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Protests in Serbia Archive
Ivo Skoric on nationalism of the protesters

From: iskoric@igc.apc.org
Newsgroups: yugo.antiwar
Date: 18 Dec 1996 11:15:58
The opposition in Serbia is mostly nationalist. Some of them are war criminals like Vojislav Seselj, some of them are romantics - hippie nationalists like Vuk Draskovic, some of them are clever opportunists like Zoran Djindjic - but most of them are nationalist: most of them have no problems with repression of Albanians in Kosova, most of them think that all three sides are equally to blame for the war in Bosnia and most of them think that Croats are a bad seed.

Opposition parties in Croatia are much more developed and far more politically mature and astute. Because opposition won in Croatia in 1990 - HDZ beaten communists. So, all those opposition parties are opposition parties to HDZ, which presents itself as inambivalently Christian right conservative party, leaving a lot of political space on the left of center. Milosevic, on the other, hand plays the nationalist and he also plays the socialist as the time demands leaving no space for opposition but the extreme fringes of left and right. The critical change from a single-party regime to a multi-party state of mind never happened in Serbia.

Actually, it is foolish to expect a non-nationalist political option to appear, much less to win elections, any time soon in Serbia. Milosevic can be beaten only by a nationalist. So, West should better be prepared making a reasonable choice, instead of whining and waiting for a deus ex machina to happen.

To what extent is nationalism present among the student protesters? American media sees them as nationalist. My Serbian friends defend them as non-nationalist. They flash the three-finger salute, they carry the 4 S flags, they give answers on Kosova, Bosnia and war in Croatia which echo those of their opposition leaders, they walk like nationalists and they talk like nationalists, so they must be nationalists, right? Wrong.

In 1986 there was a legitimate student protest in Zagreb about the prices of food and lodging on campus. The Communist Party let students march and shout for a month and did nothing. It just made sure no journalist wrote about them. I was thrown from Radio 101 for the attempt to cover the protest. In this long month of exhausting the students the Party infiltrated provocateurs in the student body (mostly students of "Obrana & Zastita" - the equivalent of ROTC in the US) who then started shouting Croatian nationalist things - which, at that time, were illegal or inopportune - so the Party had an easy job of crushing the protest as nationalist. What makes us sure that Milosevic doesn't do the same with the student protest in Belgrade today?

The nationalism is a perfect way to protect yourself from police brutality. Nationalism is viewed by police as patriotism - anywhere in the world. Didn't Vietnam war protesters carry American flags for the same reason?

Then, there is a question of indoctrination. Most of the students grew up during the Milosevic reign. Milosevic's reign is marked by a comprehensive market-oriented nationalist propaganda unparalleled to anything since the time of Goebbels in Europe. Meanwhile, Serbia is cut-off from the world and its citizens are exposed most of the time only to that propaganda. It would be inconceivable that this did not leave a trace in society. Hitler did not have TV, yet he managed to get Germans to slaughter their Jewish neighbors. TV is much more powerful than anything Hitler and Goebbels had at their disposal. Shouldn't the West ask itself, before labeling the students as nationalists, why didn't all-power- ful Western media do something to prevent this indoctrination? What made Voice of America wait for so many years to pick up the broadcasts of Radio B92 - probably the only remaining non-nationalist electronic media in Serbia - only after they were finally banned? Why nobody talked to us ten years ago?

The same problem exists in all parts of former Yugoslavia - in the areas that were affected by the war it is even more pronounced. Zagreb's Radio 101, for example, refused to have satellite link-up with Radio B92 just before the B92's shut down. Wouldn't it be logical for 101 and B92 to support each other? Well, yes. But 101 decided that a link with anything in Serbia can do them more harm than good: it is not a question of government and police oppression - they are victims of that anyway - it is a question of listeners support: the listeners, Croatian youth, students, Bad Blue Boys soccer punks, etc. - they are all nationalists in the same way the Serbian student protesters are nationalists. They are naturally suspicious to B92. They never heard of B92 and they don't now much about it, except that it is from the evil Serbian empire. Zrinka Vrabec, the editor-in-chief of Radio 101, is born cautious: she was even afraid to call me for our annual high school graduation party in 1986 when the police took my passport away; so I am not at all surprised that she did not want to risk the here and now support that Radio 101 has in Croatia for the more ethereal B92-101 situation, which is way cool, but who the hell knows would it work.

The western media should stop moaning that people in Serbia and Croatia are nationalistic, since they did not do anything to prevent that, shamefully, since they should have learned something from history of this century. Of course Croats and Serbs are nationalist now - you would be too after 5 or 6 or 7 years of constant nationalist indoctrination. We should more concentrate on the particular events: like the protest against the Radio 101 shutdown in Croatia - that was not a nationalist event, regardless of that Bad Blue Boys formed the core of demonstrants; and the student protest in Serbia is not a nationalist event, regardless of that most of the students are nationalists. By writing that demonstrants are nationalists and by omitting to write in the same article that the person and the regime, against which they demonstrate, is the one responsible for that nationalism and for the war and the atrocities and the crimes perpetrated in the war that was launched on the pretext of that nationalism, as New York Times's Chris Hedges did recently, you actually help Milosevic stay in power, you fools - but you are not fools, you just know whose hand butters your bread, perhaps.

So, rightfully, Veran criticized the writing of New York Times. The result? The pompous, arrogant, bow-tied John Kifner of New York Times rudely left a party for Veran, to which he was not invited, without even saying good bye to Veran. You know, people like him are well paid and live in large apartments and they do not have to work much for that, so they think they are very smart and that they own the world, but it is not like that, and they realize that only when it is too late, when the bombs start exploding around them and when their cozy virtual reality world finally implodes. Maybe he should read some of Slavenka Drakulic's books.


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