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« Traditions communautaires » paysannes et socialisme en Yougoslavie

Revue d’études comparatives Est-Ouest
Editions NecPlus
Publication Date
DOI: 10.3406/receo.1990.1584
  • Economics
  • Political Science


Peasant community traditions and socialism in Yugoslavia When the Yugoslav communist party came to power in 1945, Yugoslav society consisted primarily of peasants and stockbreeders, with regional variations, and they made a major contribution to the success of the revolution in the struggle for national liberation. It might be asked to what extent the traditions of this peasant society might have influenced the building of socialism, and particularly, what might be the influence of community traditions as exemplified by the zadruga, a long-standing domestic grouping within the population, except in Slovenia. In the 19th century, the Serbian socialist Svetozar Markovic, who belonged to the Russian populist tradition, had held the view that these community traditions would facilitate the transition to socialism without passing through capitalism. In fact, it would no appear that peasant co-operative traditions made any contribution per se to the building of socialism, for example during the years of the collectivization beween 1948 and 1953. For one thing, traditions such as the zadruga were on the decline, and, for another, these peasant community institutions, and communist collective organizations, bore only an apparent resemblance to one another. However, under socialist self- management, peasant community co-operative traditions did influence the working of the political system, to the advantage of the authorities. The upholding of tradition was one of the elements of consensus between the leadership and the workers. This consensus was embodied in the structure of decentralized power at republican and also commune level, and was supported by economic modernization (industrialization) which made it possible to offer the peasants social advancement (jobs, albeit non- profitable and subsidized). Family ties, traditional solidarities, eased the process of economic modernization, the transition to the towns. In this process, which is common to a number of under-developed countries, it is typical that the communist authorities drew on such traditions, which for their part acquired a new sense and a new content. In addition to these peasant co-operative traditions, it would seem that traditional solidarities also penetrated the system and had an effect on self-management. However, the maintenance of peasant community tradition also had negative results : it was one of the factors which contributed to inefficient modernization (egalitarianism, etc.) and to a level of self-management that was not genuinely democratic, although it did not obstruct peasant integration into the nation at republican level. And this preservation of traditions may to-day act as a brake on the changes that appear necessary to the authorities themselves (political and economic reform) at a time when the consensus between the leadership and the population is weakened by economic crisis, and it is essential to make the economy profitable.

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