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, 2000], a more-or-less normal life returned to the streets, although 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.

    posted 9 Oct 2000

     

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