The word of the TENANT – on the occasion of the new issue of the Bulletin
Our grounding is the local politics that we have been working on as associated citizens for the past ten years. We have always viewed local politics as a political right of people to directly participate in political processes. However, at the end of this long period, we see that it has become part of representative politics and programs of new political movements and parties that operate today also from the parliament. Local civic initiatives have become a concession of power and a part of parliamentary and party politics, and not political processes in which the rights and freedoms of citizens to autonomously associate, gather, organize and propose something from their own local perspective are realized. The fight for survival overcame the political right of people to participate in politics not only through their elected representatives, but also directly, which is still guaranteed to every citizen of Serbia by the laws of this country and a proof of the political capacity of the people who created the norms of preservation of also our political freedoms. However, we know very well that laws do not have to be obeyed, moreover, their violation is tolerated and even respected, or it is enough, as is the case here, that people’s rights that have been already won are simply left aside, so that the citizens themselves leave the spirit of the laws that guarantee their liberties.
In wartime, and it has been time of war for a long time, the local perspective that we are talking about here also represents our approach to peace politics, with which today we look at the issue of recognition of Kosovo’s independence from a civic perspective.
However, some parts of the local politics of the non-parliamentary system still remain. What remains is a local perspective, that is, a local view of global issues in the name of which we are usually denied a say. That perspective is the continuation of our struggle for our political emancipation, and we also wonder what will remain, what kind of democratic life we will lead by voluntarily giving up acquired rights and freedoms, i.e. by reducing the resolution of major political issues only and exclusively to politics of power. In wartime, and it has been time of war for a long time, the local perspective that we are talking about here also represents our approach to peace politics, with which today we look at the issue of recognition of Kosovo’s independence from a civic perspective.
What we can see is that even this issue is dominated today by power politics through the regulation of technical, administrative and executive issues that make up the so-called process of normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo. No matter how important it is for people’s everyday life, the question that should be put first on the table even today, and perhaps especially today, is not among them. In our opinion, the first and most important issue is the issue of political freedom to say that it is fair and just to recognize Kosovo. This is a question that we must be able to ask because it concerns the preservation of the political rights and freedoms of those of us who live in Serbia today. And as we can see and testify, that question is not asked by any parliamentary party or movement today. Everyone’s mouth is full of words about the conditions and dignity of life of Serbs in Kosovo, but we don’t hear a word about emancipation and people’s capacity to make independent decisions about how they will live.
These are the concessions we are talking about and these are made in the hope that they will be taken care of and protected if they give up their political rights.
Oliver Ivanović warned that the Serbs must be autonomous and free from Belgrade first, in order to fight for their political position in Kosovo, which declared its independence through autonomous and free will and fight. However, the ‘process of normalization’ of relations reduces the political rights and freedoms of people to life outside of politics. Moreover, people either do not realize that they are being deliberately manipulated in this way or they themselves agree to political disqualification. These are the concessions we are talking about and these are made in the hope that they will be taken care of and protected if they give up their political rights.
The dominant discourse of power politics, domestic and international, is guided by the principle that nothing seems to be as it is, that is, it is guided by the interpretation of the political situation exclusively from the perspective of power as the only and first connoisseur of the state of affairs. Power is offered as the only place of politics, and it is a global state of affairs as much as a global effect of our local political life. But what we need is an anarchaeology, as Michel Foucault named the process by which the thinking of power is approached. Let’s paraphrase: it is the attitude in which we first tell ourselves that no power is unquestionable and inevitable and therefore none deserves to be immediately accepted. There is, he says, no inherent legitimacy of power and none of them rests on right and necessity, but every power rests exclusively on the contingency and fragility of some kind of story. That’s why we ask ourselves, where are we as people who also know how to tell stories?
What our problem is, but not only ours, is that governance may no longer be what power does. Rather, it will be that power is managing the place of power from which people are ruled and that the time of governance is behind us. What is happening today, the global state of war and pandemic, is an eco-catastrophic scenario in which storytellers such as Trump and Putin have the upper hand. People who don’t care about the global or the local, people who find governing a boring and difficult job which they never even tried to do. Expectations that we will return from the ‘Trump-Putin sidetrack’ to the beaten path is off the table and we should, most likely, go through the jungle of the complexity of the world where alternatives are swarming and flourishing which we find out of necessity, but we still do not realize them as politics. That road is always a terrain road and therefore local.
The discourse of ‘constructive ambiguity’ which by all odds will turn into the speech of ‘active non-counteracting’ to Kosovo’s entry into international institutions, is not the politics on the side of the people because it considers the people as a hostile environment of the power.
If diplomacy, as Latour wrote, is ‘speaking well to someone about something that that someone cares a lot about’, then we have a problem with that too, because, according to diplomats, Serbs care about Kosovo never being independent, and Kosovo Albanians to demarcate ethnically and territorially with the Serbs. Kurti’s opposition in Kosovo sees him as a bad negotiator because he insists on the rule of law and the provincial borders of Kosovo of the former Yugoslavia, so what he cares about is not the subject of diplomatic speech, but at least we from the ground, as people from the local, could find in it the reasons for Kurti’s one-sidedness, mistrust and exclusivity.
The discourse of ‘constructive ambiguity’ which by all odds will turn into the speech of ‘active non-counteracting’ to Kosovo’s entry into international institutions, is not the politics on the side of the people because it considers the people as a hostile environment of the power. The goal of ‘constructive ambiguity’ was to not alienate people from the normalization process. But to anyone who thinks politically, it is clear that the goal of such politics is to alienate people from political rights and freedom to involve themselves in the political process of negotiating the mutual recognition of Kosovo and Serbia and freely express their opinion, even when they think that the independence of Kosovo is necessary to acknowledge.
Crimes are the reason for the delegitimization of every power, including the Serbian power on the territory of Kosovo.
The impression is that the approach to the problem of relations between Kosovo and Serbia has been relaxed in the sense that there is no longer a demand for a clear and unambiguous mutual recognition of independence from either the domestic or the international public, as it was previously formulated. The war in Ukraine, which is still going on, is a new context and the conditions for changing international relations are generated from it, and in this matter, that is, the reasons for pushing the demand for mutual recognition in the background. Even if this tries to stand in the way of Putin’s political arguments, in which he equates the secession of the eastern Ukrainian territories with the self-determination and independence of Kosovo, it seems to us that state debates are pointless and that ordinary people have nothing to gain from them. Hoping that he can simultaneously criticize the double standards of the West, where most countries have recognized the independence of Kosovo, and now refuse to recognize the right of Donbass to independence from Ukraine, Putin will continue to make decisions in accordance with his military and economic, not rhetorical power. Words and arguments are a thing that is left to us, ordinary people and citizens of the countries in which we live, and they are our only weapon – our power – and that this is so is proven by the fact that we are systematically avoided and are not given a word even when something is spoken on our behalf. We are of the opinion that this power should not be denied or relinquished.
In order for law and justice to meet, a brave and just word is needed to say that the recognition of Kosovo’s independence is a confrontation with crimes committed in our name. Crimes are the reason for the delegitimization of every power, including the Serbian power on the territory of Kosovo. We are aware that the situation would become more perplexing after a just decision: for the power, the payment of reparations for committed crimes would be more than a financial complication and the last line of defense against the cynicism to which people ruled by war and violence have become prone in the meantime. Maybe things would be different if people today were not so attached to the politics of the power and the state, that is, if they had their own, authentic and autonomous politics, with which they would dare to intervene in that of the power by articulately speaking about the fact that the independence of Kosovo is possible and should be recognized today. We are of the belief that then they would fight for their undisturbed, peaceful, democratic life in Serbia as well.
Illustration: Overlay of the image of the “Curse of Lazarus” mural in Užice and the image of Kosovo Albanians crossing the border between Kosovo and Albania in 1999.
English translation: Ivana Purtić
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