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New Series no.17/18 July - September 2000

Balance of Impotence
by Sonja Biserko

The actors on the Serbian political scene have been behaving these past months as if oblivious of the fact that Serbia is still diverging rapidly from the course of European integration, while the public discourse of both government and opposition is simply fossilizing the already dominant mind cast. This goes together with continued deliberate marginalization and obstruction of those who have always conceived Serbia differently. The established Serbian elite, now as before, has acquired positions at home and abroad and will be judged responsible both for preventing the articulation of an alternative and for the image of Serbs in the world and in the immediate neighbourhood.. `The quantity of verbal stench' is only an introduction to the worst possible scenarios for resolution of the Serbian crisis.

The current moves against Montenegro best illustrate the mechanism that destroyed the former and will also destroy the current Yugoslavia. The alteration almost overnight of the FRY constitution recalls the technique of `institutional and nonüinstitutional' destruction of SFRY. And the position of the opposition is just as transparent. It is committed to a state within which Montenegro will allegedly be an `equal partner'. But the truth is that Montenegro, given the nature of its geography and economy, cannot be an equal partner in any state association with Serbia alone. Only an independent Montenegro will be able to establish an equal relationship with Serbia ý something that is a natural interest for both peoples and both states.

Narcissism versus the Market

Under the pretext of `defending Yugoslavia', the regime has succeeded in eliminating all positive gains of SFRY that might have provided a basis for Serbia's democratic transformation. At the same time, its attempt to break Serbia's international isolation by way of the NonAligned Movement can best be described as grotesque. The nonaligned manifestly serve as a facade for what is actually resistance to the process of globalization, and a launchingpad for `another, true globalization that promotes the equality of nations and prevents the supremacy of any one nation or state.' The perception of globalization as `material weakening, and cultural and psychological ruin, of the weak' is rooted in a traditional antimarket orientation. As Aleksander Vulin [a leading member of JUL] has said, `the most important thing is to prevent the victory of the market idea, which generates social differences in accordance with the demands of the market.' This new Serbian philosophy contains not just a formula for overcoming isolation and growing poverty, but also its own kind of narcissism. This is shown convincingly by justice minister Dragoljub Jovankovic's claim: `FRY was bombed because some Western states cannot abide Serb Reason.' The crux of the matter is that Serbia is completing the ethnic state concept. This is evident in official and unofficial attitudes to the return of refugees, and in the treatment of minorities. In this sense, a decadeülong national policy can be said to have achieved its aim, regardless of the fact that its annexationist attack on Yugoslavia failed and Serbia suffered a defeat in that respect.

Serb nationalists continue to test their strength on the Kosovo issue. Kosovo remains the basic yardstick for measuring Serb nationalism. But regime and opposition alike are betting on the wrong card, since neither's strategy will prevent definitive loss of Kosovo. Bearing in mind all the schemes put forward in relation to Kosovo over the past ten years (its partition, its amputation to prevent Albanian demographic expansion into Serbia, and so on and so forth), it is clear that the current phase is a prelude to rounding off Serbia's borders. During the 20th century, in other words, Serbia has managed to gain Vojvodina ý which thanks to demographic engineering now for the first time has a Serb majority ý and by the same principle has lost Kosovo. This is the framework within which Serbia's territorial expansionism is being laid to rest. So criticisms of the regime for losing Serb Knin and Serb Sarajevo are unfounded and false; they merely illustrate the fact that the opposition has not yet given up the original project. From the point of view of the 1974 Constitution, Serbia with Vojvodina can be considered an optimal solution. The application of ethnic and historical principles launched from Belgrade has in this sense been confirmed. The same principles cannot be applied to Republika Srpska (i.e. BosniaüHerzegovina) or Macedonia, since there is no basis for doing so in the 1974 Constitution. The 1974 Constitution, moreover, is upheld by the international community.

Kostunica and his Sponsors

This is why the launching of Vojislav Kostunica as the opposition's presidential candidate, chosen by the same circles (the Academy, the Church) that previously launched Slobodan Milosevic, is only a waste of time. He is being built up as a `good nationalist', who `has never displayed the impulse of a pathological patriotism'. His attitude to the international community, however, is based on the same misunderstanding as that displayed by the regime, since he warns of `crucial aspects of international arrogance', but has never bothered to raise the question of Serb arrogance, which has ruined several million people ý including Serbs. Vojislav Kostunica is precisely someone who criticizes the regime for losing territories. As an eventual presidential candidate, will he promise the return of the same? And have the circles now backing Kostunica ever questioned the national project that has brought the Serbs to their present predicament? In short, are Vojislav Kostunica and his `programme' really an alternative for the Serb people?

The current activity of ruling coalition and opposition alike shows both sides busy preparing for the elections. The West's hope that, with its help, this opposition would win the voters' sympathy is once again proving unfounded. Hence the statement from the G8 summit in Tokyo that the FRY elections, given the circumstances, will not be genuine. The problem does not lie, however, in Milosevic's strength, as Western analysts insist, but in the country's peculiar moral collapse. The truth is that change would be possible, despite all the limiting circumstances (as was shown in the 1996 elections), if the voters were presented with a proper alternative. As things are, the regime is behaving logically, since it is concerned for its political and physical survival. The opposition, which has betrayed popular expectations, is driven by the same concerns. The resulting balance of impotence is condemning the country to a protracted atrophy.

This article has been translated from Helsinska Povelja 30/31, July-August 2000
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