Yugoslavia: the past and the future


Marko Hren

Marko Hren was active in the Ljubljana Peace Movement Working Group throughout the '80s and has recently been involved in setting up both a Centre for the Culture of Peace and Nonviolence and a Peace Research Institute. A member of the WRI Council, he initiated the campaign for Slovenia Without an Army.

The story of Yugoslavia begins after the Second World War. The army was established during the war. It was a revolutionary army almost exclusively connected to the Communist Party and the political system. We had a Holy Trinity of Army, Ideology and Political System. These three elements are closely interconnected: Communists in the Army, generals in the governments, and so on. The chief of all three units -- a general, president, and ideologist all in one -- was Tito.

We have a hierarchical structure and therefore good grounds for the militarisation of the political system and also of social life, of education and the media, etc. In 1949-50, Tito gave a historical "no" to Stalin, which means he gets in power for a couple of decades and Yugoslavia starts to redefine its way to socialism and so distinguish itself from other Eastern countries. Yugoslavian political leaders invent self-management and, together with Tito, the defence concept which is literally called "general people's defence civilian protection". This was abbreviated to SLONDS and implemented in every aspect of life in Yugoslavia. Each factory had a SLONDS unit, each community, sport organisation, cultural group, everywhere. The rules of the game were the same, just as the committees were the same. Within the Communist Party, within the political and decision-making bodies, each structure had a committee for SLONDS.

This concept, like self-management, was generally implemented at the same time everywhere in the country. Yugoslavia is a multi-state country, which has six states within the federation. We have a joke that Yugoslavia has seven neighbours, six republics, five languages, four nations, three religions, two alphabets and one party! Our religions range from Islam to Orthodox, our neighbours from NATO to neutral to Warsaw Pact. It is a rich variety. We have learned that one model cannot be applied to such a vast and varied rainbow. This is why self-management failed and why this concept of defence failed.

Another problem with this concept was that it was implemented from above and strictly within the State-Party framework. It was completely bureaucratised, with hundreds and hundreds of bureaux. You can imagine if each factory had its office! These SLONDS officials did nothing, of course, except run the bureaucracy. It was completely cut off from society. People could not identify with it.

The third problem was the worst: there was hierarchy, order, discipline -- all the values of the state. These committees were used as a control mechanism in many ways: a way to get information from people, a way to control them, to intervene in their lives if necessary. Finally, SLONDS had a role in the militarisation of society as a whole.

Some days ago Yugoslavia agreed to abolish all the SLONDS committees. These committees will be dismissed, they are now dead. The whole concept of defence will now have to be rethought. Yugoslavia is splitting up and the Communist Party has been dissolved. The exact definition Tito and others had, of a complementary combination of the people, together with the Army, defending the State.

Rather than using the word complementary we should accept the reality that these two concepts exist parallel to each other. They can cooperate at times, but they can also exclude each other.

I want to talk now about two parameters which I think exclude each other.

Military logic is defined by following parameters. It is state-based. Military defence applies to state borders. The military universe accepts the state and borders as relevant. It is something which presupposes, even demands, obeying society and therefore it requires centralisation. This implies subordination, which also implies a punishing policy. A hierarchical order is also basic parameter.

On the other hand, when we try to define the qualities of people's power, from which comes social defence, we find it community-based, civil society, based on people. Civil society by definition does not recognise state borders. The state may want to use military power as a defence concept, but civil society doesn't. We assume here a civil society where individuals are active, with a variety of differences, where pluralism is alive.

In the case of Yugoslavia the concept of general people's defence could not be implemented in the same way in Kosovo, where rural Albanian and patriarchal groups of people live, as in a Serbian shepherd village or in the city of Ljubljana.

We have two concepts here -- the military concept of separation and confrontation; the social defence concept of cooperation and communication. These qualities and parameters are very different. One we believe is slowly dying; the other we hope is gaining more life and can be implemented with strength and patience.

Now I think we in Slovenia have a good opportunity to abolish the army. It is a small country, relatively homogeneous and we can reach consensus on certain questions. When Slovenia gains more autonomy, it will be able to determine its own defence concept. In my opinion, for Slovenia to introduce its own army would be extremely provocative and provide an excuse for a nationalist war.

My friends and I are proposing that Slovenia, as a small new state, should develop a new defence policy -- an alternative security concept based on peace politics and incorporating social defence. We want help in deciding what parameters we must think about. Slovenia now has two options, to demilitarise or to have our own army.

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