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NO 101-102

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Helsinki Charter No. 101-102

November - December 2006



By Nikola Samardzic

Assessment of totalitarian legacy makes a part of today\'s European identity. In this sense, Europeanization emerges from de-Nazification. In general sense of the term, de-Nazification implies a break-up with totalitarianism, something more sincere and heartfelt than simple denial. In Europe\'s contemporary political culture de-Nazification was a long and painful process of confronting not only the trends that had flooded the cataclysm of the WWII but also their epigones that have emerged instead as social, racist or chauvinist deviations rather than purely ideological and political ones.

The defeat of Nazism and fascism, sealed by capitulation of Germany (1945), did not put an end to totalitarianism. A political culture of concentration camps and overall uniformity swallowing up any pluralism survived on the other side of the Iron Curtain. When Europe\'s last dictator and mass murderer perished (1953) de-Stalinization was so restrained and slow-paced that it was possible to stall it to the extent necessary for suppressing new liberation movements and ideas emerging in Europe\'s East (1968). The fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) triggered off new democracies in the places that understood the messages of East German uprising. Apart from the USSR, only Yugoslavia and Albania kept their distance. But at the same time new nationalisms raised their heads beyond the borders of civilizations imbued by rationalism and enlightenment. Under the cover of quasi-democratic legitimacy, those new nationalisms gave birth to authoritarian oligarchies ready to provide umbrellas to collectives of a traditional society: to nomenklatura, intelligentsia, church, tycoons and to criminal and even terrorist gangs. The survival of leftist totalitarianism denied the messages and significance of anti-fascism. Less successful communities were left in moral and ideological voids, and prone to the spirit of collectivism and uniformity.

The collapse of the Soviet empire released unprecedented energy of political extremism. National and social frustrations of the post-Soviet world resulted in resistance to the challenges of transition and globalization, and gave birth to new religious movements or to cynical, fatalist pessimism. Centrifugal forces in USSR and Yugoslavia defying Russian and Serbian centralisms were incapable of laying liberal and democratic foundations to their new political legitimacies and state identities, or of developing them soon enough. Faced with separatisms they spoon-fed themselves with their unattractive political cultures and avoidance of European and Euro-Atlantic institutions after the end of bi-polar world, post-Soviet Russia and the new authoritarian Serbia were arming themselves with the synergies of the remnants of totalitarian states with accompanying nomeklaturas, pseudo-historical ideologies, religions and organized crime. Separatists - from Republika Srpska to Dniester Republic - behaved about the same, while the international community, faced with new borders, helplessly accepted new state of affairs created through ethnic cleansing. For their part, the perpetrators of ethnic cleansing kept arguing that they were just setting right a historical injustice - real or imaginary.

THE ORIGINS OF TOTALITARIANISM: Has the official Serbia relativized or even turned her anti-fascism senseless by the same premises that, ideologically and morally, wasted her entire historical tradition in the past two decades, while boiling her national perception to anti-modern and irrational ideas? Has she kept just bits and pieces of her anti-fascist legacy only to be in the position to call into question the establishment of new, institutional relations with the developed world, particularly with her neighbors that are, for the purpose of the safeguard of collective political mentality, still stigmatized for their cooperation with Axis Powers in the World War II? Is the official distortion of anti-fascism Serbia\'s yet another anti-Yugoslav platform as she faces the challenges of the West Balkan\'s European future that calls for a new form of integration?

Is the break-up with anti-fascism a symptom of a failed de-Nazification?

The origins of totalitarianism are not identical in all cases and in all epochs. However, the histories of Nazi and fascist totalitarianisms indicate that they could be interpreted in the light of converging interests of traditional and new elites. It is common knowledge that such convergence of interests in Germany brought about Bismarck, militarism and Nazism by managing to survive all cataclysms on its way. The longevity of authoritarian elites that kept interweaving and coming closer regardless of their ideological and social origins could explain the 20th century Serbian history\'s failures in international relations and domestic modernization. Serbia stepped into 20th century with an assassinated king and an ouster (1903) that appalled Europe\'s legalistic public. She opened this century with a clumsy attempt to oust a nomenklatura and by a counterattack - the assassination of a prime minister (2003). In the ensuing year (2004) she officially launched the restoration of the values of the past authoritarian epoch. Though officially among victorious allies, Serbia has lost two world wars - one in demographic and the other in political sense. She was devastated in the first war. In the second, she lost track of her anyway modest democratic and civil resources. After half a century of ideological wandering and chaotic modernization, insufficiently urbanized and Europeanized, Serbia was incapable of understanding East European revolutions of late 1980s. She was incapable of reconstructing her identity and adjusting it to the process of dissolution of the weakened Soviet empire and archaic Russian imperialism. Finally and under the pretext of national interest, she set herself for a series of warring adventures. She destroyed Yugoslavia that had been a frame for her national unification and in which she had invested the entire history of her liberation wars and her anti-fascism.

Serbian and Yugoslav anti-fascism mostly resulted from resistance movements the liberation motives of which were blurred by the turmoil of national and civil conflicts (in spite of the fact that the occupation by Axis Powers imported fascism). Though politically and socially marginal, fascist movements in the first Yugoslavia turned out to be capable of transformation and integration into political and social mainstreams. National grudges were standing in the way of Yugoslav unity. The imported rightist extremism thus glued on chauvinistic groups adding the ideas of collective exclusiveness, racism and clericalism to traditional nationalisms. Fascism did not found an adequate social foundation in the first Yugoslavia. Unlike Germany and Italy, the first Yugoslavia did not have the lower middle class prone to political extremism and social demagogy. Predominant political elites that were stirring up frustration with the outcome of the World War I in other places were just in embryo in the first Yugoslavia. However, all those elites were growing stronger by almost identical model - coming together of industrialists, clergies, landowners and militaries. But predominant elites were manipulating individual nationalisms rather than joining hands in the first Yugoslavia. It was not only by chance that individual fascist movements were inciting national frustrations.

Yugoslav anti-fascism can hardly be explained without characterizations of resistance movements and long-term interpretation of the outcome of the World War II. The debate the recollection of the anti-fascist character of Mihailovic\'s movement launched in Serbia in mid-1980s was so misused later on for production of ethnic intolerance and territorial aspirations that it drowned the Ravna Gora myth in the flood of folklore kitsch. The process of rehabilitation of Mihailovic and his forces was also turning a blind eye to some crucial facts such as Mihailovic\'s irresoluteness that made him an unreliable ally. That was why in 1943 the United States and the Great Britain begun mostly to rely on communist partisans. In all aspects, Mihailovic was a loser of both civil and world wars. But simultaneously the liberation and anti-fascist role of communist partisans was being relativized in the light of ideological and class conflicts that marked their enthronement and laying foundations for a new order. The black book of political violence - particularly in the public discourse - rather failed to reveal the extent to which the state\'s interventionism, collectivism and blurred, irrational structure of ownership were slowing down the country\'s modernization - which was undisputable - and its creative forces drawing on cultural wealth and diversity of constitutive communities. It was only logical, therefore, that the Serbian society brought into the 21st century the luggage without a clear-cut orientation of the majority.

Original totalitarianism and the initial, hard-core dictatorship of the second Yugoslavia were hampering proper understanding of the complex processes of civil and national conflicts that had taken place in the shadow of foreign occupation. Till its very end, such political system left no room for authentic public reconsideration that would have nothing to do with some agreement reached at top party and state levels. The scope and duration of de-Nazification was restricted. The new political system also failed to offer a lasting solution to the national question. The buds of territorial separatism emerged wherever de-Nazification had lost momentum or dissolved in political opportunism. No democratic - and, later on, European - alternative was found for Croatian and Serbian questions. The Slovenians considered the Yugoslav solidarity a weight on their shoulders. The Montenegrins, the Macedonians and the Bosniaks were impatient to build their own identities. However, it was the Kosovo question that was eating into Yugoslavia\'s cultural tissue. Culturally and historically, Yugoslav peoples have never been close to the heart of the Albanians who were generally poor and, therefore, stick to their traditional way of life. They felt frustrated and ignored in the Yugoslav community. National frustrations were renewed against the backdrop of a rigid ideological system that maintained some totalitarian traits regardless of the fact that Tito\'s communism was "soft" and, in some aspects, open to the world. However, all loosening ups came after party and ideological conflicts that used to shake the entire society and, in the long run, stir up national frustrations in the long run.

RELATIVIZATION OF CIVIL VALUES: Labeling all social and political opponents Nazi and fascist collaborators in the post-war period also relativized the attitude toward fascism. Almost the entire population of Banat\'s residents of German origin was victimized: the rest had withdrawn with the German army. Political opponents were usually accused of treason and collaboration, while indictments against them were loose and blurred. Inadequate focus on major promoters of fascism and on the consequences of their deeds made it possible for fascism to hibernate, so to speak. Open trials and group processes were used to suppress political opposition. Even potential political opponents were put on trial. Prosecutions on political grounds were generating long-term political discontent, and territorial and ethnic disintegration. Discontent was particularly strong among emigrants who retained emotional and economic ties with their mother country. The totalitarian nature of the new system relativized anti-fascism\'s liberation trait. The debates on voluntary ideological identification and self-censorship in 1980s - at the time the system was falling apart - revealed how deeply totalitarianism was rooted.

Yugoslav societies also displayed tendency to replace one totalitarianism with another. In other words, the predominant political mentality was prone to adopting authoritarian and dictatorial models. Moreover, the cult of Josip Broz Tito encouraged such mentality. New Yugoslav chauvinisms developed on the teachings advocating biological or organic unity, and class and corporative society, and grew on neo-Romantic historicism, renewed clericalism and messianic turmoil.

Gradual change of attitude toward communism over past decades determined a change in the attitude toward any totalitarianism. Facing the past is usually determined by the values of one\'s own era, and is imbued by its crises and dilemmas. The antimony of the defeated imbues recollection and reconsideration, as well as the confrontation of opposed collective identities. Even the attitude toward history sharpened and turned utilitarian. History was interpreted from the angle of national exclusiveness and moral relativism, and in the context of current discontents regardless of their nature and causes, and future hopes. Serbia had also to face up the disappearance of an entire world the ideological existence of which the predominant elites identified with their own existence. New national mythology was created from some syncretism - a mixture of partially planned and partially spontaneous chauvinism, Eastern Orthodoxy and communism. The Russian myth was once again invoked as a traditional, reliable foundation of populist social demagogy. Redesigned collectivistic spirit was given clerical and, to a certain extent, racist characteristics. Democratic and liberal alternative lacked historical continuity, convincing argumentation and adequate social foundation. The common state was perceived as a battleground of confronted identities. Elites that had emerged from nomenklatura were imposing the discourse on national interests, territorial rights and unavoidable showdowns.

It is only logical that identification of fascism, and class and political opponents at the second Yugoslavia\'s beginning contributed to relativization of universal civil values at the time of its disintegration. Anti-fascism was firstly a pillar of the new order the acts of which associated fascist experience and Nazi terror in particular. Tito\'s Yugoslavia simultaneously stifled civil, clerical, nationalist and its own pro-Soviet opposition, and set up the first concentration camp in the post-war Europe (1948). As early as in late 1940s, the relativized and instrumentalized anti-fascism was replaced by the official anti-bureaucratism, a new stigma for enemies of the people and the state. But that did not put an end to the history of state and party paranoia. The policy of rearranging relations between constituent peoples and minorities justified as the antithesis of national conflicts interpreted in a fascist perspective also contributed to the misplacement of anti-fascism. National equality also became the object of historical interpretation. The role and the character of the Ustashi state were paralleled to Mihailovic\'s movement. All quislings were considered traitors. The nomenklatura\'s rhetoric turned anti-fascism senseless. And when centralism (officially abandoned by the 1974 Constitution) loosened up, competing republican and provincial administrations opened the door to bureaucratic nationalism.

When Tito died (1980) Yugoslavia seemed to be left without its only reliable common footing. The future, as predicted, was uncertain. The country was in serious economic crisis. Post-Tito governments (in the epoch of Thatcherism) persistently tackled it through interventionism. Till mid-1980s at the latest anti-fascism was still a kind of ideological cover protecting the government from criticism. But weakening of communism threatened with yet another relativization of totalitarianism. Fascism was sufficiently distanced in historical terms. Anyway, fascism has never provided the social foundation capable of the safeguard of totalitarian legacy and its authentic ideology. In the search for historical explanation of national frustrations the outcome and lessons of the World War II were more and more on the table. The prevalent dualistic interpretation of the liberation movement and liberation efforts was also questioned. The absence of the culture of remembrance - based on historical truth and in itself complex and inapplicable to ensuing eras - also left room for a new political and ideological amalgam of the incumbent nomenklatura and chauvinism with intellectual and clerical origins, and attractive to both the neglected social majority and middle classes the confusion and passivism of which revealed their poor political culture. Inadequately rooted and porous in all aspects, the middle class recognized that amalgam as an opportunity to publicly interpret the values it considered traditional. Republican bureaucracies encouraged mobilization along national lines by reviving the same feelings of discontent they themselves had suppressed until recently. Chauvinistic populism replaced social demagogy. An entire chapter of history was relativized in the chaos that bore more and more violence. Secessionism and chauvinism that replaced the anyway socially marginal fascism suppressed by centralism, ethnic tolerance and the country\'s gradual opening to the world, became major pillars of renewed totalitarian values and their large-scale social affirmation.

In early 1990s the Ustashi movement was almost entirely rehabilitated in Croatia, particularly when it came to the attitude toward the Serbian community that was seen as the obstacle to independence and Europeanization. Fascist ideology and legacy were especially exploited in domestic politics, while Croatia was by far more moderate in her international relations. The official Croatia\'s policy leaned on Germany. Croatia of the time abandoned her anti-fascism that could have associated anti-German feelings. Then, by mid-1990s Croatia had already attained her warring goals through ethnic cleansing of rural Serbs and influence on the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Any totalitarianism whatsoever would have hindered her integration into Europe. On the other hand, Serbia was weighted by the consequences of economic sanctions and isolation, and bad relations with the EU and the United States. The society permeated with crime, and the destroyed political and media culture also kept alive the authoritarian rule in Serbia. The official Serbia could not have leaned, like Croatia, on a clear-cut fascist tradition. However, the cores of "Serbian Nazism" were evident in the parochial political mentality and provincial, theistic mysticism.

ALLIANCE BETWEEN "OLD" AND "NEW:" However, having cautiously and gradually won over a part of the society, Serbia\'s predominant elites were those that established an alternative history. Fascist processes in Serbia were probably more serious and time consuming than in Croatia. For, thanks to the aggression of Serbian armed forces and Germany\'s and Roman Catholic Church\'s support, Croatia somewhat managed to present its totalitarianism and chauvinism as politically correct and internationally acceptable. Moreover, the processes in Serbia intensified after the ouster of Milosevic\'s regime (2000): the old nomenklatura managed to corrupt and pacify a part of new political forces on the one hand, while, on the other, it turned out that democratic transformation could be neither quick nor launched by the social majority. True, Serbia\'s warring propaganda has in the meantime leaned on anti-fascist rhetoric aimed at underlying Croatia\'s renewed policy from the time of collaboration with Nazis. But such propaganda was abandoned when the war was transferred to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Weighted by international isolation, economic crisis and overall poverty, Serbia begun to reconsider her policy and the role she had played in the disintegration of ex-Yugoslavia. Her reconsideration was hardly prompted by war atrocities, crimes and plunder. Faced by declining popularity of Milosevic\'s policy, the nomenklatura and predominant elites continued to destabilize and dishearten the society as a whole through criminalization of political opponents and plunder of remaining resources, and then reopened the Kosovo question (1998-99). The same policy - along with growing clericalization and glorification of war criminals and war crime masterminds - was then carried further to resist democratization, liberalism, Europeanization, cosmopolitism and globalization (2000-04).

Do predominant elites protect their booty or the Serbian society has been gambling on the very sense of collective identity over the past two decades? Was the modern national identity construed at the eleventh hour of the history that had disregarded the messages of modern rationalism and enlightenment? Or, are the impressions of today\'s chaos much too exaggerated? Is the present-day "democratic nationalism" nothing but a sequel of ideological and political degeneration, some sort of "soft" fascism, a "blood" alliance between the old nomenklatura and the new political elite? And what are the prospects of that new order wrestling with social crisis, reforms and democratization the continuation of which is demanded by a part of the society, and with the pressure from the EU and the United States growing stronger and stronger in the region and Serbia proper?

Probably Serbia is not that specific. After all, Serbia is just another in the series of ineffective provinces that have been lagging behind West Europe\'s economic mainstream, weighted by rigid hierarchies and irremovable elites generating autocratic regimes and cultures of collectivism. Serbia\'s discontent was an easy mark to ideological manipulation and, in particular, to the fabricated spiritual unity used for suppressing genuine political pluralism. Instead of the ideas of free market and the society made of free individuals and their associations, Serbia\'s political subconscious emanates isolationist protectionism and state interventionism, monopolies, plunder and economic control.

But let\'s return to the history of anti-fascism. General crisis of parliamentarianism triggered off by the big depression (1929-34) cast its shadow over the anyway modest democratic experience of the Europe between two world wars. The Soviet role in the World War II underlined collectivistic aspirations and the attainment of political goals by violent means. The victory of leftist totalitarianism in Yugoslavia\'s civil war and revolution contributed to relativization of political and moral values. State socialism ignored human rights and individual freedoms though it opened new vistas to new social strata and helped emancipation of women. Ceasarian character of Tito\'s rule also contributed to relativization of anti-fascism. Holding highest state and party offices, Tito made the entire social and political hierarchy dependent on him. His death and its direct consequences imposed the necessity for a new leader and a more efficient state on the society. The funeral of the once police executioner, Aleksandar Rankovic, was the occasion for the first massive manifestation of political discontent that announced the authoritarian epoch in Serbia (1983). Rankovic had been perceived as a protector of national interests. Though unfinished, the Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences (1986) put the emphasis on the national question but in the context of the existing party state and its political and economic interventionism.

In mid-20th century Karl Popper and Hannah Arendt identified state communism and Nazism by pointing out their structural similarities. Later theoreticians attempted to soften such identification by quoting positive aspects such as socialist egalitarianism, social emancipation, etc. However, some similarities between the two are unquestionable. Both fascist and communist societies are closed ones. Both emphasize the role of community and ignore the role of an individual. Fascism and communism alike are marked by strict and bounding spirit of collectivism. The character of such community is religious. A party cell in communism plays the same part as a temple or a confession both. By turning to the church step by step, the nomenklatura has adopted the ideas predominant among the clergy ever since the Concordat Crisis (1937) and characteristic of quisling circles at the time of German occupation and of their theses about a nation\'s organicism and collectivistic policy. On the other hand, communist dictatorships were relying on poor and frustrated strata of society, and were somewhat democratic in that sense. Party structure guaranteed success in life and career. And this probably answers the question of how chauvinistic, pseudo-theological and mystic collectivism turned into the ideology of Serbia\'s nomenklatura that kept purging and refreshing itself with new ingredients as time went by. And this probably answers the question of why the tradition of anti-fascism has been despised and neglected.


NO 101-102

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