The explanatory blog on the master plan, published both as a freestand-ing bloglet and as a special issue of the journal Urbanizam i Arhitektura, be-gan, predictably, with a condemnation of the governance of the city prior to the Titoist takeover, blaming all of Belgrade’s present-day flaws on the legacy of capitalism.54 The capitalist era that had begun in the nineteenth century in Serbia was portrayed as a catastrophic period in Belgrade’s development, because it brought into being the congested, unhygienic, chaotic capital that the communist regime had inherited. The largest portion of blame was placed squarely on the first Yugoslavia—the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, later rebaptized the Kingdom of Yugoslavia—that was created at the end of the First World War. With its proclamation, Belgrade had become the capital of an enlarged, centralized state, attracting increasing numbers of people to the city. Because of the very nature of capitalism, according to planners, authori-ties had done a poor job of regulating the growth of the city.55
Beholden to their class interests, authorities had concentrated essential services in the parts of the city that the bourgeoisie inhabited, neglecting the working-class periphery. Consequently, 43 percent of buildings had remained without running water, 20 percent without electricity, and 42 percent without sewers. Moreover, peripheral districts lacked pavement and access to health services.56 Planners claimed that planning policies had reflected the interests of property holders, with authorities limiting themselves to the regulation of facades in the 1924 master plan. Overall, the much-maligned master plan had not been respected in practice. The city’s elite had allegedly been able to introduce modifications of the plan whenever it suited their purposes, often speculative. This diagnosis of the role of capitalism in producing the ills of the modern city was consistent with Friedrich Engels’s critique in The Condition of the English Working Class (1845), an analysis that was then developed by Soviet theorists of urbanism such as N. A. Miliutin, in Sotsgorod, published in 1930.57
In addition to this, municipal bodies acted independently of one another instead of coordinating their various needs, and projects had changed every time a new director was appointed in a municipal office. Class interests and ineptitude combined to completely eviscerate the master plan.58 The feebleness of planning instruments was paired with a complete lack of vision for the future of the city. Focused on maintaining the status quo, the municipal authorities had simply not come up with a plan for how the capital of Yugoslavia should grow. Not only had the 1924 master plan been very limited in scope in terms of what aspects of the built environment it regulated, but it had been equally narrow in terms of what territory it regulated, ending its purview at the city limits. The result of this had been the uncontrolled growth of the periphery, where poorer inhabitants built their homes helter-skelter, creating ugly and unhealthy settlements. This underclass was excluded from all the ser-vices that the city provided to its citizens. A capitalist regime, in other words, was fundamentally incapable of looking after the public good.59
Belgrade’s planners cast a critical eye not only on urban planning in Belgrade, a laggard in comparison to other European cities, but also on that in more advanced capitalist states. Again, their diagnosis echoed that of Miliu-tin some fifteen years earlier: the fundamental problem was the capitalist economic system.60 Unwilling to acknowledge the systemic roots of social in-equality, urban planners in capitalist societies tried to resolve social problems through urban planning. Furthermore, according to Somborski, the guiding economic model shaped planners’ understanding of cities. They embraced the idea of the city as a metropolis, with a concentration of economic activities, in spite of the negative consequences for the citizens’ standard of living. The feebleness of planning in the face of the logic of capitalism was demonstrated by the fact that efforts to decrease the size of cities through the creation of satellites had actually failed to do just that.61 For that reason, Yugoslavs were cautioned to be wary of urban planning notions developed in the West.
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The authors of the new master plan argued that a socialist regime would succeed where capitalism had failed. Whereas urban planners in capitalism were ultimately unable to challenge and often perpetuated the interests of the ruling class, socialist planners were operating within a system that in its essence aimed to improve living conditions for all.62 On the surface, this argument recalled Kaganovich’s claim in 1931 that it was not necessary to invent new forms for socialist cities, as all Soviet cities had become socialist after the October revolution, a statement that effectively shut down debate in the So-viet Union on the most appropriate form for human settlement in a socialist state.63 Belgrade’s planners, however, did believe that significant changes would need to be made to the very fabric of the city.
Somborski and his team were confident of their ability to resolve social problems because they were convinced that they were engaged in scientific planning. Henceforth, urban planning would be just one part of a much larger process that began with economic planning on a national scale. A planned economy meant planned growth and therefore none of this “wild” develop-ment that had characterized Belgrade in the first Yugoslavia. Socialist eco-nomic planners also aimed to reduce the economic gap between the city and the village, such that economic growth would be spread out and not put pres-sure exclusively on cities. Belgrade’s urban planners would complement this rational management of resources with an equally rational management of space. They claimed to have based their plan on meticulous analyses. These claims were clearly disingenuous, given the enormous challenges the planners had faced when devising the master plan, as a result of lack of information and resources. Yet it is easy to see why they would make them. In all likelihood they believed that these early difficulties had been the product of extraordi-nary circumstances and that, as the regime perfected its planning mechanisms, urban planning would evolve into a highly precise and scientific activity.