In the past couple of days, we have had mass protests in Skopje and all the Republic of Macedonia. What are the main reasons for these protests? The main aim and the main demands?
The protests were sparked off by the decision of the President of the Republic of Macedonia to grant amnesty to all the prosecuted politicians, many among whom charged with heavy crimes. There were politicians from the ruling party and the main opposition, so the President claims he did it to “solve the deep political crisis” in the country. Of course, the citizens know he did it mostly so as to protect the criminals from the ruling right-wing party – VMRO-DPMNE.
However, it would be wrong to say that this was the main reason for the protests – in point of fact, this was the final straw in a series of events leading up to the mass protests currently taking place throughout Macedonia. Thus, it would be more appropriate to say that the main reason for the protests is us saying NO to life in a criminal, authoritarian, elitist system of injustice. The main reason is our vociferous demand and continued fight for a socially just and equal society, where people will be treated with dignity regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, gender, religious affiliation or lack thereof. The main reason I would say is our belief that such a society is indeed possible – but it must be upon us to create it, that is why the people are there on the streets protesting. It is the continued awakening of the consciousness, there is no “international saviour” that will do it for us (and we already saw just how much the EU cares for human rights in the system crisis also referred to as “refugee” crisis) so it is ironic to expect a panacea from the international community.
And even if the international community had interests to “force democratic order” upon the Republic of Macedonia, it would be precisely that – “forcing it”. So what is happening instead is a civic awakening, mobilisation of people that are becoming increasingly enraged and more importantly – aware that it must be us the ones to speak up and fight. Reclaiming the streets, reclaiming what is ours. Reclaiming what has been plundered by the corrupt ruling elite. Reclaiming justice, freedom, equality, universal sisterhood and brotherhood. And in a social context of almost utter control of the media., where else can we voice these demands if not on the streets? This is why people are on the streets protesting.
How would you describe the social, political and ideological profile of the protests and the people who protest?
Some have started referring to the current protests as “The Colourful Revolution”. As many others, I do not know if it is a revolution, but it is indeed “colourful”. There is a plethora of people from diverse cultural and social backgrounds, yet they are united in that they all are sick and tired of the current regime and are seeking a better alternative. There are some divergences of course as to what exactly this better alternative would be, but we do agree that it must be grounded in principles of equality and justice. There are protesters completely unaffiliated with any NGO or political party, there is the NGO sector, there are representatives from political parties, a variety of ethnicities – ethnic Macedonians, ethnic Albanians, Ethnic Vlachs, Christians, Muslims, atheists, agnostics etc. But then again, it is this sheer diversity of profiles that adds vivid and flamboyant colours to the protests – may the new system of social justice be one where we thrive in diversity and mutual respect for this diversity.
Is there any connection with other demonstrations in the past, for example the student occupation the first months of 2015 or the demonstrations of May 2015? Do you think that people are inspired from movements in other countries, like Nuit Debout (or Indignados)?
The current protests are certainly a continuation of the 2015 protests and the protests and struggle years and years before. Decades before. Centuries before. In Macedonia and beyond its borders. The struggle is long and ongoing and I don’t expect that a “quick fix” would magically appear overnight, even if the entirety of Macedonia takes to the streets to protest against the regime. It is just a small fraction of a global struggle against a destructive, disintegrating, neo-liberal system way beyond the borders of Macedonia, which has to be transitioned to a socially just, equal and sustainable system throughout the world, not just in one given country.
Let’s not kid ourselves – this radical change cannot and will not happen overnight. And I don’t know if I will even live long enough to witness it – but I can certainly contribute with every fibre of my being to pave the way toward it. Step by step. Little by little. In that sense, in view of the global nature of the current system that we strive to eradicate, witnessing the emergence and reinforcement of movements as Nuit Debout or Indignados is certainly inspiring, but also the wonderful left culture in Greece, which I have personally drawn a lot of inspiration from. Even more inspiring is when we support each other, beyond nations and borders showing solidarity and unity in our joint fight against the same exploitative neo-liberal system – so for example you see people from Macedonia supporting the protests in Greece or people from Greece supporting the protests in Macedonia. That is what I call inspiring.
What is #Protestiram and which is its role in the mobilization?
#Protestiram (or #Iprotest in English) is a movement by the citizens and for the citizens. It is not a political party, it is not an NGO, It is me, it is you, it is all of us. As such, as a citizens’ movement, it has had a very powerful role of mobilisation. There have been people severely disillusioned not just by the ruling party, but also by the opposition parties, NGOs and establishment politics and organisations in general. Real change can only occur if the protests remain independent and led by the people and for the people, not by any establishment political party. This is exactly the current unifying aspect of #Protestiram – it transcends establishment organisation – it belongs to all of us, the angry, the oppressed, the change-seekers, the idealists and doers, the people that have taken to the streets wanting to create change.
What are, according to your opinion, the prospects and the future of this movement?
It has been growing and it has yet to grow. The real revolution would not be overthrowing the current ruling party and replacing it with a left party or a “milder” government, but rather, reinforcing a movement like this where we fight for long-term social justice and long-term structural societal change. For the movement to impact such structural changes, it must adopt a much stronger anti-neoliberal narrative way beyond the borders of Macedonia. It must question every single thing we do so that we keep on reforming the global exploitation system. This includes showing all-encompassing international solidarity not just with the oppressed people in Macedonia, but with all oppressed fellow fighters throughout the world, whether the NuitDebout in France, Indignados in Spain, the neighbours from Greece or the refugee sisters and brothers from Congo, Syria, Afghanistan etc. And I believe that slowly, but steadily it is already happening. And that is the only true revolution and future prospects I would see in this movement; not just overthrowing a dictatorial regime.
Gabriela Andreevska is a social activist, mostly involved in grassroots initiatives for social justice, human rights, gender quality, freedom of movement, and sustainable development. She has been involved in the refugee crisis as a humanitarian and political activist. She is a member of the Left Movement “Solidarnost”.
Gabriela Andreevska was interviewed by Stratis Bournazos, 26.4.2016. The interview was originally published on the portal Analyze Greece.