Journal of Cold War Studies 6.2 (2004) 82-84
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Carol S. Lilly, Power and Persuasion: Ideology and Rhetoric in Communist Yugoslavia, 1944-1953. Boulder: Westview Press, 2001. 272 pp. $33.00.
What a relief to find a new book about Yugoslavia that makes no attempt to explain recent events. Power and Persuasion looks at a question that is interesting in its own right: How did the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY) seek to disseminate propaganda and transform Yugoslav society in the early period after World War II? To answer that question, Carol Lilly has done meticulous archival and other primary-source research. As a result, her book is useful for historians of Yugoslavia as well as scholars interested in institutional design.
Lilly's book contains an excellent, detailed account of how CPY leaders designed Yugoslav institutions to transform Yugoslav culture and society. The book looks at organizations (such as trade unions, youth groups, and women's groups) and policies (such as those pertaining to censorship, education, and religion), and provides a good overview of how the Yugoslav regime sought to inculcate Communist values. Lilly also discusses the obstacles encountered by Yugoslav leaders, including conflicts over methods within the CPY and the lack of interest among the general population. The descriptive sections of Power and Persuasion are very informative. Unfortunately, a few conceptual errors prevent the book from realizing its full potential. [End Page 82] A book on ideology, no matter how historical, cannot entirely avoid theoretical debates on the subject. No doubt, some of the most exciting literature on ideology has come out only recently. (See, for example, Mark Kramer's important article, "Ideology and the Cold War," in the October 1999 issue of Review of International Studies, pp.539-576, and his subsequent exchange with William Wohlforth in the April 2000 and January 2001 issues of the same journal.) Nonetheless, the topic is an old one, and Lilly might have devoted at least a portion of her introduction to explaining what she means by "ideology." She cites Clifford Geertz's Interpretation of Cultures but does not discuss his essay on "Ideology and Culture" in that book; and she mentions Steven Lukes's work only in passing. In the introduction she makes the interesting claim that Yugoslav Communists were not merely "ideologues" but "very practical power politicians" (p.3), but she then fails to discuss the relationship between ideology and practice.
Similarly, Lilly provides little systematic description of the content of Yugoslav Communist ideology. She repeatedly emphasizes the CPY's commitment to Marxism-Leninism, but does not detail how Marxism was interpreted by party leaders. More important, she never fully explores the Soviet influence on Yugoslav ideology and institutions. In a historical overview at the beginning of the book, Lilly mentions that the first Yugoslav Constitution and the Yugoslav Five Year Plan of 1947 both followed the Soviet model, and she states that "Yugoslav party leaders clearly considered themselves to be Stalin's most loyal and devoted disciples" (p.26). But she also states that Yugoslav Communists were more independent in their decisions than their Eastern-bloc counterparts. This tension deserves fuller elucidation, especially toward the beginning of the book. To what extent did Moscow involve itself in the details of the Yugoslav social transformation, and to what extent did the CPY copy Soviet institutions wholesale? Did the Soviet Union pressure the CPY to collectivize peasant farms, for instance?
These problems are partly remedied in the latter half of the book, where Lilly offers an original and insightful interpretation of the ideological effects of the Yugoslav-Soviet split of 1948. In chapter 7, for instance, Lilly tackles a complicated question: Why did the CPY initially react to the split with Moscow by increasing "Stalinist" repression? She plausibly argues that Soviet and Eastern-bloc hostility threatened Yugoslav security and the CPY predictably reacted by tightening control over domestic dissent. More than ever, CPY leaders needed to ensure their hold over the country, and for this reason they diligently sought out "class enemies" and "kulaks" and...