Focus on Focus – Collectivism and equality: “Far-right in Serbia 2000-2020: Politics, activities, groups”

In 2020, among the activities supported through our Special Focus program was also a research by a non-formal collective called Collectivism and Equality, with a goal for a deeper understanding of the local far-right actors. On 9th of May, Victory Day, we are happy to share an interview with the collective, as well as the results of their research, the publication called “Far-right in Serbia 2000-2020: Politics, activities, groups (available in Serbian only). 

The project of mapping the far-right active in the past twenty years implied systematization of topics that far-right actors in Serbia deal with, their principles, narratives, strategies and activities. Although the goals were diverse, one of the main goals is certainly assembling kind of a guide for activists revolving around the actions of far-right in Serbia. As the research shows, far-right is not a matter of isolated events, but a matter of organized groups, and we are also witnessing attempts of far-right actors to get involved in the political mainstream, whether in form of parliamentary parties whether as groups close to the ruling structures. Researchers from “Collectivism and equality” speak about the challenges of such a research. 

2. In the research, you cover a period of past twenty years, which almost coincides with the period of your engagement in diverse struggles against the right-wing. After conducting the research and assembling so much of materials, can you say that you have also found some surprising results? 

Considering that we are following the far-right in Serbia and broader for quite a long time, this research for us meant an opportunity to systematize the information and knowledge. The publication wasn’t envisioned as an academic analysis of the political right in Serbia, so we faced a challenge to process the material to match the desired goals. Primarily, to serve the activists as a practical guide – what they can expect in their respective fields of activism – which (right-wing) groups will they be meeting and what type of attacks/actions they can expect from them. On the other hand, it was necessary to adjust the research to a form of report that would enable progressive political subjects, primarily leftist and feminist, to recognize and understand the actions of far-right in Serbia more thoroughly, and to provide a basis for devising more effective strategies in struggle against regressive politics. 

2. Have you found any contradictions in actions while researching the right-wing groups? 

We cannot say that there are specific contradictions in the actions typical for the right-wing.

The tendency that became pretty prominent also at the global level in the recent years and that we find important to highlight because it is frequently forgotten that it is among the main characteristics of the right is the right-wing victim playing. For the right-wing to come to prominence, firstly, it is needed to process all the historical and ongoing events to make it like a certain side is presented like an absolute victim, exactly the side which, in reality, is actually more dominant, stronger, and actually the aggressor. Also, that sort of “victim” requires defense, and it is interesting how in this process some of the concepts from the domain of human rights are more and more used, or the concepts of liberal democracy, “Western” concepts, which are noted as some of the ultimate enemies in those right-wing visions.

It is pretty grotesque when the far-right – the aggressor who, by default, attacks and oppresses the weaker ones, while investing lots of efforts into their struggles against those evil, liberal, Western concepts, and then they start to appeal to those very same things and exploit them maximally. 

However, as it’s already said, this is nothing unusual, it is an example of camouflaging an ideology not too popular, and it can be noted through other examples, such as the so-called TERF current. Here it is a matter of a way in which the far-right tries to get liked by the wider population. Of course, its essence remains the same – it is essentially an anti-humanistic action.

3. According to what can be seen from your research, right-wing in Serbia relies upon discourses of anti-communism, anti-Semitism, mythical image of history. However, to what degree does it all relate to fascism? And, additionally, it is interesting that the right-wing at this moment doesn’t have economic ideology, i.e. it doesn’t have an elaborated economic politics. How do you explain this absence? 

In research from the field of the far-right, you can meet terms such as “radical right”, “extreme right”, “fascism”, “neo-Nazism” etc. In the report, we chose to use the term “far-right” to point out to groups that represent the very end of the right pole of the political spectrum, i.e. all the listed concepts. Since the report covers a period of 20 years, our initial approach was not to deal with an academic classification which is available in different research from the fields of sociology, political science, anthropology, partially because that type of analysis would occupy a significant part of the publication, if not all of it. Since such publications are already available, we chose to complement it with this sort of guide. 

When it comes to the issues of the economy, virtually all the groups have more or less elaborated economic politics in their programs. Mainly, all of them are pro-capitalist, and many groups highlight the preference of domestic bourgeoisie. However, economic issues are certainly not the backbone of their public work. 

From this, we can see that the brutal capitalism we live in is not a relevant subject to them. In that sense, it is not a wonder that their most common engagement in which the social rhetoric is recognizable comes in the form of humanitarian actions. From this, we can conclude that it is a mimicry with the goal of pandering to the population which are exactly mainly bothered by the economic issues, i.e. poverty. 

4. How do you explain the hijacking of certain leftist politics by the right-wing? Although it is clear that it is a manipulation and propaganda (in a bad way), why does the right-wing insist on some leftist ideas, and on the other hand, it is fully clear that they would never implement them?

There is one huge space for the leftist idea on the political scene. With the triumph of the (neo)liberalism at the end of the 20th century, these ideas were pushed out of the political mainstream, and our area suffers from particularly complicated situation due to the appropriation of the socialist heritage by the nationalist and essentially pro-capitalist opposition (ruling in the 1990s). Yet, sociological research still find widely present egalitarianism among the population, while [Josip Broz] Tito is still the most popular historical person. All the political options have to have that in mind and they do – for instance, the current president seizes every opportunity to imitate Tito and quite often appeals to egalitarian sentiment to gain political points. 

As these ideas of egalitarianism, social justice etc. are quite present among the population, we have to note that appropriating the ideas that won’t be implemented, which are present in the programs as a decoration, bait or a mask for true goals of organizations, is not only a characteristic of far-right or right-wing in general, it is something that’s been happening across the political spectrum. 

5. Your research is formatted as a type of a guide to progressive activists. The knowledge should certainly make the basis of the struggle but is there anything you might want to add regarding strategies for resistance to the right-wing from the progressive positions? 

The basic strategy of resistance to the right-wing is the anti-capitalist internationalism. By that, we mean uniting common struggles of the oppressed at the local and international level. After all, this is what the local history shows us – Yugoslavia reached its success by uniting the peoples and working on international uniting through the Non-Aligned movement. 

Hence, especially in times of crises and strengthening of the far right, there is no space for relativization, oppressing the minorities or flirting with the right-wing, which are bad practices that we, unfortunately, oftentimes se among the leftists. 

The publication “Far-right in Serbia 2000-2020: Politics, activities, groups (available in Serbian only) can be downloaded here:

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