The entire party membership of SDSM actually advocated this. They did not mind that the then-government robbed the people, but that someone else is doing it. They did not mind the party hires, they were bothered that they did not benefit from it. But, SDSM’s party membership was not the only one protesting. A significant part of the protesters and those who supported the protests did not want just a replacement, but a change in the way of governing. They did not just ask for corrupt politicians from the seats, but those who will take those seats to stop abusing. The protests became known as the “Colorful Revolution”. It was far from revolution. No revolutionary or radical changes were also discussed. The changes that were demanded and expected were quite modest: no abuse of power, no partisanship of institutions, jobs should come with qualifications, not a party membership booklet, and Macedonia to become a “normal” state. Many people with the return of democracy and the rule of law to the (low) level that were before 2006 would have been quite satisfied.
However, although we did not expect much from SDSM, they still did not fulfill our low expectations. It seems that they took the often repetitive refrain “Let Grujo be gone” too literally. As a blank support to do whatever they want. SDSM came to power in a rarely favorable constellation for itself. It was so bad that the VMRO-DPMNE ruled that it was worth putting a little effort into being better than them. Nevertheless, within only ten months, the power of SDSM managed to disappoint many, including a good deal of its supporters. In just ten months. Many expected that the long opposition period made them wander. No! The exercise of power in these ten months has shown that this is the same SDSM that ruled until 2006, “upgraded” with the techniques of abuse of power that they learned from VMRO-DPMNE. History repeats itself, because we refuse to learn the lessons. One saying warns: “Those who choose the lesser evil, choose – evil.” Will we finally learn the lesson? Or, moreover, over and over again, will we allow ourselves to be deceived, choosing the lesser evil and complaining afterwards, when the notorious fact is shown that the lesser evil is – evil?
The civil sector has played an important role in delegitimizing the previous government and in providing wider support to the protests that have been organized against it. Hence, the victory over the previous government is also a victory of civil activism. But it is a victory that leaves a bitter taste, a victory that has done a great deal of damage to the perception of civic activism in the eyes of the public, in a word it is – the Pyrrhic victory. Certain civil activists, although they claimed to have no plans to activate themselves as politicians and would also criticize the next government just as they criticized the then government, joined the new government and, more importantly, instantly stopped talking about its abuse of power. That inconsistency, that unprincipledness, this deterrence of personal interest could not have negatively reflected not only on their personal image, but also on the image of civic activism.
SDSM managed to control the protests of the Colorful Revolution, as well as other protests earlier, because many of the leaders of the protests were people who were building a public image that they were not party-appointed, who did not own a party booklet, and who acted in accordance to SDSM. However surprising, for many, reason enough not to see anyone as a party soldier is the fact that he/she does not have a party booklet from a party. Extremely formal aspect of things, which, surprisingly, has great importance in the eyes of many. So they believed certain “frontmen of the revolution” were neutral because of the fact that they did not won a party membership card. If it were not tragic, it would have been ridiculous.
And, considering that it is possible to also assume future cases when using the same matrix, to push party agendas under the veil of civil organization, the question that arises is whether this can be prevented, how to save the original civic activism from quasi-civil activism that is organized, put under control or works in the interest of political parties?
What is fact is that as long as the parties manage to create the appearance of wider support for their positions by defending them by seemingly non-partisan people (those without party membership cards, right?), they will use it as a method. Asking them to refrain from doing so can have no effect. The defense mechanism may be required to change the categorical apparatus we serve. So instead of having the dichotomy in front of our eyes, the civil sector – political parties, and among them an impenetrable barrier, may the reality be far more logical if we begin to perceive the ideological milieu where the public scene is divided?
Milieu, loosely defined, represents an environment, a circle of persons and organizations that share the same or similar social and political values. There are political parties in the milieu, as well as non-party organizations such as civil society organizations, trade unions, media, as well as experts and people who are not particularly public or politically exposed, but share the social and political values of their milieu. It is particularly important to emphasize that organizations and persons who are part of the same milieu do not necessarily have to agree with one another to be members of the same milieu. If we manage to observe the milieu, then it will become clear to us why even non-party members, who have never had a party card, know how to be fierce defenders of party politics from their milieu, just like a member of that party. And that civil activist, regardless of being a member of a particular party, can act in the same direction with the shared social and political attitudes with the party from the milieu to which he/she belongs.
Today, two years later, the opinion that the Colorful Revolution has been betrayed has already been crystallized. If several people realized that it is a secondary difference whether one is a civic or party activist and if, instead, they concentrate on the question of whether the liberal milieu’s agenda, which dominated the protests, reflects their life strivings and interests or not – maybe they would have joined the protests with lower expectations? Perhaps, we cannot know. What can be known for certain is that this will not be the last manipulation, if we don’t begin to learn our lessons.
(The author is a political scientist and a member of Levica)