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April 1, 2000
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 432
How to Become a Socialist

One Salary - One Vote

by Zoran B. Nikolic

After the Fourth Congress of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), the newly elected members of the Main and Executive Board of this party dispersed around Serbia. The creation of district boards and municipal councils of Young Socialists is about to be concluded. The party officials at extended sessions elaborate on the conclusions and directives of the Congress. What are the Socialists in power aiming at? President of the Municipal Board of SPS of Ruma, Damjan Radenkovic says that the principal task in development of the party itself is the increase in the number of members 'in all structures, particularly in those with young people'. It is odd that the party which claims to have already gathered 'over 600,000 members', feels the necessity to increase the number of its supporters. Rejuvenation is a natural tendency, because with 'only' 100,000 members younger than 30, SPS belongs to the oldest parties in Serbia. In accordance with the decisions reached at the Congress, on the occasion of creating a council of Young Socialist, 58 new members were received to the party in Sremska Mitrovica only.

As far as political aims are concerned, Aleksandar Rastovic, the former president of Young Socialists, now a member of the Executive Board of the Main Board of SPS, employed in the communication with young people, says that the 'socially-economic sphere is the main preoccupation of all the Socialists' activities'. Having recently spoken in Novi Sad, Rastovic reminded his audience that the 'noticed part of the Congress's document was dedicated to the questions of young generations'. He said that one of the most important tasks of the party would be the realisation of the program of employment of 200,000 young people. 'It is our duty to employ young people', added Rastovic. Thus, the socialists of Novi Sad decided 'to secure', through the Employment Fund, 'the permanent employment of at least 50 educated people'.

The aims are praiseworthy, but the socialists would not be what they are if they did not remember that two birds can be killed with a single stone. The winning combination goes as follows: whoever becomes a member of SPS - secures himself a job. And, so far, not only in SPS, the party affiliation has played an important part in job allocation, but now the whole matter is a bit more systematised and organised. 'The Socialist Party is currently preoccupied with keeping records of its unemployed members, with the idea of providing them with employment', it was said to VREME by SPS. 'The endeavour is also directed towards granting scholarships to all students who are members of SPS'. When we attempted to obtain the official information about this from a municipal council, we were told that 'the officials of SPS do not exchange information with newspapers such as VREME, which are financed from sources unknown to them.

The campaign spread throughout Serbia. Many unemployed young people think about putting their signatures in favour of SPS. Those who have already signed the application forms for admission to this organisation, soon realise that, along with certain advantages, their membership imposes serious obligations on them. Those whom we interviewed really got their desired jobs, in the state administration or in a state firm. They can afford a holiday on the mountain of Zlatibor, for a very low price, paying in installments. They get the latest issue of 'Politika' daily every morning. There is more, depending on the president of municipal board. For example, on March 12th, in the premises of the municipal board in Belgrade, Velizar Djeric, the Federal Minister of Sport and president of the municipal board of SPS of Savski Venac, and a handball player Igor Butulja, president of the committee for sport of Young Socialists, distributed 500 free tickets for a football game Partizan - Obilic. 'This action of SPS of Savski Venac has the aim of returning the youth to Belgrade stadiums, in order to reawake their patriotism, i.e. to return the audience which loves its country and its national hymn', said Djeric. On the other side, meetings, duties in the party premises or the distribution of flour and sugar to pensioners appears as an obligation to all new members two or three times a week.

Soon after receiving a membership card, the new socialists are required to persuade some of their friends or relatives to join the party. 'Each member of SPS is obliged to procure new members to the party', says in the statute of SPS, article 11. The ideal solution would be to bring a group of friends to a party of Young Socialists. Such occasions are always open for admitting new members. 'I also wanted to register with them in order to get a job. But I gave up after I went to one of their parties', says a young man whose friend brought him to the party of Young Socialists. 'I would have had to spend all my time with those people, at work and in the party. Can you imagine that kind of life?'

That is not all that SPS does for young generations. On March 19th, Aleksandar Rastovic declared that the attitude of SPS is the following: 'we have to find the means for crediting the enormous building project and that is building the apartments for young married couples'. Where does this sudden care of the Socialists for the youth of Serbia come from? Neither this question remained without an answer: 'The results of local elections will be successful according to our endeavour to carry out the program of augmentation of our party', stated president of the socialists or Ruma, Damjan Radenkovic. Very precisely put.

Ever since last elections in 1997, about 500,000 citizens of Serbia reached maturity. The opposition counts on them as their potential voters, but it is known that a very small number of young people go to the elections in Serbia. Although some non-governmental organisations undertook the campaign for stimulating as many young people as possible to vote, SPS is using much more persuasive arguments. They are all aware that their jobs are guaranteed only if SPS wins at the elections. The Socialists, however, know that they can count with certainty only on the votes of those who are linked to them by personal interest.

There are new SPS members who are still hesitating whether to put their signature in favour of their party or not. However, after some time spent in the party, some changes are visible. 'A friend of mine was totally opposed to Slobodan Milosevic and his regime, but ever since she joined SPS and got a job, she behaves as if she has experienced some kind of enlightenment. She told me that the opponents of the regime kept the picture of Madelaine Albright in their offices', says a young woman from Belgrade.

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