Gordan Paunovic on Sat, 4 Sep 1999 22:18:21 +0200

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Syndicate: WHAT TO DO?


By asking this famous question posed by Lenin, we are trying to open a
discussion on the current situation in Serbia and Montenegro. Our intention
is to cut through the obviously chaotic and pre-revolutionary mid-game and
find our way, at least in theory, to the simplest, the most rational and the
most efficient closure. Of course the conditions are completely different
from those at the beginning of this century in Russia. However the dramatic
and tragic nature of the situation forces to ask certain questions. Without
the answers to those questions there is not only no way out of this
situation, but no awareness of what we might soon be facing.

There are many scenarios and even more historical analogies. The analogies
most often drawn on are those closes to our time. These include the way the
authorities were replaced in Czechoslovakia and Rumania. We are heartened by
the Czech experience and frightened by the Rumanian.

At the same time the accusations and self-guilt multiply. At one protest
rally, a speaker addressed the assembled crowd as 'You cattle!' He drew
tumultuous applause. Nobody knows whether self-criticism or self-pity has
more appeal. When things begin to move forward, it usually looks like a
miracle, as if it is happening of its own accord. In our case it is quite
clear to everybody that nothing will happen by itself. First of all, we have
behind us ten years in which millions of people have fallen and suffered.
Mass murders, detentions, tortures, expulsions and general impoverishment,
coupled with loss of hope for the future, internal depression, crime and
fear are enough reason to get us moving. Unfortunately, during this unhappy
period, we have begun moving, sort of, several times. Each time we thought
we would manage to turn around towards a decent and normal life. We didn't
make it. Now many of us are ready to give up. To say we tried everything and
there's no point. Or to lash out at those people who, until now, have not
moved a muscle, who have watched in silence what was happening around them.
Those who managed to leave are very inclined towards that line of thought.
To wait, or not to wait? We have faced this dilemma repeatedly for the past
two months. Wait for the system to crumble in on itself, or overthrow it now
with co-ordinated action? As though, instead of Lenin's 'What to do?' we
have Dickens' 'Great Expectations'. The comparison, of course, is
meaningless, although Dickens is winning the race. This is both because of
the widespread social and economic despair and because of the fervent hope
that everything might be solved quickly and easy. All we need is a deus ex

For quite some time a manifesto under the title 'What are you waiting for?'
has been circulating on the Internet. It lists the reasons why people must
not wait. From human dignity to sports. Our compatriots spread throughout
the world are particularly fond of reminding us why we should wait no

In all of this there lies a serious problem. Although highly pragmatic in
nature, it has at the same time moral overtones. If the condemnation of
waiting represents a call to uprising and rebellion, anyone who makes such a
demand must state openly what they themselves are prepared to do.

For example: if I live outside the country, am I ready to picket this
regime's diplomatic and trade offices every day? Am I prepared to publicly
condemn foreign banks and firms which launder money for Slobodan Milosevic?
To call for a boycott of all the public figures on his payroll, to work
every day at collecting financial and other assistance for the opponents of
this regime, to band together with my compatriots and promote urgent change
in the country? If, finally, it comes to an uprising, am I ready, at least
temporarily, to abandon the safety of the world outside and come home?

The situation is not much different for the internal critics. A number of
these believe that, as veterans of the resistance to the Milosevic regime,
they deserve long service leave. Let others put themselves on the line:
we've been banging our heads on a brick wall for long enough. The fact that
the wall is cracked is reason enough for others to have a go now. As though
each generation must prove itself. Then the sacred tasks are handed out:
you're going to set yourself on fire in front of the Parliament; you're
going to hand in your resignation; you're going to go underground; you're
going to dress yourself in explosives and run wherever it's needed. The
embittered veterans of the resistance believe that every legitimate
political action, especially those carried out through the existing
opposition parties, are a pure waste of time.

There are, of course, those who believe in inaction, that the regime is its
own worst enemy and will inevitable, eventually, destroy itself. Today, we
are being presented with a wide range of scenarios:

The united opposition backs a transitional government to be endorsed by the
Serbian parliament.
Slobodan Milosevic doesn't resign until the next elections.
Slobodan Milosevic resigns and his whole crew with him.
The united opposition backs a transitional government which is not supported
by the Serbian Parliament.
The opposition gives the parliament a deadline to accept, applying pressure
with demonstrations, mass civil disobedience and a general strike.
Milan Milutinovic dissolves the Parliament and calls early elections.
Unrest and clashes between citizens and police give the regime and excuse to
declare a state of emergency in Serbia and establish an open dictatorship.
After the August 19 rally, unrest and clashes between police and citizens
result in a military coup d'etat against Slobodan Milosevic by
democratically inclined officers.
After the first clashes in Serbia, Montenegro declares independence, backed
by NATO troops. In Serbia, the clashes rapidly escalate into a true civil
These are some permutations of the basic elements possible in any denouement
of the crisis. There are other scenarios of course, such as the illness of
major players, intervention by external forces and internal friction in the
ruling coalition, but these are mostly too far-fetched to be discussed

The basic question of WHAT TO DO is not so much theoretical as practical in
character. There will be time for theorising about the problem afterwards.
Let's begin an open discussion now. The anonymity of any participant who
wishes it will be strictly protected. Obscenities, moaning and misanthropic
diatribes will be disregarded. All of us want to see information as well as
ideas. And we especially want to know what everyone, for their own part, is
prepared to do.

Your comments are the most welcome at:

Free B92 team

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