Nalini Lasiewicz on Wed, 26 May 1999 20:50:13 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> [Denazification of society]

      date posted to nettime, not orig; reposted with

The first time I read something which describe a need for the
"denazification" of today's Serbia society, it was written near the end of
the forward to a book which analysed the 1997 elections in Serbia,
authored by scholars and researchers at the Committee for Human Rights in

The book is called The Radicalization of Serbian Soceity, published in

Submitted by
Nalini Lasiewicz

Radicalization of the political scene in Serbia, clearly manifested by the
presidential and parliamentary elections results, is a logical outcome of all
developments in the Serbian society in the past decade. The national 'Greater
Serbia' project articulated and orchestrated in late 80's, made Serbia
initiate the war which subsequently broke up Yugoslavia. That was the
response of the Serbian political and intellectual elite to the challenge of
transition then sweeping through the Eastern European countries. But due to
massive resistance of other Yugoslav peoples and international community the
Serbian attempt to forcibly change borders of the former republics (now
borders of the newly emerged Balkan states) failed, although the 'Greater
Serbia' project was not decisively defeated. This failed undertaking resulted
in an economic, political and moral devastation of the country, and the
mind-set formed in the aftermath of that devastation hindered a catharsis or
sobering up process.

The Dayton accord sanctioning the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina into two
entities, one of which is Republika Srpska, provided a psychological
justification that some of then projected goals in the B&H territory had been
attained. This is also due to the fact that the annexation of Republika
Srpska to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is treated as a deferred (until
Russia regains its strength,) but certain process. Thus this goal is
currently termed as "a patriotic goal" by the ruling regime, while its war
partner, the Radical Party pursues this objective through aggressive
nationalism. In such a milieu, determined by the red-black coalition, it was
not possible to tackle the key issues of the state of Serbia, notably the
issue of war and the respon-sibility for it. It is also questionable whether
any relevant political factor in the Serbian political arena was ready to
tackle such a delicate issue. Parallel dramatic developments in Republika
Srpska and Montenegro helped suppress a host of key issues in the
pre-election campaign. To put it more clearly, both Montenegro, as a federal
unit of the current Yugoslavia and Republica Srpska, to which the FRY
aspires, are still treated as a part of still unresolved national issue,
which in its gist was always- a territorial question.

Considering the fact that not a single program offering a vision of Serbia as
a truly modern and democratic state was advanced, the pre-election campaign
turned into a self-consuming exercise in mutual criticism and internal
showdowns. This in turn discouraged the electorate from voting.

The ballot-casting proceeded in a legal way, and only minor, negligible
irregularities were observed. However, the legitimacy of the elections was
called into question, in view of non-implementation of the Gonzales
Commission recommendations. But, in the light of character and level of the
political culture in this country, as well as the general climate, the full
implementation of the Gonzales recommendation could have easily brought about
a major victory of the Radical Party.

Despite all its traditional electoral advantages, notably its monopoly on the
major media, the Socialist Party of Serbia failed to ensure the parliamentary
majority. As it won even less seats in the republican parliament than in the
previous elections (December 1993,) it is obvious that the pro-SPS electorate
is dwindling. SPS credibility was not only badly hurt by its last year's
rigging of the local elections and three-month long civil protest and
rallies, but also by its renunciation of its proclaimed goals. One could say
that the SPS, as the ruling party, lost its identity because of its permanent
need to adjust to ever-changing circumstances and ever-increasing pressures.
On the one hand it was pressurized by the international community to comply
with the Dayton accord commitments, and on the other hand by potential social
tensions threatening to produce a total economic collapse.

Yugoslav Associated Left (JUL) continued to eat into SPS prestige, the
phenomenon which was even more striking in the previous elections. As a major
loser of the September 1997 elections, SPS can solve the crisis of its rule
either by forming a kind of ad hoc coalition with one of the two largest
parliamentary parties or by introducing some emergency measures.

The major winner of these elections was Vojislav Seselj, who defeated SPS
candidate, Zoran Lilic, in the presidential run-off elections. Practically he
is the only genuine contender in the forthcoming presidential elections (7
December). With 82 seats in the National Assembly of Serbia, the Serbian
Radical Party officially became the second-ranking party in Serbia. These
data most convincingly indicate overall radicalization of the society and its
ethnic homogenization, as the large majority of the Serbian population opted
for an ethnic state concept. What gives rise to particular concern are the
Radical Party gains in Sanjak and Vojvodina, and partly in Kosovo, that is,
in all ethically mixed areas. Hence the logical response of the minorities in
such mixed environments: they gave their votes unanimously to the parties
representing their interests. Such a political configuration makes Serbia a
complex and unstable society in the long run.

The fact that  Seselj stated immediately after the elections that "Radical
Party shall never renounce its program objective of making
"Karlobag-Ogulin-Karlovac-Virovitica Serbia's borders", was a warning that he
still adhered to his original concept. In addition to having designs on
tailoring the "Greater Serbia" borders, the Radical Party program declaration
lays a par-ticular stress on Kosovo. It advocates "implementation of all
measures which could quell the Albanian separatist rebellion" plus the ones
which would pre-vent any form of Kosovo-Metohija political and territorial
autonomy, help purge 360,000 Albanian emigrants, introduce ban on any state
subsidies to the Albanian minority, facilitate proclamation of war and
introduction of mil-itary rule, help disband local civic authorities. Seselj
clearly outlined his position on Kosovo: "Albanians will surely get a modem,
legal state and modem institutions, but all Albanians must be loyal citizens.
The disloyal ones, and those whose names are not in the birth registers,
should leave the territory of Kosovo."

In the period preceding the disintegration of Yugoslavia, this program which
was originally articulated and championed by the Serbian intellectual elite,
was also an informal program of the Serbian regime. Serbian Radical Party was
established as a radical wing of SPS, and as the most authentic interpreter'
of SPS policy. This program was the linchpin of the 'Greater Serbia' project.

In the last parliamentary and presidential elections the Serbian Renewal
Movement (SPO) for the first time accepted the rules of the existing
political game and plunged into it without its coalition partners. By
emerging as a third-ranking party in the post-election period, SPO and Vuk
Draskovic fully verified its (his) real political strength. It won the
largest number of votes in central Serbia, that is, in Sumadija.

The Vojvodina Coalition failed to achieve its announced minimum of 7 seats
(it won only 4) in the National Assembly of Serbia. Such a scant result is
due to the homogenization of the Serbian electorate, which found Radicals'
offers more attractive. in such an environment the Vojvodina Coalition could
not score better. This in turn indicates that the regionalization trend, the
most democratic and modern European option, has not caught root in the
Serbian society. Added to that the Vojvodina Coalition manifested the same
weak-nesses of which were possessed other opposition parties in Serbia. It
now faces the genuine challenge of self-transformation and
self-strengthening. The Sanjak Coalition decided to stay away from the polls,
as it had little to hope for, in view of Ugljanin's electoral clout.

Minority parties in Vojvodina, notably the Hungarian ones, were
mar-ginalized, largely because of their own fragmentation. The latter process
was largely supported by the regime, which feared that a single, strong
minority party would stand better chances of winning a larger number of
parliamentary seats.

The electoral boycott by a part of the opposition, whose most agile and
influential representative was Democratic Party and its leader Zoran
Djindjic, essentially failed; even without their participation the
newly-elected parlia-ment was given legitimacy, alike in previous instances,
by the number of the parties who went to the polls and by the total voters'
turnout. However the rift within the Zajedno coalition, which in the final
stage morphed into an outright division between the pro-boycott and
anti-boycott parties, contributed to the tidying up of the Serbian political
scene. A semblance of the democratic potential created in the wake of the
1996 local elections triumph of the Zajedno Coalition, and particularly in
the light of massive and months long protests in Belgrade and other Serbian
towns against the rigging attempt of the regime, disappeared. Persistent
strife between SPO and DP blurred the picture, as it produced an effect that
a chance to do something was becoming increasingly elusive only because of
this discord. This dilemma has finally been removed, and this is, in its
essence, a positive outcome, as it enables a full insight into the mind-set
of this society.

Radicalization trend will in all probability continue, and consequently
constitute an additional threat to the minorities, particularly in Sanjak and
Vojvodina. It will be probably fueled by a humiliating status of refugees,
systematically settled in those parts of the country. Judging by recent
frequent conflicts between marginal groups, such as Skinheads and the Romany
population, and political assassinations of the closest collaborators of
Slobodan Milosevic, violence is obviously on the rise.

External isolation and self-imposed isolation of the Serbian society,
particularly the spiritual one, has distanced Serbia from the world, and that
gap will not be bridged easily and swiftly. Younger generations, excluded
from international developments and trends, have modeled themselves on
examples of extreme and militant nationalism. We are talking about
generations which did not have a chance to communicate not only with other
youngsters in Europe, but also with their next-door neighbors, young
Albanians. Hence, their striking autism. There is also a continuing brain
drain, notably of technical faculties' majors, who see no future in Serbia.
Implosion of educational system and growing pauperization will hardly ensure
the renewal of human resources in the field of education and schooling, a
necessary requisite of the society's recovery. The fact that Serbia was not
defeated in the last war, will additionally slow down the process of
de-nazification. Democratic forces in the country are minor and fragile, and
there is no strong internal stimulus to provoke owning up of the country's
past misdeeds. As the things stand now, Serbia will have to create by itself
a civil society which would bring about the necessary changes. In that
process intellectuals will play a major role, but unfortunately they are the
strata most reluctant to face up to the near past.

Internal resistance to the process of fascization ought to be linked to
international engagement. As internal democratic forces are insignificant and
fragile, it is necessary to implement a comprehensive, long-term program,
urging above all the owning up of the  past events, and then, the
establishment of value system and standards of conduct leading to the full
democratization. That is why the absence of international engagement is a
negative aspect of internationalization.

Sonja Biserko
Seska Stanoilovic

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