The main question posed by the case of the ‘Belgrade Six’, ever since its inception on 20 April 1984, is: Why? Who needs this show trial? Now that all the evidence has been presented to the court, that question is more burning than ever. For it has become abundantly clear that: 1. The ‘Free University’ was not founded by the six defendants originally brought to trial, nor even by the three of us who are still being tried—this time for ‘hostile propaganda’. Its real founders have notified the Court of this fact, as indeed they informed the relevant authorities at the time when the Free University began its work. 2. The creation of this whole affair of the ‘enemy organization’ which ‘aimed to overthrow the existing constitutional order’ (even though the authorities know perfectly well that they were dealing only with intellectual gatherings and debates) was undertaken in order to frighten and suppress so-called ‘critical forums’—and indeed critical thought in general. 3. Not a single part of the indictment has been proven. This is true not only with respect to ‘enemy organization’—regarding which the Prosecutor was compelled to abandon the whole monstrous accusation—but also with respect to ‘enemy propaganda’: it has been proved neither that the texts confiscated in my flat were ‘untrue’ or ‘malicious’, nor that they have been ‘distributed’ or ‘given to others to read’. 4. All the facts examined in the course of this trial, as well as others not examined but nevertheless relevant to the case, have shown that this is a prosecution for délit d’opinion—which for tactical reasons has been dressed up as something else: a conspiracy.
If the public at large is now aware, as both we and the State Security have long been, that there is no ‘hostile organization’ or ‘enemy propaganda’ of any kind (other than in the minds of paranoid Stalinists), then the answer to the question: Why the trial? must be sought outside this courtroom. All serious analyses of the social situation in our country during the last years have converged upon a common conclusion: we are witnessing a deep economic and social crisis, whose culmination is still beyond the horizon. This crisis is undoubtedly making the leadership, which bears full responsibility for the country’s development, increasingly nervous. Hence the notion of reactivating that archiac mechanism we know from the Stalinist past: the creation of ‘enemies’, who can be blamed for all that has gone wrong (and especially for the failures of the leadership), and who can be sacrificed so that the real culprits can once again evade their responsibilities and continue in their old ways. However, if the real nature of this trial is now clear—we six, or we three, are merely scapegoats—this is not the case with its
As I see it, the decision to resort once again to repression against the critical intelligentsia can only be a sign of the leadership’s inability to deal with the crisis in a creative (i.e. flexible and realistic) manner—‘instead of putting out the fire, it belabours those who bring news of it’. Doubtless not everyone in the leadership favours solving problems of this kind by repressive measures. However, it would appear that, in the present constellation of forces, even those who are wiser and more flexible have become prisoners of the ‘hard line’, since the hardliners have ensnared them in a logic of escalation: repression, resistance to repression, increased repression, increased resistance, and so on—a logic whose outcome bodes no good. The ‘wiser and more flexible’ ones wish to avoid an open confrontation with the hardliners just for the sake of some ‘semi-anonymous and semi-intelligent persons’ (Komunist). Perhaps they do not realize that what is at stake, in the last instance, is not just the six (or three) of us, but a choice for the future: will this country take the road of socialist democracy and integral self-management, or will it continue on the old path in which bureaucratic voluntarism and incompetence play a major role? The trial of the ‘Belgrade Six’, therefore, represents a temporary victory of the hardliners. It remains to be seen, however, whether ‘toughness’ or ‘wisdom’ will ultimately prevail—though one thing is clear: at this level, questions of truth or justice are not even posed.
Even were I not a participant, a victim, of this trial, it would still force me to consider the following: has the Constitution of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia (sfrj) any function other than a decorative one? Is the Constitution binding also on the state and its individual organs? Is ‘politico-customary law’ stronger than constitutional-normative law? And, finally, how to explain the fact that the defendants in this trial were placed in a position where they had to defend the Constitution of this country against the very people whose professional duty is to protect it?
In the course of my submission of evidence, I informed the Court and the Public Prosecutor of the fact that the sfrj Constitution explicitly protects certain rights of citizens, and expressed my surprise that the State Security Service, the administration of the Belgrade District Prison, the District Public Prosecutor’s office and even the Belgrade District Court either are unfamiliar with or do not take seriously the relevant articles of the Constitution. How could this whole process (initial arrest, investigation, trial) have taken place at all, when it was clear from the very beginning (including to the Security Services) that the ‘Free University’ and the confiscated papers represented nothing but the perfectly legal activity of someone interested in theoretical debate, acquiring knowledge and developing a critical and scientific approach to reality?
The sfrj Constitution clearly states: Article 166: Freedom of thought
What does this mean? There is no doubt that the activities of the above-mentioned institutions and services, i.e., of their representatives, in relation to the Belgrade Six are a flagrant violation of constitutional rights, and should therefore be subject to legal sanctions as prescribed by Article 198 of the Constitution. Of course, I do not for a moment imagine that the personnel of the State Security Service or the Public Prosecutor’s Office or the Court initiated this trial of their own accord, or for reasons of their own. I believe on the contrary that they did so following some political directive, and relying on ‘politico-customary’ rather than on constitutional normative law.