At first we were all captivated by the post-electoral mathematics, but then people somehow fell silent and it all became very mysterious. What is actually going on? One of the legitimate ways of talking about it is the emotionally-moral way. Some people are very sensitive to presence of the SPS in forming the government. That makes them feel some sort of moral repulsion, because it is clear that is not a European party. For instance, I reacted to the leveling of those two pains regarding Zoran Djindjic’s assassination and Milosevic’s death in The Hague.
I believe that the emotional component of politics is terribly important. Take, for instance, Obama’s success in the American primaries. He won because he appealed to the emotions of common people. Milosevic’s politics would be impossible without his ability to motivate people emotionally. The success of the Radical’s is based on capturing the emotion of anger in some people. Their anger does not necessarily have to do with the question of nation, which is the Radicals’ main subject, but rather with poverty and the refugee situation. Do you know that the refugees regularly voted for Racan over there, and here they voted for Seselj. Which means you act rationally there and you are helping Croatia defeat its nationalism, and when you come over here you are not trying to defeat Serbian nationalism, on the contrary – you are inflating it.
I wrote an article for the Helsinki Charter on Zoran Djindjic’s views on morality. I tried to disassemble the things which he was criticized most strongly for, from all possible sides, when he spoke about how those who want to deal with morality should go to church. He was accused for taking morality out of politics and for practicing vulgar Machiavellianism. In this article I showed that he did not mean it in that way, but that he tried to say that morality is not a constructive element in politics. Morality deals with the question of good and evil, and politics is constructed on other principles in a modern society.
But Serbian politics is largely dealing with the question of morality too, because of the wars, The Hague tribunal, the crimes that were committed. Many people here have a crisis of conscience, because they were breaking the principles of humanity. That is why the problems of this society also relate to morality.
During the nineties there were horrible crimes and people faced the question – what is the extent of my humanity? That is how we got a group of people who are very responsive, who became allergic to breaking the principles of morality, that is to say – of basic humanity.
When these discussions begin – what’s with the Albanians, who are the Serbs, the Croats – I say: “People, can’t you see that a black man is about to become President of America, and you are still asking who is what? Well, what difference does it make? We are all human beings first and foremost, are we not? Therefore, after huge breaches of moral principles during the wars of the nineties, it continued after October 5 and it culminated in Zoran Djindjic’s assassination. For those of us who are followers of Zoran Djidjic, this assassination is naturally a serious moral offence. I believe that this emotional and moral component that some of us carry into politics is of great controlling importance. We signalize when there is something wrong and now for instance, we are wondering whether this thing that is being formed can at all be a European government.
There is this other group of people which says – hold on, stop being the morality Taliban now, let us see what the reality is instead. Well all right, let’s see if there are indications that the people who won the last elections are acting European. The conclusion is pretty negative. Take Novi Sad for instance. They were the first to form the city government. I was surprised by the speed at which they divided the management positions in 15 public companies. I was left openmouthed, because they divided those companies in less than no time. Even the Socialists got one, despite not reaching the electoral quota, and Maja Gojkovic managed to keep the public service Informatika under someone from her ticket.
No one mentioned applications or the need to do reports on what happened in those companies in the previous period. When I studied the work of the Radical government in Novi Sad, I reached the conclusion that they managed to employ 956 people in 13 months and that the Democratic Party had employed 650 in the last 5 or 6 years that it was in power. It still remains our public good, but I see that no inspection will look that over and that no applications will be invited. The governing form remains completely the same.
Forty-six percent of our economy consists of public companies, and they make for a large part of employment. Our economy largely depends on those public companies. Biljana Srbljanovic’s whole campaign for mayor of Belgrade was based on the LDP’s insistence that these things must be brought to an end. Let me go back to one more piece of information from Novi Sad. Cedomir Popov, the man who was a defense witness at Milosevic’s trial, was reelected president of Matica srpska. And now you have to say to yourself – I will not moralize, I will not get excited, I will have no emotions, there, I will remain as cool as a cucumber. But I see that it is the same deal all over again and that the party state will continue crushing the state’s substance.
The parties really have a lot of power, and their leaders are slowly turning into real dictators. When those things would happen only in economy, we could say – oh, well, what can we do? But we know it stretches to the National Bank, to Jelasic who failed to stop base inflation, and he is also a party figure who can be replaced overnight. Listen, it is really a big issue. Let us say, for instance – Srbija sume, what do we know about what is being done with Srbija sume, we haven’t got a clue. But we see that the parties are recommending the judges for the Constitutional Court, that the Audit Commission still did not begin working, that there is no budget control. Dinkic ruined this budget, he gave Verko 30 million to buy himself Kragujevac. And Dinkic is constantly in power, he is the only one, you know, who was never in the opposition. He is the champion of buying political power.
Naturally, the man who introduced this strictly feudal principle to the government’s operation is Kostunica, not G17 Plus. The reason for that lies in his authentic inability to cooperate with anyone. He wanted to say – I’m only responsible for my part, others can do whatever they want. And he committed this dismantling of the state from within, and then all the others accepted this mechanism. Some of them proved to be virtuosos in this sort of combinatorics right away. It is not only about dividing the companies, but about the breakdown of the state. And there is no standard in sight that would straighten out the functioning of the state.
The parties will not give that up easily, taking away sovereignty from the citizens through Article 102 of the Constitution, enabling them to throw out any insubordinate deputy. The officials of the Serbian state are higher in number than the total administration of the SFRY. A bogus middle class was formed by the people who in fact are employees of the state. It is not a question of a pro-European or an anti-European government, but a question of taking the state apart, the state which is becoming a party state, whether the Radicals are in power or the Democrats or Socialists – simply, they are all acting the same way. So, you only have a shovel and the state. You are either going to go dig ditches or you are going to get a job with the state. It’s either the state or agriculture. That is why this party state grew so big. The leaders saw that it was a powerful instrument for staying in power.
But it seems to me that the parties have not penetrated the secret services and that they are not serving them. It is actually not clear who works for whom. The parties have not penetrated this underbelly of society, the army security services and the BIA. A few of those people may control something personally, but institutionally it is the parties that are knocking on their door, not the other way around. Lacanianly speaking, we feel that something is hidden from us behind the curtains. That makes it harder search for reality, which is what some sensible people recommend. The quest for a true Serbian reality begins with raising the question of the secret services.
I would describe this reality this way: Serbia is in a tragic situation, it is hanging on a thread and there is a large battle behind those curtains. We lowered our pro-European expectations to a minimum, because we see that it is not going all that well. The citizens dug out those votes and gave them to a pro-European government. By doing this more than anything else they said NO to Kostunica, and here Kostunica is not a last name of a particular individual, but a symbol of a national government. We feel a great tension between those two choices: either a national or a pro-European government. The question is why have those two choices came into this sort of opposition to one another. And why have we started to expect so little, concerning a European government, to the extent of agreeing to a government with the SPS. It is a huge pro-European electorate, but who knows what is on those people’s minds and what sort of different ideas are in their heads. But I think that what these million and a half people are sharing is the common impression of the nineties, of this terrible sacrifice, after which they finally decided to vote for a decent life. Their thinking does not extend any further than that. But they said – I’ll take Europe.
I got an invitation from a certain hotel to come to a luxury party. How should we dress? They say – luxuriously. How should my partner dress? Also luxuriously. You can see that those people are not only unwilling to go back to this misery which we all truly lived through, but that a middle class was formed and that they have money, sit in restaurants, order French wines – they really made themselves comfortable. There is not a chance that they should risk something for Kostunica’s experiments with Kosovo. They left the national question behind and declared it secondary.
I am reaching the conclusion that these elections have shown that the people primarily chose the improvement of the economic situation in Serbia and that this is the way they see Europe. That’s how it goes. Wherever you make a breakthrough, it pulls in everything else with it. The unemployment is still big in Serbia, but enough was done for Serbia to start losing that metaphysical component. This is where we go back to the main question of those agencies and this reality. To what extent will this government be pro-European we will see by its construction and we shall judge how far we made it to according to that. It is terribly important for this thin pro-European consensus we reached in Serbia, which is very fascinating to me. That means we still said NO to Serbian metaphysics. And we know what Serbian metaphysics is – it is the enclosure of a great Serbian national state. The people still said NO to this ideological metaphysics. That is why a small number of votes for this metaphysics – symbolized by Kostunica – is more important than the votes the pro-European side got.
This is also the metaphysics which Seselj uses in his defense in the Hague tribunal. He repeatedly shows that he is a Serbian fanatic, that he will always be ready to repeat the words he said in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993. Seselj also showed that he and Kostunica understand each other best. The Radical Party itself moved toward the center through Tomislav Nikolic and Seselj and Kostunica went to the extremes. These elections are promising in that sense and should be held onto firmly. And what should we do with the question whether this government will rehabilitate Milosevic? The thought of that rehabilitation brings back the picture of poverty and misery of the nineties. This misery was not innate. We are not some African society which was always in misery. No, we reached that misery because the people here were motivated to make sacrifices for the enclosure of the Serbian state.
When the question of Milosevic’s rehabilitation is raised, we should bring up the citizens which said that they do not want that. They would also like to avoid the consequences of this policy and they may still grieve the outcome of the Serbian theme, but they clearly said – “You know what? Don’t talk to us about it anymore. It is irrational that the story of a national state should be so harmful to my life.” This metaphysics in a truly fanatical sense still survives in Kostunica’s party. It survives in the Radical Party too, but mostly ritually. That is why Seselj nominated Kostunica for prime minister, and he did not consult Nikolic about it, but he bypassed him. Seselj named the one who deserves the nomination the most, by the standards of this metaphysics. It is not Toma Nikolic, who stepped into the reality of the Serbian society.
The Serbian metaphysics seriously survives behind this curtain, the secret services. There is no public control over them. These are black, closed boxes. Those services are the guards of Serbian metaphysics, of our national fantasies. Why would they be so secretive and guarded otherwise? Why would they not be dealing with common security? The parties have not succeeded in penetrating them and they don’t know what the answer of those agencies would be to the question of whether Serbia’s orientation should become pro-European. This is why after public negotiations about the government all news on this subject died down. All of a sudden everyone fell quiet and now we all reached this curtain.
Behind the curtain there is a dramatic struggle taking place, the details of which we can glimpse, but in which we cannot take part. We only see that there is a bloody battle taking place to keep the Serbian national question open. Kostunica’s whole story of Kosovo is a symptom of keeping the fire of this question alive. The moment that Serbia progresses toward the European Union, that side is done. There is no Serbian national question in the European Union, not ours, not anyone’s. They are aware of this and that is what all the drama is about. Two hundred years after Maricevic’s Ditch we should give that up and say – it is over, we are going to Europe and there we will work on this state.
It is still not clear. It is not clear to what extent the Serbian nocturnal fantasies survived in the cocoons of the powerful security services. When we are finally done with the Serbian metaphysics as an ideology, those agencies will transform themselves. The files will come out. This is the realism I speak for, not to get carried away with emotions, not to get carried away with moralizing, to be aware of this huge battle which is currently taking place and in which we are participating. We must not allow this minimal eagerness for Europe to dwindle, because this minimum is very large for Serbia.
We have to give up on the idea that Serbia will head toward Europe taking giant steps. However, every little step is very important for us and we can no longer play dumb, pretending that we don’t know that Serbia is under special circumstances. Today I read – Sonja Liht says – it’s like this everywhere during transition. Well, it is not. Serbia had a somewhat larger problem, because the cocoons of our national fantasies are still lying in the secret services. And the secret is – where did this surplus of secrecy practiced by those agencies come from? This is why they were always so important. They were always ideologized, and the parties always bowed down before them. That is why we are constantly having, as Aleksandar Molnar would say, rotational counterrevolutions. We carry out a revolution, so to speak, October 5, and the agencies come back.
It is high time to connect the activity of those agencies to ideology. If we do not make that connection we will not understand what is going on. The citizens played a major role in that. Kudos to the citizens for saying a loud NO to the secret services and their exponents in the political public. And to what extent will we be European? Well, we’ll see. We’ll keep fighting.
The question of rehabilitation for me always means – whether we will fall back into that ideology, whether it will be most important for us to drool over this fantasy of a Serbian national state. If we turn to Europe, we will have a real state, like the Czechs do. Maybe they would have liked to stay with Slovakia, who knows what the Hungarians are still dreaming of, but they are not going down that road. As for the fantasies in someone’s head, this effort to pull Serbia out of its nightmares reaches comical degrees. This can be seen through ambassadors in Belgrade.
I see that the British ambassador went to Jagodina, to Palma’s wax museum, the zoo and so on. He sure has seen some sights in Jagodina. Those people are no longer asking the price, I mean, they are totally lost. Well, since they are lost and when they are not asking what it costs, it must be something terribly valuable there. You can see that they lost all their ambassadorial manners, that they are saying – I’ll take whatever you got. And I saw Munter in the news yesterday, saying – if Serbia forms a pro-European government it will get a large financial aid from America. They surrounded us from all sides asking us to dig out this minimum. That is why I think we should all adorn ourselves, to ratify this agreement, to try and push things further, and to ease up on this other stuff.
Pescanik, Radio B92, 20.06.08.
Translated by Ivica Pavlovic
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).