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May 23, 1994
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 139
Serbia in a Broken Mirror

A State In Agony

by Milan Milosevic (Dragoslav Grujic, VREME documentary center)

On May 15, 1994 two symbolic events took place in Belgrade. The Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) marked the anniversary of the Third Serb Uprising, and SPO leader Vuk Draskovic read out the final chapter of his novel (with a strong Romanticist dramatic effect), in honor of WW2 Chetnik leader General Draza Mihajlovic. A hundred or so meters away, the League of CommunistsMovement for Yugoslavia (SKPJ) founded its organization of the Yugoslav Revolutionary Youth (JRO). There was flag waving, the fivepoint star was present, and everything was reminiscent of Tito's birthday. Three years ago on May 9, 1991 a column of Partisan veterans and opposition demonstrators met. The latter were shouting ``Red bandits.'' But this time, nothing happened. A Communist youth speaking on television, called on the ``Reds'' in authority and the opposition to return to the fold, or return the property they had earned thanks to their Communist Party membership cards. Two days later, Serbian Radical Party (SRS) leader Vojislav Seselj demanded that the SKPJ be banned as a criminal organization, and that all its property be confiscated. SKPJ official Zoran Cicak said a day after that, that he hoped the police would determine which of the two parties was a criminal organization, the SKPJ or the SRS.

Thanks to a successful maneuver, the Socialists managed to break the opposition coalition (DEPOS) last winter, after neutralizing Democratic Party (DS) leader Zoran Djindjic, who had had a certain amount of success at the 1993 elections. The ruling Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) has achieved a hegemony in the Serbian Assembly, and there has been a political lull in Serbia for the past five and a half months. While financial scandals are the talk of the day, everybody is waiting to see what National Bank of Yugoslavia (NBJ) Governor Dragoslav Avramovic is going to do about the dinar, and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic about Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.

The last big row took place in April 1994 when Vuk Draskovic attended the Congress of Serb Intellectuals (the extreme nationalist wing gathered in the Belgrade Sava Conference Center with the idea of drafting another Serbian national program. Intellectuals close to DEPOS boycotted the meeting.) Vuk told the gathering that after all the victims, the best thing they could do, as the ideologues of the war, was to shut up. He was booed off the platform, and catcalls followed his exit, helping Draskovic score more political points.

In the last three years the Socialists have tried, on several occasions to organize the ``drafting of a national program,'' obviously with the aim of justifying an earlier defined war policy, and so decreasing the pressure on the authorities. The SPO has persisted in achieving a ``national reconciliation.'' In April 1991, after the March 9 demonstrations, the attempt at ``national unification'' failed; in the summer of 1992, the majority of intellectuals in DEPOS supported the King (i.e. Crown Prince Alexander Karadjordjevic) and the Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch. Dobrica Cosic was President. In January 1993, when the Socialists and Radicals turned against him, even his friends gloated quietly. In December 1993, a weary opposition won a stalemate at the elections, but lost at the negotiating table.

June 1, 1993 saw the last of street fighting. The Police arrested one of the most agile opposition leaders Vuk Draskovic and his wife after demonstrations in front of the Yugoslav Assembly building. Draskovic was brutally beaten and just managed to stay alive. After protests by many associations of the civic society in Belgrade, a series of demonstrations, and protests by the international public, President Milosevic discontinued further legal proceedings against Vuk Draskovic (the act of abolitio). In January 1994, Milosevic offered Draskovic a place in a government of national unity, which the latter turned down, and pleaded as a deputy, that an agreement be reached between parties on the sharing of responsibility at all levels. The Socialists, who had replaced a oneparty system with party hegemony, rejected the proposal.

Talking to VREME, sociologist Slobodan Inic analyzed this change of one collectivist technique with another, underscoring that political events here had earlier been characterized by a symbiosis between Stalinism and nationalism. Inic finds the Communist metamorphosis into Chetniks very interesting. He says that many joined the Communist Party, not so much because of Communism, as because of Russia, and that this is the reason why they later abandoned Communism and embraced the Orthodox Church. In his book ``Changes,'' Dobrica Cosic writes in a resigned manner on why the August 1991 putsch in Moscow failed. He asks Tito's former associate and later famous disident Milovan Djilas what he would have done if someone had told him in 1951 that the Soviet Union would fall apart, and the latter answers sincerely that he would have had the person shot, then corrects himself, and says even more sincerely, that he would have considered him insane and sent him to a clinic. Cosic then goes on to say that we are all living in a madhouse. Boris Yeltsin's Russia has left him ``feeling appalled'' because its assessments of the Balkans do not differ from those of the West.

Inic believes that the collectivist spirit of property probably lies in the background of this ideological link. He puts forward an, as yet, not analyzed thesis, that once the ideological cobwebs are swept away, it turns out that the economy of Socialist Yugoslavia, from the point of its functioning and the state's direct participation in investments, etc., was the most statist Eastern economy, after the Soviet one! It is interesting that the Russian Government claims that 70% of the country's property will pass into private ownership by June, while state ownership in Serbia is urged formally and informally, and according to some assessments is being extended.

In the book ``The System and the Collapse,'' sociologist Mladen Lazic claims that ruling groups in the republics were the only organized factors before this war, regardless of some ``liberal aberrations'' in Socialist Yugoslavia. In research work covering the Eighties, Lazic says that 76% Croats and 73% Serbs agreed with the claim that ``A nation without a leader was headless!'' Even among the university population there were more of those who supported this claim than those who rejected it.

The ruling group lost the 1990 elections in Croatia, while the one in Serbia didn't because it had relied on national hegemony before the appearance of pluralism. These different outcomes resulted in different consequences, and affected those holding managerial posts in different ways. In Serbia the managers and directors preserved their position (as a group), while they were dismissed en masse in Croatia. Of 18 directors of the most successful firms in Zagreb, only 5 managed to hold on to their posts from 19871991. The old executive group in Serbia retained its position, while the process of privatization ``from above'' is progressing unhindered, along with an awareness of its inevitability. Lazic believes that the mass nationalization of the economy in Serbia, has fixed the position of the directors and so additionally strengthened their inertness as a group. ``Regardless of all individual cases, it is hard to believe that the managers will appear as a new social force capable of shaping basic new social relations,'' said Lazic. In other words, the techno managers are preserving Socialism in coalition with those employed in their firms. It happens that when one of the directors is arrested, the workers get together and demonstrate, claiming that he looked after them and fed them.

SPS deputy and President of the Committee for Security in the Yugoslav Assembly, Radmilo Bogdanovic, admitted a month ago, that the political police had followed the activities of regime opponents, but that this practice had stopped after March 9, 1991, the last serious attempt by the opposition at capturing power by revolutionary methods. Bogdanovic, who knows how to hit where it hurts most, said that the police were now following the money trail. It is a fact that regime members close to the cash tried to share the loot with their bitter opponents.

A large part of the ruling party is made up of state administrative employees. They are a traditionally conservative group, loyal to the regime that feeds them, corrupt, with a tendency to pilfer state property. This characteristic is not the mark of just one layer of society. When money stopped functioning last autumn, and many firms distributed food to their employees: oil, sugar, flour, it was noticed that scores of telephones had disappeared from the offices. The employees had stuffed the telephones into the sacks of sugar or flour, and taken them away unnoticed.

Sociologist Silvano Bolcic, who is a Philosophy professor at Belgrade University, says in the research work ``The new entrepreneurs in Serbia in the early 90ties,'' that of the new businessmen, every third one had held some kind of a ``managerial post'' (head of department, works, etc.,) and that every fifth businessman had ``worked in commerce and the public services,'' while 14% had worked earlier in the sales sector. From their former firms they brought with them business experience and contacts. It could be said that they have just continued their earlier activities within the social network in which they had once worked. In order to achieve success in business, it is very important to be inside the network.

Banditocracy is a new expression used increasingly to describe how the elite in authority ``participates in the situation.'' We heard one Belgrade sociologist use the expression ``kleptocracy,'' and there seem to be others too.

A year ago Serbian President Milosevic announced a battle against crime. The Serbian Ministry of the Interior still sticks to the claim that the situation is improving and that there is no organized crime. Criminal dossiers have not prevented several deputies from winning mandates, and there were cases when a man who had been received by the President, later ended up in jail. Criminals brag of having ``beaten sanctions,'' etc. There are some, and the author of this text is among them, who believe that half the problems would be resolved if Interpol, and not UNPROFOR, were involved in the Yugoslav crisis.

In his book ``Social clashesfrom class clashes to war conflicts,'' sociologist Zoran Vidojevic describes the ``war infrastructure of society,'' which is characterized by ``connections, interests, ideology and politics.'' It is made up of ``various lumpen categories'': the lumpenbourgeoisie, lumpenpolitocracy, lumpenproletariat and lumpenintelligentsia. ``What dangers will arise from numerous armed groups when the war ends? Will a new war be made possible, this time between different private armies, or the creation of a society based on organized crime with strongholds in the apparatus of authority? Will various secret politicalterrorist organizations and a ``domestic'' city and country guerrilla be formed and gain in power, considering that the social, political and ideological ground for their appearance already exists,'' writes Vidojevic. He believes that there is reason for the conclusion that three historical models of society could overlap and mix here: the Balkan, Latin American and Lebanese. Dragoljub Micunovic, head of the Democratic Party deputy group in the Yugoslav Assembly, has noticed a phenomenon seen in Latin Americathe apparently confronted members of the financial oligarchy, are in fact, members of an ``idyllic business club.'' Sociologist Bora Kuzmanovic (Democratic Party deputy in the Serbian Assembly) believes that a time is coming when political power and capital will unite, in the manner of ``Masonic links which are above ideology.''

After wider interethnic clashes have stopped, Vidojevic believes that the negative energy of social clashes could transfer to the nationstate, because that is when social misery, and deep social differences enter the scene, there is a polarization on the basis of war profiteers and war losers. ``The war postponed and pushed deeply into the backgroundthe battle for existencefood, work; however, repressed social clashes will boomerang with a greater backlash, not just when the war ends, but when it enters a phase of falling apart and a total exhaustion of all warring sides sets in.''

Vidojevic does not exclude the possibility that some sort of neoPraetorian Guard, made up from those returning from the front and from refugees might not be formed. It would be engaged by political leaders, but could also, dictate conditions to the authorities and blackmail top political leaders, putting them in office and dismissing them. ``The battle for booty and posts in the structure of the newly created authority, men made rich by war and those impoverished by it, these are consequences of all wars, including this one,'' said Vidojevic.

Vidojevic makes a special analysis of the behavior of legal armies as a strategic interest group. The loss of war is not just a moral defeat, but represents an introduction into total insecurity. This explains the aim of the professional military establishment at not stopping the war, regardless of the victims. ``A final victory'' is the end goal, regardless of the fact that a military victory is possible, and regardless of the consequences to the economy.

Vidojevic fears that the war which has taken the form of a interstate war (war between the federal state and certain republics), with strong elements of a religious conflict, could grow into a war of limited scope between members of the same nation. This eventual civil war would not have the character of a clash between the ``left'' and ``right'' political forces, a political revolution or a restoration. It would be an armed battle between extreme nationalist and profascist parties (their armed factions) and the nationalcentrist parties and movements.

Vidojevic is not the only one who has expressed a fear of a ``one nationality'' civil war. In his book ``The City and Death'' architect Bogdan Bogdanovic, in a text entitled ``The ritual killing of cities,'' fears that the so called ``urbicide'' will continue. ``I don't understand a military doctrine which urges as one of its main goals, and perhaps its main goal, the destruction of cities.''

``Sooner or later, the civilized world will shrug with indifference at our mutual butchering. What else can it do? But it will never forgive us the destruction of cities. We will beespecially, the Serbian side, we will be remembered as the destroyers of cities, the new Huns.'' The fate of Vukovar, Mostar, Bascarsija, are portents of the possible fate awaiting Belgrade. No, I don't think that some new, foreign destroyers will show up. Unfortunately, I am afraid of our master destroyers. Cities are not destroyed just from the outside and physically, they can also be destroyed from the inside and spiritually. The conquerors will become our fellowcitizens, they will purge the Serbian Sodom and Gomora of national heretics,'' writes Bogdanovic. Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic's daughter has already proclaimed Belgrade a corrupt city, lacking in national consciousness. The same is being done by rightist exhibitionists, some of whom are deeply involved in the war in Bosnia.

Biljana Plavsic, an official of Karadzic's state in Belgrade shouts in the company of Vladimir Zhirinovski, leader of the Russian profascist ``liberals,'' that the motherland cannot be in peace while the brethren are enslaved. Talking to VREME, sociologist Slobodan Inic said that ``it should not come as a surprise if those who carried out ethnic cleansing in BosniaHerzegovina, continued their activities in the socalled national motherland, following the logicwhat kind of a motherland is it, if it isn't ethnically pure. After a lot of vacillating, the authorities have brought to trial two men accused of war crimes (kidnapping, rape, butchering captives). Vidojevic does not exclude the possibility that a limited civil war in the territory of the ``third Yugoslavia,'' could, with time, take on the characteristics of a war between the impoverished and the rich segments of society, between the old and the new groups yielding power and money on the one hand, and the old and new proletariat on the other side, but also between parties of the traditional Communist and neoBolshevist (and similar) orientation and rightist civic parties and movements, between armed radical left and radical right political ideological sects. Elements of a civil war within different legal and illegal armies are also not excluded.

If it comes to a war of all against all, some kind of a military regime seems likely, and would temporarily enjoy wide support, said Vidojevic.

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