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November 7, 1994
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 163
Stojan Cerovic's Diary

Exiting Backwards

The high school seniors' rebellion ended with their victory. The Minister of Education withdrew and bowed down before their wishes, so that the chance of students, workers, parties and even the Church joining the protest failed... Another aborted revolution.

Two and a half years ago the students demanded in vain that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic resign. The difference between these two protests points to a moral: if you want to win, then your demands must be modest. Better still if there are no political or financial demands, because we all know who conducts policy and that the coffers are empty. But in all other things this friendly regime is open to negotiations.

It is expected of us that we understand that this is a normal state in which everyone does his job, each knows his place, the will of the majority is respected, and nothing of importance is happening, just as if Hasek's Party of Moderate Progress Within the Limits of the Law were in power. Children who will yet be born will find it difficult to believe in the terrible battle that was fought here and of the forces of darkness which were defeated so that they might have a brighter future in a socialist, self-managing, non-aligned...

The fact that we live in an imitation of a state which was destroyed by the imitators isn't the worst possible thing. Or the fact that Milosevic is imitating Tito. The problem is that he is doing it badly. And worse still, that all that the majority of us can do is imitate our former lives without hope of reaching the quality of the original, something we weren't very proud of at the time. This is why it is a good thing to be young, not older than the high school graduates. He who doesn't know what is expected of him and what kind of a life he is expected to live can believe that all of this is fresh and new, and find joy in small victories.

Of course, those of us who have remained in the leftovers of the former Yugoslavia should be grateful that we have been offered the remnants of our old lives. Didn't Milosevic, with unheard of wisdom and skill, manage to dribble at the last moment, thus avoiding and averting the war which was about to break out? This natural disaster hit others and we learned that we shouldn't budge and to leave things be, especially Milosevic, because it is better to live a lie than not to live at all. Because, even if everything else is an illusion and an imitation, the corpses and the burned-out places in Bosnia are undeniably real.

But it is difficult to explain the paradox that so many people here were resigned and ready to accept as normal something so obviously twisted and wrong. It turns out that Milosevic managed to capture power which he never lost, in a war which was supposed to resemble the old revolution, but in reverse, and all the time he never waged this war, nor did he win any victories, and everything has remained as it was before, so that the building of socialism can start all over again. Perhaps it was possible to get out of the whole mess only by going backwards.

Professor Mihailo Markovic is with us again, half a century older, and holding a much more important post this time. I can't explain the fact that National Bank of Yugoslavia Governor Dragoslav Avramovic has invited the professor and Ms. Mirjana Markovic (the President's wife) to participate in one of the working groups drafting something like an economic program. The only explanation that comes to mind is an old man's sense of humor. I haven't managed to find any trace of ideological differences between these two ideologues who believe that the time of social justice has come - now that national justice has been successfully meted with beatings all round.

If I have understood correctly, the ideologues of this new socialism agree that privatization and a market economy showed their weaknesses in the old regime, which, by accident, was this same one. It became obvious that individuals were becoming inexcusably rich, that private banks were cheating and robbing the people, that the country's currency was being ruined and chaos created. The forces of socialism and the Left did not take part in this as a whole, only individually, each man for himself. But now the time has come to devote a little time to idealism.

Some people were simply born to be right all of the time and to profit from it. The little spat between Mirjana Markovic and Mihailo Markovic seems to have been smoothed out, and was only about who had been more in the right and longer, i.e. who was quicker to understand that the story of an all-Serb state was over and that it was time for socialism. The professor was a little slower, probably because of his age or because his former student was closer to the source. However it may be, they have now decided to pursue a restoration with joint forces.

Had these restorers arrived at their ideas of a controlled market and limited privatization by following some other road, had they once believed in liberal capitalism, lived in it and decided to spruce it up a bit, there would be no reason for criticism. The problem lies in the fact that people who have always believed that freedom can only lead people to evil are the very same people who wish to limit the market and private property. I suspect that they believe intimately that a surplus of freedom is the reason for this war and view Milosevic's pullout as the victory of state control and socialism.

We see that all things interlink, especially with socialism. But, in the meantime, some old business such as negotiations with Croatia has to be finished. Yugoslav Foreign Minister Vladislav Jovanovic has adopted a cautious stand and is certainly not authorized to hand Krajina over to Croatian President Franjo Tudjman before the latter has learned to control his vindictive impulses. It is not easy to sell out the local Serbs over there, so why shouldn't Milosevic pretend that he doesn't want to and never thought of doing so. I don't think that the world is pressuring him into going faster and further than he wishes to. Now that he has remembered socialism, Milosevic is no longer the world's biggest headache. But, I still don't understand Jovanovic's argument that Croatia cannot be recognized until it isn't recognized by all of its citizens. If this is the condition, then this Yugoslavia will be a long time waiting too. Compared to Croatia, there are at least five times as many citizens here who have a relationship of mutual non-recognition with the state. Even though we have been told that the war in Bosnia is no business of ours, I take the liberty of expressing sorrow over the victims and the losses, which have lately been mostly on the Serbian side. It seems that Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic is really angry because the Muslims and the Bosnian army rejected the peace he has been offering them for the past two and a half years; he says that he is going to start fighting again. Karadzic complains of defeatist propaganda and is threatening with court-martials. However, this looks more like panic and I wouldn't be surprised if small defeats turned into a speedy downfall and the disintegration of his army, so that that same anti-Serb international community will be forced to protect the unfortunate population of his pirate state.

Milosevic always knew when enough was enough and to pull out while he was still winning. It is a good thing for him that Karadzic didn't know how to follow in his footsteps. This way it has turned out that everything with the war was alright until this summer, i.e. that Karadzic and Bosnian Serb Commander General Ratko Mladic were the only ones waging the war, because Milosevic and Mirjana were busy with their garden and waiting for everybody to realize that the way out lay in socialism and peaceful coexistence.

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