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On the day of Slobodan Milosevic's arrest by the quisling regime in Belgrad, the mouthpiece of the US ruling class New Your Times published the article  under the eloquent title "Milosevic Is Accused, but All of Serbia Is on Trial."  We publish the reflections Argentinian Marxist Nestor Gorojovsky occasioned by this article, which reveals the meaning of the last stage in the colonial subjugation of Yugoslavia, that of the colonization of the very mental structures, the national consciousness, the historical awareness of Serbian people.  We think that any unprejudiced reader of Nestor Gorojovsky's esse, let alone the Russian Left, will immediately understand the vital importance of the problems he raises for the peoples of Russian Federation.

Nestor Miguel Gorojovsky

Serbian class structure, war for the minds, and imperialist

The New Your Times writes:

An arrest of Mr. Milosevic -- and the possibility that he will be tried for crimes against humanity -- has the potential to redress both of these failures of imagination, restoring Serbia to its place in the community of nations while revealing the Serbs to themselves.

This is why it is so important now to support Milosevic and the patriotic
forces in Yugoslavia, to stand up against the campaign of lies.It is not
only a campaign of lies.

Writing history again is an act of war, of a war for the minds, and
particularly for the minds of the Yugoslav people, in order to establish a new
hegemonic principle, with a new balance of murderers and angels that allows
imperialist operatives to act without resistence, and if possible with
the help of at least a fraction of the local population (1).

Not only in Yugoslavia, but as a rule in every semi-colonial country which has
attained, at some point in its historic life, a level of development of
productive forces that is incompatible with the needs of the core countries, it
is essential not only to destroy the material structures of production. It is
also essential to crush the forms of consciousness generated by that
level of development of productive forces, a level that has become dysfunctional with
the requirements of the global system of imperialist domination and plunder.
Whole formations are thus forced back in history, not only in the material
realm (because this one can be rebuilt in a relatively easy way), but
basically in the realm of ideas.

This has been the case in Yugoslavia. The NATO trials and the intention to have
Serbs "know themselves" (in the way the NYT wants, that is as a people of war
criminals) serves precisely this goal. And is directly linked with the issue of
the division of Serbia along class lines, something many anti-Milosevic self-
appointed "Leftists" have been roaring about without having the slightest idea
of what they were speaking on.

The main class divide in Serbia today does not pass, in my opinion, between a
local bourgeoisie and the mass of the people (still less between bourgeoisie
and proletariat, in a country with a very strong peasant constituency). This
bourgeoisie is either feeble or non-existent, and will never exist.  The wind
of history, and particularly NATO intervention, have swept away any dangers
that the local managerial elites in the plants might become such (2).

What there actually exists, particularly in Belgrade, is a huge mass of petty
bourgeois and intellectual workers who expect to benefit from the establishment
of "normal" relations with the West and the "reinsertion" of Serbia (not of
Yugoslavia, they don't care about Yugoslavia any more) in the imperialist
system. They are well educated, they know languages, they are skilled in
many professions, and they have already begun to sell their services to foreign
contractors, which establishes an objective, de-facto, social differentiation
in the Yugoslav society and the starting point for the creation of what would
be termed a "vendedor" (seller) rather than "comprador" ("buyer") layer with
strong interest in the subjection of Serbia to foreign interests.

These layers conform a good deal of the mass constituency of monsters such as
"Otpor". They are "tired of war and sanctions", which translated to the
language of economic life means "eager to establish profitable relations with
the West, even at the price of destroying their own country". That these layers
exist and have become an important political force is a matter that the
socialists in Yugoslavia and Serbia will have to think about in order to
establish a strategy for the new situation, but the fact is that they _do_
exist and that they are heavily supported by the West. It is not only a matter
of bribing and wooing (which of course has been outrageously important in
defining the Serbian situation), it is also a matter of material and
intellectual detachment of these social layers from the very people who have
produced them and given them the opportunity to be skilled in activities that
now they dream to sell outside their destroyed country.

Neither a bourgeosie, nor a proletariat, these fractions of classes are the
battlefield of history now. Today, they are wavering in their national loyalty,
up to the point that they have already, in a mollecular process, begun to re-
write Yugoslav history by themselves (I have recently been explained by one of
them that "the League of the Communists came out of the blue, nobody knew them
before the British helped them": please note the central point here, that no
Serbian or Yugoslav important issue can be explained by the efforts of the
Yugoslavs, it can only be understood by the action of a foreign power). The
whole effort behind the Milosevic detention and trial process is pointing
exactly at this crack within the up to now almost monolithic national
awareness of the Serbs. It consists basically in an attempt to establish in Belgrade and
elsewhere in Yugoslavia a strong mass of that provides a strong social
approval to foreign companies, foreign loans, foreign plunder in short, an approval
that must be given gladly and in good will. An approval that must imply the idea
that "at last we shall be regenerated". Imperialism, to hold a country in its
grip, must convince at least a sizable portion of the population that it is in
their own interest that they are plundered. Short of that, only military
occupation works.

Since all of the history of Serbia and Yugoslavia, up to the detention of
Milosevic, has been a history of struggle and opposition to such a plunder (3),
it has to be rewritten, no matter how, so that the social awareness not of the
whole of the Serbian people but of those layers that have been benefitted by
the opportunities given to them during the pre-1989 years becomes functional to
imperialist penetration.

The consequences, if they have their own way, are enormous. Politics is not
only a matter of "objective forces", but on the contrary, of hegemony
established on people's minds. The end result of the imperialist move would be
the creation of a Serbian equivalent to the petty bourgeois mass organizations
that have been so essential for their domination of Latin America. Storms of
"ethical outrage", self-deprecation, and so on, are a basic constituent of the
structures of mind of these organizations. The petty bourgeois, unable to
express a political project of her or his own (we cannot imagine a whole
society made up of doctors, lawyers, engineers or shopkeepers), is thus
alienated from the mass of the population and put to work for the benefit of
the same power that closes her or him any future. Now, there are consequences
to this.

Let us assume, for the sake of the argument, that the forces of reaction can
get to obtain the ends they are after. Let us also assume we can take
Yugoslavia out of the general geopolitical framework that gives sense to the
rage of the imperialists here (in the end, poor Yugoslavs are under the curse
of living exactly at the crossroads of Europe). Under these assumptions, highly
irrealistic as they are (specially the second one) but which put us in the
worst of the scenarios, what would happen to these layers that are now booming
against the continued resistence of their own people against the West? What
will happen is very simple: they will be split. Most of them will discover
that the scenario they helped to build does not hold a dignified place for them to
carry on a living. Higher education will begin to be out of their reach,
health services will become worse and more expensive, their concrete standard of
living will fall down. They will radicalize and recognize that they have been
fooled.  If not the actual people who are now fighting against the national
forces in Yugoslavia, their children will. This is an objective necessity of

That is, even in the case that imperialism "stabilizes" its domination of
Yugoslavia -and the destruction of Russia as a world power or menace thereof,
their ultimate goal- the new generations of Yugoslav, particularly Serbian,
petty bourgeois, will fight back again. Not to speak of the more oppressed
layers. But without a confluence with that thick layer of impoverished petty
bourgeois, I can't see any way out of imperialist domination in Yugoslavia.

I did not imagine these remarks out of the blue. I simply took into account
what decades of political struggle in a semicolonial country and the great
intellectuals of the Argentinean national revolutionary movement have
taught to me. Rebel peoples must be subject to a thorough mental cleansing, that is all
the secret.

Since the Serbs have a long story of struggle both against their foreign
oppressors and their domestic traitors, this will not be an easy task for the
imperialists. But it is an essential one. Because unless they want to
disappear as a people, the Serbs cannot surrender their minds to the colonizers.

As Marx and Engels already noted after the Crimean War, Serbia had become the
knot around which a Southern Slav nation could be gathered in the Balkans.
This has made the Serbs victim of what stupid analysts would call "megalomania" but
which in fact is the intellectual expression of their being, in their own
interest, the only glue that may hold all those peoples together against ANY
kind of foreign power (as the deceased Jim Blaut simply stated once, "national
struggle" is "class struggle across borders"). This is why most of the Serbian
population cannot BUT think in terms of what would be stupidly scorned as
"Great Serbia", or face death as a people.

They did it against both the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires, against
German imperialism, against Soviet hegemonism, and against the whole powers of
Western imperialism coalligated against them.

Are they crazy? Not at all, they have a distinct sense of their destiny. This
"sense of their destiny" is the subjective expression of an objective fact:
that the development of productive forces in Serbia -and elsewhere in the
Southern Slav area of the Balkans- has reached such a level that, unless it is
crushed under the boot of the plundering Empires, it must advance towards the
full constitution of a nation out of the many Slav and non-Slav nationalities

This is the concrete meaning of the imprisonment of Milosevic, but this
is also the way to which, in my own opinion, the weapons of political thought should
point in Serbia today.


(1) This is not a matter of "pure" ideology, nor a secondary issue. It points
directly to the core of the structure of productive relations, since the
structures of mind are an integral part of them. Productive forces not only
include the spiritual tools that make social production possible in a prominent

It is almost a tautology -a tautology that took many millenia to discover but a
tautology nevertheless- that every material, objective, basis of production
_generates_ the main structures of mind that are required for such a basis to
work and expand all its determinations. But these structures of mind have an
autonomy of their own, and thus it is also true that in the realm of concrete
social formations  the battle for the mind is IN ITSELF a battle for the
development of productive forces, namely for the possibility that productive
forces keep developing up to the point where they need to be revolutionized.

This is particularly important in places such as Yugoslavia, that is among
social formations which are under attack from other formations, formations that
are bent upon systematically destroying, hindering or deforming the development
of productive forces within the one under attack.

(2) Yes, partly constituted by former "Communists", don't batter that drum dear
anti-Stalinists, I agree with you, let's stick to the matter

In the best of the scenarios, these people will act as local lieutenants of a
victorious imperialist order imposed on Yugoslavia by fire and murder, because
independent economic development, the precondition not only for socialism but
also and basically for _capitalist_ development in the full sense of the word,
is precisely what the NATO thugs (the concrete expression of the core
bourgeoisies in the Balkans) are decided to destroy in Yugoslavia.

(3) Not without notorious setbacks. The myth of the Serbians as a country that
have always been in the same political position as regards imperialist and
hegemonist pressure is just that, a myth.  Not only now, but even in the past,
there have always existed classes within Serbia that fostered a colonial
project. It is important to take this into account when analyzing class war in
Serbia today, which is just a new chapter of the old national war of the
Yugoslav peoples.

Probably the most obvious example was that of the kingdom of Milan Obrenovic,
but in the debates between Titoists and Stalinists in the aftermath of World
War II we can see these contradictions appear and give sense to concrete

As to Milan Obrenovic [data come from Baumont, Maurice. _L'essor industriel et
l'impÈrialisme colonial (1878-1904)_. Paris, P.U.F., 1965], this arch-sepoy
King was so fond of Austrian rule that he clung to Austria even after the semi-
feudal Empire "stabilized" Bosnia (Treaty of Berlin). This military operation
mobilized more than 150,000 men on the field, made the Hungarian politician
Louis Kossuth predict that above these regions "a bird, prophet of death" was
hovering  and Count Shuvalov, less poetically, state in 1822 that "This is
where shall break the spark that will put the powderkeg ablaze".

While everybody realized that the Austrian advance on Bosnia was a direct blow
to the Serbs, King Milan merrily blackmailed both subjects and neighbours to
carry on a vaudevilesque and pompous life and stuck to the Austrian crown with
all his strength. He was considered a "third rank monarch" all over Europe.
During his reign, Serbia was the very expression of Ruritania. Unless we are
fools, we cannot imagine that this king had no support from concrete layers of
the Serbian society, particularly the most affluent ones and the traders who
made a living on commerce across the Danube.

In a way very characteristic of Serbian sepoys, he obtained power from foreign
support, and this power was of course limited. Austria accepted him to become
"King of Serbia", not "King of the Serbs" (that is, the king of a statelet not
of a nation in the making). He openly became an agent of Vienna and Budapest:
and waged a semi-comic, semi-tragic family war with his wife, who was pro-
Russian: "he would even have accepted an annexion", remarks my source. Under
Milan, Belgrade (separated from Austria-Hungary only by the Sava and the
Danube) "is at the mercy of Austrian bombings. Hungarian customs overlord the
economic life of this peasant democracy and the export of pork -which
constitutes its main source of income.  This export trade can be immediately
stopped by the slightest pretext of epizootic. Milan has taken advantage of
this dependency; he has had the radical leaders, hard-fought enemies of
(against which they appeal to the Serbian 'external mission'), deported.
One of
them, Pashitsh, is condemned to death after an upheaval in 1883 [...] He will
not return to Serbia until after Milan's abdication" He was also a pretext for
Serbian self-deprecation:

"A cultivated spirit, an agreeable talker, Milan is despised universally as a
"third rank sovereign" who plunders his subjects or neighbours in order to pay
for his travelling and his pleasures; this "roi d'opÈrette" [king of vaudevil,
NG] is considered "more Levantine than Serb", a "roistaquouÈre" who is just
interested in a merry living "

And so on.

This is the history that the West wants to be rewritten. I would almost predict
that if they win today, within some months or years we shall see historians
showing that King Milan was in fact one of the most enlightened royal heads to
ever rule on Serbia, a sensible man who never attempted to follow the crazy
ideas of his subjects and thus avoided war by way of cunning manoeuvering, in
the best interest of Serbia. Aren't Kostunica and Djindjic the new Milan
Obrenovics of our day?

Your opinion