Serbia Becomes Fertile Ground for the Anarchosyndicalist Movement

A translation of an article from the mainstream newspaper “Danas”

Serbia Becomes Fertile Ground for the Anarchosyndicalist Movement

Red and Black Subversives

Author: Gojko Vlaović

Participants in the events of the Serbian union scene certainly have had the opportunity to see one of the largest workers’ protest groups, mainly young people, characterized by red and black flags and banners at these meetings. These are activists from the Union Confederation Anarchosyndicalist Initiative  (ASI). Theis group differs from all the rest in Serbia in that it advocates for the abolition “of the state, capitalism, private ownership and hierarchical relations in society.”

ASI belongs to an anarchist tendency that is focused on the creation of trade unions organized along non-hierarchical principles.  These unions will be the instrument the anarchists believe will lead to the abolition of the state and private ownership of means of production, to be replaced by a society based on workers’ self- management’ – a model that is completely different from what existed in Yugoslavia. Anarchosyndicalists wish to realize their goals through the implementation of “direct action” which implies the refusal to cooperate with political parties, even if they are socialist, and a strategic opportunity to overthrow the government by organizing a general strike. ASI’s intolerance of the economic elite and political structures is reflected in their slogans such as “the bosses and politicians are parasites.”

” Anarchosyndicalist action in Serbia is marginal won’t have a greater impact on developments in the labor movement in the future. On the other hand it is good that there are such groups like them. It should be a signpost to the Serbian government that all forms of resistance can occur in conditions of transition. However, even though due to the economic crisis the workers earn less, anarchosyndicalists have no chance for any success in the long run,” says the Forum sociologist Srecko Mihajlovic.

Although it doesn’t participate in elections and completely rejects parliamentarism, ASI has repeatedly found itself in the focus of the public attention.  Most recently, at the beginning of September with the decision of the investigating judge in Belgrade to detain a group of six activists for 30 days. The arrested  allegedly  first wrote graffiti on the facade, and then threw two molotov cocktails at the building of the Embassy of Greece on Aug. 25. The group “Black Elijah” took responsibilty for the attach, while ASI denies connection with this.

In a statement issued by ASI  it says that the “unusual circumstances in this case is that the arrested are suspected of having committed the crime of international terrorism whereas those accused of taking part in burning the American Embassy 21st February 2008. have not had any seriously consequences on year later.

In May this year during a visit to Belgrade by Joseph Biden,  Ratibor Trivunac burned and American flag, for which he was sentenced to 10 days imprisonment.

ASI is also active in the anti-fascist movement and were involved in protests against the “Serbian March in Novi Sad and Belgrade. In 2001 they solidarized with the Pride Parade in Belgrade and on this occasion clashed with far-right groups which attacked the Parade.

Secretariat was in Belgrade

Although they are none the less militant than their like-minded comrades in the region, ASI does not have the numbers or organization comparable to, say, their “colleagues” in Greece, who participated in mass protests and blockades after police killed a young man. Those familiar with the situation on the far left in Serbia say that the number of ASI activists and sympathizers is not more than a hundred people. ASI participates in all major workers’ events, and on a couple of occasions, ensured that the Union of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia were not allowed to join them. ASI is a section of the International Workers Association  (IWA), and the General Secretariat of the Association  was in Belgrade from 2006 until 2008.