the legal battle:


The Defendants' List of Documents:

[the next step - 21 October 1988]



The legal documents so far:

The original letter from ITN's solicitors

Statement of Claim from ITN

The Defence

Two-Ten Statement in Open Court

The Reply

>The Defendants' List of Documents

The Yugoslav authorities have been forced to cancel all army leave in the face of growing student and worker unrest in the southern republic of Montenegro. In the Montenegrin capital of Titograd, police used clubs and tear gas to disperse demonstrators calling for the resignation of local leaders. A wave of unrest has swept the country over the past year, but the latest events threaten to tear the country's federal Communist Party apart.

As the Central Committee prepared for a crucial meeting in Belgade this week, leaders of the republics of Serbia and Slovenia were rowing in public. Politika, the Belgrade party newspaper which backs Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, attacked the Slovene party for supporting the police action in Titograd. The Slovene party accused the Serbian party of manipulating demonstrators by fomenting Serbian nationalism.

The tensions within the leadership largely result from an upsurge of working class resistance, after years of relative peace.

Marshal Tito's achievement after coming to power in 1945 was to reconcile the country's 16 nationalities, by suppressing all opposition and introducing economic reforms. For a while Tito's 'self-management socialism' allowed for relative prosperity. Since the Stalinist party monopolised political power, however, reform was strictly limited. Without genuine workers' democracy, self-management degenerated into bureaucratic farce. When Tito died in 1980, economic decay was well-advanced, and the political cracks were beginning to show.

Today Yugoslavia is an economic disaster: last year the republics of Macedonia and Montenegro and the autonomous province of Kosovo declared themselves bankrupt. All are in the most backward southern part of the country. Inflation is running at 215 per cent, the foreign debt is $21 billion and more than a million are unemployed. As journalist Cedo Zik explained in the Zagreb publication, Start: ' The effects of collapse may not look too dramatic, since we do not have a stock exchange and people are not throwing themselves out of windows, but everybody knows that we have become the sick man of Europe.'

In May the government agreed a harsh austerity package with the International Monetary Fund. This fuelled runaway inflation, slashed living standards and provoked widespread unrest. More than 1000 strikes have broken out this year, with workers taking their protests on to the streets, invading government buildings and demanding the resignation of corrupt officials.

Economic decay follows a rough north-south divide, along which opposing nationalist camps in the Yugoslav bureaucracy now align themselves.

The more prosperous northern republics of Slovenia and Croatia, and the autonomous province of Vojvodina, enjoy living standards akin to those of Western Europe. In the poorest southern republics of Montenegro and Macedonia, and the autonomous province of Kosovo, many earn a third of the average northern wage. Here eight million Serbs, the largest group in a population of 23m, harbour long-standing resentments at being denied their pre-war dominance.

Differences between north and south have also crystallised around economic reform. In common with the Soviet Union and much of Eastern Europe, the Yugoslav bureaucracy is set on restructuring the economy. There are few disagreements about the nature of the reforms needed: an end to government subsidies of consumer goods, an overhaul in the management of enterprises and an effort to attract foreign and domestic investment. The debate is about how the reforms should be implemented.

Northerners want more political and economic decentralisation, while southerners led by Milosevic favour more centralised planning. The north fears that Milosevic's plans would damage prosperous areas by forcing them to subsidise the south. The south is concerned that decentralisation would mean more subsidy cuts and result in increased unemployment, ruin and upheaval.

Lacking an economic solution which does not threaten their own position, bureaucrats north and south have channelled working class resistance in a nationalist direction.


Milosevic has tried to harness nationalist sentiment to strengthen Serbia's position in the federation as well as his own challenge for the national leadership. He has encouraged Serbian resentment against Albanian separatists in Kosovo and led giant nationalist demonstrations. Tens of thousands of Serbs and Montenegrins now travel the country demanding Serbian control over Kosovo as well as the other autonomous Serbian province of Vojvodina.

Slovenian nationalism has taken a different form. Disgruntled at having to subsidise Yugoslavia's poorer regions, Slovenians have become vocal in their criticism of the Serbian-dominated national army. A campaign against the military led by the Slovene Communist youth paper, Mladina, culminated in the trial of three journalists and a soldier earlier this year.

How long can the bureaucrats ride on the wave of nationalist revolt before it sinks them? While he has become the figurehead of the movement, even Milosevic cannot be certain of staying in control. Although they have been derailed by chauvinist demagogy, Yugoslav workers remain a mortal threat to the Stalinist bureaucracy which has monopolised power for 40 years.

Russell Osborne

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