Belgrade Journal (from globalreflexion.org)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Tue Oct 10 11:59:25 MDT 2000


BELGRADE JOURNAL - Friday October 6, 3 p.m.

Michel Collon

The 8 questions of the day

I shall try to answer the 8 questions that sum up the events:

1. Did the TV show all ?
2. Did we experience a well-prepared coup-d'Etat?
3. What is the U.S. trying to accomplish in the current situation?
4. Did people vote for Kostunica or against Milosevic ?
5. Why did those in power not forsee their electoral setback?
6. Were the elections truly free and fair?
7. Are those people who support Kostunica also for the United States ?
8. What is going to happen ?

1. Did the TV show all ? Nothing to add to the images presented by BBC and
CNN. In effect there was an enormous crowd, the police put up a very weak
resistance and above all looked for ways to avoid serious confrontations.
But what I didn't see exposed on the Western networks was the plundering of
the headquarters of the Socialist Party (while Kostunica had announced that
there should be no revenge-taking toward the parties), and the buildings of
various public enterprises. Neither was shown the broken windows of a
certain number of stores in the center, which were subsequently looted. I
personally saw demonstrators leave center city by the bridge over the Sava,
while carrying on their shoulders stolen computers. In the center also,
those not demonstrating found it deplorable that people were destroying
public property : " We'll have to pay for it. " But the most important
thing is that the opposition succeeded in bringing out an enormous
mobilization and that those in power were unable to oppose it with a
counter-mobilization.

2. Carefully prepared coup d'Etat ? The demonstrators were led by some
hundreds of very active young people, most of whom had come from Cacak,
Kragujevac and other opposition strongholds (Belgrade is luke-warm). You
could say that they proceeded methodically to take control of a series of
key places. First of all, the Parliament. Obviously a symbol. Still one
could notice that Mr. Kostunica, always presented as a convinced legalist
and constitutionalist, had taken over the Parliament at the moment when
that Parliament had just been elected and that the opposition was not
challenging the results of the parliamentary elections. What does the USA
want ? We shall soon see. Next, the television station RTS. Just like in
Romania in 1989 and in each coup d'Etat, to take over the big media centers
and deprive the enemy of the right of response seems to have become
Objective Number 1. The other media centers and certain buildings of public
enterprises followed.

This systematic and well-planned character of the action reminded one that
the real chief of the opposition, Zoran Djindjic, had declared several
months ago to Greek TV that if they failed to win the elections, they would
take over parliament. This was nothing new. In 1993 in Moscow, Yeltsin -
backed by the U.S. - had burned down Parliament [the Russian Duma] and
killed a number of deputies that had been resisting him. Another opposition
leader, Mrs. Pesic, had raised the need to " create a Bucharest syndrome. "
These things were prepared long in advance.

3. Why is the U.S. still pushing for a test of strength ? Why this attempt
at a total confrontation ? Why do they refuse all negociated compromise
that would permit them to avoid the risk of a bloodbath ? Because they know
that the opposition that they are about to lead to power suffers two
serious weaknesses that could be fatal to it, and without needed to wait
long years for these weaknesses to show. What are these weaknesses ?

First, the DOS coalition is completely heterogenous. Nineteen (18 ?)
parties that have nothing in common but the will to take power and a taste
for dollars from Washington. In this coalition you can find people who have
fought each other more or less to the death for years (Djindjic had pushed
out Kostunica and many others), monarchists and republicans, Serbian
nationalists and separatists (from Sandjak and Vojvodinje) whose programs
are diametrically opposed. Once in office, it is clear they will once again
begin making the gravest splits and conflicts of interests. It will be
absolutely impossible to carry out the programs of all the parties. The
magic of " Unity behind Kostunica " won't last long.

In addition, and this is the second factor, the DOS will strongly
disillusion its electors. Those voters, financially and morally exhausted
by 10 years of sanctions, desire to " live normally, " (that's the idea
that was most frequently expressed to me by the demonstrators that I
questioned on October 5), that is to have a standard of living as close as
possible to that of the West. But, as we have already explained in an
earlier article, the opposition's G-17 program forsees the liquidation of
social protections and the public enterprises, massive layoffs and carte
blanche for the multinational corporations to buy the enterprises they are
interested in and to more effectively exploit the workers. A few people
will live better, many will live worse.

With the result that, sooner or later, Kostunica will disillusion his
supporters and they will give up hope. Will there be an alternative then ?
Could the left parties and those who defend the independence of the country
return to power (on the condition that they carry out certain
self-examinations, as we will see) as could be the case in the next
elections in three neighboring countries : Macedonia, the Serb Republic in
Bosnia and Romania ? It is just to avoid this possibility of a legitimate
return to power in the next elections that the U.S. is trying so hard to
break the current governmental apparatus and that of the left parties in
Yugoslavia.

In the last elections in Macedonia, the left candidate was leading, but
violent incidents grew to the point that the leader of the left finally
pulled back for fear of very violent confrontations. We should point out
that U.S. and other troops occupy this country and there is no doubt their
intervention is aimed at stopping the left. We add that for the West that
claims it is so careful of legality, the elections in Macedonia were "
perfect. "

4. Did people vote for Kostunica or against Milosevic ? The latter answer
is correct according to many people I spoke with. Despite his 10 years in
power, Milosevic had acquired a great prestige during the war for firmly
resisting NATO, which is what corresponded to the will of all his people.
But the party in power wasted its opportunities by commiting two major errors.

First, it permitted, even favored the growth of social inequalities. Yes,
sanctions (embargo) are a crime the West imposed that made the population
suffer cruelly. But that public had also seen certain outrageously large
fortunes grow up under its eyes. It is incorrect to claim, as the Western
media does, that " all the nomenklatura lives in luxury. " I managed to
visit the appartments of certain mid-level ministry officials - they were
just as modest as those of the neighbors, in the socially constructed
buildings that had nothing of luxury about them. Nevertheless, there were
also scandalous life-styles of those in business and in trafficking. To
hold onto its support, the regime would have to fight against the interest
of those with large fortunes and devote more effort to social services to
aid the poorest people.

In addition, the communication strategy of the leadership as well as the
public media had not proven fruitful. A number of jokes circulated about
RTS television and messages from the top leadership had lost their
credibility when it was constantly repeated that all was going well.

5. Why didn't Milosevic see it coming ? How could it be that Milosevic had
decided to call these early elections himself ? And that, up to the last
minute, the parties in power showed themselves sure of winning, so much so
that they were taken completely aback when they had to " manage " their
defeat?

A certain bureaucratism is involved in the answer. You can find among the
officials and functionaries many very devoted people, full of enthusiasm to
defend their country. You also find a certain number of bureaucrats who
never tire of looking for solutions to problems. And one has the very clear
impression that the reports that they send to the " top " are of the sort :
" All is very well, your grace. " Those in power had not taken into
consideration that they had lost a great part of the popularity they had
during the war. They believed that the elections were in their pocket. And
their campaign strategy was not good: Milosevic absent, the self-satisfied
discourses on reconstrution that is real, but also negating the social
problem and a systematic message of the sort that " all will be very well "
that had lost its credibility.

 6. Were the elections truly free and fair ? Of course, this attempt at an
analysis of the weaknesses of the parties in office removes nothing from
what we have already shown. Yes, the elections were not at all free and
fair. When you bombard a people, destroy their factories, their electricity
and heating plants, their roads and their bridges, when you throw horrible
weapons like fragmentation bombs and depleted uranium at them, when you
submit the population to a disgusting extortion - " Vote for the pro-West
parties or you will continue to starve " -- when you spread hundreds of
millions of dollars to aid certain political parties to deceive the people
with the help of advisers specialized in scientific methods of organizing
campaigns based on lies, they one has to conclude that if these elections
are as free and fair, then Jamie Shea [spokesperson for NATO during the
bombing campaign] is a sincere and objective person.

7. Are those people who support Kostunica also for the United States ? A
argued with Kostunica's supports. It was instructive. Since the opposition
parties are financed - grossly - by Washington, one could believe that
Kostunica's supporters were also partial to the United States.

False. A proverb that the Serbs apply to themselves with a sort of
self-mocking, points this out: " If you have two Serbs, you will have three
opinions. " Many demonstrators spontaneously told me " We are not NATO. " A
hairdresser of French origin, having recognized me in the street (following
my television appearances), came spontaneously to let me know that he
greatly appreciated my criticisms against NATO, but that I had been wrong
to put the opposition parties in the same bag. " We here detest the
Americans, we know very well what they are and what their interests are. "

" But we want no more of Milosevic. We want to live normally without
sanctions and like you others in the West. " Like the unemployed and those
on welfare in the West or like the rich of the West? Doesn't he realize
that the Western multinational corporations will not bring prosperity here
but a harsher exploitation ? No, this type of talk, for the moment, they
don't want to hear : " You could be right, but we have to try it, we want
change, change ! And if these new leaders don't keep their promises, we
will change again ! " That though is a grand illusion, to believe that NATO
will permit a " step back. " But that is the current mood.

Another element to take notice of is that the DOS election campaign
strategy succeeded in promoting a strange but effective idea: Milosevic was
in fact a tool of the United States - he served them and helped maintain
their influence. That idea doesn't hold up - why would the U.S. do
everything it could to eliminate the one that served them so well - but
certain people bought it anyway. Indeed, it was a classic method of
advertising: those who steal, cry " Stop, thief. " Those who are paid by
the [north] Americans, seem to by crying " Down with the United States! "

8. What will happen? This afternoon [Oct. 6], a more-or-less normal life
returned to the streets, lthough the shops remained closed. But the
opposition wants to keep its troops in the center to avoid all possible
police intervention to retake it. It announced an even larger mobilization.
On the one hand, the DOS opposition is looking to conclude a parliamentary
alliance by splitting up Bulatovic's Montenegrin party and finding there
teh votes that they lack to obtain a majority. One can be certain that
Washington's dollars will serve as bait. On the other hand, the government
is looking for a path of action without finding it. It affirms it doesn't
want to call out the army because it wants to avoid a bloodbath, and
demands that legality be respected. It tries to find a media that will
allow it to spread its message. But its strategy of communication is still
slow and chaotic. One waits in vain for an official position. Milosevic
could be making a speech … one waits. Soon.

Louis Proyect
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