Daily Archives: December 15, 2009

Free the Belgrade Six!

About the Case

On Saturday, September 4, 2009,  five* political activists were arrested in Belgrade on trumped up charges. The five, Tadej Kurepa, Ivan Vulović, Sanja Dojkić, Ratibor Trivunac, and Nikola Mitrović, are activists in or associates of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Initiative, the Serbian section of the International Workers’ Association (IWA). (*The sixth person sought by police, Ivan Savić, was also arrested some days later.)

The arrests are allegedly related to a direct action which took place at the Greek Embassy on August 25. Negligible damage was done: a crack in one window, a tiny burn mark on the facade and a circled A graffiti on the embassy as a act of symbolic solidarity with Thodoros Iliopoulos. The prosecutor however imagines this as an act of “international terrorism” and would like to charge our comrades with such. If the state allows such charges to be pressed, they could be facing 3-15 years in prison.

For more information on the ASI and the case, read this interview with a Slovenian anarchist. Here is an excerpt:

– What influence does the ASI have in Serbia?

As we all know, this is a small organization, yet it has a great influence on society. They have been gaining influence in public opinion, among workers and have been shown to be the only alternative to other unions. They were very effective and persistent with anarchist propaganda, with its principles, tactics and aims, not only among the working class, also among students, teachers, etc.. We firmly believe that this is the main reason for the arrest and we assume that the Serbian intelligence service is behind the entire process.

In addition I would add that the ASI not only has an influence in Serbia, but in many Balkan countries. As these countries do not have anarcho-syndicalist organizations (with exception in Croatia) for the moment, they are the reference. The ASI has put much effort in recent years in the need for a anarchosyndicalist organization.

– What has been the reaction of the Serbian people?

Many kindred organizations have expressed solidarity with the comrades and also public figures (film directors, journalists, writers, etc.).. Also university professors and some leftist groups. As said, the ASI is far more influential than the rest of Europe thinks.

– What is the current status of other anti-order groups in Serbia?

As I said before, the Serbian state has very repressive policies. One of the most active struggles today is anti-fascism and one of the few where all organizations are quite united. This is so because fascism is very strong in Serbia, including in the parliament.

 Notably, the fascist movement tends to focus its campaign against the anarcho-syndicalism. For example, just a couple weeks ago when they made a strong campaign against the ASI. I would dare to say that Serb fascism does not focus their struggle against liberal anti-fascism. Its real enemy is anarcho-syndicalism, demonstrating, and I never get tired of repeating it, the great work he has done by the ASI.

 In fact, ASI was the catalyst in the BAFI (Belgrade Antifascist Initiative).

You can also keep updated on the case here.

What you can do

The ASI/Free the Belgrade Six solidarity website has an easy-to-use form for emailing a protest letter to high Serbian officials, including the president and prime minister. You can access it here. You can write your own message in the form or send the following prepared text:

We are writing to demand the immediate release of Tadej Kurep, Ivan Vulović, Sanja Dojkić, Ratibor Trivunac and Nikola Mitrović, arrested Sept. 4 in Belgrade on absurd grounds. The prosecutor’s assertations are clearly ridiculous. It seems perfectly clear that this case has been politicized and a show case is being made out of a minor incident. In the meanwhile, the state continues to deflect attention away from the institutionalized violence inflicted daily through war, policing and exploitation, which is the real terror of daily life for millions around the globe. We will not stand by idly as people who fight for social justice are repressed based on their history of political activism. We will campaign for the release of these activists and for the end of state repression.

The Serbian original of the following open letter can be accessed here; thanks to Comrade A. for sending us the English translation.

Open letter from a group of intellectuals concerning the court trial against six anarchists

The Indictment of Anarchists for Terrorism Is a Political Trial

The alleged throwing of two burning beer bottles at the Greek embassy was qualified as an extremely serious crime by the public prosecutor’s office on November 3, 2009. Six proven anti-fascists are thus accused of no more and no less than international terrorism! A group for monitoring the trial against the six anarchists has initiated a petition, collecting signatures under an open letter that aims to bring to public attention the fact that what we are faced with is in fact a political trial. The text of the letter has been endorsed by numerous intellectuals.

The group for monitoring the trial against six anarchists

On September 3 and 4, 2009, Ivan Vulović (24), Sanja Dojkić (19), Ivan Savić (25), Ratibor Trivunac (28), Tadej Kurepa (24), and Nikola Mitrović (29) were arrested by the police. They were arrested under suspicion that they perpetrated the criminal act of causing general danger by throwing “Molotov cocktails” at the Greek embassy building. 24 hours later the state prosecutor’s office changed its qualification of the alleged act from “causing general danger” to “criminal act of international terrorism”. We fear that this was an arbitrary interpretation of the Criminal Code and a case of its instrumentalization for quotidian political purposes.

It is necessary to state the social context in which all this is happening. Historical revisionism is becoming more and more normalized, and legal rehabilitations of Nazi collaborators from World War II are on the agenda. The equation of leftist and far-right political ideas is a consequence. In the year 2009 alone we have witnessed the escalation of violence: as a consequence, one foreign citizen was killed, and numerous threats of violence have been made by the fascist groups. All of this has met with a mild reaction on the part of state prosecutors and the police. To name just one example: in the days leading up to the gay pride parade, the threats of physical liquidation of the gay population were termed mere “polemical tones” by the state’s representative.

The state has been brought to a situation where a confrontation with the violent right-wing groups that it initially nurtured (but which have long since metastasized) seems unavoidable, if only just an illusionary confrontation. And yet the state finds its scapegoat on the left, penalizing it with draconian measures to establish a quasi-balance and thus present itself as “just” (as “restrained”) by opposing wo equally dangerous extremes.

We live in a state where there is no guarantee that a person will be prosecuted for his or her incitement of racial, religious, and ethnic hatred. In all these years, members of the clerico-fascist organization Obraz (which has been operating without interference since 1993) and the Serbian national movement 1389 (which presents itself as “patriotic” while maintaining close contacts with Russian fascist organizations) have not been held criminally liable for their acts, which have included threats against the LGBT community and numerous attacks and beatings of its members. Goran Davidović (aka “Fuehrer”), leader of the neo-Nazi organization Nacionalni stroj, was allowed to openly mock the legal system of the Republic of Serbia when he successfully appealed the guilty verdict in his case, basing his challenge on the fact that trial documents were written in the Latin alphabet.

We also need to remind ourselves of the fact that in the Criminal Code of the Republic of Serbia the act of international terrorism is equated with genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes against the civilian population, organization and incitement of genocide, war crimes, and aggressive war. We live in a country that for decades now has been dominated by the national-chauvinist discourse and where even today it is debated whether there was a genocide in Srebrenica or not, or whether mass war crimes in Kosovo even happened.

The willingess of the prosecutor’s office to qualify two thrown beer bottles in the same way as the most horrific crimes known to humanity represents a devaluation of these crimes and is a symptom of the deeply degenerated value system that made such an accusation possible.

On the night of October 23-24, R.K. (17), N.H. (18), and I.F. (19) were arrested in Vršac. The reason for their arrest was that they had been pasting up posters with the slogan “Freedom for arrested anarchists” written on them. A criminal case was initiated against these young people: they are accused of “obstruction of justice” (Article 336b of the Criminal Code). They are threatened with three years in prison if found guilty. Despite the fact that the original stated intention of including this paragraph in the Criminal Code was to combat right-wing extremism, what we see again is a crackdown on the left.

We think that the reason that a political indictment of this kind could even be produced lies in the influence the political parties have on the representative and judicial branches of the government (one example is the fact that judges are re-elected by the High Council for Legal Affairs, whose members are nominated by the parliament). The Venice Commission in the Council of Europe and the European Commision have both already pointed to this arrangement as controversial.

Taking into account Article 10 of the European Declaration of Human Rights, we do not hesitate to openly state that all the circumstances of this case clearly lead us to conclude that in its essence the trial against the six young people is a political trial. That is why we demand the withdrawal of this senseless indictment.

10 December 2009

Signed by:

Aleksej Kišjuhas, Borka Pavićević, Dragomir Olujić, Goran Despotović, Jovo Bakić, Ljubiša Rajić, Ljubomir Živkov, Pavel Domonji, Sonja Biserko, Sonja Drljević, Srbijanka Turajlić, Staša Zajović, Svetlana Lukić, Svetlana Vuković, Todor Kuljić, Nebojša Spaić, Vera Marković, Vesna Rakić Vodinelić, Vladimir Ilić, Zagorka Golubović, Zoran Petakov, Želimir Žilnik 

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Filed under activism, anti-racism, anti-fascism, international affairs, open letters, manifestos, appeals, political repression, trade unions

Blue-Collar Blues (Tallinn)

Blue-Collar Blues

Kunsthalle Tallinn & Gallery of Kunsthalle
December 22, 2009 – January 31, 2010

Exhibition opening: MONDAY, December 21 at 6 pm
Performing at the opening: Paul Cole & The Great Outdoors!!!

Artists: Art Center for Dismissed Employees, Francis Alÿs, Fahim Amir & Krõõt Juurak, Dario Azzellini & Oliver Ressler, Dénes Farkas, Vladan Jeremić & Rena Rädle, Johnson ja Johnson, Olga Jürgenson, Kennedy Browne, Tellervo Kalleinen & Oliver Kochta, Marge Monko, Eléonore de Montesquiou , Santiago Sierra
Curator: Anders Härm

Give me a job, give me security
give me a chance to survive
I’m just a poor soul in the unemployment line
my god, I’m hardly alive

Styx, “Blue-Collar Man” (Long Nights), 1977

The direct and most immediate motivation for this exhibition is the new “more flexible” Employment Contracts Act that came into force on July 1st of this year, and the disputes revolving around it for the past two years. In the middle of November, the number of unemployed in the country with 1.3 million inhabitants rose above 100,000. At the same time, this law is a result of large-scale global processes, a symptom of systemic global neoliberalization. These processes, which have lasted for the last half century and are the focus of this exhibition, have resulted in changes in work relations, the nature of production and salaried labor as well as the economy as a whole. Labor issues affect everyone – if only indirectly – and therefore a direct relationship exists with them (as opposed to global cash flow movements or the real estate bubble related thereto). This is a topic in which class conflict break through the post-political haze and is articulated fervently, quite uncharacteristically of the administrative-political era. This is also occurring with increasing momentum in Estonia, where we are slowly overcoming the post-Soviet false shame related to trade unions, workers’ rights, etc. The time is ripe to talk about these topics! It’s time for Blue-Collar Blues.

Through symbolic gestures, direct actions, as well as relational projects, the Blue-Collar Blues exhibition attempts to give meaning to labor issues at a time that can rightfully be called global  capitalism’s greatest crisis. In the course of 20 years, we have become aware that we live in a world where attempts at governance are based on a combination of global “free market” dictatorship and neoliberalism as the only possible philosophy of life, where democracy has just become a hollow colloquial phrase. This is a world, where, on the one hand, a fatal end is predicted for work, while an attempt is being made to show the uncertainty and instability of the labor market as a positive challenge. This is a world where initiative and business are equated. Creativity is one of the favorite expressions of this new mutation of capitalism, which is required under conditions where any and all creativity is precluded. This is a world where every employment relationship may develop into something resembling slavery. This is capitalism without part-time work opportunities or social guarantees, where the employer’s expenditures for the workers are minimal, while the profits are maximal. This is a world that, despite resounding slogans and promises, has arrived at the most serious crisis of its existence.

Since labor issues are universal in some sense, being densely integrated under conditions of globalization, the geographic range of this exhibition is also broad, reaching from Latin America to Eastern Europe and from the Balkans to the Nordic countries. Naturally, those participating in the exhibition include great international names like Francis Alÿs and Santiago Sierra, Oliver Ressler and Kennedy Browne, as well as a large number of younger Estonian artists, whose works deal with these topics. All the Estonian artists are producing new works especially for this exhibition, which are motivated by local issues. The exhibition’s focus is on labor relations, the psychological and social changes caused by the changes in these relations, and the more general situation of workers under conditions of neoliberal capitalism.

Several additional events will also take place at the Kunsthalle during the exhibition. On Saturday, January 16th at 9 pm, a performance by Krõõt Juurak and Fahim Amir, entitled Autodomestication, will take place, which deals with the situation of “creative workers” in the labor market. Since Estonian trade unions, politicians and social scientists are involved in the exhibition project, in order to try and better understand labor issues, a seminar entitled “The Position of the Citizens in Labor Relations” will take place at the Kunsthalle on Friday, January 22nd at 12 noon. The main participants are political scientist Oudekki Loone and sociologist Marju Lauristin. The panelists include Harri Taliga, Tarmo Kriis, Eiki Nestor, Raul Eamets, Allar Jõks, and others. Within the framework of the exhibition, another event in the Porotfolio Café series will take on Saturday, January 30th at 12 noon, in which art students will be offered free consultations and feedback from international curators, and some of the artists that are participating in the exhibitions, such as Eleonore de Montesquiou, Tellervo and Oliver Kalleinen, as well as from older colleagues and Estonian specialists.

Press release prepared by:
Anders Härm
More information:
anders@kunstihoone.ee
www.kunstihoone.ee

We express our thanks to the following: Cultural Endowment of Estonia, Center for Contemporary Art, Estonia, Art Museum of Estonia, Austrian Embassy in Tallinn, Irish Arts Council, Irish Embassy in Tallinn, Annemarie Reichen and the Peter Kilchmann Gallery in Zurich, Elena Crippa and Lisson Gallery in London, FRAME, Caoimhin Corrigan, Maria-Kristiina Soomre, Marko Stamenkovic.

Seminar is supported by  Open Estonia Foundation

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