How [not] to do a critique: Demystifying the anti-imperialist narrative of the collapse of Yugoslavia

Our baba doesn’t say fairy tales – Athens

Facilis descensus Averni: Noctes atque dies patet atri ianua Ditis; Same revocation gradius superasque escape ad auras, Hoc opus, hic labor est [1]

The following text is an attempt to evaluate the events of the Yugoslav dissolution. Its scope and content are related to issues that we have seen occupy the Greek public sphere. It does not claim to deliver the “truth” – a long-lost stumbling block – but a specific version of what we think is more lucrative in drawing up examples or questions that may be useful to us today. When claim to be meaningful today, we are talking about the stakes of communism as a theoretical exploration and practical process, that is, the total abolition of value as a social relationship[1], its social homogenizing and dominating function and the capitalist state. Also, from the same point of view and with the same aim are the questions of historiography, history and logic. The concept of history is directly related to the meaning and form of the subject who reads this history, and in turn, with the social forces that shape the subject itself: the forces of capitalist society and its contradictions.

History is a retrograde thing. Historical events are the irrational cry of events which are retrospectively interpreted by the subject of today. The story is child-shaped and produced as an entity-within today’s symbolic field which looks backwards and gives meaning to the cries of the past. Historical material itself is chaotic, it has no coherence. If the term “rhizomatic” of Deleuze and Guattari is anywhere useful, then it is definitely here. History is reborn. A logical path of the thousands of logical paths of its differences and connections is chosen on the basis of a logic that is already now formed. History is always a narrative that ends at its highest point, the nowadays, but it is not the end of it, but in fact its beginning. The story is a paradoxical mountain that starts from the top and spreads to the foot. What history chooses to read in historical material says more about the historical process than about the story about it. History is not just the story of class struggle. Historiography is a class struggle in itself.

1. Back to a Marxism of Class struggle

Almost all bibliography, and especially journal articles, attribute the division of Yugoslavia to national tensions or external interventions. Obviously, each analysis has a piece of truth, as “truth” is a strange thing. External interventions, that is true, have occurred – e.g. NATO and Russia – and internal nationalistic tensions. However, these analyzes forget the long course of Yugoslavia towards collapse, its internal contradictions in the organization of production and its ultimate outcome. And here, by the term ‘production’, we mean not just as an economic dimension but the reproduction of state capitalism and the class struggle within it. Most analyses, based on nationalism or external interventions, overlook Yugoslavia’s long course towards dissolution and the dominant role of class struggle in the evolution of every social formation. They fail to explain, for example, that national tensions until 1971 were virtually minimal. If the Yugoslav wars were indeed wars of national formation and national conflict, it must be answered: what constitutes and what disintegrates a national community? For that is why these narratives have reappeared. What does it mean to “want” a nation-state?

A. General trends of the Yugoslav economy

Yugoslavia was the paradoxical case of many factors. Usually, for example, the question of the increase in external debt since the 1970s is already underestimated. What is firmly absent from the Yugoslav issue is the contradictory course of class struggle in Yugoslavia. This is usually the case because in Yugoslavia – as a socialist country[2] – the working class is considered to be emancipated, and the country generally and indefinitely “as a free country.” They therefore forget that class struggle is not the clash of two sociologically defined groups but, on the contrary, a persistent characteristic of the monetary relationship that gives access to the social product and at the same time appears as an obstacle to it. Class struggle therefore appears as a contradiction of money itself, and the reproduction of capitalist relationships is also part of the class struggle on the basis of whether the struggle attempts to dissociate access to the social product from labor and money. The eight hours, fixed wages indifferent to the productivity of the business, were gains of the movement based in this logic. What we want to say is that class struggle is not just from below – it goes both ways dialectically, meaning that capitalist and monetary relations are relations of exploitation; they need coherence. Capitalist relations are class struggle relations par excellence. Class struggle is not just on the streets during protests, it is in the morning when you wake up to go to work, it is when you run out of money, or when you have to work to have access to the social product. That being said, class struggle is not a priori something good, but rather the way that capitalist relations are reproduced.

In Yugoslavia, since 1965, due to its notorious “self-management,” workers have been able to reduce working hours, avoid significant investment in productivity, and increase in their own. Since 1965, already in Yugoslavia wages had tripled. Since 1968, when the average wage in US Dollars was $88, in 1979 it had reached $318. Wages grew faster than labor productivity, consumption of services and products also grew while Yugoslav products lost their competitiveness on the international market. The negative import-export balance in the 1970s steadily increases. From $660 million in 1969 to $7.2 billion in 1979. This situation – coupled with the dynamism of the working class within Yugoslavia – created a chain reaction: external debt grew sharply, and together inflation and workers’ pressure on self-managed firms for wage increases that would balance inflation. So, steadily, foreign debt rose from $0.5 billion in 1970 to $15 billion in 1981. Its course remained stable until 1989. At the same time, salaries maintained a steady 5% above the rise in inflation each year. Also, the increase in agro-economic productivity worldwide led Yugoslavia, among other things, to the introduction of more competitive and cheaper agricultural products, which caused mass unemployment in rural areas. The overall economic global climate – the gradual decline of the world’s “value of total production” – and the oil crisis led the Yugoslav economy to wither and fail to re-invest. Young farmers were hard-pressed to find work, wages were pushed down, but the class struggle – the power of workers in factories and institutions in general – kept them at relatively steady levels. Unemployment ranged from 5.5% in 1961 to 14% in 1979. As a direct consequence, external debt rose as sharply as inflation did. The “average profit” process crippled the Yugoslav economy as it was heavily dependent on the import of goods and fuels purchased on the basis of hard currency. The Yugoslav government had attempted in 1978 to halt this path by re-establishing central planning in the economy. However, the reintroduction of such measures did not change much as what influenced the course of the economy was combining class struggle and production technology; factors that were reflected in the productive indices, the “international competitiveness of Yugoslavia,” and in the international economic climate of the recession. This situation eventually led to a reversed situation in the 1980s. Although nominal wages continued to rise, real wages had fallen to $20-30 a month in 1988. The cost of living, precisely because of the inflationary trend of the dinar in the 1980s, grew by 74.8%. Inflation was in the order of 203%. The growth rates of the Yugoslav economy in the 1980s collapsed to negative levels with short breaks of 0.5%. The combination of these factors with the austerity measures of 1980 which attempted to contain the collapse of the economy – mainly cuts in health – eventually led to worse problems as they led to weakness in the internal market.

B. Local differences

We should also look at the individual local economic inequalities in the country. The federal republics had different growth rates within the general trends we listed above. In general, Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia were in privileged positions within Yugoslavia, while Montenegro, Bosnia and Macedonia were 4 times poorer than the average. Slovenia and Croatia, with 1/3 of the total population of the federation, accounted for about half of the economic activity. Montenegro, Macedonia and Bosnia, with an equal population, economically lagged, primarily in terms of rural development. As each federal economy had a different position in the economic division of labor, it therefore faced different problems. The over-industrialized Slovenia and Croatia had little agricultural output relative to the whole, and highly developed industry for both exports and the internal market (56% of the Yugoslav industry in total). So, they did not face any particular problems from the pressure of the rural population in the cities. Unemployment in Croatia and Slovenia remained at a relatively low level throughout the 80’s in the 5-6% average, while in other areas such as Kosovo, Montenegro, and Bosnia, mainly rural unemployment increased on the order of 25% and in some cases it reached 50% (Kosovo). These factors were more or less average in Serbia. Serbia also had a large industrial output (about 34% of the total) and significant agricultural production (52.6% of the total), while during the 1980s, unemployment was in the category of high-unemployment democracies, in the 20+%. Serbia also received the pressure of the unemployed from neighboring rural republics, while it had 41% of the federation’s population. In general terms, Serbia’s macroeconomic situation reflected the general trends of the Yugoslav federation.

Nationalist narratives in the 1950s and mid-70s were largely absent from Yugoslavia. However, since 1970, when inflation began to rise, local authorities began to reduce economic activity among the provincial areas which tried – within the limits imposed by Belgrade – to maintain local control of the economy and a relatively autonomous foreign policy (it is worth here to note that in the context of decentralized economic planning, local governments had autonomous banking systems since 1965). In the absence of other ties to social reproduction in stable economies, nationalist narratives replace them and at the same time bring them back.. Trade between the republics had fallen to 20% compared to total commercial activity, while at the same time the tax system was unified. In particular, Serbia sought to resolve its own problems, both through the raising of financial resources from the richest countries through taxation and the containment of its rural markets.

As continuing dissatisfaction accumulates in the most economically robust federal republics, they remove themselves from the troubled federation. That is why the motives of the war in Slovenia and Croatia were to leave the federation and then to enact the project of national cleansing inside them; the Serbian population was “the enemy” and was believed to be causing potential problems for the future. Conversely, Serbia’s motivation was to keep the federation united, so its ethnic convictions were made with a parallel war that was trying by force to retain the republics in Yugoslavia. Croatian ethnic cleansing had basically a displacement character (see the massive displacement of at least 200,000 Serbs in the Croatian “Storm Operation” against the Serbs) – without apparently circumventing incidents sadistic executions. On the other hand, Serbian nationalists – with the massacre of Srebrenica – precisely because of the different characteristics of individual national fantasies, had a profoundly aggressive character: they did not want only to predominate or occupy but were aimed at breaking the morale of local supporters of rival nationalisms. They aimed at fear, surrender, disintegration (e.g. rape of women) of the opponents’ social fabrics. Slovenians, Croats and Bosnians believed that Serbia “oppresses” them, while, Serbs say, “everyone else wants to break Yugoslavia.” One fantasy here fed the other, and so they both appeared as self-fulfilling prophecies. These fantasies precisely structured the wider ideological strategy of the individual parts that defined the wider moves, but above all the behavior on the ground. The hatred of the single soldier on every side where we cannot and should not seek pure “economic readings” to account for the hatred of every single soldier on every side. On the contrary, while capitalist relations sparked the conflict and formed national fantasies, they acquired – as always – a molecular character. Disseminating rumors among the subjects, and each murder, lynching, or rape sparked new fantasies that seem to act as a “direct response” to the actions of the “other.” The violence there – within the bounds of the general strategy – acquires an autonomous character.


C. Class struggle and historical responsibility

To blame the class struggle for the division of Yugoslavia, rather than imperialism, is probably something of a prima facie absurdism for some. However, the careful reader will see that there are a number of parameters here. First of all, class struggle is an obstacle and at the same time a means of reproduction of the particular capitalist class relationship of exploitation. In this sense, they obviously did right to keep their wages high enough to cause a crisis in Yugoslav state capitalism itself, and to bring it to a point of collapse. On the other hand, the working class, as a class, is always within the social relationship of capital and its abstract dynamics, and ultimately it is determined by it and the wage relationship reproduced by it. When this relationship reaches the point of collapse, precisely because of its internal contradictions, the working class as a living class makes demands, but because they are inside the capital relation, the working class has two choices: either the “salto mortale,” meaning the risk of building communist reproduction relationships or retreating into the capital relation, again as the only known example of sociality and redefining the parameters there. There happens a violent redefinition and resolution of the previous contradictions. The working class in Yugoslavia failed to build these new relationships. The setback in this case was more than a simple setback: it was complete decimation.

But who is to blame for this social inability of the working class to even experiment with new forms of existence which can overcome wage/monetary/commodity relations. This great blame belongs to the same “socialist regime” as the holder of long-term theoretical hegemony and political/social paradigm which provided it, considered communism only as a form of state, communist relations only within the state, mediated by state money, and a directly designed controllable economy of rational actors, whether officials or workers’ self-managed enterprises. The whole horizon of discussions was already defined by state and monetary frameworks. The only different example – negatively outlined in general – was that of the capitalist West. Again, state, authoritarian, and “liberal” in the capitalist sense to its full extent. No theoretical or more grassroots experimentation has ever existed as a mass experience. This was the theoretical and cognitive social base that the average Yugoslav had in 1991 to build a fantasy of both “what the problem is” and “what’s the solution.” That was his cognitive horizon, his episteme. All his theoretical and social examples, all “proto-ideological elements,” were immediately dipped in capitalist fetishism, in some form of state or monetary relationship. The Transitional Socialist State has proved to be the most important obstacle to the much-needed transition to communism itself, and this is something that left-wing ideology has barely digested until now for the entire socialist bloc. Yugoslavia is another example of the historical and practical limitations of the socialist workers state within the borders of one nation, and the working class as a class for which revolution means emancipation in the form of its total reproduction. The reproduction of the working class implies always wage relations, and with them all the categories of capital. The revolution is self-abolition, not emancipation of something already existing. It is a total break with the present world.


2. Comments on the reproduction of capital and national ideology.

Reproduction of capital through national ideology takes place indirectly and is therefore usually difficult to analyze. In literature, the relationship between the two is either completely straightforward to be considered linear and immediate, that is, the nation serves the interests of the “bourgeoisie” and is reproduced by the “content” of national ideology, or that nationalism is a completely separate state of mind, distinct from the “economic interests” which, at best, have some small commonality. What needs to be answered is a question in two strands: What are the processes that form national ideology, its function and its content, and why does national ideology, even when it does not directly capture class interests or economic positions and is instead a cross-class formulation [3], reproduce capital relations?

The above question should be answered on the basis of the dual nature of capital in relation to the rigid social representations that constitute a community, in short, the symbolic proto-ideological elements (habitus) that constitute all its common direct experiences, which in a secondary process after normalization / organization they constitute the culture, the classification system of this community.

The capital relationship should not be perceived only by “economic terms.” What sets it apart is its dual character, that it is specific to us with specific and tangible forms of appearance such as money, commodity, labor power, capital to be invested etc. – but also abstract, that is, it is governed by wider dynamic contradictions which operate at a macro level that far outweigh the control, time periods and perceptions of individuals [4]. So, the general contradictions and problems caused by the dynamics of capital appear to be specific problems requiring urgent solution – poverty, economic instability, unemployment, etc., while the causes of these problems can only be perceived in an abstract theoretical time and space level, and even then, their practical control is impossible. Capital is therefore a relationship that confronts us with the results of its activity, without ever being able to influence its causes. This weakness lies not only in the two dimensions of the relationship itself but also in the fact that the relationship itself is produced by the participants in it and there is no point outside it that functions as its “point of view.”

On the other hand, capital functions as a community building force. Traders and financial capital owners face a network of mutual exchanges that are supposed to be “fair”[3]. Within this community, various characteristics are consolidated and homogenized by division of labor, but also by the more generalized production of forms of sociality produced within the community of capital but “outside of work.” They are the characteristics and experiences of “directly living life” (or habitus / proto-ideological elements), situations that appear to be obvious and self-evident. These are all organized by the normality of capitalist circulation. These are considered “community features” – language, religion, habits. We would say that these characteristics are positively invested in desire, they are therefore considered “good” by our, familiar, “understandable characteristics” [5]. These features are consolidated in a number of ways: through their repeated affirmation, the social division of labor, by the state and its ideological mechanisms, or intellectuals and opinion makers representing the entire bourgeois community of the society. These mechanisms organize and re-encode these characteristics of the directly living life into structured ideologies, here in this case, into national ones. [6]

In Yugoslavia, we had a process of collapsing of collective identity and then replacing it with an “individual” narrow one. While the individual cultures had survived and blossomed within the federation, as long as there were no problems in reproducing capital, and as long as these dynamics had not put the subjects under conflict – by the middle of the 70s, nationalist events were essentially meaningless, and a wider identity has been shaped and dominated as an ideologized habitus, above the national ones: that of Yugoslavia[4]. But this habitus, as it was thought to correspond – and was formed – within the framework of a particular form of political and economic organization, when it appeared not to work and not correspond to emerging contradictions, and in light of precisely these contradictions within the federation in the 70‘s, was abandoned by the subjects. In this way, the social subject was reassembled in narrow national terms – in a collapsed world – as a sense of self-stability. However, this reorganization radically changed the subject. It transformed it – and, retrospectively, historically reinterpreted it at the level of national history.

What, therefore, we support here is that the individual components of national ideology are produced by the movement of capital and the formation of a homogenous community, but are transformed into a national ideology in itself when they are called upon to substitute and interpret the fetishistic character of social capitalist conflicts and (dys)functions [7]. Therefore, the relationship of capital is reproduced through national ideology, through the absence of a direct imprinting of its logic on it, whereas ideology is constantly shaped and fueled by the different forms of the manifestations of capitalist socialization and the division of labor that are interpreted post factum (Nachträglichkeit) within a particular articulation around a “central meaning” [8]. Some basic elements like the “obvious” organizing coherence of individual state formations became the new axes that the scattered habituses organized into a fundamental fantasy-national ideology. We see that these axes are already mystifying pieces of capitalist fetishism, concealing the causes of capitalist dynamics while being derivatives of it. So, the discourse that was built was “if there is “individual responsibility” then someone is guilty of things going wrong, someone controls the ‘system’, we will find him, we will also eliminate him. We will take over our own power and economic relations. ” Here, the national fundamental fantasy acquires its own relatively autonomous dynamics from the conditions that gave birth to it, and it has a real impact on material relations. It is itself a material relationship [9]. National ideology is not language or religion but a specific articulation of these characteristics in certain symbolic systems that derive from specific social events / social ties

So, they give an incentive to wipe out anger and frustration, the thirst for filling the desire against the enemy who appears as an obstacle: Bosnian, Muslim, Croatian, Serbian. The fact that the opaque capitalist dynamic pushes the conflict produces the following sequence schematically:

-> the formation of heteronomous and unequal groups-> the homogenization of the characteristics within the groups and at the same time the definition / identity of these characteristics in heterogeneity with the characteristics of the “Other” -> nationalism, racism and the normalization of the difference as an ideological interpretation and at the same time as a solution to the problem of Conflict -> nationalism and racism constitute each community inevitably in a rival community, so national and racist fantasies become strategic with actual historical results, they are as we said Self-fulfilling prophecies because they force opponents to behave in an antagonistic way.


3. Hatred against the Bosniak.

Serbian hatred against the Bosnian population cannot be attributed to simple sociological categories such as “religious” or “economic” differences. These categories either do not provide adequate explanations, or they use the results of the processes as tools for interpreting the process itself.

The Bosniak population has been the biggest victim of the Yugoslav wars. Hate against it can be explained, as we showed earlier, by the relative autonomy, and the particular material consequences and dynamics that the habitus acquires – the direct experience of being placed into an organized national ideology. Then these dynamics self-reproduce in an exponential way. It is based in itself. The fundamental fantasy of Serbian nationalism was that opposing nationalisms want to destroy Yugoslavia, which was interwoven with national Serbian interests. Serbian nationalism wanted –  under its custody – to keep Yugoslavia united. This expectation, initially shaped by historical and economic factors, soon gained its own dynamic during the war. The Other became the personification of the obstacle of satisfaction, the fulfillment of the desiring vision of Serbian nationalism. This vision, meanwhile, even if this vision had been shaped as a desire [10] precisely because of an inability to fulfill it caused an initial lag, resulting from the dynamics of capital. This lag represented foremost the economic crisis, and then the war, which became the central sign around which reality was organized. In this context, frustration with the level of social well-being and instability, and responsibility for war, created a hunger for ‘restoring’ social equilibrium and prosperity. That is, satisfaction with the state / economy by the subjects in new / national contexts. To say it in layman’s terms: Someone is stealing our future – and we have to figure out how to deal with this “Other.” The manner of dealing with it has to do with the material habitus, the historical reservoir of knowledge, which is aggressively reorganized into the fantasy of national ideology around the new central axes of meaning.

In the case of Bosnia, the image seen by the average Serbian nationalist of the time was little different from what he saw for the Croatian. However, this difference played an important role in the outcome. Croatia, through Serbia’s eyes, was an enemy, but an “other” in the lowercase. Croatia may want to break up Yugoslavia and be a national enemy, but it was an “equal” enemy, an enemy understood. It was previously considered as a separate nation, with its own history, its own tradition and therefore within the broader national narratives with a “place in history, with the right of being.” The Croat was an enemy, but he was not worthy of extermination. “He was a worthy enemy, an “other,” but like us.”

On the contrary, in the Serbian narratives that circulated in Yugoslav society, although initially they were not perceived as hostile – the Bosniak never had the status of an autonomous subject. On the contrary, the popular impression was that they were “Muslim Serbs” of inferior and marginal status. But when the capital dynamics under conditions of scarcity led to bloodthirsty desires and social fantasies, the Bosniaks became more than an enemy. They were an incomprehensible enemy, capable of everything, traitors – a mysterious other of whom “we” don’t know much but he knows about us, because he was once like “us.” The Bosniak was transformed into a “mystery”: Serbian nationalists convinced themselves about how Bosniaks want to destroy Yugoslavia, while they do not even have “their own nation.” The Bosniak characterization thus begins to resemble the Jew of the Second World War. In an absurd manner, the category becomes extremely miserable (“don’t even have a nation”) and, on the other hand, extremely capable and hostile to everything. The fact that, so far, we have not understood their “intentions” indicates their “cunning”, that is, their ability to hide their intentions. The national fantasy here is now constituted as a pursuit: the opponent must be exterminated, or at least completely subdued.

Every national fantasy starts from what gave birth to it – the contradictions of the capitalist relations – and brings in its initial tendencies: Serbian nationalism sought to keep Yugoslavia united but to do that, those who destabilized it had to be – in this context of discourse – exterminated. If not exterminated, their enemy social networks had to be completely fragmented. That is, not to be destroyed as a neutral individual, but as a community. That is why we did not have displacements in Bosnia, but cleansing and rapes. The rival here was at the same time a sub-people and a super-people, who could only be faced by extreme measures. [11]

4. Criticism of the modern anti-imperialist subject or ‘ the non-critique’

One vital point of criticism is the critique of modern anti-imperialism. It is the subject of stormy talks on why anti-racist, anti-fascist and anarchist organizations choose to stand side-by-side with people at the other end of the political spectrum. The answer here cannot be that they “have a wrong analysis” as it precedes the question “why do they have this analysis?” What is also interesting is the obsession with it

Already by 1980, every fixed point of reference, in the Western world at least, collapsed. The world, in the light of late capitalism, where capital and social changes – both on a personal and social level – are now accelerating, every fixed point of reference of social meaning is lost. This continuously leads to a relative liquidation – if not collapse – of symbolic and cultural representations. In a nutshell, we lose the means by which people have been understood so far. [12] This feeling was intensified after the collapse of the USSR and the chaotic changes that followed in the period 1991-2014 worldwide. The grand narratives were lost. The modern fragmented symbolic field becomes the crisis of the nation. On these contradictions the present impulse for a necessary fantastic restoration of the grand narratives is formed. The anti-imperialist obsessive subject is a facet of today’s subject: the terrified subject of regular psychosis, the subject that tries to find an imaginary stability in a world unstable. The main characteristic of this process is the appearance of phobias and obsessions, both basic features of nationalism.

In an attempt to restore stability, a certain number of subjects tried to cope, not with changes in material relationships, but above all in their imagination. It is, therefore, adapted at the present time, not mainly through a material interaction but a fantasy that then becomes material power. Subjects try to recreate a grand narrative in the symbolic field in order for them to exist inside of it – in order to find their own position in the great narrative. The Subject thus imprisons both the thought and the historical process with a dialectic stuck in the past-present which is never released in the future. Anti-imperialism is a conservative revolution against the “process” of capital, and this is repeated across the political spectrum.

Modern anti-imperialists are trying to restore narratives such as “glorious national independence, and the strong class within it.” They do not simply re-create new combinations of narratives or theories of the past, instead they adhere to the imaginary Past and then interpret it retrospectively based on their own imagination about it, resulting to a vicious circle of no end about revolutionary thought. Thus, publications and the “social media pool of knowledge” are inflated with a new interpretation of the past adapted to their contemporary needs of fundamental fantasy, which initially claims that “nothing has changed,” a fantasy that is dipped in the fetishism of capital because it misses its critique of its own present form. This logic eliminates the historical moments of ambiguity and danger – as Benjamin described them boldly – when we can see dreams of a radical “other society” as it interprets the past through a capitalist axis of meaning (of the national-Keynesian state). So, any real revolution of the past – those moments when utopia cracked and came into the reality of the world temporarily – disappear. Every criticism that has appeared in the root of the historical process is lost and, in its place, appears a capitalist-national, anti-imperialist interpretation of history that flattens the dead of the revolution within their own castle as it does not appear as a sovereignty of capital but as discourse of Revolution, but a revolution that “does not save tradition from conformism” but rather infuses it with it. Together with those moments of the past that utopia appeared embryonic, the material of the future is also lost. The desire is bound forever to a vicious circle with the past. The future becomes an agonizing eternal repetition.

Thus, they refocus not only their thinking but overall the knowledge of a today that wants to remain the same, the vision of the future is projected as a return to a past. Anti-imperialist criticism opposes the stability of earlier forms of capital as fantasy in the modern mobility of capital and the fragmented world. In this way, anti-imperialist criticism is neo-conservative: it is not only its content but also its function. It conveys the thought in its past, adapts the past to the imaginary present and the present in the past retroactively and mutually. Anti-imperialism is on the side of the capitalist notion of history, not only because of its content but also because of its function: it reduces the real critique, that is, the thought that tries to break through its preconditions, and thus encroaches on it. These preconditions are none other than the social relations of capital – past or new – that affect thought in every historical period.

This is precisely why the anti-imperialist left-wing and right-wing meet; as well as trying to bring back a similar great narrative of the nation, the fragmentation of late capitalism has led to judgment in all the narratives, not just the anti-imperialist.. On the other hand, however, the anti-imperialist left and anti-authoritarians of this type refuse to really stand next to those with whom they meet politically as they still retain the habitual imagination for themselves that they are radicals [13]- that they are the forces of progress, Communism and “change.” A meeting with those who really support the same aims with them would bring to judgment the only pillar they now have to make their world with some meaning, as it would make the contradiction apparent: many of the anti-imperialist projects are now common among extreme left and right. Fantasy must be kept at all costs against either its denial in practice or the theoretical criticism it faces.

We also want to remind that history is not based on one person. The great personalities in which the “Idea” of the historical course is condensed, as Hegel imagined, apparently do not exist. Individuals are derivatives of social macro-historical processes. Therefore, the issue for us is not that Milošević or Franjo Tuđman are individually found guilty by an international court. But on the contrary, it is also important that they not to be acquitted, since their defenders and their audience are part of a field of discourse that they consider that the nation, its history and the national narrative, and, are actually personalized to them, so through their personal acquittal also comes the acquittal of the nation and its fundamental crimes (this discourse clearly emerged in Serbia itself after the supposed acquittal). Precisely because they believe that history is driven by personalities, and what the subject bears individual responsibility, a possible acquittal would enable them to write that whatever crimes were done were personal “deviations” of someone else. There, the bourgeois view of an “individual-individual who is the absolute master of his actions” is the hegemony and the nation can be acquitted. Criticism is not exhausted to the utmost in condemning a political personality for the crimes of the nation. However, non-acquittal ensures that the discussion of crimes, nation and political form remains open and, on the table, and thus leaves open the scope for further criticism.

PS Bosnian poet Izet Sarajlic wrote at his home in Sarajevo during the bombing

“It is of course very difficult to write poems

In this cell

But while shells explode around you

It’s even harder not to write poetry.”




[1]The gates of hell are open day and night. Easy to pass, sweet to their descent. But to go back and see the blue skies. This is great struggle. -Virgil – Virgil book 6th p.128. Those who defend a case dipped in blood, without trying to see beyond it, without even trying to see what deeper dynamics established parties and camps, remain within of the questions raised by the alienated momentum of history. In this sense they stay within the capital and its ideological world, they treat the world as a given and have no share in the utopia vision. So, before we defend a case, we must think better what we are getting ourselves into. It is difficult to return from the abyss.

[2] Yugoslavia was known as a federal state, i.e. several individual state entities united to a larger state entity. By federal entity we mean here the individual states that formed the federation. These states were all subordinate to the central government, but they also had some room for local government and the ability to influence the central government. The federated entities of Yugoslavia were Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Montenegro and Macedonia and from 1978 to 1988 practically federal subjects were also the regions of Kosovo and Vojvodina.

[3] In the battles we see – amongst others- and proletarians in massive waves to declare themselves volunteers many times. In the end. It is not the case that proletarians have no nation, on the contrary the proletarians have a nation, and therefore they have to fight and against it.

[4] Making it more understandable, and using the definitions of Annales, we can say that capital is a relationship that works equally in all 3 historical dimensions of time: its abstract dimension in the Long Time, its macro-socialism in the Medium, and the directly living conditions to the Short. However, the three times here are bridged into a single structure. That of the capitalist totality.

[5] In general we make use of WF Haug’s Project Ideologykritik, Breigi and Gellner for national ideology as a set-up of ideological systems from first-ideological elements , P. Bourdieu and creative habitus , the reading of Hume, and Freud (especially the extension of the notion of Nachträglichkeit as a memory of the subject but which constitutes the subject in time as a projection in the past ) by G. Deleuze, the Lacanian approaches of the subject as a structure Which is constituted by Social events , and the concept of the fetishism of the capital – and not the commodity – of Marx. Here we do not claim that the analysis is exhausted in experience, but that the basic form of assembly of the subject is the experience. His analysis and deconstruction go beyond empiricism. A more general and more extensive analysis of memory and subjectivity is very difficult to do here.

[6] The two axes of analysis and normalization of the ideology (horizontal and vertical) used here are from Bourdieu and WF Haug. As both emphasize, these two axes should not be considered as two distinct social situations but two dimensions of the same relationship. They are primarily analytical categories and then sociological.

[7] Here to be clear: the malfunctioning of the capital we are talking about is not a substantial dysfunction. On the contrary, the need to restructure capital appears to be malfunctioning in the subjects reproduced through it. Here is the alienated character of the relationship where the reproduction passes over the dead bodies of its constituent parts.

[8] Memory should not be understood as a past moment, as such, stored in the mind, but as something that is revoked by it and reformed in the present and re-emerging in the past, thus homogenizing the contradictions of today. The thought here is trapped in itself.

[9] Here we recall W.I. Thomas’ saying that “if people consider a situation to be true then it has real implications.” This sentence very well summarizes the way in which habitus normalizes into organized ideology, transforms into fundamental fantasy through a series of social energies, and becomes the way in which we look and do in the world becomes material power. Perhaps the most conspicuous example of this type was Serbian mania against Bosnia.

[10] Here we follow the ontology of the desire of Deleuze and Guattari, where desire is constantly being shaped by social events.

[11] Differences in the numbers of the victims are obvious to prove the truth. In Bosnia, executions were made by thousands

[12] Here, if we combine the concept of habitus with that of super-accelerated capitalism and the notion of symbolic field, then we conclude that symbolic fields are no longer stable nor fantasy. The only thing that becomes more and more constant is the rate of their collapse.

[13] Bourdieu emphasized the fact that habitus also has a conservative aspect, and at this point its analysis can be identified with Deleuze’s instrumental reason or “common sense” These three concepts, although not totally identical, have great proximity and in different combinations may be particularly useful in criticizing the subject of everyday life.



For the economic history of Yugoslavia we used: Viachaslau Yarashevich, Yuliya Karneyeva: Economic reasons for the break-up of Yugoslavia, Predrag Rajsic: The Economy of Tito’s Yugoslavia: Delaying the Inevitable Collapse, Leonard Kukic: Socialist growth revisited: Insights from Yugoslavia

[1] Here the concept of value is used in a quite different way that the general a-historical anthropological concept by the same name. Value here denotes a historical specific social relation, that occurs when everything in a society has been mediated by money relations. These money relations don’t just function as a mediation, but create specific “automated” dynamics that dominate society as a whole, even if each group is effected in different ways. Our critique is of Marxist origin and targets not just class,but money relations per se.

[2] We follow here the analysis of Moishe Postone in “Time, Labor, and social domination.” There Postone argues that socialist countries were indeed market economies just lacking some of the market mechanisms. So they were in fact capitalist countries of a strange kind, subject to “value” relations and dynamics but without the “automatic” market mechanisms of the west.

[3] Capital relations are fair only in formality and as long as the “economy” functions “well.” When capitalist competition or the exploitative character of labor are brought to light, even in a non-organized way, usually ethical objections to capitalism appear in the public discourse. The reason why these objections have usually an ethical, so ineffective or even reactionary, character, is out of the goal of there text.

[4] Here, on the one hand, Yugoslav identity can be said to be just another form of nationalism. At some point this is true, thus romanticization of the Yugoslav past as lacking national characteristics should be avoided (as we often see on hipster internet portals). But on the other hand careful distinctions should be made not to justify Yugoslavian state but to exactly examine its problematic aspects: national ideologies in general tend to homogenize completely their internal space. Something like that didn’t happened in Yugoslavia, on the contrary local cultures, with specific national narratives flourished. Here we found the central contradiction and the soft spot of the Yugoslav but also of the Soviet project: on the one hand they were not national states, on the other hand they were supporting local national narratives, with typical bourgeois criteria – the nation as an ahistorical cultural entity. The problem was that Yugoslav state was in a strange way neither anti-national nor national, in a similar way that socialist countries were not typical capitalist countries but also not non-capitalist. This contradictory structure certainly contributed in the long run, to the collapse of the whole project.