They caught us off guard. The focus on national issues by SDSM and DUI’s government, and the urge for their immediate settlement, came as a surprise to everyone, or almost everyone. The new government was expected to devote vigorously to solving economic problems and to restore democracy and the rule of law. Instead, it exerts all the energy on “resolving” national issues, and there are simply no differences around the rest of the differences in terms of Gruevski’s rule. In addition, as clumsily as an elephant in a porcelain room, approaching the issues of the name and language that created a new political crisis. With the coming to power of SDSM, many citizens expected, if nothing else, to at least get some rest, not to have to deal with politics on daily basis, to be left to live their lives. But no! The government won’t allow this “luxury” to its citizens!
In the approach to national issues, the “good old” propaganda ploy of the authorities is recognized, to distract the citizens through these issues from the real problems they face, and which the authorities, devoted to extracting personal benefits from governance and servitude the interests of the oligarchy simply do not want to solve them.
The intention is to re-create the so-called “controlled instability”, the favorite condition of the interethnic relations of the tandem VMRO-DPMNE and DUI, which gave them the greatest manipulating potential. When this government came to power, interethnic relations were the best in recent years, and ethnic identity was not so strongly expressed. Apparently, this was not the will of the SDSM-DUI tandem, and obviously for them a preferable strategy of governance is the “divide and conquer” principle, where both Macedonians and Albanians will consider themselves oppressed and blame each other, and think of each other as enemies.
However, if the essence of practicing SDSM-DUI’s power is the same as VMRO-DPMNE-DUI, at first glance it seems that there is a difference. VMRO-DPMNE did not give in to national issues, and SDSM has an open relationship. The facts do not confirm this. In 2008, VMRO-DPMNE agreed to a law for greater use of the Albanian language and was ready to compromise on the name of the state in order to satisfy the fixation with the entry into NATO. So what is the difference between VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM in this respect? In that SDSM is ready to go “farther”? I do not think the difference is essential. Both of them did what they needed to be in power at the moment. And while they enjoyed power, with their expensive lunches and dinners, they let us tackle the problem of growing nationalism. They create problems, others need to solve them. Isn’t it nice to be in power in Macedonia?
Dealing with national issues is never a simple matter. Hence, the important question that arises is what should be the correct attitude towards the way of “solving” the national issues imposed by the current government. One of the approaches is to ignore all other aspects and to embark on a frontal attack against nationalism. Regardless of the motives of the current authorities, the level of nationalism in Macedonia is quite high, and therefore the fight against nationalism gets priority above all. Any other position that does not stand in the positions of a frontal and categorical assault on nationalism is suspected of undercover nationalism, and the assault on nationalism is often carried out by the nationalist, rather than anti-nationalist positions. That is, the ethnic identification itself is devalued, and not only the creation of a nationalistic worldview of the foundations of a certain ethnic identification.
This approach, although it may seem like the only principled approach, suffers from several crucial weaknesses. Firstly, the possibility of his instrumentalization by the government is enormous. When these positions stop, the antinationalist in favor of the power is leading the battle against the “simple crowd” that does not realize that the nation is a social construct. Secondly, in this way the antinationalist loses every opportunity to influence the views of the general public. In such socialization and propaganda that strengthens the ethnic identity, simply nobody, even the best and the brightest, cannot understand and accept overnight that the nation is a social construct. Therefore, education and explanation should be given, not mockery and criticism of the “simple crowd” that does not understand the nature of nations. Third, the accompanying aspects of the specific case of “resolving” national issues are so important that they must not be ignored. It is clear to everyone that the fact that SDSM has accepted the Law on Languages is not motivated by anti-nationalism, but by the desire to be in power. One should ignore the fact that someone is doing everything to be in power? What does this say about his attitude toward governance? Furthermore, he resorted to violating constitutional norms. By a party that was expected to restore the rule of law. This is obviously irrelevant to the new authorities, but should it also matter to the anti-nationalist? The rush for the name dispute to be closed before the next NATO summit shows the colonial servility of the rulers and giving priority to joining this military alliance before of many other issues. Should anti-nationalism completely neglect antimilitarism and anti-imperialism? What remains of anti-nationalism if this is done?
The second anti-nationalist response to the concrete way of “resolving” national issues from the current government takes into account the aforementioned aspects and occupies a “re-positioned” position. But this more advanced position is not immune to instrumentalization, this time by the nationalists. It is not that any criticism of power can be exploited by an ideological opponent who is also against a particular government. This always happens. It is about the danger of strengthening the ideological discourse of the nationalists if, in the criticism of the specific way of “resolving” national issues, it begins to contribute to strengthening the ethnic identity at the expense of other human identities, as well as in case the nationalist line is reproduced the division and dissension of the people, on the basis of ethnicity. In that case, it is only verbally standing on anti-nationalist positions, and in fact it is rioting the wave of nationalism. If there is no opposition to the additional disagreement that is inflicted on the people by dividing it along an ethnic line, if criticism is argued through the prism of its own ethnicity, then a little that remains from anti-nationalism. And the people are handed over to the nationalists, whose benefit is the strengthening of the division of “us” and “them” in terms of ethnicity, ie “us”, Macedonians, against “them”, Albanians.
As can be noted, both anti-nationalist approaches have their strengths and weaknesses. What should not be forgotten, whatever antinationalist approach is applied, is that both approaches are vulnerable to abuses and that particular attention needs to be paid to the possible misuse of the views taken. And the most to be taken into account is not to forget that every government uses national issues to distract the common man from the existential issues he faces. And that the antinationalist should not become the victim of that manipulation, but should contribute to restoring the focus on social issues just as the government wants to draw attention to these issues. While our dinner table gets smaller, they are keen on eating and overeating. This needs to tell us something.
(The author is a political scientist and member of Levica)