Interview with Mihajlo Markovic, former vice president of the Socialist Party of Serbia ‘A counter-revolution, and not all that velvety’

Tanja Djurovic, Belgrad
(October 11, 2000—for junge )

Mihajlo Markovic, member of the Serbian Academy of Science and until 1995 the vice president of the Socialist Party of Serbia, was one of the ideological leaders of that party. Before 1989 he had a reputation as a ‘reformer’ and opponent of Tito within the Yugoslav left. Because of his position in the movement in Yugoslavia, we thought this interview with him would be of interest to anyone following the current developments—IAC

- Professor Markovic, following the all-level elections on September 24 in Yugoslavia, a certain “coup d’etat” took place on the streets of Belgrade on October 5, organized by the Democratic opposition of Serbia (DOS). Some are already calling this “a velvet revolution.” How would you describe what happened?  

October 5 started out as one of the “rebellions” we’ve already had an opportunity to see. On March 9, 1991 to begin with and from then on there were several attempts on the street to scare the regime, to make it back off, to perhaps enter state institutions and take them over by force – as was the case elsewhere in the countries of Eastern Europe.  

Of course this October 5 protest was not simply a “peaceful” expression of civil disobedience and was not even planned to be peaceful, no matter what its organizers say. There was a lot of violence in it. A couple of people were killed and around 100 injured, material damage was considerable. ...All this shows clearly that this was a counter-revolution, and not at all that “velvety,” as some are calling it now.

By my definition, a revolution is a social coup, a social transformation, which leads to some higher, more progressive form of society. When this is not the case, then we’re speaking of counter-revolution.

Slobodan Milosevic should have admitted the defeat on presidential elections immediately. Then the damage would be smaller. But, he made another in a sequence of mistakes, and decided not to accept presidential election-results from September 24. Finally, when a big wave of protests was initiated, when on October 5 the DOS rallied the people to the Yugoslav capital for mass demonstrations, the number of people gathered wasn’t even important anymore, because Milosevic in the meanwhile already decided to capitulate. The army didn’t react. The police gave more-less symbolic resistance, and power was simply given up.  

 - What were the factors to bring this situation about, and put an end to the Serbian 10-year-long resistance under Slobodan Milosevic? Why didn’t it happen before?

Here, in Serbia, the “transition” scenario didn’t work out for a long time, for several reasons.

One of those reasons is that in Serbia already certain necessary reforms had been carried out. In year 1989 we had reforms of both the political and economic system. Therefore, what was later changed in East European countries, in Yugoslavia had been reformed and changed already, but of course the government was firmly in the hands of socialist forces.  

Besides, the Serbian nation is very resilient when it comes to attempt to impose on it solutions from the outside. It resisted firmly and for a long time the attempts coming from reactionary circles from the West – to impose “transition” here, as it is called, transit to liberal [unregulated] capitalism, with “shock-therapy” and all the other catastrophical consequences for people and for society. So some kind of consciousness about all this existed, and therefore the resistance.

Nevertheless, the combination of certain factors in last 10 years brought about the gradual change in this attitude. First and very crucial, an enormous pressure from the USA and the West, which directly interfered in our internal matters, gave directives to opposition leaders and spent from 70 to 100 million of dollars on these last Yugoslav elections alone.  

On the other hand, an inner weakening in the government itself occurred, and certain demoralization of Socialist party of Serbia (SPS) cadres [leading organizers]. And what’s worst of all, the people, who found itself in a very difficult material situation, almost direct misery, couldn’t take it anymore.  

And then this motto “Change” at any cost, even if it was said that those changes can be for the worse (as they will be), prevailed. This is how the electoral defeat of the leftists occurred. Not total defeat naturally, in the Federal Parliament the coalition of left forces still has the majority – but on local level it was total indeed, and defeat on the presidential level, of course.

 - You mentioned “inner weaknesses” and “demoralization” in SPS... Apart from the foreign factor, which is more than obvious, how much did the Yugoslav leftist government itself contribute to its downfall in these elections?  

In the Socialist Party -- which carried the defense of basic socialist values -- at the beginning there was certain amount of inner democracy, and morale was also at a certain high level. Even now naturally you have a great number of socialist executives who remained honest and non-corrupt, who didn’t abandon their leftist orientation.  

But the situation was gradually changed by the fact that inner erosion took place. First of all, Slobodan Milosevic himself was very insensitive towards corruption. Even if he himself remained honest through and through until the end, even in his own family he wasn’t principled enough to punish the behavior of his son and his wife Mirjana Markovic. All that had a really bad influence on society, on followers, on members and executives of the Socialist Party itself.

This played a big role in inner erosion. And creation of Yugoslav Left (JUL) played a devastating role.  

The JUL figures as a left party, but according to the informal admission of Milosevic himself, this “left” party was created under sanctions, under the blockade. To break through this blockade the Yugoslav government had to tolerate some forms of gray economy. A certain number of private owners had to pay bribe-money to functionaries of European Community and NATO. This is how we managed to come by oil, gasoline and all the rest.

But those private owners, through gray economy, gathered a certain amount of wealth. Milosevic, when he thought about how those people, who actually became capitalists now, as a matter of fact will be the adversaries of socialists, decided it would be good finding some way to make them allies.

Eventually, this is how JUL was created, and Milosevic’s wife took its leadership. But, in essence, this was after all a bad idea and no matter how attractive this seemed at first glance, in the long run the consequences were bad as we can see.

People in this so-called left party were there just to enrich themselves further, and to gain perhaps some political position on the top of everything by which to protect their capital. Of course it had a very demoralizing effect on Socialist party itself.

And then, Milosevic even made socialists promote the JUL everywhere, be in coalition with it, and on elections give a great number of seats to representatives of the JUL. For years this has been causing increasing unrest among functionaries of the Socialist Party.  

- You are one of the ideologists of SPS...Some say even so called Serbian nationalism and its establishing in program of Socialist party contributed also to the downfall of the leftists...?  -  “Serbian nationalism”, nationalism as such and even patriotism, are often confounded with chauvinism...This is a simply a big defect in thinking, so let me explain this.

Nationalism? I have critical attitude towards nationalism, in a sense that nationalism always means one-sided approach to a problem, seeing only national dimension of it. So all is seen in the light of national relations, national interests. I am critical towards it. But even there, you have two kinds of nationalism. You have “benign nationalism” which is, as I said, just one-sidenesness. But chauvinism, which I would call “malign nationalism,” is an entirely different thing.

Chauvinism is hatred of other nations, non-acceptance of other nations, and is something absolutely negative. So people who do not or cannot make a difference between those two kinds of nationalism, or can’t even make a difference between nationalism and patriotism, are simply not educated enough. They just don’t see the problematic of our times in all its nuances, but take things superficially. They see only black and white, where there are shades of gray.  

Therefore, this is not the question of “Serbian nationalism,” not even benign one, but of Serbian patriotism. Patriotism is love for its own people and its own country, and is completely justified. You can’t be an internationalist without being a patriot, and when injustice and aggression is done, you have to defend your country in a way you would defend any other country as well. Patriotism is something entirely positive. Nationalism could be present in some right parties, Seselj’s or Draskovic’s parties for instance, but in Socialist Party case we can speak only about patriotism, accepting other nations but at the same time readiness to defend interests of own, Serbian nation.  

It is entirely unjustified to say SPS was infected with any form of nationalism, and Milosevic himself can’t be called a nationalist. His famous Gazi Mestan speech in 1989, was a completely anti-nationalist speech. Some people are calling it nationalistic, even without reading it.

Or before this, Memorandum of Serbian Academy of Science – in the whole world it was considered a base of Milosevic politics, and called a nationalistic document which lead to breaking of old Yugoslavia. Anybody who had a mind to do that, could read this document and see that in it is spoken uniquely and only about equality of all nations.

 - You spoke of transition scenario. We all know the consequences of “transition” in East European countries, as well as its outcome. If we say that these elections were a choice between “freedom and slavery,” is it possible that Serbian people voted consciously and willingly for its own slavery?

Of course it didn’t! It just couldn’t cope with the pressure anymore, and here’s the reason why. As I said, Serbian people had put up a 10 year long and very persistent resistance, and I said why. And according to me it would have kept on resisting – if each and everyone suffered the consequences equally...But ordinary people couldn’t take the misery and suffering anymore, watching a certain number of others growing richer and richer, and enjoying the luxury. The discrepancy between left parties’ program and practice was too big. This is why we were defeated in the end, by DOS.

And this is not the matter of “Serbian nationalism” or DOS “being better”.  

But people who engaged themselves in “the change,” and voted for it under the supposition “it can’t be worse than it is already” will soon see that it certainly can. And when Serbian people make sure it can be worse and will be, when they see the layoffs and selling out of people’s wealth, when they feel the pressure of debts and when they finally see how we become a half-colony of foreign capital and the New World Order, of the USA first of all, then here again the conditions will be created for socialists and for left forces.

 - At this moment, situation in the country is far away from being clear yet. On one side we have leftist forces, with all their past weaknesses and advantages. On the other side we have DOS, executing counter-revolution, even if it’s mostly done behind the stage. When the dust is settled, how will this situation unravel?  

Let’s take a look first at DOS, this coalition which presently won “on the streets”...On one hand we have here our new President Vojislav Kostunica, and on the other, one very colorful grouping of politicians who do not agree on anything else except in their goal to topple Milosevic. This goal achieved, the fight among them is imminent, about everything. We all know and saw DOS leaders already, they unified somehow under U.S. pressure, and managed to find one single man, the only man among them all for whom it can be said that he’s honest and non-compromised.

One thing should be clear: there’s a big difference between Kostunica and the rest of his allies. Kostunica is a man who was always what he is – anti-Communist, patriot, critical towards American foreign policies. He was vehemently against bombing of Yugoslavia last year, and he publicly said he won’t cooperate with Hague Tribunal for war crimes in ex-Yugoslavia, because he considers it not a legal, but a political institution. He publicly said he won’t give Slobodan Milosevic to the Hague.

These are all the reasons why America is already criticizing Kostunica, but says it'll accept him as someone who believes in legal state and democratic procedures. But out of these statements clearly follows that USA will accept him only for a while and he won’t stay in his position for long. Unless Kostunica manages to defend himself and his position, considering he has a wide support of his citizens. And Kostunica is not a new [Czech President Vaclav] Havel, no matter what USA might think.

Kostunica is also a legalist, trying to use existing legal forms.  

The problem is, the rest of DOS, people around him, are not. They’re already forming some “crisis groups” which are illegal institutions, and which are for example already pressuring certain politicians, certain directors of enterprises to submit their resignations, so some other people chosen arbitrarily by the DOS can take their places. This is completely anti-constitutional of course.

According to the constitution, the first thing to be done is to constitute the Federal parliament. This process is not finished yet, because the DOS is arguing 19 mandates of socialists from Kosovo and Metohija. But when this is settled, and all mandates verified, by my opinion the situation will be clear that left is in majority there.  

At this point we will see how much president Kostunica is indeed a legalist, because government should be formed by parliament majority.

Kostunica already accepted giving the place of prime minister to someone from the Montenegro Socialist party, constitutional again. But we already have Zoran Djindjic, saying something which is not true – he’s in favor of a “government of experts.” This is hardly for Djindjic to decide, and parliament will chose what kind of government it wants.

Now, speaking about Serbian republic government, the situation is still unraveling and we have to wait for the outcome.

Altogether, considering present “double rule” in the country, it is certain that, as in any counter-revolution, the DOS will use their present advantage, triumph on the streets and support of masses, to win crucial power. By illegal means if must be. But even so, the DOS leaders will have to live with great resistance because of those methods precisely.  

 - The chances of Yugoslavia and its people for resistance to the dictates of USA, its centers of might and globalization are far from being spent yet...and leftist forces will certainly play a role in this fight in years to come. What role will that be, and how significant? What is the immediate task of socialist now?

As for the leftist forces themselves, it is obvious that now they must partly start anew, and a new period must begin for them. A period in which socialists will have to organize without Milosevic’s leading role. Hope that socialists of Serbia will regroup after recent defeat, renew and be a strong political force, lies first of all in a fact that inner erosion in SPS will be stopped. New people will come, avoiding the mistakes done in the past and now. And again by East European model, socialists will come to power once again. Real and true ideas never die.

As for the globalization process, this is not a real and true idea. This is precisely why it won’t last forever. The power-and-money hungry American empire will crumble down as a tower of cards, as every empire does in the end, cause its foundations are rotten to the core.

The resistance block is already building up – and dreadful experience with Yugoslav bombing last year contributed to this significantly. American politics, until the aggression on Yugoslavia, seemed to have much success with its “stick and carrot” policy, and to be able to manage fulfilling its goals just fine without wars.

But NATO bombing of Yugoslavia scared the world, showing that NWO in a lot of things has the same characteristics as fascism.  

Russia, China, India, South American and African countries – they’re all sobered up now, wiser, awakened.

- How much did those countries, and the whole anti-imperialist world lose now, with change of power in Yugoslavia?

They lost a lot, this is true. For U.S. and NATO it was imperative to gain full control over Balkans, so that they would have unhindered territorial approach to Middle Asia, to Caspian basin, to territories rich with oil and other precious natural resources. Yugoslavia and Serbia were undoubtedly a bastion of resistance there, and on their way. NATO lost 10 years with Serbia. Now, Slobodan Milosevic is out of their way. Vojislav Kostunica would wish to continue this kind of resistance, but unfortunately will not have the support of his collaborators. This is of course an immense loss, first of all for Russia.

Nevertheless, forces of resistance to globalization are getting stronger in front of our eyes, from minute to minute, and will keep on getting stronger. And maybe Yugoslavia will still have its place among them in the future.

In view of this, the forces of the New World Order have no chance for final success.


Tanja Djurovic is a Junge Welt correspondent from Belgrade.

posted 13 Oct 2000


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