Photo: Predrag Trokicic
Photo: Predrag Trokicic

For years, October 5th was celebrated in all media and marked with television specials, featuring competent people speaking about the event. These were mostly participants of October 5th and living witnesses of that historical date. I myself used to be invited on such programs, and I was also a participant in scientific meetings on this topic. I notice that as the years go by, shows and discussions about that event are less and less frequent. That’s easy to explain. Aleksandar Vucic and his boss, the leader of the Serbian Radical Party, Vojislav Seselj, were in power before October 5th in a coalition with Milosevic’s Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS). When Milosevic fell, his coalition partners Vucic and Seselj, and other radicals who held positions in Milosevic’s government, also fell from power.

For them, October 5th was and remains a hated date, so we should not expect Vucic’s media to be inclined to mark this date as a day of liberation from the autocratic, warmongering and criminogenic rule of Slobodan Milosevic and Mirjana Markovic. In that period, several murders were committed that have not been solved to this day, because their perpetrators are protected. And those perpetrators were the ruling couple, Milosevic-Markovic. Even to this day, we are not allowed to say out loud that the Serbian Lady Macbeth, just as if she had stepped out of Shakespeare’s play, was the one who ordered the murder of Slavko Curuvija and Ivan Stambolic, and probably also the attempted assassination of Vuk Draskovic on the Ibar highway. She managed state security through the family cop, Rade Markovic, whom she appointed head of state security after Stanisic was dismissed. The court process for the murder of Slavko Curuvija dragged on for 26 years, and only the direct perpetrators from the State Security Service have ever been sentenced.

With the coming to power of the Serbian Progressive Party and Aleksandar Vucic in 2012, the leading parties of October 5th collapsed and almost disappeared. For years, Vucic built his ascension on the alleged harm the previous governments did, presenting himself as the savior of Serbia from those who allegedly destroyed it, while he raised it to unimagined heights, into a golden age. Even now, after 11 years of absolute power, he does not fail to mention those former governments as the destroyers of Serbia, and to praise himself as the builder of the unprecedented progress of a country in which wages and pensions have never been higher. Everything before that has fallen into oblivion (such as the small detail that those previous governments had democratic elections), especially the hateful October 5th.

This year, N1 television surprised us when they invited Pavle Cicvaric, a student activist and speaker at the Serbia Against Violence protests, as a representative of the younger generation, and myself as a representative of the older the older generation – to talk not about the 5th but about the 6th of October, as something that is yet to come. I found myself in a situation where I didn’t know what to say about that mysterious October 6th. I thought it was the phantom date of an event that never happened. And somehow it keeps lingering as if it should have happened, but it didn’t, as if it was missed.

The only thing I came up with is just that: October 6th is an imagined and desired event that did not happen after October 5th, but could have happened. This confusion occurred because October 5th was not a revolution, but merely a repair that did bring about significant and important changes in Serbia, which was then under UN sanctions for almost eight years, expelled from all international institutions, including the United Nations. The reforms were related to the abolition of the autocratic and undemocratic rule of Milosevic, the introduction of democracy, civil and media freedoms, the exit from isolation and the return to the world and international organizations. This is what October 5th promised and mostly achieved, without the ability to establish the rule of law. It created an unconsolidated and unstable democratic order, with unsettled accounts with neighbors, war crimes and obligations to the Hague Tribunal. The biggest success was getting a candidacy for EU membership and the fact that all those accused of war crimes were handed over to the Hague Tribunal.

October 5th was not a revolution, and this is why October 6th couldn’t have been a radical break from the past. I wonder who the people saying that October 6th did not happen are. Maybe these are the angry protesters who stormed the Assembly and thought that a revolution was happening, only to realize the next day that it was not going to happen in their lifetime.

If we leave October 5th behind us, which was indeed a leap forward, but essentially one in continuity with Milosevic-Seselj’s national policy, the revolutionary October 6th has survived only as an idea on hold. As an imagined possibility. That’s what October 6th is. I couldn’t say that in the show with the young activist. That October 6th is left to his generation. It is up to them to realize the opportunity we missed – to make a clean break with the rule of the terrible past in Serbia.

Translated by Marijana Simic

Pešč, 17.10.2023.

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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).

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