From Tue May 23 11:00:15 2006
From: “Richard Fidler” <>
To: “Marxmail” <>, <>, ”SocialistProject” <>
Date: Tue, 23 May 2006 10:38:40 -0400
Subject: [Marxism] Montenegro votes for independence (FW from GLW)
Reply-To: Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition <>

Montenegro votes for independence

Green Left Weekly List, 22 May 2006

The following is compiled from a couple of posts by Michael Karadjis to the Green Left Weekly list, May 22. Karadjis is the author of Bosnia, Kosova and the West, subtitled The Yugoslav Tragedy: A Marxist View (Resistance Books, Sydney).

Montenegro has clearly voted for independence, with around 56% voting ‘yes', and with an 86% turnout, an impressive turnout by any world standard. Whether or not we happen to think this is a “correct” result, due perhaps to some kind of psychological view that we at our laptops know better than the masses voting about whether they should have their own independent state, the fact that the people have chosen that is their simple right to self-determination.

Some points and clarifications, to help comrades understand Montenegro and what this vote was about, be worked on for an article:

1. Montenegro maintained an independent existence right through the ottoman period, fighting off attempts at conquest, the only state in the Balkans to do so. It was annexed by the Serbian Kingdom, which became the first (capitalist) Yugoslavia, in 1918. Some Montenegrins resisted for 7 years.

2. In 1945, Montenegro became a full equal republic within the new Communist Yugoslavia, led by the Croat Broz Tito, a multi-ethnic federation of 6 republics and 2 provinces (Kosova and Vojvodina). Each reoublic had the right to self-determination including secession. Thus get rid of any confusion: unlike Kosova, which was under serbia, and oppressed by Serbia, Montenegro was not part of serbia, it was an equal of Serbia, and so now is not getting independence “from serbia”

3. Montenegrin national identity is slightly confused—the people are historically and culturally close to Serbs but distinct, in a similar way I suppose to the Macedonians and Bulgarians. Ethnic Montenegrins are 43% of the population, ethnic Serbs are 32%, Bosniaks (Slavic Muslims) about 10% and Albanians 5%. The “Serbs” fully identify as Serbs, while the “Montenegrins” do not, but many partially do (’Montenegrin first, but still somehow ‘Serb’ second). Montenegrins and Serbs speak the same language, but so do Croats and Bosniaks. While Croats are traditionally Catholic and Bosniaks are Muslims, both Serbs and Montenegrins are Orthodox, giving them a closer connection.

While the divisions that were played out in the referendum on independence are not exclusively ‘ethnic’, there is a large element.

Most of the ‘Serbs' voted against independence, and most of the Bosniaks and Albanians voted for indepndence. The ’Montenegrins' were more divided than the ‘Serbs', with some still favouring the union, but the great majority voted for their own state at last.

4. In 1988, Milosevic, the new bourgeois nationalist ruler of Serbia, was making what he called an “anti-bureaucratic revolution,” which meant ripping down the structures of the Titoist order, purging all the old Tito-era leaders, and introducing pro-capitalist “reforms”. In Montenegro, the leader of the youth wing of the party which was supporting this reactionary “revolution” was Djukanovic. After a staged uprising against the Titoist leaders, he grabbed office as Milosevic's clone.

5. In the wars in Croatia and Bosnia, Djukanovic supported Milosevic. In the Croatia war, Montenegrin troops took direct part in the war crime of shelling the UNESCO heritage city of Dubrovnik, a city that had virtually no ethnic Serb population to “liberate”, because that of course was not the aim of this “war” (essentially one-sided slaughter with heavy weaponry). Montenegrin troops also played a vanguard role in directly invading Bosnia at the outset of Serbia's campaign of genocide there.

6. In 1992, Montenegrins voted by a margin of 96%, with 65% participating, to create something called a ‘New Yugoslavia’ along with Serbia. They were the two sovereign states within the new federation.

This ‘New Yugoslavia’ was not a continuation of the former 'Socialist Republic of mYugoslavia’, but its official burial, and the two should not be confused. Much we hear about this next event being “the final dissolutionof yugoslavia” etc is just metaphysics.

7. Djukanovic was widely seen as a crook, and involved particularly in tobacco smuggling, in alliance with other Serbian interests. Italian authorities have long campaigned against Djukanovic for this reason, as they see him as a link to the mafia. Some time after the Bosnian war ended, somehow a gang war broke out, apparently because Marko Milosevic, the son of the Boss, wanted a bigger cut for his own gang. This led him into conflict with Djukanovic's gang.

8. This split at the top between Djukanovic and Milosevic coincided with an upsurge of opposition inside both Serbia and Montenegro to the chauvinist and pro-capitalist policies of the last decade, reflecting in Milosevic's party losing the vote at every municipal council in the country, and the 88-day mass revolt against against his attempt to not recognise the results. To head off the movement in Montenegro, Djukanovic decided to “lead” it, as he had no other special social base to confront the pro-Serbian wing of the oligarchy. Thus he began saying he was sorry for the crimes he had participated in etc. Thus the independence movement, despite its corrupt and compromised leadership, had the opposing orientation. So this movement began putting out the image that, unlike the racist madhouse that Serbia had become, Montenegro was characterised by being ’multi-ethnic’. This was based on an alliance between the anti-chauvinist wing of Montenegrins with the Bosniak and Albanian minorities.

9. Imperialism was always solidly opposed to the Montenegrin push for independence. Despite the nonsense put out by not only the official Idiot Left, but also by other more sensible people often, that imperialism had “broken up Yugoslavia”, nothing could be further from the truth. Imperialism had opposed the secession of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia and now worked day and night to thwart the independence of Montenegro and Kosova. In particular, imperialism feared that Montenegrin independence would encourage the Kosovar Alanians to push their own independence claims, though they do not have their own republic status, like Montenegro.

10. In 2003, the EU, led by Javier Solana, forced Djukanovic to put off his quest for independence, and to instead form a new federation called ‘Serbia and Montenegro’, just a repackaged ‘New Yugoslavia’. But by this time, the two countries' economies were virtually completely separate - they even had different currencies. The new federation solved none of the problems of the one it replaced. The fundamental problem is size difference. A federation, or confedration, seems to make sense if there are many separate states coming together, or a couple of states roughly equal in size. However, Serbia has 10 million people and Montenegro only 620,000. One the one hand, this means Montenegrins inevitably feel dominated and overshadowed by Serbia. On the other, it means in the federal government, tiny Montenegro is officially equal to Serbia—something basically unworkable. If Serbia wanted to take a decison, Montengro could block it—but then if it did, Serbia would be unlikley nto take any notice, rendering the federation meaningless (try imagining a ‘federation’ between Indonesia and East Timor). In fact, there has also been a movement in Serbia which believes it will develop faster if free from Montenegro. Balkan people dubbed the creation ‘Solania’.

11. The ‘Solania’ constitution undemocratically banned any referendum in Montenegro for at least 3 years. As 3 years is up in 2006, the government went ahead. To try to forestall independence, the EU badgered Montenegro into agreeing that the vote would need 55% voting ‘yes' for the EU to recognise it. But the Montenegrins defeated this EU blackmail.

12. The main reasons for the independence vote thus are:

a. the unworkable nature of ‘Solania’

b. the feeling that as by runnig its own show, it could make its own arrangements to get to EU membership. there is an exact mirror feeling among many serbs. there is actually good reason to believe the serbs may be more correct - without the unworkable federation, Serbia could also more easily prepare

c. the fact that the serbian ruling clique are still up to their eyeballs with all kinds of rubbish of the Milsoevic past, including various reactionary and semi-fascistic cliques which are protecting the genocidal butcher general Mladic from the hague. This itself is a block to Serbian accession to the EU—Mladic is a condition. Montenegrins felt there was no reason to be held hostage to serbia's desire to protect some genocidal fascist butcher, and despite the pathetic howls of the Idiot Left, I have no hesitation in saying they are right on this

d. the more multi-ethnic nature of Montenegro—the Albanian and Bosniak minorities voted solidly for independence

e. finally just the Montenegrin feeling that their own independence had been denied for a century

13. Meanwhile, what Djukanovic has long proposed is a ‘Union of Independent States' between Serbia and Montenegro. This would involve no changes to the current relations betwen the two countries, for example, no border taxes, passports, free movement etc. It seems pretty obvious that, in the given circumstances of the 2 countries, this is a much better arrangement than ‘Solania’. Could even be a model for other states to join to begin the slow process of reuniting the region's peoples. Perhaps an independent Kosova, due within the year, could join.

13. [sic] Obviously, this is another bourgeois state, just like Serbia and all the other states of eastern Europe. That is no more a reason to oppose Montenegrin self-determination than would the bourgeois nature of Serbia be a reason to advocate the abolition of Serbia. Naturally, we understand that the illusions that many east European peoples have in prosperity via EU membership are just that—illusions. Nevertheless, there is also no road outside the EU for a ’national’ capitalism inside Europe—we are not talking about the colonies here, and people need to get out of that framework. Every single bourgeois elite in Europe wants EU. Only some reactionary sections, associated with the far-right, advocate some kind of backward, reactionary capitalist state.

14. We support the right of self-determination not because we want everywhere to be ‘broken up’, as the Idiot Left accuse, but precisely because we know that there will be no future proletarian unity except as a unity between equals. Any feeling of oppression, or even just denial of the democratic right of a people to form their own state, does not lead to such unity, on the contrary it delays it. Lenin understood this perfectly well, this dialectic between full right to self-determination, including one's own state, and abolishing nationalism and leading to proletarian unity. It is not difficult to understand. Lenin was simply talking plain dialectic logic.