Yugoslavia: The Limits of Reform

Yugoslavia: The Limits of Reform

Mass popular and nationalist demonstrations throughout the Republic of Serbia, an inflation reaching over 230 percent, faltering economic performance, and growing public acrimony within the ruling party, the League of Communists (LCY)—these are a few symptoms of the current crisis in Yugoslavia, a country with an active and contentious press and highly visible and critical intellectuals.

For those who want to speculate about the outer limits of possible change in the one-party communist regimes, Yugoslavia can be seen as a case study regarding the limits of glasnost and perestroika. There are three areas in which Yugoslavia has pioneered in reforms. It was the first to introduce the concept of a market economy linked to the world market and combined with workers’ self-management and, less willingly, the right of workers to strike. It has gone the furthest in decentralizing the state and providing for genuine autonomy for its national groups. And probably most significantly, it has gone the furthest in opening the ruling party to internal debate and, willy-nilly, a kind of pluralism.

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