prepared by Vesna TASIC
The recent publication of the collection of political essays Kaptolski kolodvor ["Croat Catholic Train Station"] (published by the Center for Contemporary Art, Belgrade), was the occasion for another Buden's visit to Belgrade and public appearances, first at the National Library of Serbia, and then at the Contemporary Art Museum. Reporter, with author's permission, reprinted excerpts from the lecture delivered on that occasion, entitled "Truth and reconciliation? No, thanks!". The lecture was delivered for the first time in New Delhi, last year.
Political debacle: The whole concept of "truth and reconciliation" was envisaged as some sort of imposed solution that, in my mind, is no solution for what we've lived through. That concept is a continuation of the attitude of domination of political aloofness that in itself shares responsibility for the tragedy and chaos in Yugoslavia. This is above all a political debacle. Political intellect of the developed Western world is the true loser in the former Yugoslavia.
Freedom and independent illusion: The example of Macedonia clearly illustrates the typical way in which the developed West treats dangerous political conflicts. At the moment when the armed clashes in Macedonia had already started, the Macedonian national TV station started the broadcast of a program for children (created by the producers of the Muppets), which was supposed to present the possibility of co-existence of Albanians and Macedonians. The justification for the program stated that it is necessary to confront two fundamental causes of ethnic conflict in south-eastern Europe, "ethnically divided education and biased media".
The worst ethnically motivated crimes took place in Bosnia-Hercegovina, the territory which never in its recent history had separate education systems for its different ethnic groups. As far as the independent media are concerned, during the whole war, in all parts of the former Yugoslavia, there were even too many of them. Everyone who had any interest in the truth about the war had plenty of opportunity to find out that truth. However, the true mystery is not related to the history of war crimes, but above all to the political circumstances that created conditions for those crimes. Those hidden games between the warring sides and certain participants in the drama and the so-called international community. The theory that we lack the truth includes a very basic lie. By focusing on some form of truth, political responsibility is ignored.
Perpetrator - innocent victim: The concept perpetrator-victim is related to the whole concept of truth and reconciliation. If we can pinpoint the key relation that reproduced itself during all these years, as far as the Western view of the Yugoslav crisis is concerned, that is the relation between a perpetrator and a victim. The West never even attempted to get involved in concrete political developments. It only gets involved the moment the conflict can be boiled down to the pure relationship perpetrator-victim, by providing humanitarian assistance, bombs, military intervention, troops...
Kosovo: The conflict between Albanians and Serbs was, politically, a totally rational conflict. The political reality of that conflict was pushed aside, while the concept of truth and reconciliation steps forward. In the meantime there is no open discussion regarding which political concepts are supposed to replace the concept of national states, and the only idea offered by the international community is the concept of time. Time that will decide instead of democratic political subjects.
Hague tribunal: That is an institution that provides a sort of truth, but it in itself is not a part of that truth, precisely because it never poses the question of political responsibility. The Hague Tribunal is in any case a proof that it is time to abandon the illusion about sovereign states. Not because great powers imposed something, but because we are not able to generate on our own basic values of modern democratic life, such as justice.
Will the Hague enable the western democracy to maintain the illusion that social antagonisms can and will be resolved in a courtroom? What if the Hague Tribunal is not a revolutionary act of global politics but only another means for the depolitization of the current situation?
Transition: After 1989, transitology, as the idea of transition from one political system to another, becomes totally deterministic, implying that the transition can only be envisaged as a transition into western-style liberal democracy. One transitologist for example said that geography is the only reason for hope that eastern European countries will follow the path of democracy and prosperity. Others went a step further in their determinism by claiming that nature determines the necessary outcome of transition because democracy is "a natural tendency and therefore it is not difficult to achieve". One of the transitiologists even based his theory of democracy on Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection!
(...) As children of Socialism, we also lived through a transition, in some sort of an inter-regnum. But, essentially, the system was equally deterministic as today. All of us here must be thoroughly cultivated and educated, in order to be capable of democratic culture that will result in correct political decisions, accelerated and unhindered economic development and, ultimately, inclusion into democracy.
But, essentially, we are again in the situation that we are some sort of children in the kindergarten of democracy. That means that all of us in this region are treated as politically immature subjects that are unable to independently reach decisions. In that sense transition is nothing but an indefinite process of education.
But, the West cannot give us an answer regarding what will happen with the Macedonian nation state, what is a political solution for Kosovo. The concept of transition has no space for the autonomy of the politics. Therefore, the situation is the same as under Communism, when politics was deemed to be "non-essential".
Civil society: The concept of transition has its political subject, the idea of civil society. Therefore, its subject is not anymore a political state, but the gray zone of civil society. This is the origin of NGOism which was the chief concept of the West for the resolution of crisis in our region. An infinite number of NGOs. As tiny inhabitants of Liliput, they were supposed to ensnare, disable and tie down the evil, totalitarian dictator, with their tiny independent media, and alternative projects.
Nostalgia : The nostalgic character of the Western policies is perhaps best illustrated in the concept of the bombardment of the FRY, which was nothing else but the revival of the situation from 1974, therefore re-Titoisation. This was a paradox of that intervention. Politically, it was based on Tito's ideology, and nostalgically Communist in its nature.
(...) That explains why we incessantly have to deal with various interventions that cannot provide any political solutions, that recognize sovereign states, although at the same time make sure that they cannot exercise their sovereignty.
Sovereignty: Sovereignty is recognized at the moment when it becomes meaningless. Croatia, in order to obtain a military victory, had to give up its military sovereignty. The question whether Croatian generals work for the CIA is ridiculous. Of course they do. Who else do they work for? They are fully controlled by the NATO. The issues that still trouble Serbia, have been resolved by Croatia a long time ago.
Political solidarity: In the context of everything I talked about, I claim that people in the former Yugoslavia do not need a commission for the truth and trials. Their main problem is general, not only ours, depoliticization. No truth from their recent past can help them liberate themselves from that depoliticization.
All exhumed corpses from Srebrenica will not turn us into political beings. What we really need is re-politicization of our tragic experience. They must win back the freedom of radical transformation of their dismal reality and create a new mode of political solidarity - which exceeds their national, cultural, religious identities. Only such mode of political solidarity can enable us, through those mass graves and ruins, to establish the so-called bridges of cooperation and coexistence. The reenactment or face-offs of victims and culprits and cathartic reliving of certain crimes will not do that.
None of our victims needs cathartic reconciliation, because that reconciliation would be nothing else but reconciliation with senselessness of our recent fates. What victims really need is to move beyond being only victims. They need a world that recognizes and accepts the political sense of their tragic fate. Therefore, only political solidarity, rather than humanitarian assistance (regardless of whether it consists of food or bombs), can help us liberate ourselves from the misery we've been living.