Review: “Serbia and Albania” by Dimitrije Tucovic

A. Holberg
Published here: 22/03/00

Johannes Schneider writes:

I am forwarding here a a review of “Serbia and Albania” by Dimitrije Tucovic. The work of Tucovic is among the most important Marxist contributions on the national question in the Balkans. Author of this review is German journalist A. Holberg. Unfortunately at the moment it is only available in Serbo-Croatian and in German. The German translation has been edited by the Austrian group Arbeitsgruppe Marxismus. Its webpage can be found at: http://www.agmarxismus.net. The table of contents of can be found at: http://www.agmarxismus.net/lieferbnr/lieferbnr15.htm

Book review: Dimitrije Tucovic: Serbia and Albania. (Publ. by Arbeitsgruppe Marxismus), Wien 1999, 91 p. , DM 12, -. orders to: AGM, PF 562, A-1151 Wien or E-Mail agm@xpoint.at

“Unlimited enmity of the Albanian people against Serbia is the foremost real result of the Albanian policies of the Serbian government. The second and more dangerous result is the strengthening of two big powers in Albania, which have the greatest interests in the Balkans”.

A quotation from 1999? No, this is the quintessence of the lesson which Dimitrije Tucovic drew in 1914 from the experience of the war, which he had shared personally. The war aimed at opening the way to the Mediterranean Sea for the Serbian bougeoisie; as a result, the overwhelmingly Albanian Kosovo became a victim – in Tucovic’s words – of Serbian colonialism.

Dimitrije Tucovic was the leader of the left faction of the Social-democratic Party of Serbia before World War I. Together with the faction of the “narrows” in the Bulgarian SP and Lenin’s Russian Bolsheviks, this Serbian party was the only one to remain internationalist during WW1 and to deny war credits to its own bourgeoisie. This Marxist position had also been defended by Tucovic in the two Balkan wars of 1912 and 1913, which immediately preceded the world war.

The study “Serbia and Albania” reviewed here, which the Vienna-based AGM deserves thanks for republishing last year in both Serbo-Croatian and German, was first published in Belgrade in 1914.

D. Tucovic, who had been forced to take part in the war against Albania (at that time still part of the Ottoman empire), first describes the socio-economic structures of Albania and counterposes a materialistic view of its social and cultural underdevelopment, whose victims the Albanians had become in the course of history, to the already widespread chauvinist Serbian propaganda against the Albanian ‘savages’. In three further chapters he shows the development of the Albanian national movement, the economic and strategic interests of the regional powers and finally the development of the policies of the Serbian bourgeoisie towards the Albanians. Precisely for those Serb- or Yugoslav-nationalist leftists in our country, who for some time have developed a tendency to view Albanians as ‘ethno-terrorists’, tools of NATO and drug-traffickers, the parallel with the social and political development of the Kurds, so beloved by the same political milieu, and with the unfavorable image of the Kurds held by their neighbouring peoples, is often striking.

Dimitrije Tucovic is an invaluable spokesman for the internationalist position, otherwise linked with the name of Lenin, which holds that the only possible progressive solution to the problems resulting from the ethnic diversity of the Balkans is unity within a federation of Balkan states on the basis of total free will. He shows how the disregard of such a position by Serbia’s ruling class has furthered the national awakening of the Albanians and the interests of imperialism. At the end of his study he writes about the failure of the Serbian push to the Mediterranean Sea:

“Since the long series of dangers and sacrifices for the freedom of the Serb people and the future of Serbia has not ended with the defeat of the policy of conquest, it is now necessary to face the truth and to acknowledge against all prejudices that the struggle that the Albanian tribe is leading today is a natural and unavoidable historic struggle for a different political life than that experienced under Turkish rule – different also from that which its neighbours Serbia, Greece and Montenegro would like to force upon the Albanians. The free Serbian people should appreciate this struggle, first because of the freedom of the Albanians, and second because of its own freedom, and it should deny every government the means for a policy of oppression. ”

The Stalinization of the Yugoslav CP, the multinational successor to the SDPS, has unfortunately blocked this perspective. The fact that this region in so many respects stands again today in the same position where it stood in 1914 according to Tucovic is the sad result.

The AGM’s pamphlet is supplemented by a biographical section on Tucovic and by a chapter titled ‘Revolutionary tradition - the Serbian workers’ movement from 1870 to World War I’. There is also a foreword that makes some critical points about Tucovic’s presentation and his position on the Balkan federation.

A. Holberg