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Civil resistance: cohesion, growth, representation (part two)

The second part of this ad-hoc assembly engages different experiences of political organising and civil resistance against the ruling regime in Republic of Macedonia.

The call for this assembly is inspired by the mass protests in Macedonia that kicked off May 5, 2015. That day people rallied for justice and against police brutality. Protests persisted on each consecutive day and grew with demands for resignation of the entire government and criminal charges, building on a years of public outcry over the unjust and discriminating policies and actions by the Macedonian government. Citizens-activists and different organisations had already opened fronts of struggle demanding greater control by the people over institutions that politicians use to make decisions on their behalf. For years now, protests had been held against police brutality, urbanisation, pollution, in defense of students rights and for access to quality public education, demanding equality before public institutions, in the name of social justice and workers’ rights, against homophobia and heteronormative laws and for media freedom.

The goal of the second part of this assembly is to engage experiences that critically address questions about the growth of civil resistance, the cohesion and modes of representation (who speaks, on whose behalf and towards what were actions directed). In the first part we presented international experiences, while the second part zeroes in on civil resistance experiences in Macedonia. We ask, what has civil resistance been directed against and how has it build up, as it has been in the making?

The second part of this assembly presents four perspectives:

Assembly editors: Elena B. StavrevskaMila Shopova, and Anastas Vangeli

Photo: Nebojša Gelevski

David versus Goliath

Part of the ad-hoc assembly “Civil resistance: cohesion, growth, representation“. Author: Jordan Šišovski

After May 17th, the resistance entered in a deep crisis. The protests deflated and the awaited turnaround did not happen. To be able to even consider the strategic course of action we first have to examine the identity of the resistance and the nature of its crisis.

The rally on May 17th only showed what has been evident for many for a long time: SDSM has neither strategy, nor vision, nor strength to cause a substantial change in the society. The long-awaited ‘bombs’ unfoundedly raised the expectations of a desired change, while at the same time the leadership of the party, of the coalition parties and of the coalition non-governmental organisations, united under the “Umbrella”, completely failed in their assessment of: (1) the strength and the determination of the regime, (2) their own forces and capacity, (3) the interest of the ‘international community’ in the democracy in the country, and (4) the trust of the people. The last and most important assessment error indicated that the people are fully aware of the extent of corruption of the elites and that having been continuous faced with choosing between two evils, they no longer intend to choose evil, even if it was the lesser one! The people chose resignation. The rally was announced as a pompous event with the pathetic “We are coming!” There were many people on the streets on the day of the event, but their expectations of change were deceived. SDSM showed they did not know why they took so many people to the street. In the days that followed, the uninspired project managers of the ‘Freedom camp’ managed to transform the false hope into apathy.

It is in light of this that we ought to consider the nature of the crisis in the resistance that showed great energy on May 5th and soon took the form of the #Protestiram movement. Even in the first days after May 5th, the identity problems within this movement were apparent. It was an ideologically incoherent body. On the one hand there were activists who gravitate towards SDSM and on the other, there were activists who tried to suppress their distrust of SDSM in the name of the struggle against the greater evil – the authoritarian regime. The main disadvantage of the movement was in the fundamental unsustainability of the idea of ​​burying all differences until the fall of the regime. It became evident that the differences were substantial and ideological. While some showed strong liberal and anti-authoritarian tendencies, the pro-SDSM group acted in quite an authoritarian fashion. The constant insistence on a complete and blind support of the SDSM leadership, the ‘you are either with us or against us’ logic, and the demonisation of everyone who did not give their wholehearted support to SDSM with the derogatory “neutrals” only went to show the authoritarian tendencies in the ranks of the pro-SDSM wing of the resistance.

With the pompous “We are coming!” on May 17th, the pro-SDSM wing was completely drawn into a false victorious euphoria resulting from the disastrous assessment of SDSM. The false sense of size and strength stemmed from wrong Hegelian assumption that the quantity by itself turns into quality. The impressive number of citizens on the streets was not a guarantee that they were also motivated for action. This was perfectly estimated by the security forces – while on May 5th, there were thousands of special forces, so called “turtles”, on the streets of Skopje, on May 17th and the period after the government was ‘kept safe’ by a ridiculously small number of policemen. The ‘coming’ actually meant replacing the political with a politically impotent spectacle. The massive rally with its gravity completely pulled much of the (pro-SDSM) activist core into the orbit of SDSM/GM. It got a false aura of triumphalism and before the regime had even fallen, they started with a vulturous tearing apart of the ‘pie’ of the projected power and a calculation of the projected contenders to the ‘throne’. This thwarted its last, desperate battle with the regime.

 

Moral. People have completely lost confidence in the political caste. They are not willing to invest themselves once again in replacing one evil with a lesser evil. ‘The internationals’ are not ready to risk a change of the status quo in Macedonia. The regime shows a high degree of rational self-interest, flexibility and power to remain in place at all costs, while completely lacking morality, responsibility, and interest in the future of the country. SDSM and the ‘Citizens for Macedonia’ coalition show a complete absence of strategy, vision, and power to change both themselves and the society. This is also evident in the Przino agreement of July 15th, which is a mere technical agreement on the division of power between the coalition partners. In it, there is not even a mention of the values ​​such as freedom, democracy, justice! It follows that all progressive and liberal forces in the society should prepare for a long David-against-Goliath battle. SDSM is a futile political apolitical entity that is neither a useful ally, nor a worthy opponent. The struggle against the regime is not a struggle against a person or a group. It is a struggle agains two-decade long authoritarian and reactionary tendencies. This devaluation should be resisted by a force with clear liberal and progressive values. Only by practicing radical liberty, democracy, and transparency of the actions can the rigid authoritarian logic of the political caste be ruffled. It is necessary to open new venues of resistance, to politicise the quiet majority, and encourage grassroots and one’s own resistance.

We will need mad hope and faith in the power of our weakness!

We shall overcome!