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On the Juridical Offensive Against the Anti-Fascist Left in Serbia

a statement by Marks21

Neki ovako zamišljaju „diskriminaciju i teško ponižavanje građana“, 11. decembar 2013, Filozofski fakultet u Beogradu

Just over a month ago, an activist of the Serbian socialist organization Marks21, Matija Medenica, received a letter from the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality. He was duly informed that, by appeal to that state institution, the protofascist organisation SS Dveri is trying to bring criminal charges and offence proceedings against him ‘and the organisation Marks21, and NN person, a young woman from the picture, and a group of students at the Philosophy faculty’ on account of – discrimination and extreme disparagement of citizens. Below, you will find a full account of that story, which not only affects Mark21 members but could also set a chilling precedent for state repression against such political actions in Serbia.[1]

On 11 December 2013, at the Philosophy faculty in Belgrade, a public meeting entitled ‘The harmfulness of genetically modified organisms in food’ was due to be held. Signed as the organiser of this event was the Union of students of the Philosophy Faculty, which had never before participated in student affairs and which is not on the list of student organisations of the Philosophy faculty, and it has meanwhile also ceased to exist on Facebook. In other words, this is ‘union of students’ is clearly just the personal adventure of a student of history, Miloš Pešić, who presents himself as its president, with the goal of promoting the radical right among students of the Philosophy faculty.

Among the announced speakers were Miroslav Živković, also signed as a member of Dveri, who were then in the thick of the pre-election campaign,  and a journalist, Biljana Đorović, from the right-wing radio Glas naroda [Voice of the People], who publicly promotes Dveri, as well as the renamed and banned nationalist organization Obraz.

Although the use of GMO in food is a topic which is definitely worthy of discussion, students of the Philosophy faculty understood that the problem was that members and sympathisers of (proto)fascist organisations were going to speak at their faculty, which prompted them to organise to prevent the public meeting from taking place. The action itself took place once the management of the faculty did not respond to a letter by the same students calling for the cancelation of the public meeting with that speaker line-up.


“Here, the doors are closed to you”

Twenty students, carrying two banners, stood at the doors of the amphitheatre at the announced time of the public meeting. A verbal conflict ensued between those taking part in the action on the one hand, and the speakers and some of those attending the public meeting on the other. We made it clear that we had no problem with the topic of the discussion, but that we would not allow proponents of fascist ideology to speak at the Philosophy faculty on any topic, since that gave them space for political propaganda and the possibility of gaining legitimacy in the public.

After fifteen minutes, two members of the public and the speakers got into the amphitheatre – some of them using force, others by the side entrance, which had in the meanwhile been unlocked. We, those partaking in the action, then took our place inside the hall, in front of the speakers’ rostrum, and, shouting antifascist slogans, continued to disrupt their plans. After much contestation, Živković i Đorović decided to leave the amphitheatre and the faculty itself, after which we allowed the public meeting to continue, and most of the participants of the action stayed to listen.

We as an organisation supported this action, having announced it in advance on our Facebook page and reporting from the scene as the event was happening, since we believe it is necessary to support this kind of action in order to disallow a platform for the activities and expansion of groups that promote the most reactionary capitalist ideologies. Generations of students of the Philosophy Faculty of the University of Belgrade have kept a solidary, left-wing and antifascist spirit going, such that this is one of those institutions of education in which such reactionary organisations have not in the recent past had an space for public activity. It should stay that way.


The two faces of liberalism

Put this way, as participants of this action, we did commit an act of discrimination on the basis of political beliefs. Though article 25, paragraph 2 of the Law on the ban on discrimination makes clear that discrimination of ‘fascist, Nazi and racist activities’ is not included as a punishable liability which breaking of this law would entail, the question of defining what activities exactly fall under this legislation is unclear, as is how to act in situations when members of the said groups or their sympathisers speak about other political issues. In other words, this law, as most others, can be interpreted at will according to the political preferences of the person responsible for the interpretation.

That, however, can mean that the Commission – one of the few remaining bastions of the liberal wing of the ruling class in the state apparatus, in other words, of those who it could be said do not lean towards far-right organisations like Dveri – will reject this complaint as legally unfounded. This would potentially give Dveri, who have been for years trying to present themselves as a legitimate party in the liberal democratic establishment, an excuse to complain that the state is defending communists and discriminating against patriots, thus allowing them to prevent themselves as a fundamental alternative to the neoliberal order, which is collapsing. Although, of course, we cannot know in advance that that is the way the process will play out, it is clear that we find ourselves in the ring, in which there is a political struggle for the interpretation of ideas and actions – a struggle which liberalism, two-faced, has never been able to win.

For that reason, it is clear that we are also in conflict in the same breath with the problem of liberal antidiscrimination laws, which on paper state everyone has a right to their beliefs, equally the most progressive and the most reactionary individuals in society, even though the latter are fighting for a society in which, instead of the overthrow of inequality and the battle against exploitation, ever greater differences are pursued and there are open calls for a lynching of various groups of people.

For years, the repression of every form of self-organisation has been intensifying, and the ruling structures are trying hard to suffocate every form of politics in opposition to their own. That is how strikes against the rights of workers across Serbia are being brutally shut down, with the use of private security and the police, and the strike in Agroživ is just one of the most recent examples of such repression. This is a tried and tested method which students during the blockade of the faculty in 2011 also had to face.

It is in light of this intensifying state repression against left-wing organizations and initiatives that we should understand the allegedly anonymous denunciation of one of our activists, Pavle Ilić, for his hosting for a period of two days at the end of June an unregistered foreigner, an activist from Greece, who spoke at the public meeting entitled ‘Red Card to Austerity!’ The two-day stay of Panos Petrou in Belgrade was characterised by the Belgrade police as ‘threat to the legal order’, and, moreover, the police resorted to methods of harassment and intimidation instead of official channels by calling on the phone and inviting Pavle for a meeting on the threat of a legal action against him. This is an ongoing case, since the police, despite having informed Pavle that he would have legal action taken against him, has continued to harass him by making calls to his homestead, outside official frameworks, and continued to demand he come to speak to them again in person. We ask ourselves whether they are showing the same resilience in pursuing and getting in contact with Marko Knežević, a prominent member of the party of the Minister of Labour, who, on the 12th July at a union protest against anti-labour legislation, in full view of dozens of members of police, physically assaulted Matija and stole his camera – especially in view of the fact that that particular misdemeanour falls under the criminal law and not a penal offence. We still do not have any news relating to that case.

Dveri, having brought charges relating to the action taken at the Philosophy faculty, have called for state repression, so that they would scare off and potentially stop similar future actions in the future. Such a call for state repression will harm al forces that are struggling for a different society, since it is ultimately calling for the state to stop all forms of resistance – from antifascist activities, to struggles for women’s and LGBTQ emancipation, faculty blockades, and all the way to strikes and occupations of workplaces. We have to oppose this.

Besides the fact that only one of our activists and we as an organisation have been named separately from the ‘NN persons’ [anonymous persons], we believe that both these legal denunciations should be treated not as a problem of one or more individuals or organisations, but as a political field of struggle of all progressive forces, especially having in view the interest shown by parts of the state apparatus for the activities of the left. While waiting for the continuation of these processes against us, we call on all to be on full alert, such that we should all together discuss in good time and react about the best ways to strengthen the left in the further struggle.

With comradely regards,


[1] You can find the relevant documents of the legal case, including the text of the denunciation and Matija’s response to the deputy of the Commission, Kosana Beker, here.