Serbian Neonazis on Hold

Despite the traumatic experience of occupation in the Second World War, since the 2000s, political organizations of neo-Nazis in Serbia has flourished in various forms. But besides the justified suspicions that these groups are associated with secret services, their stronger development is endangered by a certain ideological confusion in which clerical nationalism, Slavic paganism and Western subculture are intertwined.

One night in April 2009 in Roma settlement in New Belgrade’s 67th block, 20-30 neo-Nazis came in with two vans, armed with knives and metal rods. With chants “we will move you out” they attacked a group of children, women and men who were sitting outdoors. They ran off after about fifty men from nearby barracks organized themselves in defence of the settlement. Several policemen, who were on the watch next to the settlement did not respond and said that they “have no right to interfere”. Journalists who reported from Roma settlements the following morning (as in the previous days) did not report about this event.

However, there is a reasonable doubt that these attackers were not at all neo-Nazis, but members of some of many private security companies. In other words, people working for a daily allowance. That was the time when the city council in Belgrade was dealing with the “Roma issue” as part of preparations for the 2009 Universiade and the construction of residential and business complex “Belville”, which was realized by a consortium of Delta Holding and Hypo Alpe-Adria Bank.

Residents of this settlement in Block 67 were given a deadline of 15 days to leave, but the demolition team appeared already next morning around 6 am. Demolition began with a strong support from police and special forces. City authorities destroyed few things that these poor people had – all of their property remained buried in ruins, excavators were running over TV’s, fridges... A woman who gave birth a few days earlier was running in panic with a newborn in front of a bulldozer. 56 houses were destroyed and more than 45 families with a total of 126 members were left without a roof over their heads. City authorities did not provide them with the necessary accommodation beforehand. After the Roma settlement was demolished, its inhabitants, mostly refugees from Kosovo, spent several nights in the open, without warm clothes, blankets, food, and the ill ones even without medicines that were buried in ruins. The demolition was preceded by a media campaign for a better “city image” during the Universiade. Dragan Djilas, arrogant mayor of Belgrade at that time, called for equality before the law of all citizens and said: “We are not the authority that wants to move all of those people in some brutal way, but only those who threaten the development of Belgrade.”

Political organization

Considering the organized brutality of state organs, the rampage of a group of 20 neo-Nazis seems somehow naive. This can be said about the event in 2016 when a group of thirty masked men armed with batons invaded Hercegovacka Street in Belgrade at the election night (very symbolic), bounded the guard and used three excavators to demolish objects in order to free up area for construction of “Belgrade Waterfront” (an urban renewal development project). These attackers stopped passerby, legitimized them and detained them, and police did not respond to citizens calls. Siniša Mali, the next arrogant mayor of Belgrade, said a few days later that “the city of Belgrade has nothing to do with this event.” Soon, then Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić; said that the city government stands behind the demolition, but that they did it “with the best intention”. Massive civil protests against the urban terror of “Belgrade Waterfront” followed.

If we do understand the difference between the neo-Nazis by itself and the neo-Nazis for itself, we can say that a very large number of neo-Nazis by itself is not politically organized, nor politically active. Seniors are deep in their thirties, and many of them even older, they have families and they are engaged in business or in various criminal activities. The younger ones are mostly older juveniles or younger adults, ergo 16-21 years old. They drink beer in parks and harass people who they estimate to have liberal perceptions or who just look “different”. They are active for six months to two years, and then they leave the whole thing when they find a girlfriend or boyfriend, or a job or something interesting in life happens to them.

If we are talking about neo-Nazis for themselves, namely about those who are politically organized, we can say that it is usually a matter of individuals organized into weak groups, or groups that are networked and who want to become organizations. Neo-Nazis in Serbia are largely not controlled by the state and security services, except those groups that tend to organize politically. Not because the state is trying to politically organize neo-Nazis, but because the security services interfere everywhere where there are attempts at forming political organizations.

On the other hand, nationalist organizations are mainly under the control of the state of Serbia and its security structures, or political parties that are currently in power, or Russia and its security structures. The extent of control over nationalist organizations is best seen from the drastic weakening of all street activities of nationalists since the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) came to power.

Various “experts” often raise a public alert, labelling nationalist organizations as fascists while those same organizations declare themselves as “anti-fascist”. Of course, this nationalist anti-fascism is more than questionable, but people who live off public panic outbreaks about fascist danger are trying to present this threat to the public. Of course, this does not mean that neo-Nazis in Serbia are not a real and present threat.

From the first half of the 2000s, fascists in Serbia are attempting to achieve political articulation and to build the infrastructure of an organization that would at some point be registered as a legal political party. They hope that this will bring their movement to a new level and at least partly gain public legitimacy for their obscure antihumanitarian ideas. Some projects were politically softer and some tougher, but it is possible to follow the continuity of these metamorphoses since 2005 until today. Despite their efforts to present themselves as “clerical nationalists” with arguments about the virtues of the Orthodox Monarchy or “Household Economy”, these projects are usually clearly labelled as neo-Nazi from the beginning in public and in the media. Every couple of years, one or two such projects break down, and a new one is formed in their place from the same people, under a similar name.

The first in a series of these projects was formed at the end of February and at the beginning of March 2005. The National Machine Organization was formed by several members of the older neo-Nazi organization, “Blood and Honor Serbia”, who wanted this movement to become more political, along with several Nazis gathered in the Serbian section of the international racist internet forum “Stormfront”. Activities of the National Machine were various campaigns of intimidation and preparation of infrastructure for the establishment of a legal neo-Nazi party in Serbia.

Still, their first public action was at the same time beginning of their end. Approximately twenty “machinists” stormed the Faculty of Philosophy in Novi Sad during the “Fascist menace” forum organized on the occasion of November 9, International Day Against Fascism and Antisemitism. This incident was filmed and the same evening most TV shows in Serbia featured stories showing people dressed in black who insulted, threatened and greeted with their right hand raised in their attempt to stop the ongoing panel. The biggest police action against neo-Nazis in the recent history of Serbia took place, in which 20 people were arrested, and a criminal complaint of racial, national and religious hatred was raised against 18 persons. At the trial, 16 people were sentenced to probation and two more were jailed for a year. Thanks to the set of more or less accidental circumstances, one of these two, Goran Davidović, known as the Firer, will become one of the key figures on the neo-Nazi scene.

Firers’ failures

Several members of the National Machine formed the “New Serbian Program” (NSP) at the end of 2007, whose general secretary in March 2008 became a convicted neo-Nazi Goran Davidović. Soon, the National Machine’s website denied that Davidović was their leader, calling for “resistance without a leader,” and from that moment on, the National Machine stopped following Davidović’s activities. Davidović supported the coalition of the Democratic Party of Serbia (Vojislav Koštunica) and New Serbia (Velimir Ilić) at the elections in 2008 and went to Trieste in early 2009 to avoid going to jail. At that moment, among the fascists in Serbia, appeared speculations about the connections of Davidović with the state security structures. The new Serbian program is registered as a citizens’ association in mid-2009 with Milija Ćuća as its leader. The latter found himself in the middle of “scandal” a couple of months later when he allegedly had a romance with a black woman during his vacation.

At that point, the NSP had no support or respect on the fascist scene. Davidović is arrested in Italy and extradited to Serbia in late April 2010. After coming out from jail, he’s going back to Trieste, where he connected himself with Italian fascists. For some time he ceases to be publicly associated with organizations in Serbia. But, in March 2016, Davidović is back with a new organization – the “National Serbian Front” – which organizes a public rally in Belgrade on March 24, the day on which NATO bombing of Yugoslavia began. At this gathering, about 110-120 “front men” from all over Serbia, aged between 15 and 25 years old, marched with torches through the centre of Belgrade.

It should be noted that the abbreviations of the names of these organizations are always ambiguous: National Machine = NS = National Socialists, New Serbian Program = NSP = National Socialist Party, National Serbian Front = NSF = National Socialist Front and this also includes organization named Serbian Action = SA = Sturmabteilung i.e. the assault troops.

New strategies

The Serbian action was created in 2010. Parts of the National Machine especially the younger members took part in its formation. They advocated an Orthodox variant of fascism, in contrast with the older Nazis, who mainly emphasized Slavic paganism. This organization combines classic elements of Nazi ideology and parts of the program of the fascist movement Zbor led by Dimitrije Ljotić, Nazi collaborationist during the World War Two. Main methods of increasing public visibility are graffiti and stickers on the streets, Internet site and social networks of Facebook and Youtube.

Like the National Machine, Serbian action is trying to form a broad network and politically articulate neo-Nazism. At the beginning of their work, they took over most of the contacts of the National Machine, which has for several years of its existence developed a network of activists and groups throughout Serbia, so that in 2012 or 2013, the graffiti of Serbian action could be seen in almost all cities and even in small towns and villages. In this way, the Serbian action gave the impression of a massive movement that is growing. However, in their propaganda video clips, there were rarely more than ten or fifteen people.

As far as public actions are concerned, Serbian Action has organized two charity futsal tournaments and tried to organize a panel on “communist crimes” at the occupied Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade in 2014. Namely, members of the Serbian Action at the Faculty of Philosophy, representing themselves as the “Student Action” (SA), were involved in the occupation and work of the student plenums, where they tried to achieve an impact relying on a group of leftist students who flirted with nationalism. When this did not work with them, they used open threats and intimidation. The panel was not held. Students who kept the faculty occupied cancelled it, and on the day panel was supposed to be held anti-fascists from Belgrade and Novi Sad gathered in front of the faculty.

After this failure, Serbian action begins a period of stagnation and decline. A part of Belgrade’s group is segregated and it formed “Autonomous Nationalists”, which was later merged with Goran Davidović’s “Serbian National Front”.

The question of ideology

Serbian neo-Nazi scene has been tormented by various ideological dilemmas, from the opposition between “Serbian fascism” and “Orthodox nationalism” to all kinds of orientations such as race revolutionaries, national revolutionaries, conservative revolutionaries etc.

The National machine tried to resolve this a decade ago by adopting the motto “National Freedom – Social Justice – Racial Identity”. National freedom and social justice are still the key values of Serbian fascists, although racial identity has been, in the meantime, lost somewhere, probably because it immediately reveals their political identity. The ideologists of the Serbian action continue to try to construct the theoretical framework of something they call “Authentic Serbian Nationalism” from various elements. It is a Serbian version of postmodern “third path” fascism in which the corporate stratified state, in this case, Orthodox monarchy, represents the third option between socialism and capitalism.

When we are talking about the immediate danger of neo-Nazis, we first think of the danger of a physical attack. For example, in 2016, a group of neo-Nazis stormed the left-wing “Social Center Oktobar” in Belgrade, smashed the inventory and beat up some people who were in there.

However, we need to recall the situation in Serbia ten years ago. When Kosovo’s independence was proclaimed in 2008, demonstrations under the name “Kosovo is Serbia” (organized by the government in Belgrade) were massively attended by all football fan groups, all nationalist organizations and all neo-Nazi groups. They played a big role in the violent part of these demonstrations – the burning of the embassy of the United States and other embassies, and above all in the attempt to attack B92 television station. Members of the National Machine pulled a part of the mass with them and hundreds of people marched on TV B92 behind the banner “National Freedom – Social Justice” with Nedić’s eagle in the middle of it, a symbol of National Machine.

Real danger

Already at the beginning of 2009, when the Belgrade Pride was announced for autumn of that year, a campaign of intimidation and terror began, during which hundreds of graffiti were written in Belgrade and other cities. As the date of the Pride was approaching, there were more and more cases of attacks and beatings, especially of the LGBT people. Pride 2009 was banned several days before the scheduled date. In the fall of next year, when the first Pride was held in Serbia, there was a battle between the police and about 6000 neo-Nazis, nationalists and football hooligans which lasted for hours. It is perfectly clear that neo-Nazis, clerical fascists and other right-wingers could not organize this action on their own. They were coordinated and in other ways helped by the secret services (both military and civilian), as well as part of the then opposition, and now ruling parties, and certain church elements. Police units and public institutions were attacked, and there were shootings at headquarters of the then ruling political parties. There were new attempts to attack the embassies and certain media that were perceived as those who supported the Pride. We see, therefore, that these groups were used by larger players that wanted to take down the government.

There is no national bourgeoisie in Serbia which would support the development of the massive independent fascist movement. However, we can expect that the comprador bourgeoisie, which is firmly on the neoliberal line, will reach for the fascists as a reserve means of terror in the context of the deepening economic or political crisis. But even in this case, it is more likely that the government will use fascists by itself such as “Communal Police”, which already now functions in practice as a private police of the ruling party, or various private security companies who can easily be operated with on a “free market”.

In parallel with the deepening of the crisis, we can expect the re-strengthening of the fascist movement which will find support in the most reactionary elements of the political elite, security structures, large capital and parts of the church. Structurally, the basic purpose of such movements is the pacification of social turmoil and the suppression of the revolutionary left and workers’ organizations. That is the reason why precisely these social forces need to be most alert and most sensitive to the growth of fascist groups and organizations. And that is why their response has to be strong and resolute.


Tadej Kurepa

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