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 state of Bosnia and Herzegovina has been a highly unstable hybrid formation ever since it was created. From 1992 to 1995, the population of the country had to endure a horrible war that cemented the breakup of Yugoslavia. The war, provoked by German imperialism, was a barbaric conflict between Croatian, Serbian and Bosnian nationalists and chauvinists.
NATO then imposed the infamous Dayton Agreement, which divided the Bosnia into two so-called “entities” (“Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina” and “Republika Srpska”, not to be confused with the neighbouring country of Serbia), based on the territories held by the two sides in the war, and the Brčko District, which officially belongs to both entities, but is governed by neither. The entities are further divided into cantons, every one of which has a full-fledged government.
As a result, the country has an incredibly bloated, bureaucratic, criminal-infested and inefficient government apparatus, whose main task is to create favourable conditions for foreign businesses to invest and profit. In order to ensure that the government fulfils this task, it is overseen by the European Union ‘High Representative’ (currently Valentin Inzko). He has almost dictatorial powers, such as the right to enforce binding government decisions on any matter, or to remove public officials at his personal whim.
In a word, for the past 19 years, Bosnia has been like a colony of the EU. Under its control, the formerly state-owned industries have been privatized. Workers' control (which nominally existed in Yugoslavia) has been all but abolished, and the country has been turned into a playground for Western imperialism. Just to give one example, 85% of the country's financial sector is controlled by Austrian banks, and only 3% by Bosnian ones. Meanwhile, the standard of living is still significantly lower than it was when Tito's rule ended in the 1980s, the country's industrial base has been almost completely obliterated and unemployment has reached a spectacular 44.6%. IMF loans are now a vital source of income for the country.
The destruction of the country's industry is the result of the mass privatizations that were enacted after the war. This in turn has led to massive layoffs and wage losses for the benefit of the mafia-government. But just when the imperialists and compradors thought they could continue their looting spree forever, something unexpected happened.
In privatizing the state-owned enterprises Dita, Polichem, Poliolchem, Gumara and Konjuh, most of which had several hundreds of employees, in the industrial city of Tuzla, the compradors thought they could get away with their usual scheme: Privatise the company, sell off the machinery and file for bankruptcy. On 4 February though, 600 protesters took to the streets in Tuzla, calling for the resignation of the local government, a reversal of the privatizations and for their healthcare and pensions to be paid. The next day, 6000 people gathered in front of the cantonal government building, and on 6 February, the protests had spread to Sarajevo, Mostar, Bihać and Tesanj, among other cities. On 7 February, 10.000 people stormed the government building in Tuzla and completely setting them alight and smashing up furniture. Similar scenes occurred all over the country. In Brčko, the mayor was even taken hostage by the crowd for a short while. By this time, the governments of the Cantons of Tuzla, Sarajevo, Una-Sana and Zenica-Doboj had resigned, and the High Representative had threatened the people of Bosnia with military intervention by the EU.
Two things have been remarkable about this movement. First of all is its clear class character. This is clearly expressed in the demands of the protesters. For example, this is clearly outlined, in 7 February Declaration by the Workers and Citizens of the Tuzla Canton:
Today in Tuzla a new future is being created! The [local] government has submitted its resignation, which means that the first demand of the protestors has been met and that the conditions for solving existing problems have been attained. Accumulated anger and rage are the causes of aggressive behaviour. The attitude of the authorities has created the conditions for anger and rage to escalate.
Now, in this new situation, we wish to direct the anger and rage into the building of a productive and useful system of government. We call on all citizens to support the realization of the following goals:
(1) Maintaining public order and peace in cooperation with citizens, the police and civil protection, in order to avoid any criminalization, politicization, and any manipulation of the protests.
(2) The establishment of a technical government composed of expert, non-political, uncompromised members. [They should be people] who have held no position at any level of government and would lead the Canton of Tuzla until the 2014 elections. This government should be required to submit weekly plans and reports about its work and to fulfill its proclaimed goals. The work of the government will be followed by all interested citizens.
(3) Resolving, through an expedited procedure, all questions relating to the privatization of the following firms: Dita, Polihem, Poliolhem, Gumara, and Konjuh. The [government] should:
Recognize the seniority and secure health insurance of the workers.
Process instances of economic crimes and all those involved in it.
Confiscate illegally obtained property.
Annul the privatization agreements [for these firms].
Prepare a revision of the privatization.
Return the factories to the workers and put everything under the control of the public government in order to protect the public interest, and to start production in those factories where it is possible.
(4) Equalizing the pay of government representatives with the pay of workers in the public and private sector.
(5) Eliminating additional payments to government representatives, in addition to their income, as a result of their participation in commissions, committees and other bodies, as well as other irrational and unjustified forms of compensation beyond those that all employees have a right to.
(6) Eliminating salaries for ministers and eventually other state employees following the termination of their mandates.
This declaration is put forward by the workers and citizens of the Tuzla Canton, for the good of all of us.
This is a document of clear proletarian nature. These are the demands of workers, youth and the elderly, who have understood that there is no future for them under the present existing conditions. They have understood that privatizations and the “free market” cannot help them or improve their lot. They are facing the government with a clear alternative: Either improve their living conditions dramatically, (which this government is inherently incapable of doing) or be swept away by the masses (which, consequently, is the only option).
In this movement, there is no space for nationalism and chauvinism – the great evils that have plagued the peoples of Yugoslavia with unimaginable horrors for the last 30 years. The fighting workers and youth of Bosnia have become fully aware of the fact that nationalism and chauvinism are nothing but the divisive tactics of the bourgeoisie, designed to make them fight each other instead of their oppressors. The masses today are not fighting in the name of nationalism or religion, but for the fulfilment of very material needs, which is impossible to achieve under capitalism.
The second remarkable feature of the movement is the methods of the protesters. The process has been unfolding at a breathtakingly fast pace in Bosnia. The workers of Tuzla needed only three days to start dismantling their government. Of course the young state apparatus was much weaker than the old consolidated oppressive machineries of Western Europe. But the main factor was the courage and determination of the masses who were simply completely unwilling to be treated like animals any longer. The movement developed very fast as it resolutely pressed forward, acquiring an insurrectionary character, taking over and burning down government buildings. This was the key to its quick initial successes.
Furthermore, the movement in Tuzla went even further by setting up a Plenum in order to “take matters into our own hands”, and replace the local government that they deposed. Being confronted with a clear example of the decrepitude and degeneracy of capitalism, the workers and youth of Bosnia are beginning to realize that they have to smash the capitalist state, which is responsible for their problems and replace it with something better – a government that is directly controlled by the working people. This is a very important development.
Such organs of mass struggle, appear every time the working class moves to take its destiny into its own hands. This happened in the revolutions in Russia in 1905 and 1917, in Spain in 1936, in Czechoslovakia in 1968 and in many other instances. In fact, what they represent, in embryo, is a future workers’ state. In order to create the conditions for a government that is genuinely receptive to the needs of all the workers, it is absolutely necessary for the model of workers' councils to be spread to the rest of the country and connecting them on a national level in order to prepare for them to take power.
The events in Bosnia are a showcase example for the huge potential of spontaneous mass action. But this must not cause us to lose sight of the limits of spontaneity and the necessity of organization. At the moment, the only organized elements of the movement seem to be the liberal NGOs. Even though we are dealing with a movement of workers, organized labour has not taken part in the protests yet and all political parties have distanced themselves from the events. The only meaningful exception to this is the support given by the popular Social Democrat mayor of Tuzla, Jasmin Imamovic, to the local Plenum of Workers and Citizens.
The state and capitalist mafia of Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot resist the masses in any meaningful way, but as the movement progresses, they will be put under tremendous pressure by the forces of imperialism to put an end to the movement. It is absolutely necessary for the movement to establish clear democratic structures and a strong leadership. This is the essence of Lenin's method of organization, democratic centralism. All the failed revolutions of the past two centuries can be traced back to a lack of proper leadership.
In order to succeed, a revolutionary movement needs some organized expression, it needs a unified political voice and a democratic structure in which to establish clear goals and hold debates. It is an urgent task for the workers and youth of Bosnia to come up with such a structure. Otherwise, the vacuum of leadership will be filled by the NGOs, which could have disastrous consequences, as shown by a recent “manifesto” released by two organizations called “Revolt” and “Udar”. This manifesto is a complete retreat from the positions that were expressed in the Declaration of Tuzla, as it is calling for further integration into the EU and NATO – the two imperialist powers on whose shoulders rests the main responsibility for the crisis that caused the current revolt. However, only two days later, the youth organization of “Revolt” distanced itself from that document, which shows that there is turmoil in those organizations.
The Bosnian Revolution is the next decisive step in the European Revolution. Ever since the crisis of capitalism began in 2007, the revolution has been leapfrogging from one country to another. In Europe alone, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania have already been affected by major social unrest. The crisis is slowly but steadily encroaching on the very heart of Europe, and the masses keep reacting to it with ever more acute forms of struggle. In light of this, it is useful to recall the IMT world perspectives of 2014:
“What we see is the beginning of the world revolution. Events in one country have a big effect on consciousness in other countries. Modern methods of communication enable events to be replicated with lightning speed. (...) These explosions occurred on apparently unrelated issues of an accidental character: a plan to build a shopping mall in a park in Istanbul, and an increase in bus fares in Sao Paulo. But in reality, they are reflections of the same phenomenon: necessity expresses itself through accident. This is a reflection of contradictions that have been accumulating for decades beneath the surface. Once the process reaches a critical point, any small incident can set the masses in motion. The capitalist commentators were taken completely by surprise by the events in Turkey. But within a matter of days similar mass protests swept across Brazil, the economic giant of Latin America, bringing hundreds of thousands onto the streets. These were the biggest demonstrations for over 20 years. They exposed the contradictions that have been building up in the form of poor healthcare, poor education and rampant corruption.”
To the list of seemingly unrelated incidents that set the masses in motion, we can now add the privatization of a few factories in Tuzla. Bosnia is a tremendous example of how the process is inevitably drawing closer and closer to a colossal showdown, in which humankind will be finally liberated from all forms of exploitation and oppression. We have full confidence in the ability of the working class to achieve this task, which is the greatest in the history of humanity.
Long live the workers and youth of Bosnia and Herzegovina!
Down with Capitalism!
Long live the Socialist Revolution!