Return of the Reds

There is a proverb in the Balkans, probably as old as civilization: where drills fail, money will do. It seems a fitting byline for the unraveling of some six weeks of political drama, following the May 11 general elections. At first, it seemed that President Tadic and the Democratic Party were celebrating prematurely; their coalition, while scoring better than polls had predicted, lacked enough votes to form a government. An alliance between the National bloc of ex-PM Vojislav Kostunica, the Radical Party and the resurgent Socialists (once led by Slobodan Milosevic) seemed a foregone conclusion, and was even reported as a done deal.

What happened next seemed like a plot hatched by Chancellor Palpatine himself. On June 24, the Socialists’ steering committee voted overwhelmingly for a deal with the Democrats – the very same party that has persecuted them since the October 2000 coup, and blamed them for all the ills that have befallen Serbia since 1989 (or even earlier), including the NATO bombing and the occupation of Kosovo. Now the "Yellow and Red" coalition is being reported as a done deal.

This is precisely the "Pro-European" government that Washington and Brussels have lobbied for, and Tadic desired since winning a second term in February. In return for supporting the people that overthrew them on behalf of NATO in 2000, the Socialists would become "respectable." Without the stubborn insistence on international law by the now former PM Kostunica, the new regime in Belgrade would not be free to "do everything it can" (to borrow President Tadic’s favorite phrase) to please its "friends" in Washington, London and Brussels.

In Bad Faith

How did this happen? One theory is that the Socialists’ leader Ivica Dacic wanted to free himself of Milosevic’s shadow, and the promises of Imperial favor were too much to resist. It is well-known that Dacic and his junior partners, Dragan "Palm Tree" Markovic and Jovan Krkobabic, were feted by Serbian tycoons close to the Democratic Party and "advised" by U.S. and UK ambassadors, Cameron Munter and Steven Wordsworth. Of course, Wordsworth and Munter reject any insinuation that they were meddling in Serbia’s internal affairs by brokering coalition deals; it’s perfectly normal for foreign ambassadors to "advise" politicians of the host countries what to do, is it not? And the tycoons surely had nothing to do with any of this, they were just legitimate businessfolk relaxing over some cocktails and barbecue, and figured they would invite their good friends over to share…

The Serbian media space is notoriously rotten; most media are owned by foreign conglomerates or political interests. So, when the German-owned, unabashedly pro-Democrat daily Blic spoke of an imminent coalition of Democrats and Socialists three weeks or so ago, even as the Socialists were closing a deal about running Belgrade with the Radicals and the National bloc, that report sounded like deliberate misinformation and wishful thinking. But could Blic have been right? Was it Dacic’s plan to "go Yellow" all along?

It certainly appears so. Another paper, Kurir, published a transcript of a taped phone conversation between two Socialist officials, in which they revealed that the Belgrade deal was a red herring, made to be broken within months, leaving the Democrats in charge of the city.

The official excuse given by the Socialists is that they could not agree with the legal analysis of Serbia’s stillborn treaty with the EU offered by Kostunica’s legal team. However, given the Socialists’ statements on record concerning the SAA, this is obviously a smokescreen.

Absolute Power

For their part, Kostunica’s National bloc and the Radicals seem to have taken the Socialists’ defection in stride. The Radicals are used to being in opposition; they were only in power as Milosevic’s very junior partners at one point in the 1990s. Kostunica has survived a Democrat-orchestrated ouster once before, only to return in triumph. That said, how come he allowed himself to be blindsided again? "Fool me twice, shame on me" sounds very appropriate here.

And what of Serbia? Buried in private and government debt – the poisonous fruit of economic mismanagement by Democrats’ allies G17 since 2000 – with its military, diplomacy and security services gutted at the hands of ministers always more at home in Brussels than in Belgrade, it is now in the hands of people who haven’t the slightest intent to oppose the illegal separation of Kosovo. Nor is the new regime likely to oppose any further dismantling of Serbia, should the Empire wish it.

Governments are essentially protection rackets. If a government is failing to protect its subjects’ lives and property from depredations of another government, it is not doing its job.

Worse yet, the Democrats in Serbia now control the presidency, the cabinet, the parliament, the media, and the economy. And as Lord Acton wrote, "absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Back to the Future

Commentator Branko Radun made an interesting observation in the wake of the "Yellow and Red" deal: "A growing number of people has the impression that this was a reconciliation of the two factions from the Eighth Session."

What he is talking about is the 1987 meeting of the Serbian Communist Party at which Slobodan Milosevic rose to power, ousting the old, hapless apparatchiks who were passive in face of Albanian separatism. Milosevic’s most intractable enemies actually came from the ranks of the old Communist Party, because they saw in him the bete noire of Yugoslav Communism, a "Serb nationalist."

The irony here is that Milosevic could hardly be a "Serb nationalist" and a Communist at the same time, since those are mutually exclusive concepts. Communism in the Balkans has always had a Serbophobic flavor. Yugoslavia was declared a "prison of nations" run by the "Greater Serbian bourgeois imperialists," with only the Communists willing and able to "liberate" the various groups. The dismemberment of Yugoslavia became an official goal of the Communists in 1928; once they held power in the country in 1945, they abandoned the concept – why destroy something you can rule? – but it still lingered in the country’s subdivision into "republics," which would cause such bloodshed in the 1990s.

From that standpoint, what happened this week in Belgrade is far less surprising than what it seemed at first glance. Today’s Democrats are dominated by the heirs of those Communists who lost out in 1987. By making a deal with them, Dacic recanted for his predecessor’s "heresy" and came back into the fold.

Reunited after 20 years, the "transnational progressivists" are again in absolute control of Serbia. And lo, how fortuitous, the EU and the American Empire also see Serbian culture, faith and tradition as threats to their new post-historical order.

It is looking like the beginning of a beautiful friendship. For all but the Serbs, of course.

Author: Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia, and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for debuted in November 2000.