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Yugoslavia: The Military and the Party
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Defense Organization > The Military and the Party

THE MILITARY AND THE PARTY


In 1990 more than 100,000 YPA soldiers, airmen, and sailors were members of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia and formed party cells in the military. Because party membership was a criterion for officer status, virtually all officers were LCY members. Despite this, LCY control over the YPA was relatively loose. In fact, the large number of military personnel in the LCY made the YPA a powerful constituency with interests claiming full party attention.

As in most communist states, military representation in the party leadership was significant in the 1980s. The LCY Committee in the YPA was virtually a military wing of the party. The president of the committee, always a general, was likely eventually to become federal secretary for national defense. The committee held party conferences to elect delegates to represent the YPA at LCY congresses. YPA party conferences were similar to the regional conferences that elected republican and provincial delegates to LCY congresses. The YPA also elected its president, secretary, and fifty party committee members. YPA delegates elected to the Thirteenth LCY Congress in 1986 included primarily generals and other officers, but some noncommissioned officers, soldiers, civilian YPA employees, and higher military school cadets also participated.

The LCY Committee in the YPA elected fourteen officers to serve on the LCY Central Committee in 1986. Other officers were elected to the central committee as representatives of the party in the republics and autonomous provinces. By 1986, having steadily increased since the 1970s, the percentage of military leaders in the Central Committee was greater than the percentage of military personnel in the total population. In Central Committee representation, the YPA allotment almost equaled that of the republics and did equal that of the autonomous provinces. At various times, the federal secretary for national defense has been a member of the Presidium of the LCY Central Committee.

Tito controlled the YPA by exercising his tremendous personal authority and purging the ranks occasionally, while allowing considerable professional autonomy. Many YPA leaders were loyal Tito compatriots from the Partisan years, although their numbers were declining noticeably by the late 1980s. Even in retirement, many of this group remained politically active within the Federation of Associations of Veterans' of the National Liberation War (Savez udruzenja boraca Narodno-oslobodilackog rata, SUBNOR, see Veterans' Association, ch. 4).

Military influence in the political system increased steadily after the early 1970s. The military earned its influence by stabilizing Yugoslavia during critical periods of internal tension. In 1979 its high political profile obligated the YPA to issue a formal disavowal of any intention to assume power after Tito's death. In the 1980s, the constant speculation about the political role of the YPA was due less to the political ambitions of Yugoslav generals than to the many social, economic, and political crises afflicting the state. On several occasions, military leaders felt compelled to warn that the army would not allow disunity to cause the dissolution of the Yugoslav state.

The possibility of a "Polish" situation was openly discussed; this term referred to General Wojciech Jaruzelski's 1981 imposition of martial law and communist military dictatorship during a political crisis in Poland. Were the LCY and civilian government unable to solve longstanding problems, the YPA might be seen as the last effective, cohesive force in Yugoslavia, intervening in politics to ensure the survival of the state. A military coup against the LCY was considered unlikely, however, because the YPA was too well integrated into the LCY and the process of government. The interests of the two organizations were more parallel than contradictory. The YPA was, to an extent, the party in uniform. If it acted to rescue party rule, it would actually be demonstrating LCY impotence and further undermining LCY legitimacy.

Data as of December 1990




Last Updated: December 1990


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Yugoslavia was first published in 1990. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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