Farewell, Nikola

Zdravko Saveski, The author is a political scientist and a member of Levica

That’s politics. Unpredictable. You are on the top, you think that you are irreplaceable, inbeatable, you think you will rule for many years like Putin, and then … Suddenly you face your political death. You are history, everyone in sight curses you, everyone accuses you of everything like you used to accuse Branko Crvenkovski, you will enter history as the Macedonian Milosevic. And you thought you would be the next Alexander the Great. People wrote and sung songs about you. How was it -the Lord sent you to return faith to Macedonia? And now? You must negotiate and plea not to go to prison, you must make deals in order your successor is a “candidate acceptable to the international community”. You have plenty of money, but will they allow you to enjoy them?

He underestimated the public. He thought the citizens were too stupid, too despondent. He thought that he could manipulate it to infinity, that he would buy a sufficient number of people who will always be with him. Yes, the moral decline of our people is great. Poverty and unemployment forced many to sell out. Many were afraid to go to protests. They wanted someone else to do their jobs. But, there you have it. He made a wrong evaluation. Though everyone heard of his crimes, he thought that he had already become strong enough to hold power. Well, how many like you, your fellow Democrats, did it, right? Why wouldn’t you succeed too? Probably you would have succeeded after a couple of years. We probably caught the last train, we took the last chance to get off. If the mass protests against you started now, instead of 2014, it may already have been too late for us. It would have been so intense that, at best, we would need twice as much effort to get rid of you. Try to get rid of Erdogan now, or Putin. Right? People in those countries missed their chances when they were not so strong yet. And now, they accumulated enough power to be able to rule for years.

But I will not deal with you anymore, Nikola. I don’t like to hit when my opponent is down. When he was strong, when he controlled Macedonia, then it was extremely important for you to resist, and now, many are strong. Now we have other problems, many of them that you created or worsen them. And we need to learn lessons if we don’t want to history to repeat, and have another dictator like Nikola. One of those lessons is

How did we let Gruevski happen to us?

How did we get to the edge of the dictatorship, why his clique accumulated so much money, while the people became poorer and poorer?
No one was allowed to speak out against him for many years. Not yet out of fear, but to not discredit themselves. We have a brief memory as people, and although this period is not ancient history, we have forgotten it. Do you remember that young politician, who in 1998 became the Trade Minister in Georgievski’s government, and then the Minister of Finance? He was the most popular minister in the government. Literally. An evident opposite of his predecessors, the repulsive oligarchs who allowed the government to rob us during privatization. Clear opposition to his colleagues from the government, burdened with nationalism, negligent in their public appearances. While Gruevski was young, reform-oriented, devoted to the economy, untouched by ideology.

When he became the leader of VMRO-DPMNE in 2003, they all saw him as a modern renaissance of the party. The nationalists left, and at the head of VMRO-DPMNE was him, the young, reform-oriented technocrat, “acceptable to the international community” with their blessing. And think of the euphoria that was created by this always ridiculous, reformist politician when he came to power in 2006! He brought new hope and faith! He succeeded in something that is extremely difficult to do with these people! The electoral song “Macedonia Has Power” was an absolute hit. If they put it on the charts, it would undoubtedly be the greatest hit! “The country is asking for awakening, it has been sleeping for so long, and our sun can break darkness, Macedonia has the power!” – Along with Vlado Janevski, Rebeka, Goce Arnaudov, Sonja Tarculovska, Tijana Dapcevic and Jovan Jovanov – they sang along, and many others that were not really “VMRO to the grave” sang with them as well.

The first 100 days in power – textbook work for political marketing! Ratings couldn’t be any higher! We finally have skillful manipulators at the helm of Macedonia. They know how to work people. How to make them applaud you, while you are stealing from them. Reducing taxes and contributions! In the interest of the rich! The people applaud! Building up nationalism! While defocusing people with ethnic issues, you keep stealing from them behind their backs! When you don’t give them what they were promised and for which they have supported you, remind them of the opposition, how they destroyed Macedonia! And it all works! Easily! Now you can steal peacefully. Just like those before you, who ruled the country. You can steal even more from them, who will dare to speak out against you? You’ll just label him that he is a mercenary of SDSM. Let him wonder hot to remove that label, everyone will look at him with distrust. You can ignore the protests of the youth, the poor, turn into ‘deaf’ authority, no one can do anything to you, the human eye is insatiable … And, you become a dictator, you dream that they will build you a monument during your lifetime, as part of your “Skopje 2014” project.

The bitter lesson that we need to draw from all this is that we as a people allowed Nikola Gruevski to happen to us. It is easy to just blame Gruevski for our lost years. But, no matter how tainted he was, even to the core, we as a people allowed him to rule. We must not suppress this cognition, however uncomfortable. It wasn’t he who was humiliated, but those who called for reason, the ones that presented facts and arguments. They were seen as traitors, not Gruevski. People took photos with him, old ladies loved him. While he robbed, people made excuses for him; well, you can’t be near money, and not take some… Gruevski is gone, but our dangerous mentality is still present.

Gruevski is politically dead, but another one like him can easily reoccur. We must not praise politicians, we cannot blindly trust them, especially when they come from clientele political parties that serve capitalist corporations. Because they will always use their power to please their bosses. And the people continue to make ends meet. Stop falling for those smiling faces, seemingly good-hearted officials! Watch out for all those who decorate themselves, or are decorated with the aura of a savior! That “savior” most often becomes the next tyrant. Let’s finally get over that childish utopia about the good king. Only wide public mobilization, only when the people will stop believing the politicians’ cheap tricks and realize their true power, then we can create a better life for everyone. Unless we learn this, unless we stop hoping that our next leader will be the One, the Savior, unless we open our eyes to their mistakes, history will repeat itself. Probably will not go by the name ‘Gruevski’, but will still be Gruevski.