Socialist Worker

Student struggles sweep Serbia

by Matija Medenica, Belgrade
Issue No. 2180

A wave of student struggle is sweeping over the streets of the Serbian capital, Belgrade. Three marches of some 1,500 students held on Monday, Wednesday and Friday last week have marked a new phase in student organisation.

These protests were the biggest and most political for ten years. It was also the first time we blocked the two main bridges that connect the two halves of city – we closed Branko’s bridge on Wednesday and Friday and Gazela on Friday, after protesting in front of an international conference on the Bologna education reforms – the EU sponsored reforms that open up higher education to the market.

We were joined at the front of our last two protests by Ljubisav Dokic, nicknamed Joe, who drove a bulldozer at the front of the demonstrations which toppled the hated president Slobodan Milosevic. Joe became a symbol of the 5 October 2000 revolution.

The six demands we’ve organised around so far all deal with specific problems that came out of neoliberalism in the Bologna reforms. The protests were started by official student representatives, led by the president of Belgrade university's student parliament, who is also a member of the ruling party.

Our student group, Another University is Possible, stands against all the Bologna reforms and for free education for all. We made some crucial interventions in coalition with other student representatives who want to see this protest win – pushing towards generalising our demands and connecting with students internationally, as well as with workers.

We’ve printed hundreds of bulletins, together with a letter of support from the Austrian student movement, which was then repeatedly cited in the biggest Serbian daily paper.

On Friday we were due to have another meeting with the government, but instead the president of the student parliament was given a government statement which “promised” to fulfil five of our six demands – but didn’t say when or how.

As most of us expected, the student president decided to end the protest and called his colleagues to go back home. The rest of us realised that we were being scammed, so we immediately organised a meeting of a few hundred students. This decided to demand that those representatives who failed us step down. It also called on us to radicalise our demands and tactics. We are now talking about organising democratically, occupying our universities and demanding free education for all.

We have already won the support of three trade unions, one inter-striking committee and union of taxi and truck drivers. On Thursday we should be protesting with the support of some 200-300 taxi drivers, accompanied by other workers and unions who supported us.

This is presenting a huge problem for our government which has only just managed to get a huge loan from Russia and to prevent workers' struggles from exploding. This is why any kind of international support is crucial to us at the moment. We must connect our struggle with the current struggles worldwide. The next week will be crucial.

One world – one struggle!


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International
Tue 1 Dec 2009, 18:34 GMT
Issue No. 2180
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