The possibility to form a democratic government or a government of democratic forces in Vojvodina is important in psychological sense, but the fact is that it has not any epochal significance because, simply, the provincial nomenclature has no serious political authority so that it is not of any crucial importance who will rule the Province. This is due to a simple reason that a dramatic question has been opened, from “omnibus” onward, whether Vojvodina exists at all except as a geological concept. Does Vojvodina really exist as political society within the framework of Serbian political society? Because Vojvodina is possible only as an organized political community that has jurisdiction to exercise power.
VOJVODINA OR A STORY ABOUT ELECTIONS
Teofil Pančić, journalist
Mirko Đorđević, publicist
Milenko Perović, philosopher
Alpar Lošonc, sociologist
Moderator Dinko Gruhonjić, IJAV’s president
Theater Dobrica Milutinović, Sremska Mitrovica
Thursday, May 22nd, 2008, at 07.00 p.m. (19.00h)
Dinko Gruhonjić: Good evening. Today’s panel discussion deals with currently more than actual topic – the election results and the post-election combinations. In the first place we are dealing with Vojvodina that, which is now obvious, voted clearly and had its say. As regards Republic nothing is clear there at all or it is, possibly, all clear but they hide it from us. Expecting now the second round of the provincial ballots I invite Prof. Milenko Perović to tell us his impressions – where we are coming from and where we are going to. Please, Mr. Perović!
Milenko Perović: It is not easy to answer this question especially in the situation in which we live, with this edgy uncertainty about big deals now made in order to form new government and the provincial government and the local governments in the great number of towns throughout Serbia.
Some two months ago, I think, we organized a similar panel in Kula, before elections, and there I predicted, I sort of anticipated, and I was really unhappy that this anticipation in a great measure proved true, when I answered a question how I would evaluate the outcome of approaching elections and said that I didn’t expect any epochal and fundamental change in the political constellation of Serbia, therefore neither in the constitution of government, It is simply because during one year that had passed from the previous parliamentary elections not one of those crucial factors that constitute the political scene and model the protagonists and the possible combinations of the future participants in power – none of these has changed! During one year there was no change either in those deep tycoon layers that from background run economy and in a good measure also the political constellation of society, in certain services that also run from background certain processes all these haven’t changed, and not only that there were no changes during one year but they actually haven’t changed for some fifty years. And then, neither the political representatives of certain political ideas on the political scene of Serbia changed. That’s why, in my opinion, we have got results we could have absolutely expected.
Of course, that very election evening and those several days after elections created a sort of impression, an illusion that democratic or pro-European forces have won the elections. However, I guess it is already clear to everyone, that elementary mathematical operation shows that essentially it is not so. It is evident that the Democratic Party (DS) has achieved a great success and has made a big move forward, actually that it has won the elections with its coalitions but not enough to, in the state of Serbia, finally strategically rule, not only in the sense that they can form a new government or to become a hub of new government but neither it is so in the technical sense, tactically, it cannot form a new government. And thus we are now in the most incredible historical situation that on one party, or one interest group, once the ruling power in the state of Serbia that had completely ruined it, now depends the course the state of Serbia would take.
Why so? In the historical sense such a situation is not unusual, because from this perspective, during these eight years, it has been evident in this or that way that the so-called great 2000 October 5th coup, actually, in its essence, wasn’t coup, because actually after October 5th a kind of symbiosis took place between the former ruling groups and new groups. I have recently read somewhere, I think it was in Danas daily, one dialogue between the late Đinđić and Žižek, it was in 1999, in time when Milošević was relatively in the height of power, and it was for, I think, Suddeutsche Zeitung, which Đinđić ended with an unbelievable anticipation that subsequently was, in my opinion, fully confirmed during these eight years – that the fall, the nominal fall of Milošević or the collapse of regime of the personal rule of Milošević might bring no any fundamental change to Serbia, meaning that a part of protagonists in Milošević’s regime may disappear from the historical stage but that the essential functioning of Milošević’s political organization may continue in a sort of an unbelievable symbiosis between the protagonists of Milošević’s regime and those others who then, in 1999, were its opposition.
This is what actually has been happening all these years and is happening today. Thus October 5th didn’t lead to any necessary changes in the state of Serbia to be qualified as a really historical overturn. As from historical stage in the state of Serbia, those political groups and those deep-rooted organizations that were behind these groups that had led Serbia in 2000 to a disastrous historical position, probably the most stressful historical situation ever in Serbia’s history are not being purged. And when such a radical overturn isn’t complete then it is not historically unexpected that the so-called old forces against which this coup had been effected survive in this or that way, wait for their time and re-establish themselves in this or that way as the crucial factors on the political scene. Actually this is what happened and we today, after these elections, have just such a situation in which attempts are being made to design political development of the country by creating an unbelievable gemischt made of old Milošević’s political forces and the new democratic forces, which are less and less democratic and in many elements are more and more non-democratic. This means more and more inclined to dirty, utilitarian political calculations in which the leading political ideas in the state of Serbia are lost. Thus, Serbia hovers eight years. And after these elections, it still hovers and is still in a state of hanging over.
Of course I am not a prophet to be able to predict either who or how or in what way will exercise pressure on the group around the Socialists (Party of Serbia -SPS), around Dačić, who will be the first to grab a bride and with her help form the government. As it seems, this will be the so-called patriotic group, and then it will be clear in which direction Serbia goes. Even if, in my opinion, the Democratic Party somehow manages to persuade this group around the Socialists to form a government together this will be a problematic government to the utmost, it will be again a kind of feudal government, the government in which ministries are being assigned like feuds, the government which I think will not be able to lead a serious and consistent policy so that, simply, my anticipations are not very optimistic regardless of the final outcome of this negotiations about constitution of the government.
Regarding the provincial elections – I wouldn’t like to speak too long and take too much time – in my opinion they are not of any epochal importance either for Serbia or even Vojvodina. Why? Simply because the provincial governmental nomenclature has no any key leverage neither according to the Constitution of the state of Serbia nor according to the legacy of that famous omnibus-law – nor they have political or financial or economic or cultural or any leverage to be able in any way to have more serious influence on the organization of life in Vojvodina in whole or in any region of Vojvodina. In a way, the third possibility of forming a democratic government or a government of democratic forces in Vojvodina, is important in a psychological sense, but in fact it has no epochal importance, I repeat once more, simply because the provincial nomenclature has no serious political authority so that it is not crucial at all who will rule the Province from a simple reason – which I have already written in one of my articles – i.e. the dramatically opened question whether Vojvodina exists at all except as geographical concept. Does Vojvodina really exist as political society within the framework of the Serbian political society? Because Vojvodina is possible only as an organized political community with certain attributes of authority and Vojvodina in its essential sense has no such attributes of authority. We have a tendency, naturally, to live in illusions and thus also in an illusion that the autonomy of Vojvodina exists. In my opinion it doesn’t essentially exist. Therefore, who is to occupy what in an essential sense doesn’t exist is not of some special material importance. It can be of some psychological importance but certainly not of material one.
In other words, to sum up, we face time of great uncertainty and no matter how these concrete trade-mathematic calculations and scheming for a new government ends, this country will be staggering and staggering. Simply, we should prepare ourselves to who knows how many years of staggering. That’s all, for the time being.
Mirko Đorđević: Perhaps I shouldn’t speak at all, not for a long anyway because I speak too much. When I am tired with myself what is then with others, God forbid. However, if you give me the floor and until you cut me off, I’ll say few words.
Sure, I agree with reasoning of the colleague, but as it was it was – the results of these elections are and aren’t surprising. Not to spend much time on that, as perhaps at this very moment, or perhaps tomorrow, a tripartite pact is being made. Yes, yes, don’t be afraid, a tripartite pact, it’s in our blood! A tripartite pact against democracy, yes, yes, yes, everything repeats to us here … between Koštunica, Šešelj and Milošević, in fact just if you see who are today their representatives you see how things go. In any case, the shadow of such a pact hangs over Serbia and for a long time already, a long time surely, so that elections resolve something, also something they don’t resolve, but here however happened, within these elections, a surprise, a pleasant one – that the Radicals are “eroded”, to loose 10 percent is not so trivial. They have always been on that rising line of theirs, and now there is a chance to really speak openly and clearly.
One of the leaders of tripartite pact, the idol, whatever, Doctor Koštunica – I wouldn’t here speak about his papers and his ideas – the papers are sparse, the ideas, thank God, there are none so we’ll skip him. However, another member of this pact, Doctor Šešelj, has written, hold me to word, in total 100 books, 100 books this man has produced. In the history of Serbian literature, of journalism, we have had not such a prolific writer. I am not going to claim here that I have read all these 100 books but really I have read a good part of these books, what to do, such is my trade, somebody has to do a dirty part. Not all can be doing fine jobs.
All sorts of things you can find in these books! I will not be bothering you, there is not a single scientific idea, they are absolutely worthless. He constructs some Greater Serbia, he mulls over Vuk Karadžić, Starčević, he draws some boundaries, all these is absolutely worthless for any at all serious study and no wonder that until today there hasn’t been any discussion nor a book about him that a publicist or whoever would produce. His latest idea, already popular, you have heard these last days on the radio and television, and one book he has dedicated to it – that that guy, Zvezdan Jovanović, who assassinated constitutional Serbian prime minister, is no more nor less but a Gavrilo Princip. Now, I am not going to lecture history here, but if that guy who assassinated the prime minister in such a mean and cowardly way is a Gavrilo Princip, then ouch and woe! We haven’t yet solved the question of that Gavrilo Princip from 1914, though historians are aware that it hadn’t brought us no luck but bogged us in a great misery with consequences we still feel today. And here is, you see, the problem. And at the end you see that everything is in the hands of this trio.
I am not a forecaster and I don’t like to be one because whenever I foretell something I happened to be right and I was a bad prophet, an evil prophet – everything has been fulfilled. It is possible that they come to power in some of these combinations, but in that case – to continue with the idea of colleague Perović – what remains for us? Not to wait for a favorite wind in history but what is imminent is a sort of awakening the civic and human consciousness, a sort of resistance, non-violent of course, against that government that not only will take us away from Europe (actually we are an European country, so what’s problem with it?) but to hold us back, lock us in one place, you know. That’s what I fear. Therefore, it is really important now to follow carefully what’s going on because look, if the Radicals have recorded, in spite of fall which is not small, also a certain rise, the aforementioned Dr. Koštunica has several percent, but he will be their prime minister … see where these games lead to.
I’m not going to bother you with these games, everything is possible in these games. These are the political-mafia games without frontiers and there is no end to them, but one shouldn’t forget that even this Serbia, which said them “no” gathering around Tadić (such as he is, but he is our state leader and our constitutional head of state), and this Serbia has secured not so small success and this bloc shouldn’t give up. About this, about the results either tonight or tomorrow, here will speak those who are, journalistically, more informed. Currently we have no government. They have created such situation on purpose. We have technical government in which Koštunica is the supreme technician. To make it worse all this happens – if I have to say also a word about the church – when we have also a technical synod that administers the church.
Yes, yes, yes, just so – this is not irony at all. You know how the assembly went on – well, it’s better you don’t know, it is not so much important, the Patriarch is not able to act in that capacity but he remains the Patriarch. He remains the Patriarch! They cannot overthrow Him; it is not possible to skirt the Constitution. But, the assembly ended with something that no assembly in the history of our church for full eight and a half centuries ever before ended with. The Synod has taken over a complete authority of the Patriarch, his duties and obligations, but the structure of the Synod hasn’t been publicly known. (The Synod is the church government, the assembly is parliament). For the first time the structure of the Synod hasn’t been publicly announced, who makes the Synod. You may say – probably the old members. No! Just at this assembly terms of two members expired and we are not informed that they were replaced through the standard procedure so that we have a kind of the Synod that governs the church in the name of the Patriarch.
I wouldn’t bother you with the ecclesiastical problems, but you see … the church is a part of society, this our society, of us all. Who goes to church goes, who doesn’t go it’s one’s right not to go, but to us who care for the church, this gives no hope and it is literally an irregular situation, both in the state and in the church likewise waiting the outcome and one leads to another, actually these two institutions since a long time have been acting and functioning on the principle of connected vessels. This is one example for you, a simple one. We shall see. They will have to reveal who makes the government. There are four of them and the fifth is presiding. The Patriarch is presiding, he is ill, so that the oldest one presides instead and so on, it is all as it should be, but we haven’t got this list of names. The statement contains a severe criticism of the media; allegedly reporting from the assembly was bad. I didn’t quite get it, in the media, in newspapers there were all sort of this and that, but I don’t know what kind of reporting it can be when the assembly was held behind closed doors protected by the special security forces. Thus, what sort of reporting was that and who made a mistake. But there is something else, there is a sentence that runs – the assembly is astounded by what journalists were doing. Astounded – that was the expression used. And I would only add, not to be too long – what about the public, both the church public and lay public are also astounded and cannot recover from the statements that one member of the assembly, Kosovo’s Bishop Artemije, made and repeated them four times and they are as follows – “Boris Tadić, the defense minister Šutanovac and Jeremić are traitors” (quote-end). If you claim that someone is a traitor without any proofs, this should have caused perplexity among people. This they didn’t discuss as you see. In this sense, the situation is really quite serious.
What I would also say, what also the colleague Perović said, and to finish this first part, this is about Vojvodina. Of course that state of things is as he related, we should keep in mind that Vojvodina as a model, linguistic, political, has survived a lot of changes and today is considered by the world as a successful model. Very interesting. What hasn’t changed there! What states haven’t been broken up and at the European universities they defend doctoral dissertations (I have read seven of them) that provide evidence that Vojvodina’s cultural model – more nations, multiculturalism, several spoken languages, equality – has survived and in this sense they cite Vojvodina as the example of something that should be followed. There are no minorities in France, all there are French, there is no minorities. There are actually as plenty of them as you can imagine, but their law is as it is. Therefore, Vojvodina exists. If it is not present, it is a fault, in the political sense, of Vojvodina’s politicians who have failed to cope with situation, but Vojvodina as a model with a long history of its own – exists. At least, this here has been for some two and a half centuries a part of Europe and if only there were luck as it hadn’t been, it should have been the driving force and not vice versa and that’s why these Vojvodina’s ballots are not now to be underestimated. The approach should be more careful. That’s all and if someone has any questions I am here to answer them, but perhaps this was a bit too long. Thank you.
Dinko Gruhonjić: Alpar, when we have already began the story about Vojvodina I think that Mirko has provided a cue for our story the one we discussed during our drive to Mitrovica, that if Serbia joins EU it would be the most profitable for Vojvodina, which would, let’s pathetically say, return home, actually return to place where it once had belonged to and what makes its natural environment. In your opinion, what are the chances of Vojvodina to return there after these pessimistic views about the constitution of government in Belgrade?
Alpar Lošonc: Well, considering that my predecessors have defined so well the current political moment let me talk about this theme from a broader perspective. Only in few words what is in my opinion at stake, since long ago actually, in these elections in Serbia especially after, as was previously said, the 2000 political coup. I think that what’s at stake can be very simply stated – at stake is actually the issue that Serbia becomes a normal small country. When I say a small country, this attribute has no pejorative meaning but simply expresses one entity with certain, let’s say, resources or I may say that at stake is that Serbia remains a normal semi-peripheral country. This I say also because, and I stress because, of that adamant fact that it seems that a good part of the political elites in Serbia cannot accept this course that is, naturally, a certain regression, especially in relation to some earlier projections.
I agree that now time planes, in the context of these elections, are mixed up so that from time to time it is very difficult to make difference between the nineties and the period after 2000. Of course, I would never equalize these two periods but there is too much continuity between that period which is at least chronologically behind us and this decade we now live in. It seems to me that there is one constant in the Serbian political space and it seems to me that just that, if you wish, epic constant also characterizes these election processes and also the period before us. I would say that problem is that in Serbia it is governed in a way that government is divided and not limited. This is very important because if we take this into account we can throw light on various modes of governing, on the various modes of realization of governing. It seems that in this respect, this crucial view of governing which is divided and not limited, we can characterize i.e. we can recognize just mentioned continuity between the earlier and the current period. This (as was said a moment ago, I only cite it) political coup initiated after 2000, included then, as far as I can remember, several paradigms that were in play. The first paradigm was an ethnocentric paradigm. What does it mean? This ethnocentric paradigm emerged as a sort of reaction to the communist organization of reality. I will say also few sentences about the communist organization of reality. Ethnocentric paradigm, so characteristic for the last decade of the past millennium, starts with the hierarchy pattern among various ethnicities. Certain ethnicity, and in general it is the majority that has the natural majority in relation to the state, means that certain ethnicity simply has certain historical rights and other ethnicities, just according to logic of natural differences, simply must follow this kind of ruling logic. Ethnocentrism in the last instance actually creates certain segregation of differences, and so a certain segregation between the majority and the minority. This is, in my opinion, a really essential characteristic of politics, ethno-politics of Serbia in the ‘90s. And I would also mention as a crucial characteristic of this paradigm that ethnocentrism, therefore, doesn’t want even that that is sometimes called a soft assimilation of differences but it has no interest at all for differences because the most important for it is to govern through ethnocentrism.
Another paradigm that was the weakest I think after 2000 is actually the relic of the past. I would call it the communist integrationalism. Communism, whatever it may mean now, I wouldn’t concretize this issue – I think that all of us intuitively know what it is about – hence communism wanted to integrate the entire society but not any super-national ideological whole, and that communist integrationalism recognized differences but only in the measure in which these differences could be used as a vehicle for that super-national ideological whole. And for communist integrationalism it was very characteristic what a minute ago I called a soft assimilation of differences. However, after 2000, the most primitive anti-communism which dominated in the discursive space of Serbia, annulled many of these important traces of communist integrationalism.
And there is the third paradigm which is, I think, by many things a leading one among the intellectual elites – the liberal nationalism, which actually blends two, let’s say, political traditions. In its elemental orientation it also doesn’t want to integrate society but instead it would integrate nation, which means that it recognizes certain differences but only in the sense of control, only in the sense of possibility to control all and in the sense that one nation remains to rule the public space, in fact the national culture of the given nation would determine the public space. Considering that the liberal nationalism is a fitting ideology for a great part of elites in Serbia, I think even the economic elite – as colleague Milenko has earlier pointed out – tycoons can very much have their interest in governing, in leading these processes. Then it is not just by chance, I think, that this liberal nationalism in many aspects dominates the ideological discourses of Serbia.
And as relates these elections, I wouldn’t skip and owe answer to Dinko. I think that there is no place … no place for euphoria, for euphoric mood, because these basic patterns will hardly change. These fundamental patterns I have just mentioned as an expression of the hybrid reality in Serbia, represent an actually deep structure and regardless of political alchemy, regardless of political arithmetic, which is really uncertain, we still have these fundamental patterns and actually we have no any fourth solution that may bring change in relation to these patterns. If we analyze results of these elections we really face this basic fact that Serbia is halved, that there are various blocks and, moreover, it can be said that even the support to European integration has a very amorphous character, an ambiguous character. Serbia has never had a broader democratic discussion what it means to join the European integration structures. So while, let’s say, one side was absolutely against, the other side was for, but as I say, always without necessary explanations. Thus it has never been properly articulated what is the meaning of all this. I say, to join the European integration structures or, better to say, the European Union we actually understand as an expression, a projection of our wishful thinking. The European Union as an institutional infrastructure can be also that, a chance, but in the first instance it is the frame within certain rules have to be respected, which means there are certain rights but also certain obligations. Some friends of mine, much more cynical than I am, say that in some situations, when something enormous should be undertaken, it may be perhaps better not to know what risk you are undertaking. As I am obsessively attached to some democratic issues, I don’t find it good policy, because not knowing what risk you are undertaking, in what space of risk, what space of realizing interests you enter, then what you later get is disappointment. So it would be good in any case to learn everything available, and we can learn on the examples of other countries. The fact that in Serbia the so-called transition has been postponed several times already, and that to join Europe is being constantly postponed due to political instability, gives us an excellent chance to see what was happening in other countries, actually to learn, to realize some lessons.
It stands to reason what Dinko said, that Vojvodina in all this has a certain chance. Examples from other countries, let’s say the neighboring countries, Romania, Hungary and other countries, show that by joining the European integration structures you will not automatically level regional differences, but these regions that have, for instance, institutional capacities and other capacities, these regions that have the proper infrastructure, show an envious level of development and an envious level of developing further already existing possibilities. Then really stands to reason that Vojvodina can be seen as a winner, as a possible winner if Serbia joins Europe and this all according an optimistic scenario, but I stress, this is a really optimistic scenario with some utopien elements. Vojvodina therefore can become the engine for Serbia and the results, positive, in view of the political culture and in view of economy can be spread on to other parts of Serbia. I say, this is one really positive scenario. There are, I would say, some grotesque elements in all this i.e. that we depend on Milošević’s party, like in some badly tuned psychoanalytic drama, a psychoanalytical scene, in which some repressed symptoms re-emerge later, so to us really returns Milošević’s ghost from dead. And what’s more grotesque is that a man with the parochial, provincial nimbus, like Palma is, becomes a sort of savior of the European future of Serbia. Simply one must think how it happens that this strategically defined future for us now depends on someone who, among other things, contributed enormously to some excessive violence in the nineties. Thank you.
Dinko Gruhonjić: Thank you. Teofil, one of your favorite stories when we speak about Vojvodina are Vojvodina’s trains in time of autonomists and so on, the trains which were somehow cleaner and somehow non-smoking, and arrived on time …
Milenko Perović: No, but there were no such militant attacks against smokers …
Dinko Gruhonjić: Today, when we took Alpar from Temerin and were driving to Sremska Mitrovica – there is one railroad crossing in Temerin – I widely opened my eyes watching for incoming railbus or a locomotive – Alpar told me – “Just go on freely nobody passes here, there are no trains any more.” Here you have a small cue for Vojvodina as on the other side President Tadić said, I think it was yesterday or the day before yesterday, how today we have an excellent historical chance for a new Serbian reunion, for reconciliation of political forces from the nineties and the political forces of the 2000’s…
Teofil Pančić: OK, let’s say you have given me more cues than I have expected so in order not to let them slip me or being forgotten, let’s first speak about them. There, as regards Vojvodina’s trains it was really so in one period, say, at the mid-eighties. I remember well these details. So, if you travel from Novi Sad to Belgrade by train and smoking there is strictly forbidden so that conductor comes to warn you if you smoke (I was smoker than, fortunately not any more), he warns you that smoking is not allowed. If you ignore the warning, there is people’s militia present in the train and they intervene. And what happens next? We travel and travel and arrive to Nova Pazova. As you know Nova Pazova is, according to today’s dictionary, the administrative border between the proper Serbia and Vojvodina. In Nova Pazova, Vojvodina’s militia leaves the train and the very moment they are out, you will see that a half of passengers in the train lights a cigarette. Hurrah, long live freedom! And I say that such an understanding of freedom gave birth to that anti-bureaucratic revolution, this is how our people understand freedom – I can do whatever I want to and I don’t give a hang, and who is one to call me to account, especially to some good-for-nothing and twerps who cannot stand, just imagine that, the smoke of tobacco and similar – so that in this sense I was speaking about trains and when we speak about trains I came here to Mitrovica by train. I feel a bit nostalgic about traveling by train because in the country of Serbia, of course, every traveling by train is an absolute, how to put it, an idiotic act as such, but because I knew that this is an international train bound for Zagreb and further on for Slovenia, Italy and on, I got up courage and I didn’t regret, but we must take an international train in Serbia so as to, you see, travel decently at all by this conveyance.
And now, this story about train is not unimportant, I think that we shall again return to these details of everyday life, but in connection with these things you asked me, I think that something should be said, both in respect of elections in Serbia and in respect of Vojvodina. When Vojvodina comes to the agenda, don’t let me forget to say something about this dialectic of the majority and the minority we have heard here. First, as regards elections in Serbia, this national reconciliation that Tadić, you see, talks about and which will probably initiate many discussions in these days, with reason, because the topic is quite challenging and can be endlessly manipulated, I think that it is – to make things clear – only an empty phrase that serves to somehow assemble that government. Hence, let’s invent some pompous idea that will cover all. Meaning that that would enable us to explain to our followers why we go with the Socialists (SPS) and top of SPS will explain to their followers that, you see, in the name of that high idea like national reconciliation (of course, I say that it is only an empty phrase without real meaning and cannot contribute to anything sensible but, possibly, to sort of constitution of that government, if it is constituted at all). It cannot contribute from many reasons of which the most interesting for our story is that it simply means nothing.
This is a very pompous phrase, as used in many post-communist countries, in many transition countries – some have been thinking about reconciliation since World War Two, some about reconciliation between communists and anti-communists and so on. I don’t know what reconciliation this would exactly be in our case. If we speak that now those forces that had led the country in the nineties should be reconciled with those forces that led it after 2000, you know that this is not a problem at all to make it in a circle of political brass hats – simply one coalition is formed and they reconcile and finally work together. I think, it is their domain and such things we have seen and will see in politics and there is nothing to be shocked about. However, clearly, the national reconciliation in the form that the Socialists (SPS) will like to agree is neither possible nor desirable.
What does it mean? We cannot forget the nineties; we cannot forget that we know whose guilt it is, who is responsible for the nineties. We cannot start now looking on the nineties as on some elemental disaster, as on natural force for which nobody – no man no individual no party no organization, hence none actually – is guilty, is responsible, led to it, maintained it and so on, but to look, see, as if it was some metaphysical disaster that befell upon the Serbian people, which would be in general in the agreement with that ideology of national reconciliation. We cannot accept it, except if we want to become … simply, to be self-lobotomized. It is plainly impossible, impossible that a civic society accepts it, impossible for historians to accept it, impossible for the media to accept it, impossible for any member of the society to accept it. Therefore, in that form that the Socialists would like – like rehabilitation of Milošević, then to stop to, as they say, persecuting his family, then this and then that – I think that all this is nothing but gobbledygook – it is, how to say, such things cannot happen nor I guess none of us, fortunately, would allow it to happen.
So I wouldn’t overestimate the meaning of this, it is simply an unfounded and empty phrase nor it can have any real foundation and if it contributes at all to anything sensible good, we shall forget it quickly, won’t we? Now, as regards the elections as such, I wouldn’t speak much and spend time on it because enough has been said on the topic. What do these elections in Serbia mean – the colleagues that spoke before me explained it very well and now, not to repeat their words, it is generally as it is, the situation that we now have and about which we shall probably discuss more this evening.
Dinko Gruhonjić: I think that it is time now to give you also chance to ask questions or to comment, so please, go on.
Voice from the audience: Good evening to you all. Here, first, it is very strange, especially of Mr. Pančić, that none of you here, the respected heads and really clever people, haven’t called the thing by its true name. I will give my anticipation of the post-election moment in Serbia, as I feel it at the moment, and this is that some, let’s call them the pro-European forces, are the only and quite possibly rather insufficiently strong barrier to stop Serbia’s sinking into the fascism (which you call nationalism, or apply other euphemistic names). I will draw a parallel you all know very well, a parallel between Serbia today and the Weimer Germany of the ‘30s. I actually don’t know at all whether then those clever Social-Democratic Germans were aware what Hitler then represented, and even less so because he didn’t run for election with his final solution as his program. The only difference is perhaps that currently in Serbia we have no big problems with the Jews but then there are enough of us, the “traitors”. I am not sure that the Social-Democrats and the great majority of Germans in the thirties believed that Dachau and Auschwitz would be very soon put into operation. What you Teofil said – “I doubt that there will be concentration camps” – I, on the contrary, have no doubts. We have them nine years ago in, to us, very close surroundings. It means that we shouldn’t deceive ourselves that this is the question of whether Serbia is going to join Europe but the question whether Serbia will remain in fascism. To me, this is a crucial question of these elections.
Dinko Gruhonjić: Perhaps I can say something about this before we continue. This is what worries me, also, to be sincere, because in, let’s say ’89, when the Berlin Wall fell here, with us, an absolutely opposite process was under way, with us in these days Sloba was riding high on Gazimestan. Then we all thought, well, no way, the Berlin Wall fell, Europe unites, he is just a passing incident, something like hail, let’s say, or similar, However, he did ride high and incredible crimes had been committed in the same time when Europe was uniting, in all those 10 years of our criminal past.
Milenko Perović: Listen, please, I’m going to tell a joke just to make us relax a bit. In this country nothing can be done properly to the end so neither racism could be brought to the very end. Fortunately, and it is both our ontological misfortune during these 20 years as it is our fortune, that in racism we couldn’t be like Germans had been in the past. Thus Serbia wasn’t like Germany in 1945, Serbia wasn’t leveled to the ground nor carpeted with bombs. Only owing to that here, in my opinion, we essentially don’t speak about that fascist solution nor about ultra-right solution but about ontological thieves. I once politely called them klepto-nationalists, with an accent on klepto, because that whole nationalist story, if we put aside the moment when it spread among the population and when people began to believe in this story, but take only those producing the story and organizing, controlling and leading, their interest is, before all, to clean out this society and to rob each of us, and they do it efficiently, just look the Radicals in the nineties, the Radical leadership, ultranationalist, ultra-fascist – they are today enormously rich people. And this is the essence. And their intention is to remain rich. And one can be rich and make progress even more so if being in power.
Teofil Pančić: I would like to say just one thing – simply a man collects some experience. God knows that I have attended hundreds and hundreds panels throughout this country and it so often happens that one man who listens, in this case five panelists not exactly known to hesitate to call things by their true names, waits until these five men finish, to say – I listened you, all five of you, but how happens that none of you said, called things by their true name! – And then, I guess, he goes home fulfilled in a way – he has fired a shot! And these five only watch – what a fucking, in vain I have been writing 20 years about fascism in this country, in vain I have been speaking 20 years about fascism in this country, a man stood up and clearly cut me off, I didn’t call the thing by its true name, that’s what he says.
Don’t do such thing, let’s talk seriously. It is no problem to call fascism when there is fascism. And if I wanted to use the word in that context in which you want I would use it. However, if I didn’t do it then I certainly have a strong reason and it is not that I suddenly like, all at once I begin to like, euphemisms. Hence simply, all we had, we had – we had these camps also – these camps are something about which I wrote then and I don’t speak about that now. These camps were not intended for political opponents but we know it very well, and you in Srem know very well for what people and what category of population and war prisoners they were intended for and there were just a few media that at that time could at all whisper about that, so everyone who wanted to know that then, could know it and there is nothing more to say.
I cannot now say that some future government prepares some new camps, because I have absolutely no any indications of that. And this has nothing to do with Hitler and whether somebody in 1933 knew that Dachau would work. One had no any need to know that Dachau would come, but Hitler had a very clear anti-Semite program and he put it into motion the first day he came to power. Read, there is a book published in Novi Sad, “History of One German” by Sebastian Hafner. In 1933, that man instantly lost his job and many other things, and he wasn’t even a Jew! He expressed some doubts about Nazism and he was immediately called a domestic traitor, immediately lost his job and so on.
Therefore, there is no mystery there, no need to know that Dachau would follow because it was clear and everybody who had voted for Hitler had to know already in 1933 that he had voted for a racist, that he had voted for one who publicly advocated that members of some other nation and religion should be persecuted, for the beginning to be sacked and thus unable to lead normal life, that they were a sort of scabs on the body of German people etc. Hence there were no any mystifications. However, political opponents will always very well manipulate if you use words carelessly. If you shout three times “fascist” for anybody you don’t like, the fourth time when you shout “fascist” for a true fascist, people will remain indifferent – well, this one constantly speaks about some fascists. Therefore, I beg you to speak seriously. Thank you!