Dr Aleksandar R. Miletić

Generations of Serbian
(Re)centralists, 1968-1990:
Justified Demands or the Road
to the Disintegration of





Case study 3


In her books, Sabrina P. Ramet used the terms “recentralization” and “recentralists” to designate the efforts to restrengthen the powers of the federal state and the proponents of such politics in Yugoslavia during the 1980s1. She used the term “recentralization” in that specific meaning to define the political programme of the most prominent Serbian politicians, Dragoslav Draža Marković, Ivan Stambolić and Slobodan Milošević. On the trail of this terminology I have carried out preliminary research which points to a significant concurrence of the views of these politicians about the importance and role of the federal state within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY). Their recentrist efforts at the federal level were also accompanied by the persistent efforts to reduce the degree of autonomy enjoyed by the provinces. In this article, the term “recentrist” will be used in this complementary meaning or, in other words, it will imply the recentralist efforts both at the level of SR Serbia and the SFRY level. In socialist Yugoslavia, the proponents of the mentioned political programme were called “centralists” or, perojatively, “unitarists” in order to link them to the discarded ideology from the time of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. It seems to me that “recentralism” is a more precise term for defining the ideology and political concepts of the mentioned politicians during the 1970s and 1980s, since it points to the process of renewed centralization, namely a return to the relations prevailing before Aleksandar Ranković's removal from office and the adoption of the constitutional amendments of 1967-1971.

After my subsequent research into the public discourse and writings of Dragiša Buca Pavlović I have decided to include him in this specific Serbian school of recentralism. The subject of this research is devoted to the public discourse and political efforts of the four mentioned politicians. The evolution of their recentralist concepts will be perceived on the basis of their synchronous and diachronous comparisons in the time period from the adoption of the first constitutional amendments (1967-1971) to the so-called “years of the solution“ of the Yugoslav crisis (1987-1990). A special problem-related aspect of this article will involve the question of the framework and extent to which the recentralist efforts can be considered as a legitimate demand for the rearrangement of relations in the common state and the extent to which they turned into an obstacle to the survival of the common state?

In order to answer the above question it will first be necessary to determine the foundation on which the balance of the system enabling the survival of the Yugoslav federation was laid. This problem will be addressed in the section following the introductory part of the article. The recentralist efforts of Marković, Stambolić, Pavlović and Milošević will be analyzed in the subsequent four sections. The results of this research and comparative analyses and conclusions will be presented in the last, sixth section. The article is based on the accessible archival materials in the Serbian Archives, memoirs and print media.

Federal Yugoslavia as a “Balance of Power” System

The thesis about the Yugoslav federation as the “balance of power” has been developed by Sabrina P. Ramet in her book dedicated to the phenomena of nationalism and federalism in socialist Yugoslavia2. According to this thesis, after the death of the President of the Presidency of the SFRY, Josip Broz Tito, the Yugoslav federation was maintained within the framework of the system of complex federal institutions, based on the consensus principle or, more precisely, the political will of the representatives of six federal units and two provinces, which were considered the “elements of the federation” in federal bodies. Before reaching a consensus the representatives of the federal units had to carry out long negotiations and “harmonize” their views. Conflicting regional interests and different short-term “coalitions” formed by the federal units would come to the surface just during the decision-making process.

The representatives of the republics, which otherwise had different views on some issues, supported the proposed solutions on a case-to-case basis. Although the opinion prevails that there was an insurmountable gap between the political concepts of the Serbian and Slovenian leaderships, the two republics still acted solidarily when some decisions had to be made. This happened, for example, when the decisions on the appropriation of funds for the underdeveloped Yugoslav regions had to be made.3 It was probably just due to the mentioned short-term coalitions of the federal units that the relative stability of the system and “balance of power” within it were maintained until Slobodan Milošević came to the foreground of the Serbian political scene.

In a systemic sense, however, the greatest challenges to the institutional balance, established by the Constitution of 1974, were still coming from the ranks of top-level Serbian and Slovenian party and state officials. As for the Serbian side, they included permanent initiatives for a reduction of the competences of the autonomous provinces and recentralization of federal institutions. As for the Slovenian side, however, there was a tendency towards the greater decentralization of Yugoslavia's political and state system. The official demands of some Serbian politicians for the rearrangement of relations within the federation and SR Serbia already date from the time of the adoption of the first constitutional amendments of 1968-1971. After the removal of Marko Nikezić and Latinka Perović from the Serbian leadership in October 1972, these efforts became some kind of SR Serbia's official programme. In other words, a more or less constant clash between the conflicting concepts or, at least, pronounced discontent with the existing situation among the Serbian political elite continued in the SFRY throughout the period 1968-1990.

In this article, the “harmonization system“ and principle of maintaining the “balance of power“ among the federal units in federal bodies were adopted as vital prerequisites for the survival of the common state. Everything that could bring these prerequisites into question was considered a potential danger to the system. Proceeding from this premise, the analysis of the recentralist concepts of Serbian politicians will be especially focused on this aspect. The outvoting effiorts could create suspicion among the republics fearing that they could remain in the minority. Unilateral actions taken without prior agreement among the federal representatives could also affect the balance of power within the system and keeping the federal units together.

The main criterion for assessing the political influence and contribution of the Serbian recentralists will be their contribution to the preservation of federal institutions. In this article, I will try to analyze in what domain the development of recentralist concepts could lead the country to its collapse and to what extent it represented the justified demand for a change in the federal-state relations which was made by one federal unit.

Dragoslav Draža Marković

The present perception of Draža Marković's role in the political life of socialist Yugoslavia and the initial steps of Milošević's takeover of power is mostly positive. This was contributed by his resolute opposition to Milošević's candidacy for the leader of the Serbian party and Milošević's politics, later on. Marković's bitter opposition to Milošević is also found in his memoir published in 2010.4 Ivan Stambolić also spoke about Marković with a lot of sympathy. He praised his wisdom and insightfulness (“an old fox“) in voicing opposition to Milošević's candidacy for the leader of the Serbian party in 1986.5 Today, Marković's political role is mostly considered constructive and the opposite of Serbia's politics pursued after the Eighth Session of the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Serbia (September 1987).

In contrast to this affirmative judgement about Marković's political legacy, we have obtained completely different coordinates for his political biography from his contemporaries and his memoir. Marković's contemporary Raif Dizdarević, one of the leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina and later the top-level federal official, says in his memoir that Marković had a “reputation as a nationalistically coloured Serbian politician“ and that he was “often [labelled as] the bearer of Greater Serbian tendencies“.6 In his memoir, Marković himself reveals that he is aware that as early as the 1970s he was considered a “unitarist“ and “Greater Serbian centralist“ in the Yugoslav circles.7 By his own admission, the leaders of Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzergovina considered him “Ranković's supporter“ or worse “than Ranković himself” due to his advocacy of “the authoritative bodies within the Federation”.8

Latinka Perović, Marković's contemporary from the political opposition camp, does not miss an opportunity to express strong criticism of his political concepts, despite trying to present a balanced portrait of him in her works. As for the Kosovo problem, she argues that there are no principled differences between his views and those of Dobrica Ćosić.9 Thus, she holds that his national sentiments about this problem are so strong that he can be considered equal to the most prominent Serbian nationalist of the time. In her opinion, there were no essential differences between nationalism in the party circles and that outside of them. Perović is also convinced that the armed conflicts of the 1990s resulted necessarily from the common “logic“ of the concepts of Dobrica Ćosić and Draža Marković about the rearrangement of the relations within the Federation and resolution of the Kosovo problem. Consequently, regardless of Marković's bitter opposition to Milošević's rise to power, he bears the responsibility for advocating the concepts that were burdening the relations within Yugoslavia for decades.10

Due to significant differences of opinion about Draža Marković's political legacy and role in the process of aggravating the Yugoslav crisis, an analysis of his public discourse and the evolution of his political concepts is of greatest relevance for dealing with the questions raised in this essay. Rethinking the political genesis of Marković's (re)centralism will begin with his stance on the adoption of the constitutional amendments of 1967-1971. Thereafter, the analysis will be focused on the events associated with the debates prompted by the appearance of the so-called Blue Book in 1977 and the subsequent evolution of his concepts during the 1980s, marked by a political and economic crisis.

The first indications of Marković's recentralist concepts already emerged in the first part of the process involving the adoption of the amendments of 1967-1969. In their developed form, the formulation of these concepts can be followed in his diary notes written from December 1970 to May 1971. In their complete form they were presented in the exhaustive interview given by Marković in his capacity as President of the Assembly of SR Serbia for Belgrade's daily newspaper Politika in late February 1971.11 His recentralism refers to (1) the proposals for changing the structure of decision making in federal bodies and (2) reconsideration of the constitutional and legal status of the provinces forming part of the Yugoslav federation. These are the two most frequent themes dealing with internal political relations in Marković's diary.

At the time of the harmonization of the constitutional amendments (1968-1971), Draža Marković's recentralist tendencies referred to the principled demands that federal bodies should enjoy full capacity necessary for the exercise of their functions. Consequently, he allegedly does not oppose the reduction of the powers of the Federation, but holds that the remaining powers should be efficiently exercised. In his interview for Politika, Marković also says that efficiency in federal decision making excludes the use of veto power by the republics, implementation of an inter-republic consensus mechanism and harmonization of each decision. In his diary note of 5 December 1970, he also raises the question of alleged outvoting of which he was accused by other republics.

“In recent times, as far as equality is concerned, the antivoting principle has often been emphasized not only in the context of the demands for a parity composition of some bodies or, in other words, the demands for their composition based on proportional representation (which depends on their character and competences), as well as the views against majority decision making, against 'outvoting' ... How to make decisions in that case? Isn't decision making by majority voting still the most democratic decision-making method? In some cases, the procedure may demand not only a simple majority, but also a two-thirds majority and the like. In any case, however, voting must remain the method of making a final decision“.12

In order to confirm the correctness of his principled view, Marković also mentions the conversation of the country's top officials during their visit to Romania in November 1971. On that occasion, Džemal Bijedić allegedly said in Tito's presence that he would not have voted in favour of the voting power of federal bodies had he known that he would become the head of government. Marković told him that he was against this principle, alhough he knew that he would not be the head of government.13 Until the end of Marković's active involvement in politics, his political activity included the efforts towards increasing the efficiency of federal bodies, and resistance to the excessive implementation of the principle of inter-republic harmonization.

Apart from the principled comments on the inefficiency of federal institutions, in Marković’s diary one often comes upon his exclusively Serbian ethnic reasoning. So, he ponders over the extent of Serbian discontent with the constitutional amendments. At one point he wonders whether “it is in the interest of SR Serbia and the Serbian people to live in such a Yugoslav state which they wish to create?”14 It seems that the political elite in Serbia under Ranković and after his demise developed a political culture that continuously supported the idea of (re)centralism as the only framework within which the idea of a common state was possible.15 The Nikezić-Perović political tandem represents the only discontinuity and short-lived departure from such a political culture and such political concepts in Serbia.16

In the postwar period, the Serbian and Yugoslav communists were distinctly critical of the centralist and unitarist concepts of Aleksandar Karadjordjević and Serbian bourgeois political parties in interwar Yugoslavia. After the Brioni Plenum, the seal of unitarism was clearly imprinted on the dominant political culture in Serbia, which was formed under Aleksandar Ranković's influence. Draža Marković was aware of the fact that his political views were also perceived in such a perspective of the long duration of Serbia's 20th century politics. In his notes he rejects this “imposed” complex and efforts to burden the current Serbian politics with such an “ancestral sin“ of their “Greater Serbian fathers”.17

Judging by the frequency of his writing about this issue during the period 1968-1971, Marković was mostly preoccupied with the process of emancipation of the provinces. Moreover, his critical observations about the provincial officials and symbolic status of the autonomous provinces are so often found in his diary that his attitude towards them assumed the proportions of a personal obsession. The Albanians are persistently called “Šiptari”, although this name was considered derogatory and removed from official phraseology before these notes were written. Some comments reveal a great deal of suspicion towards the provinces and, in particular, Kosovo's officials.18 His discontent with a lenient policy towards the provinces is also one of his principled criticisms addressed to Nikezić and Perović at the time of the escalation of their conflict19.

In the mentioned interview with Politika in March 1971, Marković expressed significant reservations about the emancipation of the provinces and their promotion into almost equal constituents of the Yugoslav federation. Allegedly, he does not oppose the further increase of autonomous rights at the provincial level, which can be viewed in the context of the general process of deetatization. However, he holds that this process should be regulated by the relevant changes in the republican constitution. In this way, the problem related to the scope of provincial autonomy would be resolved in the context of the arrangement of relations within SR Serbia and not by decisions imposed from outside. With the exception of this clear critical stance on inteference in the relations within the republic, his interview with Politika mostly reveals his doubts and reservations about these issues. The only true criticism of the constitutional amendments can be found in his diary notes. As for the status of the autonomous provinces, Marković is actually bothered by the essential and protocol problems. He writes that during Tito's visit to Kosovo in 1971 he did not notice any flag of the Republic of Serbia.20 In addition, not one representative of the Republic of Serbia was invited to attend the ceremonial session dedicated to the proclamation of the Constitution of the Autonomous Province of Kosovo on 27 February 1974.21 Here is how Marković sees the protocol imposed by the provincial authorities during Tito's visit to Kosovo in April 1975:

“Throughout that time they were occupied with how to leave the impression that are were fully autonomous and that everything seems as if there is a direct relationship between Kosovo and the SFRY. In this context, M. Bakalli's otherwise absurd and funny demand to inspect an honour guard together with the President is characteristic. They are completely obsessed with statehood. How hard it is for them to say “SR Serbia” and express their belonging to SR Serbia. With their emphasized, even overemphasized 'Yugoslavism' and commitment to the SFRY, Tito and LCY, they try to blur the fact that the autonomous provinces 'form part of SR Serbia'”.22

The work on the Blue Book and its presentation at closed party forums in early 1977 reflect the culmination of Marković's frustrations with the constitutional and legal status of the Serbian provinces. This internal document, whose preparation was commissioned by the Presidency of SR Serbia (headed by Marković) in 1976, reveals the illogicalities and contradictions concerning the scope of provincial and republican competences within SR Serbia. In the case of the Assembly of SR Serbia, the authors of the Blue Book find it problematic that its legislative activity is almost exclusively confined to the territory of so-called Serbia proper and that the provincial delegates also participate in its composition and bodies. However, they are the delegates of the regions of the republic “whose problems, as a rule, are not addressed in the republican assembly“. Under such circumstances, it is difficult for these delegates “not to feel estranged from their own delegate base“. The authors of the Blue Book hold that “at this point the entire delegate system begins to lose its real sense”.23 In almost the same critical way the authors of the Blue Book comment on the scope of powers exercised by the Presidency of Serbia, which is confined to Serbia proper and whose composition also includes provincial officials24.

As for the Republican Executive Council and other republican bodies, the authors of the Blue Book conclude that, despite the constitutional defiunition of SR Serbia as a state, they do not exercise their powers in the autonomous provinces.25 This problematizes both the constitutional and legal status of Serbia and the proclaimed equality of the Serbian people in the Yugoslav community. Here is how this question was raised in the Blue Book:

“Considering the pronounced tendencies towards weakening the unity of the Republic as a whole and increasingly distinct differentiation of three separate regions, loosely or only formally interconnected, the question that imposes itself is whether the Serbian people – on terms of equality with other Yugoslav peoples – exercises its historical right to a nation state within the Yugoslav federation, which is based on the principle of national self-determination.”26

This argumentation is additionally deepened by the fact that the territory of Serbia proper, as the only territory where the powers of the Republic are exercised, was not adequately defined in a legal or socio-political sense. The authors of the Blue Book hold that this is another reason leading to the “political inequality of working people and citizens from the narrower territory of the Republic”.27 Consequently, this internal document pointed most directly to the defects in the statehood of SR Serbia and alleged inequality of the Serbian people in the system of institutions, formed under the constitutional amendments and constitution of 1974. In the face of significant opposition in the republic and at the federal level, the debate about the Blue Book was put ad acta by the end of June. As Marković concludes, the debate “ended by taking a `Solomonic` stance as if the Blue Book does not exist”.28

In his diary note of 29 June 1977, Marković emphasizes the significance of the Blue Book because it pointed to significant constitutional, legal and state problems: “The problem was opened in Tito's time. It is now being discussed.”29 In these two sentences, perhaps even inadvertently, the author compromised the form of diary, in which one keeps an authentic daily record of events and does not mention some later events, based on one's subsequent experience. It is evident that the diary note of June 1977 was added later on, certainly after Tito's death. Un view of this fact, one can only speculate what other additions were made to these “diary” notes.30

From 1978 to 1982, Draža Marković was the President of the Federal Assembly and then the President of the Central Committee of the LCY. At the Fourteenth Session of the Central Committee of the LCY, in October 1984, he came forward as a prominent advocate of the recentralist rearrangement of the country. His speech and exchange of retorts with his Slovenian colleagues Andrej Marinc and France Popit summarize and fuly develop his views on the improvement of the efficiency of federal bodies. His retorts were prompted by Marinc's negative comments on the first draft of changes to the long-term stabilization programme prepared by Serbia, and the interview given by Borislav Srebrić, Vice-President of the Federal Executive Council, for the Sunday edition of Borba ten or so days before the session of the Central Committee of the LCY. The mentioned first draft demands greater powers for federal bodies, while Srebrić, in his interview, criticizes the widely used consensus principle in federal decision making.31

In his interview, Srebrić explained the technical problems encountered by the federal authorities in their efforts to be efficient given the burden of “harmonization” preceeding every operational decision making. Consensus is also problematized not only as a burden in the decision-making process, but also as something being essentially contrary to the democratic principles: “The question that imposes itself here is whether consensus is a democratic or antidemocratic form due to outvoting the minority”.32 Such reasoning could not be more congruent with the concepts advocated and developed by Draža Marković during the previous fifteen years. At the session of the Central Committee of the LCY, the consensus problem gave him an opportunity to summarize his recentralist arguments once again in his polemic with the Slovenian representatives.

The most original part of Marković's argumentation involved arguing that insistence on census-based decision making was actually unconstitutional. According to Marković, the authors of the 1974 constitution anticipated the consensus process for a limited number of issues of general importance and not for making all decisions at all federal levels. Such a use of consensus turned into its opposite:

“[...] one good principle, which should guarantee equality and protect certain interests, was extended and turned into its opposite. We have an opposite effect because we wanted to be `more constitutional` than anticipated under the Constitution, ‘more equal’ than written in the Constitution and ‘more democratic’ than we agreed upon [...] because we extend the equality issue beyond the Constitution. [...] We criticize the Federal Executive Council for its indecisiveness and failure to come up with proposals. The Federal Executive Council acts tacitly according to the unanimity principle, contrary to the Constitution. This is the best example of how acting beyond the Constitution is as unconstitutional as acting less than anticipated under the Constitution33.

As for the “democratic spirit” of the implementation of the consensus principle, Marković's reasoning is identical with that of Srebrić. Majority vote decision making which is, in Marković's opinion, “most democratic”, became so undesirable in Yugoslav institutions that it was pejoratively called “outvoting“. Under conditions of economic crisis, which was deepening the gap between rich Slovenia and the less developed southern republics, it seems that Marković and other Serbian officials were convinced that they could win support for a more efficient federal intervention from the less developed ones. This issue will be dealt with in more detail in the subsequent part of this article.

Ivan Stambolić

Throughout his active involvement in politics, when he exercised party and state functions, Ivan Stambolić advocated recentralist ideas with respect to both the status of the autonomous provinces and relations within the Federation. This conclusion imposes itself even after a superficial insight into the contents of his public speeches and interviews in the media during the period 1981-1987. Should we analyze the frequency and intensity of his advocacy of these views, they could be associated with some concrete phenomena and events in the society. Namely, Stambolić took a harder line on Kosovo and the provinces in general as a response to the 1981 protests in Kosovo.

Tito's death and the overtly hostile character of the Kosovo protests finally provided scope for republican officials to reconisder the status of the provinces. Ivan Stambolić also testified quite unambiguously about this issue in his “answers” to the questions of journalist Slobodan Inić. In this text of a memoir genre, published in 1995, Stambolić directly related the gradual strengthening of Serbia's position in Yugoslavia's internal politics to Tito's death and the 1981 protests in Kosovo.34 In his memoir, Raif Dizdarević also holds that the Kosovo revolt served as a trigger for the Serbian leaders to take a more resolute stance at the federal level.35

On the other hand, Stambolić's calls for a more efficient federal intervention and change in the relations within the Federation became more frequent since September 1984, when the Federal Institute for Social Planning revealed the data showing that the economic growth of so-called Serbia proper was lagging behind other Yugoslav republics in relative terms.36 From that moment until the discontinuation of the functions of the federal state, the top Serbian officials were almost unanimous in their calls for the recentralization of federal institutions. In this part of the article we will first analyze Stambolić's political views and decisions concerning the autonomous provinces and then his efforts to strengthen the influence of federal bodies.

Stambolić's speech at the session of the Central Committee of the LCS on 6 May 1981, in the aftermath of the Albanian revolt in Kosovo, was completely in the spirit of proving the correctness of the politics towards the provinces, which was advocated by the authors of the Blue Book.37 It is probable that he also persistently referred to 1977 because he wished to avoid insistence on 1974, which would imply the reconsideration of the constitution itself. In Stambolić's speech there is also a taste of bitterness due to the leniency of the then Serbian leaders who failed to persist in getting to the bottom of the provincial problems. Stambolić is openly critical of the then compromise involving doing nothing about the autonomy of the provinces. He views it as the acceptance of an “illusion” that something was agreed upon. In his speech, he referred even four times to “several months of debating in 1977”:

“When we were considering the causes and effects of the 1981 events in Kosovo at the joint session of the Presidencies of the Central Committee of the LCS and SR Serbia, which was convened these days, Comrade Minić pleaded for `putting those problems on the agenda as they are so as to perceive their essence and undertake to resolve them`. However, the debates conducted in 1977 took the opposite course – some comrades wanted to resolve the problems without clarifying their essence. […] At that time, we failed to say clearly and resolutely that SAP Vojvodina and SAP Kosovo had their republic, their state union – SR Serbia.”38

In this speech, Stambolić was very critical of the period of developing the relations with the provinces from 1977 onwards, which was marked by their significant estrangement. He argues that in 1981, the Republic of Serbia cooperated more successfully with other Yugoslav republics than with its own provinces. One can observe the influence of the analyses contained in the Blue Book in Stambolić's highlighting the illogicalities of the delegate system under which the provincial delegates and officials also participate in solving all political and economic problems of so-called Serbia proper, while republican officials rarely have a chance to visit any of the two provinces. Stambolić's suggestive tone seems to imply that things must return to the year 1977 and that Serbia's arguments and principledness must now be at a much higher level.

The tone of Stambolić's speech at the session of the Central Committee of the LCS, held in December 1981, was similar.39 He referred a few times to 1977 as a turning point in the politics towards the provinces. Stambolić speaks more specifically about the “great responsibility” of the Serbian leadership (“our great responsibility”) for the wrong assessment of the constitutional and legal status of the provinces. He adds that the attempt to raise a counterrevolution in Kosovo in 1981 would not have been a surprise for the Serbian leadership if the mentioned assessments made in 1977 had not been so wrong. Stambolić also calls for the unity of the Republic and strongly condemns the manifestations of separatism among the Kosovo and Vojvodina leaderships. In an indirect way he also points out that in the period after Tito's and Kardelj's deaths it is necessary to find new solutions for the provinces.40

Otherwise, in the already mentioned book Put u bespuće (Road to Nowhere), Stambolić, like Draža Marković, showed a significant degree of frustration over the formal protocol and procedural issues in Kosovo. He writes that the visits of republican officials were preceded by long negotiations as if it was the question of inter-state relations. Stambolić was also embittered by the fact that at provincial meetings which he attended as the top republican official, that is, the President of the Presidency of the Republic of Serbia, he was formally greeted at the very end of the protocol list, “after the last provincial official in the list”.41 Like Draža Marković, Stambolić's political biography from the period 1981-1986 shows that he was also occupied to a significant extent with the status of the provinces within SR Serbia.

The issue concerning the autonomous provinces was unavoidably brought up at the 18th Session of the Central Committee of the LCS, which was held in November 1984. In his speech, Stambolić insisted again on a “more complete constitution of SR Serbia as a republic”. His logic was simple. Namely, what contributes to the strengthening of one republic also contributes to the strengthening of the SFRY. His well-known metaphor about “co-tenants and subtenants” was also recorded at this session. This metaphor emphasizes quite clearly that the provinces cannot be subordinated to the republic, not can they be equal with it:

“The Socialist Autonomous Provinces and nationalities are not subtenants in Serbia, nor are we its co-tenants. Either relationship would be disastrous for the unity of the Republic. It probably only seems to me that the advocacy for a unified SR Serbia and the autonomy of its provinces established by the Constitution – causes more fear among some people than the slogan `Kosovo Republic`.”42

It seems that from 1986 onwards, Stambolić's rhetoric concerning Kosovo was partially softened. Instead of resolute demands and frustration over the situation, there was also mention of the positive examples of cooperation between the republics and provinces in his speeches. At that time and later on, Stambolić explained this “progress” in the relations by a favourable climate that was created after the political generational change in Kosovo.43 Stambolić was evidently pleased with Kosovo's party leaders rallied around Azem Vllasi and Kaqusha Jashari since May 1986. He emphasized that these cadre changes were the result of the correct politics towards Kosovo which was conducted by the republican authorities over the past five years. In his subsequent memoir, Stambolić gave numerous examples of a thaw in the mutual relations, cooperation and reciprocity: from common legislation to economic and political cooperation. He especially pointed to the statutory consolidation of the LC organization in the entire territory of the Republic in that period.44

Regardless of the political generational change in Kosovo and positive changes in mutual communication, Stambolić continued to work with undiminished ardour on constitutional changes involving the reduction of provincial powers through the negotiations with other republics. As for the key issues of the Republic's constitutional consolidation, Stambolić's efforts can be followed until the end of his active political involvement. Less than ten days before the Eighth Session of the Central Committee of the LCS, he presented his exposé to all councils of the Serbian Assembly in which he explained the proposed changes to the Constitution of SR Serbia. He previously obtained the consent of the leaders of other republics and both provinces.45

As for the recentralist demands at the federal level, Stambolić considerably expanded the programme advocated by Draža Marković. It became more complex, more concrete and more comprehensive. In an ideological sense, his concepts contained a lot of reference to the workers' self-management principles, so that the proposed changes at the federal level remained within the prevalent value system. In the mentioned May 1981 speech, he used the truism “togetherness and unity based on self-management” instead of insisting on state unity. Stambolić pitted the model of “self-managing economies”, based both on the autonomy and togetherness principles, against the concept of “national economies” under which he understood the economies at the republican and provincial levels.46

In his interview to the Zagreb daily Vjesnik in September 1981, in the same context of criticizing the self-sufficiency of the republican and provincial economies, Stambolić warned that the “pluralism of self-managing interests” would turn into the “pluralism of nationalized interests”.47 Thus, Stambolić tried to legitimize the Serbian recentralist positions which, in other republics, were understood as leaning towards etatism. Moreover, he accused others of the sin of etatism – at both the republican and provincial levels. His affirmation of self-management ideology in overcoming particular etatisms found its unexpected expression in his advocacy for the “state of self-managing delegate assemblies”. Namely, in the report submitted at the session of the Central Committee of the LCS in September 1984, Stambolić called on the municipalities to stand against being “closed within organizations of associated labour, the republics and provinces within their municipalities and regions, and the federation within the republics and provinces”. Stambolić also made a distinction between the notions of etatism and state, so that his ideal-type state was a “state based on self-management and a delegate system in the form of federation, including republics, provinces and municipalities”.48

In his report submitted to the Belgrade City Committee of the League of Communists in October 1983, Stambolić critically perceived the effects of the “absence of self-managing unification”. Namely, he held that, apart from self-managing decentralization and emancipation, “true deetatization” also implied the process of unification and cerntralization “no matter how paradoxical it sounds”. According to Stambolić, if there was no this second unifying component, the system would rush into the danger of “decentralized etatism”.49 This was one more effort to present the Serbian leaders' recentralist tendencies as something being consistent with the core ideological premises on which Yugoslav socialism was based.

In his criticism of the use of the consensus principle in decision making, Stambolić went considerably further than Draža Marković. Whereas Marković's crtiticism only referred to the decision-making process in the Federation, Stambolić pointed out that decision-making problems also existed at the work organization level. In fact, decision making was only efficient in the republics and provinces. In that context, at the Eighteenth Session of the Central Committee of the LCS, held in November 1984, Stambolić stated that “there can be no more self-management in the Federation than in the republics and provinces”.50 He found the explanation for these anomalies in the uneven and inadequate development of the self-management principles at different societal and state levels. Here is Stambolić's reasoning at the Counselling Session of the LCS CC, held on 22 October 1984:

“How does our decision-making system work today, from the basic organization to the Federation? Excluding the republican and provincial levels where decisions on the most important issues are made very simply, very easily, quickly and, sometimes, even rashly, so that they are resolutely implemented without any greater difficulty, in our society – from the basic cell to the Federation – a decision is made with great difficulty and slowly. Haven't we blocked associated labour, its ability to decide and conduct a policy? Haven't we also blocked the decision-making ability at the federal level? Hasn't this slowdown in the development of self-management led to a wrong reproduction of the republic and the province, thus aggravating the functioning of the Federation?”51

As for the “harmonization” principle, Stambolić pointed to the adverse effects of its implementation in almost all fields of decision-making in the Federation. According to Stambolić, the consensus principle spread from being used in determining and managing the general development aims where it was justified and necessary, to being used in the field of implementation and even implementation control. He also said that the federal councils turned into “inter-republic committees”, while the development of “republican and provincial sciences” being in service of upholding the political views of their communities, also made progress.52

The Counselling Session, where Stambolić presented these views, was also convened in order to discuss the polemical tone of the debate at the Fourteenth Session of the Central Committee of the LCY, which was held the previous week. In the preceding part of this article, we pointed to the differences between the views of Draža Marković and the Slovenian members of the Central Committee. Stambolić also emphasized and gave unconditional support to Marković. Moreover, he arbitrarily promoted a great number of Marković's views as the position taken by the Central Committee of the LCY. It is evident that the Serbian leaders were unanimous in their criticism of the principle of consensus decision making in federal bodies. It also seems that their stance against the excessive use of consensus was also supported by other republics. In the letter sent by the Presidency of the SFRY to the Federal Assembly on 13 November 1984 regarding the determination of the country's socio-economic development in 1985, there was also a recommendation in line with Marković’s and Stambolić’s reasoning.53

As it seems, this fact shows that the Serbian cadres had a broader Yugoslav concept within which they expected to win support for their views and changes in the economic relations in the country. Namely, as the inflationary tendencies in Yugoslavia were gaining momentum, the gap between the less developed republics and the developed ones, primarily Slovenia, was deepening. In his memoir, Raif Dizdarević described with some bitterness the negotiations with the Slovenians about the structure of development policy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which they wanted to condition. Dizdarević also criticized the Slovenian policy of “preserving the acquired positions and privileged status in the economy“. Namely, the inflationary tendencies inflicted damage to the republics in which the “power industry, basic industry and production of raw materials, intermediates and food were dominant“, since the prices of their products were set by the federal government. Such was the economic structure not only in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also in Serbia and other less developed republics.54

On the other hand, the Slovenian economy mostly produced finished products for the market, so that it earned profit under inflationary conditions. Namely, the retail prices of these products were not government-controlled, which the representatives of other republics considered as a specific kind of monopoly and underserved privilege. Dizdarević says that the Bosnian side used this argumment against Slovenia's criticism of its economic policy. The only way to change such economic relations was to resort to government intervention, However, the typical Slovenian response to the leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina was to label them as the proponents of etatism. Namely, France Popit argued with a dose of arrogance that agreeing to etatism was something which, as a rule, was resorted to by underdeveloped ones, since “he who lives a hard life is always ready to support the etatist measures that will improve it”.55

The proposed positions for the mentioned Fourteenth Session of the Central Committee of the LCY in 1984 involved the criticism of the preservation of monopoly. Namely, it was necessary “to stand resolutely against those defending their undeservedly acquired positions, that is, their monopoly and privileged status”. We learn about this from the speech of Andrej Marinc, the Slovenian member of the Central Committee of the LCY, who dismissed these demands if “such a formulation refers to the more developed republics and autonomous provinces or exporting organizations of associated labour”.56 As for the abolition of a monopoly status in price formation, in his keynote address at the Seventeenth Session of the Central Committee of the LCS on 28 September 1984, Ivan Stambolić spoke about the need for the “faster removal of sectoral and territorial price disparities” at the federal level.57 The Serbian leaders probably expected to win support for their projects from the less developed republics should the consensus principle be eliminated from collective decision making at the Yugoslav level. Namely, the economic advantages of so-called monopoly and privileges were enjoyed only by Slovenia and probably, to a degree, Croatia. This means that the Serbian efforts to change the status quo within the Yugoslav framework could win support. However, before Slobodan Milošević came to power in Serbia such outvoting was not an item on the agenda of the Serbian leaders.

There is one more element of Stambolić's centralism that is somewhat illogical and needs attention. Namely, he often insisted on the unhindered movement of goods and services within the entire Yugoslav space. Consequently, Stambolić pleaded for a unified Yugoslav market, although he represented the interests of the republic whose level of economic development was slightly below the Yugoslav average. One would expect that such a doctrine was advocated by the economically more developed republics that could take full advantage of free trade. It seems that in this case, whether consciously or not, Stambolić gave priority to political reasoning rather than to economic logic. After all, his arguments about this specific self-managing economic liberalism were more ideological and political than economic:

“[...] the tendencies towards squeezing out the market almost always strengthen etatism, while the suppression of the unity of the Yugoslav market led in many ways to the strengthening of decentralized etatism, which can easily become the basis of nationalism. When we wrote down in the Constitution that economic relations should be regulated by self-management agreements and compacts, we were guided by the revolutionary aim to increasingly harmonize different interests on a self-management basis. [...] Instead of resolving the conflicts of material interests on a unified Yugoslav market, which is the locus of such conflicts, they are again transmitted to political relations between the republics and provinces, where they do not belong and often turn into interethnic, that is, republican and provincial misunderstandings and clashes.”58

Consequently, the recentralists advocated the idea of “togetherness” at all costs and under all circumstances. As an ardent proponent of the strengthening of federal powers and state unity within SR Serbia, Stambolić enjoyed almost the same reputation as Draža Marković in the Yugoslav circles. Namely, he was also aware that in other republics he was considered a nationalist. At the time of the Eighth Session, Stambolić had no significant support from other parts of Yugoslavia.59

Dragiša Buca Pavlović

It seems that the political messages and warnings of Dragiša Buca Pavlović (1943-1996), the forgotten veteran of the fight against nationalism and tragic hero of the Eighth Session, have not lost their topicality to this day. In his public appearances in September 1987, Pavlović was the first to point to the structural problems and disastrous impact that Milošević's inflammatory political rhetoric, irresponsible print media and “patriotic” intellectual elite would have on overall social relations. Dragiša Buca Pavlović held the position of President of the Belgrade City Committee of the LCS for a relatively short time or, more exactly, from May 1986 until the 8th Session. The general public mostly does not know that Pavlović’s removal from this position was the key item on the agenda of the Eighth Session. The speech delivered by Buca Pavlović on that occasion was probably the last defence of the most significant achievements and values of Yugoslav socialism on the Serbian political scene.

Pavlović was the first to recognize the phenomenon now recognized as the tabloidization of print media in growing hysteria and irresponsible and flammable texts published in Politika and Politika ekspres, beginning with the event at Kosovo Polje in 1987 and, in particular, the massacre in the military barracks in Aleksinac in September of the same year. The new trends in the editorial policies of the Politika publications followed the changes in public rhetoric, whose main protagonist was Slobodan Milošević. During the period od socialism, the principles including inter-ethnic respect and extreme caution in broaching the theme such as inter-ethnic relations were patiently cherished. These principles, respect and the rules of the proclaimed policy of brotherhood and unity were also reflected in journalism. It is surprising how the whole system could turn into its opposite within just a few months in 1987. Milošević’s first open critic was also the first kadrovik to be ousted by Milošević on his road to power. The removal of Pavlović and, later, Stambolić from the Serbian political scene meant the removal of the last sincere supporters of leftist ideas whch, as a political option, did not (and does not) exist in (post)transition Serbia.

On the basis of the foregoing, Pavlović should have been the political opposite of Slobodan Milošević in every respect. However, for the purposes of this study and in the context of the defined terminological designations, Pavlović will be considered as part of the recentralist school of thought to which Milošević also belonged. During the short period of his involvement in so-called high politics, At party forums, Pavlović also expressed his views on the autonomy of the provinces and functioning of the federation. With respect to these issues, he followed Ivan Sambolić's political course which, as interpreted by Pavlović, was formulated in a more abstract and more academic way. It is evident at first glance that, when speaking about these issues, Pavlović referred even more to the ideological postulates of workers' self-management.

In dealing with the problems of the non-functioning of a unified Yugoslav market and “autarkicity” of the Yugoslav economies, Pavlović held that it was the question of an unconstitutional takeover of the “supreme arbitration” powers by the republics and provinces. According to Pavlović, the “supreme arbitration” right only belongs to “associated workers” who promote their relations within the system of a “pluralism of self-managing interests”. Pavlović labelled everything else as etatism at the national, regional, municipal, republican or provincial level, or the level of organization of associated labour. He held that the closing off of the autarkic circles of the economy was not only as an anomaly of the system, but also something that posed a threat to the overall development of socialism in the country:

The pooling of labour is something quite different than the “republicanization-provincialization” or “ourization“ of the economy. Will we slow down or speed up our progress toward socialism and communism if the economies of the republics, provinces and regions continue to develop as more or less autarkic economic structures? Does “autarkization” lead us to socialism or somewhere else – probably backwards?60

In dealing with the economic emancipation trends in the federal units and absence of direct investments from the more developed republics to the less developed ones, Pavlović criticized these phenomena proceeding from the basic positions of Marxism. Namely, the tendencies towards closing the eonomies were explained as the efforts of “people to appropriate surplus labour for themselves”.61 Although it was not explicitly said, this line of reasoning equated the egoism of the provincial and republican nomenclatures with the behaviour expected under conditions of classical capitalism. Bearing in mind the dominant ideology of workers' self-management, this was probably the sharpest possible criticism of the ideological opponents.

As for the autonomous provinces, Pavlović elaborated, in essence, the concepts developed by Draža Marković and Ivan Stambolić. We also find the elements of the constitutional and legal arguments relating to the formation of a unified economic and state space within SR Serbia and insistence on the equality of SR Serbia with other republics within the federation. He used the social development plan of SR Serbia as an example and insisted that this document should refer to the entire Serbian territory. Namely, the relevant legal regulations stipulated that social development plans should be adopted by “socio-political communities”, while the territory of Serbia proper was never and nowhere defined as such a community. Pavlović said that the development plan of SR Serbia was not adopted for a decade due to formal legal reasons and opposition to it in the provinces, this pointing to the significant degree of disempowerment of this republic compared to other Yugoslav republics.62

Much of Pavlović's argumentation relating to the settlement of the Kosovo problem referred to cooperation with Kosovo institutions.63 This is not surprising in view of the fact that the short period of his involvement in politics coincided with the mentioned generational change in the Kosovo leadership and change in Stambolić's rhetoric on the Kosovo problem. As for political, cultural and economic cooperation with Kosovo, Pavlović's views mostly corresponded to those of Ivan Stambolić during the period 1986-1987. Pavlović also spoke exhaustively about cooperation with Kosovo at the Eighth Session when such rhetoric was already considered “obsolete” by the nationalist group rallied around Slobodan Milošević.64

Slobodan Milošević

Milošević belonged to the narrow circle of Serbian leaders since late 1983. However, he did not display any special interest in the so-called Kosovo problem until his visit to Kosovo Polje in April 1987. In the collection of his public speeches, the Kosovo problem was mentioned for the first time at the conference of the Presidents of the Regional Committees of the LCY in June 1986. Milošević also spoke about Kosovo at his meeting with the political activist group from Kragujevac in December 1986. Although Stambolić already softened his rhetoric on Kosovo to a significant extent, Milošević still used the “old” vocabulary to designate the events in Kosovo immediately after the rebellion in 1981. Whereas Stambolić pointed to the possible ways of cooperation with the new provincial leadership, Milošević simply labelled these events as a “counterrevolution” and the settlement of the problem as the “elimination of the consequences of a counterrevolution”.65 Apart from casually mentioning the situation in Kosovo on these two occasions, where one can recognize the embryo of Milošević's harsh rhetoric in the future, it seems that at the beginning of his political career he was not much concerned about the problems of Serbia's southern autonomous province.

Ivan Stambolić also spoke of Milošević's lack of interest in Kosovo. According to him, Milošević allegedly tried to convince him to let the provinces alone and turn attention to the settlement of the Yugoslav problems.66 Today, it may sound paradoxical that his later opponents Draža Marković, Ivan Stambolić and Buca Pavlović – the politicians removed from politics by Milošević due to their alleged opposition to the settlement of the Kosovo problem – were much more concerned about the problem of the provinces. In that initial period, Milošević's recentralism was reflected in his advocacy of a unified Yugoslav market and more efficient performance of federal bodies. Milošević was especially concerned about the market integration problem, which he tackled in almost every public speech. These arguments, in their fully developed form, are found in Milošević's and Stambolić's speeches at the Seventeenth Session of the Central Committee of the LCS, so that it is difficult to establish its authorship.67 In any case, in the subsequent period Milošević insisted much more on this, largely ideological concept of self-managed integration than Stambolić.

In further text, I will analyze some characteristic points made by Milošević in his rhetorical advocacy of the self-managed integration of the Yugoslav market. At the mentioned session, which was held er 1984, he designated the obstacles to the functioning of a unified market as the “essential political question posing a threat to the survival of the system”. Milošević declared all obstacles unconstitutional because they violated Article 254 of the Constitution of the SFRY, sanctioning the placing of economic agents in an unequal position for any reason. At the Eighteenth Session of the Central Committee of the LCS, which was held in November 1984, he devoted his attention almost entirely to the problems arising from the non-integrated system of self-managing organizations (BOALs, work organizations, self-managing communities of interest, provinces, republics, municipalities, etc.), whose “administrations defend the rights of `their` working class from each other”. Milošević insisted that he was speaking in the name of the working class and its interests:

“Workers are massively aware of that. The worker does not accept that he must change the bus at the border between two republics, or even two municipalities, when he does not have to do that when travelling abroad. The peasant does not accept that the police wait for him at the republican-provincial border in order to search his baggage. Our man does not agree with the situation that two trains carrying the same goods pass each other on adjacent tracks; one train carries exports, while the other carries more expensive imports.”68

The last sentence shows that his insistence on a unified market also implied export restrictions. This topic was also broached by Ivan Stambolić in his interview with the newspaper Komunist in August 1985. He said, for example, that wheat from Vojvodina was exported, while at the same time Kosovo and Serbia proper had to import it at a higher price. Trepča exported its ore, while the Copper Rolling Mill in Sevojno and Cable Factory in Svetozarevo did not have it for their needs.69 These products and intermediates should be preserved for economic agents in the country, that is, Serbia proper. Consequently, Milošević and Stambolić pleaded for a variation of Fichte's “closed commercial state“, which could be considered their principled commitment if there was no constant reference to the building of an export-oriented economy. If there economic efforts were successful, the greatest benefit would be derived by the economically more developed republics, primarily Slovenia. The Serbian recentralists' imperatives included “togetherness” and “integration” within the Yugoslav space regardless of the realpolitik and economic context. It is amazing how Milošević could build the most important part of his political career until April 1987 on the basis of such an “all-resolving formula”.

Milošević's recentralist concepts were also reflected in the continuation of the efforts of Draža Marković and Ivan Stambolić to strengthen federal institutions in order to make efficient decisions. In the first years of his involvement in politics, until April 1987 and even later, Milošević brought nothing new or inventive into this domain of recentralism. He only repeated the theses against consensus and excessive use of the harmonizatiom mechanism, which were formulated earlier by his predecessors.70 In all conceptual details his recentralism until April 1987 was much more moderate and much less convincing than that advocated by Stambolić, Marković and Pavlović. It must also be noted that his efforts towards recentralization at the Yugoslav level were significantly more pronounced than those towards the constitutional and legal “unification” of SR Serbia. In the sphere of practical politics, the priorities of Milošević's recentralism changed completely after the event at Kosovo Polje in 1987. It should be noted above all that during the period 1987-1989, he shifted the focus of his activities to the issues concerning the provinces and other internal issues of SR Serbia. It seems that the “happening of the people”, “antibureaucratic revolutions” and dealing with the “counterevolution” in Kosovo pushed all other federal issues into the background. When he again turned his attention to the Federation, he acted like a separatist and opponent of state unity rather than in the proclaimed spirit of the concepts developed by the centralists before him. Milošević, who talked about the importance of a unified Yugoslav market at party forums for years, will be remembered for imposing an economic embargo on the Republic of Slovenia in December 1989. A principled recentralist would not dare to do that after an ordinary political clash with the Slovenian leadership.71

His continuous opposition to the decisions and measures taken by the federal government or, more precisely, the Federal Executive Council headed by Ante Marković, also does not befit the reputation of a recentralist. When Draža Marković demanded giving greater powers to federal bodies at the mentioned session of the Central Committee of the LCY in 1984, it was the time of Milka Planinc's government and his demand implied the principled advocacy of a specified profile of institutions regardless of the combination of cadres being in power at that moment. Had Milošević been a principled recentralist, he would have upheld the authority of the federal government, regardless of its cadre composition. In his case, however, there was no such principledness. Probably the most outstanding example of Milošević's destruction of the common state's institutions was the intrusion into the monetary system of the SFRY and primary issue of the National Bank of Yugoslavia in December 1990 – January 1991. In this way, the Republic of Serbia illegally “borrowed” dinars in the then value of 1.4 billion dollars for its budgetary payments.

A recentralist, like Pavlović or Stambolić, would not have entered the provision into the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia (adopted on 28 September 1990, at the time when the federal state still existed), proclaiming this federal unit as “sovereign and independent”. In his famous debate, Srdja Popović also pointed to Article 2, Section 1, of the mentioned Constitution, stipulating the imposition of special fees and a special sales tax on goods produced in other Yugoslav republics.72 Thus, the embargo on Slovenian goods was not only legalized, but was also grounded in the highest legal act. The model of embargo and trade protectionism could also be applied to economic agents from other republics.

The man who entered Yugoslav politics as a relentless advocate of a unified market went furthest in the imposition of internal trade barriers only a few years later. In fact, if we follow the chronology of Milošević's public appearances we will find out that the last time he tackled the issue of a unified Yugoslav market was at the Conference of the League of Communists of Serbia in November 1988.73 An embargo on Slovenia was imposed only a year later, in December 1989. With such a tempo Milošević's “principled” concepts were changed into their opposite.

What then remained of Milošević's declarative recentralism in the post-1989 period? His unsuccessful outvoting combinations at the Fourteenth Congress of the LCY and the Presidency of the SFRY, and failed initiatives for holding general elections at the federal level could be considered the ultimate consequences of a long-term development of recentralist concepts in Serbia. This is the “logic” Latinka Perović speaks about, the logic of an internal conflict that could not be controlled and thus led to an armed conflict. Borisav Jović, Milošević's close assiociate, says that Milošević's insistence on convening the last party congress was aimed at using the voting power of the delegates from Serbia and Serbian delegates from other Yugoslav republics.74 Consequently, this had to be the first efficient realization of the long-time story about an “efficient”, “majority” and “most democratic” decision-making method, while at the same time avoiding an “undemocratic” consensus and harmonization practice. Jović also says that Milošević did not consult with anyone during the process of organizing the congress. Nevertheless, this differed completely from the decision-making and forum preparation methods employed by the earlier recentralists.

Milošević's efforts to use the “one-man-one-vote” principle at the projected federal elections were also similarly directed. These elections had to open the door for Milošević's politics to a broader Yugoslav scene where the number and mobilization of Serbs within the SFRY would find their political expression. The elements of recentralism from the previous period could be recognized only if Milošević intended to pit the bloc of the less developed republics against the developed ones at such an assembly, on the basis of the principled positions of economic reform. In any case, such a project also had to be previously negotiated and coordinated with others, which did not come into Milošević's mind.

Consequently, if we exclude hasty and ill-prepared outvoting combinations, which Milošević wanted to resort to at the Congress of the LCY and the Presidency of the SFRY, as well as his failed initiative for holding general elections at the federal level, what remained in his post-1989 recentralist repertoire involved only his strong ties with the leadership of the Yugoslav People's Army. Although in essence these federal-level efforts can be considered as the ultimate consequence of Serbian recentralism, they still have very little in common with the method employed by the earlier recentralists in the implementation of these ideas. Even in “solving” the Kosovo problem, Milošević’s methods certainly did not correspond to the policy advocated by Ivan Stambolić and Dragiša Buca Pavlović in 1986 and 1987. Namely, Stambolić and Pavlović persisted on the path of cooperation with Kosovo's moderate leaders sunce March 1986. On the other hand, during the events after the Eighth Session, Milošević exposed these leaders to state repression, chased them away and arrested them. In contrast to Stambolić, who patiently negotiated with other republics and obtained their consent, Milošević acted unilaterally in Kosovo, without seeking anyone's support.

Consequently, Milošević did not fit completely into the definition of a recentralist either before or after April 1987. Although he caused some postulates of recentrist ideology to display the most extreme consequences in practice, he was not a principled recentralist in an ideological sense, to say the least. After all, his contemporaries testify that throughout his involvement in politics, he never displayed clear ideological commitments. In an interview for Radio Free Europe Draža Marković said: “I think that Slobodan Milošević is nothing. He is neither a socialist, nor a communist, nor a nationalist. He is what he needs to be at a particular moment“.75 In that context, Milošević's violence against institutions and hasty attempts at outvoting at the federal level can simply be explained by his political pragmatism and, in that sense, have nothing to do with any ideological burdens from the previous period.

Concluding Remarks

An analysis of the political decisions and public appearances of prominent Serbian politicians dealt with in this research, points to significant similarities among them with respect to their efforts to change the status of the autonomous provinces and rearrange the country's federal system during a period of almost 20 years. In dealing with the autonomy of the provinces, their constant frustration and persistent efforts involved the restoration of the “statehood“ of SR Serbia in “its entire territory”. As for federal institutions, their demands allegedly referred to enabling the efficient functioning of federal bodies and establishment of a unified Yugoslav market. According to them, efficient decision making was possible only by avoiding an excessive “harmonization of views” and inter-republic consensus. Serbia’s attacks on consensus and harmonization institutions were viewed by other republics as a reflection of ever-present Serbian unitarism and outvoting attempts at the Yugoslav level.

In this article, the continuous political programme advocated by Draža Marković, Ivan Stambolić, Buca Pavlović and Slobodan Milošević (until 1987, or partly until 1989) was termed “recentralism”, its proponents “recentralists” and their aim “recentralization of the country”, inspired by the designation used by Sabrina P. Ramet in her books,. An analysis of their speeches points to a higher degree of concordance between the proclaimed political aims of Slobodan Milošević and other three recentralists, who are now perceived by the public as irreconcilable political opponents. As for their attitude towards the provinces and Kosovo, there is a distinct concordance between the views of 1) Slobodan Milošević during the period 1986-1990, 2) Draža Marković, presented in his “diary notes“, and 3) Ivan Stambolić, in his public appearances immediately after the 1981 Kosovo revolt. However, despite their conceptual and ideological concordance, there are great differences in their implementation methods. Milošević's method of “solving” the Kosovo problem differed completely from the approach promoted by Ivan Stambolić and Buca Pavlović since mid-1986.

As for the Yugoslav problems, Milošević's recentralism was almost completely confined to the demands for a unified Yugoslav market. This was his “all-solving” formula, a mantra that he kept repeating on almost all occasions from September 1984 to November 1988. Only a year after his last recorded advocacy of a free Yugoslav market, he began systematically to destroy it. From 1989 onwards, Milošević's attitude towards federal institutions was so destructive that he could no longer be considered a democrat either in an ideological or factual sense. According to Srdja Popović, his politics and the Serbian Constitution, adopted upon his advocacy, were “separatist” in character. Raif Dizdarević shared this opinion. Moreover, he reminded us that “as such” Serbian separatism was “fuelling other separatisms” in Yugoslavia.76

Bearing in mind the long-time pressures for change and the influence of the generations of Serbian recentralists on the internal politics of socialist Yugoslavia, it is necessary to raise the qestion about the justifiability of their efforts and the consequences of their persistent demands. Namely, did more than two decades of their continuous efforts to change the internal arrangement of the country undermine the “balance of power” in the SFRY? Did the Serbian demands for recentralization prompt a reflex response causing the intensification of the demands for a greater degree of autonomy by the republics to which the 1974 constitutional solutions suited? Did Milošević's politics toward Yugoslavia point to the continuation of the recentralists' politics, or was it the question of an anomaly and chaotic decisions made by an irresponsible individual?

It is very difficult to give a simple and unambiguous answer to these questions. Let us start from the beginning: can the recentralists be considered a subversive element relative to the maintenance of the balance of power in Yugoslav federalism? In my opinion, the demands for a change in the federation's political system are legitimate as long as they are based on the procedure or internal rules that are accepted by all. The Serbian recentralists, from Marković to Pavlović and even Milošević in the first part of his career, did not try to impose their solutions on others; rather, they tried to realize them, while at the same time respecting the principles of harmonization and consensus among the federal units. Even when they proposed a decision-making process based on majority rule (that is, outvoting, without consensus), they still tried to have such a decision adopted by all sides or, better said, by consensus.

The system of Yugoslav federalism could survive despite the contrary concepts – such as Serbian and Slovenian – as long as their protagonists remained within the bounds of what was considered legitimate in the given system and whatever was agreed upon by all federal units. The Serbian recentralists (before Milošević) never crossed the institutional Rubicon that would trigger the process of outvoting among the representatives of the federal units. In that sense, Milošević's unilateral efforts to outvote others during the period 1990-1991 can be considered from two aspects. Bearing in mind their implementation method they have almost nothing in common with the authentic recentralist concepts. At the same time, they are the ultimate consequence of this ideology.

After all, in what form the realization of the demand for “respect for the majority will” and overcoming the inter-republic consensus could be legitimate or, more precisely, be adopted by all? The Serbian demand for outvoting was affecting the situation in the country but was legitimate until one of the recentralists decided to act unilaterally. Thus, as a principled demand, it was harmful and hindered the smooth functioning of the system, to say the least. As the model of practical politics, it plunged the common state into the conflict and wars in 1990.

Did the estrangement of Slovenia from the rest of Yugoslavia have any connection with the long-time demands for recentralization? Even if these two events were in a casual relationship, the situation did not necessarily have to lead to an open conflict or reduction in the institutional capacity of the state. All demands for changes in Yugoslavia could be considered legitimate as long as they did not imply the implementation of unilateral acts to the detriment of others, and as long as the basic harmonization channels were operable. On the other hand, the question that imposes itself is how much these reciprocal (albeit justified) demands impaired the functionality of the whole system.

Finally, are there any elements of continuity between the two-decade long efforts of the recentralists and Milošević's post-1987 politics? As already mentioned, some elements of continuity do exist. If one selects and reads the characteristic excerpts on the Kosovo problem from Marković's diaries, Stambolić's reports from the period 1981-1983 and Milošević's speeches during the period 1987-1989, it will be difficult to determine their differences or authorship. In his memoar, Stambolić reconsidered his own responsibility for insisting on the Kosovo problem at the Yugoslav level:

For us in Serbia it was of utmost importance to resolve the relations between Serbia and its provinces after the Kosovo revolt. However, the question that imposes itself here is whether and to what extent these efforts caused anxiety in other republics, bearing in mind their traditional concern about some other Serbia. This question is really not unfounded, especially if we bear in mind where Serbian politics took us after the Eighth Session.77

There is no doubt that both elements of Serbian recentralism (the autonomy-related issue and “efficient” decision making in federal bodies) aroused concern among the political elites in other Yugoslav republics. When speaking about continuities and a specific political culture that was developed at party forums in SR Serbia in almost the whole postwar period (Ranković-Marković-Stambolić-Pavlović-Milošević), one should also mention a short-term discontinuity that could also evolve into a different school of political thought. Namely, an alternative party elite and different political culture could emerge from the Serbian liberal circles and be much more willing to accept the substantial federalization of the country and significant powers given to the autonomous provinces.

The political elite led by Draža Marković was absolutely incompatible with the spirit of the political changes brought by the constitutional amendments and 1974 Constitution. The concepts of a strong federal state, advocated by Aleksandar Ranković, continued to live around him. After his political showdown with the Serbian liberals, J. B. Tito left behind an unsolved conflict situation. By his decision to (con)federalize the country and leave the proponents of centralism in power in the largest republic, he left long-term internal instability as a legacy to that country.









1 Sabrina P. Ramet, The Three Yugoslavias: State Building and Legitimation, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005, pp. 333, 337; Ibid., Balkan Babel: The Desintegration of Yugoslavia from the Death of Tito to the Fall of Milošević (4th edition), Boulder (CO): Westview Press, 2002, pp. 10, 16.




2 S. P. Ramet, Nationalism and Federalism in Yugoslavia, 1962-1991 (2nd edition), Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992. Todor Kuljić uses the expression “federation of balance”, but it refers to the AVNOJ period of shaping the federal system and the whole period of its functioning in socialist Yugoslavia; see: Todor Kuljić, Tito – sociološkoistorijska studija (2nd supplemented edition), Zrenjanin: Žarko Zrenjanin Municipal Public Library, 2004, pp. 101-2.




3 S. P. Ramet, Nationalism and Federalism in Yugoslavia,
p. 159.




4 Dragoslav Draža Marković, Sećanje i komentari: dnevničke beleške Dragoslava-Draže Markovića, Belgrade: Službeni glasnik, 2010.

5 Ivan Stambolić, Put u bespuće, Belgrade: Radio B92, 1995, p. 148.

6 Raif Dizdarević, Od smrti Tita do smrti Jugoslavije. Sarajevo: Svjetlost, 2000, p. 91.

7 In his diary note of 28 March 1977, Marković ironically commented about the discontent of the provincial leaderships over the appearance of the working matetrial from the so-called Blue Book: “I don’t worry about it. The question had to be raised. It does not matter that I was assigned to do that; so much better. I am already a ’unitarist’ and ’Greater Serbian centralist’. However, I have a clear conscience. Autonomy – yes! Republics instead of autonomous provinces – no!“ Dragoslav Marković, Život i politika 1967-1978. Belgrade: Rad, 1987, p. 334 (II).

8 Dragoslav Marković, Život i politika, pp. 241 (I), 232-3 (II).

9 She explicitly mentioned this twice during her conversations with Olivera Milosavljević; see: O. Milosavljević, Činjenice i tumačenja. Dva razgovora sa Latinkom Perović, Belgrade: Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, 2010, pp. 51, 163. Her criticism of Marković's shift to the Kosovo problem and his flirting with Serbian nationalism and Serbian “national institutions“ after his crackdown on the Serbian liberals can also be found in her introduction to the collection of Marko Nikezić's speeches, see Latinka Perović, “Na tragu srpske liberalne tradicije – ko su i šta su bili srpski liberali sedamdesetih godina XX veka“, in: Marko Nikezić, Srpska krhka vertikala, Belgrade: Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, 2003, pp. 67, 70-2.

10 O. Milosavljević, op. cit., pp. 51-5.




11 “U predloženim amandmanima, u osnovi su zastupljeni vitalni interesi Srbije,” Politika No. 20619, 1 March 1971.




12 D. Marković, Život i politika, pp. 238-9 (I).




13 Ibid., p. 317 (I).

14 Ibid., str. 258 (I).

15 See Latinka Perović’s stance on Serbia’s failure to accept Yugoslavia as a complex state in: O. Milosavljević, op. cit., pp. 55-6.

16 The thesis on the politics of the Serbian liberals as “discontinuity”, as contrasted with the dominant centralist model of the Yugoslav state which was supported by the Serbian leadership, has been developed by Novi Sad historian Milivoje Bešlin in his brilliant doctoral dissertation; see: M. Bešlin, Pokušaj modernizacije u Srbiji 1968-1972. Između „revolucionarnog kursa“ i reformskih težnji, Novi Sad: Faculty of Philosophy, 2014, pp. 425-46. I am grateful to Bešlin for his numerous suggestions and comments, which have considerably improved this essay.

17 In Marković’s diary notes of January 1971 there are the following lines: “[. . .] SR Serbia is the largest, most populous and strongest republic. However, isn’t it clear that it cannot become small and weak? It’s still the largest Yugoslav republic and there’s nothing that can change this fact. However, if such an attitude toward Serbia persists, there will be no force to stand against the rise of Serbian nationalism. Nobody is ready any more to live under the pressure of the ancentral sin of ’Greater Serbia hegemonism’. And this must be reckoned with.” Marković, Život i politika, p. 252 (I). In August 1974, Marković wrote in his diary: “However, there is something in Serbia’s position that causes distrust and creates reservations about it (its size, potential economic and social power, significance for the cohesion of Yugoslavia in the eyes of others). [. . .] One should not disregard the fact that there is an accumulated sense of distrust toward Serbia and the Serbs. [. . .] However, that’s one thing, but another thing is to reconcile with the discrimination efforts and constantly burden of the ’guilt of the Greater Serbian fathers’” Ibid., p. 41 (II).

18 “Kosovo is a reserve for every anti-Serbian activity. They will be correct only if the balance of power is especially favourable”, Ibid., p. 41 (II).

19 ”And so, from one question to another, the process of differentiation has begun. Let me mention some of them: the lack of interest and general declarations concerning the constitutional changes; frequent concessions and ingratiating behaviour toward the provinces; concessions to the Provincial Committee of Kosovo [. . .]“ Ibid., p. 376 (I).




20 Ibid., p. 275 (I).

21 Ibid., p. 14 (II).




22 Ibid., p. 104 (II).




23 Presidency of SR Serbia (Working Group), Plava knjiga, Belgrade, 11 March 1977, pp. 12-3.

24 Plava knjiga, p. 16-7.

25 Ibid., pp. 19, 21.




26 Ibid., p. 87.




27 Ibid., p. 88.

28 Marković, Život i politika, p. 367 (II).

29 Ibid., p. 368 (II).

30 Otherwise, in the introductory note for his readers, Marković claims that his diary notes are authentic and were made at the time they refer to: “I did not `correct´ my knowledge and notes from 1967, 1970 and 1974, for example, on the basis of my knowledge and the societal state of mind in 1986. Everything is authentic and the notes were made at the time they refer to.” Ibid., p. 8 (I).




31 14. Sednica CKSKJ. Ostvarivanje ekonomske politike u 1984. Godini i zadaci Saveza komunista u donošenju i ostvarivanju ekonomske politike za 1985. godinu, Belgrade: Komunist Publishing Centre, 1984, pp. 23-6, 100-5, 107-8. See also: S. P. Ramet, Balkan Babel, pp. 15-6.




32 Blažo Šarović, “Kako do pravih promena? Intervju Borisava Srebrića”, Borba No. 280-1, October 1984, pp. 6-7.




33 14. Sednica CK SKJ, pp. 101-2.




34 “After Tito's death, as time was passsing, Serbia's attitudes were increasingly gaining weight”. Stambolić, Put u bespuće, p. 25. “For us in Serbia it was vital to settle the relations between Serbia and the provinces, after the Kosovo revolt [...]. Ibid., p. 113.

35 R. Dizdarević, op. cit., p. 88.

36 “Izvršno veće Skupštine SR Srbije o zaostajanju ove Republike. Neophodne i mere Federacije,“ Politika, 25 September 1984.




37 Ivan Stambolić, Rasprave o SR Srbiji, Zagreb: Globus, 1988, pp. 20-7.




38 Ibid., p. 24.




39 Stambolić, Rasprave, pp. 55-62.

40 “We repeated to each other the provisions of the Constitution, and referred to the Associated Labour Act and the words of Comrades Tito and Kardelj on a countless number of occasions. All that is fine. But, we now have to study what we have really done; we must carefully analyze where all that is taking us, after departing from the general commitments and thinking that we have correctly read all those documents. Unfortunately, Comrades Tito and Kardelj, whose words we have believed and whose thoughts and work are still guiding us, are not among us any more and cannot do that instead of us. We have to do that by ourselves.” Ibid., p. 61.




41 Stambolić, Put u bespuće, str. 78-9.




42 “Završna reč Ivana Stambolića. Uvek smo bili partija promena”, Politika No. 25556, 25 November 1984.

43 At the joint session of the Presidencies of the SFRY and Central Committee of the LCY, held on 5 March 1986, Stambolić pointed out: “In my opinion, we can jointly conclude and agree that during this five-year period a new pro-Yugoslav option won victory in the League of Communists of Kosovo and that a new political course was adopted by its new core leadership.” Stambolić, Rasprave, p. 155. Stambolić also similarly reasoned later on: “This is the basis for strengthening the forces of togetherness and readiness for effective cooperation. This is how the cadre renewal of Kosovo's leadership was carried out. Younger, more educated, politically unburdened and pro-Yugoslav people are coming. They are pushing aside the protagonists of old politics, while at the same time rehabilitating some critics of the old politics,” Stambolić, Put u bespuće, p. 89.

44 Stambolić, Put u bespuće, pp. 89-90.




45 Stambolić, Rasprave, pp. 241-53.




46 Ibid., pp. 23-4.

47 Ibid., p. 52.




48 Ibid., p. 90

49 Ibid., p. 67.




50 “Završna reč Ivana Stambolića. Uvek smo bili partija promena,” Politika No. 25556, 25 November 1984.




51 “Zadatke čitati iz života,” Politika No. 25524, 24 October 1984.




52 Ibid.




53 “The Presidency emphasizes the need for a strict observation of the constitutional provisions in resolving the issues that require the consent of the republics and provinces, while at the same time opposing the use of consensus where it is not stipulated by the Constitution.” “Pismo predsedništva SFRJ Skupštini Jugoslavije: Konsenzus samo po Ustavu,” Borba 14 November 1984.




54 Raif Dizdarević, Od smrti Tita do smrti Jugoslavije. Sarajevo: Svjetlost, 2000, str. 76, 80.




55 Ibid., p. 81.

56 14. Sednica CK SKJ, pp. 25-6.

57 “However, it is also necessary to take appropriate measures in the federation such as, above all, changes in the foreign exchange system and faster elimination of sectoral and territorial price disparities, including specifically the prices of electricity and some products of the base raw materials sector, as well as the reduction of the obligations towards speeding up the development of the underdeveloped.” See: AS, CKSKS, f. 399, 17. Sednica CK SKS, 28 September 1984.




58 Ibid.




59 Stambolić, Put u bespuće, p. 113.




60 Dragiša Pavlović, Pitanjem na odgovore (2nd edition), Belgrade: BIGZ, 1986, pp. 54-55.




61 Ibid., pp. 52-3.




62 “A state based on self-management and a delegate system, such as SR Serbia, must have a role in economic development – in principle, in such a manner and to such an extent as other republics: management implies planning and the realization of plans, as well as the coordination of the functioning of individual parts with the whole entity and vice versa. Therefore, it is necessary to have one Social Development Plan of SR Serbia and not a mechanical sum of three separate plans that are only combined in the materials prepared for forum sessions. In the opposite, the economic development strategy and policy of SR Serbia will remain to be the unpredictable resultant of the development-related and other ambitions of its three separate and unconnected parts; this would imply poor economic performance in both the provinces and so-called Serbia proper, as well as in all Yugoslavia, comprised of the equal (not unequal) units.” Ibid., pp. 27-9.

63 Ibid., pp. 25-7, 36.

64 Dragiša Pavlović, Olako obećana brzina, Zagreb: Globus, 1988, pp. 173-4.




65 Slobodan Milošević, Godine raspleta, Belgrade: BIGZ, 1989, pp. 97-8, 121-4.




66 Stambolić, Put u bespuće, p. 165.

67 See Milošević and Stambolić's reports to the Session (pp. 7-9, 20-2) in: AS, CKSKS, f. 399, 17. Sednica CK SKS, 28 September 1984.




68 Milošević, op. cit., pp. 31-2.




69 Stambolić, Rasprave, p. 125.




70 Milošević, op. cit., pp. 119-20, 190.




71 In my analysis of Milošević's attitude towards the federal state and its institutions during this period, I relied to a significant extent on Srdja Popović's essay “Kako smo branili Jugoslaviju”, in: Sonja Biserko (ed.), Milošević vs. Jugoslavija (Vol. 1), Belgrade: Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, 2004, pp. 11-40.




72 Popović, op. cit., p. 23.




73 Milošević, op. cit., p. 278.




74 Borisav Jović, Knjiga o Miloševiću, Belgrade: IKP Nikola Pašić, 2001, pp. 52-4.




75 From his interview given to a Radio Free Europe journalist, which is available at:
http://www.slobodnaevropa.org/a/1045349.html (accessed on 1 July 2016).




76 Dizdarević, op. cit., p. 292.




77 Stambolić, Put u bespuće, p. 113.










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