Balkans

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.

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.