Social phenomena are never fixed like objects. It’s because the social differs from the natural in that it is a construct of the inter-subjective actions of people. Still, although it seems that everything depends on us, which is true to some extent due to that voluntary element of social action, people’s actions are guided by tradition, i.e. dominant institutions, cultural and religious values. Serbia is changing slowly and painfully, which is illustrated by its struggle with the same problems for the last two centuries. This prevents it from becoming a developed and democratic society. The problem of Kosovo and the national issue are an eternal obstacle, just like the omnipotence of the state, economic underdevelopment, poor education and health and constant wandering between the east and the west. These constants are resisting the efforts of modern and democratic society, but it doesn’t mean that change is impossible and that small steps should be underestimated.
For isolated, apostate and exhausted Serbia, the changes of October 5th were liberating and shouldn’t be placed together with the mistakes made during the post-October 5th transition process. Canceling this important civilizational shift can be considered politicking, used by someone to ask for a new beginning. That step forward towards liberty and new opportunities is now being dramatically negated by the opponents of October 5th. How is this demonstrated? By the fact that the line which separates barbarism from civilization is broken; the line which forbids both moral and physical violence within social relations. The ruling paradigm which says that the current government should be considered in continuity with the former (“former governments did everything that Vucic does”) – isn’t true and must be discarded. The fight against partocracy, the non-transparent and destructive power of the ruling parties, is no longer the only battlefield. Now the fight has shifted towards the defense of basic human dignity, which we thought was already won.
The main mistake of the DOS government was that it started the privatization process before the rule of law was established. The legal state is the essence of modern society, because it separates and limits the two strongest social forces – money and power. When this border is gone, all talk of market economy is in vain – an oligarchic (partocratic) structure of society, demonstrated by the link between power and money, is what we get in practice. And that is the kind of typical transition bastard we see in Ukraine, Russia and many other failed transitions. This mistake could not have been avoided because we didn’t have the appropriate tradition memorized within the institutions. If that doesn’t exist, there are no actors to implement changes within the social system. Had the radicals been in power instead of DOS, there is no way that the privatization would’ve been more successful and less corrupt. It would have been even worse. And besides the radicals, there was no one else outside the power at that time, which means that corrupt privatizations couldn’t have been avoided. If we didn’t have the value and normative resources, it’s difficult to complain about those failures without unveiling the low capacities of our society. However, that complaint was made and directed at the Democratic Party, since we expected the most from it. We are still not sure whether it has heard and seriously considered that complaint.
From the current perspective, transitional issues caused by the continuity of all governments since the fall of the Berlin wall (Milosevic-DOS-DSS-DS-SNS) can’t be the only and main political issue anymore. Also, we can’t allow the story of continuity to cover up the fact that there’s been a systemic discontinuity, uncovered by the case of ombudsman Sasa Jankovic. After that case nothing will ever be the same. October 5th helped us climb aboard the ship of civilized humanity, and now we have fallen back into barbarism. It seems to me that we’ve never seen such public torture and destruction of an institution and a man acting as an independent state official. Miroslav Hadzic already wrote about this on Pescanik. This may remind someone of Goli otok gulag, although I’m not sure that such a comparison is adequate and helpful for understanding the present times. What I’m trying to say is that the way that the current government is torturing the ombudsman is not inherited from the previous government. It doesn’t have a revolutionary form, but is only about the primitives in power who have turned the state and the media into their own private stick.
The discontinuity I’m talking about is evident in the destruction of civil (peacetime) life within the society. The government has declared a war against public morals, opposition, criticism, the common sense and integrity of any individual, obedient or disobedient. Anyone can be morally degraded and put on the front page of Informer as it’s been done for the past three years. Now, connected with the ombudsman’s case, it was done to actress Bojana Maljevic. She is accused of stealing EUR 300,000, simply because she spoke out against Vucic’s torture of ombudsman Jankovic. Determined to speak her mind, Bojana Maljevic wrote on her blog that she wants to preserve her moral integrity, so that she can look her sons in the eyes.
VBA officers were also attacked by Vucic’s phalanx. Also in order to destroy the ombudsman. They were cooperating with the ombudsman who continued to control this agency, as is their duty. On May 6th, minister Gasic was waiting for the ombudsman in the VBA. It seems that the only reason he was there was to prevent the ombudsman from doing his job. Before Jankovic was chased out of the VBA with insults and curse words, general Petar Cvetkovic showed him a confidential document with detailed statements of three citizens about the incident in which Andrej Vucic, prime minister Vucic’s brother and several other persons were injured. He showed him that top secret document which the VBA failed to submit to the public prosecutor’s office or inform it about its content. General Cvetkovic informed the ombudsman that “he got the order to engage the VBA for the Pride Parade from minister Gasic verbally, a couple of days before the event”; the written order was delivered later. According to the media, minister Gasic’s behavior was beyond any institutional and basic decency, which caused Jankovic to leave the meeting with the VBA director.
Imagine the power, threats and pressure which must have been used to make general Petar Cvetkovic say, on May 7th, that it’s a lie that minister Gasic was violent, insulted Jankovic and prevented the ombudsman from doing his job. He also said that the document Jankovic speaks of and which was presented to him doesn’t exist. Simply, everything we saw in the media on May 6th was denied the day after. What happened didn’t happen!
The lies, physical and moral violence used by Vucic’s government destroys the normal and peacetime lives of the society and people. Vucic won’t win this inner war which he started against civilized life. But, as long as it lasts, there is no point in hoping for the success of economic reforms and expecting better days. It’s been said many times before – without political changes, democratic freedoms and a legal state, no reforms are possible. That’s why our number one priority should be the fight against the anti-civilized government of Aleksandar Vucic, which is destroying already-won freedoms, as well as the chances for a better life of its citizens.
Translated by Marijana Simic
Vesna Pešić, političarka, borkinja za ljudska prava i antiratna aktivistkinja, sociološkinja. Diplomirala na Filozofskom fakultetu u Beogradu, doktorirala na Pravnom, radila u Institutu za društvene nauke i Institutu za filozofiju i društvenu teoriju, bila profesorka sociologije. Od 70-ih pripada peticionaškom pokretu, 1982. bila zatvarana sa grupom disidenata. 1985. osnivačica Jugoslovenskog helsinškog komiteta. 1989. članica Udruženja za jugoslovensku demokratsku inicijativu. 1991. članica Evropskog pokreta u Jugoslaviji. 1991. osniva Centar za antiratnu akciju, prvu mirovnu organizaciju u Srbiji. 1992-1999. osnivačica i predsednica Građanskog saveza Srbije (GSS), nastalog ujedinjenjem Republikanskog kluba i Reformske stranke, sukcesora Saveza reformskih snaga Jugoslavije Ante Markovića. 1993-1997. jedna od vođa Koalicije Zajedno (sa Zoranom Đinđićem i Vukom Draškovićem). 2001-2005. ambasadorka SR Jugoslavije, pa SCG u Meksiku. Posle gašenja GSS 2007, njegovim prelaskom u Liberalno-demokratsku partiju (LDP), do 2011. predsednica Političkog saveta LDP-a, kada napušta ovu partiju. Narodna poslanica (1993-1997, 2007-2012).