From the new May-June 2014 issue of News & Letters:
World in View
by Gerry Emmett
A revolutionary movement in Bosnia is bringing new life to the ideas that meant everything to supporters of the 1990s people’s struggle there. Despite the efforts of bureaucrats and tyrants, the fundamental character of multiethnic Bosnia has continued to develop.
At its core, the current movement is directed against the rule of capital. It targets the mass poverty and government corruption that followed in the wake of the 1995 Dayton Accords.
Although ending the war, these were meant to freeze Bosnian society along ethnic lines that had only been drawn through the genocide initiated by Serbia’s ruler, Slobodan Milosevic. In contrast, when officials recently tried to blame Croats for burning government offices, Bosnian Muslims stood up and said, no, we all are responsible.
DEBATING REFORM AND REVOLUTION
What began in February with days of violent protests against police, bureaucrats and local oligarchs has sustained itself in new forms of democratic organization, the plenums, where everyone has the right to be heard. Here people in each community come together to debate what kind of social reform—or revolution—would be needed to create the kind of world they’d want to live in.
The topics people discuss in the plenums include employment, public services, corruption, education and culture. Committees are formed to help carry out collective decisions.
Every day, thousands of people have been gathering in Tuzla, Mostar, Sarajevo, Travnik, Zenica, and other towns. Each can speak for an allotted time. Mediators are there only to facilitate discussion. At each meeting, a list of concrete suggestions is taken and voted on. Everyone votes.
A number of local officials have been forced to resign. New democratic governing structures are being discussed and developed within the shell of the old. The spirit of Arab Spring and Occupy movements lives.
ILLUMINATING A NEW WORLD
Now, why is this small nation so important? Because the Bosnian people are walking over the official portrait the world has commissioned of itself for the last 20 years. To wit: Assad’s genocide in Syria, so obviously inspired by Milosevic’s genocide in Bosnia; Putin, invader of Ukraine, so obviously the heir of Milosevic; and the whole “you are with us or with the terrorists” rhetoric of Bush, whose wars-of-civilizations survive as President Obama’s drone strikes and skewed international priorities.
This is a moment when clearer lines are being drawn between a possible future of freedom, and those of us who are fighting for it, against others with their eyes, minds and hearts dead set on recreating past oppressions and horrors. In this historic conflict, Bosnia today shines like a flash of lightning illuminating the future in the present.
No matter that there is a “history” written by the victors, whose paper takes whatever is written on it. There is another history, entirely, that is written by humanity struggling for freedom. The Bosnian people are creating one of its most moving chapters.