“What happened?” is a typical question one gets when a foreigner tries to understand the recent developments in Slovenia. How was it possible that once a model country of former Eastern bloc, a so-called “success story”, was derailed by massive popular uprisings, unprecedented in the period since the disintegration of Yugoslavia? In order to grasp this it is actually much more adequate to pose a different question, i.e. “What has been happening?” Posing the question in such a way is of crucial importance since it is the only way in which one can offer a proper historical contextualization of the current situation. Protest movement that began in Maribor on November 2nd was not some contingent outburst but rather a logical consequence of the ongoing hardship people have been forced to endure since the beginning of the crisis. Some 60.000 people have lost their jobs, precarious employment among youth is the highest in European union, and 150.000 people have to resort to food aid offered by organizations such as Red Cross and Caritas. This is the bleak reality of the people infuriated by politicians who have nothing on their mind but their personal and capital’s own interests.
So what actually happened was something that had been preparing for a long time. Although protests against austerity measures and worsening living conditions were amongst the most notable ideas, the protest movement was by no means a unified front. Different groups expressed different demands which were tied to different understandings of the crisis. One of the predominant ones emphasized the morality of individuals and stressed that corrupt politicians were the essential problem. The solution they proposed was simple: instead of them, ethically impeccable people should take their positions. And for a period of time there was actually a certain manhunt in this regard – various names of potential new prime ministers surfaced. Fortunately this farce did not come to any fruition. The second, more critical, approach understood that it is not only people but policies that need to be changed. But even this approach, one could call it reformist, satisfied itself with the existing political forms and recommended only a bit more radical policies. The third view present among the protesters was one that understood the crisis is a systemic crisis of capitalist mode of production and as such needs systemic solutions both in political as well as in economic sense. It is on these grounds that the Initiative for Democratic Socialism was launched.
II. Launch of the Initiative
Members of Workers and Punks’ University as well as members of some other organizations involved in the protest movement, such as Network for Direct Democracy, joined their forces and on May 1st officially launched the Initiative for Democratic Socialism. After the disintegration of Yugoslavia, this was actually the first time socialism was introduced into public discourse as a positive signifier. Since the collective mainly consists of younger people that have had very little if any experience with Yugoslav socialism, this disabled the usual reactionary critiques about the forces of communist continuity. One can prove this even empirically since the name of democratic socialism in recent months enjoyed more than 150 media appearances in the form of various interviews, articles, television and radio shows. And even the ruling politicians, both right and leftwing, took a stance toward this signifier.
The Initiative as such also marks an important step forward in institutionalizing and professionalizing radical leftist ideas. For the last two decades these have been tied to various very important projects (opposing the Nato memberships, fighting for the rights of migrant workers and many other crucial issues). However none of these projects was able to achieve greater organizational continuity and a more long-term political strategy. I would argue that in comparison to this period of leftist struggles when they were predominantly defensive, i.e. reacting to various policies and events, the Initiative for Democratic Socialism wants both to continue with this heritage of struggles as well as open new fronts. Instead of defensive, we want to become offensive. Instead of events shaping our policies, we want to develop policies that will shape events.
III. Perspectives for future development
Of course the long-term goal of the Initiative is to abolish capitalism and achieve socialism. However we are well aware that in striving for this goal a lengthy organizational path will have to be endured. Initiative as such is only the first step that is here to guarantee a solid organizational core of devoted and reliable people that will be able to build an all-national network. Next step will be the establishment of the movement, which will be open for all the people willing to devote themselves to building up the socialist alternative. Only when the movement is strong enough, both in terms of membership as well as their devotion to the idea, will we proceed to build a party. However this party will not be just another amongst the existing political parties, it will maintain strong ties with the movement. Indeed, its content, its policies will be inspired and determined by the movement itself. We are also very well aware that struggle for socialism needs a very strong international dimension. In a more immediate sense we aspire to build strong ties with fellow organizations in the region, especially in the countries of ex-Yugoslavia. Although we are already cooperating, there is still much more than can be and needs to be done. Socialist alternative doesn’t only enjoy the best historical conditions for its implementation, it is, dear comrades, also our historical responsibility!
Anej Korsika at Subversive film festival 2013