Honor and respect for our war veterans
By Denko Maleski
Ninety-eight year old Jordan Cekov Dane, commander of the Third Macedonian Assault Brigade, welcomed the President of the Republic of North Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski in his home. This symbolic gesture made by the President showed what our attitude should be regarding the war veterans. The speech he gave on Ilinden felt like he had given the veterans back the respect and the honor they deserve for having risked their lives in order to fight for the country we are living in today; he openly opposed the nation’s lack of gratitude and their short-term memory. I say, he returned to them the respect and the honor they deserve, because for many years it has been taken away from them by the people whose intention was to turn the antifascist war into some sort of a communist conspiracy. At first, only for the sake of gaining more votes in the elections, they deepened the gap between those who stood up to keep Macedonia whole and the ones who fought with guns in their hands and established the Republic of North Macedonia. Then again, only to gain more votes, they refused to understand the complex national and international circumstances which were against the idea of ‘Big Macedonia’. In fact, our nationalists did nothing original. With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, politicians from all over Eastern Europe started the so-called “anticommunism” game. As paradoxical as it may seem, it was the very old game of the dogma communists only this time it was masked as nationalism. It demonstrated the same fierceness, the same cruelty and the same exclusion – this time for the nation instead of the communist ideology. Besides the national votes, the nationalists hoped they would gain the affection of the powerful western forces; however, at times, they have failed to do so.
On one occasion, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the former Yugoslav republics, me included, were sitting at a round conference table in Hague at a meeting with the President of the Conference on Yugoslavia, Lord Carrington. When the Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs, Budimir Lončar entered the room being a little late, the Croatian minister, Sheparovikj and the Slovenian minister, Rupel, said to each other joking: “What is this communist doing here?” The great Lord Carrington, with his typical British humor exclaimed: “A communist, I heard someone said communist, take your guns out and shoot!” That was in the beginning of the nineties.
Macedonia did not have such policy. Our policy was to keep the country which we inherited from the partisans. Finally, we had a partisan for a president. However, while the other republics, after having gained their independence were fast to survive the first anticommunist wave and consolidate in a decent and humane manner their attitude towards the past, we in Macedonia, have moved in the opposite direction. Our nationalists did the exact thing Vaclav Havel, the President of Czechoslovakia had been warning against. On one occasion he said: “The anticommunists are worse than the communists”. And, what was bad about the communists? Their fierceness, exclusion and harshness sublimed in the words of a song which goes something like: “Who speaks otherwise, curses and lies is going to face our anger….” That is what our nationalists were impressed by, so they, consciously or not, accepted the worst from the previous ideology. That is why we are late to reconcile with the past. That reconciliation is within ourselves, it is how we see the history – whether we see it with the eyes of avengers or with the eyes of ones ready to understand and forgive. And, instead of judging the brutality of the empowered one-party government from the past and celebrating the antifascist fight and creating the young country and nation as well as the democratic and European future of the country like they did in Croatia and Slovenia, the government of the Macedonian nationalists has been persistently throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The defeat of communism worldwide by the liberal democracy was interpreted so literally by some shallow minds in our country that the veterans from the World War II and their organization who were part of the international antifascist resistance movement were completely marginalized.
Communism as a movement originating from the middle of the nineteenth century came as a reaction to the extreme poverty of the working class people from London and Paris to Saint Petersburg and Skopje. The harsh working conditions and the cruel merciless exploitation of children and women labor initiated the creation of the Communist International and the first trade unions. The monstrous system that was later created by Lenin and Stalin is a completely different thing from which there is also a lot to be learned. Namely, that the power which is in the hands of only one party, always ends up in the hands of the central committee, or the Politburo, or an almighty leader, as Rosa Luxemburg wrote. And then, that almighty political ruler can, with the help from the police, organize concentration camps and arrange mass murders of the political opponents. We, as being part of the Eastern European one-party systems have experienced bits of that system of governing, especially in the first few post-WWII years. We finally rejected that system in 1991, and, at least declaratively, we chose democracy, human rights and legal state. Our tough adjustment to the politically unknown which proclaims pluralism of ideas and ideologies which coexist in peace, as well as equality and tolerance begun. In such free and open system of political competition, the factor of our uniting is represented by the values of the parliamentary democracy, not the nationalistic or ideological exclusion. When asked the other day, the old partisan said: Unity. That is possible in present days only if the principles of the democratic and legal state are respected. And decency, too. Did anyone notice the gesture of decency our president showed when he helped the president of the war veterans Nikola Stojanovski to the stand on marking Ilinden at the Villa Vodno? Why doesn’t that make headlines on the Macedonian political news, but pulling someone down and not helping them stand up straight?
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