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October 24, 1994
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 161
Stojan Cerovic's Diary

The Smugglers' Revolution

After several years to the contrary, autumn in this bit of the former Yugoslavia is a dead season. There are no threats of new wars; no one is seceding or uniting; even inflation hasn't started seriously. Sanctions have been eased, so that we will probably be proclaimed the country with the mildest sanctions in the world. We might even get through the winter with heating and without elections, which means that Democratic Party (DS) leader Zoran Djindjic's trip to Greece and his visits to factories throughout Serbia were all a waste of time, while his appeals to politicians to make a public admission of all they have stolen fell on deaf ears.

Journalists who have become used to overdoses of events will now have to deal with withdrawal symptoms and start covering ordinary affairs such as the protection of public morals; like finding out who has an illegitimate child or a mistress. It seems that pupils are expected to go to school again, doctors to heal, writers to write and not babble about politics. Everything seems to have fallen into place. Even Serbian Radical Party (SRS) leader Vojislav Seselj is in jail.

Dates marking victories over Fascism are being marked with as much fervor as if they had been won yesterday. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic is inundated with medals for peace and freedom. It is as if this war for Yugoslavia's disintegration is that same one of long ago and revolutionary forces have once again won in Serbia. In fact, the regime waged war with itself. On the Serbian side, Milosevic led the Partisans and the Chetniks, the revolution and the counter revolution, the fascists and the anti-fascists, the Left and the Right, the old and the young. Some won in Serbia, others in Bosnia, so that the leader had to choose. This is how it has come about that Serbia is once more on the side of progress and peaceful coexistence, and the state is trying to reclaim all of the property that cunning private businessmen managed to spirit away.

And since the new war has ended like the old one, we can now expect a period of renewal and reconstruction. There is a certain similarity with the earlier period, but it is perverse and grotesque, just like similarities with the earlier war and those between Milosevic and Tito. I consider myself an expert on moral indignation and recognize everybody's right to such feelings, but it seems that we have, each in his way, become a part of the world's Postmodernist mess. I think that it would be very interesting to stand back and observe to what extent things can get even more complicated, regardless of what we may think of the matter.

Milosevic is pulling out of his adventure across the Drina River, as easily and naturally as one changes the subject of conversation. With the same facility and without being greatly shocked, the world has accepted his new story. It is impressive to see that no one in Serbia has managed to make a convincing issue out of his right to make such changes. Neither those who challenge the change nor those who challenged his earlier policies. Arguments put forth by war-loving patriots are as futile as those of consistent peace-makers. Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his affairs are no longer on the daily agenda. No one has managed to make a serious analysis of the consequences of the great turnabout.

It seems to me that the matter doesn't concern a shortness of memory, as many complain, inasmuch as a capacity to live with contradictions and to peacefully accept impossible combinations and total changes. This is only a partial legacy of the collapse of Communism, thanks to which many people have had to alter their identities and biographies. But, an inconsistent identity and life with contradictions are also part of man's global experience, of the so-called Postmodernist spirit, which in this case is contributing to an indifference towards Milosevic's impossible turnabout.

There! We are no longer talking about Bosnia and Krajina, but of Yugoslav National Bank Governor Dragoslav Avramovic's program which is supposed to symbolize the earlier period of renewal and reconstruction. It is expected that sanctions will drop off of their own accord, like dried-up scabs. Well, let's say that things do happen that way. I admit, however, that I still can't imagine how things can be put into some semblance of order here and I keep thinking that they should be, but this is probably due to an insufficiency of the Postmodernist spirit. This time renewal does not imply youth work brigades, but a return of trust in banks, stable money, clearly defined rules of the game, and a permanent solution of the property issue and a social consensus on the matter. Before this, there should be a general agreement on lasting borders and the basic elements concerning the organization of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Instead, and as the only guarantee of stability, we have Slobodan Milosevic. While he holds power, this is the way things will be. But this is not a sure thing because Milosevic has shown that he is capable of turning everything upside down and at the same time doing things the way he always has.

The country's name and symbols are not controversial, but it still remains to be seen if the western borders will soon be extended a bit. At any rate, many important forces have not abandoned the idea. On the other hand, this same state has not yet exhausted all potential for condensation, in favor of which there are also strong arguments. Montenegro's status is challenged thanks to thwarted Serbian expansionism abroad and for reasons related to Montenegro's sovereignty. It wouldn't be a good idea to bet on the longevity of the present delicate state of balance. And there's still Kosovo, with which none know what to do, even though all agree that it is Serbian. Finally, the issues of Vojvodina and Sandzak could also become exacerbated. Perhaps Avramovic should be regarded as an economic genius and miracle-maker, even if he does become a member of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences. But, I fail to understand how the economy can be stabilized and serious reconstruction planned in a country given to expanding and shrinking. Peristalsis promises to turn into a permanent state.

However, there do seem to be people who are not bothered by this, and who function perfectly in vague, undefined situations and changeable relations. In the system of stable criteria and values which we still follow, they belong to lower class people: dealers, smugglers, profiteers-all perfectly versed in the art of survival. They do not embark on grandiose schemes and they don't know what they'll be doing tomorrow. They carry out their business with one-move deals, which in these risky circumstances bring in great profits. If feelings of uncertainty over borders, wars, regimes, coups, secession and unification have become established, then Avramovic's program and the efforts of the Socialist authorities at reviving the vitality of socially-owned property and the launching of a cycle of development, will have been in vain. They can just patch things up temporarily and go from crisis to crisis. And all this time, the smugglers as the carriers of the inertia of chaos remain the foundation of the system.

It has turned out somehow that through the war for liberation, or the struggle for unification, or against fascism and the new world order, a smugglers' revolution has in fact been carried out. They wriggled through all party and ideological clashes, patriotic brouhaha, the war fever, sanctions and the blockade, taking advantage of the general mess and confusion to grab power. They belong to all parties at the same time, i.e. to none, depending upon circumstances. The important thing is to maintain speed and mobility and not allow anything to get stale.

As with the ruling class, the smugglers are happy with any borders or regime, all economic programs and all laws, on condition that people don't believe seriously in anything and don't have a feeling of security and order. In the smugglers' economic system, unlike in others, the only danger comes from things which threaten to last and not change, and so become the basis for establishing social trust. This is why the smugglers' class is using all means to undermine the foundations of the old, i.e. all, order and is attempting at setting up a system of changeable values.

I would say that in this sense pretty good results have been achieved in all fields. Try, for the sake of argument, to list all of the things, works and people who still seem fresh and not compromised. Or, better still, take a look at your own character and actions, and check to what extent you have been infected with the smugglers' psychology of resourcefulness, adaptability, trickery and small-time deals.

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