by Nenad Lj. Stefanovic
Even without referring to these data, it is clear that the regime has become fearful of Otpor and that actions by members of this originally student organization (frequently on a borderline between mockery and very serious moves) irritate it a lot. Any representative of the authorities speaking in public these days, has almost from the very first moment opened fire from all weapons on Otpor, describing this organization as "fascist storm troopers", "militant scum", gang of "failed students, drug addicts, foreign hirelings, gangsters, terrorists...", but "fascists" in any case. Some of these qualifications were made by the top state officials and it is therefore surprising that so far there haven't been more vigilante actions (similar to the one by golden boys [president Milosevic's son and his friends] in Pozarevac) of those who, trying to "beat some sense into fascist minds", almost beat some of them out of this life. At the same time, newspapers whose articles (publishing of medical and police records) deserve to be quoted in all text books of the type "how to recognize fascism" are also reporting about "fascists" from Otpor. Syntagmas about "failed and lazy students" are also used by the radio station [government controlled "patriotic" B92] that was recently stolen exactly by the eternal students of the Belgrade University. And those whose children never saw a university, but on the other hand managed to earn riches in "business".
ONLY ONE K: What probably irritates the regime the most about Otpor is the unusual structure of this organization: Otpor does not have a leader, vertical organization, and because of that it is difficult to point a finger at one of them and check his grades, family situation, medical record or count his dates with persons of opposite sex. Ivan Marovic is one of twenty-odd spokespersons of Otpor. He is a twenty-six-years-old final year student of mechanical engineering. His Otpor e-mail address is email@example.com, which might prompt someone to conclude that this organization definitely has its Tito [Edvard Kardelj was an ideologue of the Yugoslav Communist Party, while Josip Broz Tito was its leader]. To this remark Marovic only responds with a smile that: "Tito is still hiding in a cave. This 'Kardelj' is simply supposed to fool those who read our messages. Of course I am not an ideologist of the movement, there isn't such a thing in Otpor, but only one of those who appear more often in the public."
At the start of a conversation with Vreme, also teasing, we notice that his colleague, spokesperson of JUL Ivan Markovic has only one extra "k" in his surname but that their styles are significantly different. When Markovic, for example, says that citizens in Pozega almost to the death beat up the inspector who tried to shut down the local radio station, no one can later find either the inspector who is supposed to be on his deathbed, or (God forbid) a death notice in the newspapers. When Marovic says that sympathizers and members of Otpor were beaten up in Pozarevac, the victims also disappear from the face of Earth, but only for six days. Then they are released from prison with the following diagnosis: dislocation of the nose bone, injured eye, stitches on the forehead. Naturally, the public has to wonder what these dangerous Otpor members looked like immediately after their arrest.
Several times during the conversation with Vreme Ivan Marovic referred to non-violent character of this organization and emphasized that present attempts by the regime to cast Otpor as a terrorist organization are pretty ridiculous. "That is the most stupid possible way to approach the satanization of Otpor," says Marovic. "If they continued with their old line that we are actually lazy students who do not want to study but are instead active in politics, the general populace might have believed them. And in that case we could discuss why we are active in politics rather than dedicating ourselves to studies. The claim that we are terrorists is a call for a lynching. That is why on May 13, The Security Day, we shall show up in front of Police stations and carry out a mass surrender. If we are terrorists, as Police Minister Vlajko Stojiljkovic claims, then we should be in prison. But, if we are not terrorists and they do not arrest us on that day, then Vlajko Stojiljkovic, Nikola Sainovic, Ivan Markovic and all others who claim that must shut up. They cannot from their high offices make such statements only for purposes of political marketing. They are supposed to be serious people; accusations of terrorism is a very serious charge, and their words should be followed with action". Personally, Marovic does not expect a ban on Otpor that would force them to go underground. He claims that Otpor, above all is an idea about an all-inclusive populist movement. For a year since its founding (October 1998) this organization operated without any infrastructure and offices, and therefore it would easily adjust to a similar mode of operation if necessary. Our interlocutor reminds, however, of one of main Otpor mottoes: "As Repression Increases, so does Otpor! [Resistance]". We, adds Marovic, feed on the repression of the regime, and in all towns and cities where they arrested our people, the movement accelerated its growth. Immediately afterwards we were approached by new people, sometimes even pensioners, prepared to continue with resistance. The events usually go along the following lines: activists show up in a provincial town and put up posters, distribute fliers or write graffiti of Otpor, the Police arrests them, and a few days later the buzz about this movement spreads so much that a local outpost of Otpor is founded in the same town.
Until the recent incident in Pozarevac, members of Otpor did not have bigger trials than routine arrests and taking into custody, excluding a slap here and there. Marovic claims that in most cases the Police were polite and civil in their dealings with Otpor members. During the recent protest march from Novi Sad to Belgrade, two Police cars provided security for the marchers and on one occasion protected them from drunk provocateurs. However, something totally different happened in Pozarevac. The whole incident had its pre-history in which some local bullies used to previously threaten Otpor members: some of them ended up tied to chairs and there were even threats that chainsaws were going to be used. To the question whether Otpor ignored these threats in order not to discourage numerous young activists of this organization in other towns and cities in Serbia, Marovic issued a strong denial. "No, on the contrary, we informed about those earlier incidents in Pozarevac but a large part of the public apparently missed that. There, everything started with threats and later escalated into beatings of our activists and sympathizers, which became a scandal at the highest level in the state. In that whole story, much more important than the beating is the fact that some local power brokers and hooligans received protection from the very top of state hierarchy and that victims were declared for attackers. Before the incident the Police were informed about everything, but failed to show up," says Marovic.
LACK OF ELITISM: As early as in March of this year Otpor grew out of an originally student organization into a populist, all-inclusive movement and developed a network of organizations in provincial towns, that are far away from big university cities. Very frequently even in those locales where the opposition never had much following. Recently, in Kursumlija, their founding rally was attended by the mayor, otherwise a member of the Socialist Party of Serbia. Immediately afterwards he was fired and expelled from the party. One can freely state that Otpor today has more members (some estimates mention even 20,000) than many opposition parties whose leaders drop by the Otpor premises from time to time asking: "Children, how can we help you?" Most of these "kids", Ivan Marovic included, have behind them experiences from earlier student protests. Our interlocutor agrees with the impression that Otpor, in comparison with some earlier student movements, is significantly less elitist, and maybe even more spirited. "It seems to me," says Marovic, "that this time we managed to avoid traps of student elitism. I think that differences in comparison with earlier student movements are significant. We, above all, took into account their mistakes. We did not want to immediately rush out to the streets but we believed that it would be better to start street protests when we thought that such a method of protest could be efficient. We did not spend much time on human resources policy, we do not have leaders and thereby no possibility of abuse of the movement by leaders. Otpor is much more serious than all similar earlier endeavors. We are now well-known even in those environments where the opposition is weak, for example in Srbobran, Sid, and even in Pozarevac. Honestly, we have made there more trouble for the regime in the last month and a half than the opposition during the last ten years. We are trying not to waste our energy, but to carefully focus on actions that are likely to produce best results. Or goal is to spread the idea of resistance, to influence large number of people in Serbia to be critical with respect to the authorities and prepared to engage in civic disobedience and non-violent political struggle for their rights and against the undemocratic regime."
On Tuesday night news agencies reported that the first president of FRY, writer Dobrica Cosic, had joined Otpor. This fact could be used by the regime for new accusations about "the organization of failed students". That same night, after the cancellation of the rally in Pozarevac and new wave of repression, Otpor recommended to the opposition parties that the so-called crisis staff for the monitoring of the situation be formed. A flood of repression is, it seems, expected in the forthcoming days and months, prompting ideas about the crisis staff.
Ivan Marovic, one of those who have the authority to speak on behalf of Otpor, expects to be soon called up to do his mandatory military service. He is convinced that by the time he finishes the service "the first phase" of Otpor's goals (replacement of the regime) will have been completed. But, then "phase two" follows, and in that phase institutions of the society are to be built and Otpor and its fist will be kept busy even then. Who knows, maybe at that time this organization will cooperate with the new opposition, perhaps a reformed SPS. To the question what he intends to do after completing his military service, Marovic shrugs his shoulders and replies: "I really don't know. I have such faint memories of the time when Milosevic was not in power that I can't really imagine life without him. I am only convinced that by the time I complete my military service we shall have a new Minister of Defense."
Vreme's interlocutor however, does not exclude the possibility that certain opposition parties attempt to from time to time (ab)use Otpor for their goals and adds that something like that is completely legitimate in politics. As far as Otpor is concerned, they view the opposition as a tool that needs to be used in the process of peaceful replacement of the present regime. Whatever it may be, this opposition, says Marovic, is the only one we have and since there is no time to make a new one, Otpor will support it in the forthcoming elections. In return they demand from the opposition to maximally focus on the most important goal: the change of the regime in elections so that Serbia can finally open doors that were opened by many of our neighbors ten years ago.