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Solidarity brochure about the persecuted anarchists of the Velvento case

STATEMENT-PART A:

A chronological presentation of the case

On Friday February 1, 2013, a double robbery took place at the local branch of the Agricultural Bank of Greece and the Hellenic Post office in Velvento, Kozani, Greece. Following a mass police mobilization in the whole area, one person was detained in the surroundings of Ptolemaida, and three more were arrested later on during a police chase operation.

From the outset of their arrest the four detainees – G. Mihailidis, D. Politis, N. Romanos and A.D Βourzoukos – declared themselves to be anarchists. The comrades were forced to stop a passing vehicle in their attempt to escape during the police chase. They avoided armed confrontation with their pursuers so as not to jeopardise the driver’s life.

(περισσότερα…)

Briefings from Greece: 22/2 – 1/3

22 February
Athens: The 6th session of the trial of the two murderers of Shehzad Luqman took place at the Mixed Jury Court.The 26-year old Pakistani was stabbed to death by Golden Dawn supporters Dionisis Liakopoulos (25) and Christos Stergiopoulos (29) in the early morning of January 17 2013 in Petralona, Athens. Luqman’s parents have travelled from Pakistan to attend the trial. The next session was scheduled for April 10 (Sources: 1, 2)

24 February
Thessaloniki: A bus driver was sentenced to ten months in prison suspended for three years and received a 1000 euro fine for forcing two African passengers to get off the bus, claiming that they hadn’t paid for their ticket. He was found guilty for refusal to provide services with racist motivations. (Source: 1)

Athens: Three Korydallos residents were arrested as they were heading to the demonstration outside Korydallos prison (the main prison of the country) to protest against the conditions under which prisoners are held at the prison hospital. The arrested were released two and a half hours later. Recent news reports have brought attention to the appalling conditions of the hospital where over 200 patients with cancer, heart disease, HIV, TB, hepatitis, scabies and renal insufficiency are housed next to each other in a space made for 60 patients. The following Facebook page has been promoting the issue (link)

ΝΟΣΟΚΟΜΕΙΟ ΦΥΛΑΚΩΝ ΚΟΡΥΔΑΛΛΟΥ - ΔΙΑΜΑΡΤΥΡΙΑ - ΣΥΓΚΕΝΤΡΩΣΗ

Sources: 1, 2

27 February
Athens: The health centre of Ag. Dimitrios is under occupation for the 11th day by an initiative of residents of the area, workers, unemployed, pensioners, for the defense of free and public healthcare. Doctors of the health centre who take part in the initiative examine patients daily. The Samaras government and Health minister Georgiadis (former MP of the far-right party LAOS), intend to close and/or privatise many local health centres, including this of Ag. Dimitrios.

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28 February
Athens: Members of the union of teachers, cleaners of the Ministry of Finance, and school guards who have been made redundant demonstrated outside the Ministry of Administrative Reform and were confronted with riot police who made use of tear gas. Minister Mitsotakis was due to meet IMF Chief of Mission Paul Thomsen at 10 am. Plastic bottles were launched at Thomsen’s car as it was leaving the ministry of Finance where the meeting with Mitsotakis finally took place. 17 were arrested (16 teachers and 1 school guard) and later released. Later, a woman was injured in a confrontation with riot cops at Syntagma. (Sources: 1, 2)

1 March
Athens: 200 marched towards the Praktiker store in Egaleo to protest against the practices of the company bosses which led to the suicide of sacked employee Stefanos Valavanis on February 3rd.The demonstrators shouted slogans, distributed leaflets and pelted the store with red paint. (Source: 1)

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Statement on the situation in Ukraine – Autonomous Workers Union

149239-kiev

Translated by S2W from Avtonomia.net

Ukrainian anarchists give their take on developments in Ukraine as the uprising continues and the death toll rockets.

Civil war began in Ukraine yesterday. A less than peaceful demonstration clashed with state defense forces and divisions formed by the adherents of the current government near the Vekhovna Rada (Parliament). On February 18, police, together with the paramilitaries, arranged a bloodbath in the governmental quarters during which numerous demonstrators were killed. Butchers from the special divisions finished off arrestees. Deputies of the ruling Party of Regions and their bourgeois lackeys from the “Communist” Party of Ukraine fled from the Parliament through an underground tunnel. The vote for constitutional amendments, intended to limit presidential power, did not take place after all.

After their defeat in the governmental quarters, demonstrators retreated to the Maidan. At 6 P.M., the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Internal Security Bureau (SBU) declared an ultimatum to the protesters, demanding their dispersal. At 8:00 P.M., special police forces and paramilitaries, equipped with water cannons and armored vehicles, began their raid on the barricades. Police, the special divisions of SBU, as well as pro-governmental troopers made use of their firearms. However, the protesters managed to burn down one of the armored police vehicles, and it turned out that governmental forces were not the only ones in possession of guns.

According to the data released by the police (on February, 19, 4 p.m.), 24 people were killed: 14 protesters and 10 policemen. Thirty-one policemen received gunshot wounds. Even if their estimate of losses on the side of the police is accurate, the number of victims among the protesters was definitely diminished. Maidan’s medics cite at least 30 killed.

One gets an impression that President Yanukovich was certain that by morning the resistance would be crushed, and so arranged for the Opposition leaders to meet with him at 11 A.M. on February, 19. As the negotiations did not take place, we can conclude that the government’s plan had failed. During the unsuccessful operation to clear off the Maidan, the citizens of several western regions occupied administrative buildings and chased away the police. At the moment the police, as an institution, do not exist in L’viv. According to the SBU, protesters have captured 1500 firearms. In less than 24 hours, the central government lost control over a section of the country. Right now, the only solution may be the stepping down of the President, however, that would mean that he, his family, and their multiple acolytes and dependents, which form a rather large group in the ruling government, would lose their source of profit. It is likely that they will not accept this.

In the event of Yanukovich’s victory, he will become a ruler for life, and the rest will be doomed to a life in which they face poverty, corruption, and the abolition of their rights and freedoms. Rebellious regions are now experiencing massive restorations of “the constitutional order.” It is not improbable that the suppression of such “terroristic groups” in Galicia will have the character of ethnic cleansing. Mad Orthodox radicals from the Party of Regions have, for a long time, seen the conservative Greco-Catholics as the aids of “Eurosodom.” Such an “antiterrorist” operation would be carried out with the assistance of the army, as the Minister of Defense, Lebedev, has already announced.

Today, Ukraine experiences a tragedy, but the real horror will start when the government breaks down the opposition and “stabilizes” the situation. Signs of the preparation of a mass-cleansing operation became noticeable as far back as early February, when criminal cases were opened against the Maidan self-defense divisions as illegal military formations. According to Article 260 of the Criminal Codex, members of such divisions may face imprisonment for 2 to 15 years. This means that the government was planning to put more than 10 thousand citizens behind bars. In the regions, as well as in the capital, special “death divisions” are acting as a supplement to the usual police forces. For example, responsibility for burning alive a Maidan activist from Zaporozhye was claimed by such a “death division,” calling itself “Sebastopol Ghosts.” They announced that they are ready to subject Maidan participants in the East to similar treatment.

In the event of the Opposition’s victory life would be far from perfect as well. Although fascists form the minority of the protesters, they are quite active and are not the sharpest tools in the shed. A few days of truce in mid-February lead to conflicts between the rightist groups, resulting in several pointless and violent confrontations, as well as attacks on ideological ‘heretics.’ Besides the fascists, old and experienced Oppositionists will also attempt to seize power. Many of them already have some experience with working in government and they are no strangers to corruption, favoritism, and the use of budget funds for personal purposes.

The “concessions” that the Opposition is demanding in Parliament right now are pitiful. Even the Constitution of 2004, that they are trying to restore, gives too much power to the President (control over the riot police and special forces is one example), and the proportional electoral system, with closed listings, hands parliament over to the control of a group of dictator-like leaders, who can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Together with the President they will rule without obstructions.

Their second demand – the appointment of a Cabinet of Ministers composed of Opposition leaders – is altogether shameful. Are people risking their health, freedom, and life for the sake of someone becoming a prime-minister, and someone-else getting an opportunity to control the flow of corrupt-money? This is the logical outcome of preferring pathos-ridden conversations on “the nation,” and focusing on vertical structures tied to the same hated politicians, instead of developing ground-up organizations around financial and material interests. This is the main lesson that Maidan is yet to learn.

However, we will be able to apply this lesson in practice only if the current government loses the battle.
The Opposition inside and outside of the Parliament is broken into multiple hostile and competing factions. If it wins, the ensuing regime will be unstable and lacking in coherency. It will be as bourgeois and repressive as was the Party of Regions before their first show of force against the protesters in November.

The guilt for the spilled blood is partially on the EU which gladly receives money from the corrupt scumbags in Ukraine, Russia, and several African countries, while diligently neglecting to check the source of such “investments.” It is only after seeing the dead bodies of the victims of such “investors,” that it gets so very sentimental and full of humanitarian pathos.

This is not our war, but the victory of the government will mean the defeat of the workers. The victory of the Opposition also does not promise anything good. We cannot call the proletariat to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the Opposition and its interests. We think that the extent of participation in this conflict is a matter of personal choice. However, we encourage all to avoid being drafted to serve in the internal military forces controlled by Yanukovich, and to sabotage by all means available the actions of the government.

No gods, no masters, no nations, no borders!

Kiev organization AWU (Autonomous Workers Union)

Letter from comrade Kostas Sakkas, 17.02.2014

kostas_sakkas

ANARCHISTS AND COMMUNISTS ARE SOCIAL FIGHTERS

STATES AND CAPITALISTS ARE TERRORISTS AND THIEVES

The current state of -permanent- exception, that constitutes an attempt to pave the way to yet another developmental invasion by the capital, unleashes an onslaught against almost all working people, confirming that class war is not only raging but is also becoming more extreme. States have always been instruments of class rule; the state is a system of social organisation that aims to reconcile the historically irreconcilable contradictions between exploiters and the exploited.

The unpopular government policy, perfectly aligned with their bosses’ (EU, IMF) orders, aims at the unconditional surrender of the contemporary working class and its decommissioning of each conquest of the past in order to make it even more exploitable, even more profitable for capital. More than any other period, the political system is acting on behalf of the transnational economic elite serving its interests. It’s acting on behalf of bank colossus, loan-shark states, serving, and facilitating, the economy of the markets and global capital.

The capitalist system, which is in the midst of one of the most severe structural crises in its history, both in terms of its depth as well as its multiple manifestations (banks, real estate, trade), has also launched a crisis of equivalent weight in the political system.

It is self-evident for the capitalist system that the accumulation of capital will always be the norm as well as a point of crisis, not only for the system itself but also for the political establishment. The flow of capital and its profitable growth, that is, a basic principle on which the whole system is built , will always determine the political alignments of nations. Wealthier states implement policies that transfer their debts either to the European or to the global periphery, in order to ensure a powerful geographic concentration of capital. Poorer countries, on the other hand, impose exhausting austerity policies, regardless of the economic conditions of poverty and misery which they cause. They destroy the lives and dreams of entire peoples, jeopardize their future, and remove all hope, in order to secure the interests of particular economic elites and to safeguard a system that maintains their dominant privileges.

«Propaganda is to a democracy what a bludgeon is to a totalitarian state» suggests N. Chomsky.

Today, unpopular and extreme political imperatives that the rulers are called to impose require both a bludgeon and the fabrication of consensus through media. During the first memorandum between the greek state and the so-called troika, major media owners were called to a meeting with the prime minister to negotiate how onerous economic measures would be promoted as necessary in order to minimise the risk of social uprising. Instructions were sent to well-known journalists through usb memory sticks about how they should align their positions with the government’s policy, while it is a fact that a number of journalists were removed from their posts because they were not as effective as the political circumstances required.

Today, objectivity and the reliable character of the mainstream media floats somewhere between governmental «blackmail» of media owners through the auctioning of channel frequencies and the liberalization of the broadcast licences market – a term in the memorandum -, halts in bank loans to media owners without guarantees and, of course, common media and government interests in dismantling workers’ rights. It is no coincidence that all three memorandum governments have outrageously exempted major media owners from their tax obligations while the people are suffering from high taxes and austerity in general.

The unofficial propaganda ministry of the government, with the help of mainstream media, is struggling to convince us either by propaganda or suppression that any kind of resistance to the present unequal economic and political distribution is futile and doomed, since it will always be confronted with all the mechanisms, institutions and functions of the current totalitarian regime. They want a confused society, passive towards developments and perceptively decommissioned that will accept without protest the government’s extreme anti-popular policies. They construct an artificial climate of precarity so that memorandums and measures of new impoverishment can be applied unquestioningly.

  • They characterise militant anarchists as terrorists and employ rhetorical mudslinging in an attempt to persuade the public that it is threatened by their actions.
  • But how effective can this propaganda be in the context of the current situation?
  • If more than 4 million people living below the poverty line are asked who is responsible for the poverty they experience…
  • If 1.5 million unemployed are asked who is responsible for their exclusion from modern wage slavery…
  • If 20,000 homeless are asked who is responsible for their impoverishment…
  • If they asked themselves who is responsible for over three thousand suicides recorded in the years of memoranda…
  • If you ask yourself who is responsible for the huge increase of psychiatric drugs use – an effect closely connected to the current economic and existential poverty – and a host of other examples of social decline, will the answer be «Sakkas» or any of those that the regime’s media call «terrorists»?
  • I don´t think so…

Whoever wishes to identify the real terrorists, they can look at the ministry of finance and the ministry of labour which are responsible for people’s impoverishment.They can look at the state’s account department and the social security funds that gambled taxpayer’s money in the stock market. They can look at the SRADF [T/N: State Republic Asset Development Fund] and all these committees responsible for the selling-out of public property. They can look at political parties and their accounting departments that indebt people with huge loans for their election campaigns. They can look at the ministry of public order and the maritime ministry which are executing assassination contracts in the name of «immigration policy».

  • Actions of terrorism for the people are the sell-out of shipyards, airports, ports, the Hellenic Railways, the Thessaloniki Water supply and sewage disposal, the country’s resources.
  • Terrorist actions are the olympic games and the corruption, the tax exemptions and loans for media owners, the disintegration of health and education, the mortgaging of the lives and dreams of future generations…

Mass media with their dirty propaganda are trying to undermine social activists’ struggles and to convince people that their actions are directed against society. They seek to portray tension between the ministry of public order and the ministry of justice within the government, but in fact these are working together to lay the grounds for intensifying repression against political prisoners. The intensification of repression aimed against today’s anarchists and communists is obviously aiming to intimidate and deter tomorrow’s rebels and resisters. It’s an act of preventive repression.

The way mass media reported the «news» of me fleeing from trial is telling.

Although I haven’t been convicted by any court to date, according to the media crows the fact that the counter-terrorism police have found me guilty is sufficient. They have promoted the counter-terrorism administration [T/N: «ΔΑΕΕΒ» stands for Administration Dealing with Special Crimes of Violence] into a higher constitutional authority which judges and decides while the rest of the «misbehaving society» refuses to align with its outcomes («the counter-terrorism police gets them and the judges are letting them go…»). There’s a series of despicable news reports alleging favourable treatment of my case by the judicial mechanisms, purposeful indifference, even a left-wing para-state (!), that opened the prison doors and let me go…

Absurdity and feasibility are in conflict with common sense.

  • Let’s recall that I am the person who in 2010 was held in preventive custody for participating in an «unknown terrorist organisation».
  • I am the person who six months later was remanded again for participating in the CCF [T/N: Conspiracy Cells of Fire is a radical anarchist organisation based in Greece], even though both I and the organisation have denied my participation from the very first moment.
  • I am the person who after my 18 month remand had ended and I had to be released, was in remand again for actions of the same organisation (!).
  • I am the person who after my second 12 month remand had come to an end, had my imprisonment extended for another six months illegally.
  • I am the person who was on hunger strike for 38 days in order to be released with the decision of the second council after I announced to the officials that I was ready to start a thirst strike if they rejected my demand for the second time.
  • I’m the person who had the pleasure of feeling what solidarity and having comrades means… I am the person who experienced the political satisfaction of a genuine solidarity movement occasioned by my case which determined the victory of this struggle, a fact that the judges and political superiors know very well.
  • I’m the person who, five months after my release, I was arrested again by the counter-terrorism police because I didn’t sleep at my house(!), regardless of the restrictive terms which didn’t require that I stayed overnight at my residence.

Nonetheless, although the court ruled that I shouldn’t be convicted, the media crows had a different opinion…

Fortunately, people like Pretenderis, Kosioni, Mina Karamitrou and other mealy-mouthed, shufflebutt holdovers of the media don’t have the right – yet – to appeal court decisions.. For them, the magistrate’s court should send me to prison since this was the decision of the counter-terrorism administration, since this was Dendias’ [T/N: minister of public order and citizen protection] decision, since, to call things by their name, the previous day Ch. Xiros had violated his permit and they decided I should be re-arrested in revenge.

I’m the person who one week later was rearrested because the counter-terrorism police supposedly matched my fingerprints with those found in the house of 25th Martiou street in Chalandri [T/N: the apartment in Athens that cops in 2009 labeled a ‘terrorist base’] which were collected in 2009, with the ridiculous pretext that they hadn’t properly entered my fingerprints into their system when I was arrested back in 2010, although there’s a -published- report from the counter-terrorism police confirming the opposite. I was set free after testifying to the investigating judge and public prosecutor.

Once again media crows had a different view. Once again the judicial authorities «didn’t act as they should have»… According to the regime’s journalists, the judges act properly only when they set corrupted state officials free. When they release tycoons. When they release the media owners and the publishers… Once again, they conscripted their dirty propaganda to construct an atmosphere of terror and hysteria and to disorientate public opinion. This is what their job was, is and always be: the system’s crutch…

Especially today, when the need to «rescue» the economic and political system of power requires its operation as what it really is, namely a modern totalitarian regime, the rulers need the dominant media and their propaganda more than ever. Cultivating a climate of fear, terror and hysteria, they aim at the social disorientation and ultimately to alienate the people from the real fields of struggle.

There can be no doubt, today, that the struggle against the regime’s media is an integral part of social liberation.

We have to oppose the mentality that considers any real resistance as pointless. That considers unnecessary any real struggle, that wants all prospects of social liberation from the state and capital’s shackles to be nonexistent.

Especially today, when the leaders can only provide poverty, misery and repression for modern slaves, we can and must put all our efforts into realising our imperatives. We need to intervene in real time and space, in order to shape events towards a revolutionary direction. We should withstand those mentalities that doom to defeat and failure any attempt to take our lives into our own hands. To resist the dominant morality that wants humans subservient and with a bending head towards the oppressors. To resist the reality presenting today’s humans as unconcerned, passive, helpless and doomed to tomorrow. To resist the mentality of delegating and waiving those things that we must do on our own. In opposition to the legality of submission, we should engage in resistance, in an insurrectionary transgression.

Consciousness bears the burden of historical responsibility.

FIGHT AGAINST STATE AND CAPITAL.

ORGANISE AND ACT FOR SOCIAL REVOLUTION.

LONG LIVE THE ANARCHIST PRISONERS NETWORK!

Kostas Sakkas

17/02/2014

Source: freesakkas.indivia.net

Bosnia on fire: a rebellion on Europe’s periphery

by Mate Kapović via Roarmag,
The article in Greek here

Post image for Bosnia on fire: a rebellion on Europe’s periphery

With its radical demands and popular assemblies, the rebellion in Bosnia and Herzegovina shows that the global cycle of struggles is far from over.

On Friday, February 7, government buildings were on fire all over Bosnia and Herzegovina. Its people, silent for a long time, finally decided to speak their mind. And when they did, what came out was not just words — it was a roar. It was fire, stones and heavy fighting with the police. The most impressive and symbolic picture of the first few days of the rebellion was the one depicting a burning government building in Tuzla, the city where it all began, with the graffiti “death to nationalism” written on it. Since nationalism has long been a favorite refuge of the country’s political elites, who used it to justify their political and economic oppression, this was indeed a powerful message.

Prime Ministers of cantons in Bosnia and Herzegovina started handing in their resignations, one by one. On Sunday, February 9, the Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanović went to Mostar — a city in Bosnia and Herzegovina with a large Croatian population — to meet with the Croat leaders there, while the President of the Republic of Srpska (the Serbian part of Bosnia and Herzegovina), Milorad Dodik, was summoned to Serbia to meet with the first Vice-President Aleksandar Vučić (the unofficial leader of Serbia). The reasons were clear. Both the political elites in Croatia and Serbia are afraid, among other things, that what some already call the “Bosnian revolution” may spill over the borders into their countries.

Explosive Anger

The economic situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is undoubtedly terrible. The country was once known for its many factories and a strong working class — even the coat of arms of the former Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (part of Yugoslavia) used to feature factory chimneys. Now, many of those factories are closed, the rest are privatized by foreign corporations or a newly formed capitalist class, and in some of them the workers are working but are not receiving their salaries (which is quite common in the post-Yugoslav economy). The country has an unemployment level at about 45%. Neighboring Croatia and Serbia are not in such a bad shape, but still their elites have a lot to worry about as well, since the general situation is also very far from being even mildly satisfactory. For instance, youth unemployment in Croatia is at almost 53%, second only to Greece and Spain in the EU.

The explosive and in some cases quite violent rebellion in Bosnia and Herzegovina certainly had its own local reasons — rampant poverty, vast inequalities, a huge bureaucratic apparatus and the political and capitalist succubus at the top. However, this uprising is also an integral part of the global uprisings we have seen in the last couple of years. After the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008 and a few years of initial shock, a wave of great protests and uprisings began in 2011 with the Arab Spring, the indignados in Spain and Occupy Wall Street in the US. Last year, we saw huge uprisings in Turkey and Brazil. Former Yugoslavia was not spared in this wave.

Already in 2011, there were large “Facebook protests” in Croatia that went on for a month in March. Although quite politically heterogeneous, it was also the first time that openly anti-capitalist messages were displayed in any of the post-Yugoslav countries, and the protests in many ways anticipated the indignados and OWS, sharing with them a clear common zeitgeist. In 2012-’13, Slovenia was shaken by a popular “Slovenian uprising” that hugely influenced the public discourse in the country and gave rise to new political forces (such as the potentially promising Initiative for Democratic Socialism). In 2014, it was time for Bosnia and Herzegovina. They were the last to react, but their response was by far the most powerful.

A Social Rebellion

Since the rebellion began, almost all the analysts have insisted that it had been inevitable and that they had been sure all along that something like this was bound to happen sooner or later. Of course, this is not true. Although the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina was indeed catastrophic, prior to all of this most analysts would have claimed that this kind of uprising was impossible because the people are passive, inert and divided by nationalism. But, as is often the case, there was an unpredictable spark and it all grew quickly from there.

The uprising began in Tuzla in the North-East of the country; a city with a long left-wing and working class tradition. “A different city”, as is often claimed, because nationalism has never firmly established itself there, unlike the rest of the country. So it’s no wonder that it was this city that found itself in the eye of the storm. There, the workers of a number of privatized factories (like Dita, Polihem and Konjuh) have been protesting peacefully for various reasons for quite some time. However, on Wednesday, February 5, they were joined by the city youth, the unemployed and other people — and the protest rapidly began to escalate, spreading in the following days to most of the country. The most prominent actions occurred in Tuzla, Sarajevo, Zenica, Mostar and Bihać, which are among the largest cities in the country, with the majority of violent clashes and burning occurring on Friday, February 7.

The protests were clearly spontaneous and had social demands at their roots. Many protesters claimed that they simply have nothing to eat, that they have been unemployed for ages, and expressed deep contempt for the criminal political and economic elite. Although the rebellion has occurred mostly in parts of Bosnia inhabited by the Muslim Bosniaks (which Croatian and Serbian nationalists were happy and quick to point out), the rebellion was clearly — some provocations, acts of sabotage and stray people aside — a social and not a nationalist rebellion. Of course, as is often the case, the protests are very heterogeneous, with large numbers of football fans joining the militant wing of the mobilization as well. Today, the protests continue mostly in those parts of the country where the Bosniaks are predominant, but there are a number of exceptions as well. In Mostar, the city in the South-West of the country, both Croats and Bosniaks were involved in torching the headquarters of both the Croatian and Bosniak main nationalist parties (HDZ and SDA). Ethnic Croats have also protested in Livno and Orašje, while ethnic Serbs organized a couple of smaller scale protests and gatherings in Prijedor, Banja Luka, Bijeljina and Zvornik.

Although the protests are clearly social, the national question, used to their advantage by the political elites (although not completely unfounded in the case of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina), is still a great problem. Many Croats and Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina are still suspicious and afraid of the protests taking a different political turn, quoting, for instance, the Islamist turn of the Egyptian revolution (although this kind of scenario is highly unlikely in Bosnia and Herzegovina). This fear is actively fed by the political elites and the media, which are trying to prevent protests in the Croat and Serbian parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In that quest, a wide array of conspiracy theories have gained some popularity. Thus, Bosniak nationalists and politicians claim that this is all a plot against Bosniaks; Croat nationalists and politicians claim that it’s all a plot against Croats; and Serb nationalists and politicians claim that it’s all a plot against Serbs. It’s also very significant that Croat and Serb nationalist intellectuals and media are silently cooperating in a desperate attempt to prove that we are dealing with a “Bosniak spring” only.

Beyond Nationalist Claims

Still, not everybody is prone to such nationalist propaganda. For instance, one union from Drvar (with most members of Serb nationality) have given their support to the mostly Croat protesters in Livno. Also, the organization of the veteran soldiers of the Serb part of the country have openly pressured their president Milorad Dodik to start dealing with social problems, injustice and privatization crimes. However, in Bijeljina (in the Serbian part of Bosnia and Herzegovina) the protesters giving support to the rebellion were met with a counter-protest by the Serb nationalists. The same happened during a solidarity protest in Belgrade in Serbia (at the same time, the police union in Serbia proclaimed that in the case of the protests spilling over borders to Serbia, they will not act against the protesters). In Croatia, however, activists on both the left and the right are organizing protests in the coming days inspired by what is happening just across the border.

The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina remains very tense. Some left leaning intellectuals and public figures are giving their support to the protests, but most of the media and the entire political class is united against them. There are a lot of nationalist claims, conspiracy theories, fake manifestos, false statements, fabricated reports and narratives. The elites and regime intellectuals are trying as hard as they can to maintain the status quo. Still, there is a lot of confusion in liberal, conservative and nationalist circles. The establishment’s analytical apparatus is not really equipped to deal with this type of development since it cannot really perceive the working class, the unemployed and the poor as an active political subject. To this, we should add the usual petty bourgeois moralizing about burned buildings, “hooligans”, unnecessary violence, and so on. The liberals and conservatives are calling for “peaceful and dignified” protests, in spite of the obvious fact that without violence none of this would have happened, and in spite of the fact that the careful coordination between politicians and the media has clearly shown what bourgeois democracy and the “freedom of the press” really stand for: protecting class privilege.

As always, the media have made a case of pointing out that the protesters don’t know what they’re doing, that they have no clear goals or political program. This is not true. The protesters’ demands are becoming more and more clear by the day. For instance, the workers and protesters of Tuzla — who are most progressive, politically coherent and articulated — have demanded more equal wages, health protection for the workers; legal action against economic crimes; the confiscation of illegally obtained wealth; a reassessment of the privatization process of the Dita, Polihem, Poliolhem, Gumara and Konjuh factories; the nationalization of the factories and the resumption of production under workers’ control; cutting down the privileges of the political elite; and so on. Of course, it is still difficult to tell how this nascent political program will develop and what parts of it are just rhetoric.

The “Plenum” of Tuzla

One of the most interesting and exciting aspects of the mobilization is the appearance in Tuzla — right at the center of the rebellion, where the former government handed in its resignation some days ago – of a revolutionary organizational body called the “plenum”. This plenum (or general assembly) is very similar to the original Russian soviets. The protesters are using them in order to reach collective decisions and demands in a direct democratic manner. What is interesting is that the idea of the plenum, as a political body for democratic decision-making, originated in the 2009 wave of student occupations in Croatia, while the Croatian student movement itself got the idea from the 2006 Belgrade student movement. This, in other words, is a fine example of post-Yugoslav left activist cooperation and mutual inspiration.  The protesters in the capital Sarajevo and in the town of Zenica are now trying to organize a plenum as well.

Some of the demands of the Tuzla plenum, accepted by the remnants of the old government, were to form a new transitional canton government, made up of candidates suggested by the people of the region but excluding the people already compromised by taking part in previous governments or being members of the old political parties. The newly elected government should also have much lower wages and no additional privileges. The plenum is open for everybody to participate, discuss and vote, except for the members of the old parties and government (which essentially makes this “the dictatorship of the proletariat”, speaking in classical terms). Of course, while this kind of democratic decision-making is highly commendable, for now it seems mostly like a temporary phenomenon, which could be highly problematic when scaled up to the whole city (or even canton). The session on Monday, February 10 of the Tuzla plenum had, according to participants, approximately 200 people in attendance, while the population of Tuzla is about 130.000 people.

Beyond “Core Parochialism”

It is impossible to tell how these events will unfold in the future. One thing is certain, though: Bosnia and Herzegovina (and the region as a whole) will not be the same after this. One could say that a lot has already been achieved (at least symbolically), especially when one considers the fact that in Bosnia and Herzegovina — and in former Yugoslavia in general — there are no real mass organizations of the left. Now, after just a week of protests, popular ideas and the public discourse are already beginning to change. The elite will definitely be more afraid of the people in the future, not just in Bosnia and Herzegovina. One can only hope that all of this will feed into the formation and growth of progressive forces and organizations in the country.

The dramatic developments of the past week have caused quite a stir in the country and among its neighbors. In the West, however, the events have so far been largely ignored. While the international media devote a lot of attention to Ukraine, where the EU and the US have concrete vested interests, the social upheaval in Bosnia and Herzegovina (which is, admittedly, a much smaller country), is largely ignored. Clearly the rebellion of workers and the unemployed is not a very positive development from the point of view of Europe’s neoliberal status quo, especially since neighboring Croatia is the EU’s newest member. What is curious, however, is that the European Left also remains largely silent. This is not very laudable for a political force that revels in its own internationalism.

The Left in the developed countries of the West should work much harder on overcoming its own “core parochialism”. Left internationalism and global solidarity cannot just be a theoretical exercise; it must be practiced as well. Radical and progressive social forces in Europe and North America should not just satisfy themselves by looking at “selected topics” in their own immediate environment. It’s not just that the people in Bosnia and Herzegovina need international support; it’s also that their rebellion constitutes a very interesting and important development for the international left. It shows that the global cycle of struggles that began in 2011 is still very much alive.

Mate Kapović is an assistant professor at the University of Zagreb in Croatia and a left political activist.