cannot all be masters, Nor all masters cannot truly be follow’d."
Shakespeare, Othello, 1.1
It has been
two weeks since Zoran Djindjic officially overthrew the federal
government in Belgrade, and plunged the fragile union of Serbia
and Montenegro into near-anarchy. Djukanovic's separatist
regime in Montenegro has been boycotting the federal government
to begin with, and only their poor showing in the April elections
had given the federation a reprieve. Montenegro's government
has now restarted the efforts to organize a referendum on
Kostunica reacted to the June 28 abduction of Slobodan Milosevic
with harsh words, but little action. The ensuing political
vacuum has been rapidly filled by pro-Djindjic politicians,
academics and media. To hear the Belgrade press tell it, Kostunica’s
inaction is proof that Djindjic’s action was fully justified;
that principles and law ought to take the back seat to money
and the good graces of the International Community. In the
Western media, this is a foregone conclusion. No one even
mentions Kostunica any more, as Djindjic and his allies fill
the press with chest-thumping defiance to the man on whose
coattails they rode to power.
Montenegro on American life-support for years, and Djindjic
kept in power by Kostunica’s inaction and American blood
money, it is but a matter of time before the now empty shell
of Yugoslavia will pass away. Djindjic and Djukanovic will
then become rulers of the ruins always beholden to
powers that made them, of course.
of servitude thus takes hold over the last portion of the
Balkans yet unconquered. Only tiny Macedonia
still holds out, though given the amount of Imperial pressure
on its indecisive leadership, that resistance may soon become
a memory as well. The people, driven to the brink of insanity
by wars, sanctions and mass migrations, are too busy scraping
up the bare necessities to raise their voices. When they do,
it is to cry out for leaders who would bring deliverance from
misery. As always, they should be careful what they wish for.
little doubt that the once widely despised Zoran Djindjic
is now firmly in charge of Serbia. The entire ruling coalition
in Serbia sided with his decision to suspend the federal Constitution
and turn Milosevic over to the Hague Inquisition. Only two
parties have refused to play along – Kostunica’s
DSS and Velimir Ilic’s Nova Srbija. Ilic, the
mayor of central Serbian city of Cacak, is staunchly pro-Kostunica
and played a major part in last October’s revolt. Yet
neither party has officially left the coalition. They have
merely formed separate voting blocs in the Parliament.
of the federal government also gave impetus to Djindjic’s
associates in G17, a group of neo-liberal economists determined
to drag Serbia into the orbit of statist capitalism (not to
be confused with free-market capitalism). One of their leaders,
federal Treasury head Miroljub Labus, is now busily mocking
federal institutions in the media.
Djindjic’s appetite for power is growing. Last
weekend, he met
with Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic, vowing to restore
the royal family’s property expropriated by the Communists
in 1945. The meeting, of course, was much less about property
rights and much more of an opportunity for the Prince to endorse
Djindjic, saying he did "good things for the people of Serbia."
Though he is an unprincipled Marxist, Djindjic understands
well the propaganda value of royalty.
proposal by Djindjic, which sounds very reasonable on the
surface, is that the question of Serb-Montenegrin relations
should be resolved by the end of 2001, and "not a day
later." Yet Montenegro president Djukanovic – a
friend of Djindjics, coincidentally – is planning a
referendum in early 2002. If Djindjic is true to his word,
by then a referendum will not be necessary.
six-month deadline could mean more than meets the eye. Interviewed
by Serbia’s top news magazine,
Djindjic said last Thursday that he "needed" Kostunica, for
without him, Serbia would be divided into two opposing, irreconcilable
factions – "like it is in Montenegro." This amounts
to surprising candor, since the general agreement is that
Montenegro has not seceded only because its government is
deadlocked, lacking a clear mandate. Djindjic can do whatever
he desires and use Kostunica’s popularity as a shield,
counting on the fact that Kostunica either does not wish to,
or is not capable of, stopping him.
Kostunica, meanwhile, seems perfectly aware that Djindjic’s
actions in L’Affair Milosevic have shaken the
very foundation of the country. Apart from several strongly
worded statements, however, he has done nothing to prevent
the country’s slide into anarchy. Even his own party
about Djindjic’s apparent triumph.
of action on Kostunica’s part is alternately deplorable
and frustrating. Even his enemies know that Kostunica stands
for things they vehemently oppose – freedom, patriotism,
integrity and principle. (For example, Serbia’s premier
quisling, Sonja Biserko, called Kostunica a "fascist" in September
of last year, only a few short months after her organization praised
Djindjic as Serbia’s only possible savior.) But how
can Kostunica build a state based on his ideas, when he allows
Djindjic to run rampant doing the exact opposite of what Kostunica
Kostunica’s track record in handling Djindjic is
about as successful as Othello’s handling of Iago.
As early as last November, before Djindjic became Prime Minister
by using Kostunica’s name to get elected, Kostunica’s
advisor Aleksandar Tijanic claimed Djindjic was nothing but
trouble. Since then, Djindjic has traveled around the world
making "business deals," encroaching on the power of the federal
government through tax codes and strangling the prospects
of a free market through government monopolies. In March,
he flouted the law by "arresting" Milosevic, again without
suffering any consequences. And all that was just the prelude
to June 28, 2001.
an observer forced to conclude, based on these facts? Either
that Kostunica is a lousy judge of character when it comes
to Djindjic, or that he is afraid that actions against Djindjic
would precipitate civil war and foreign intervention, or that
he knows something the rest of us do not.
the power struggle in Belgrade is taking place in an extremely
charged atmosphere. NATO still occupies Kosovo. Macedonia
is under tremendous pressure to surrender to Albanian demands
and allow partial
NATO occupation itself. The newest imperial weapon against
Macedonia is a campaign of vicious attacks
on the country's leaders a weapon once used exclusively
against Slobodan Milosevic.
knows how much the Empire’s verbal support – whether
of Macedonia’s integrity or his presidency – is
really worth. He could not have missed the fact that Sonja
Biserko is now a Senior
Fellow for the government-sponsored "U.S. Institute of
Peace" in Washington DC.
that were not enough, the Hague Inquisition’s process
against Milosevic, who has been assigned the role of avatar
for the entire Serbian nation, is the darkest shadow over
campaign for Slobodamnation
of Serbs is already taking place. Spearheaded by blatantly
false reports, the Western media are eager to exploit
the "Milosevic myth." Such fictitious renditions of recent
Balkans history, casting Milosevic "as a supposedly brutal
Serbian nationalist-conqueror," says a commentary in Belgrade
daily Glas Javnosti this Wednesday, "is the ideal justification
for the new militant interventionism, motivated by the need
of Western capital to move freely across national borders.
The Milosevic Myth, thus embellished and richly illustrated,
is also important because it embodies all the racist stereotypes
of Balkans denizens as retarded untermenschen, incapable
of living in peace without foreign intervention and permanent
outside tutelage." (Misha Djurkovic, Slobo Myth A Creation
of Western Media, July 11, 2001.)
is thus tasked with defending not only himself but his entire
people, in a "court" whose reason for existence guarantees
he will never get a fair trial. The only "rule" the court
recognizes is "we win, you lose." Just this week, they toppled
a loyal vassal government in Croatia, seizing two Croat
generals simply to undermine
Milosevic’s criticism. No wonder he is refusing
to play. And he is right.
A TIME TO LEAD
It may seem
absurd, ironic and almost surreal that Milosevic is now exhibiting
more leadership than Kostunica. Faced with impossible odds,
completely at the mercy of his tormentors, Milosevic is standing
tall and scoffing right in their faces. Kostunica hesitates,
even though he has both the power and the obligation to stop
Djindjic’s tyrannical rampage.
comes down to a simple equation. Serbia is too small to have
two masters, too weak right now to be run by two opposing
ideologies. Which one will prevail will be decided by a contest
of deeds, not words. People will follow those who are willing
and able to lead. They rally behind the most assertive, most
vocal idea, not necessarily the best. If the current trend
continues, the battle for Serbs’ hearts and minds will
be won by Djindjic’s neo-liberal statism, not Kostunica’s
libertarian market nationalism.
do not stand on principles, stand not at all. Rather, they
kneel like slaves in the mud of self-abasement, cowering before
is running out of one thing he never had in abundance: time.
Every day, Djindjic and his cohorts seize more power. If something
is not done immediately to establish and maintain a constitutional
order in Serbia and Yugoslavia, a month from now it might
be too late to try. Kostunica’s choice will determine
his people’s future. By voting for him last year, and
taking to the streets afterwards, the people of Serbia entrusted
Kostunica with that heavy burden of responsibility.
It is time
he justified that trust.