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Miloradovic, Goran

“Anomaly” of cold war:  ideological character and international function of socialist Yugoslavia

Controversies about the character of socialist Yugoslavia have still remained in historiographical, sociological and politological literature. There have been conclusions that Yugoslavia was “one-party system”, “authoritarian system”, “self-managing socialism”, “heretic socialist state”, “anomaly of cold war” etc. Rare were the statements that it was totalitarism.

Why were such conclusions rare and why have they still remained rare?
Conflicts with the USSR and later positive representation of Tito’s regime in the West have created an image of the regime basically different from the soviet one – as “socialism with human face”. It was, in fact, birth of national communism, a hybrid phenomenon whose totalitarian character has long been hidden behind the internationalist rhetoric of that period.  A positive view of the Western intellectuals-leftists to “titoism” was enabled by disappointment with the USSR, because Yugoslavia was still offering hope for realization of the Marxist utopia.

The most exposed factor of the totalitarian structure in Yugoslavia was its charismatic Leader, whose cult was developed from the Stalin’s, just as Stalin’s was developed from Lenin’s. In Yugoslavia, as well as in other socialist countries, totalitarian Party, headed by the charismatic Leader, ruled over masses implementing totalitarian ideology. When its position was threatened, that structure reacted by reduction of civil rights, cleansing of the Party, repression and ideological homogenization. In Yugoslavia, apart from the system of camps for punished national minorities and political opponents, there were built political processes and criminal punishments of the political opponents.

The regime was liberal to some extent in the field of culture, and to somewhat lesser extent in economy and national politics. Although having conservative personal convictions, Tito played a role of a liberal ruler in order to meet the needs of the foreign policy of the state, amortize inner tensions and protect his own position. At the same time, this was the way he managed to conceal after-war mass executions of the real and potential enemies, persecution of hundreds of thousands, concentration camps, political persecution, spreading of fear and ideological violence. Yugoslav communists did not conduct totalitarian methods as much as they wanted to. Limits to the use of force did not originate from the same place in the USSR and Yugoslavia. If the final account of socialism in the USSR is compared to the one in Yugoslavia, it has to be said that Yugoslav citizens did not suffer as much as Soviet citizens, but it was not owing to the Communist party of Yugoslavia, but in spite of it, owing to the international position of the state.

In spite of his image of humanist and peace-maker, which he had built for pragmatic reasons, Tito was a totalitarian leader with developed instinct for self-protection who had proficient propaganda apparatus.

Saturday 31 Oct, 9.30-11.30 SESSION 7
Panel: The Enemy of My Enemy: The Search for Independent Socialism