PAGE 2/3


NO 97-98

PAGE 2/3 ::: 1 | 2 | 3

INFO   :::  Helsinki Charter - PAGE 2 > Helsinki Charter No. 97-98 > Text


Helsinki Charter No. 97-98

July - August 2006



domestic political and academic anti-Fascist patterns of memory

By Todor Kuljic


1. Emergence of Notion

Anti-Fascism, anti-Communism, anti-Capitalism and anti-Totalitarianism, ideological patterns which shaped up sociological thinking in the 20th century, are still active. As historical experience which shaped up those patterns grows more distant, the scope of their ideological use seems to be expanding. That anti-Fascism is a good example of the foregoing is is best proved by its diverse emphasis and also by its denial, that is, anti-Fascism.

The term anti-anti-Fascism in the positive sense was for the first time used by the German extreme right-wing group "Europe nation" in 1972. They defined anti-Fascism as a political repression and peace movements as enemies of the nation. Currently in Germany, the expression "Anti-antifa" is a hallmark for neo-Nazis who collect data on the anti-Fascist activists to fight against them by violent means. Those data are thereafter published on "black lists" of the "right-wing front". Slogans like, "Who is anti-Fascist is also a communist", and "Anti-Fascism is Marxism in disgusie", serve to suppress anti-Fascism from public debates. However the notion of anti-anti-fascism has also a negative value version, which tries to justify or relativise fascism, and is present in various segments of society, ranging from scientific realm to the militant, street neo-Nazis. (1).

In a chaotic ideological transition in the Western Balkans, in the past 15 years, anti-anti Fascist culture of remembrance has become hegemonious.It is important to note that it rests on a strong alteration of ideological-political premises: anti-totalitarianism has suppressed anti-Capitalism, anti-Fascism was nationalized, and anti-anti-Socialism has disappeared. By quoting randomly the number of victims of the Communist violence, the history of socialism is written by a pocket calculator. Thus the new culture of remembrance has opened the door to rehabilitation of various Quislings. On the other hand, emergence of strong national feelings among the local warring sides from the WW2, unfolds in the sign of anti-Yugoslovenism. To put it briefly anti-anti-Fascism relativizes crimes of Fascists, rehabilitates Quislings, and revalues anew victism and executioners. However, one should admit that in the right are also those who warn that criticism of anti-Fascism emerges as a response to overideologized function of anti-Fascism in Socialism and on omissions made by the socialist history. Communist anti-Fascism had a more important role in immunization of socialism from criticism. However, restoration of chauvinism and religion may be only partly interpreted by saturation with decreed communist anti-Fascism.

Decreed Communist picture of history was in the late 20th century suddenly supplanted by an even more marked exclusivity: denial of anti-Fascism in an altered culture of remembrance mostly by the former Communists, and new anti-Fascists. Conversion was normalized. Since 2003, contrary to the Montenegrin practice, in the official Serb calenders of public holidays, the following days are not marked: Day of Victory over Fascism, Day of Liberation of Belgrade, or Day of Uprising. Government of Serbia has not sent its veterans' delegation to celebrations of the European 60th anniversary of victory over Fascism, or to the ceremony marking the allied D-Day in Normandy. But some veterans independently went there and took part in those celebrations. (2). During celebrations of the Day of Victory, in contrast to the Serb government, Russia last year gave medals to the Serb fighters. In Serbia was only staged an academy at which an attempt was made to somehow reconcile Chetnics and Partisans.

Fascism may be maintained in memory (by cautioning against its contemporary forms), relativized (by likening it to the other crimes), or ignored (considered an non-essential or ephimeral epizode in the national history). There are however other versions of neutralization of fascism via its externalization. To be perfectly frank anti-Fascism is everywhere nationalized, relativized, de-communized and de-centralized. Macedonians and Albanians cleanse anti-Fascism of Communists, pro-Serb part of Montenegro favours reconciliation between Partisans and Chetniks, Serbia and Croatia legalized non-Communist, Chetnik-style anti-Fascism. Anti-Fascism is frequently crudely nationalized and adapted to normalized nationalism: "I think that Communists are national treators, and I say that Ravna Gora Movement members (Chetniks) defended Western democracy in Yugoslavia."(3). Even Albanians in their adjustement to EU, de-communize anti-Fascism. (4). In a similar way Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina currently need an invented Chetnik-style anti-Fascism in order to solidify the entity sovereignty in historical terms. Out of the same reasons Croats underscore the Catholic character of Blieburg as a "circular road on whose victims the New Croatia feeds". By accepting anti-Fascism as a general "civilized orientation" and linking it to the Homeland War its anti-Chauvinistic component is being clouded in a specific way. But the foregoing should not induce us at all to conclude that the repressed, genuine past has finally triumphed. At play is in fact a rather trivial and transparent adjustment of anti-Fascism to the present-day and future of the national state.

In Croatia musemus of revolution have been supplanted by museums of Homeland War, and in Serbia there is no charismatic defender of the 90's conflict or morphing of that conflict into a cult. It seems that everywhere Partisan monuments are equally destroyed or left to ruin, while active Catholicism or Orthodoxy in both milieus imposes a clerical tone to anti-anti-fascization.

Not only has the Balkans adjusted itself to Europe, but because of the 90's developments in the Balkans, in the same decade anti-Fascism in Europe was in a new way instrumentalized. U. Akerman indicated how the memories of Nazism justified emergence of diverse policy lines towards the NATO intervention in the FRY. (5). Majority of the German left-wing, liberal intelligentsia in 1999 rose against Germany's participation in bombardment of Yugoslavia under the slogan "Never Again War", in contrast to the majority of their French colleagues who joined the intervention with the following justification "Never Again Auschwitz". In Germany it was much more difficult to fit NATO aggression into Auschwitz because of the agreement on viciousness of Nazi crimes, painfully reached in Historikerstreit 1985/86. Only when Milosevic was labelled as a "fascist" in 1999, former pacifists in Schroeder-led government got an opportunity and justification to render the German support to NATO intervention, immediately justified by Habermas as -humane(6). In ideologization of the NATO aggression Holocaust served as an argument and not as a memory. At the same time when Habermas called NATO attack on Serbia "a humane intervention" and recalled the experience of Holocaust, the same metaphor was used by Bill Clinton in justification of "surgically precise hits". In a way Holocaust was enthroned as a supreme metaphor of evil, but also as a moral lesson and practical warning. In fact in late 20th century argument of Holocaust became something a priori, not to be explained, for it became understandable and familiar. Anti-Fascism was down-sized to the artifact of Holocaust, that is a notion bereft of a concrete content, but with a strong moral note.


2. Two components of anti-Fascism

There are opinions that WW2 is an event still belonging to so called hot or fresh memory, and that only when that memory cools down it shall be possible to reach an agreement on what has really happened. By such a thesis anti-Fascism is left to a spontaneous maturing. But in fact we should immediately respond to anti-anti-Fascism. Consequently it should be noted that as long as the criterion of ("democratic" or "good") nationalism plays a major role in selection of momentaneous events from the past, all national histories shall strive to become monumetal. Every national history is superficial when in its past it seeks glory and bypasses national shadows. Only when a qualitative transition from nationally-monumental to critical history is made, it shall be possible to reach a higher reliability of and agreement on assessment of WW2. Though such a development is not to be expected soon, critical efforts to that end should not be renounced.

Within the framework of such a striving we should first separate the two diverse though closely linked components of anti-Fascism: 1. external (armed struggle) and 2. internal, anti-nationalistic one (resistance to inter-ethnic hatred). Consequently, universal anti-Fascism is a dam to any nationalism, chauvinism and racism. Hence not every anti-Fascism is universal. For example, anti-totalitarian anti-Fascim re-channels anti-Fascim into anti-Communism, for it is not interested in criticism of chauvinism. Different versions of conservative or "patriotic" anti-Fascism" contain even less anti-chauvinism. Since the end of 20th century, on model of F. Fire, different attempts were made to destroy communist anti-Fascism and present it as an "extorted" resistance, and not as a radical criticsm of imperialist and chauvinistic nature of Fascism. The second pattern strives to find a new zero hour of anti-Fascism. An example of the foregoing is presentation of D. Mihajlovic as the first anti-Fascist guerrilla fighter in Europe or of the Sisak squad in Croatia as the first mutinous nucleus in Europe. Sporadic Chetnic resistance to Germans, their collaboration with quislings and Italians and genocide against Muslims only forcibly may be reduced to the general notion of anti-Fascism. Anti-Fascism is either universal or it does not exist.

In line with the foregoing we must quote other examples. For example Article 1 of 2002 Constitution of the Republic of Croatia lays down that the "original basis" of the state is anti-Fascism. It also speaks about fine-tuning with EU, while in parallel proclaims as one of the state goals constitutional nationalizing of anti-Fascism. (7). In Constitutions of the FRY and the Republic of Serbia, as well as in the Constitutional Charter of Serbia and Montenegro there is no mention of anti-Fascism(8). The same holds true of the Draft Constitution of the Kingdom of Serbia from 2001(9). The headline "©eks u Jasenovcu"(10), almost sounds like a post-modernist metaphor. It was an instrumentalization of anti-Fascism similar to the one in Serbia in 2004, when the leader of the Serb Radical Party started his campaign for presidential elections on 9 of May, on the Day of Victory over Fascism. (11). It does not suffice to say that at play is a makeover, or fine-tuning to Europe. Similar was the response to S. Goldstajn's words that a distinction should be made between victims of Jasenovac and Bleiburg, for the first was the site of genocide, and the second of war crimes. Namely academician D. Jelcic assessed that the ceremony in Jasenovac "is staged in an amosphere of restoration of Yugocommunism which used the 60th anniversary of victory over Fascism to equalize Communism and West European anti-Fascism." (12). In Croatia anti-Fascism (as foundation of the Croat statehood) was nationalized by being purged from Serbs, Yugoslavenism, and the left-wing.


3. Media supremacy of anti-Fascism

What is most striking when one even superficially analyzes the media civil war of remembrance in Serbia, is the supremacy of anti-Fascism. The ruling national parties either ignored or openly nationalized anti-Fascism. The Serb Radical Party defended itself from accusations that it was a Fascist party, leader of Democratic Party of Serbia maintained that Ljotic was not a fascist, that is tried to doctor the latter's biography (13), while the Serb Renewal Movement aggressively anti-fascizes and forcibly tries to attach moral values to D. Mihajlovic. Should one mention at all that in a hegemonious religious discourse Hilandar cannot be linked to anti-Fascism? However it is true that in the other post-socialist regimes at play is also de-traumatization and relativization of fascism, whose important component is neutralization of a quisling line as pragmatic politics. Why? Because, generally speaking radical anti-Fascism is an uneasy reminder of the fact that fascism is an extreme, but basically normalized nationalism. In other words, if the communist anti-Fascism is depicted as Stalinistic and imposed, then national anti-Fascism shall emerge as an authentic phenomenon. Many efforts to show that Quislings and Chetnics were real-politicians, anc Communists -gamblers, in fact try to obliterate the fact that a militant anti-Fascism was real-politics since the late 1941, when Hitler declared war on the United States. Since the late 1941 quisling line was bereft of political realism, for the Axis forces were stopped at the front and confronted with the most developed forces. When in the Eastern front Blietzkrieg was stopped the Third Reich remained on the Central European position, won in 1940, which for the strategy of the world war was economically non-autarchic and insufficient in the conflict with oceanic powers (A. Hillgruber, T. Mason, E. Hobsbawn). In late 1941 when Wehrmacht was stopped in front of Moscow gates, Hitler (as quoted by A. Hilgruber, on the basis of testimony of A. Jodl) thought for the first time that the war could be lost (14). Contrary to those facts, it is easier to say today that patriotism was guided by quisling calculations, and to interpret anti-Fascist uprising as an irrational and suicidal insurgence.

Thus because of needs of the ruling clique anti-Fascism is being strongly confronted everywhere in the Western Balkans with anti-Fascism. To make the things worse, such efforts are assisted by part of historians-academicians. Namely in sociological-gnostic terms it is interesting to note how part of historians are trying to re-interpret the same historical material, that is, narrate it in a key visibly different from the one in the 80's. It would be to facile to interpret such a change of mind as an interim vacillation of ideological transition. I'd rather say that at play is an active, deep component of the nationalistic mind-set which tries to de-traumatize crimes of its own nation and portray them as excesses or wrongdoings committed in self-defence. National-liberating rhetoric has not accidentally suppressed the popular-liberating one. The one-party socialism rested on decreed anti-Fascism, which Milo¹evic, because of the WW 2 veterans associations and older voters did not dare abandon. The 90's opposition considered anti-Fascism useless, while the incument regime no longer considers anti-Fascism an important content.

One would not be wrong to conclude that at play is a planned oblivion of anti-Fascism. But the question is whether ethno-centric anti-Fascism is possible? The answer is: not without some difficulties, for a consistent anti-Fascism defends the equality of all that bears the hallmark of human. Chetnic ethnic-cleansing and Nedic-style and Ljotic-style anti-Semitism are on the other hand anti-Fascist barricades. And those very barricades make ethno-centric anti-Fascism controversial. But how then one may explain anti-fascization of chauvinism? Generally speaking the new hope seeks new past, and ethnic states seeks national anti-Fascism which is a recognized patriotism in Europe. No wonder that the real Yugoslav anti-Fascism was successfully fragmented into more or less constructed, Croat, Slovenian and Serb versions and that brotherhood and unity ( the French Revolution idea) became a symbol of treason. In that spirit Constitution of the Republic of Croatia in its article 141 expressly bans "restoration of Yugoslav state togetherness, that is, Balkans alliances in any shape or form" and treats the foregoing as a punishable offence. (15). It is easy to grasp that such Croat-style anti-Fascism is in fact tantamount to an anti-Yugoslav "argument". On the other hand the Serb-style anti-Fascsim seems to be tantamount to an anti-Communist "argument."


4. Weakening of the Left

But by and large causes of weakening of anti-Fascism should be sought in a multi-layered process of not-so-transparent U-turn in the epochal mind-set at the end of 20th century: a) new and general right-wing orientation of the epochal mind-set, normalization of capitalism, restoration of religion and conservatism and demonization of socialism; b) those general factors were reflected in local conditions of inter-ethnic confrontation and wars in the Balkans. It is difficult to deny that in Eastern Europe there is a twenty-year long anti-communist tradition, which is a rarity among high-intensity political passions. New national homogenizations sought new ideological organization of political hatred. Nationalists and other "communists victims" are more successfully united by anti-Bolshevism and soft anti-totalitarianism than by anti-Fascism. But of great harm was the fact that in science many fruitful, lesser disagreements have disappeared for the sake of strengthening anti-totalitarian or national passions. One should not be surprised by such a development since national interests and anti-totalitarianism are easily embraced axioms in the current lingo. The best possible thing would be to fine-tune them. On the other hand anti-Fascism does not belong to such axioms, for it jeopardizes normalized nationalism and in parallel threatens to weaken anti-totalitarian anti-Communism.

To the change of identity is closely related the change of roles of victims and executioners. To put it bluntly, the exploited working class was supplanted by underprivileged and enslaved victims-nations, and victims of Fascism were supplanted by-victims of communist terror. That is an emotional nucleus of the U-turn from anti-fascism to anti-totalitarianism.

Despite vacillations and diverse emphasis, one may say that anti-Fascism and not flexible anti-totalitarianism are a key ideological-historical and moral-political backbone of the 2oth century. Fascism is an extreme nationalism, while consistently explicated anti-Fascism is the most reliable basis of criticism of various forms of nationalistic narrow-mindedness. While ethnocratic liberalism and "democratic nationalism" rest on criticism of broadly understood totalitarianism, internationalistic vision of society devoid of enormous property and financial differences cautions against Fascism and its ethnocentric basis as the principal danger. Theoretically developed anti-Fascism presupposes criticism of real socio-economic sources of nationalism, while anti-totalitarianism clouds that criticism and re-channels anti-Fascism into anti-Communism. Added to that one should bear in mind the fact that there are several versions of anti-Fascism: a liberal one, so-called colonial one (which prompted Western powers to wage war against Hitler), defense-homeland anti-Fascism of the Soviet Union, communist ideological anti-Fascism, then general left-wing anti-Fascism in whose background lurks the criticism of its capitalist socio-economic sources, and ideological motley of contemporary anti-Fascisms in whose fulcrum is the criticism of holocaust as a racist industrial destruction of people.

Perhaps we should not wonder at different emphasis on anti-Fascism in different epochs. However the post-Cold War changes are too deep to be reduced to noraml changes of epochal mind-set or to differences between generations. In fact at play are not changes, but rather new exclusive stands. Weakening of the left in the structure of the post Cold War epochal mind-set has most affected the stand on fascism. It bears mentioning that until 1918 capitalism was considered an economically successful, but morally unjust and imperfect order. It was accepted in line with the Christian image of a man as an imperfect being. Only since 1918, because of the looming socialism, in place was put the process of moralization of capitalism as an embodiment of democracy and human rights, by dint of theories of totalitarianism, which not only compared, but also equalled fascism and socialism. According to interpretation of that school of thinking the communist anti-Fascism was extorted while national anti-Fascism and general anti-totalitarianism are -authentic. As it was shown, an additional relativization of anti-Fascism was made possible by inclusion of quisling and national groups into anti-Fascist ones. Should one mention at all how much bearing the foregoing has on nationalism-centred patriotism and internationalism-centred treason.

Therefore one should clearly understand that domestic changes in perception of fascism are closely related to general changes in perception of socialism. Until the 19th century socialism was an uthopia, and its place was somwhere in the future. Today socialism is placed in the past, as a totalitarian illusion. However it bears saying that socialism (or emotionally said- communism) is increasingly being officially interpreted as a diversion in the normal course of development of Eastern Europe, or as a new bogey-man. Before 1917, debate on socialism and communism was a theoretical one. After 1917, during the epoch of real socialism debate on communism was transferred from theoretical to the real politics realm. Its topics were: communist orthodoxy, renegades, anti-Communists and dissidents. At the time both Marxist and other intellectuals were of opinion that capitalism and democracy were mutually exclusive, or incompatible. In 1974 W.F.Haug wrote in a similar vein with Sartre's: "Who does not want to attack anti-Communism, loses anti-Fascism" (16). After the collapse of European socialism discussion once again moved to the terrain of politics. Socialism is currently a gloomy past seeking new victims and executioners.

Debate on Fascism evolved in a similar manner. Between the two world wars its character was predominantly real political, anti-fascist and only partly anti-totalitarian. In the late 30's of the past century Horkhimer thus explained the principle of critical theory:" One who does not want to speak about capitalism, should keep mum about fascism." During the Cold War in the West anti-Fascism was easily re-channelled into anti-totalitarianism. Between those counterstands there are not only more or less important differences, but also deep principled contradicitons. Most important tension between anti-totalitarianism and anti-Fascism was the one between anti-anti-Fascism and anti-anti-Communism. In the German Marxismusstreit from 1986. E. Nolte tried to deny Horkhaier by a paraphrase "Wo wants to speak about Fascism, should not keep mum about Bolshevism". In the late 20th century the course of debate on anti-Fascsim changed anew. Normalization of nationalism in Eastern Europe essentially changes a stance on fascism and anti-Fascism. Normalized nationalism no longer needs fascism, in contrast to the need thereof by communists in power. But since they are trying to appropriate it, nationalists should be warned: "Those who do not want to talk about nationalism, should not talk about anti-Fascism." Serb "democratic nationalists" are trying to give contents to the "good nationalism" by laying a new emphasis on anti-Fascism, while with the militant nationalists fascism is a drawing- room topic, that is the form of the most consistent national sentiment. Standing between th two extremes, the Serb ruling elite, by horse-trading in parliament in 2004 managed to legalize national anti-Fascism. It would not be exaggerated to say that the demonstrated re-assessment of anti-Fascism shook up fundamental principles of enlightenment-style anti-Fascism and made problematic key ideological and category apparatus of science of recent past.



1. Das Spektrum der Anti-Antifaschisten, Eine Einleitung (2005), Lotta Nr.21, S.15.

2. Dragan Bisenic (2006), Controversies and contemporary meaning of the Victory Day, 9 May 2006 (Electronic version:; Olivera Milosavljevic (2005), False ticket for Europe, Danas 23 May 2005.

3. K.Nikolic in the 60th years since the victory over Fascism, Slobodan KOSTIC - D¾enana KARABEGOVIC - Ankica BARBIR-MLADINOVIC - Biljana JOVICEVIC - Gëzim BAXHAKU
(electronic version:

4. Idem

5.Ulrike Ackermann (1999),Antitotalitäre Traditionen im Kulturvergleich - Ein deutsch-französischer Intellektuellenstreit, Dissertation zur Erlangung des Doktorgrades (Dr. rer. soc.) des Fachbereichs Gesellschaftswissenschaften der Justus Liebig-Universität Giessen.

6. Jurgen Habermas (1999), Bestiality and Humanity (translation from German), Nova srpska politicka misao, special edition 2, page 68.

7. Constitution of the Republic of Croatia (Electronic version: - Ustav Hrvatske)

8. Constitutional documents (Electronic version:

9. Pavle Nikolic, Constitution of the Kingdom of Serbia - Serbia on the Eve of Resurrection, Beograd, 2001. (Electronic version: )

10. "Commemoration for the Victims of the Fascist Concentration Camp held in Jasenovac", Vesti (Zagreb) 25.04.2004. (electronic version:

11. "Danas" 10 May 2004.

12. "Commemoration for the victims of the fascist concentration camp held in Jasenovac ."

13. "1996 Internet interview of President of the Democratic Party of Serbia Vojislav Kostunica ", (Electronic version

14. Todor Kuljic (1987) Fascism, Nolit, Beograd, page. 164.

15. Constitution of the Republic of Croatia

16. U.Ackermann (1999), Ibidem.


NO 97-98

PAGE 2/3 ::: 1 | 2 | 3







Copyright * Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia - 2008

Web Design * Eksperiment