The basic problem
with the anti-Americanism that is popular nowadays
is that it not
only targets US
foreign policy, but also idealizes
"old Europe". And any meta-ideological
conflict or a realistic understanding of international
politics actually displaces inner social conflicts. The
enemy is never "out there". "We" are
it. Empire is not supposed to mean that the world is
governed by the CIA or Bush Junior; saying that the
local reflects the global should rather imply that the
power apparatus functions in similar patterns. Although
it is impossible to localize the oppression associated
with power in a single social-political apparatus as it
is dispersed within a complex network of social control,
certain aspects prevail. Since I was in Belgrade a couple of weeks ago,
several stories might be illuminating.
I was first shocked
to hear, as the main news from the allegedly progressive
TV station B-92, that on that very day Jesus Christ
had been resurrected. After that the Patriarch explained
in his address that despite some (evil) people who would
like to reform the church, we would continue as though
nothing had changed in past two thousand years (especially
concerning civil liberties, I suppose). The next news
item was clerical hard-liner Amfilohije comparing Montenegrin
authorities with Pilate. Belgrade's mayor Radmila Hrustanovic
then explained the meaning of Easter to orphans, and
the royal family had another opportunity to express
their pious generosity by donating toys. It is beyond
stupid to think that religious fundamentalism is an
Islamic phenomenon. As seenworldwide (especially after
9/11), the alliance of big capital and fundamentalists
is the general trend.
War in Iraq basically
never happened. It was rather a hygienic operation explained
to TV audiences by military expert Miroslav Lazanjski,
in previous years famous for convincing Serbs that NATO
aggressors couldn't possibly win, because our army was
highly motivated, righteous and invincible. Not surprisingly,
he is now once again in line with the official position
- namely that of being in love with Bush and appreciating
his noble mission of democratizing the Middle East.
When asked about the rumor that American soldiers only
get one meal per day, he started drawling and said:
"But you don't understand, those are American meals."
news was more than bizarre: bus hijacking in Bremen
or SARS epidemic in China. Knowing that the state structure
is essential in order for capitalism to accomplish the
surplus of value - or capitalism was never liberal but
a capitalism of state - it becomes clearer why it is
necessary to limit the flow of information.and to pose
our problems as always too great or only imaginable.
At the moment it came in handy that
Prime Minister Djindjic was assassinated. Apart
from the tragic dimension of it, there were lots of
things I found extremely funny.
First of all, it
was a fine opportunity to modify biographies. In neo-liberal
hysteria some remembered Djindjic as the guy who, even
as a student, had already proven not only that
Marx was not the greatest, but also that he was not
even important. Even old Habermas was taken out of the
closet to explain how they had long and fruitful conversations
in Korcula. Unfortunately the Korcula school had ceased
to exist before Djindjic even started studying. As a
student he personally insisted on having Marxism as
a separate subject (while the Philosophy Department
managed to avoid it by saying that contemporary theory
was sufficient). He graduated with a thesis on the renaissance
Marxism of Karl Korsch with the main argument as follows:
"The path of Revolution is long and hard, the path
of counter-revolution is short and easy, and ends with
the bullet in the head" - if one really wanted
to be cynical, he was almost right: the bullet just
missed his head.
With Martial Law
in effect (a measure otherwise never mentioned in the
Constitution, but legal documents are always subject
to political interpretation - whoever believed that
law was beyond politics had a final reality check with
the election fraud in the US), the government had unlimited
power to arrest and detain whomever it chose, up to
sixty days without due process, with no lawyer. If on
the fifth of October angry masses had decided to confiscate
or burn the houses of the Mafia/businessmen/Milosevic's
political elite, I wouldn't have had a big problem with
that. However a State conducting a revolutionary court
is something completely different - the word fascism
might come to mind.
Among others arrested
was a friend of mine - one of the few anarcho-syndicalist
activists in Belgrade. He personally insulted the Minister
of Work and Social Affairs Milovanovic (who is at the
same time head of one of the two trade unions close
to the government) by distributing "radical"
press in front of "his" factory. The immediate
reason for the arrest was sending a public announcement
saying that the organization would continue with activities
Law. The fact that this was not only perfectly legal,
but had furthermore nothing to do with killing the Prime
Minister did not change much.
In the meantime Milovanovic
established a Labor Party. The name sounds absolutely
ridiculous knowing that the word 'rad' exists in Serbocroat,
with the logical form 'Radnichka Partija' (Workers Party),
but good contacts with Blairists are certainly more
important than using words workers might understand.
They are not the privileged (revolutionary) subject
anyway. Red color was out of the question of course,
even as a matter of decoration. Asked about plans for
the First of May, he calmly answered that he didn't
care about "communist holidays".
revived the cult of personality up to a point of forgetting
that Djindjic was not Tito. This probably explains the
fact that with all the church kitsch and military platoons,
they accidentally played the "Lenin march"
when putting down the coffin. There were not many people
who noticed - newly religious and allegedly convinced
anti-communists ever since they could hardly know that
the tune was exclusively a part of ritual communist
The main street (once
called Marshal Tito, then Serbian Rulers, and now King
Aleksandar) is being renovated. Rumors say that not
only is the "construction" firm chosen to
do the job with no public contest owned by Mafia/businessmen,
but they didn't even have the machines before the late
Prime Minister invested taxpayers' money into purchasing
them. Although there would be dozens of other streets
that desperately need renovation, the main one is of
capital importance, because foreign diplomats wouldn't
walk further and a good image is the top priority of
"national interest". That helps to get closer
to NATO , and then the ban on importing arms gets lifted
and Serbs can play with beautiful and hypermodern new
toys. For instance, why not once again "liberate"
Kosova or Bosnia from civilians. Juridical "democracy"
and "publicity" turn out to be inadmissible
[incompatible? inseparable?], due to a lack of distinction
between criminals and the financial system.
Like anywhere else
in the Balkans or Eastern Europe, the first foreign
investments are usually the dirtiest. Yet finally having
credit cards makes concern about the financial scandals
of both Raiffeisen
Bank and Société générale in recent years fully inappropriate. Billboards with
adds in genuine national languages all around former
Yugoslavia definitely show the absurdity of sovereignist
claims and the necessity of precise territorial demarcations
that were used as justification for wars. At least ¾
of the population certainly can not afford whisky, but
that doesn't exclude them from the marketing target
group. "Go play!" can be taken metaphorically.
It is worth mentioning
in passing that one of Djindjic's first international
activities was a visit to Bill Gates. Obviously a respect
for copyrights is essential for being a part of the
"decent" world. One couldn't possibly expect
diplomats to insist on the right to information for
all, social wages or universal citizenship. The fact
that the Serbs are as much nationalists as they were
ten years ago or that the new political elite was as
enthusiastic for war as Milosevic was should in no way
disturb the "democratic" paradise. The fact
that fascism turns people on is not modified at all
with the "free media", and the meaning of
Enlightenment remains as doubtful as ever.
The history of the
twentieth century is finally totally revised. The petty
bourgeoisie is reinstalled and all traces of socialist
heritage abolished. Privatization is unquestionable
and brutal. Politics are reduced to an affair of culture
- namely the conflict is that of civilized Belgraders
against the Asiatic primitivism/barbarism. The "Be
neat" campaign (rediscovering the importance of
using soap and not throwing litter in the street) and
the exorcism of turbo-folk additionally criminalize poverty.
Work is progressively
precarious for a mass of people regardless of their
class status, so is life itself for the poor. A few
days before the First of May, Branislav Canak, head
of the other main trade union, mentioned that the workers
were not satisfied and that the government should thus
rely on the unions to absorb the social tensions and
possible unrest. Not underestimating the power of unionist
manipulation, lack of intuitive identification with
the notion of class and national homogenization around
Milosevic's trial, it seems that the social gap is widening,
though and developing towards the Argentinean scenario.
Or, each crisis is an open space for subversion.
Like elsewhere, institutions
that constituted the society of discipline (factory,
productivity, property) are superseded by services,
marketing and exchange. Apart from banking, the only
flourishing line of work is professional NGO activism.
Various training courses and training for trainers courses
are multiplying, with a perverse level of political
correctness and precision found in their naming. Some
of the focuses are on family violence and the empowerment
of women. I do not want to imply that these issues are
not important; the problem is rather that the underlying
structural problem of unemployment, precariousness and
poverty remains unquestioned.
Local changes do
not need holistic revolution, and the demands of politically
organized groups can lead to systemic modifications,
but capitalism has an incredible capacity for recuperation,
including markers of class, gender, etc. in consumerist
culture. However, functioning capitalism/consumerism
does not mean it is unchangeable: reversal is of course
possible, or invention instead of imitation - it's but
a matter of experimenting with no pre-given knowledge.
Furthermore, I found
it scary when the vast majority of civil society was
incredibly eager in expressing support for the police
in fighting organized crime. Not only because there
were procedural scandals, and even criminals have certain
legal rights despite popular resentments - more importantly,
it was too easily forgotten that the same police was/is
a part of organized crime and directly responsible for
several genocides in the nineties. Although it is more
than obvious that the State as such is criminal, only
the power decides who is the criminal/terrorist. Or
more generally: expecting liberation from the State
is as naive as wanting better cops.
Speaking of intellectuals,
public activities are apparently passé - as long as
the comfortable position of lecturer is not endangered
by a "dictator" (it could be argued that Milosevic
was never a dictator, but had enormous popular support,
especially from the nationalist opposition and the intellectuals),
one could continue discussing issues of culture. Unsurprisingly,
political developments have their correlative trends
in the academic community. There is namely not a single
person in Belgrade' Faculty of Philosophy dealing with
continental theory, not to mention post-structuralism.
Those who did were made to leave - and by colleagues,
not Milosevic.Power is far more complex. Conservatives
still do phenomenology, while the predominant liberals
insist on the analytical school.
Education is no longer
free and for all (even in principle), but rather becomes
an additional privilege for those who can afford it.
Anything remotely reminiscent of communism (equal chances
for instance) is embarrassing, and many consider themselves
progressive left by supporting the liberal government
as a lesser evil than fundamentalism. That these two
phenomena are inextricably linked goes unnoticed. While
I used to think that the country had slim chances as
long as Milosevic's opposition continued to exist, now
I'm sure that the same goes for his civil society. If
at any point some considered getting rid of the "dictator"
as the only prerequisite for overcoming injustice, it
has meanwhile become evident that any attempt at a final
solution produces a political void; realizing "justice"
would equal death. All "revolutions" get betrayed,
or are stillborn, but have to be repeated nevertheless.
of regretting the lack of representationalism, counseling
the masses, or lending a voice to the oppressed, it
seems that only the disappearance of talking heads dependent
on/addicted to media attention allows politics. No one
is responsible for anyone else any longer, and the "multitude"
does not require the usual suspects. A shared feeling
of unbearable closure cuts through the social field
(including individuals from parties, NGO's, unions,
... and all other imperfect but real agents). Capitalism
continually transgresses its limits, displacing the
frontiers but also opening revolutionary lines of flight.
There is no need to fear or hope - one only has to look
for new weapons. Its not a matter of adaptation, unification
or totalizing, but of connecting desires in a common
field of oscillation. Only the liberals keep weeping:
"Why can't we all work together?".
was always unpopular, spaces of the political are rare
and a matter of transgressing
the norm. Yet there are moments of liberated
desire or joy in disturbing the mechanism, consciously
minoritary and not ever wanting to be a majority. To
quote from Deleuze and Guattari: "Being a traitor
of one's gender, class, majority, which other reason
for writing could there be". Direct action and
D.I.Y. are available to everyone. The failure of any
political agenda aiming for total emancipation turns
localized strategies and shifting alliances into a practical
necessity. This not only concerns resistance, but is
as much creation. And we know that work always sucks,
while inventing new possibilities is extremely pleasurable.
It sounds silly to
rely on the biological fact of changing generations.
Yet with the aforementioned capacity of the system to
recuperate, new marginalizations in the given power
structures reconfigure the political landscape. And
dissatisfied young people cannot be ignored forever.
Despite the mostly successful pacification, some capital
investments turn out to be risky. Unexpected ways of
writing or socializing are sometimes far more disturbing
than a revolutionary political stance expressed in traditional
academic form. "Revolution" happens in all
lived escapes from disciplinary and normative institutions
- or self-inventions from scratch. One could hardly
write anything new, but repeating differently still
constitutes political action. And obviously enough,
such action does not need a transcendental subject as