Had someone told me a week ago that a couple of eggs thrown at a mural would cause such tectonic shifts in an anesthetized and almost completely numbed Serbia, I would not have believed it. And yet, a certain upheaval occurred because, when looking at a broader context and considering the circumstances, there are clear indicators and explanations as to why it caused such intense reactions. And indeed, to every lucid observer, especially to us who have been living in a radical Serbia for almost a decade now (I do hope that everybody is aware of the fact that different names and expensive suits did not change the basic matrix of the group of people in power), it is clear that a consistent, at times more and at times less intense, at times mimicried and at times overt fascization of Serbia has been happening since the SNS came into power. And as it normally happens in nature and consequently in social processes, the radicalization and decadence of a community has a spiral tendency, which means that in order for the criminal and political elites to remain in power, they must consistently be upgrading the level of intrigue, indoctrination, intimidation of citizens and blunting the blade of every potential resistance. It is very similar to what happens to a drug addict who needs to take higher doses so that they can have an effect.
Whilst at the beginning of his absolutism Vučić was using rhetoric and a hot-and-cold tactic, occasionally flirting with the West, apparently advocating for universal, democratic values and declaratively aspiring to join the European Union, now there is not a single trace left of such intentions. A false democrat, Vučić is now overtly and, I dare say, proudly showing that he is still the same member of the football-fan-criminal milieu, a bully and a warmonger. One of the tactics he is unambiguously applying is recruiting and providing unreserved support to the rightists and their groups made up of hooligans and the most radical fractions of football fan groups, drug dealers, petty criminals and young men from the margins of society. This tactic has a twofold manifestation – on the one hand, he aims to convince the international community that, as opposed to them, he is a pacifist and the “factor of stability”, whilst on the other, he uses those young men to intimidate citizens, to harass and take physical action against his opponents. That was clearly visible throughout the action taken to guard the Ratko Mladić mural in Njegoševa Street, on November 9th, when Jelena Jaćimović and I “bombarded” the aforementioned mural.
As far as I am concerned, the authorities’ reaction was expected. Bearing in mind their views on their participation in the destruction of Yugoslavia, causing and waging wars in the region, it could not have been any different. That is the system of values which brought them to power at the end of the eighties and the beginning of the nineties and which is now, with an unreserved glorification of the convicted war criminal, publicly proclaiming: YES, we have this war criminal’s back; YES, we are responsible for the war crimes, particularly for the Srebrenica genocide and YES, we will do it again if the opportunity arises.
We must not forget that the majority of those who created, encouraged, financed and managed the war on the territory of our former homeland became fabulously wealthy then and that tendency has been resumed in Serbia in the last few years. Since there are currently no wars in the region, their own country and their own people have now become a legitimate looting target. However, they have an equally important motive to remain in power or in the country’s political life as they are well aware of the fact that almost every one of those top dogs will be processed once they are no longer in power. It is therefore required that already tormented and impoverished citizens should be further passivized and intimidated and hence so many affairs and violent activities occurring on a daily basis.
What seems to await us all once the current government falls down is the process of dealing with the wars of the nineties and with the responsibility for the crimes committed in the region. The citizens of Serbia must accept the fact that all these things that are now happening to us have not started last year or the year before last. The evil, the crimes, the murders of innocent people and open looting began at the end of the eighties and the beginning of the nineties, when the Serbian political elites, the military, the police and the security services opted to break our mutual homeland apart. The same warmonger rhetoric, the same iconography, nationalism and chauvinism as the key values of what had been happening before and during the wars in former Yugoslavia, are discernible in everything which is currently happening to us. The moment a large portion of Serbia’s citizens sided with the destructive politics of Slobodan Milošević and Vojislav Šešelj and when they ecstatically started throwing flowers at tanks that would destroy Vukovar only a day later, we had to be aware of the possibility that the circle would close and that evil would return to where it had started. Once opened, the door to destruction will not close until the destructive processes destroy the point of their origins, no matter how long it takes for the process to make the full circle. In that sense, what we nowadays see in streets of Belgrade and Serbia is actually a new neonazist regrouping and solidifying, with the war criminals being mere tools whose task is to further stupefy and passivize individuals, as well as the entire society. The life and work of the convicted war criminal Ratko Mladić, as well as all the other war criminals for that matter, have a single goal – fascization of society and creating an atmosphere of hate for “the others”. Once we have realized that there is an explicit and unambiguous sign of equality between the values embodied in the image of a war criminal and the fact that we are going to end up as tenants in our own homes, only then will we be able to break this stalemate. It is therefore that, in a symbolic sense, this mural represents the very essence of the malignancy of the system of values from which we must deflect or else we will perish in no time.
In societies that have been eaten up to the bone by a nationalist and chauvinist discourse, an individual is reduced to a mere number, an object and a commodity. It is inevitable that in societies in which war crimes and war criminals are idolized, the majority of people should live in poverty, with no home to call their own. So, if we want a general revolt against bad laws, the first step should, symbolically, be this mural which is very cunningly intended as a shrine and place of worship of the Serbian right. It is therefore necessary that the Serbian public should be constantly and consistently made aware that one must not build a house on another man’s grave or on the blood of the innocent and that there is no future for us if it is to be founded on war crimes and values of “eternal fascism”, as Umberto Eco put it. So, if we want a decent society, decent laws, an environmentally stable country, a decent economy, a normal life void of any fear of the everyday life, decent schools and health systems, a good education and a cultural life not affected by political influence, we will not be able to achieve it unless we completely change our system of values and denounce the destructive, nationalist values we so wholeheartedly embraced thirty years ago.
In that sense, the only “bitter remedy” here are active antifascist processes and an uncompromising confrontation with one’s own accountability and guilt for the wars in the region. We have been witnessing constant attempts to falsify the modern history of Serbia and Yugoslavia, the degradation and denunciation of antifascist fight in the Second World War, as well as the insane attempts to equalize the historic importance of partisans and Chetniks and that trend is not going to perish overnight. The antifascists of Serbia and the region will have to make additional efforts to confront these revisionist processes and oppose the open falsification of history. It is time that a line be drawn and new strategies be created. It is necessary to work on the affirmation of antifascism as an operating, combatant idea which stood up against the fascism and Nazism in Spain, Germany and Italy in the 1920s and the 1930s, but this time in a new context we now get to see throughout Europe. We must not forget the cause-and-effect link between capitalism, neoliberal capitalism and the new wave of fascization of Europe. It is necessary to build a bridge between theoretical thought and activism, for without activism, nothing can be done. This activism has to be thought through, theoretically grounded, void of impulsiveness and linked with designed actions. There is evidently a need for antifascism to be clearly defined and represented as the sole defense against the ever growing wave of fascism. Personally, what seems to be of crucial importance to me are questions such as how to expand the movement and bring it closer to young people. It is important to redefine the ways to adjust the approach and make use of things that appeal to them, such as music, sports, theater, film or social networks. I believe that the time ahead of us should become an age of new solidarity, an age in which the antifascists of Serbia and the region must take responsibility for such social circumstances in all the countries in the region and use the newly-acquired strength and the lessons learnt from the last few decades and begin the decontamination of our realities. I am deeply convinced that only antifascism can generate adequate and comprehensive remedies and solutions to the circumstances Serbia and the whole region for that matter find themselves in.
Aida Ćorović (Novi Pazar, 1961) is a longtime human rights activist, journalist and politician. For twenty years, up until 2013, she has been leading the non-governmental organization “Urban In” in Novi Pazar and she is one of the founders. Aida lives and works in Belgrade.