A few days ago, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) offered a wise and useful proposal for a new political alliance to be formed, which would present an efficient opposition to the current ruling coalition. There is no reason to wonder why this proposal comes a year late: for decades, “Serbs” have been demonstrating that they have time to spare. Instead of that, we should ask ourselves who this alliance should consist of, and in what sense it would be the opposition to the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) and the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS). As it was to be expected, LDP’s offer was directed towards the Democratic Party (DS), and, as it was to be expected, the Democrats answered much less wisely. However, this does not mean that their answer was not useful. Namely, DS is, they said, willing to talk, but cannot see how these two ideologically significantly different parties – one social-democratic in orientation, the other liberal – could create a stronger alliance, and particularly some new political entity in the form of a new party.
Let us leave aside the fact that, in the Anglo-Saxon world, the phrase “liberal democracy” is sufficiently broad to include liberal egalitarianism, and thus cover approximately the same part of the field of political ideas for which the phrase “social-democracy” is used in continental Europe; additionally, social-democracy is based on the fundamental liberal values of freedom, equality and rule of law. This leads us to the conclusion that it is hard to establish a serious difference only from declarative ideological orientations, embodied in the names of the two parties. The fact that, in political practice, both parties clearly demonstrated that they are far from even an inkling of realization of the concepts implied by their names, speaks in favor of there being no real difference between them. Finally, the issue is pretty much tainted by the fact that the previous political activity of both DS and LDP differs only slightly from what SNS and SPS have been showing us the second summer in a row. The only significant difference between SNS on one side, and DS and LDP on the other, within this comprehensive neoliberal worldview, which the majority of domestic parties have succumbed to, consists of the firm will of SNS to confront its political predecessors and remove them from the political field for a long time.
Thus, it is nonetheless pleasing that DS, even if wrongly, refers to ideology and points to, in reality nonexistent, ideological differences. If anyone is Serbia really cares about creating a new political alliance, it must be built on clear ideological foundations. This, of course, does not mean offering a program on the “take it or leave it” basis. The new policy of a new political alliance would have to be created through negotiations of interested parties. Thus, who may wish to step up as the opposition to the incumbent government, as well as for what reasons, is also an important question. “The intuition” of a well-versed observer tells us that those parties could be LDP, DS, SDU (Social Democratic Union), and, of course, the New Party. What makes these parties close to each other? Similar positions of some of their more prominent members during the nineties? To some extent, this is the case; however, it has much more to do with individuals who missed a historical chance to change Serbia into a decent society in the first decade of the 21st century.
This chance was wasted because of the concessions, on one side, to “Serbian” nationalism (in this regard, the role of DS in a long line of pointless rehabilitations in the previous decade is rather illustrative – although these rehabilitations may not have significantly influenced the economical situation in the country, they did, to a large extent, determine the ideological landscape of Serbia today), and, on the other, to the brutal neo-liberal avariciousness of the members of the new political and economic elite. All these concessions were presented as necessary elements of a transitional politics and accepted without challenge, although no one was able to answer one simple question: transition towards what? Today, from the point of view of transition, SNS has proved to be a far more capable political force, which is both logical and expected: it has hatched from “the Serbian” nationalism, which is no stranger to the neo-liberal logics of “bare survival” – and in the name of survival, everything is allowed. If DS and LDP, with maybe certain other parties, continue to compete in “transition” with SNS, as they are doing right now, they should be immediately told that they stand no chance, and will lose this competition without a doubt. And maybe this should not make us too sad, if there wasn’t for the unfortunate circumstance that, in the lack of alternative to the incumbent government, Serbia is losing as well.
Thus, the new political alliance must clearly state that Serbia is not in any type of transition: it is simply an emerging state, which in turn makes it more appropriate to talk about “revolution” and call the new political alliance “a revolutionary” one. Revolution is here in quotation marks to immediately remove all speculations that any kind of violent overthrow of the regime is being advocated. On the contrary, it is simply about the fact that this country was never before a constitutional democracy, and the purpose of a new revolution, that is, a fundamental change, would be for Serbia to finally become this for the first time. In this process of defining a state, iron fences to protect us from the nationalist heritage of the nineties must immediately be built, as well as from the neoliberal assaults on the welfare state. This would be the ideological platform from which the new alliance could act.
In the practical sense, this means that the new political power would have to, for example, call for immediate elections for a constituent assembly. Additionally, it would have to advocate for practical, if not formal, recognition of Kosovo. It would also have to insist on severing all special ties with the Republic of Srpska (even if that entails amending the Dayton Constitution), while establishing such ties with all neighboring countries, in particular those with whom it shares the Yugoslav heritage. In the domain of ideology, this would entail the reevaluation of socialist and anti-fascist traditions, which this society practically renounced in the previous two decades. This orientation would then result in guidelines for the necessary changes in education and culture. Furthermore, the establishment of a plural society should be set as the final goal, that is, a society where citizens would not be divided into first and second rate citizens according to their ideological, ethnic, religious, sexual, class or other affiliations. Only such a political community could present a stable environment for economic renewal and the development of the state.
However, even if it were possible for several political parties to agree on such goals, and there is not much reason to believe it is, they would be faced with another, almost unachievable task: they would have to convince citizens that they have fundamentally changed ,and that they would thus not gamble away a new chance. We are left to hope: if the leading people of SNS managed to do it, maybe DS and LDP can manage to unite into a new party – The Civic Alliance of Serbia (GSS).
Translated by Bojana Obradovic
Dejan Ilić (1965, Zemun), urednik izdavačke kuće FABRIKA KNJIGA i časopisa REČ. Diplomirao je na Filološkom fakultetu u Beogradu, magistrirao na Programu za studije roda i kulture na Centralnoevropskom univerzitetu u Budimpešti i doktorirao na istom univerzitetu na Odseku za rodne studije. Objavio je zbirke eseja „Osam i po ogleda iz razumevanja“ (2008), „Tranziciona pravda i tumačenje književnosti: srpski primer“ (2011), „Škola za 'petparačke' priče: predlozi za drugačiji kurikulum“ (2016) i „Dva lica patriotizma“ (2016).