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Monday, August 8, 2022

Parallel universe

By: Dr Dimitrij Rupel

In socialist times, the well-known and important philosopher Vojan Rus rejected Slovenian independence. In those pivotal days, he wrote an article in which, if I remember correctly, he taught readers that a smart man who has arranged a comfortable apartment (in a beautiful apartment building) will not think of exchanging it for a smaller and poorly furnished apartment somewhere in the suburbs. When I remember Rus’s article, it seems to me that Slovenia’s departure from Yugoslavia could in fact be compared to a change of apartment, except that Slovenia was forced to move. Slovenians – because there was no room for us in a beautiful multi-apartment house – arranged our lives outside it. The comparison seems appropriate to me because the erection of new (independent, alternative, parallel) structures has happened to us several times, in fact it is happening more and more often.

In 1980, we founded the magazine Nova revija because there was no room for other things in the other magazines we wanted to publish. Because we were not invited to existing institutions and because we were not welcome in them, we set up our own, new, parallel ones. In a similar way, the Perspektive magazine was founded in 1960, next to Oder 57. Such action – in the context of socialist monopolies – was, of course, not easy. Most such institutions were banned, abolished, and persecuted. After gaining independence, Nova univerza followed the example of Nova revija, and a few years later Nova televizija (Nova24TV). Disobedience on the one hand and stubbornly driving away competition on the other, led to the creation of many new institutions in Slovenia. Let’s call them parallel structures. This became, so to speak, a common way of survival for disobedient intellectuals who were not acceptable to the ruling institutions. The creation of parallel structures, which means the accumulation of structures, is not, in principle, an austerity policy. But!

The leader of a new party said weeks ago that the current Prime Minister lives in a “parallel universe”. By this he meant that the Prime Minister does not live in the same “universe” as he does; that, in short, he does not live in the “universe” (world) in which most citizens live. Political statements are, of course, often ill-considered, and inaccurate; but if they are truly reckless, they can sometimes be real. If we think back to the years of independence (1987-1992), we will remember that a new “universe” had to be created in some way. The old (Yugoslav, socialist) “universe” was saturated with old structures, from offices to factories, from housing and land to theatres and resorts. These institutions were – as dictated by political correctness at the time – social, which was supposed to create the impression that they were in fact neither state nor government but owned by the people. It was important for government/state institutions to be called social because it was clear to all people that the government is set up by the party and – with linguistic superficiality – the impression could be created that the party is the owner of the universe or the universal owner of everything. At the time of independence, some bold steps had to be taken, which were both operational and factual in nature. What was formerly social has become state-owned, state-owned has become private. The “executive council”, which – through the mediation of the one-party assembly – carried out the instructions of the party’s politburo, changed its name to the government; the assembly was renamed the parliament or the National Assembly.

Institutions have proven to be strongholds of the old universe

Citizens began to realise that – as the then President of the Presidency Milan Kučan said at the time of independence, and before him with the formation of Yugoslavia Ivan Hribar – “nothing will be the way it was”. Of course, the houses did not collapse, and we still had the same seasons, but the institutions changed, a new world was created, which can also be called a new universe. For many, the old world has collapsed, and many have tried to fix it and continue living in it. Despite the vivacity of change, the old universe still existed, and the new universe struggled with difficulties. New parties were, so to speak, creating a parallel universe. Because – at least some – the previous institutions did not function or they did not allow themselves to adapt, new institutions had to be created. Simply put, in Slovenian education, justice, media… there was no suitable space for new people, so it was necessary to create parallel education and parallel media; however, in some phases of its existence, the Constitutional Court proved to be a parallel judicial system. If at first it seemed that the institutions would adapt to the new conditions, at some point they proved to be the strongholds of the old universe.

In a way, Slovenian parties were also formed as parallel structures. Anyone who wanted to be involved in politics in socialist times had only one option: the Communist Party or Union of Communists. There was also the Socialist Alliance, but this was nothing more than a broader Party. The first parallel parties (SKZ, SDZ, SDSS, SKD, Zeleni) were formed under the influence of events in Poland and as the end of the Yugoslav system approached in 1988 and 1989. Practically everywhere in the former socialist countries, communist parties, stars, and planets of the old universe ceased to exist or have shrunk to an unaffected size. They disappeared into a space black hole. As a rule, new parties did not want to work with them. In Slovenia, the situation for cognition was different.

In Slovenia, in addition to the old universe of socialist self-governing parties, a parallel universe of new parties emerged. In addition to the new parties that first merged into the Demos, the universe of the former League of Communists, accompanied by the League of Socialist Youth, remained virtually untouched. From this party, which for a long time was called the “youth organisation”, the Liberal Democratic Party developed, which ideologically strengthened itself with the Democratic Party and the Zeleni Party, and personally with Janez Drnovšek. At least in the first years, it presented itself as a defiant parallel universe, until – when Drnovšek ceased to be the Prime Minister – it joined the old universe. The parties of the former Demos remained in the parallel universe. Today’s SDS (besides it, another party of the so-called centre-right) belongs – as the leader of a new party of the old universe correctly noted – to the parallel universe. The characteristic of this universe is that, as with all parallel structures, it fights for space under the sun; while the old (today we would say leftist) parties inherited most of the space centres, ports, and space fleets.

Dr Dimitrij Rupel is a sociologist, politician, diplomat, writer, playwright, editor, publicist and former foreign minister.

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