Conspiracy theory and the Yugoslav events

There is a very old tradition in Balkan politics to resort to conspiracy theories to explain everything. There is always some dark plot brewing in some foreign chancellery or other, some obscure forces that are supposed to be manipulating events for god knows what purpose. Such stuff is as inseparable from Balkan political comment as Hail Marys from a nunnery or sex scandals from Bill Clinton's bedroom. After the overthrow of Milosevic, we are now informed that it was all the result of a conspiracy...

As the smoke clears over the situation in Yugoslavia, opinions suitable for all tastes become available. Like a made-for-measure clothes shop, you just walk in and try on anything that takes your fancy. And naturally enough, there is no obligation to pay.

There is a very old tradition in Balkan politics to resort to conspiracy theories to explain everything. There is always some dark plot brewing in some foreign chancellery or other, some obscure forces that are supposed to be manipulating events for god knows what purpose. Such stuff is as inseparable from Balkan political comment as Hail Marys from a nunnery or sex scandals from Bill Clinton's bedroom.

After the overthrow of Milosevic, we are now informed that it was all the result of a conspiracy. The same story was put forward ten years ago to explain the overthrow of Ceaucescu in Romania. The mayor of Cacak, a small town not too far from Belgrade, assures us on television that all this was sewn up long ago in a secret deal between the Yugoslav secret police and his good self. He was, he says, approached by some members of the secret police who informed him that he was a good chap and doing a grand job, which he should keep working at, and oh, by the way, if ever you want us to give our lives for the cause, please give us a ring!

The melodramatic ring of the story immediately puts us on our guard. Here is a man anxious to boost his real or imagined role in shaping events. Nevertheless, we have no reason to doubt that such an approach did indeed take place. In our analysis of the recent events (See Revolution and Counter-revolution in Yugoslavia http://www.marxist.com/Europe/fall_of_milosevic_oct00.html) we explained that the main reason why Milosevic fell was the internal decomposition of the regime. That there were splits and divisions in the regime is no secret. This fact, however, far from contradicting the characterisation of the events as being a revolution, would actually confirm it.

Lenin said that there were four conditions for a revolution: 1) the ruling circle should be divided and in crisis, unable to rule in the same way as before, 2) the middle class should be in a ferment and vacillating between the ruling class and the proletariat. 3) the working class should be willing to struggle and make the greatest sacrifices to change society and 4) a revolutionary party and leadership.

In Yugoslavia, although there were some peculiarities, one can say that, with the exception of the last point, all the other factors were present to one degree or another. It is true that the working class remained ambivalent up until the very last movement, when it finally threw its weight behind the movement. This was the decisive element in the equation. As for the middle class, they were not vacillating but actively moving against the regime. Unfortunately, they swung behind the bourgeois opposition which promised to lead them into the promised land, and will only lead them into a new nightmare. But that is another story.

Our main focus is centred on the crisis of the regime which, as Lenin explains, is the first condition for a revolution. That the regime was split and in the process of disintegration is confirmed from sources sympathetic to the previous government. In an article entitled "U.S. Instigated Mob Attempts a Coup Against Democracy in Yugoslavia" Prof. Michel Chossudovsky blames the recent events exclusively on the machinations of the CIA.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the CIA was actively involved in stirring up opposition to Milosevic, or that Washington subsidised the bourgeois opposition. Kostunica himself has publicly denied having received any money. But if this is true it is only because, as a Serb nationalist, he was not seen as the most reliable ally of Washington. But other leaders of the bourgeois opposition certainly did receive lavish subsidies from US imperialism.

The article quotes information which we know to be true from other sources (some of it was quoted in our analysis: Revolution and Counter-revolution in Yugoslavia).

But if the basis of the regime were sound, no amount of foreign bribery would have been able to overthrow it. The fact is that the pressure of US imperialism had an effect within the regime itself. The fact that members of the secret police approached a leading member of the bourgeois opposition is an indication of this. The secret services obviously knew more about the real situation than any other group. They sensed the way the wind was blowing and were preparing to "jump ship".

However, as always, the conspiracy theory still raises more questions than it answers. First, be it noted that these anonymous secret service agents expressed themselves with the utmost caution. In effect, they gave the mayor a sly wink and led him to believe that they were "really" on his side, and to call them when the time was ripe. In other words, they were looking for a convenient escape route when the going really became rough, but at the same time remained in their comfortable offices drawing their lavish salaries. If this is called "giving one's life for the cause" there would never be any shortage of volunteers for "martyrdom"!

We are told that contacts with these people guaranteed the success of the revolt. But no information is given on how many they were or what their active collaboration consisted of. It is clear that this was a minority, and, while this is certainly significant as a symptom of the inner decomposition of the regime, it is equally clear that without the intervention of the masses, it would have led nowhere. The type of conduct to be expected from such "heroes" as our secret service friends is well known to us. If the movement against Milosevic was sufficiently strong, then they would at once show their willingness to "die for the cause". If, on the other hand, the movement proved to be not quite up to scratch, they would equally swiftly turn out to be the most loyal of Milosevic loyalists, and prove it by promptly shopping the mayor of Cacak and all others like him.

As things turned out, the movement had such a massive character that those elements in the regime that were already wavering or flirting with the opposition had their minds made up for them. In other words, it was the intervention of the masses, and above all of at least a significant layer of the workers, which finally split the regime and caused it to fall. Such developments are known as revolutions. Unfortunately, in the absence of a party and a leadership, the whole affair has been taken over and exploited by bourgeois elements who will now give the Serbian people a very harsh lesson in the meaning of bourgeois "democracy".

In one of Aesop's fables, a frog blows himself up to show what a splendid fellow he is. He blows himself up to such a point that he finally explodes. The day after the fighting is over, all the armchair "heroes" come out to explain how it was really they, and no-one else, who won the battle. We can safely leave the mayor of Cacak and his secret service chums to brag over "their" victory over a few bottles of slivovic, while the working class of Serbia prepare for the future battles which will really determine the fate of society.