Eloquent silence after the elections
Are war and elections the only thing there is in what we call politics?
The post-election silence lasted too long. Although we are of the opinion that silence is a constant feature of electoral politics, we now say that silence can last so long as to erode the enthusiasm of even those who participated in the elections as activists and not just voters. That is because silence can also be eloquent.
At first, we’ve heard that the regime of the Serbian Progressive Party was not overthrown in these elections and that negotiations were therefore necessary, and then, after the constituent session of the Belgrade City Assembly, we’ve heard from the opposition that the Serbian Progressive Party did not have a stable majority and that perhaps negotiations1 were not necessary after all.
But one does not negotiate about negotiations. Negotiations are conducted while the fight is ongoing, and their goal is to minimize losses, if at the very start it is impossible to achieve permanent peace. However, the fact that the negotiations took place in the midst of an offensive of counting votes and interpreting objections tells us more than the news about the events in Ukraine and that war is a plan on which all elections take place, so the comparison with war is not just a metaphor. For us, the negotiations between Vučić and Đilas are only a symptom of what is happening on the other stage of electoral politics and mobilization, and that stage is war and war mobilization, which we have been witnessing ever since ruling party phalanxes and criminal clans have been participating in electoral activities and ever since we can’t interpret capillary votes other than as silent proceedings of victims of capillary violence.
Possible of the politics on our side are not the same as is possible for them, for those who are in power even when they are in the opposition.
But the silence seems to continue to echo with gibberish. One session of the assembly was enough to announce the end of the silence that reigned in the shadow of the negotiations after the elections and to announce the return of optimism, that is, to announce the end of the disappointment everyone enjoyed – both the opposition parties and their voters. But empty acclamations do not give words to the speech that would like to say what we have heard and experienced in silence. For empty speech, it is enough to return to the pre-election situation of hope that promised and predicted the overthrow of the progressive party regime, and someone will take care of the rest – and there are those who will. The opposition is ready to be united and to carry on work on overthrowing the regime, at least in Belgrade, although that should also worry us, the people of Novi Sad, because we know what unprincipled coalitions are, and now we see that they are being formed while unprincipled people are in the opposition. It is about the art of the possible, they will tell us, but only from the perspective of power, we will answer them.
Possible of the politics on our side are not the same as is possible for them, for those who are in power even when they are in the opposition. The parliamentary opposition is the opposition in the legislative branch of government, we must not forget that. The very participation in it gives legitimacy to the position, whatever it may be, and we know for sure about this one to be criminal. This is actually the real argument of political abstainers which is not heard due to the silence of the quiet majority who go to the elections on command or run away from it without being aware of the fact that even in escape from politics there is a political potential which is wasted on our side – on the side of the people and all those who are victims of the government as it exists today. That government may no longer be state government. Putin’s world does not seek for the state as a support – it is imaginary which is enough where everyone who is against him deserves to die, and those who agree with such a world are also worthy of death. The necropolitics of the militarism of organized crime goes hand in hand with the thanatopolitics in which regiments of the living dead are dying today for his glory and honor. The Serbian version of this world should not amuse us: there is nothing funny in the grotesque which Vulin2 prepared for us on Police Day and which he regularly puts on for us with his public appearances, to whose anaphoras both the Serbian police and the Serbian army march. We have heard: to him, Vučić is the president of all Serbs, so you see how funny and entertaining that is in Ukraine, if you have already forgotten what it was like in this region in the nineties.
However, as we had the opportunity to hear in a conversation with people, many citizens who were controllers and observers in these elections, even though they were not members of opposition parties at that time, intend to become so today: to join some of the existing ones or to create their electoral options. People do not give up on electoral politics. For an observer from the outside, especially for one who was against the boycott of the previous elections, renewed pluralism can seem like the democratization of party and parliamentary life in Serbia. But no one asks the question what of the democratic life of the people. No one questions whether the satisfaction of the opposition due to participation in the government will have anything to do with the people, that is, whether all the happiness and good life are reflected in the government of their chosen ones? Will the opposition in power form a different attitude towards people and their political rights and share the space for participation in the legislative power? Finally, will people organize themselves, propose something, ask or rather deem their role in political life over by voting?
We are afraid that people will remain in silence and, as the quiet majority, continue to serve as backbone for the right-wing populism that has taken over Europe. We have noticed a formal distance between the people and the government during the very elections, when we, as controllers, witnessed a form of pantomime, and not a political process in which people speak, think and suggest something to each other. The state-electoral dispositive mandates secret voting, and the archetypal image of that ‘participation’ is the image of a person hidden behind a screen who secretly and silently circles one of the numbers on the list.
Are, then, war and elections the only thing which exists today in what we call politics? War is permanent, as much as it is destructive, and it is happening again in Ukraine, and elections are a place of battles which are also fought by means of coercion and violence.
However, the subjective political capacity of people depends on the relationship they form at a distance from the state’s dispositive, and we would now say at a distance from the power. In order for the possible to appear for the people, the power must not be the only referent of their politics. However, today it is just that, because elections are still imposed as the only place of politics. Organization and politics on the side of the people is otherwise rare, but today it is reduced to unquestioned adherence to the government, to tacit agreement with it, if not exclusively for the sake of getting a sinecure, then because of the impression of participating in political life even though they are aware of electoral corruption. It made us think that the power is invincible. Not the political parties that can be defeated in the elections or can be the winners, but the power which everyone strives to conquer.
Are, then, war and elections the only thing which exists today in what we call politics? War is permanent, as much as it is destructive, and it is happening again in Ukraine, and elections are a place of battles which are also fought by means of coercion and violence. And both are located in the space of the state or government, whose legitimacy no longer depends, and already many think that it never depended on the free will and decisions of equal and free people. Sovereignty has long been seen as the power to decide on life and death, and as something that rests on persuasion without deliberation that is talked of so much today. Deliberation, namely, can only happen when we nurture it on our side – at a distance from any form of power and hierarchy. On the side of the power, even the principle of equality before the law has been invalidated and all that is offered to us is general mass clientelism, which is maintained by capillary violence and over which organized crime is being developed. Crime that originates from the state itself and that is protected by the state power, as the Mafia and other criminal organizations of coercion and violence once did. Impunity and corruption are immanent in every power, and as we mentioned, the question is whether it is still the power of the state today. War is the face that is first shown to us and in it we are offered to recognize our own, and one can resist it only with a political organization which we must create ourselves.
Translation to English: Ivana Purtic
1The representative of the strongest opposition party, who promised victory at those elections, just after them went to negotiate with president of Republic of Serbia and leader of ruling party, without consultations with its coalition partners and open speech about aims of negotiations.
2Vulin is the Minister of the Police in the Serbian government which is to end soon.
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