Slovenia and the head of the reformed SLC, would not have long to wait for support from Croatia. Suvar’s LCC, though predisposed to the Kucan decentralist line, could not act without popular consensus (Lampe 1996: 345). Realising that the only way to counter the centre’s move towards populism was by likewise utilising nationalist populism, the LCC called for republican elections in order to circumvent the moves by the LCY and LCS to instigate Federal elections that would ensure a pro-Serb majority vote within the Federal Parliament (Puhovski 1995: 131).

Yugoslav society was polarised, and only through ‘mimicking’ each step of the centre’s embracement of populism with a peripheral counter-populism could the LCC form alternate structures that would utilise the cycle of reform-protest-reform to their own advantage (Pupovac 1995: 142; Riesman 1996: 351). What followed was a reciprocal development of state and movement strategies that would spiral both competing communities, both competing ideologies, down the track to either the complete integration of the periphery into the centre, or the development of separate political entities (Tanner 1997: 239). As the leader of the Croat Peasant Party Ivan Zvonimir Cicak pointed out:

Ninety nine per cent of the Croat response can be traced to the ideology of Milosevic, it was a response to his politics. Milosevic created what subsequently occurred in Croatia.18

Following this pattern of social development, Ramet (1995: 4) feels that there is a ‘reciprocal’ and ‘organic’ relationship between political, social and economic factors which enable disturbances in one field to effect change or reaction in another. Following on from Tarrow’s (1995: 153-169) belief that it is the movements that are able to transcend each cycle of protest through an expansion of repertoires and exploitation of state opportunity structures found within the conflict between state and periphery, I believe that structural change arises from an acute manipulation of the struggle within society by elites willing to use the other as a fulcrum for continued mobilisation. Each action though, is dependent on a series of phasal developments that provide political opportunity structures needed for rebellion. From the fundamental discontent that arises in the first stage, to the failing of governmental policy that heightens the ineffectiveness of the regime, to those of the minority grouping, none of this can be achieved without a structure set up in opposition to the solutions proffered by the regime. Thus, it is the state’s inability to deal with peripheral demands without engaging in reactionist policies that goes a long way to explain how the battle between state and periphery shapes the way in which the national movement chooses to engage the state in reform or rebellion. Thus, in the Yugoslav context:

The disintegration of Yugoslavia was a result of many failures and missed opportunities. However, in the end the inherent contradiction between Slovene and Croat aspirations for autonomy and Serbia’s desire to regain its inter war hegemonic position failed the Yugoslav union (Friedman 1996: 205).

The advantage that the Croats had over the Irish and Basques, was that their political push could be consolidated behind a titular republican elite that could, constitutionally, instigate reform. Even if only to merely challenge the state knowing full well it could be militarily opposed. Yet, without the LCS’s desire to embrace populist nationalism as a defining point of state, it is doubtful that the environment would have been created for the rise of the Croat nationalist alternative.


‘Mimicking’ the State, or Riding the Cycle? The Consolidation of the Movement through the Electoral Path.

Movements have to gear themselves to absorb all opinion so as to truly support democratic remodelling of the system (Ost 1994). For the national movement, it becomes important to adopt the necessary pluralism that will ensure the division of power at the commencement of a cycle of protest (Bugajski 1987: 3; Kaminski 1992). For many movements though, the need to consolidate their political gains via participation within the system, be it in an advisory capacity to the government or the formalisation into political parties, means running the risk of excluding the more eclectic elements of the movement (Bunce & Csanadi 1993: 272; Puhovski 1995: 136). It is a balance between the necessity to effect change, and the will to be true to the will of the constituency, which places the future political development into a precarious balancing act (Bugajski 1987: 3). The LCS never fully understood this, and as such, isolated the centre in the eyes of the Croat periphery, as the centre would be viewed as reactionary. In Croatia, however, the failure of the centre to provide Federal before Republicans elections allowed nationalism to become centralised within the movement’s ideology. An opportunity that the Spanish and British centres never allowed their peripheral movements to exploit.

Ideologically, the LCC saw the adoption of nationalist rhetoric as an expansion of protest repertoire, in reaction to the LCY’s response to peripheral demands for state restructuration (Letica 1996a: 100). Thus, allowing for a perpetuation and expansion of the cycle of reform-protest-reform according to the nature of LCY’s support of LCS radicalisation. Already, the ability of the LCC to act in the interest of the Croatian population was called into question by the fact that though ethnic Serbs in 1987 numbered 11.6% of the population, they made up 19.4% of LCC members (Cviic 1996: 69). An environment had emerged whereby any expression of Croatian national identity was equated immediately by the centre and their supporters within the LCC and JNA as anti-Yugoslav (Gow 1992: 78-84; Lampe 1996: 325). This situation subsequently led to a decline in the LCC’s ability to portray itself as a movement for the expression of Croatian national intent.

In my opinion, this came about with the fact that in Croatia the idea of democratisation, and pluralism, had become assimilated into the collective consciousness simultaneously with national liberation from the centre. Something not quite achieved in Northern Ireland during the crucial NICRA campaigns, or in the Basque Country with the rise of the broad-Spanish Left as consolidators of democratisation (Ercegovac 1996: 17-20). In the Basque case, the channels between competing communities were never in reality broken, due to Franco’s equal repression of the Castilian Left (Conversi 1997: 101). The collective experience of Serbian repression assisted the LCC’s realisation that democracy itself could only be pushed on the back of a populist movement that would counter that of the state’s official expansionist ideology (Seroka 1992: 151; Puhovski 1995: 129).

This growing Serb-Croat rift, set against the background of increasing Croat rejection of Yugoslavia, was one of the main reasons why there was no joint Croat-Serb struggle for democracy and civil rights in Yugoslavia (Cviic 1996: 70).

Transition or no transition, for a society to remain free of a return to authoritarianism, the society produced by these fledgling elites must be strong in its pluralist values. Even stronger than the capacity of the elite they face to consolidate power through means of overt non-democratic institutional consolidation. A balance that must realise that a recipe of weak government and strong society is equally as explosive, as it leaves the system vulnerable to the mood swings of populist political aspirations, as has happened in Serbia (Ramet 1995: 20; see also Offe 1991). The insistence of the LCS to dictate the ideological development of the Yugoslav state only served to polarise the LCC in direct opposition to state unitarism. A position that the Irish, and to a lesser extent the Basques, could not find themselves in due to the democratic structures offered by the centre to absorb many of their related social demands.

In fact, the collapse of the government to the forces of Milosevic’s inspired nationalist posturing can be attributed to the incapacity of the government to achieve consensus; the lack of conviction of the elite in its right to govern, and its failure to achieve popular legitimacy. As Miko Tripalo told Ramet (1992: 28) in 1989, the LCC was happy to seek reform within structures of state, yet, the more and more Milosevic manipulated national sentiment, the more other non-nationalist solutions could not be sought:

Croatia can, at this point, be satisfied with its position in the federation. But it is gravely threatened by Milosevic, who is trying to bring about a totalitarian revolution and achieve Greater Serbian hegemony. This threatens not only Croatia but the other republics as well. It is critical, in these circumstances, to defend Tito, he is the symbol of everything that has been achieved.

The 1989 declaration of unilateral democratisation can be interpreted as a realisation by Racan and Suvar that no matter what the strength of decentralist ideologues in Croatian and Slovenia no reforms could occur without the ideological support of the Croat people. The nationalist nature of the centre’s justification for not joining the other Republics was shown in the fact that it would only be Croatia and Slovenia who would fully adopt such reforms as an integral part of their overall oppositional movement strategy (Puhovski 1995: 136). Milosevic’s dance with state sponsored nationalist populism had ensured that the centre would reform no longer.

Clearly strategies had to change once Milosevic had decided to take politics to the streets. What he had miscalculated was the nature of similar grievances that the Croats held against the Serbs, due to the way Yugoslavia was originally founded through the systematic delegitimisation of many symbols of Croatian cultural autonomy at the end of World War Two (Silber & Little 1995: 87-89). The subsequent public humiliation of the Catholic Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac (Alexander 1979; Seroka 1992: 154), and the Spring Movement’s cultural and political elite (Tripalo 1990: 207; Almond 1994: 161-162; Tanner 1997: 201), only strengthened Croat fears of Serb unitarism. Milosevic was now reshaping the centre in order to curtail all peripheral pretensions to reform the state (Ramet 1992: 40-42). A conflict with the LCC was still needed in order to create the pre-conditions for the spiral into the abyss. Civil unrest was becoming apparent, even if it was not as yet widespread (Denitch 1994: 153 & 189; Mesic 1994: 17; Ramet 1995: 421; Silber & Little 1995: 96).

The emergence, in the spring of 1989, of the Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS),19 Association for a Yugoslav Democratic Initiative (UJDI)20 and HDZ seemed to prove that the national question would be the core for any future restructuring of the state (Banac 1992: 165). This occurred due to the popular belief held by the recently rehabilitated Spring elite that Croatia could only achieve its maximum socio-economic potential through creating a sovereign state (Dodan 1991: 258). Those movements that were able to achieve greater legitimacy were to be those who could claim greater social movement legitimacy (Basta-Posavec et al. 1993: 3). As Pajic (1995: 152) noted, it seems the fate of Yugoslav ideological shifts had always laid in the hands of movements as moral justifiers of radical oppositional, and state engendered movement mobilisation.

On the 17th of February 1990, the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS)21 was founded to represent ethnic Serbian interests as the LCC in transcending its movement structure into a political party had failed to represent ethnic Serbs within Croatia (Glenny 1993: 16; Silber & Little 1995: 101). Yet the autonomy of strategy and action would not last long. The replacement of Dr Jovan Raskovic in September 1990 by Belgrade backed non-elected bureaucrats in Milan Martic was a sign that all actions would first have to be ratified from Belgrade as Milosevic could not risk dissension from the state centre’s official plan of action in reimplementing unitarism at all costs (Bennett 1995: 127). This confirmed, in the eyes of the HDZ, that:

The SDS were to be the representatives of the Serbian hegemonic national interests. They were to be Milosevic’s police and army, they were to be the controllers of this country [Croatia].22

The survivors of the Spring Movement would take this as a direct threat to the separate development of Croatian political society (Letica 1996b: 172). The obvious goal of the LCC was to reconstitute the political environment in a way in which they could continue to exist. Hence, the merging of the continuity of the national struggle with a broad based movement attack on the monolith of state was viewed as the best way to achieve the desired redefinition of the political environment that Milosevic had created.

The dialectical interaction of rigid, single-party unitarism and decentralisation to ethnically defined regional party elites is crucial to understanding both the fact and the form of the disintegration of Titoist Yugoslavia. This dialectic ensured that the question for the Yugoslav citizen ultimately proved an illusory one (Bose 1995: 107).

Accordingly, the LCC realised that the only way to play the mass politics of the centre was to provide a counter movement that would manipulate the very ‘cyclical’ nature of national movement development of Yugoslavia vis-à-vis the state (Seroka 1992: 151-152). The periphery was shaping according to the nature of the centre’s own definition of the nature of the conflict.

Amongst the emerging electoral party identities, the continuation of the Spring Movement’s activism was to become the ideological focus point of Dabcevic-Kucar and Tripalo’s Coalition of National Understanding (KNS),23 Budisa’s HSLS and Tudjman’s HDZ (Seroka 1992: 157; Lytle 1995: 243). Nationalism was to be the key to the ideological makeup of these movements come parties (Janjic 1995: 39). The advantage that the HDZ held was in their ability to garner support from the isolated diaspora, which had throughout the bleak years of the 1970s provided much of the national movement’s media and military wings, whilst balancing demands of the bureaucracy due to the fact that Tudjman as a general in the JNA had played an integral role in the initial formation of the post-World War Two centralist state (Brubaker 1996: 71).

The ideologue of the Spring Movement’s nationalist section, Tudjman envisioned the movement as a forum whereby the manifestation of a collective Croatian political will could be successfully achieved (Bugajski 1995: 58). Much of his own social movement strategy that influenced the wider range of the HDZ’s repertoire as a national movement could be traced to the time he spent as Director of the Institute for the History of Working Class Movements in Zagreb during the 1950s (Bennett 1995: 129). The very fact that the HDZ was organised into a centralist nationalist bloc suggests that they viewed themselves as the sole repository of the national question within the Croatian body polity (Ignatieff 1993: 23; Brubaker 1996: 71). Much of Tudjman’s (1962, 1965) work dealt with the notion of national movement theory, and the significance of social movements in the liberation of peoples, and the full development of oppositional elites within authoritarian regimes.

The theme of mass movements ran strong throughout much of his work career with much of the strategies that he was himself to employ in the HDZ emerging from his intense studies of the successes and failures of past social movement and revolutionary activism. Tudjman’s work on the de-Stalinisation of the workers movement (1962) which deals with the handling of social movement activity in the wake of transitory authoritarian state entities, as well as his doctoral thesis entitled The Causes of the Yugoslav Monarchy’s Crisis: From Unification in 1918 to the Collapse in 1941 (1965), concentrated on the social undercurrents that engineered changes in movements and regime’s vis-à-vis the relationship between state indoctrination and repression, and social revolt.

It was here that Suvar and the LCC leadership was to completely lose control of the reform process (Basta-Posavec 1993: 3). The moral authority held by the political prisoners of the Spring Movement gave the HDZ great legitimacy in the eyes of much of the population (Tanner 1996: 222). The HDZ’s elite incarceration on seditious acts against the state in the wake of the collapse of the Spring Movement, meant that those civil rights activists that were imprisoned became equated with anti-Yugoslav activism (Letica 1996b: 175). An ideological rift that was reemerging in 1989.

Little had changed from past cycles of reform-protest-reform that saw that the Croat version of Yugoslavism was based on the right to difference, as opposed to the official Serbian sanctioned view that difference was divisive. Wrongly presuming that they could act as moderator between militant national movement and more moderate political parties, Racan & Suvar accepted that the implementation of a new electoral system would guarantee the LCC a chance of direct rule in a last bid to ensure a plurality of polity (Tanner 1996: 221-222). The fledgling oppositional movement was unified in rhetoric only (Stokes 1993: 242). Realising this, Zdravko Tomac, the leader of the Party of Democratic Change (SDP), the reformed LCC, pushed for a Federal solution, as 2.2 million Serbs and 1.1 million Croats lived outside their constituent republics (ibid.: 243). Tudjman had succeeded in circumventing the old Spring leadership of Dabcevic-Kucar and Tripalo’s ownership of the ideology of the Spring Movement by cleverly associating all reforms, to the necessity of creating and maintaining a movement that was to be representative of all disparate sections of Croat civil society (Bennett 1995: 123). A doctrine that became known as the movement to national synthesis (Ignatieff 1993: 23; Bugajski 1994: 113).

The fact that Dabcevic-Kucar and Tripalo’s party was named the Coalition of National Understanding (KNS) did little to endear them to a Croat polity that had realised that their marginalisation within the structures of the LCY had occurred as a direct result of an orchestrated campaign against them due to their national identity (Lytle 1995: 244). Understanding between nations was not as salient as mobilising and protecting the very identity threatened by further bureaucratic disenfranchisement (Brubaker 1996: 70-73). An equating of national movement mobilisation with the attainment of peripheral liberation from centralist integration that Tilly (1993b) believed would be imperative in instigating initial mobilisation to rebellion.

With the election of 356 seats in the tricarmel legislature on April 22, 1990, the significance of the national question to fledgling parties was settled when the constitutional right to national self-determination was to become the main platform for the dissolution of the Chambers of Nationalities. The structure of alliances were to be demarcated along ideological lines but most held to a decentralist platform (Crawford 1996: 122-124). In the end the HDZ won 206 seats, taking 41.5% of the vote and 69% of the seats due to the non-proportional electoral system (Almond 1994: 186). Thus, the President of the HDZ was able to be elected to the office of President of state (Bugajski 1995: 48; Djilas 1995: 92).

This enabled the HDZ to infiltrate the state apparatus before the state could react, so as to be ready to fill the ideological void left by the fall of the communist doctrine (Bugajski 1995: 58). The advantage it held over others was the contacts it had forged with many ex-Partisans, communists and security personnel during the Spring Movement’s ascendancy (Ramet 1995: 310). Consequently, a doctrine of state emerged containing a heady mix of militant nationalism, a perennial state of siege mentality concerning the Serb threat, and the cult of personality that was growing around Tudjman, in a similar way de Valera had successfully claimed such status in the Irish Free State (Brubaker 1996: 71-72). The key would be the utilisation of the other, ie, Milosevic, as a means of radicalising HDZ mobilisation and legitimising it as a response to an exclusive state structure (Bosse 1995: 109; see also Ignatieff 1993: 15-16).

The shock waves had reached Belgrade, and continuancy plans were introduced to curtail rise of the periphery. Tudjman, according to Ignatieff (1993: 4-5), was placed in a position whereby without the consolidating national movement demands, there would be little guarantee of the continuance of reform. This was a lesson learnt in the failure of the Spring Movement to fully co-ordinate its cycle of protest activity with the development of state reforms. Tudjman was now determined to create his own political space so as to ensure the emergence of the nationalist underclass into political maturity (Basta-Posavec et al. 1993; Pusic 1994: 9). A space that no movement could fully achieve without stepping outside of the established cycle of action-reaction-action through formulating their own alternative entity that ‘mimicked’ the state they have challenged (Tarrow 1993a: 281-301; see also della Porta 1992b).

Serbia would react by sponsoring similar movements for autonomy amongst their communities in Croatia (Tanner 1997: 224-227). Milosevic would use Cosic’s contact, the SDS President in Krajina Dr Jovan Raskovic, and his own man Police Chief Milan Martic to declare on July 1 1990 the Krajina region under the direct control of the SDS, not the HDZ (ibid.: 231). By dividing the democratic forces in Croatia along old ethnic lines, Milosevic had hoped that Tudjman’s nationalist rhetoric would do the rest in furthering the Manichean divide that emerged between the non-Serb and Serb elites (Cigar 1995: 72-74). As Djilas (1995: 93) argues:

Although Milosevic publicly condemned Croatia’s policies toward its Serbs, he privately welcomed them because they allowed him to disguise his expansionist ambitions as aid for his persecuted brethren in Croatia.

Milosevic’s argument, that unitarism would allow the Serbs to become a primary entity within Yugoslavia, and as such possessed a unitary right to transcend the political and geographic divisions of the state, proved powerful for many rural Serbs (Malcolm 1994: 207). The fact that the Serbs in the Krajina would call for a referendum on the 19th of August and the 2nd of September 1990 on the issue of secession suggested that Milosevic’s tacit approval of the activity would force the HDZ’s hand and declare independence so as to bring a rapid response from the centre (Bennett 1995: 130).

The December 1990 Constitution ensured in Articles 3 and 15 that all constituent nationalities were granted equal rights of citizenship. Article 14 guaranteed that all citizens irrespective of “race, colour, language, sex, religion, political opinion, national or social origin” would be granted equal rights; whilst Article 5 provided for the recognition of cultural autonomy of all members of all nations. Problems arose over concerns that the Serbian community was not given a specific mention at all (Glenny 1993: 12-13). The Declaration of Independence for the Krajina in early 1991, and the rejection by the centre of the joint Slovene-Croat proposal for confederalisation (Silber & Little 1995: 12-13), suggested that the state could not appease any form of Croat national mobilisation any longer without considering it a direct threat to the continued existence of the Yugoslav state.

In reality, the nature of the national movement alliance was what greatly limited the choice of direction (Matic 1994: 44; Brubaker 1996: 71). The HDZ did emerge as a movement only to formalise into a political party once they were granted full enfranchisement and the opportunity to rule. As such, they were able to formulate a politics of consensus that could only negotiate to the extent of devolution of the system (Bugajski 1994: 113). Anything else would have been interpreted as bending to the ambitions of Serbian predominance of the expansitory state centre. The HDZ went even as far as to demand a seat at the United Nations in the same manner that the Spring Movement had demanded some twenty years prior (Stokes 1993: 228).

Milosevic had polarised Yugoslavia through implementing a strategy of reform-protest-reform that would bring the nature of separate nationalist ideological development to a head (Djukic 1992; Ramet 1995: 209-213; Lampe 1996: 338-341). The goal was an identification of the ‘other’ so as to produce a reasoning for a further radicalisation of the state’s integrative processes. Yet, what had developed was the reciprocal development of an alternative statist paradigm as a counter-movement to the state’s own ideology. Milosevic had failed due to his inability to see that the movement activism of the past was far from resolved, as the nature of centre-periphery development was perpetual (Bugajski 1995: 48).

The manner in which outgoing communist elites had attempted to deconstruct the perceived official ideology of the state’s history, and that of the war as well, enabled nationalist rhetoric to take hold as the official language of politics (Ost 1993: 463; Debeljak 1994: 6-7). This also enabled the Serb authorities to exploit seemingly minor issues, such as the removal of Cyrillic from public signs, in order to facilitate greater internal cohesion as a direct threat to the right to autonomous social, political and cultural development within the Republic of Croatia (Thompson 1992: 260; Tanner 1997: 230-231). The response of the Serb leadership was to demand autonomy (Glenny 1993: 17-19). A move that Tudjman had to proceed cautiously on so as not to inflame the extremists within his movement who saw themselves classically as the militant/military wing of the nationalist sphere of politics (Bennett 1995: 49).

The Irish could never fully achieve this, as the strategy to engage the state at different levels would divide the national movement to the extent, whereby, the entering of Sinn Féin into the electoral system was done as much as a protest against the SDLP’s diminishment of the national question as it was a challenge to the state hegemony. A unity of purpose for Northern Ireland had changed during the Hunger Strikes, and the best that the SDLP and Sinn Féin could do was keep channels open. This was similar to the rift that occurred between ETA and the PNV by the time of the autonomy vote. These national movements had taken on the state and failed, due in part to the ability of the state to read potential rifts in the movement and play on them by offering political opportunity structures to some, and none to others. This favouritism privileged a few, via granting them state recognition as the legitimate voice of their community, but also diluted the impact of their diversifying repertoire, through cutting these channels. Where the Croats succeeded, where others could not, was that all their action was aimed at the one target, the state. Both the LCC and HDZ never lost sight that the greatest enemy was the state that they sought to challenge.


Conclusion: The Militarisation of the Crisis and the Belated Attempt of the Centre’s Reign in the Periphery.

For the state, the military option was always to be a last resort but with its implementation, it became clear that Yugoslav pluralism would be seen as anathema to the historical continuity of the Serb dominated state (Puhovski 1995: 136). It was a message by Milosevic to the periphery that any constitutional moves away from the Federation would be deemed as anti-state activity and would be dealt with accordingly (Stokes 1993: 246). The role of the JNA was made clear: it had to engage the peripheries in direct confrontation so as to facilitate a spiral into a strategy of action-reaction-action so as to justify state military intervention (Puhovski 1995: 132). It was in this period that the nickname that the JNA had gained with the attainment of political representation in the 1974 constitutional reforms, that of the “Seventh Republic,” would come to the fore (Cviic 1996: 79).

Between the fall of 1989 and May 1990 the JNA had succeeded in disarming the Croatian Territorial Defence Force (CTDF) whilst simultaneously arming local Serb militias (Almond 1994: 28; Silber & Little 1995: 113). In what could be described as the ascendance of “Serbia’s warrior class”, Cohen (1996: 35) sees that the initial impasse between regional councils and the HDZ was in fact preplanned in order to escalate the cycle of violence as the JNA would calculate that the HDZ was ill prepared for war. This led to a military advance, outside any official declaration of war, that would lay claim to 35% of the Republic’s territory (ibid.). This had two effects. Firstly, it placed Serbia in a position of overwhelming military power that could only be countered by full scale war that would ensure a heavy defeat for the fledgling Croatian state (Gow 1992a: 78-80; Ramet 1992a: 48-51). Secondly, and more significantly, in Milosevic’s attempt to ratify centralist power over the Federation that was legally under the Premiership and Presidency of Croats, was an attempted usurpation of the Federal Presidency by centralist/unitarist forces through a Serbian and Montenegrin alliance (Cigar 1993; Almond 1994: 7).

Once and for all, this left the HDZ representative to the Presidency, and the current federal President, Stipe Mesic, with no other option but to take up his May 15 1991 role as President (Tanner 1997: 247). This would force a showdown with the centralists. When the Macedonian, Bosnian, Slovenian and Croat vote was nullified by Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Vojvodina, the nature of Yugoslav state development was made clear to the entire population of the Federation (Silber & Little 1995: 166). Yugoslavia could only accept a non-Serb President if she/he was a member of the LCY (Mesic 1994: x). On May 18 the HDZ responded now by calling a snap referendum on independence (Tanner 1997: 298). Yugoslavia was an ethno-nationally defined state. The legitimacy of the LCS and Milosevic outside the centre was lost, as was the notion of the JNA’s neutrality.

Yugoslavia had splintered, and the nature of separate, yet parallel national movement development became evident. The fact that the centre refused to recognise the legitimate President of the very state structure they had created meant that for the first time, the centre itself had rejected the state (Almond 1994: 29). Parallels could be drawn with the Ulster Loyalists rejection of Sunningdale, but the difference was that the LCS had never allowed a radical movement to develop and implement VDA on the periphery to justify a further wave of repression.

The LCS, also had not initiated a controlled devolution as the CDU had in Spain, in the formation of the Pact of Moncloa (Denitch 1992, 1994: 66-69). Thus, they never could regain control of the cycle of reform-protest-reform that would have now fully separated the periphery from the centre. The LCS’s dogmatism, and lack of willingness to truly incorporate a Croat voice at the centre of a President independent of the state security apparatus and JNA would push the Croats to independence (Almond 1994: 19; Zunec 1994: 46-64). The British and Spanish state’s were successful where Yugoslavia was not, via incorporating aspects of the national movement into the institutions of conflict resolution, ie, democratic enfranchisement, they were able to redefine the nature of centralist nationalist identity to survive each successive wave of peripheral demands instigated in the processes of state development. The LCC-HDZ block succeeded where the IRA-SDLP and ETA-PNV could not by never letting the actual struggle, the cycle of protest, define the identity of the mobilised nation itself. The LCC-HDZ block saw that the movement was a reflection of the state; once divided, or radicalised, it could only be defined in terms of the cycle of action-reaction-action.

This could not prevent the rift that was occurring between the conservative Titoist wing of the JNA, who caste themselves as protectors of Yugoslav unity outside ‘Greater Serbian’ dogmatism, and the emerging Milosevic backed Serbian nationalist elite (Cviic 1996: 80; Lampe 1996: 325). The cycle was no longer fully under his control. At the core was the further homogenisation of Army units with an influx of a predominantly Serbian and Montenegrin cadre (Gow 1992: 95-111; Malcolm 1994: 217). 24 The HDZ took the upswing of the JNA’s increased military pressure to fully consolidate their power and entrench their elite into the new governmental bureaucracy in the name of national security (Stokes 1993: 246).

What had emerged instead was a coinciding of strategies due to the nature of the state’s increase in confrontational militantism as there was a realisation that the strong unitaristic push would only serve to consolidate the isolated peripheral elites (Denitch 1994; 123-124). As the JNA would provide strategies based on the ability of the militias to compromise the communities, in the same way the French Resistance and Viet Cong had done (Malcolm 1994: 217). The Croatian Defence Council, Ministry for Internal Affairs and Armed Forces would similarly utilise such tactics in order to co-ordinate a response that would further polarise the anti-centralist communities behind the HDZ’s campaign for full separation (Gow 1992; Malcolm 1994: 217). War was an option left to the last, as with the re-incorporation of the whole of Bosnia-Herzegovina, eastern Slovenia, Knin and most of the occupied Adriatic into the First (Belgrade) Army Corps, the centralist had made its intentions clear that Croatia could not leave the Federation without paying a territorial price (Letica 1996a: 105).

The mistake Milosevic made was in creating heightened levels of polarisation without intending to create space for the incorporation of some aspects of Croat civil society (Puhovski 1996: 133). By exclusively adopting a non-inclusive Serbian line a new environment was forged in which all opposition was to be defined in terms of national movement opposition. The fact that not all Yugoslav framework was paralleled to absorb these cleavages also left the Croatian national movement little option but to secede. It was in this way that they avoided a stratification of the cycle as occurred in Northern Ireland and the Basque Country.

The HDZ was now able to form a war cabinet in November, 1991, that would unite Right and Left on the periphery until the commencement of the Croat-Bosnian War in June 1992 (Tomac 1994: 35-50). This new tenuous, and short lived, alliance of prominent HSLS figure, Budisa and reformed LCC/SDP leader, Tomac, would never have occurred without the rise of overt centralism. The state, ie, the national elite behind the centre, had created a polarising of society that could not be reversed. Croatia had succeeded where the Irish and Basques had not, due to their ability to ride the historical continuum of protests cycles, whilst simultaneously utilising the shifts from the state centre to ‘mimic’ action by action the state’s own restructuration. Never, though, did the LCC or HDZ over extend their repertoire to include VDA in times when they were in no position to exploit escalation of the conflict prior to their attaining government. When there were signs of militancy in the CRB, the periphery quickly withdrew responsibility. Even to the extent of voluntarily disarming of the CTDF in 1989 (Letica & Nobilo 1991: 63).

This would give the state little justification in directly engaging Croat society, the way the LCY had done in the wake of the Spring Movement’s collapse in 1971 as the LCS had engaged the ethnic-Albanian Kosovars in 1981, as there was seemingly no need for crisis escalation.25 As the JNA and LCS treaded warily, the LCC by the late 1980s had been able to utilise non-violent confrontational mobilisation to create a crisis of legitimacy within the cleavages of the competing nationalist ideologies that could solely be defined in terms of a parliamentary struggle. The Croat periphery had polarised the system rather than the cyclical struggle itself, as occurred in Northern Ireland and Spain. By the time the centre had realised this, the periphery could finally instigate their military campaign with the full knowledge that they had the full resources of the new state behind them. Thus, independence was attained with the assistance from the ‘other’.

Go To Conclusion

Title Page | Introduction | Chapter I | Chapter II | Chapter III | Chapter IV | Chapter V | Chapter VI | Chapter VII | Chapter VIII | Chapter IX | Chapter X | Chapter XI | Chapter XII | Conclusion | Footnotes | Bibliography

Copyright © Peter Ercegovac
Published with Permission of author by The Nationalism Project, Madison, WI. 1999.
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