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December 7, 1996
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 270
Interview: Professor Dr. Mladen Lazic, sociologist

The Protest is a Question of Honor

by Perica Vucinic

We are talking to Dr. Mladen Lazic, a professor of sociology at the School of Philosophy in Belgrade, immediately following the meeting of the Initiative Board for the Defense of Democracy at the Belgrade University. Along with professors Slobodanka Turajlic, Ljubisa Rajic and Goran Milicevic, Lazic is one of the initiators of the Board which stands as the newest articulation of the professors displeasure with the situation at the University and the society in general. We ask professor Lazic from whom and from what does the Board have to defend democracy at the University?

LAZIC: This Board was founded in a relatively non-autonomous way in the sense that it appeared as a reaction to the student protest. Therefore, the very idea was imposed from outside, which does not mean that the need for such an initiative did not exist earlier. Until now, people from the University relied on the fact that the political system shall, by certain aspects of it's autonomous mechanisms, gradually lead towards a true establishment of democratic relations in society.

The election theft showed that we should definitely not expect such a development of events. The prediction came true that the ruling structures shall endeavor to hinder the establishment of a democratic system by any means. The fact of their electoral defeat at the critical spots for the regime provoked a reaction of violent suffocation of the development of democracy. Following a clear confirmation that we cannot expect a development of democratic relations in society it was logical that wide social protests would appear as it was logical that such an initiative should be set in motion at the University.

Today we have three parallel protests: the protest which is organized by the coalition Zajedno, the student protest and the protest of the professors...

Yes. There is a connection amongst all those occurrences. The party and their sympathizers were the first to react in relation to what directly concerned them: the theft of the mandates as arranged by the government. The student movement, even though it has declared in it's goals that it supports only one of the demands of those parties, i.e. that it is against annulling the results of the votes of the second round of elections, is somewhat wider, since by it's non-party announcements it has been determined as a broader social movement, broader in the sense of wishing to defend the actual legal procedure. Therefore, it supports constitutionality and legality per se, regardless of the actual cause of that protest.

When word is of the initiative of the university professors, in their declaration they have clearly stated that for them this student protest stands only as cause for broader and long-term activities, which has in mind specific goals - attaining an autonomy of the University - yet it does not wish to and cannot disconnect itself from a broader process of social transformation. Word is of creating a general social situation in which the University itself can only exist in a rational manner, which means, to generate knowledge and turn out people who can turn out further knowledge.

We have one cause and three protests. It seems as though a great fear exists amongst the students and professors that their protests could be identified with the protest of the Coalition. Why such caution?

Two elements exist here, something which could be termed as a compilation of fear and caution, taking into account the accurate assumption of the government's intention to identify and eliminate the cause of the protest by reducing it to narrowly defined political activities connected to certain interest groups which in this case are parties. Fear, concern and caution exist, yet on the other hand a consciousness also exists that events which have caused the protests are only one manifestation, one form of the broader nature of the regime.

By attaching ourselves to the parties, we would remove from the public eye the deeper reasons behind that very event as well as the obstruction of the social transformation which has been in effect for the last five-six years in Serbia.

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