Note from the LeftEast editors: this is an interview by Mattia Gallo with Mariglen Demiri, a student of Philosophy at the University St. Cyril and Methodius in Skopje and a member of “Solidarnost” (“Solidarity” in English). Solidarity was formed in 2012 with the aim of humanizing society, promoting anti-capitalism, and fighting against all nationalist and fascist forms of organization. The interview was held in December 2014.
MG: What are the reasons behind the most recent mobilization of students in Macedonia? What are the claims, demands, and slogans of the students?
MD: The reasons behind the student mobilization are due to the education reforms announced a couple of months ago, including a state exam at the end of studies, something that represents a blow in the university’s autonomy and creates wider political implications in society. We demand reforms in higher education but firstly those reforms need to pass all the public debates and their purpose needs to elevate the quality of higher education. The students’ slogans include: “We are students, not clients,” “Autonomy,” “No justice, no peace,” “Students, students, independent and strong”…
MG: Are the criticisms of the students who protest directed to the entire political-economical system in Macedonia? Are the criticisms openly anti–system and concerns more broadly the general situation of the country?
MD: In the past the student movements in Macedonia were anemic – almost dead. This student movement revitalized itself with the question of the state exam. However, in the process of opposing the state exam they came face to face with a great many problems in Macedonia’s political system, as well as the political climate prevalent today. They realized that the question concerning the state exam brings them directly to the question university autonomy, as well as some larger questions concerning higher education and the social context in which they are positioned – this social context encompasses the freedom of speech and the media, the new laws concerning part-time workers (the government intends to add an additional fee in terms of regular taxation). The students are concerned by all this. The students supported the part-time workers protest and at the same time the student protests were supported by other oppressed and marginalized groups of citizens as well as by the wider public. These protests were testimony to the dissatisfaction of the people in terms of how the country functions. The disaffection includes the standard of living, the political representatives, and the general political situation. This student movement managed to synthesize these aspects of everyday life and to create a new consciousness, a consciousness which claims that when it comes to the political it demands participation from all of us, not just the politicians.
MG: What are the reactions of the media in Macedonia to the protest of the students? What are the reactions of the political class to the protest of the students?
MD: In Macedonia, as well as all other countries with little democratic and pluralist tradition, the media is inclined to show the things the government wants the citizens to know, not the real situation in the country. The reason for this inclination above all is the fact that the main source of finance for the media is the government, which is constantly advertising itself. Those advertisements represent at the same time propaganda for the achievements of the government and promotion for the values that the government’s ideology prefers. With the exception of a small number of independent media, which show a fair and correct attitude towards the movement and the protests, the rest of them have an attitude of devaluation. The government’s political establishment accuses the opposition of organizing the protests. Their (servile) media are trying to leave such an impression on the public. However, the citizens are very disaffected and unsatisfied. The students are the ones who have unified and articulated that dissatisfaction. Even though in the beginning the opposition, which is only a pro-forma opposition, tried to use the student protests to their advantage, the students made it clear that they’re independent from all political parties, without being independent from politics and political action.
Mariglen Demiri is student of Philosophy in University “Cyril and Methodius” in Skopje (Macedonia). He is member of “Studentski Plenum” and Leftist Movement “Solidarnost”. Also participated in numerous public debates, open forums, TV shows and organized and co-organized various public events (open forums, exhibitions, peaceful protests and petitions.
Mattia Gallo is an Italian journalist and media activist. He is from Cosenza, a city in a region of Calabria in South Italy. He wrote, and in some cases continues to write, for newspaper and alternative media of his region (Ciroma.org, Mmmasciata.it, Tamtamesegnalidifumo, Il Quotidiano della Calabria, Fatti al Cubo, Esodoweb). He has published several articles on Italian alternative media of extra-parliamentary movements as Dinamo Press. At present he works with an Italian alternative sports media (Sportallarovescia) and collaborates with Global Project, an Italian platform of extraparliamentary movement of the radical Left in Italy.