From crisis of socialism to financial crisis

Resisting the crisis, take 2: uprisings and the local dimensions

While the occupation was following the global trajectory of the occupy movements in Spain, the US and elsewhere, with the critique of the global financial system and demands for global citizenship, universal basic income and direct or “real” democracy in focus, the uprisings developed on the local level, addressing issues such as political and economic corruption. Uprisings started as intense, decentralized protests all over Slovenia, which lasted three weeks. People were fiercely expressing discontent with the current state of affairs on the local and national level, disappointment over the effects of transition as well as over the cause and management of the crisis. After this short period of decentralization the uprisings were gradually channelled into several centralized all-Slovene uprisings. Until 27th April 2013, five all-Slovene uprisings were organized, of which the biggest took place on 8th February, drawing 20.000 people to the streets.

Although resistance to the current state of affairs was somehow expected, the process itself had surprising extent: not only in terms of the number of people attaining, but also in terms of its durability, intensity and territorial dispersion. The protestors had and presented a wide spectrum of different, sometimes competing and contradictory demands, messages, ideas and forms of resistance. Simultaneously a social and political space that transformed or even transcended all pre-established political realities was opened up. In the beginnings one of the main emphasis of the protests that brought about the new social dynamic was again the crisis of representation that showed itself via focusing on the critique of “corrupt” and “impotent” representative politics. At the same time articulation and practice of alternatives was developed through various events, which were unfolding, such as assemblies, occupations, hacktivist actions, theme protests (connected with issues like access to water, knowledge, culture, criminalization of uprisings, right to referendum, right to the city, et cetera), experiments with various forms of pressure (petitions, round tables, media stories) and establishment of different neighbourhood or local committees, projects and initiatives.

Protests, especially in the early stages in Maribor and other smaller cities, were to a large extent spontaneous expressions of social discontent. Heterogeneous in their composition, they were marked by a variety of demands (yet united in their anger against authorities) and by the absence of any organized political reality, which would interpret or organize the situation. They were a strong manifestation of the indignation against the tight connection between political and economic elites, articulating the general feeling of discontent. Conspicuous was the presence of a generation of young adults, the urban poor, precarious workers, and residents of local banlieus, which “redescent into the center within the a tradition of popular insurgency, and in part from their desire to reclaim the public space from which they had been expelled, to reoccupy streets, that once were theirs” (Ross 1988, 41). Their presence was felt and articulated through two seemingly contradicting slogans, first being “Maribor is a prison!”, and the second one “We are Maribor!” Those slogans were the result of a critical reflections of a generation that was abandoned in the trenches of the transition, but which was at the same time inventing new ways of dealing with the crisis through active resistance and the struggle for visibility, against the attempts of power of the ruling to push them back into urban and social marginality.

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