Listen to the Episode — 71 min
Clara: The Ex-Worker;
Alanis: An audio strike against a monotone world;
Clara: A twice-monthly podcast of anarchist ideas and action;
Alanis: For everyone who dreams of a life off the clock.
Clara: Hello everyone, and thanks for tuning back in to the Ex-Worker! In this episode, we’ll be sharing two recent published interviews about the uprisings in Bosnia – one with a Bosnian participant describing the events, and another with a comrade from the Balkans discussing the regional context and new directions for resistance.
Alanis: We’ve also got a report back from the anarchist book fair in Lima, Peru, feedback from listeners on our last episode, plenty of news and updates on struggles near and far, and plenty more. I’m Alanis…
Clara: …and I’m Clara, and we’ll be your hosts around the world and back. To read the transcript from the show, or to find links or more information about the topics we discuss, check out our website at crimethinc.com/podcast.
Alanis: And if you’d like to give us feedback or suggestions for upcoming episodes, hit us up at email@example.com, or leave us a message at 202–59-NOWORK, that’s 202–596–6975.
Alanis: Let’s kick things off with The Hot Wire, our look at resistance and revolt happening around the world.
Clara: First, we’ll start with some state repression and prisoner updates
Alanis: The trial of the NATO 3, which we discussed in Episode 17, concluded with Brent, Jared, and Brian all being found guilty of possession of an incendiary device with the intent to commit arson and possession of an incendiary device with the knowledge that another intended to commit arson.
Clara: In good news, they were acquitted of the terrorism charges, though they were also found guilty of mob action. They are facing up to 30 years in prison. Sentencing is set for February 28th.
Alanis: As that trial wraps up, another, that of Debbie of the Blackmail 3, has begun. She’s a UK animal rights activist being charged with conspiracy to blackmail for campaigning against one of the largest animal testing facilities in the world, a conviction that would carry a maximum of 14 years in prison.
Clara: Joel Bitar, a New York-based activist extradited to Canada, was sentenced to 19 months in prison for his participation in the 2010 G20 protests in Toronto.
Alanis: And the hunger strike we mentioned last time at the Menard Correctional Center in Illinois is ongoing and escalating. In the weeks-long strike initiated by prisoners in solitary confinement, at least 5 men have begun to refuse liquids as well as food. Links to a letter from one of the hunger-striking prisoners and information for call-ins can be found on our website.
Clara: Now, on to actions and occupations. More solidarity actions reported in reponse to the arrest and detention of Amelie, Carlos, and Fallon in Mexico: two acts of sabotage were claimed in Indiana (also claimed for the Westville prison rebels we discussed last week) and a demo at the Mexican Consulate in Seattle.
Alanis: Members of the Sinixt Nation have set up an encamptment on a logging road in British Colombia to stop the harvesting of 15,250 square meters of timber on unceded Sinixt teritory after the Canadian government failed to consult the Sinixt about the timber sale, since they were officially declared extinct by the govenment in 1956.
Clara: Moroccan villagers have occupied and halted production at Africa’s most productive silver mine due in part to the mine’s use of water, which is challenging local agriculture.
Alanis: In the forests of Brazil, despite facing violent repression, the indigenous Munduruku people have seized equipment and expelled miners from their territory due to the mine’s destruction of local natural resources. Meanwhile, up to 500 Romanian villagers are occupying a proposed fracking site.
Clara: The GADI, or International Direct Action Group, set fire to and destroyed a church in France that served as a base for fascist organizing. They claimed the action in rememberance of the history of genocide and the 100 assassinations since the 1990s at the hands of fascists. A link to the full communique can be found on our website.
Alanis: Reports have emerged -recently of a sniper attack carried out last year at a Silicon Valley power station. The attack, during which hundreds of rounds were fired, disabled 17 electrical transformers. To date, no one has been arrested.
Clara: In other news, the Center for Constitutional Rights is challenging the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act in court, arguing that it is a violation of the 1st Amendment. The AETA enables a terrorism sentence enhancement to be added to legal charges against any act “interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise” or that “places a person in reasonable fear” of injury.
Alanis: The AETA also expands the definition of animal enterprise to any academic or commercial enterprise that uses or sells animal products or any affiliates to such an enterprise.
Clara: There aren’t many commercial enterprises that doesn’t include, huh?`
Alanis: Sure aren’t. Lastly, word has reached us that the NYPD is beta-testing google glasses. Google Glass is a wearble computer that is built into the side of a pair of eyeglasses. The Department says facial recognition technology and instantly matching names to information on various databases are two potential uses.
REPORTBACK FROM PERUVIAN ANARCHIST BOOK FAIR
Clara: And now we’re excited to share a special report from an Ex-Worker in Peru!
Ex-Worker: Desde Sud America hasta Norte America…
Peruvian Anarchists: …A la mierda la autoridad!
Clara: From South America to North America, fuck authority! That was recorded during a workshop about this podcast presented by an Ex-Worker at the first anarchist book and propaganda fair in Lima, Peru. The event took place on February 1st and 2nd, 2014 in a historic union hall. Mapu, one of the organizers, described the scene and explained some of the goals of the fair:
Mapu: We are on the premises of the Federation of Bakers, Star of Peru, an old guild with anarchist origins in Peru, which was founded in 1887. And right now we are closing up the First Anarchist Book and Propaganda Fair with lots of joy and excitement from all the exchanges we´ve had with the comrades who have come from various regions… from the south, from Santiago and Valparaiso in Chile; with comrades from Buenos Aires in Argentina; comrades from La Paz, Bolivia; from Ecuador; and comrades who have come from other regions of Peru as well, places like Ica; from the mountains of Cajamarca in the north; and comrades from Lima too.
It has been a great exchange, a great reception full of good people who we don’t always get to see. And there have also been new people, full of curiosity who are seeking out new ideas, books, and other formats by which anarchist ideas are spread.
Ex-Worker: Why did y’all decide to host an anarchist book and propaganda fair?
Mapu: Because we consider it very important to resist the whole set of distortions, defamations, and falsifications that are perpetrated by the means of power. This includes the press, the media, and even the realm of academia, that many times has attempted to silence, or make us forget, the history of anarchism, which has had a very important presence in Peru´s history. And also to show that anarchists are involved in lots of different kinds of things. We’re hosting this book fair to promote the idea that people can assemble their own texts, edit their own texts, and disseminate them in spaces like this. Anarchists aren’t just involved in confrontations at demonstrations, I mean, they ARE doing that, but we’re doing other things too. So, were resisting this narrow view of anarchism and hopefully making people realize that anarchism is an alternative, one that can be fulfilled. Hopefully even more people can participate in the next book fair and I believe were getting there, little by little.
And congratulations to the comrades from CrimethInc. on their podcast. Keep up the good work - and long live anarchy!
Clara: Over twenty different publications and projects hosted tables. Other kinds of groups included a DIY feminist craft collective, anarchist periodicals, authors with their own books on anarchist history, an anarchist hip hop journal, and anarcho-punk distributors. The space was drug and alcohol free, and included an enthusiastically attended childcare space. In the middle of the first day, time was set aside in the tabling area for tablers to present their projects, explain why they were there, and what they were hoping for out of the book fair. Workshops included capoeira, wood and linoleum printmaking, anarchist poetry, herbal healing and medical self-determination, anarcho-syndicalism, anarcho-primitivism, free love, the history of Chilean anarchism, anti-mining conflicts in Cajamarca… and a brief but very well received presentation about the Ex-Worker podcast.
One attendee described the importance of the book and propaganda fair:
Maribel: Hi,my name is Maribel, and I live in Lima. And, well, what I just wanted to mention basically was: what we see around us, usually here in Lima especially, because… In Peru, many things are centralized, and it’s mainly centralized in Lima. That’s why mainly the groups or the movement or the people that get to actually have a certain type of critical conscience about society, mostly we know them around here. It’s very hard to know other people that are probably outside. But even so, even though most of the movement is around here, what we have seen lately, many of us, many of the people that are here, for example, or in other types of events that have a certain critical notion of what society really is like, what we observe is that many people that are not in this movement, they’re very dormant, you know, they’re sleepy or numb…
Many times when we have been in different conversations we have said, well, we see the same faces, we see the same faces. And we would really is for other people, like young people, like right now that we see are here, for them to be here, for them to be with us, to be sharing a different type of thing that they don’t get to see in school, they don’t get to see in the streets, they don’t get to see in the TV or the radio - nowhere, you know?
And that is the most important thing, you know: for people who are not in these places to actually get to connect with these types of events, these types of conversations, these types of talks… These types of relationships, you know? Because also the type of relationship that we have is very much different from what you can see outside, because the type of relationships that you see outside is mainly a type of mercantile – a type of, I don’t know, an exchange. You talk to that person because you’re going to buy something, you’re gonna talk to someone because you work with them; it’s all because of a capitalist relationship. And what we harvest in here, or harvest in these places, is another type of relationship, a relationship of a different type of society, that is not on a base of money or exploitation or anything like that, you know?
Clara: At the end of the last day, a very old man from the Bakers Federation, the union who let their hall be used for the book fair, shared some words. He spoke for about 5 minutes, ending with, “This is a space that serves every comrade. It doesn’t belong only to our union, it belongs to anarchism. And it animates me to see so many young people here. In you, the young, I put my faith that you will use this meeting as a step to reignite a revolutionary struggle. This is not the first anarchist meeting to take place here, and we hope it will not be the last. I can see that the libertarian vein runs through your bodies.”
After a loud round of applause and cheering, the book fair was spontaneously transformed into an assembly where people shared their experiences, news about recent repression, and ideas for the future. Then someone busted out the cajòn, guitar, and kazoo and people sang, danced, and rapped until it was time to leave.
To read more about the book fair in Lima and anarchism in Peru, check out the full reportback at crimethinc.com/blog.
Alanis: And now we’ve got some listener feedback. Before we get to some rather scathing criticism regarding our last episode, we wanted to throw a quick shout-out to Dan, a truck driver who’s been enjoying the Ex-Worker on his 12 hour hauls. [insert truck honking noise! beep beep!] He writes that he recently passed the “Libertarianism and Anarcho-Capitalism” episode on to a friend who espouses those politics, but says he feels like he has to disclaim the “campy” banter between the hosts when recommending the show to friends. He was also wondering if we were going to do a roundup of other anarchist audio projects, because he finds himself with a lot of time to listen and not very much time to read.
Clara: Thanks for the feedback, Dan. We’re always trying to improve the podcast, so a little constructive criticism is always appreciated. As to other radical audio projects: in future episodes, we’re looking forward to collaborating with another anarchist radio project out of Winnipeg, Manitoba called “Black Mask,” and of course we’ll always take the opportunity to pitch the excellent anarchist interview show, “The Final Straw.” Both of these and more are available for free download at radio4all.net. There’s also the Audio Anarchy archive and the podcast “Another World is Possible,” each of which include recordings of classic and contemporary anarchist texts, as well as a Connecticut-based radio show called the Horizontal Power Hour. We’ll post links to these and other anarchist audio projects on our website, crimethinc.com/podcast, in the notes for this episode.
Alanis: And thanks for tuning in! We’re glad that our banter helps you get through your long shifts– even if it is a little cheesy at times.
Clara: Next up, we’re gonna hear from someone who didn’t enjoy our last episode as much. We caught some flak for our pseudo-review of Markets Not Capitalism; as listener Tony complained,
Alanis: “It’s a little dishonest to present something as a book review when the person ‘reviewing’ the book clearly hasn’t read it; is disinterested in presenting the contents of the book in a thoughtful manner; and seems to have an ax to grind against some people he didn’t like working with. Don’t get me wrong, an interview with this [person] would have been totally appropriate to include somewhere in the podcast. It’s just that if you wanted to discredit the ideas of Markets Not Capitalism, you could have done so in the same intelligent and critical tone you have used in all your other book reviews.”
Clara: Fair enough – and thanks for the compliment, by the way. We’re trying to walk a fine line between being too dry and analytical on the one hand, and being too playful or campy on the other hand. We included the interview with the Markets Not Capitalism designer because it was funny, it gave a very different angle on the material than a standard book review, and we’d just spent a solid 30 minutes rotting your brains with libertarian and anarcho-capitalist ideas.
Alanis: Along the same lines, though somewhat less charitably, listener Tom accuses us of skirting the actual arguments of market anarchism. He writes:
Clara/Tom: “You clearly think that markets create hierarchy, but you completely failed to do anything [other] than assert your position with no support.”
“The interviewee … claims that [the book states:] ”[market anarchists] all believe in the private ownership of the means of production as well as capital goods.“ I went and re-read the introduction of that book, and I could not find anything of the sort. What it does say is that ownership of the means of production should be by ”decentralized private individuals". If you only skim the work, which it sounds like this is all you and this person you interviewed have done, you might misinterpret this as the same thing as private ownership under capitalism. It is not. If you actually read deeper into the work, it becomes clear that this is ownership by the workers but the term has been clarified to solve issues that only occur when you start to delve deep into how resources will be managed in a stateless society.
Alanis: OK, let’s dissect this a little bit. First off, we forwarded this response to our interviewee, who pulled the quote that they were referencing. From the introduction: “The social relationships that market anarchists explicitly defend, and hope to free from all forms of government control, are relationships based on: 1) Ownership of property, especially decentralized individual ownership, not only of personal possessions but also of land, homes, natural resources, tools, and capital goods…”
Clara: OK, so maybe I’m still lacking the mystical nuance, but that sounds pretty close to our interviewee’s summary of the market anarchist position that Tom cites in his criticism: “the private ownership of the means of production as well as capital goods.” And if you listened to the rest of the episode, hopefully it’s clear why we think that being pro-market and private property is just not compatible with anarchism as we understand it. Perhaps we can try to respond to the last part of Tom’s email:
Alanis: He writes: " To my knowledge, I have seen no traditional Anarchist answer to the problems of resource scarcity and distribution that can work without a market system. It is fine and dandy to think that you can end all hierarchical systems, but if we don’t first solve scarcity and distribution, then we end up in a situation like the USSR, China, or Somalia where you have various groups that rise up in the vacuum of power to secure the scarce resources to ensure their own survival. Resource scarcity and distribution has been central to the downfall of every people’s movement and if you actually think you have a solution to that, then, and only then, say you can achieve Anarchist goals without a market. If you don’t use a market to distribute scarce resources, you end up with a central planning system to do so. But to literally laugh off the idea of market anarchism without even addressing these core issues shows an ignorance of the arguments market anarchists have with your position.”
Clara: Well, first off, I don’t think it’s accurate to say that resource scarcity and distribution has been central to the downfall of every people’s movement. Just to cite one example, within liberated territories of Catalonia during the Spanish Revolution in 1937, economic cooperatives were established in agricultural and industrial production that circulated food and goods without either centralized planning or private ownership; the movement was crushed by the fascist military forces of Franco as well as the betrayal of Stalinist militias in Barcelona and beyond, not by scarcity of resources.
Alanis: So what problems do we as anarchists have with market anarchism? Let’s start with a definition. Roderick Long, one of the contributors to Markets Not Capitalism, defines market anarchism as “the doctrine that the legislative, adjudicative, and protective functions unjustly and inefficiently monopolised by the coercive State should be entirely turned over to the voluntary, consensual forces of market society.”
Clara: Anarchists dispute that so-called “market society” based on private property can be voluntary or consensual. Pretty central to the definition of voluntary is that you can opt out. Try opting out of the free market in a system in which some people see land and other resources as private property to be exploited for profit. Our discussion of Ayn Rand in our last episode indicates the direction that heads: genocide for those who don’t “voluntarily” go along, wealth for a small few, and overexploitation and environmental destruction for all.
Clara: We don’t think our mission as anarchists is to define the precise contours of our future utopia. Rather, what we’re trying to do is to suggest the principles by which to act as we resist the current order, and the directions we think could open up liberating possibilities for the future. Any attempt to draw a detailed blueprint of utopia and impose it on everyone else is likely to lead to authoritarian disaster, as the history of the 20th century shows clearly enough.
Alanis: Instead, we can tell you that private property and the market are not the principles we want to advance as a basis for resistance to this ruling order, nor do we imagine that they’re likely to open up liberating possibilities. Why? Because the private property and market-based systems we’ve seen operating over the last many hundred years have centralized wealth and accelerated destruction and exploitation to unthinkable extents. Because our enemies see private property and free markets as sacrosanct values, and facilitate the impoverishment of billions to defend them. Because the human relationships that we see unfold around us based on privatized self-interest and profit are exploitative and impoverishing, while the ones we experience based in solidarity and mutual aid nourish us. And because the promising social upheavals unfolding around the world today, from Brazil to Bosnia, have coalesced around resistance to austerity and privatization, clearly rejecting free market ideology as a tool of oppressive rulers.
Clara: As anarchists, we agree with the anarcho-marketeers in wanting to displace the state’s monopoly on coercive force, but we think it’s ridiculous to presume that the principles of private property, competition, and drive for profit – the principles our exploitative and destructive economy is based on already – will lead to better outcomes.
Alanis: There’s also a gendered dimension to all of this. Capitalist and market economies rest on a division between what labor is waged and what is unwaged, rendering non-market activity invisible. The economy relies on the unpaid labor of those who care for others: child-rearing, housework, caring for the sick, sex, emotional support, and so forth. In a patriarchal society, a disproportionate amount of this labor is done by women, making possible the market economic activity dominated by men. While all of these forms of labor can be monetized in some circumstances, the vast majority of this labor must go unwaged and unvalued within a market framework for our current society to function. In most market conceptions of the economy, certain activities – agriculture, manufacturing, trade – are seen as real economic activity, while others, such as care labor, are simply assumed as a given within the framework of the patriarchal family. To assume that only self-interested, contractual, profit-oriented activity can form the basis of a free society is simply out of touch with the reality of how human societies work. Instead, we can look to care, mutual aid, and solidarity - not just as fuzzy ideals, but as concrete bases for social and economic life.
Clara: The state is not the only hierarchical institution that coerces people into accepting arrangements that aren’t in the interest of all of us. Gender and the social institutions that enforce it – religion, education systems, the nuclear family, etc – wield powerful influence over our lives and labor. As anarchists, our resistance to the state is one front among many of a broad struggle against hierarchy; pursuing resistance on other fronts – such as challenging the devaluation of care labor – can offer us insight into how to meet the challenges of life without the state.
Alanis: We’re not starting in the laboratory or the classroom (or the message board, for that matter). We’re starting in our homes and workplaces and in the streets, noticing what’s happening around us, experimenting with different strategies. On a small scale as well as large, from history and in the news today, we see private property and market economy systems wreaking havoc. Look at IMF structural adjustment in Latin America and Africa; listen to the rest of this episode, about the impact of privatization and the market economy on post-socialist Bosnia.
Clara: On the other hand, we see how resources flow in Occupy camps and Really Really Free Markets; during revolutionary upheavals and in moments of crisis from snowstorms to typhoons; in some of the indigenous societies that preceded us and that continue to resist colonialism today. These offer concrete visions of how to self-organize and share resources without private property. So we spend our time studying and pursuing these directions, not free market fantasies, because we see in them potential for liberation both in the future and to meet our basic needs right now. Join us in the streets, and see if your free market ideas resonate with others and hold up in practice. We’ll be doing the same with ours.
Alanis: And that, dear listeners, is all we’ll have to say about market anarchism for the forseeable future.
Clara: In the mean time, if you want to study more about anarchist economic theory, there are plenty of places to start. The classical anarchists, particularly Kropotkin and Proudhon, had plenty to say about it. AK Press recently released an anthology called The Accumulation of Freedom on anarchist economics. Economic anthropologist and anarchist David Graeber offers a lot of helpful historical and cross-cultural analysis, in his book Debt: The First 5000 Years and others. For information on anarchist economics in action during the Spanish Civil War, see the writings of Sam Dolgoff, Augustin Souchy, and Gaston Leval. You can also check out Anarchy Works by Peter Gelderloos, which relates different moments in history when anarchist ideas have seen practical application. Links to all these are on our website, as per usual. And keep the comments coming to podcast at crimethinc dot com.
Clara: And now it’s time to share a piece of the CrimethInc Contradictionary. This episode is brought to you by: Oedipus Complex and Power Vacuum.
Clara: For more explorations of the war in every word, visit crimethinc.com/contradictionary.
FEATURE: ANARCHISTS IN THE BOSNIAN UPRISING
Clara: The past two weeks have seen the emergence of a fierce new protest movement in Bosnia, beginning with the destruction of government buildings and continuing with the establishment of popular assemblies. Unlike the recent conflicts in Ukraine, this movement has downplayed nationalistic strife and focused instead on class conflict. In a region infamous for ethnic bloodshed, these clashes offer a more promising direction for the Eastern European uprisings to come.
Alanis: To gain more insight into the protests, we conducted two interviews. The first is with a participant in Mostar, Bosnia, who describes the events firsthand. The second is with a comrade in a nearby part of the Balkans, who explains the larger context of the movement and evaluates its potential to spread to other parts of the region and to challenge capitalism and the state.
CrimethInc: Could you give us a brief timeline of the important events in the uprisings?
Bosnian Anarchist: On Wednesday, February 5, workers from several local companies that were destroyed by post-war privatization organized another protest in front of the Cantonal Government Building in the post-industrial city of Tuzla. Those workers have been protesting peacefully for a decade, organizing strikes and hunger strikes—which were very common in Bosnia until this month—but nobody listened. For just about the first time in post-war Bosnia, young people organized over social networks to express solidarity with desperate workers. Almost 10,000 people supported their protest on February 6; that was when the first clashes with the police happened, and the first attempt to enter the government building.
On February 7, more than 10,000 people gathered in Tuzla in front of the Cantonal Government building, asking for the Prime Minister’s resignation. The Prime Minister arrogantly refused to resign. None of the officials came out to speak to them, so people broke through the police lines, entered the building, and burned it down.
On the same day, solidarity protests with the workers of Tuzla were organized in almost all the industrial towns of Bosnia. News from Tuzla spread fast; people in Bihać, Sarajevo, Zenica, and Mostar felt that this could be a moment to try to win a change. After the police attacked protesters in Sarajevo, during which some of the people were pushed down and thrown into the river Miljacka [meelYATska], the crowd fought back, forcing back the police and burning down the building of the Cantonal Government, as well as the buildings of the Presidency (including the state flag), the municipality of Sarajevo Center, and several police cars and vans. In Bihać, people attacked the building of the Cantonal Government and smashed it up. The same thing happened in Zenica.
Everyone was anticipating the events in the ethnically divided city of Mostar. More than 4000 people gathered in front of the Cantonal Government, demanding resignations. Soon, the first rocks were thrown, to great applause. From that moment, more and more people were putting t-shirts, balaclavas, masks—whatever they could find—over their faces; without any police resistance, within a few minutes, the building was on fire. Then people went to the City Hall and burned it down, as well as the building of the cantonal Parliament, Mostar Municipality, and the offices of two leading nationalist political parties that have ruled the city since 1991. That made quite a statement.
Protests are still going on, and people have organized themselves in plenums, or assemblies. Four cantonal governments have been forced to resign. Two of them are negotiating with plenums about forming governments of people who are not active members of any political parties. The authorities are fighting back hard—spreading fear of another civil war, arresting people, beating them, pressing charges for terrorism and attack on constitutional order…
CrimethInc: Who participated?
Bosnian Anarchist: The participants were from all social groups. Workers, unemployed, pensioners, many young people, demobilized soldiers, activists, football fans, human rights activists, parents with their children…
CrimethInc: How and why did the protests spread?
Bosnian Anarchist: The people of Bosnia and Herzegovina are the poorest in Europe. Unemployment is over 50%; among young people, it is over 70%. At same time, Bosnian politicians are among the best paid in southeast Europe, and the most corrupt. The healthcare system is the worst in Europe, and social safety nets are almost nonexistent. The society that was one of the most egalitarian in Europe 25 years ago now has a huge social gap.
Capitalism and the process of privatization have completely destroyed the local economy; all the big factories and companies that were saved during the war have been privatized and shut down. All the wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few. There is no production in Bosnia any more, only import. The authorities are taking bigger and bigger loans from the IMF, knowing that they have no way of paying them back—so we can expect to be forced to privatize Bosnian Telecom and Electro-energetic system, the last viable pubic companies.
Those are the main reasons for the protests.
CrimethInc: What limits did they reach?
Bosnian Anarchist: It’s hard to speak about the limits; the movement is still continuing on a daily basis, the protests as well as the meetings of the plenums. The demands that are being made by the plenums are clearly social: the revision of the privatization process and the like. Politicians are terrified of losing their privileges, their positions, their wealth, and their freedom; this is causing different political parties to unite against their own people. They are using the mainstream media to discredit protests and plenum participants. Religious leaders are pushed to speak against the protests in churches and mosques. People are being threatened with losing their jobs, and it is very difficult to get a job here. In Mostar, a trade union activist was brutally beaten up by “unknown persons.” In Sarajevo, a red Hummer drove into the crowd of protesters.
CrimethInc: What organizational structures were involved in the protests? How were decisions made? And have new relations or networks resulted?
Bosnian Anarchist: The protests in Tuzla were sparked by the two Trade Unions of Dita and Polihem Tuzla, but they swiftly grew much bigger. None of the preexisting structures had the credibility or capacity to organize that many people. The protests themselves were spontaneous and chaotic. After a few days, the first organizational structures were formed, The Plenums of Citizens; this is the first time in recent history that the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina are practicing direct democracy. Decisions are made collectively at Plenum meetings. It’s a process, and we are all still learning it. All the Plenums of Bosnia and Herzegovina are currently working on forming an interplenum coordination. CrimethInc: Describe the political and strategic differences among the people who took to the streets. Have there been internal conflicts?
Bosnian Anarchist: As no preexisting political groups had control over the protests, many different people are involved, with different political agendas. The main differences are about the use of force in self-defense and the limits of civil disobedience. But all the people are united when it comes to the social demands. During the plenum meetings, everyone speaks in his or her own name and takes part in the decision-making process, so there are no real internal conflicts yet. Some political parties are attempting to cause such conflicts, but people are sticking together and so far we have resisted this successfully.
CrimethInc: Which concrete tactics did protesters employ? Which ones were effective? How did different tactics spread?
Bosnian Anarchist: Right now, protesters are primarily using road blockades as a form of pressure. Often, they block several roads in the town centers at the same time for hours, which makes the authorities react. It all depends on how many people are in the street on that day. New tactics and strategies are being discussed. Road blockades are proving quite effective, but the downside is that if they occur on a daily basis, some people begin to turn against the protesters because this disturbs their daily routine—they can’t get to work or go shopping or whatever.
The tactic that made the politicians fear for the first time in last 18 years—that made many of them resign, that forced them to propose new legislation based on the demands of the protesters—was burning down the institutional buildings and political party offices. Many of the politicians were afraid that people would come to their homes to get them. Some have left the country.
Setting institutional buildings on fire is not going to solve any problems by itself. But most people agree that if this hadn’t happened, the politicians would have never resigned, or heard the people’s demands. None of us could even imagine 15 days ago that people would organize plenums, that politicians would be forced to negotiate with the people about forming nonpartisan governments, revising privatization, or cutting their salaries down to an average worker’s wages.
CrimethInc: Speak about nationalism and ethnic tensions in the protests. What has changed since the 1990s?
Bosnian Anarchist: I am so happy and even proud to report that there is absolutely no nationalism among the protesters, including the demobilized soldiers. This is one of the things that everyone keeps repeating: these protests are social, not national. All the nationalist political parties have tried to turn the social conflict into a national conflict, but so far they have failed. Solidarity among different social groups, different cities, different ethnic groups, and direct democracy experiments mark the biggest change since the 1990s.
CrimethInc: Has there been any influence in Bosnia/Herzegovina from the nearby uprisings and protest movements in Greece, Slovenia, Turkey, or elsewhere? What connections exist between comrades in Bosnia/Herzegovina and elsewhere in the Balkans and Europe?
Bosnian Anarchist: The Turkish and Ukrainian protests have inspired people here to some extent. We are all aware of the repressive nature of the regimes there; if they could rise, why can’t we? Most of the active people of Balkans are connected. This is a small geographic area, and the radical left, anarchist, and non-institutional movements are small and weak, so the contacts are mainly individual, rarely resulting in concrete cooperation. Most often, we organize solidarity actions for each other, solidarity protests. The Balkan Anarchist Book Fair is one of our common projects.
CrimethInc: How should we compare what is happening in Bosnia/Herzegovina to the conflicts unfolding in Ukraine, for example?
Bosnian Anarchist: The Bosnian protests have a much different character than the Ukrainian protests. The protests here are strictly social, unlike in Ukraine. It seems that the main demand there is loosening the ties to Russia and approaching the EU; there is a lot of neo-Nazi and radical right involvement. By contrast, the Bosnian protests are openly anti-nationalist.
CrimethInc: Is there any chance of a wider wave of uprisings in Eastern Europe, following the so-called Arab Spring? What would that look like, if it did happen? What would be the possibilities and dangers?
Bosnian Anarchist: It is hard to imagine a Balkan or Eastern European spring. But then again, if desperate and divided Bosnians could rise together against privatization and corruption, organize in plenums and practice direct democracy, then anything is possible! All the conditions are there. This region is poor, the privatization process ended tragically in all the new states, and there are a lot of people without any perspective for the future. If it does happen, it could play out in many different ways. One possibility is that the connections between the neighboring countries would strengthen, potentially taking new forms of economic and financial unions, based on principles that would be much more egalitarian than the present ones. This could pose a threat to the corporate European Union, and it could inspire people to rebel inside the EU.
The danger is obvious—that politicians will succeed in turning the social conflict into an inter-ethnic conflict. This is what they are trying to do in Bosnia at the moment. If capitalists feel seriously threatened, European and US structures will play this card. They have great previous experience with it, in the ex-Yugoslavian region especially.
CrimethInc: Are there possibilities for a struggle to develop in Bosnia/Herzegovina that doesn’t just call for a new and more honest government, but that rejects the legitimacy of capitalism and the state altogether?
Bosnian Anarchist: There is a possibility for an anti-capitalist struggle to develop. There are already lots of anti-capitalist banners at protests. Some people’s demands are explicitly anti-capitalist. But to reject the legitimacy of the State, there is hardly any possibility. In many people’s minds, there are still fresh memories of fighting a war to get an independent state. The majority of people here feel that if the state disintegrated, there would be another war. They have no experience, or even historical memory, of organizing without leaders, political parties, trade unions, or religious institutions. Only a few people know anything about anarchist political theories and practices.
CrimethInc: What does the future hold?
Bosnian Anarchist: We are going to see a minimal increase in social justice, for sure. We are going to see massive cuts to the privileges, benefits, and salaries of politicians at all institutional levels. But it’s not going to change the social picture of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The governments will need more funds, they will borrow money from the IMF and other global financial institutions, the debt will increase, and so will social unrest.
It’s clear that people are not willing to go on hunger strikes any more, to commit suicide for not being able to feed their children or pay back loans. They are ready for new forms of organizing. Spring is coming soon and more and more people will look for justice in the streets and, based on recent experience, in non-institutional forms. The current Bosnian economic, political, and institutional situation is so difficult that no one dares to make any long-term predictions, especially in light of the recent events.
FEATURE, PART 2: ELSEWHERE IN THE BALKANS…
Clara: To get perspective on how these uprisings in Bosnia fit into the broader framework of resistance in the Balkans and post-socialist Eastern Europe, we interviewed another anarchist from the region, who discusses the backdrop of nationalist division, common demands, the risks of recuperation, and what possibilities might emerge for anarchists.
CrimethInc: Is there a shared context between the events in Bosnia and the other recent explosions in Eastern Europe—Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia?
Balkan Anarchist: These struggles are connected on various levels, in particular in former Yugoslavia. It’s not just the shared history and language, nor the attention that our mainstream media focuses on events in other ex-Yugoslavian countries—it is also the fact that Yugoslavian republics were always multi-national, which only increased during and after the war. So information flows widely here, not just between activists. New methods of struggle and mobilization resonate in the collective imagination, and people adopt and adapt them.
As for what is common throughout the former Eastern bloc, I think people are experiencing the same basic problems. After more than twenty years of privatization, concrete memories of the repressive socialist years are fading, being replaced with a constructed nostalgia for a “good old days” that never existed. Meanwhile, people have become disillusioned with capitalism and all those promises about the free market and choice and democracy. In this situation, we see three basic demands over and over.
The first is to preserve the social state that is withering away, to stop the privatization of companies that always ends in massive layoffs and the elites making off with tremendous profits. The second is to throw out the current political representatives, and, more abstractly, opposition to “the system” in general. In former Yugoslavia, everyone has watched for years as the former socialist elites transformed into new capitalist ones, stealing millions while the people got even poorer. Elsewhere in the Eastern bloc, people who started from the same position and ideology of relative social (or socialist) equality have become interconnected with capitalist elites, using their political power to smooth the way for capitalist accumulation. This brings me to the third common demand: opposition to corruption, a logical conclusion of the other two demands.
During social explosions, these demands can produce different results. Many people seek a new “savior”—in Ukraine, this means the European Union, while elsewhere it means fresh political parties, such as Syriza in Greece. The pace at which co-optation of such explosions can occur, and the degree to which participants are radicalized, both depend largely on how well-organized anarchists and other anti-authoritarians are, and how quickly they respond to events. In Greece, for instance, Syriza knows they have very little mobilization potential compared to anarchist or communist organizations, so it is difficult for them to take over struggles.
CrimethInc: What does it tell us that participants in these protests are refusing the forms of nationalism that have inflicted so much suffering in the region?
Balkan Anarchist: To understand the situation, we must back up to look at the whole picture. The solution that the “international community” (organizations like the UN, NATO, and EU) offered for the ethnic war of the 1990s was, of course, simply the continuation of this war by different means. With the Dayton “peace” agreement, they divided Bosnia into three major parts: Serbian, Muslim, and Croatian. All the institutions were tripled, everything was divided—streets, neighborhoods, villages and towns, cemeteries, hospitals, everything.
Practically, that means that if you graduate from a university in the Muslim part of Bosnia, the degree will not be recognized in the Serbian part. If you try to buy a ticket for Serbia in the Muslim part, sometimes they will not sell it to you, and vice versa. These problems caused by nationalism imposed by the elites just compound all the other problems I already described: unchecked privatization, corruption, economic and social breakdown. In Bosnia, unemployment is around 45 percent—60 percent for young people. Ten jobs are canceled every day, while prices and living costs are rapidly increasing.
What is happening now can be understood better in light of the movement Dosta (“Enough”) that started in 2006. Dosta grew from a small internet forum into regular weekly meetings of people in the central square in Sarajevo, getting bigger every week and addressing economic and social issues. It was the first moment after the war in which people came together regardless of nationality, and without being forced to be a part of a tripartite structure. Most of the protests were peaceful at first, but after a young person was stabbed on a tram, they became bigger and more oriented towards direct action. The parliament in Sarajevo was stoned and actions took place against some individual politicians. The organizational structure of Dosta spread into different cities, but it was politically diverse—including everyone from libertarian comrades to people who used it as an opportunity to form communist and social-democratic parties.
So, many years ago already, people turned away from the kind of nationalism that would divide them into Croat, Serb, and Muslim. The problem is that the solution for this was assumed to be that everyone should identify instead as Bosnians. Though it is exciting how anti-nationalistic today’s protests are, the problem is that this rejection of nationalism is premised on a new national identity, and there is little opposition to this sort of nation-building process intended to produce a new unification of people. On one level, this is better than remaining divided into three hostile parts that can be played against each other by the elites of Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia. Yet as anarchists, we do not see building national identities as a solution for anything.
CrimethInc: What are the fault lines within this movement? What can we expect to happen next?
Balkan Anarchist: Tuzla, the starting place of the protests, used to be one of the most industrialized cities in Yugoslavia, with left-wing (socialist) unions and workers. Privatization hit Tuzla very hard. Workers from five factories were protesting in front of governmental and local institutions for months, if not the whole year—always peacefully, trying to engage someone in conversation. Finally, they simply had enough, came prepared, and started riots.
They were supported by protests in 33 cities. Some people from the traditional left are joining the current administration in calling for new elections, but the message from the streets is clear: no one represents us. After the parliaments, party headquarters, police stations, and other symbols of authority were burned, the institutional left realized that they were not in control of the narrative or of the way the protests were developing. As a result, they want to “normalize” the protests by delegitimizing diversity of tactics. As usual, their efforts intersect with the efforts of the government to crush the movement by means of direct repression: numerous arrests, injuring people during interrogations, and so on.
Right now, the plenums that emerged from the movement are drawing up to 1000 people in Tuzla, Sarajevo, and other cities. The fact that so many people wish to participate in these plenums reflects how alienated people feel from the so-called democratic process of the parliamentary system, in which the only form of participation is to vote for politicians who differ merely in name. These plenums don’t just express deep dissatisfaction with the parliamentarian system, they are also a step towards building alternative horizontal decision-making processes.
As for the content of these plenums, the proposals raised there vary from reformist to radical. With such big plenums, it can often happen that there are unequal power relations, excluding women or people who don’t have the same experience with public speaking.
Another danger is that people will accommodate themselves to merely making demands. Mainstream media and politicians ceaselessly repeat the same old questions: Who are you? What do you want? Who can we talk to? What are your demands? It can be hard not to fall in this trap. But to establish mutual understanding and solidarity, we need time to develop our ideas and desires. It takes time to imagine alternatives beyond reforming the existing system; identifying demands at the beginning of a revolt only closes the political space in which we could form a new vision together. When the elites try to impose their understanding of time and the rules of their game, refusing to cooperate makes us stronger, not weaker. It can also thwart the emergence of authorities within the movement, keeping it decentralized and horizontal.
It’s hard to say which direction the revolt will develop. But we can already say that this is an important step towards building a culture of resistance in the Balkans, which can serve as an inspiration elsewhere. Similar demonstrations have already spread to neighboring Montenegro.
Given the experience from Croatia, Slovenia, and other similar struggles, I am afraid that the political space that opened on the streets will close soon, due to the absence of organized networks of libertarian activists. It appears that the dominant discourse will be channeled into the nation-building process—new elections, new parties, and the like—repressing the most radical ideas and class consciousness of this resistance, which is still emphasized by those who remain on the streets. This is not unexpected. My hope is that anarchist and autonomist groups and individuals who found each other on the streets will now be capable of building a stronger network and general culture of resistance, so as to be more prepared next time something like this happens. Because it will.
What is happening is exciting and important, but it is just one episode in a longer struggle. Because of our region’s socialist past, we don’t have a living history of anti-authoritarian movements; we need to develop the ability to practice horizontal decision-making and direct action during this and future struggles. In that regard, every opening like this is an opportunity to move forward.
Clara: Since these interviews were published on the CrimethInc blog, we’ve received updates from anarchists in the Balkans that demonstrations have expanded into Serbian areas of Bosnia, including nearly a thousand people marching in Banja Luka, including many demobilized soldiers.
Protests have also spread south to Macedonia, with hundreds of unemployed workers clashing with police in front of government buildings in the capital city of Skopje.
And finally, we wanted to share some music from Frenkie, a Bosnian hip hop artist active in the anti-fascist movement. This song, titled Gori, or, Everything is Burning, has become a kind of soundtrack to the riots. We’ve got a translation of the lyrics posted on our website.
NEXT WEEKS NEWS
Clara: And now it’s time for Next Week’s News, a few events to look forward to in the coming weeks. Alanis, what’s on the calendar?
Alanis: The Denver Anarchist Black Cross has announced February to be the MOVE 9 and Mumia Media Month as part of the campaign to free political prisoners. More information on the campaign at denverabc dot wordpress dot com.
Clara: On the first of March, the Kitchener-Waterloo Anarchist Book Fair will take place, southwest of Toronto in Ontario, Canada.
Alanis: On the 2nd, protestors in Washington DC will confront AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, for their support of the occupation of Palestine and US military aid to Israel.
Clara: March 11th marks the three year anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster; various events and protests around the world will take place to commemorate it.
Alanis: Throughout the Appalachian mountains in the month of March, a series of alternative spring break gatherings are taking place relating to environmental defense and challenging dirty energy. From the 1st through the 9th in Virginia, from the 9th through the 16th in northern West Virginia, and the 16th to the 23rd in northeastern Pennsylvania, folks can spend a week learning about the history and politics of extraction industries in the region, connect with local organizers, and learn skills to resist fracking, mountaintop removal, and environmental destruction. Find out more at M J S B dot org.
Clara: And March 15th is the international Day Against Police Brutality and some cities, including Oakland, [Portland](http://anarchistnews.org/content/international-day-against-police-brutality-portland-or], and Hamilton are already gearing up for this year’s events.
Alanis: And last but not least, some prisoner birthdays to keep in mind.
Clara: On February 26th, indigenous rights activist Byron Chubbuck, better known as Oso Blanco, locked up for robbing banks to raise funds for the Zapatista rebellion in Mexico.
Alanis: On March 3rd, Dylan Sutherlin of the Tinley Park Five, serving time for his role in successfully obliterating a white supremacist meeting in Illinois,
Clara: On March 5th, Reverend Joy Powell, an activist against police brutality in Rochester, New York framed on bogus charges;
Alanis: And on March 7th, Barbara Carter, an Occupy Detroit and environmental activist, recently sentenced for her participation in the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands action against oil pipelines built by Enbridge. Here’s an excerpt from Barbara speaking about the lock down and the sketchy tactics police used to attempt to divide the protesters from each other and their supporters.
Clara: Barbara and her two co-defendants will be sentenced on March 5th, and face up to two years in prison for their lockdown action.
Alanis: And that’s all for this episode! This podcast has been a production of the CrimethInc Ex-Worker’s Collective. Many, many thanks to our correspondents across the Atlantic and down south for sharing their stories from Peru, Bosnia, and beyond, and also to Underground Reverie for the music.
Clara: Let us know what you thought and what you’d like to hear next by emailing us at podcast at crimethinc dot com. We’ll be back in two weeks with the episode we promised about communism and socialism, and what they do or don’t have in common with anarchism.
Alanis: See you next time!
Links and references from this episode of The Ex-Worker:
You can read the interview we shared with Balkan anarchists on the uprisings in Bosnia on the CrimethInc blog. Updates since the interviews were published include demonstrations in Banja Luka—where first-hand accounts tell us the crowd was much larger than reported in the media—and Skopje, Macedonia Read more Bosnian coverage from anarchists and translations into English of various protest files, as well as the Insurgent Notes article.
Lyrics to the Bosnian protest anthem “Gori” (“Everything Is Burning”) by Frenkie:
I know that we fight them in vain
But, at least, I’ll be able to look myself in the eye
I will fall honorably like the Polish cavalry
Will disappear silently, but at least I’ll give ’em bruises
I know they have a thick rind
But my words will leave a mark
And will reach them
I will beat the hatred in their eyes
And demolish their home on other people’s bones
Throw the burden that hampers me
Today a new chapter begins
Wall Street is burning and the IMF is burning
Every bank and every safe is burning
Brussels is burning and Washington is burning
Burning, burning, Babylon is burning.
The people are lost, the stink of hatred and gunpowder surrounds us
We are in a state of crisis, since long ago
We have to march boldly in strength
With our head held up high straight through the dam
Or we can consent and obey
Assimilate and profit
Relax and enjoy
Maybe the machine will collapse by itself
Big business squeezing out nature like a tornado
While they tell us to buy energy saving bulbs
I would also run to the sea
But when the heart says “sea”, the wallet says “no can see”
The bourgeoisie, their nation
The capital, a permanent occupation
The rules are not the same for everyone, turn on your mind
I’m asking myself where’s the bailout for Somalia
I’m an optimist all the way to the end
Even if the light at the end of the tunnel could be a train
Instead of a wall I will build a bridge
If you think alike, be my guest
No one will come to save us, nothing will fall from the sky
We are the ones who we have been waiting for
No one will come to save us, nothing will fall from the sky
We are the ones who we have been waiting for
Dayton is burning, Laktasi is burning
Theirs are burning, ours are burning
Tuzla is burning, fucking fire
Even the Pannonian sea is burning
Gardens are burning, cafes are burning
The theaters and the artists are all burning
Bosnia & Herzegovina is burning
You are burning and I am burning.
Pepsi and Coca Cola are burning
The Parliament is burning from the foundation to the roof
Alcohol, pot and chemicals are burning
Every villa and residence is burning
Kool-Aid is burning
And Frenkie is burning
Other anarchist audio projects include The Final Straw (weekly, hour-long interview-based radio show out of Asheville, NC), The Black Mask (hour-long radio show with local/Canadian and labor focus out of Winnipeg, Manitoba), John Zerzan’s Anarchy Radio (green/anti-civilization focus), the Horizontal Power Hour (interviews and talks on various radical topics, out of Connecticut; currently on hiatus), the Audio Anarchy archive (recordings of works by Fredy Perlman, Emma Goldman, Alfredo Bonanno, and even CrimethInc), Another World Is Possible (recordings of a wide range of classical and contemporary anarchist texts, available via iTunes), Authority-Smashing Hour (Louisville, KY-based talk show) and The Circled A (UK-based discussion radio show). You can also find audio recordings from the Irish Worker’s Solidarity Movement, the German-language Berlin Anarchist Radio, TCN Radio, and The Floodgates of Anarchy. Which Side is a vegan anarchist podcast. You can also browse the Anarchopedia list of podcasts, the Anarchy 101 discussion on podcasts and radio, or the various Reddit threads on the subject.
Did we miss any? What’s your favorite anarchist radio show or podcast (besides us, of course)? Drop us a line to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out the CrimethInc blog report on the Lima, Peru Anarchist Book and Propaganda Fair for more stories from the event we covered in this episode.
Keep an eye on the Free the NATO 3 support site for updates on their sentencing.
Call Illinois prison officials in support of the prisoner hunger strike in Menard Correctional Center; you can also read a letter from one of the striking prisoners.
Want some ammunition for your debates with free market “anarchists”? Learn more about anarchist economic perspectives by checking out some of these sources. Proudhon and Kropotkin wrote plenty on the subject. Economic anthropologist and anarchist David Graeber’s writings – especially Debt: The First Five Thousand Years – are a great place to start, as well as the AK Press anthology The Accumulation of Freedom. There’s also Anarchy Works by Peter Gelderloos, which has a chapter on the economy. For feminist critiques of capitalism and care labor, try the works of Sylvia Federici, Maria Dalla Costa, Maria Mies, and Precarias a la Deriva. And of course don’t forget about Work: Capitalism, Economics, Resistance by some other ex-workers.
Upcoming events include the Kitchener-Waterloo Anarchist Book Fair on March 1st, a Washington, DC protest against AIPAC on March 2nd, protests commemorating the three year anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster on March 11th, environmental defense spring break gatherings in Virginia, northern West Virginia, and northeastern Pennsylvania across the month of March, and International Day Against Police Brutality demonstrations March 15th in Oakland, California, Portland, Oregon, and Hamilton, Ontatio, among other cities.
News briefs on the Hot Wire included the conviction of the NATO 3, the trial of Debbie from the Blackmail 3, sentencing of extradited G20 prisoner Joel Bitar, the Menard, Illinois prisoner hunger strike, solidarity actions in Bloomington, Indiana and Seattle, Washington in support of Amelie, Fallon, and Carlos, anarchists imprisoned in Mexico; resistance to logging in Sinixt territory, anti-mining struggles in Morocco and Brazil, the French attack on a church with fascist ties by GADI, a sniper attack on a Silicon Valley power station, the Center for Constitutional Rights legal challenge to the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, and the New York Police Department testing Google Glasses.
Upcoming prisoner birthdays:
Oso Blanco (Byron Chubbuck) #07909–051
Post Office Box 305
Jonesville, Virginia 24263
Address envelope to Byron Chubbuck, address card to Oso Blanco
Dylan Sutherlin M34022
Centralia Correctional Center
Post Office Box 7711
Centralia, Illinois 62801
Reverend Joy Powell #07G0632
Bedford Hills CF
Post Office Box 1000
Bedford Hills, New York 10507–2499