Dveri, a party openly embracing Dimitrije Ljotić who was the leader of Serbian fascist movement Zbor, managed to get the most out of the radical right’s growth in Serbia. Now they show the potential to to gain the most out of the “1 in 5 million” protests led by Alliance for Serbia, a coalition of opposition parties.
For weeks now, Boško Obradović, leader of the Dveri movement, is being profiled as a leader of the democratic opposition. The final step was his appearance in the mainstream and influential political television show Utisak Nedelje. One of the questions that the host asked him and other guests, Jakšić and Milivojević, was whether Boško is a fascist and a follower of Dimitrije Ljotić. The show was used to present Obradović as a “moderate right winger”, possibly a nationalist, yet in any case a patriot, concluding that Boško is not a fascist. It all went so far that in the show it was said that it was questionable “in which part of his life Ljotić himself was a fascist, if at all”.
Profiling Obradović as a leader of the opposition began mid March with theradicalisation of the protests. The “1 in 5 million” protests in the streets of the capital, as well as many other cities and towns in Serbia, are being held in the same fashion for four months now: a march, talks, whistles, shouting slogans. Mid March, the protesters made one step forward, led by the opposition leaders, they entered the building of RTS (public television) and “occupied” it for about an hour. They claim that entering the building was not planned, even though, from the beginning, one of the reasons for protesters’ dissatisfaction has been the very poor reporting (if at all) on public television about the protests.
As wrong as it might be, this move incited a new short wave of dissatisfaction on the streets and additional mobilisation. On a weekly level it facilitated new achievements of the opposition and crystallised the political opposition and the positions within it.
Family, jobs, justice
From the moment of radicalisation it looks like the frontman of Dveri is standing out and becoming the leader of the protests as well as the opposition. In only two days, he radicalised the protest (at least on the symbolic level) by entering RTS, organising a human shield around the president’s office, giving ultimatums to the government from a truck during the protests and in media as a representative of the opposition and the organisers of the protests. Later on he announced a decisive protest on the 13th of April, “paid visits” to the mayor of Belgrade and left the fences in front of REM (Regulatory Body for Electronic Media). Whether he is the leader of the protests/opposition or not, it is clear that Obradović shows that he is ready to pragmatically adapt while understanding the potential of the political circumstances and situation defined by the socio-political context. The question of crucial importance that should be raised is what to do with the dressed up Rightleading the protests for a more “democratic” society (this time within Savez za Srbiju – Alliance for Serbia). In the last elections Dveri had barely enough votes to reach the threshold. What kind of society will it be when they come enter the government or get significantly more votes at the next election? And it seems they will.
The Dveri movement was created in 1999 by the members of the eponymous student magazine for “national culture and social questions”. In the first years, they became (in their own words) “the first Serbian patriotic non-governmental organisation” and organised numerous conferences and debates in the field, at the University as well as in the diaspora. As early as 2008 they led the protests against the independence of Kosovo, with the slogan “It will remain ours”. The co-organisers were the extreme-right wing organisations Nasi and Serbian National Movement 1389, supported by football hooligans of the clubs Crvena Zvezda (Red Star)and Partizan. During the protests many people were hurt, embassies were demolished as were the offices of other pro-European parties and shops in the centre of Belgrade.
From the relative margin to the main political ring, Dveri entered with the family marches that they have been organising since 2010 as a homophobic response to the Pride parade. Afterwards they became a political movement which, from the streets, entered the parliamentary fight for power. These family marches became one of the main axes of Dveri’s politics. It is a struggle for the Serbian, homophobic, heteronormative, patriarchal family as the base of society. In this society, the role of woman is reduced to the biological function, with an explicit stand against abortion and the promotion of “the magic beauty of the child in the mothers womb” followed by threats to ban “promotion of homosexuality”. This year, the representatives of Dveri participated in the World Congress of Families, which is “fighting for the preservation of the natural family”; It is a gathering of “pro-family” extreme right-wingers, conservatives and religious fundamentalists who have positions in institutions and parliaments throughout Europe. Over 200,000 people, mostly women, protested against this congress. Among other topics discussed at the congress were: limiting the right to abortion and the complete ban of it, adopting laws that would make restrict divorce, a ban on “gay propaganda” and the rights of the LGBT population and calling for large scale conscientious objection by doctors.
Dveri entered Serbian parliament in 2016 in a coalition with DSS (Democratic Party of Serbia) after snap elections in which they participated under the slogan “Happiness for Serbia”. From the very beginning, Dveri presented its politics as a continuation of the idea of “Svetosavski” nationalism, the ideology which builds on the conceptual antisemitic tradition of bishop Nikolaj Velimirović and Serbian fascist Zbor movement which was led by Dimitrije Ljotić.
Dveri carefully wrap their positions in “democratic trappings”. That makes Dveri stand out from the rest of the far right corps of Serbia, making them more dangerous at the same time. Also, this makes the fascistisation of the society harder to spot. In their rhetoric they explicitly renounce the fascistic tradition and the use of violence for achieving ideological goals and even call themselvesanti-fascists(“We are anti-fascists and we are the keepers of antifascist methods”). However, they also openly praise Ljotić and the Chetnik movement, advocating for a specific purification of society by using anti-migrant, xenophobic and anticommunist speech in a well-known, widely accepted and many times heard totalitarian manner while additionally fostering deeply patriarchal extreme religious-moralistic conservatism.
In their economic program, Dveri’s political priority is to create conditions for the development of Serbian entrepreneurship, believing that democracy is only possible when people are, as they say, “masters on their own land”. In their political work, they underline the importance of institutions, law enforcement and free entrepreneurship. They carefully combine capitalism with conservative and nationalistic social policy that speaks to pensioners, poor, workers and even female workers, but only if they are Serbian and heterosexual. Dveri are not just nationalists who make their economic and social policy exclusively for Serbs. They are also dangerous defenders of the petit bourgeois society who neutralise and erase class antagonisms by positioning the nation as the most important frame of action.
“Let there be ceaseless battle”
The Right has expanded in Serbia after the so called democratic changes. It had an important role in taking down the Milosevic’s regime. After a first few years of shy social marginalisation, the right-wing organisations for a great part started to adapt to new circumstances, with big help from the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Some members of right-wing organisations were charged, and a few convicted, of spreading hatred, intolerance and discrimination. The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Serbia had banned some of these organisations, two of which, Otačastveni pokret Obraz and Nacionalni stroj, continued to exist after the ban in a slightly modified forms. Thenceforth, a partial pacification of the Right started, along with their move online and to the civil sector (pacification in this sense means changing course and restructuring their forces, such as the football hooligan movement and the right-wing leaders connected to the system). A complete “pacification” happened at the same time when the Srpska napredna stranka – the Serbian Progressive Party (a faction of the Srpska radikalna stranka – the Serbian Radical Party) came to power. Their regime kept under control the old street “activists” better than any other previous regime.
Dveri, with dressed up rhetoric and unquestionably neoliberal and right-wing positions, use the situation in a smarter way – they constantly ask for freedom of speech for their filtered positions: “maybe those same people will understand that I am not a fascist as these fascists in power are presenting me. Until then, they should understand that they should respect others and their free opinion, if we are fighting and protesting for freedom of speech and different opinion.” It seems that Boško Obradović did not decide what his position actually is. So, on the TV show Utisak Nedelje, it turned out that he would even arrest those who have an opinion different than his, if he comes to power.
The celebration of 20th anniversary of existence of Dveri overlapped with the protests. And while members of Dveri celebrate their political success, which exists and has been achieved in a short amount of time (Dveri have entered the parliament only one year after registering as a political party), the current regime receives the strongest blows so far, but unfortunately from the completely wrong side. Skepticism regarding the potential of these protests to overthrow the regime of Aleksandar Vučić can be justified and even confirmed. Nevertheless, we should not forget that the strengthening of the parliamentary Right in Serbia is not an isolated case specifically determined by the political situation in the region, but rather that it follows European trends. While in Europe the Right marches, enters the parliament and comes to power, the Serbian Right is a bit late. Yet, it is most certainly organising and mobilising the most dissatisfied, socially vulnerable and frustrated citizens.
Because of the lack of an adequate left alternative, right extremism manages to attract more and more of the socially vulnerable and disaffected citizens. It is placed in the “moderate and democratic” field which is actually a structurally nationalistic and extreme right one from which all the demands, including the social ones, are coming. The question remains, would the citizens rather vote for Obradović (either representing the Alliance for Serbia or outside of it) or for Vučić? Maybe they wouldn’t vote for Obradović in any case, but then again, maybe they would. Nonetheless, it is naive to think that people wouldn’t vote for Dveri when the regime becomes fragile enough, especially with more and more open support of the “neutral experts” and “objective journalism”. The cards have been dealt so that on one side there are already seen representatives and “tycoons” and on the other side there is “an honest family man”. So, we should not be surprised if the result is that one right-wing politician is substituted by another, even worse that the previous. That is why Boško Obradović should be taken very seriously when he says: “Let there be ceaseless battle”.
Translation from Serbian: Jelena Mandić
This article was originally published in Serbian on Apr 9, 2019.