The system hasn’t changed compared to the previous government. What we have here is status quo. The performance is different and that is what I want to talk about in this article. What is Vucic’s version of that “parasite system”? It seems to be rather nihilistic. Its performers don’t believe that anything can change in Serbia, don’t want it to change, nor do they know what and how to change. Even when it appears that there are some goals, they turn out to be empty promises flung into the air almost routinely. The only thing we know for sure is that now it is their turn to cash-in. Vucic and his friends have social and economic ambition to promote themselves into the new bourgeoisie. In order to do that, they all contribute to Vucic’s personal campaign, because when things are good for him, they can improve their social status. But there is a price for that. And it will be paid by the citizens whose livelihood constantly deteriorates. It is paid by way of canceling critical public opinion which exposes the predatory government. It is also paid by way of undermining all institutions, so that awards and sanctions could be dished out arbitrarily.
Vucic likes to dress up in various costumes, but the stupidest of them all is costume of a liberal reformer. As soon as you reach into the pockets of the poor, that’s considered liberalism. It is amazing how much we adore fake liberalism. If you ask what kind of liberalism is based on personal dictatorship which has no regard for private property, you will be labeled a communist. So, the very anchor of liberalism is misplaced. That is why our institutions are completely unable to integrate all people as equal citizens. This government, just like the ones before it, chooses its true people. Once they do that, it is easy to spot the enemies of the people and the government. Without liberal democracy, all you have are believers and outcasts.
Without equal citizens, there is no market economy. It demands the same thing (only in a different domain): equality of all enterprises. So, we should once again remind ourselves that the fundamental malfunction of our society, now and before, is not located within the economy, but within the “higher” domains: despotic political rule which destroys stable and prosperous functioning of society, both downwards (in the economy) and upwards (universal norms and pacified values).
The threat of authoritarianism was not destroyed after October 5th 2000.We only gained electoral democracy and predatory privatization performed by the party state. Background powers, such as monopolies and uncontrolled power were not removed, and, therefore, institutions were not strengthened. We were promised, but did not get a liberal constitution, and without constitutional democracy, our fragile “electoral democracy” died. This is confirmed by stories of brute fighting over each municipal government (the last one took place in Majdanpek). There are no more fair or honest elections. What remains is only a demonstration of power in the struggle for party resources.
Totalitarian overlapping of the state, party and people is quite obvious now. In Vucic’s version of totalitarism, people are no longer perceived in existential terms. Vucic often complains about the Serbian people who, otherwise, he “loves more than anything in the world”. Vucic hates the Serbian mentality and seeks to change the mindset of the Serbian people, although they don’t really know what their mindset is or which message they are being sent. Therefore, Vucic’s true people are eroded and emptied of any essence. And without indication that this may lead to a constituent assembly and constitutional democracy.
When I thought about all this, I concluded that his true people consist of his voters. They are all those who vote for him, believing in his unlimited personal power which you should bow to, both for safety reasons and for opportunism and self-interest. Propaganda is the method of Vucic’s rule. He has reduced entire politics to propaganda in order to obtain and maintain his own power. That is his only goal. He would prefer to abolish elections and paralyzed political parties, but that’s not possible, not because of Serbian citizens, but because of external reasons. He destroyed all other political parties. He terminated the Kosovo myth, which destroyed the right-wing nationalist parties (DSS and SRS). Against DS he applied the left, i.e. revolutionary “class approach”: he accused them of being tycoonish, said that they had robbed the people and, therefore, must vanish from the political scene. Thus, we came from the multi-party ruling coalitions, which established a dictatorship of the (multi) party state, to a “Führer state”, i.e. the leader’s state (Aleksandar Molnar wrote about it in another context).
The leader’s propaganda has become the only political project. In this respect, Vucic is a successful propagandist and this seems to be the only thing he can do. He became his own chief promoter. It is no coincidence that in these circumstances, we only hear lies. Vucic’s each day is planned word for word, what he will say at press conferences, ensured to be constantly repeated on every TV station all day long. He managed to impose an atmosphere where everyone is constantly waiting for him to say something. Mannequins are replacing other mannequins.
The propaganda is so total, that even the reduction of salaries and pensions is part of the leader’s campaign. And that is not a small thing; people are afraid and wonder what will become of them. Salaries and pensions won’t be reduced by 20% as previously planned (he dismissed the ruthless minister Krstic), but only by 10%. Wait, we’re still working out the figures, it will only be a 5 to 8% decrease. But this is still unknown, until Vucic returns from China and says what the cut will be. Or he may decide not to reduce them at all. He hasn’t decided yet.
Who are the losers of the leader’s propaganda politics?
The answer seems to be obvious. The victim is freedom of expression, i.e. the critics of the leader’s propaganda. Critical media and journalists will be stopped. This includes the famous Second Serbia. Gathered around Pescanik, they criticized all authoritative governments, especially nationalist politics and wars of Milosevic’s era. This time Pescanik was the first to feel the might of the leader’s machinery. The targets were also the media who were in the forefront of the battle against Milosevic. Media supported by the Milosevic’s opposition – Studio B, B92, Vreme and Danas, even as some of them try to adapt, found themselves on the Vucic’s path. Studio B is completely disfigured under the guise of “modernizing” the local public service, and under the leadership of a new director and editor in chief Ivana Vucicevic. She said that Studio B is expected to be “fully remodeled program in accordance with the modern studio”. When asked about the fate of Studio B, she said, “we are ready for the competition… we started the process of privatization (in spite of Studio B being a public service) and expect to be positioned accordingly”. So, it wasn’t the leader’s machinery that cleared out all political programs from this TV station (Sarapa’s Problem, U centru, and Od A do S), but the dictate of commercialization, i.e. liberalism! It was the same with B92. All of their most popular shows are about to disappear: Utisak nedelje which has been airing for more than twenty years, Kaziprst, known for its sharpness, and the new satirical shows 24 minuta by Zoran Kesic. Insajder seems to have disappeared. Again the same “liberal” reason: B92 is to be merged with Prva, and both have already become commercial televisions. Here, I would like to add that Srdjan Skoro, a former journalist of Vecernje novosti, lost his job because he criticized the composition of Vucic’s government on RTS. The daily Danas was also punished, with a draconian fine of five million dinars.
By this strikes against the media freedom, covered by an alleged liberalism and modernization, Vucic has changed the structure and role of the media in Serbia. In developed democracies, citizens pay for a public service which, then, provides information, quality entertainment, education and culture. Commercial TV stations, which are also paid for, find their place in the market. Vucic’s main attack that went almost unnoticed was the abolition of RTS as a public service. RTS was not a real public service, but did maintain some level of quality until recently, and is now formally converted into state-owned, i.e. Vucic’s property. Besides that, he also took over the highly commercial TV Pink as his own private television. He linked it to his tabloids, so that the leader’s propaganda can be properly disseminated, by reading Informer on Pink and quoting Pink in Informer. The tabloids are spreading lies and violence, and then these are transferred into regular newspapers, first into the oldest Serbian newspaper – Politika. Those are the leader’s poisoners and the main pillar of propaganda policy. In return, important and private favors were done for the owner of Pink.
Who are the winners of the leader’s lying politics?
The question of winners is purely sociological. People in power have become the highest social class. They really have it all. They all got jobs at state institutions and enterprises. Members of the ruling class no longer drive Audis and Mercedeses, because they prefer helicopters. In the past, Serbian migrant workers used to buy a white Mercedes and keep it in front of the house. Now, the new class members go to weddings in helicopters, but also to Majdanpek, in the election campaign. Why should they use ruined Serbian roads?
The winners are best represented by their wives. Just look at Dragica Nikolic, the wife of the president Nikolic, what she looks like and what she does. She has become a real lady. She has a designed haircut. Clothing, handbags and shoes – all branded. She looks nice in her own way; she only wears first class. And President Nikolic has elegant suits. They have acquired considerable wealth, various houses, apartments, cars, and even built a church on their land in Bajcetina. When they are doing so well, why should I object.
It seems that the most fitting thing for the first lady is shopping. But she is more than just that. Like any first lady and a member of the highest social class, she founded her own charity called “Foundation Dragica Nikolic”. The foundation has built several homes for the flooded citizens, which is a success. The president praised his wife and said that the government should look up to her. It seems that he is right. The government has very poorly or not at all helped the flooded citizens. It hasn’t given anything to the people from Obrenovac; everywhere you can see destroyed houses, which wait for the winter along with their tenants.
The amount of donations for the flooded was not disclosed, nor how that money is spent, as was promised. This is why MP Zoran Zivkovic raised the question, and Vucic personally told him that all the information about the donations will be posted at the government’s website – on some Thursday.
The governor Jorgovanka Tabakovic has made great progress. No more of those jackets with pink flowers, no curly bun, she, too, has dressed up properly. She made the transition to gray and beige colors and straight hair. Although she is no expert in finance and monetary policy, she was given the position always reserved for the most qualified people in the field, thanks to party connections and the leader’s decision.
The important thing is that all of them are doing very well, so let the leader firmly hold the cover behind which runs his and his party colleagues’ rich and successful life. In the shade and without media harassment, they will become the new bourgeoisie and realize their lifelong dream to look classier than those from the Democratic Party.
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).