The first step in transforming the Socialist Party of Macedonia was to be dissociating from all past burdens, which had helped make the Socialist Party a most secure way to transmit and implement the plans of the then ruling political structure. "At those times of preelection campaigns, we were faced with certain misunderstandings within the Communist League of Macedonia. Petar Gosev accused us of introducing discontinuity by creating this party. And what kind of a pluralism is that when some one else is leading you?" the present Socialist Party leader Kiro Popovski says. "We formed the party because the socialist thought has deep roots and tradition. It had appeared in Macedonia 100 years before us, in the days of Delcev, Glavinov, Karev...It also has its deep roots in the People's Liberating Front.
The party which chose a compromise name (at least to be valid up until the elections) -- Socialist Alliance--Socialist Party, held its founding assembly in Skopje, September 28, 1990. The assembly, along with the adopted program, statute and party emblem, could mean that the party was entirely ready to get engaged in preelection activities. Of course, with the entire burden on the party, inherited from the communist times. Out of the first free elections in Macedonia, the Socialist Party came out with 4 independently won parliament seats, one seat together with the Alliance of Reform Forces in Macedonia, and another one with the Party of Total Emancipation of Romas. Or, 5 % out of the total parliament deputies structure. This, along with the 12% of the committee members, is the party's capital in the govt coalition. Can the party be satisfied with what it won at the first multiparty elections? Before estimating on this, it should be born in mind that the party had lost its character of a massive political group the Socialist Alliance had in the past, but it was left with the label "a prolonged army of the Communist League".
Still, the Socialist Party (SP) appeared at the elections with a National Program for Reform and Progress in Macedonia (end of September, 1990), in which it stated its permanent determination to fight for a "sovereign and democratic Macedonian state, as an economically, politically and socially equal partner in Yugoslavia, the Balkans, and Europe." The program also included all aspects seeming to be in fashion in Europe at that time -- united Europe without frontiers, spiritual and cultural uniting of all Macedonians, legal state...Yet, the Socialist Party also pledged to develop all forms of self management and participation in the power. At that time (June, 1990), the Socialist Party--Socialist Alliance in Macedonia adopted a declaration on uniting all progressive forces fighting for sovereign and democratic Macedonia, for a joint participation in the elections. This initiative met with no response by left-oriented parties, and some even interpreted it as an "attempt to cover for the incapability and weak points of SP."
Looked back now, it may seem that the biggest mistake was not having behaved more aggressively in promoting the new idea and comprehension of socialism, just as expectations to join forces with parties with similar program orientations, some SP members comment today. "We were kept in a suspense which influenced even the party's own cohesion. And then, the leadership informed the party could not enter into coalition with no other party. Was that a matter of struggle for personal prestige of some of the leaders, is quite another issue," Popovski remembers.
Be as it may have been, SP somehow managed to reach an agreement with the Alliance of Reform Forces on joint participation in the elections, between the first and the second round of elections. But, even this agreement met with no support in certain communal branches of the Alliance of Reform Forces, where candidates needed voting support. At that time, by the way, SP reacted to the State Committee decision to allow voting with a passport, insisting it was against the law. Almost 8 months after its founding assembly, SP held its First Congress (June, 1991). In his introductory speech on current events, Kiro Popovski said: "...The only alternative is a democratic dialogue for a new Yugoslavia. It must be a result of voluntarily expressed will to enter an association of equal republics, as sovereign states, with complete guarantees of their equality in all aspects...Macedonia must not have a subordinated position in this new Yugoslavia, and that is why Macedonia needs a concept for independent development." The Congress bitterly criticised all nationalist tendencies and abuse of patriotic feelings by certain parties for marketing purposes. SP saw Macedonia as a national state of the Macedonian people and common fatherland of all citizens, living in ethnic tolerance and understanding. "No party must forget the ASNOM foundations of Macedonia. Otherwise, such a party does not belong to the Macedonian pluralistic political scene."
The Socialist Party, struggling to transform itself from the previous Socialist Alliance of Working People, had identical points of view on international relations with parties describing themselves as middle-class. The Socialist Party attitude towards the economy, on the other hand, was in fact, more or less, an application of economic programs elaborated by Ante Markovic. The party mostly evoluted in its position on independence and sovereignty of Macedonia, which, of course, was in the spirit of the times. In May, last year, the party program and statute underwent changes and were added somewhat different political programs. The Socialists made drastic changes in their concepts of the future Macedonian state. They chose to fight for a "sovereign, independent and democratic Macedonian state, as an economically, politically and socially equal subject in the Balkans and Europe," and for Macedonia to only rely on "its own defence forces, serving to protect the territorial integrity and independence of the Republic of Macedonia."
Since its transformation until today, the Socialist Party, unlike other parties, underwent no internal struggles and schisms. The membership is relatively stable, without any bigger fluctuations. On the other hand, evil commentators describe the party as the smallest and most obedient coalition partner. Yet, as it can be obviously observed, the same ruling coalition does not function on principles of agreement, at least not when dealing with essential problems. "SP has always been the most loyal party in the coalition, despite the fact that, often when key issues were decided upon, our party was excluded from negotiating with the other coalition partners. The entire communication, depending on what is being discussed and what the interests are, is mainly between two partners. Every one knows the smallest coalition partners lose the most in situations like this," Kiro Popovski says. Not only in regard to staff decisions, but in connection with essential legislature matters. We are seldom not in due time or at all included in the decision-making process, he complains. The opposition will often use this situation for critics against the ruling coalition: "You have to agree upon matters first, and even then appear in Parliament." What is the Socialist Party role in cases of, let us say, election of ministers and their deputies? The majority of govt members were elected by only 62 or 63 votes in favour -- on the very edge of necessary votes. "In certain situations, SP was neglected as a coalition partner, despite the fact that half of the members of govt, not to mention the deputy-ministers, were elected exactly because of our votes for them. Some of the parties profited very much in the process of dividing the power," Popovski goes on. As a reminder, SP is present in the govt only with a parliament vice-president and only one minister.
Recently, the Socialist Party had plans for a different approach to the privatisation. The party insisted that 20% of the companies' shares be divided among the workers and free of charge, explaining they had most certainly accumulated at least 20% of all firms' capitals during the past 40 years. Bitter debates between the Socialists and the biggest coalition member (SDSM) also arose when sale of state-owned business premises was discussed. The Socialist Party again insisted that those using the offices have a priority in purchasing them. Yet, such "differences" are neglectable if compared to the party's global strategy. The main problem for the Socialist Party is how to erase its image of impersonality and get out of the shadow in which it, perhaps, fell by its own fault and melted into the ruling coalition, becoming more or less unrecognisable. Observed from this aspect, the perhaps artificial division into left and right wings and a centre, proved to be a very relative classification. Nationalist parties simply cannot be regarded as right-oriented, as the terms "left" and "right" are quite changeable today. Most of the parties are almost literally fighting to secure a position in the centre (although no one seems to know what exactly is the centre and by what criteria it is determined). SDSM considers itself to belong to the centre, just as the Liberals do. So, it turned out that the only remaining left-oriented party is the Socialist one. All this leads to a conclusion that no party has a clearly determined party program.
Despite all this, the Socialist Party admits that "it is a widely accepted mistake that nationalism appears only occasionally, only to disappear after a while." Predicting the coming elections are bound to bring nationalism to the surface again, and that no party is likely to win the elections by a large majority, the Socialist Party will probably again seek its place in politics in another coalition, similar to this one, only perhaps enlarged. In any case, as the Socialists underline, their only option is middle-class democratic parties.