Answering Robert Thomas’ The Politics of Serbia in the 1990s

May 19, 2008

By Matt Johnson

Robert Thomas, former OSCE bureaucrat, wrote a book some time ago purporting to give an honest view of Serbian politics in the 1990s. The book, however, is largely a hackneyed account of Serbia from the point of view of that mythical entity, the “International Community,” which, to the extent it exists at all, is the summation of a series of elite opinions, converging on one main point: the chief evil of the world is nationalism, and more specifically, Christian Orthodox nationalism.

Whether Anglo-American or continental, Whether Democrat or Republican, whether capitalist or socialist, the same tune is sung: nationalism must end, and the people’s of the world must be “forced to be free:” forced into a single global economic order without borders, without culture, without identity. This is the official political position of what I have termed the “Regime,” or that nexus of private capital and the state, seeking to maximize market share and exploit the labor and resources of developing countries in the creation of a “new economic order.”

Soros - Evil, It has a face.

In order for a scholar or journalist to be “reputable,” he must parrot this line with minimal deviation. It is the official view of the U.S. State Department, and those entities that control academic research: the National Institute for Democracy, the Carnegie Institute, the Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, the Open Society Institute, and their various underlings, usually foundations attached to large corporations such as the Shell Foundation and BP’s Foundation.

The evidence for this is not difficult to find, it is an “open secret,” if you will. The truth “hides in plain sight.” The webpage contains a database where all the major foundations reveal the people and institutions that benefit from their largesse. Each one, without exception, takes the above line as a given. Therefore, no one can build a career without pleasing those that hold the purse strings, and hence, one must spout the line in order to function an become part of the mainstream. It is, hence, institutionalized intellectual dishonesty.

In this brief paper, I’d like to poke a little fun at the foibles and intellectual dishonesty at the “Conclusions” section of this book, the section which brings together the more or less hidden agenda of its author, as a card-carrying member of the Euro-Bureaucrat establishment.

I will quote a brief passage, and then answer it briefly. This paper, then, simply gives another set of examples of the “mainstream” myths and half-truths that journalists and scholars are forced to accept in order to become “reputable.”

The reality is this: The west, that is, the System based on western corporate capital (including media and entertainment) and state power, was interested in Serbia/Kosovo for three reasons:

  • To have unhampered access to the trillions of dollars worth of gems, gold and other minerals under the surface of Kosovo and parts of Bosnia, as well as,
  • To have a “cooperative” Serbia in order to make way for an oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea that would bypass Russia, as well as,
  • To provide a basically “safe” test case for future interventions in the future, largely due to public and, to a great extent, elite ignorance of the area. In other words, one could pretty much say anything about Serbs and it would be believed.

These reasons, and these reasons alone explain why suddenly, in the post-Cold War world, the System become so obsessively interested in a small and obscure part of their world.

  1. Thomas writes: “major inequalities existed between the ruling SPS [Serbian Socialist Party] and the newly created opposition parties. . .the SPS based its appeal as much on its capacity to dispense patronage as its ability to articulate a coherent ideology” (422)

Mr. Thomas has led a very sheltered life. Little does he know that all establishment political parties work this way. Patronage is its very lifeblood. The parties in question, at one time called the DEPOS group, are largely the creation of foreign powers with an agenda identical to the official stance of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. They are “opposition” parties only with respect to the ruling SPS. Globally, they are radically establishment parties, slavishly copying the line given to them by their financiers. Oddly, throughout this lengthy and fairly well-written treatment, Mr. Thomas refuses to give even a sentence to the sources of funding for the “opposition” parties. This is because Mr. Thomas is aware that the funding is largely from the Regime, i.e. the Soros (et al.) complex.

  1. “In particular, Slobodan Milosevic sought, through a trusted clique of security service operatives, to construct, within the framework of the police force, his own paramilitary private army. . .” (423)

Again, Mr. Thomas is no expert in Comparative Politics. Of course, the reality is that such behavior indeed took place, but it is to be expected in the context of failing statehood. Yugoslavia, always a dubious project, was falling apart–falling apart because of the fact that it was based on a personal, rather than institutional, authority. No Tito–no Yugoslavia. Who took over after the dead tyrant represented the worst element of the bureaucratic elite, an elite shared by all countries, regardless of political system or core beliefs. This is not the fault of Milosevic, but rather was built into the system after WWII, if not earlier.

  1. “With the SPS controlling the state apparatus it was able to determine the conditions under which elections were fought.” (423)

This is a major core argument of the book, and is designed to rationalize the often poor performance of the “opposition” parties, even in a context of a failing economy. Unfortunately, Mr. Thomas can’t seem to get his mind wrapped around Yugoslavia prior to Slobo. Yugoslavia was a one party state since World War II. There was no other bureaucracy, no other group available to run elections, unless Mr. Thomas suggests the SPS train an entirely new bureaucracy, one more congenial to Soros, and then give up all social power prior to the elections, putting it in their hands. The state itself was politicized, as are all states. In America, the media is controlled by three or four powerful families: Sulzberger, Graham, Redstone, Geffen, Levin. They decide who deserves attention and who does not, what issues are “important” and what are not; what arguments are “reasonable” and what are “extremist.” They are normally retiring, anonymous figures, but would no doubt be considered “independent media” by Thomas and his ilk. Having been involved in many third-party campaigns in America, I can personally attest to the institutionalized discrimination and organize resistance to the existence of third parties. But as always, “democratic” is a code word. It is a reference not to procedures, but to results: a result is “democratic” if the parties or movements who agree with the international system win. It is “nondemocratic” if my allies win.

  1. Speaking of Slobo, “He had created around himself a highly personal web of extra-institutional political, economic and coercive power (sultanism)” (424)

It’s odd that in our “multi-cultural” society, the only time it’s acceptable to refer to a third world people without organized worship is in reference to Slavic nationalism. Slobo did do what Mr. Thomas piously accuses him of, but again, this is to be expected in the context of a situation where institutions were always placed on the back burner in reference to charismatic, personal authority, invested in Tito.

Ironically, the fact that the “opposition” movement (such as it was) was itself based on extrainstitutional, indeed extra-continental sources of wealth and influence eludes our erstwhile author. Even if one is no fan of Slobo, the reality is that he faced the collapse of the already tottering empire of Yugoslavia. Such behavior, “sultanism” of whatever even more idiosyncratic label one wishes to use here, is fully expected and consistent with the context. Tito refused to build institutions independent of his influence, hence, when he died, they quickly collapsed.

  1. “By adopting such symbols, and particularly the Kosovo ‘master symbol’, Milosevic was able to transcend the normal, profane considerations of politics.” (425)

This is one of the odder statements in an already odd book. Indeed, it is a little strange for a socialist (of sorts) to return to the Middle Ages for legitimizing symbols, but, given the context, it is not strange at all. Kosovo is a defining moment for Serbia. A tiny people, normally under the thumb of an oppressive power, is slaughtered in large numbers against an overwhelming foe is no myth, but a historical fact. Serbia was then to become the colonial toy of the vicious Turk empire. The fact that Serbia’s history is usually a story of an exploited people, tools of larger political games, Mr. Thomas shows a shocking lack of sensitivity. For a groups of people deprived of dignity and identity, whether under the Turk, Hungarian, Bulgarian, German or Marxist occupations, it might be reasonable that they be a little touchy when Islamic fanatics are threatening their existence (again) in places such as Bosnia and Kosovo. It is unlikely that Mr. Thomas would use such dismissive language if Jews were making reference to Judas Maccabeus or Jacobinsky in their political life, but that he does so in reference to Serbs has more to do with global power and influence than morality or statecraft.

  1. Again, in reference to SM, “he became a super-political figure whose actions were not judged by normal political criteria. . . .”

Sigh. Nelson Mandela, Oliver Cromwell, Leon Trotsky, George Washington, Simon Bolivar, M.L. King, Vaclav Havel. . . .

  1. “The Zajedno [this is yet another foreign-funded, liberal coalition of westernized parties] coalition at the times of the 1996 federal elections (SPO, DS, DSS, GSS), appeared to lose votes as individual supporters of these parties apparently, judged the placing of the diverse groups on one electoral slate lacked credibility.”

A slightly convoluted sentence (though I’m prone to these as well), that says much of what Mr. Thomas does not want let out: “opposition” parties were voted for by an alienated, confused and patriotic population because SM had completely lost control of the economy and, most certainly, the money supply. They voted against a terrible handling of the economy, of course made much worse by sanctions, rather than any pro-European claptrap parroted by these Soros stooges. Inflation at this time was absurdly high (some say 100,000% a month, or even higher). How can any kind of vote, in any context, matter here at all? Are people registering opinions, or desperate cries under harsh circumstances? They are voting against something, not for it. Whenever Serbian interests were violently threatened, as in Bosnia or Kosovo, the nationalists won big, whether in a socialist or national-populist guise. The fact that SM was able to still do well even under these circumstances suggest that the DEPOS group or the Zajedno coalition had minimal support in Serbia, largely due to the odd fact that the “oppositionists” were speaking in a language of their tormentors, the “international community” and its well-financed mythos.

  1. “Even when the SRS (the Radical Party) was not publicly allied with the government and presented itself as instead as an ‘opposition’ party it continued to serve the interest of the ruling party by complicating the political situation and ensuring that there be no simple confrontation between ‘democratic’ opposition and the ‘anti-democratic’ regime.” (430)

This is the logic of the Carnegie Institute: If the Radicals are part of the socialist coalition, they, of course, are part of the coalition. If they oppose SM, they still are part of the coalition. Here, Mr. Thomas, in a veiled way, is admitting that his definition of “opposition” is, not the common sense notion of being opposed to the ruling party, but being “in communion” with international capital and its political arms.

The Radical Party, can not, ipso facto, be the opposition because Mr. Thomas and those he works for do not agree with them. Putting it very simply, the Radicals are largely social nationalists. The SPS was trying, to some extent, to imitate the charismatic authority of Tito (and failing). They represented the old, World War II era Partisan tradition. Thus, the SPS and SRS are very different politically. The SRS represents ethno-nationalism and the cetnik tradition. However, they both believe themselves to be assisting in the physical defense of Serbs against their well financed and led opposition: Albanian drug dealers, Islamic radicals and Croat nationalists, in short, the instant celebrities of the Rudder-Finn PR firm (who the Muslims hired just before their 1994 assault on the Republic of Serbia in Bosnia, and a firm largely behind the demonization of the Serbs).

Mr. Thomas is struggling here to link V. Seselj and Slobo, because he dislikes them both. Hence, the SRS can never be part of the “legitimate” opposition. This is blatant intellectual dishonesty. “Legitimate,” here means “democratic,” which, in turn means, “liberal” and “cosmopolitan.”

  1. “The ‘boycotting tactics’ pursued by the Albanian leadership under Ibrahaim Rugova effectively played into the hands of Milosevic and the Socialist regime; withdrawal from public life consigned the Albanians tot he margins of public life were Milosevic could safely ignore them” (431)

This is in reference to the elections in Kosovo in the mid-1990s, which many Albanians refused to participate in. Mr. Rugova boycotted the elections because his politics was not about votes, but about money and, from his point of view, cultivating outside contacts, both in the U.S. and in the Middle East. The fact is that the terrorist sub-cult that Mr. Rogova ran was a crime syndicate, specializing in drugs and prostitution, with the sometime connivance of U.S. and British intelligence (similar to the “Northern Alliance” in Afghanistan).

The Albanian leadership had hired the New York based Rudder-Finn PR firm, which in turn planted stories and editorials in the world’s newspapers. The Albanian leadership was being advised, like the Bosnian Muslims, Croats and the DEPOS coalition, by the United States, and their sometime ally, George Soros (though Soros was a very public ally of Clinton/Albright/Burger and their policies in Serbia). They didn’t need elections. They were getting money, guns and a blind eye from the west and their friends in Europe. The elections, from their point of view, would have been an unjustifiable waste of resources.

This has been just a tiny sample of the nonsense being written about Serbia, in this case, under the cover of “objective journalism.” It is typical. It is a confrontation between ethnic nationalism and cosmopolitanism; between the local economy and the “new global order,” between sovereignty and exploitation. In Mr. Thomas’ mind, and nearly the entire scholarly establishment, it is between “democracy” and something-other-than-democracy. Slobo was far from an ideal ruler, but his actions do make a degree of sense in the context of semi-institutionalism or decaying institutionalism. Few would have done anything different.

Serbia faced yet another attack on their sovereignty: sanctions which crippled an already vitiated economy, threats by Islamic fanatics and Croat nationalist against Serbs, a well-funded opposition which viewed everything Serbian as “evil” and “tainted,” reaching a level of absurdity that it was mocked in Hollywood in the movie “Wag the Dog.”

What is more interesting is the sociological angle: why was it that the entire journalistic and academic establishment climbed aboard the hate Serbia bus at the same time, and in the same way, with minimal evidence from third party sources that Serbs were guilty of what they were being accused of: nothing short of genocide. This is a difficult question to answer: there is a built in bandwagon effect in academia, based on the fear of being called an “extremist.” This was evident at Bill Clinton’s trial, or The Libya bombing. Academics have a good gig: Summers off, high salaries, total job security, social prestige, and a captive audience. Few academics will risk this to defend a people few in western academic or journalistic circles know anything about.

Secondly, that both the Croat and Islamic movements were being supported by Rudder-Finn, which specializes in planting stories, “academic experts,” and image makers in the support of their clients. (It should be noted here that your author was a part of a movement to get SM to hire a competing PR firm to handle his case. He gave, dismissively, a blanket “no” to this idea, an answer that still puzzles this author to this day).

Serbia is easy to demonize by a global Establishment: a small, militant, armed, patriotic and very Christian people fighting “progress.” Really, Rudder Finn had it easy. There is nothing the academio-journalistic establishment hates more than elements of subject populations they can’t control: white American farmers, nationalists, Christian traditionalists, white blue-collar workers, agrarians, in short, anyone who “falls out” of their neat models and theories. Those who do not obviously see the goodness and wholesomeness in cosmopolitanism and a would order “without boundaries.” They are “subjects” to be “formed” and “processed” by the System: reeducated, if you will.

The creation of this wild mythos was the purpose of the Muslims hiring Rudder-Finn, and is the purpose behind Mr. Thomas’ book: the demonization of an entire people, one considered “backward” and “ignorant” from the hallowed halls of Columbia Journalism School, the OSCE or the NYC offices of the Rockefeller Foundation. This is the very essence of post-modern politics, and is the core definition, Orwellian as it is, of “democracy.”

Matthew Raphael Johnson, Ph.D. is a former history professor, a professional author, a priest of the Russo-Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and a VoR radio host. His Web site is The Orthodox Nationalist. Email him at fr_raphael