The People’s Interest? What is this People’s Interest? This is a thing that is truly strange strange and undefined. Napoleon sends several expeditions to Rome and Mexico, spends millions acquired by the people’s sweat and looses thousands of men and all - they say - for the glory and interest of France; Austria sends an army into Schleswig-Holstein and brings to completion Königgrätz and this all for the people’s interest; look how the Sultan himself for three years laid waste and burned poor Crete, and well even he says that it in the interests of his Christian subjects who, “in their stupidity and as a result of foreign influence”, rebel against him. But we will leave aside Napoleon, Austria and the Sultan. Everyone knows what means their phrases “for the people’s interest” for “the people’s honor” etc. Let’s take a different example. Deák, Eötvös, Andrássy and generally the majority of the Hungarian Diet are sincere Hungarian patriots. Their aim, as is known, is to create a “Greater Hungary” in which there would be a single political people - a Hungarian people. They say that their politics is a people's politics, that is that it is in line with the interests of the people which lives in Hungary. The representatives of the majority of people who live in Hungary, that is the representatives of non-Hungarian nations, say that that politics is completely against the interests of the majority. But lets leave that aside. Deák is a Hungarian and isn’t to be even asked to consider the interests of other nations. But is it truly even useful for Hungarians? What, for example, do Hungarians in Debrecen or Pest gain because their king rules over 15 million subjects? Will they therefore have less taxes, will there be taken from them less recruits? Will there left over for them more resources for education, will they have more freedom in authorized and public meetings? Taken overall, will they have any kind of alleviation? The outcome we have before our eyes demonstrates clearly: not only no kind of alleviation but, to the contrary, greater burdens. The majority of the people in Hungary are dissatisfied with this politics. In order that they be restrained under the yoke, force is necessary. For that an army is needed (von Beust is seeking 800,000); a repressive administration is needed (the delegation approved 550,000 florins by a secret resolution); and most important it ought not be permitted that the interests of the people and government actions should be excessively freely be publicized and examined. The Hungarian government prosecutes Böszörményi, one of the most worthwhile members of the Liberal Party. From this is seen what Hungarians themselves will gain. They will give over more recruits, that is, there will remain fewer hands for work; they will pay for spies, that is, there will left over less resources for education, and morality will be corrupted. And what comes next? That is easy to predict. Next both non-Hungarians and Hungarians will become still more discontented which will result in stronger means of repression, that is, more recruits, higher taxes, a more intrusive administration and less freedom, etc. leading to disaster. And with all that Deák, Eötvös, Andrássy and the whole company are true Hungarians and sincere patriots. So how come they, as patriotic Hungarians, conduct a policy that is against the interests of Hungarians? That’s truly a long story but we will tell it in a few words.
It wasn’t long ago when a person of the state was not worth a dime but the entire state was the king (L' Etat c' est moi Louis XIV). The People in that time was considered, so to speak, as the property of the king because he ruled by “the grace of God”. Everything that increased the glory and abilities of the king-state, both at home and abroad, counted as in the interests of the state while no one paid any attention to the interests of the people. A powerful army and a powerful administration gave the king the means to use national resources to support a splendid and luxurious palace, to shine internationally and to have an impact on international politics. It’s from this that a powerful army and a powerful administration has become the measure of "state" size. But to support a powerful army requires many people who can provide living and inanimate resources (recruits and money) for its maintenance. It’s from this that the number of state subjects has become the measure of the size of a state. Since that time, Europe has changed a lot. People have begun to realize that their interests and the interests of the state are not always the one and the same. This realization of the people and the consequence of their dissatisfaction has become dangerous to governing by the right of “the grace of God” and to more an more classes of people whose interests have been historically fated to be bound to the interests of the ruler. This would be the occasion for these gentlemen to bring forth various phony sermons that all the people in the state - that is, the whole nation - must have alonside their private interests also a "higher state interest" and that personal interests must be sacrificed for the love of the community, etc. When these phrases are translated in to our simple language it comes over, for example, like this: you Austrian peoples have as your interest to live and work peacefully, each at your home, that from what you earn each individual gives over as much as is essential and all the remainder you use to satisfy you needs, for your education, your transport communications and enjoying yourselves etc. But Austria has to attain “higher state interests” (it’s understood that the preachers do not speak this way but we will so speak): that is to maintain a splendid court; to be “the spice in every soup” that is to be involved in every European event, because such is the fashion in Europe (and states have fashions just as people), to support a large army, to pay public officials who will oversee the people, to pay for spies etc, etc. So for that reason the Austrian peoples must sacrifice their personal interests to the general interest and pay in blood and sweat to the state bosses. In this case, we have shown routineer politics in the crudest form, where it appears as a product of habits: to live on another's account as a product of dishonest selfishness. But there are plenty of cases where routineer politics arises as the simple product of a misunderstanding of the people’s interests. Such politics is that of today’s majority in the Hungarian diet. Deák is a Hungarian patriot. He would wish that the Hungarians to be free and advanced in everything, but at the same time routine holds that the external splendor is necessary for the happiness of the people: and he would wish that somehow there should be an entire Hungarian kingdom from the Carpathians to the Adriatic Sea, as it was in the former "glorious" times and he wishes Hungary to have a strong army to involve itself in European affairs. In Europe, those nations are considered to be happy who play a prominent role, even should this role be purely outward (as actors on the scene). Such statesmen do not realize that such outward splendor can be bought only by the mental and material poverty of their people.
In all that we have said about routineer politics so far, we had the aim to prove, that the old prejudices and the habits that support them are so deeply rooted in the outlook of European statesmen that even people who really do good often work against their people interest purely from ignorance from routine. But speaking of honest and dishonest routineer policy, we to some extent choose cases which directly concern us and we have brought up the term but not yet defined what we mean by “national interest”. We can not find a better definition of that term than that given by our esteemed Vlada Jovanović in his Srbeida i Gotovin, which is: that things should be good, for each and for all. Some of our literary charlatans at once came to the conclusion that if each has enough to eat and not be like other cattle then it will be good for everyone. It’s not worth so much as discussing with such sages. We mention this interpretation only because of their exceptional stupidity and now we will explain what the above sentence means. A human has the need to eat, to drink, to think etc. These are all needs which are connected with their personal nature. But beside that, a human lives in society and satisfy their needs only within society; from that if follows that only in a certain social structure can they satisfy their needs. We will take for the sake of an example that from our peasant so much tax is taken that they are left with so little money that they unable to buy smocks nor to buy fish and oil so they can celebrate Saint Nicholas’ Day at home etc; and then the tailor and the grocer will have no one to sell their goods and they in turn will not only not have enough to pay tax but quite possibly not even for food. From this it immediately follows that the peasant and the tailor and the grocer have an interest in the reduction of taxes. From these social relations an entire sequence of needs arises of a person as a citizen in the state and and as a member of the local community and family. When each satisfies their needs, then things will be good, for each and for all. From this it follows that the aim of popular politics must be directed towards organizing the state building so that as far as possible each member satisfy all their needs: that personal interests be entirely part of state interests. All that leads to the increase in popular freedom and to an increase in the peoples intellectual and material strength contributes and this is the criterion for assessing the value of foreign and domestic state politics. We considered it as essential to show this clearly and decisively, in order to make it easier to see: what is not popular politics. Now, let's turn to the politics of “Greater Serbia”, which is the subject of our article.
Zastava printed this article and didn’t make any comment on the underlying principles of the politics of the new Serbian government so hence we have the right to conclude that they agree with it in principle. But we find it curious that Zastava in the same issue printed an article, also without comment, that criticizes the Serbian government in that it supports the Austria-Hungarian government. Consistency - that is a virtue of any policy. And friendship with the Austria-Hungarian government until a certain recognition of the “Greater Serbia” program is realized is for the regency unavoidably necessary. Whosoever doesn’t understand that ought not speak about politics. So it an equally logical consequence of this policy that that Serbia did not intervene in the Montenegrin War, that it endured the bombardment of Belgrade and that it in 1867 did not intervene in the Bulgarian rising. Whosoever accepts the fundamental principle - “a greater and strong Serbia”, does not have any right to attack what flows from that principle. Everyone who understands well the program of the late Prince and knows the current state of Serbia will know that Serbia still now is not ready to execute it. If it is possible to criticize the former Serbian government it must be on the basis of principle.
We have impartially described the Greater-Serbian policy of the late prince and, to be frank, we can in no way find any reason for the attacks of the opposition against individual aspects of that policy. So, for example, a dictatorship was necessary to the late prince in order that he should have at his disposal the entire national means to accomplish Greater Serbia. The Opposition screamed that the prince oppressed the people, as if the prince would be able to at the same time to set up a national army handing over weapons into the hands of the people while he set about oppressing the people. It’s to be understood, that when the opposition began its senseless struggle, then also the government had to undertake strict measures to put a stop to it. The opposition never disputed that the chosen rule of the principality of Serbia should be also the ruler of the future Serbian state and what’s more considered that (as became clear on the occasion of the killing of Prince Mihailo) the Obrenović dynasty was the only one under which the Serbian people could achieve their unification. After that concession the opposition was left with no alternatives besides either to shut up or to do what the Italian populists did ... But where among us is the Italian level of education, Italian wealth? Finally, where among us is there a Garibaldi? Clearly there is none of that among us. But given all that, it was senseless to urge Prince Mihailo to war when he, as a legitimist, wasn’t ready for it, and still more senseless to ask of him that he be a revolutionary.
The great majority of our liberals raise to the skies our popular consciousness and their political maturity and are ready to reach for a whole heap of general truths and various anecdotes from our folk songs and proverbs so as to prove its nature. (This was probably the reason that the liberals produced a law by which the educated class of our people was deprived of the right to attend the assembly). We not only do not share the opinion of our liberals maintain the contrary that our people is greatly lacking in consciousness and is politically immature. “Highbrow aristocrat” will shriek one of our liberals when they read the above sort of thing; “traitor” will say one of our patriots with a few screws loose: and some pseudo-politician from the Belgrade business community will let fly coarsely in front of his mother, throwing down the newspaper not reading it to the end. Where literature and civil life not merely fails to cultivate the popular consciousness but spreads false notions about fundamental political questions, neither consciousness nor political maturity. What can we do when it’s not possible to get out our head the simple truth that can’t grow wheat in a place where weeds are sown and nourished. Let me give one example (I love to tell through examples) in which is shown the level to which has reached the political wisdom of one representative of the masses. In the year 1864, in one of our provincial towns, I listened to a conversation between two close relatives, one being a deputy who was getting ready to set off for the 1864 Assembly held on the festival of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and a certain other educated person. The deputy was an honest and prudent person who had studied to the 6th form of high school and had much traveled the world (he was a wealthy pig trader); the second was a retired public official in retirement and without a pension, that is to say, without even a crust of bread. “Propose, for the love of God, the responsibility of the ministers when you are in the assembly,” said the official to the deputy.
“But to who should they be responsible?” asked the deputy; “In the assembly all are peasants as also am I” (he had the habit of calling himself a peasant), so a minister can give whatever account they wish - no one knows how to bring him to account.”
“But would it not be possible for people who did know how to bring them to acount,” said the official.
“But who will come,” answered the deputy, “an official I presume? An official who dependent in everything on the minister, if wants to or not, has to speak under the influence of the minister.” Here the conversation ended and I later learned that the deputy did not eve mention ministerial responsibility at the assembly. A simple rational person can’t comprehend the whole government structure and not perceive that reform in an individual section can’t be accomplished without reform in all sections. For this reason it is necessary to have a far wider vision that will obtain education either in school or in society in which civil life develops as in for example Switzerland and North America. An educated person would come to a quite different result. He would find that it’s necessary to change the position of officials so that they should be independent representatives of the their citizens interests.
The great majority of people of almost every nation live by the same ideas that they inherited from their fathers and grandfathers and with very little change they pass the same ideas on to their descendants. In France, after a bloody revolution, Napoleon called on a general vote to give him unlimited power and a large majority gave it to him. Disregarding such a large intelligentsia in France, so great a number of books and newspapers that held forth against Napoleon’s dictatorship, he survived the duel. So so let the members of the former opposition sincerely ask themselves: if Mihailo called for a general vote of the people in order to they grant him unlimited power, how many would not say: What kind of head of a household lacks the power order his young ones?” The majority of the people are aware of their needs, sense what concerns them but only a minority know how to help themselves. Take a village which gets flooded by the river Morava. The peasants will tell you in what season the water comes and how far it reaches and approximately how much damage it does but they won’t be able to say how to protect against flooding. For this reason a specific expert is needed. Let no one think that we are convinced that we are saying the people lacks awareness and needs to “be directed”. We too are convinced that the more people attend to “forging their own happiness”, the more probable is that this will in all things truly forged. But at the same time we wish to say this also: that our people has just emerged from the most brutal violence that a hostile hand has dealt them, that they have not for a minute lived a free civil life in which they could in practice become proficient in securing their interests; the majority of the people must work for their “daily bread” and therefore can’t even think about what doesn’t directly concerns themselves. Because of this it is the duty of the minority that has trough fortune or accident gained awareness, not to say that the people knows what it does not know, to flatter and lull them to sleep, but to tell them the truth as starkly and clearly as possible, and to strive with all means that the truth be heard by as great a portion of the people. That is the only way that the majority grasps what has the minority. These thoughts of ours have inspired us to write this article about the policy of “Greater Serbia”. We have spoken of plenty of things that could appear to someone as secondary or superfluous but they were necessary for us to expresses a correct judgment on this policy, a judgment which has already been made by history.
The policy of a “strong and greater Serbia”, as was understood by the previous government, is fundamentally against the interests of the Serbian people. Above all, the Serbian people in the Principality is materially very poor. If Serbia is making preparation on the lines of the tenet of the former government the Serbian people will bear a terrible sacrifice, giving to the last it’s by blood acquired cash. Everyone who knows how difficult it is in Serbia to pay the taxes and surcharges knows how heavily that policy will fall on the people. And that’s not to mention that the centralization of power (which is the consistently follows from the policy of Greater Serbia), with her inseparable comrades censorship and lack of accountability, fetters the intellectual development of the people. And besides all these sacrifices, Serbia is still even today not ready to fulfill the program of the late prince, even though as a patriot and rich person he was not sparing of his own estate to ensure military preparations. But lets presume the fortunate case that the greaterserbian policy is met with success and that Serbia gains Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro and Old Serbia. There are few to be found that would not consider that to be the greatest good fortune for our people. We do not share that opinion. We mentioned earlier that routineer politicians consider to be solely great territory, a great number of subjects, a splendid palace etc; we have said that the peoples interest is “that things should be good, for each and for all” and that only that politics is beneficial for the nation and which will unite all it’s intellectual and material force and gives it the possibility of using these for a common aim. The policy of “Greater Serbia” on the surface unites the intellectual and material force of the Serbian nation but in fact thwarts and fetters these forces. The people would emerge from the struggle for “Greater Serbia” poorer and more broken than they is now and would remain surrounded by the same enemies by which they are now and on top of that it would have acquired as an enemy their Bulgarian brothers. “Greater Serbia” would have to be purchased by friendship with enemies by humiliation and the sacrifice of the interests of the people; it would require spending more and more on military forces; more and more stimulate centralization with all the “good” it brings, greater and greater burdens on the people with various tributes (and probably also a state debt), and sooner or later a policy like that would end in an external or internal catastrophe. The Serbian people outside the principality would gain very little, and that section of the people in the principality would be much worse off than now in little Serbia.
A politics which organizes around a greater and strong Serbia provokes suspicion among our natural allies in the Balkan peninsula, the Bulgarians and drives them into the enemy camp. And so long as they are in the enemy camp, we can’t be free either. From this it evidently follows that Serbian policy must be directed towards the general liberation of the Balkan peninsula. “Greater Serbia” is a narrow and shaky construction and therefore is not capable of securing Serbian national interests, just as “Greater Bulgaria” would not secure the interests of the Bulgarian people. Only a Serbian-Bulgarian alliance (it’s to be understood, organized through the free will of both peoples) can secure the future of both peoples and of all southern-slav-hood. The former opposition never expressed a decisive opinion on that subject. In “Serbia” there was one article in which was dealt with our relations with the Bulgarians. In this article it was mentioned that among the intelligentsia there were several people who assembled a group of federalists, but their number was insignificant while the Serbian people knows only about its suffering. That’s truly so. And the Serbian people will suffer even longer if their intelligentsia does not know how to show to them a cure that can cure completely. In the same article there was talk of the equal rights of the Serbian and the Bulgarian people, we don’t remember if the the writer spoke in his name or of that of the Serbian people. The majority of the Serbian people thinks neither about its rights nor about its equality with other peoples while the opinion of the opposition in relation to Bulgarians is of little benefit. And even this little benefit fractures in that the opposition supports the policy of “Greater Serbia”. The opposition simply prettified that policy, which considers the Bulgarians as means to the end, with the empty (if not ambiguous) phrase: “Look at how we utilize our force just as we will yours”. Bulgarians consider it dangerous to “sow marrows with a great lord” (we are in other words for Bulgarians a great lord), therefore since 1862 they’ve rejected the Serbian aspiration for initiating a war and consequently there was issued the well known address to the Sultan in which autonomy was sought for Bulgaria and hence the defense of the integrity of the Turkish Empire was promised and finally as a consequence the bitter polemic came out against the Serbian government last summer because of Bulgarian bands in Serbia.
The former opposition, for the entire time of the rule of the late prince, played a wretched role (for which a major cause was its bureaucratic character). They did not have the courage to strike at the fundamental principle of the late prince and to clearly show a different way, which lead to national aims but attacked specific phenomenas and individuals. The people were unable to understand them and hence the opposition didn’t find support among the people and their struggle remained without success. However, neither did the political system of prince Mihailo gain the love of the people. The people loved the late prince personally because they had some kind of mystical belief (as often happens with the mass of the people) that he would restore the “Empire of Dušan” but did not understand the entire internal administration grew out of his political principles. All the abuses which were inescapably connected with the system of administration, the people attributed to specific individuals. Immediately after the death of the prince, even amidst the general grief, the people expressed how they were completely dissatisfied with his system. We can only thus explain so great a hatred of the people against the main assistants of the late prince. Events showed on this occasion as always their judgment on the politics which placed dynastic interests above those of the people: this politics must become obsolescent and the more dreadful its fall the more completely it will be changed.
It remains for us to say a few words directed to the youth for whom we intended this article.
Every national aim can be achieved only through all-encompassing popular action. But if the people harness their full force to work for a single general aim it’s necessary that they should be conscious that is that they become aware of that general aim, that they become aware of the routes which lead to that aim and, most important, that they are firmly convinced that the personal good of each member of the people depends on the extent that the general aim is achieved. Brother J. Pavlović stated in Zastava [Flag] in the article Our political conduct that our people are politically lacking consciousness and that the educated minority itself has not clearly decided for the aim to which it aspires. A big thank you to him. He first states how inconsistent the conduct of our popular representatives in the Hungarian assembly in that they reach for their arms - the dead letter of past rights and privileges. But if fills us with even greater admiration when we read how the Hungarians on the basis of “personal freedom” trample on “national rights” while our representatives and publicists contrive to defend national rights but nevertheless to trample on personal freedom. As if between these concepts there can be a contradiction. National rights arises out of personal freedom and when the two thirds non-Hungarians that live in Hungary should be conscious, they will then on the basis of personal freedom have the right to go to the Diet and by means of a majority vote tear up these worn out papers on which are written the Hungarian right (just the same as now does the Hungarian majority with Serbian privileges); and if the majority discover it is necessary in the interests of their development that they separate according to nationalities they would (on the basis of personal freedom) separate and the Hungarians would have to nicely go along with it. It’s not personal freedom that is at fault but the lack of popular consciousness.
Of the same kind is the inconsistency in the actions of our Liberals in Serbia. Since the new government was chosen Liberals have acted as if they had placed on themselves the duty, on every opportunity, to only praise the sincerity and good intentions of the regency. No one doubts that the regency will conscientiously execute their duty but at the same time we are convinced that the regency will not do someone else's work (and it would be stupid to ask that of them), so therefore also journalists ought not to forget to do their work, informing the people, and ought not to do someone else’s (they know whose). For example, the commission which has been summoned has a month to draw up a scheme for a fundamental law of the land, but it has still up to now not occurred to our Liberals to ask whether the assembly will only scrutinize the scheme or will have the right to itself choose the commission and compose alternative schemes. But the Liberals know very well that depends entirely on the will of the Regency. To the people it is of little use that their liberal journalists are able to nicely talk about personal freedom, about the rights of citizens etc if the people see no fruit from all these nice things. When Napoleon on the 2nd of December usurped power and dissolved the liberal assembly which only spoke pleasantly and did little for the people, the assembly proclaimed Napoleon an outlaw and called upon the people to execute the assembly's decision one impoverished worker: “For what am I fighting? No doubt so that you receive 25 franks a day.” Many peoples could say the same of their Liberals.
Our minority working through to a decision on individual practical questions and designating its program of work, has trampled on its fundamental principle: that the interests of living people are imeasurably more important thatn historical rights and privileges and of dynastic and individual calculations and interests. By this they not only nothing in reality gained for their nation but often harmed them in that they put it in a hostile position towards peoples who are by blood and language brothers and who have identical interests as ours. All our actions are like the action of a broken army. Victory over such an army does not require of an enemy any kind of effort - it is already broken. And that’s not to mention solidarity in action between Serbian Croatian and Bulgarian populists. And what kind of solidarity is there between populists in Serbia and Austria? Look, its six months since Mr Ast in Novi Sad and Liberals in Serbia have not said a single brotherly word let alone anything stronger. For so long as such persists we will continue just as much in our “sentimental” rising up for freedom and progress for all peoples. Excuses such as “political tact” are worth nothing. Liberals ought to know that so long as a people do not themselves take the initiative for their freedom they will remain the slaves of others, just in varying forms. A people will not take initiative until it becomes conscious of what is needed to be done and how ought it be done. Necessary for us is unity in opinion and in organization in struggle. Therefore first of all we think we have the right to ask from the leaders of the populists and their organs Zastava and Serbia [Flag and Serbia] (which are at the same time the organs of the Youth) that is: to demonstrate a commitment to their principles and clearly map out a program of work in order to accomplish those principles. Only then can there be solidarity between us and the Youth which given itself the aim to work “on the spiritual unity of the Serbian people”.