Volume 16 (1998)

The Regional Problem and the Break-Up of the State:
The Case of Yugoslavia
Časlav Ocić

The Nature and the Scope of the Regional Problem
Regional Policies and Changes in the Institutional Framework
Regional Development Levels: Grouping of Regions
Structural Change: Shift-Share Analysis
Efficiency: Shift-Share Analysis
Interregional Relations: Autarky
Some Other Results of the Regions' Development
Regional Development Costs: Ratios of Investment
Interregional Income (Re)distribution
Regional Convergence or Divergence?
Equality: The Failure of the Positive Discrimination Model
"The National Question" and Nationalism
Separatism: Economic and Political
A Long Journey from Utopia to Dystopia
Selected Bibliography
Data Sources & Documents
Appendix  (1)  (2)

Separatism: Economic and Political

Within Yugoslavia, the various nationalisms were used, on the one hand, as an ideology of separatists, and as a demagogy of (rather caste than crypto-communist) "elites", on the other. They used it to mobilize their "own"national "masses"and confront them against others for the purpose of preserving and strengthening their own power. The ideological heritage of (Austro-)Marxism20 provided many good ideas for the "nationalization"of socialism and communism (in the form of national-communism) so that for the "new"ideologues (Kardelj and the like) it was not difficult to devise different varieties of Marxist, socialist, self-management, etc. doctrines that were in line with different stages of the "building the socialism." At the end of this road there opened a question of whether these were stages in the progress of the socialist society or stages in attaining strategic goals of the national development of various Yugoslav nations.
Differences in traditional national programmes occasionally manifested themselves in the form of "crises of growth"(e.g. around 1970). In the 1990s, previously carefully hidden behind the screen of communist, socialist and self-management phraseology, the long-term strategies of the secessionist nations (in the first place the Slovenes and Croats) dramatically came to the fore, or, in other words, the last stage in the achievement of national goals and interests was launched. Victory in this stage is usually won by the cunning of the secessionist political mind, strongly supported and aided by a foreign factor. However, it seems that the internal factors of the break-up were dominant, at least in the initial stages of the process. At the beginning, actions of the foreign factor were discreet, but then acquired a more direct form of supporting the integration of some parts of Yugoslavia into (Central) Europe (Alpe-Adria), ending in military assistance to the secessionist Yugoslav nations and even with a threat of international armed intervention against "uncooperative"Serbs.
For Marxists, revolutions were national in their form and class in their content. Yugoslav separatist (r)evolutions (except in their final stages) were "class"in form (ideology), and national in content. But did they, in the Yugoslav case, imply only a victory of the national idea or of the communist idea (as well)? The boundaries of the newly emerged states are communist, and so was the idea of achieving national "equality"through secession. It should be noted here that objections pointing to the risk of the disintegration of a state were overruled by Lenin with the following question: "from the point of view of democracy in general, and of the proletarian movement in particular,"... "is there any freedom greater than the freedom to secede, freedom to create an independent national state?" In the Yugoslav case Lenin's concept of the right to national self-determination, ultimately seen as the right to secession, prevailed over the current Western ("civil") concept of this right as the right to choose the type of government within ("inviolable") state borders. With a triumph of the Leninist concept of the right to national self-determination, that is with a triumph of the separatist revolution, the Yugoslav state collapsed and so did Yugoslavism as a pseudoreligious zeal.
It is usually thought that a growing region-centre disparity should for the most part be attributed to economic exploitation, with the region being the victim. Schumacher argues that it is "the normal case... that the poor provinces wish to separate from the rich, while the rich want to hold on because they know that exploitation of the poor within one's own frontiers is infinitely easier than exploitation of the poor beyond them."21 It is undoubtedly true that a separatist movement is very strong in regions that lag behind average the economic development of the country of which they are part. Hansen points out that economic backwardness of poor regions should not be equated with their exploitation by the rich, particularly because the latter usually subsidize the former (in many different ways). Therefore an analysis of exploitation costs suffered by a given region and of its benefits from subsidies could reveal whether it is a "loser"or actually a "winner." Because, according to Hansen, in region-centre disputes it is likely that the major issue will be regional equality rather than global efficiency.22
This is also true for the cases when the rich regions believe that they are being exploited by the poor regions. However accurate the cost-benefit analysis of interregional relations, it cannot solve the problem of interregional conflicts by itself. Namely, whether subsidized or exploited, a region may strive for independence for non-economic reasons. Actually, regions with strong separatist movements are characterized by a cultural identity which their inhabitants want to preserve. Most often, the question of cultural identity is intertwined with the economic motives for separation, combining into a more general question -that of power.
In the attainment of a non-economic goal of separatism, besides formulating political arguments in favour of separatism, often used are economic problems that have a great significance for decision-making connected with political choice. When a struggle for separatist status is only politically motivated, the cost of separation and the possible adverse consequences for a given region are not much of an issue. It is believed that in the case of strong political will for independence considerable economic sacrifices are acceptable. The economic consequences of independence are usually taken to be relative or even irrelevant when politics prevails over economy, and particularly if separation is taking place in a subsistence (more precisely, seminatural) rather than a market economy, as was the case with Yugoslavia.
The political and economic objectives of separatism are often incompatible, partly because very few separations in history have been achieved by "consensus"(they have mostly been characterized by bloody wars, the costs of which in terms of material destruction and human lives should also be charged, contrary to usual practice, to separation accounts). Another form of incongruity between the economic and the political objectives of separatism is that, even when a region achieves political independence, it remains dependent in trade, in putting joint ventures into operation etc. because of the previously established relationship of technological and economic interdependence between regions. That is why secession is often preceded by a policy to decrease dependence through a geographical redirection of economic flows or through increased self-reliance (autarky), coupled with a kind of a general self-segregation which, under a widespread political arbitrariness, appears to be an easier and faster road to independence. That a "break-up"and independence are not positively correlated is illustrated by numerous cases among which, as we have already shown, the Yugoslav case is very striking. A "fast and easy"road relatively quickly shows its real costs. And thus a need arises for a (relative) decline in real income to be increasingly compensated by the so-called psychic income (Albert Breton23 ).