Britain, The Anarchist Federation (AFED), Organise! #83 – Interview: Slovenia â uprising in Europe â what happened next?
Date Sat, 22 Nov 2014 11:37:39 +0200
GOTOVI SO! They are all finished! —- In November 2012 people in Slovenia (an ex-Yugoslavian country bordering Italy, Austria, Croatia and Hungary, EU member since 2004 and in Schengen area since 2007) rose up in a massive and widespread decentralised revolt that marked an intense and largely self-organised resistance to the economic crisis and cronyism. The uprisings started in the industrial city of Maribor against the corrupt mayor and city council, initially sparked by their introduction of a punitive traffic camera system which clocked up 5000 traffic tickets in its first 36 hours, with minimum fines a third of the average workerâs monthly salary for going even slightly above the speed limit. They were in reality born out of more than 20 years of transition politics from the break-up of Yugoslavia with capital accumulations and privatisations that had further increased inequality and powerlessness. Protestors readily torched the new cameras, which were such a visible and real act of municipal corruption during a time of austerity measures and privatisations, and then took to the streets.
The local anti-corruption protests, which had already grown in numbers to tens of thousands by early December 2012, quickly spread from Maribor to other cities, towns and villages throughout the country. During the uprising, state and municipal responses to the protests were harsh, with the use of riot police, and their attacks on demonstrations even included tear-gassing from the air by helicopter. The protests carried on until March 2013. Following the uprisings, the mayor of Maribor, Franc Kangler, the leader of the right-wing government, Janez JanÅa, and the leader of the opposition, Zoran JankoviÄ, were all officially accused by a Commission for the Prevention of Corruption.
A strong feature of the uprisings was the response of anarchists who included the Federation of Anarchist Organising, a sister organisation of the AF in the International of Anarchist Federations. AF members later participated in the 2013 Balkan Anarchist Bookfair, held in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana, and were most inspired by the activities of the anti-capitalist bloc that had been formed to bring together libertarian efforts during and following the uprisings. Organise! asked a member of FAO about developments since the uprisings.
When and how did the uprising end? Were there political concessions/changes?
This is hard to say. For sure, the window of opportunity closed after first three weeks. By this we mean the time when the impossible is possible, when the protests and riots were uncontrollable because they were simultaneously happening in many cities around the country and there were protests in small towns and villages that never saw them before. When the protests became more centralised they were more predictable, less dangerous for the system and therefore started to lose strength even though there were more and more people on the streets. For many it ended in the beginning of 2013 when the right-wing government fell. The anti-capitalist bloc that included many anarchists finished with the uprising in April 2013, after a protest during which an abandoned suburban community cinema was occupied for a few hours. Some structures like neighbourhood assemblies in Maribor have survived until today.
Did police/state repression continue after the end? Was there a support campaign?
Repression hits hardest at the end, when there are no more people on the streets. Hundreds of people were arrested, some already in jail sentenced, some still waiting for the trial. We try to keep in contact with everyone and there are several groups involved with the support campaign for them, demanding the release for all political prisoners and an immediate end of all legal processes around the uprising.
Can you name the organisations and groups involved in the uprising? Which organisations or groups still exist after the uprising? What are they doing now? Do they have continued discussion with FAO?
The uprising was egalitarian, decentralised and spontaneous in the sense there were no political parties or unions involved in it, and not even (mostly) any NGOs. People formed connections on the streets and new groups were emerging every day. Some are still active, others not. We tried to take the opportunity to make connections with as many as possible to find ways to co-operate to this day. The anti-capitalist bloc is one such structure that has survived and has still organises. Some who were not as progressive turned their energy into political party organising (like Syriza in Greece). That is unfortunate of course, but also
expected that people find it easier to trust their faith in the hands of (new) politicians, who will eventually disappoint them again, than in self-organising.
Do you think public attitudes have changed about anarchism since the uprising?
This is always hard to tell. What we know is that during the uprising people were ready to talk to us. Our tactics, ideas, strategies and methods, slogans, banners etc. were widely adopted. So this certainly contributed to the building of a culture of resistance. Whether we managed to transfer this collective experience into the next phase of struggle can only be told in time.
What is the situation like now with respect to political corruption? Has there been any social-democratic response?
New elections brought to power new parties and faces. The official left invented them in order for things to stay the way they are. Even if it was not planned – let’s not spread conspiracy theories! – they are a logical result of a ruling class that is fighting for their privileges. They are promising the rule of law but of course those laws are laws that keep the privileged, privileged and the poor, poor.
What is the economic situation like in Slovenia now?
More and more unemployment, more people in precarious jobs, bad atmosphere, no hope for future, the division among poor and rich is growing… Although the uprising didn’t change that it’s important we learned what we could have done better in order to be prepared for the future.
Have there been any other (smaller) actions from people since the end of the uprising?
Several, there have been strikes, protests, direct actions, debates… the atmosphere is bubbling and people are fighting at the level of everyday life to make their lives better.
What are the most positive things to come out of the uprising? Any negative things?
It was the biggest adventure of our lives (so far). Nevertheless, we don’t fetishise it. Events of such magnitude made us humble in the sense that we know now even better that even such great upheaval is only one dot in a long struggle against capitalism and all forms of domination. We try to change fear, depression and disappointment into strength, our mistakes into lessons for the future and our victories into courage to reach further. The best thing that came out were new connections, new lessons and experiences, the feeling the change is possible and the taste of a revolutionary moment that gives you strength to carry on.
Will there be discussion of the uprisings at the Balkan bookfair (Sept 2014 in Bosnia)?
Comrades from FAO joined forces with the US anarchist collective Crimethinc as part of their ongoing investigation and speaking tour âAfter the Crestâ. Comrades from Slovenia and US will therefore present a talk at the bookfair that addresses questions of lifecycle of movements aimed at sharing, among other things, experiences we got during our uprising in order for all of us to be better prepared when the next one comes along.
Federacija za anarhistiÄno organiziranje/Federation of Anarchist Organising (FAO): http://www.a-federacija.org/english/ (the site includes articles and many excellent photos and videos of the uprisings)
Eighth Balkan Anarchist Bookfair, Mostar Bosnia, 5th-6th September 2014: http://bask2014.wordpress.com/
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