Balkans

A panel dedicated to International Workers’ Day, under the title ‘Workers’ Struggles in the Balkans’, took place in Banja Luka, organised by the Marxist Organisation, Reds: the Yugoslav section of the International Marxist Tendency. For two years, the corrupt trade union leadership in Bosnia and Herzegovina, pressured by the ruling criminal political elites, have refused to even take part in the symbolic Workers’ Day action. We decided that this date was a good occasion to talk about the position of the working class, which is being subject to increased exploitation thanks to the anti-worker labour regulations and corrupt unions.

In modern-day Croatia, sectors such as the garment, shoe and leather industries are marked by hard labour for minimum wages, coupled with non-existent workers’ rights and constant pressures from management. The trade union for textiles, garments, leather and rubber (TOKG) is making sure that things get even worse. This article, originally published at Radnički Portal, describes five cases in which TOKG served as management’s right-hand, and was an ally in the destruction of companies, ramping up exploitation and undermining workers.

It has been a year since the murder of David Dragičević, a student from Banja Luka, which shook the Republic of Srpska to its core. Dejan Prodanović, a member of Banja Luka’s branch of the Marxist organisation, Reds, explores the causes for and the dynamics behind the Justice for David movement, which rattled the reactionary regime of Milorad Dodik. This article, apart from giving a detailed description of the protests and the actions of certain figures within it, also gives an insight into the class character of Dodik’s rule.

Several organisations, including the Yugoslav IMT Marxist Organisation ‘Reds’, have mobilised together in a united front as the ‘Left Bloc’ for several weeks as part of mass protests in Belgrade, Novi Sad and Zrenjanin. The Bloc put forward social demands in the demonstrations, instead of the merely civil and democratic demands presented by the organisers from the opposition.

Yesterday, on December 25th, members of Republic of Srpska (Serb part of Bosnia and Herzegovina) riot police cracked down on a peaceful protest of the group called “Pravda za Davida” (Justice for David), in the centre of the statelets de facto capital, Banja Luka. 

In Albania, since 4 December 2018, thousands of students have been continuously demonstrating against the degradation and injustices of the education system. The initial spark for these protests was an increase in tuition fees, cancelled by the government two days after the first demonstrations. But the demands of the students have now gone well beyond this initial grievance and target the generally poor conditions of public universities. Note: the student activist interviewed for this article is not affiliated with the IMT in any way, and we do not necessarily share all of their views.

Alek Atevik, a member of the Central Committee of the Macedonian organization Levitsa(Left) and a leading figure in the Yugoslav section of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT), spoke to Epanastasi [‘Revolution’] about nationalist myths and the need for internationalist class solidarity.

Kragujevac workers walk out

The Kragujevac FIAT-Chrysler's strike in Serbia continues, having entered its seventh day. Of the more than 2,400 workers, at least two thousand have downed tools since June 26th. Only 250 "white collar" workers have decided for now not to take part in the strike.

The events in Macedonia over the past 2 years have shown that the negotiations of political elites have no capacity to bear fruitful, real or reliable solutions to systemic problems that perpetually generate space for criminal and authoritarian practice.

Despite there being no genuine challenge from the all but broken opposition, the regime of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić decided to call early elections at state, provincial and municipal levels. His intention was, undoubtedly to try and top-up the majority he won in the previous elections and to garner a perception of there being an increased popular support for his policies.

"When you sell the American or European Dream to the rest of the world, while at the same time turning the lives of the peoples outside those continents into the darkest nightmares imaginable, it is really no surprise that at some point you’ll have a mass movement towards the self-proclaimed promised lands."

At least 100,000 protesters took to the streets on May 17th sporting crimson banners and flags of all nationalities. There would likely have been more had the Macedonian government not blocked buses of protesters streaming from all over the country to Skopje.

The terrorist attack that took place in Kumanovo on 9th and 10th May resembled in its intensity the incidents that occurred during the conflict of 2001, when similarly fierce battles were waged in the villages near Kumanovo, Slupcane, Matejce, Vaksince and other places. The Kumanovo region has always been inhabited by a mixture of peoples (Macedonians, Albanians, Serbs, Roma, Turks, etc), but it is also a region with a long tradition of coexistence and joint struggle over and above national divisions.

The workers of the Tuzla-based detergent factory DITA in Bosnia and Herzegovina have occupied their workplace and are refusing to recognise the authority of the trustee managing the bankruptcy, unless the interests of the workers are protected, or new investment is found to reactivate the factory.

A few days ago, I was asked to write an article about the current situation in Bosnia and the prospects for a radical change in the socio-political situation there. However, given the new developments in Bosnia and its neighbouring countries, I could not avoid writing about the situation in the Balkans as a more or less unitary whole. Given the mythology about the Balkans as a region divided by primitive tribes and pre-modern barbarians that is perpetuated in the western media, it might seem absurd to talk about the Balkans in this way. Nonetheless, for centuries, the peoples of the peninsula have shared the same plight, as victims of European imperialism.

The current protest movement in Bosnia represents a new and higher stage in the molecular process of the European revolution. The heroic revolutionary movement of the Bosnian workers and youth is a shining example for future movements in Europe and all over the world.

The roots of the present protests in Bosnia-Hercegovina go right back to the break-up of Yugoslavia. Civil and religious war, two decades of privatisation, plunder and peripheral gangster capitalism, as well as the constant humiliation by the structures of the imperialist protectorate OHR (Office of the High Representative) have pressed Bosnians – and other Yugoslav peoples – so hard that for a long period it seemed that a good and prosperous life was just the stuff of history and family tales from “Tito's time”.

[We strongly recommend this article, as it highlights the return of class solidarity across the ethnic divide in the former Yugoslavia.]

At the recent Srebrenica massacre commemoration in the Potočari Memorial Centre, the victims’ families turned against the politicians present, and Bosnian crowds directed loud whistles and curses at the same politicians.

Zastava is no more. After twenty years of agonizing transition from a centrally planned “self-management” economy to capitalism, the factory, which once stood as the symbol of post World War Two prosperity and development in the former Yugoslavia, is about to be erased from the state registry of companies, giving way to an Italian multinational FIAT.

A new grouping has been formed within the JOSD (Unified Organisation for Socialism and Democracy) in East Sarajevo, “based on the principles of Marxism and liberty” and which “rejects and renounces bourgeois and obsolete nationalist ideologies”. After the fratricidal civil war that tore apart the former Yugoslavia, promoted by local nationalist bourgeois cliques, we now see the beginnings of a reawakening of the most radical youth whose points of reference are the struggles of the past that united the peoples of this region and Marxism. We publish it for the interests of our readers and welcome this development.

The collapse of the former Yugoslavia, and with it the old planned economy was a painful process for the workers. What happened at the famous Zastava car factory in Kragujevac during the past two decades of transition is a prime example. How was it privatized and sold off to FIAT? What is seldom heard in the Serbian media and why? Searching for answers to these questions, a member of the “Crvena Kritika” editorial board interviewed Zoran Mihajlović, the secretary of the Independent Union of Serbia at FAS (FIAT Automobiles Serbia).

The breakup of Yugoslavia led to the domination of imperialism over the republics that made it up. It led to terrible fratricidal killing and the emergence of reactionary political forces, all pushing a nationalist agenda to the benefit of a small clique. This is clear today in the situation facing workers in Bosnia. Here a Bosnian Marxist makes an appeal to all genuine socialist and communists to come together and offer the workers an alternative.


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On March 12, 145,000 workers took part in a massive work stoppage in Slovenia. Rising inflation and low wages are pushing the workers onto the path of class struggle. In line with the process of radicalisation taking place across Europe, the Slovenian workers are beginning to mobilise in a big way.

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The Slovenian workers have taken part in several massive mobilisations in recent months. Here we reproduce a New Zealand comrade's experiences and lessons learned during his recent stay in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

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There has been a lot of media hype about the big rally in Belgrade last week after the announcement that Kosovo had declared its "independence". But the real mood in Serbia, especially among the working class, is very different. There are indications that the workers are tired of the nationalism and chauvinism being pumped out by the Serbian bourgeoisie and in particular are fed up with all the bourgeois parties. What is missing a political expression of the working class.

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We are publishing an eyewitness account from Belgrade of the violence that broke out after Kosovo announced its independence from Serbia. In spite of the media footage the vast majority of the masses ignored the small number of demonstrators! The working class responded quietly, treating the rioters with nothing but fear and disgust! Hardly anyone is prepared to come out and support the Serbian bourgeois... Its credibility is wearing as thin as the patience of the masses.

The process of capitalist restoration in Serbia has been brutal. Hundreds of thousands of workers in the old industries have lost their jobs. The old social buffers provided by the planned economy have been dismantled. In this atmosphere a sombre mood dominates the working class. The only outlet the ruling class can offer is to keep whipping up nationalist sentiment.


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On Saturday, November 17, a massive demonstration of 70,000 workers and youth took place in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. The workers are fed up with low wages, high prices, cuts in services and privatisation. They have had a taste of capitalism and clearly don’t like it.

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This article was sent to us by Nikola Vukobratović, who is the Chairman of the Socialist Youth of Croatia, the youth organisation of the Socialist Workers' Party of Croatia. Since most of our readers will not be familiar with the corruption scandals mentioned in the article, we provide here a short introduction.

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The collapse of the former Yugoslavia had led to a swathe of privatisations, cuts in social spending and a systematic dismantling of all the gains of the past. But one event back on November revealed that below the surface a new situation is brewing. Suddenly in reaction to worsening conditions, the imposition and increase in fees and so on, the students in one Faculty occupied the university building in an exemplary manner.

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We have received this article from the President of the Workers' Communist Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although we may not agree with every point in it, it gives a very good idea of the totally negative effects of the break up of the former Yugoslavia on the living conditions of workers on both sides of the divide. But there are signs that the class struggle is simmering below the surface.

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The break-up of the former Yugoslav Federation led to an unmitigated disaster for the workers of all the republics that emerged from the debris. This article shows how the Croatian economy entered a long period of depression, with very high levels of unemployment. Now a certain stabilisation has been achieved but only at the cost of accumulating a huge foreign debt.

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We are making available to our readers this platform. It shows that after all the reactionary bloodletting and criminal break-up of the former Yugoslavia, the idea that socialism is possible is not dead.

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The recent referendum in Montenegro produced a majority for separation from Serbia, but this small country remains seriously divided. In reality there is no “independence”, but a small nation prey to the whims of imperialism.

In the morning hours of Saturday, March 11, Slobodan Milosevic, was found dead in his prison cell at the Hague. With his death, the bourgeois media began once again to dig through the recent history of the Balkans in an attempt to make sense of the break-up of former Yugoslavia. But what was the role played by Milosevic, and what is the feeling over his death in Serbia?


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The workers and students in Slovenia have awakened. For the first time since Slovenia’s separation from Yugoslavia, workers and students from all across Slovenia came together on November 26 to march for a common goal and to clearly demonstrate that they are prepared to fight against the government’s counter-reforms in education and the economy.

The bloodshed that took place throughout the former Yugoslavia in the last decade has been interpreted in many different ways by many different bourgeois theoreticians. In an attempt to explain the ongoing war, the media labelled it as “ethnic”, “religious”, “civil” and in some cases even “tribal”. As Marxists we fight against these misinterpretations which flow from a basic misunderstanding of the causes and nature of the wave of violence which hit the Balkans in the nineties.

Spokesman Air Commodore David Wilby said yesterday NATO would consider the Serbian media part of Milosevic's war machine if it did not report what it considered to be accurate news. He added: "Serb radio and TV is an instrument of propaganda and repression. It is therefore a legitimate target in this campaign." (Morning Star, April 9, 1999) French armed forces Chief General Jean-Pierre Kelche said: "We are going to bust their transmitters and their relay stations." (Morning Star, April 9, 1999)

Militarily, politically, economically, and socially, the war in Yugoslavia will undoubtedly have a lasting effect on the Balkans. But what are some of the other possible consequences of this military action? If the past sheds any light on the present situation, the use of high-tech weapons by the NATO alliance may have some serious, lasting environmental and health effects on the people of the Balkans.


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On April 1, 2004 around 200 workers of the Slovenian company Comet, the main producer of wet stones in Slovenia, went on strike. They have now been striking for one week and it seems that the strike will not come to an end if the workers do not get what they demand. In the recent period there has been an ascent in the class struggle in the Slovenian industrial sector. Following the workers' strike in Unior company, which produces all kinds of tools from screwdrivers, spanners, tongs etc., this has been the fourth strike in the industrial sector this year.

What happened in Kosovo last week was not a spontaneous outbreak of hostilities between Serb and Albanian Kosovars, but a planned and well-orchestrated manouevre by nationalists to "ethnically cleanse" the province and push towards some kind of ethnically "pure" Kosovo. Workers on either side will lose out from such a scenario.

The bloodshed that took place throughout the former Yugoslavia in the last decade has been interpreted in many different ways by many different bourgeois theoreticians. The only common threads throughout all these pearls of wisdom were those of the sometimes naïve, but mostly calculated, interest driven prejudices and nonsense. In an attempt to explain the ongoing war, the media labelled it as “ethnic”, “religious”, “civil” and in some cases even “tribal”. As Marxists we fight against these misinterpretations which flow from a basic misunderstanding of the causes and nature of the wave of violence which hit the Balkans in the nineties.

Almost five years since the fighting ceased and NATO troops were sent in to pacify the region, conflict between Serbs and Kosovar Albanians has flared up once again. This renewed conflict confirms everything we have said about Kosovo and the wider problems affecting the whole of the Balkans. The fundamental problems have not been resolved. They have been simmering below the surface.


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The sharp radicalisation within Serbian society continues, and was put in the spotlight once again last week by the third failed presidential election in a row. The working people of Serbia simply stayed at home, ignoring the government calls to go out and elect a president. The election results clearly showed just how deep the crisis in the country is, and how unpopular and weak the pro-western ruling caste is in reality. From Pobunjeni Um Editorial Board.
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