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Vol 3, No 21
11 June 2001
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An Urad za intervencije (UZI) action in defence of asylum seekers, 16 February 2001 Office Politics
Slovene activists Urad za intervencije interviewed
Alexei Monroe

Hosting the Bush-Putin summit in Ljubljana on 16 June is seen as a great diplomatic coup for Slovenia, a chance for it to promote itself on the global stage. However, the summit is taking place at a controversial moment within Slovene politics. On 17 June, a referendum will take place which may restrict the reproductive rights of unmarried women (yet no referenda are planned on larger issues such as NATO membership or Slovenia's "Konkordat" agreement with the Vatican).

A small group of activists that calls itself the Urad za intervencije0 (literally the "Office for Interventions") or UZI plans a "Festival of Resistance" over that weekend. The event is being held in protest against the summit, the referendum, new police powers and what UZI claim is an increasingly repressive socio-political climate, particularly for refugees and other minorities.

The weekend's actions will include the lighting of bonfires of resistance across the country, as well as various demonstrations, discussions and other actions that will attempt to draw domestic and international attention to the growth of dissent in the country. In advance of these actions CER talked to Darij Zadnikar, a representative of UZI.

CER: When was UZI founded and what are its guiding principles? Who does it draw support from and is it active beyond Ljubljana?

Darij Zadnikar: UZI made its first interventions in the public space in the 1999. It is not a classical political organisation nor a part of so-called civil society or an NGO. It is an activistic political co-ordination of individuals and smaller groups who in solidarity support each other in their actions on the basis of the so-called "UZI Platform."

The supporting groups and members are mainly politically left-oriented students and professors from the University in Ljubljana, ecologists, gay and lesbian groups, handicapped and also from Ljubljana's very vivid subculture scene. Though UZI's main activity is in Ljubljana, as Slovenia is a small country, its activity and "membership" is present also outside the capital.

What is the UZI "methodology"? How closely is it related to the wider anti-IMF/anti-globalisation movement?

UZI activism is a result of continual political debate between their members and groups. This debate represents a kind of parallel public, as the official or "big" media, concentrated solely on issues which are thematised from the side of parliamentary parties. This debate takes place on the e-mailing lists or as a part of daily social life mainly in the clubs of Metelkova City, located in the ex-JNA (Yugoslav army) barracks which were squatted seven years ago.

UZI made close connections with similar anti-globalisation movements. Our members participated from Seattle to Prague and will also go to Genoa this July. We collaborate in our actions with comrades from Ya Basta! in Italy and as a result staged a "no border" demonstration in the fence-divided town of Gorizia/Nova Gorica on the Schengen area border with Slovenia.

We are trying to connect all similar movements in this part of the eastern Alps (Italy, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia). This summer we're planning a no-border camp near Lendava at the Slovenian/Hungarian/Croatian border. Its topic is the migration problem and the world without borders. There's a growing interest in participation from many western and eastern European countries.

Conceptually UZI seems to be attempting a critique of authority as such or at least to identify the hidden repressive mechanisms linking apparently unrelated episodes?

We're trying to overcome the postmodern and particularistic identity politics of the nineties on the one hand and the classic emphatic (ie class) leftist ideologies on the other. The "little stories" must unite and [also] recognise each other's autonomy.

This recognition (and co-operation) is in fact the non-authoritarian part of political experience, which is opposite to the dominant social and political structure of establishment. The experiences of corrupted parliamentary democracies from Italy to Germany show, that the political sphere has to be opened up over the mere parliamentary media spectacle. Classical political parties and their political system is often the form of bringing together economic and political elites and excluding the political participation of alternative publics. We're not nostalgic for the socialist past, but for us the partisan ideological and media exclusivism at a time of new communicative opportunities is just a new form of useless domination.

Can you explain the key issues in the controversial Slovene referendum on reproductive rights and artificial insemination? As I understand it, your protest is directed as much at the fact of a referendum being used to decide issues of personal choice as against the actual proposition?

This referendum is for us illegitimate, as you cannot decide human rights [issues] on the [basis of] referenda. If a few single women want to have a child in this way, it's their problem and I can't judge their decisions in the name of some metaphysical or religious dogmas.

It becomes my problem, when their right and possibility to decide on their own is violated. This referendum is a part of manipulation from both sides—clerical and liberal. For clerics it is just another step toward fundamentalist Catholic hegemony, for liberals it is an opportunity to show themselves not as actual raptors in the process of privatisation but as defenders of liberties. Both of them are pressing the autonomous social and artistic creativity, one in the name of moral, God and nation; the others in the name of progress, profit and undeclared European values.

Do you plan disrupt the actual referendum procedure on 17 June?

As the referendum itself is illegitimate, it is legitimate—though not legal—to obstruct the referendum.

Is the planned festival actually a celebration of "resistance" as such? What form will it take?

The Festival of Resistance will begin on 14 June with [UZI] support for student demonstrations against cutting their social rights. On Saturday there will be many political/artistic activities in Ljubljana, concentrated around the fact that two men cannot decide about the rest of world and that human rights cannot be decided by referenda.

We're expecting participants from Slovenia and our friends from abroad. There will be many different political/artistic happenings which have to motivate the participants to act and demonstrate against growing alienation of liberties and rights at the local and global level. We're trying to revive the culture of resistance, which was wiped out from Slovenian (and European) social experience.

We have to identify political forces which will resist the entry of Slovenia into NATO. We have to show the political elites that there's a parallel political society growing, which wants to broaden the sphere of democracy, which wants to end the ruling political corruption and which cannot be ignored. We have to build up global resistance and solidarity.

One of your statements condemns the new powers given to Slovene police to control protests. To what extent do you think these moves are a reaction to UZI's activities to date and to what extent are they actually integral to the process of Westernisation? In Britain, increasingly repressive powers have been given to the "security services" by each successive administration since at least the mid-eighties. In short, is Slovenia expected to prove its will to enforce the monetarist status quo as the Czech authorities did in Prague last year?

Slovene riot police outside the parliament buildingThere is a new law on public gatherings in the parliamentary procedure in Slovenia. There's a controversy because it seems that this proposed law is more restrictive than the actual legislation from the totalitarian 1970s. The proposed law is more the result of legal unification (globalisation) than a reaction to still minor autonomous political activities. The increasing political repression in Europe is the result of a lack of any political alternative-even Socialism, as bad as it was.

At this stage there's no need for ruling European elite to legitimise the existing system as better, more human and open as there's no significant threat to them from below. The restrictive legislation is concentrated on social, political and ethnic minorities. Not explicitly, of course, but in the result at the level of everyday repressive practice. Nobody can deny the growing discrepancy of "European values" and the growing repression against social and ethnic minorities, immigrants, political opponents etc.

What are the common factors linking moves against the right to protest, reproductive rights and asylum-seekers' rights? Who or what are the principal reactionary forces on the Slovene political and cultural scene?

The dominant Slovenian political and cultural scene tends to re-establish the bipolar division on clericalism and liberalism, which has its roots in 1848. But there are also contrary tendencies, which are more critically oriented toward the restoration of capitalism and the growing nationalism (racism, xenophobia etc).

Such autonomous political and cultural groups are constantly marginalised by this bi-polarisation. One political bloc is spreading religious and nationalist fundamentalism, and the other conceals "wild privatisation" with liberal ideals. These ideals are then violated at the micro level, often with assistance of EU (ie in the case of illegal immigrants and asylum seekers). As a result these different issues are a consequence and reaction to this bipolar political and ideological structure.

The Slovenian "reactionary" scene is a bizarre and contradictory coalition of Catholicism and nationalism from the classic right and the neo-liberal "modernistic" political centre. There's no alternative from the left, as the United List of Social Democrats (ZLSD) is "Blairite" and situated completely in the political centre.

What specific role is the Catholic Church playing in the establishment of a new repressive climate in Slovenia? Does it aspire to the more hegemonic authority it enjoys in Poland (or until recently in Ireland)?

The Catholic Church in Slovenia is mostly extremely conservative. Its policy is counterproductive in its strivings to usurp the monopolistic position of late Communism. Archaic autocratism has not enough supporters even among Christians, so the Church is losing the opportunities it had in the early nineties.

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The Church tends to morally panic the society with different mainly personal issues like this on the possibility of artificial insemination of single women. Their policy would be merely clumsy and grotesque if it were not linked with nationalism and new fascism (like Haider, Fini et al) which is a growing European reality. These archaic political gestures are in the light of these new European trends no longer comic but have become very serious and threatening.

The Church and its political parties have lost two major issues of this personal-moral kind. The right to abortion is indisputable. It seems that Slovenia is one of the most liberal Catholic societies, maybe because of the traumatic Protestant past and the liberal parts of Communist ideology.

The next issue is state secular public education, which is removed from the possible influence of the Church. The left wing of the Liberal democratic party (LDS) defended secular public schools, but the right wing, more neo-liberal, economically-oriented president of the party (and government), wanted to sign a "Konkordat" with the Vatican, which would bring clerics into public schools.

The left wing lost their positions in the newly constituted government. But nobody dares to discuss this issue; even the Church is silent. So they have to open a "moral" issue, which can panic the majority of people. Instead of building a new pediatric hospital, for which there's a constant lack of money, we'll spend millions for a bizarre referendum, which will bring a result for the Church and right-wing politics.

The statement announcing the Festival Of Resistance talks of "fasistoid" measures taken by the government, "parasitic capital" and "corporate feudalization." The militant tone of parts of the declaration reminds me of both classical Marxist language but also, of language used by the Slovene group Laibach to promote the "Kapital" project in 1992. Can UZI's approach be related to these precedents?

We can link UZI to different political, social and even artistic precedents. But you mustn't forget that even the name of this organisation is a little bit of joke. In this context there's a similarity to the artistic instrumentalisation of politics by Laibach. But Laibach also instrumentalised western consumerism and commercialism, not just Nazi or communistic totalitarism.

As our political activity cannot reach the shrines of "democratic institutions" we act between people and town squares, often in the form of political performances, "happy guerilla" acts, and provocations which can, as on the 21 February [UZI's largest action to date in defence of asylum seekers] and 16 June, grow into bigger manifestations and festivities of political will. In the [UZI] political vocabulary, you can find Marxist, anarchistic and Zapatistic terms. You cannot analyse actual capitalism with artistic gestures, but this does not mean that you can't use them for critiques.

Alexei Monroe, 11 June 2001
Pictures courtesy of UZI.

Also of interest:

On the Bush-Putin summit in Ljubljana:

On the Prague IMF meeting and the corresponding anti-globalisation protests:

Moving on:



Alexei Monroe
Happy Guerillas

Gusztáv Kosztolányi
Katalin Gönczöl

Sam Vaknin
Serbia's Old Boys

Mark Preskett
Ene bene

Štěpán Kotrba
Sow and Reap

Brian J Požun
Shedding the Balkan Skin

Martin D Brown
Czech Historical Amnesia

Dejan Anastasijević (ed)
Out of Time

Gusztáv Kosztolányi
Hungarian Oil Scandal

Sam Vaknin
After the Rain

Czech Republic

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