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Political Innovation and the 1974 Constitution

Finally, Tito (himself a Croat) quelled the separatist movement by purging the Croatian party in 1972. The Croatian purge stemmed the demand for veto power by individual republics and paved the way for party recentralization and ratification of the constitutional amendments promoted by Tito. The State Presidency was added to the federal structure with Tito as its head, once again the sole symbol of both party and state leadership. In general, beginning in 1972, interregional consensus came more easily, although members of central party organs still were chosen by regional, not central, decision. In the following years, Tito was able to create a consensual system of inter-republican debate and compromise, with constitutional amendments as required. That process culminated in the 1974 Constitution, which ratified and adjusted preceding changes and attempted to construct a system that would survive Tito's passing.

The 1974 Constitution, which remained in effect through the end of the 1980s, only partially reversed the extreme decentralization of the early 1970s. With 406 original articles, it was one of the longest constitutions in the world. It added elaborate language protecting the self-management system from state interference and expanding representation of republics and provinces in all electoral and policy forums. The Constitution called the restructured Federal Assembly the highest expression of the self-management system (see Government Structure , this ch.). Accordingly, it prescribed a complex electoral procedure for that body, beginning with the local labor and political organizations. (see fig. 12). Those bodies were to elect communelevel assemblies, which then would elect assemblies at province and republic level; finally, the latter groups would elect the members of the two equal components of the Federal Assembly, the Federal Chamber and the Chamber of Republics and Provinces. Like its predecessor, the 1974 Constitution tried to refine the balance between economic and ethnic diversity on one hand, and the communist ideal of social unity on the other.

The new Constitution also reduced the State Presidency from twenty-three to nine members, with equal representation for each republic and province and an ex-officio position for the president of the League of Communists. The party tried to reactivate its role in guiding national policy through automatic inclusion of the party chief in the State Presidency. That practice was discontinued in 1988, when the political climate called for further separation of party and state functions. This reduced the State Presidency to eight members. The 1974 Constitution also expanded protection of individual rights and court procedures, with the all-purpose caveat that no citizen could use those freedoms to disrupt the prescribed social system. Finally, Kosovo and Vojvodina, the two constituent provinces of Serbia, received substantially increased autonomy, including de facto veto power in the Serbian parliament. This change became a turbulent issue of inter-republican debate in post-Tito Yugoslavia (see Regional Political Issues , this ch.).

In practice, despite nominal dispersal of power, throughout the 1970s the power of the LCY rested entirely on the personal leadership of Tito and his chief theoretician, Eduard Kardelj. In 1974 Tito was elected president for life of the LCY, and the new constitution gave him increased powers as state president. The new provision strengthened the legitimacy of the Yugoslav regime as defender of Marxism-Leninism.

After personally intervening in the Croatian crisis in 1971, Tito gradually withdrew from the domestic decision--making process. He continued making inspirational speeches to party cadres and appointing officials of the party Presidium, but by 1976 he no longer presided over meetings of the Presidium or the State Presidency. In the last four years of his life, Tito's contact with day-to-day government operations decreased, and he no longer used his immense prestige to break policy deadlocks.

In 1977 Kardelj attempted to lay the ideological groundwork for a diversified post-Tito political system. In his The Directions of Development of the Political System of SelfManagement , Kardelj admitted that pluralism was an inevitable fact of Yugoslav political life, but he insisted that this pluralism had nothing in common with the pluralism of the bourgeois democracies of the West. In Yugoslavia, he said, conflicting interests could be accommodated within the scope of the LCY. Kardelj correctly identified one of the strongest forces of pluralism as the principle of self-management of economic and political organizations, which was greatly expanded in the 1974 Constitution. The trend continued in 1976, when the Law on Associated Labor prescribed the basic organizations of associated labor (BOALs) and self-management agreements of enterprises with the government. That law and the Constitution not only provided new building blocks for the Yugoslav economy, they also codified political decentralization by removing centralized control and stimulating the growth of nonparty interest groups (see Adjustments in the 1970s , ch. 3). "All-Yugoslav" interests, already endangered by regional differences, suffered further fragmentation with the political reforms of the mid-1970s. Individual communists, theoretically given the role of integrating society for the common good of the working class, succumbed to divided loyalties and weak central leadership.

In 1979 the Presidium, chief executive body of the LCY, began annual rotation of its chairmanship. After Tito died, his power to name Presidium members devolved to a special Presidium commission including regional party leaders. This additional step toward party decentralization further revealed the unique stature of the former leader. Rotation of the Presidium chairmanship continued through the 1980s on a regular schedule, following the "nationality key" that divided the position equally among the eight federal jurisdictions; the rotation has been called "the most elaborate quota system in the world." Although he devised the rotation system to prevent party domination by one individual, Tito placed great importance on a strong central party surviving him. By 1980, however, the centrifugal political forces gradually building in the previous fifteen years had already eroded the single party structure. And the example Tito set in 1948 by abandoning a monolithic world communist movement spoke more loudly for pragmatic diversification than any of his pleas thirty years later for national party unity.

Data as of December 1990

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