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A voice of resistance

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Issue 1724

Revolt in Serbia

A voice of resistance

JELENA SLJIVAR is a member of Otpor!, the student resistance movement that played a key role in overthrowing Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia. She will be speaking in colleges across Britain as part of a solidarity tour starting next week.

Jelena spoke to Socialist Worker about the revolution which took place in October and the future of the student resistance movement:

“THE OVERTHROW of Milosevic is the culmination of years of resistance. Our world changed on 5 October. Everyone knew that the democratic opposition would win the presidential election, but that we would have to fight to defend the election result.

But no one could have predicted the scale of the movement-there were one million people from all over Serbia on the streets of Belgrade when the parliament building was stormed.

You cannot imagine the excitement among Otpor! activists. The movement was formed two years ago. We have participated in and organised many protests but the demonstration in October dwarfed all that.

We faced repression under the old regime. I was arrested and detained once-others faced repeated arrest. The repression did not break us. We grew among students and high school students-later attracting older people-to have 70,000 members.

Our protests inspired other people who felt so depressed that Milosevic was still in control. We organised in a fresh way, enabling young people to become active.

It worried the regime, which called us “terrorists” and “agents of NATO”. But people started to see through the regime’s lies. My neighbours know I am a good kid. When they heard I was in Otpor!, it was impossible for them to believe the propaganda against us.

We had the sons and daughters of generals and judges involved in protests. That made it hard for official figures who supported Milosevic. We were also able to make links with workers. Otpor! activists helped mobilise people to defend the Kolubara miners from police attack.

The new government is definitely better than the old one. We now have space for real democracy. But we are not going to stop there and leave the government with a blank cheque like Milosevic felt he had.

We have to continue to struggle for democracy. Old supporters of Milosevic have tried to cling on. That’s why we organised to remove, for example, rectors and professors who abused their position under the old regime. We want to make international links, especially with young people.

There are two main messages I want to get across. Firstly, young people can bring political change. That is not just happening in Serbia. We saw pictures from the protests in Seattle and Prague. Many of those taking part were just like us. It inspired us and we hope we inspire them.

The second is that our movement against Milosevic was based on Serbian people themselves. It was not a wing of NATO and people should not believe that lie. We do not know what the future will bring. There are different ideas about how the resistance movement should develop.

One thing is clear-we have hope, hope for a better world.”

Round-up of Solidarity tour dates:

Wednesday 29 November

  • Edinburgh: 1pm, Edinburgh University, Tutorial Room 6, Appleton Tower, Crichton Street.
  • Glasgow: 6pm, Glasgow University, Boyd Orr Building.

Thursday 30 November

  • Colchester: 12 noon, Essex University, Level 2 Bar, Student Union.
  • London: 7.30pm, Friends Meeting House, Euston Road.

Friday 1 December

  • Bristol: 1pm, Bristol University, Room 2D3, Social Sciences Block, 8 Woodland Road.
  • University of West of England, 2.30pm, Frenchay Campus.
  • Warwick University: 7pm, Physics Lecture Theatre.

Saturday 2 December

  • Nottingham: 2pm, Quality Hotel George, George Street.
  • Sheffield University, 5pm, Auditorium, Student Union.

Sunday 3 December

  • Manchester: 5pm-7pm, Manchester University, Basement, Student Union.

Monday 4 December

  • Leeds: 7.30pm, Leeds University, Rupert Beckett Lecture Theatre.

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