Part of the ad-hoc assembly “Civil resistance: cohesion, growth, representation“. Author: Biljana Ginova
On May 5th, the leader of the opposition publicly presented the 29th set of leaked materials, or the 29th ‘bomb’, in which we heard a confirmation of all that we suspected regarding the murder of Neshkoski and against which we protested for days in 2011. That was the trigger to get out on the streets, but the revolt of the citizens gathered there was much older than Zaev’s ‘bombs’. The anger that we swallowed for years, condensed like a big lump in the throat that will not let you utter a word without your whole body twitching in pain erupted in jumping the barricades and occupying the government yard.
Thousands of people, crossing the fence were crossing their own expected boundaries and by occupying the government yard they were taking the political responsibility back into their own hands. That day, every inch of anger amassed through the oppressive history of independent Macedonia was released: from the Bucharest disappointment and the pain from the blows on the architecture students, through the hunger strike of the workers laid off due to bankruptcy in front of the Parliament and the anger of the murder of Martin Neshkoski, to the oppression with one after another bad laws for protection against discrimination, for abortion, for honoraria, for higher education, for everything to culminate with the meaningless of the human life for the ruling elite.
The protests that started on May 5th united thousands of citizens in the movement which was both individual and universal at the same time – #Protestiram. The people in this movement, each with their own story, came to the fore as politically responsible subjects, dedicated to the changes we want to see in this country. As the movement came into being, the demands were defined at a street plenum and united all the personal struggles and aspirations in the given context. Even though the natural partner in the realisation of those demands was the party opposition, a big part of the citizens were skeptical of their methods and their dedication to a complete revision and democratisation of the society.
Just like for many others, May 5th was also a surprise for the opposition. It turned out that they wanted people on the streets, but people who would give them bargaining power and would follow their plan and pace, not self-organised citizens who will finally demand a substantial change. As a result, even though understandable, instead of joining the self-organised civi resistance, after May 17th the opposition attempted to place the revolt under one umbrella and to direct it towards the partisan resistance in the form of a camp in front of the government building. In addition to that came the ad hominem attacks and labelling by the activists gravitating towards this resistance in an attempt to delegitimise #Protestiram and the activists who criticised the (lack of) influence of the negotiations that started in the meantime.
The negotiations among the four leaders of the biggest political parties took place far from the public eye, without any civic participation and without guarantee that the citizens’ demands will be represented in the talks. Having no insight into the negotiations, the only source of information were the leaders’ statements following the meetings which were often different, and sometimes opposite to each other. The June 2 agreement, on the other hand, which was expected to provide the framework for further negotiations, left many questions unanswered. What was also noticeable in the agreement was the absence of the key citizens’ demands. With the start of the negotiations, the sense of resistance on the streets was lost and the panic among the ruling elite that we witnesses with the very announcement of Zaev’s ‘bombs’ was gone. The negotiations were concluded by all negotiating parties claiming victory. At the negotiations, however, at no moment in time, in no way was there an involvement of the citizens who were not represented by the political parties whose leaders negotiated until the very end.
Despite the challenges and the suffocation of the protest, I consider them successful. They made the street a place for political articulation of the citizens, but they also showed that in the current context of the country, the resistance should separate from the party opposition and should evolve in a different form of political participation. We will see in the coming days what form that will take, but I will certainly like to see a positioning of as many citizens in the country as possible as independent political subjects, offering a personal vision without or regardless of party affiliation.