Did Serbia swing to the right?


Of nationalism and egalitarianism

Western corporate media unanimously commented the electoral victory of Vojislav Seselj´s "Radical Party" (SRS) as a new nationalist upsurge and an imminent danger for the "emerging Serbian democracy". Already in the wake of the elections the West demonstrated its unconditional partisanship by the threats of Javier Solana. The former NATO secretary-general and today the European Union´s responsible for security matters and foreign affairs published an article in "Politika", Belgrade´s well-known daily, arguing that whoever casts his vote for the parties of the "war criminals" would push the county back into the isolation experienced in the 90s.

The "democratic threats" did not have any impact. The Serbs cast their ballots for the "enemies of democracy" despite the fact that they are well aware of the possible consequences. It is hardly by accident that the "admonishing voice of democracy" was the general secretary of NATO just when the county was bombed into democracy.

More than a quarter of the ballot belongs to the Radicals. Together with the "Socialist Party" of Slobodan Milosevic the anti-Western forces managed to gather about one third of the votes.

The pro-Western forces on the other hand are fragmented. The "Democratic Party" of former prime minister Zoran Djindjic, who was assassinated by his own praetorians by whose help he seized power three years earlier, got only 12%. A ridiculous result given the fact that the party has been the preferred instrument of imperialist interests. About the same proportion the ultra-liberalist propagandists "G17+" of Miroljub Labus, who keep beating the drums for the IMF shock therapy that devastated Eastern Europe and large parts of the capitalist periphery.

Only by understanding the ambiguous role of Vojislav Kostunica and his "Democratic Party of Serbia" the key to read the situation can be found. He provided the necessary mass consensus Djindjic needed to seize power, while Djindjic, known as a open apologist of the NATO aggression, remained largely unpopular. In return Kostunica was systematically excluded from power held by the clique directly linked to imperialism. Their manoeuvres defyed any standard of parliamentary democracy. The very fact that Kostunica was not held responsible for the policy pursued by Djindjic saved him his popularity. However, that does not change the fact that his opposition was a loyal one of words not of deeds. Thus he does not constitute any danger for the capitalist oligarchy.

Actually one can speak of a symbiosis despite the factionalism currently complicating the formation of a coalition government. There can be no doubt that the cooperation between the direct imperialist henchmen and their "better half" will continue under the pressure of the West even if the specific weight of the Djindjic group will decline. It is not to be excluded that the latter will completely degenerate into a mere lobby of a mafia clan.

Even if that what the West happens to call democracy is not directly threatened, a relevant socio-political opposition of the lower classes could consolidate. It is directed against the impact of the subordination under the imperialist world system:

1) The ultra-liberalist policy of the Western puppets in Belgrade has surrendered the biggest part of the country´s productive forces and resources to imperialist capital within the shortest period imaginable. The living standard of the lower and middle classes sharply plummeted, while a small layer of criminals – who often do not even bother to disguise themselves – have made incredible fortunes.

2) The public opinion has been more and more lamenting about the growing influence of the mafia on the state apparatus. Actually Djindjic was not pressed by the mafia, he himself was its head, heart and engine. As in all Eastern European countries – and as during the nascence of capitalism – the original accumulation of capital could only be carried out by criminal means. (In Russia, after a decade of wild enrichment, the capitalist state is trying only now to force the new capitalists under its legality.) Djindjic was assassinated by that very part of the coercive apparatus linked to the mafia which was instrumental for him to seize power. They rebelled against him when he intended to curb their power. In the media campaign following the attack as well as the stage-managed trial the blame was to be put on Milosevic. It is true that those groups had already emerged under Milosevic´s rule as a by-product of putatively controlled capitalist restoration. But those forces slipped out of control of the regime which opposed imperialism. They switched sides and became a core instrument in the struggle for a pro-imperialist regime. In this sense the murder of Djindjic turns out to be a suicide or patricide.

3) The ultra-liberalist regime claims to be democratic. However, it does not only continue to violate the most elementary rules of parliamentary democracy, precipitating the county into a permanent constitutional crisis. It also severely curbed elementary democratic rights – the very same rights which had been demanded from Milosevic who, different to today´s situation, more or less guaranteed its exercise. The media, which used to be split into a governmental and a pro-imperialist block, have been completely assimilated to the Western corporate media. Today there is simple no more oppositional media outlet. By imposing the state of emergency after the murder of Djindjic, which according to the rule of law must be considered as an inadequate, disproportionate and illegitimate measure, the remnants of opposition were not only muzzled but often even brought behind bars. Despite the fact that the state of emergency was lifted some of its provisions remain in force against which Amnesty International and even the European Community protested.

4) A special aspect of the restrictions of the basic democratic rights concerns national sovereignty. The West demands co-operation with the so-called tribunal of The Hague which was founded to retroactively justify the NATO aggression in front of international public opinion by forcing the Yugoslav and Serb side to admit their alleged guilt. The political defence conducted by Milosevic has severely tattered this attempt. In order to conclude with the pre-fabricated verdict the tribunal is more and more dismantling the fiction of a fair trial. Within Serbia the majority of the people reject the tribunal. Not only does the constitution interdict the extradition of citizens to The Hague, but also the constitutional court confirmed this ban in a ruling. Nevertheless the Western puppet regime succumbed to the pressure from The Hague and defied its own institutions with impunity. As reward new demands for extradition are issued combined with the US threat to freeze credit lines in case of contravention – and an end of extortion is not foreseeable.

5) A central momentum of unrest is the consolidation of the displacement of the Serbs from Kosovo, the ongoing NATO occupation and the de facto separation of Kosovo which according the Serb national sentiments is not only a integral part of Serbia but even the cradle of Serbdom. Especially Kostunica blamed Milosevic by means of a rhetoric national radicalism for the loss of Kosovo promising implicitly to recuperate the lost province. But insofar as he has been providing support to the NATO quislings he bears responsibility for the status quo. As soon as he will visibly assume political responsibility in a future government this covered contradiction will rise to the light of day.

Right wing ultra-nationalist?

As the condemnation of Milosevic by the West was unanimous from the right to the left, so it is with regard to Seselj – after all they had been forming common governments for years. Milosevic had been antagonized as a nationalist arsonist despite the fact that it were the federal republics longing for secession who embarked on the most rampant chauvinist nationalism and despite the fact that Serbia is the only remaining multinational republic of the Balkans. This was combined with a portion of anti-communism originating from the Cold War which expressed itself occasionally in the headlines of the yellow press by the denomination "Serbo-bolshevism". If Milosevic was branded as "nationalist", Seselj required comparison – "ultra-nationalist". Actually Seselj´s SRS is only demanding what has been granted to the revived or newly created nationalities by means of war – the right to national self-determination and consequently the unification of all Serb populated areas into one single state. A principle which necessarily must have let to the destruction of multi-national Yugoslavia – the intended result. Only the Serbs were denied this right. To keep the symmetry to Milosevic´s SPS the imperialist corporate media continuously calls Seselj´s SRS radical right wing or sometimes even fascist.

Here we are again at the so-called red-brown block which is detected wherever there is resistance against imperialism – lately we had to face this accusation with regard to Palestine and Iraq.

But even the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" (FAZ), which cannot be suspected of anti-imperialism, revealed its inability to cover up this contradiction. On December 26, 2003, FAZ quoted a Serb editorial: "The new parliament will be politically …‘more right wing´ but economically …‘more left wing´, an analyst said. As an example the SRS is mentioned, which is combining its greater Serbian rhetoric with populist advances in regard to economic policy promising to minimize the price of bread, to cancel the co-operation with the International Monetary Fond and not to privatise public enterprises. The new government will not be able to ignore the rising tide of nationalism and egalitarianism."

Here we are touching the core question: egalitarianism is the problem! Equality is, however, historically the programmatic centre of the left. That national self-determination and sovereignty (displayed as greater Serbian monster) is not welcomed by imperialism, is understandable as well.

Let´s rectify the analysis of the situation: On one hand Yugoslavia, after a comprehensive aggression ranging from embargo to war, was smashed into various vassal statelets. Eventually also in Belgrade a puppet regime was installed, implementing the full political submission and the merciless neo-liberal exploitation of the country. On the other hand among the Serbian popular classes there is significant opposition against the subordination under the imperialist world order. This is expressed by the rejection of the national fragmentation and the drive to reclaim the denied national sovereignty as well as by the demand for social justice.

For a long period the regime of Milosevic has been relying upon those socio-political forces. Eventually the resistance was broken by the interplay of external aggression and economic isolation, corruption and enrichment by the ruling bureaucracy in collusion with the new bourgeoisie as well as the instrumentalisation, the uncontrolled dynamics and the disappointment with regard to the Serb national question. Nevertheless the substrate of the anti-imperialist resistance remains there even after three years of neo-liberal desertification.

The electoral victory claimed by SRS is a strong sign of life of the resistance even if the explicitly socialist, Yugoslavist and sometimes also multi-national currents have withdrawn to the second line after they suffered so many defeats and disappointments. But as friend and foe admit, SRS and SPS are alimented from the same socio-political sources. The SRS might follow illusions of a moderated market economy and indulge in an utopian Serb national myth. But that does not render them neither "right wing" let alone "fascist". Even a victorious anti-capitalist revolution in a peripherical country will be constrained to make concessions to the market in order to survive under the conditions of extreme weakness. This is acceptable as long as they do not surrender to the imperialist bourgeoisie – which is exactly what the SRS promise to defy. Regarding nationalism the left of the European saloons is celebrating the alleged dissolution of nations into the global village. Meanwhile social chauvinism against the starvelings of the South is running high – especially when they mount resistance. Actually the SRS is by far less chauvinist when any political party of the European pi-polar political system. Not to speak of the very fact that the struggle for national sovereignty by peripherical and oppressed nations like Serbia is directed against the imperialist oligarchy led by the US and thus plays a progressive role.

SRS and SPS must be supported and defended by all forces standing for democracy and social equality for the lower classes (by the way classic demands of the left).

It is true that from SRS and SPS emerges a danger for the system which the West happens to call democracy. Therefore they waged war against Yugoslavia. As for the democracy as we read it, which according to Marx presupposes social equality, the menace rather stems from a possible re-integration of these forces. Sooner or later Kostunica will be worn out after having played the game of the multinationals, the IMF and NATO. The need for a new pillar of the neo-colonial regime will rise as is was the case all over Eastern Europe. Everywhere the old CP stepped into the breach – in Poland to such an extent that they even play the role of an occupation power in Iraq and that the former communist Kwasnieswki has good chances to be rewarded with the post of the secretary-general of NATO.

But for the time being Serbia has definitely made a step to the left!

Willi Langthaler
Vienna, January 1st, 2004