Balkan Anarchists against War


Cluster discussion

In 2003 anarchists from the Balkans met in Thessaloniki, Greece for the conference Balkan Anarchists against War: Capitalism kills in War and in Peace. The event represented a culmination in the Balkans of a global wave of mobilisations against the US-led military invasion of Iraq. It reflected the continuity of anti-militarist activities of the anarchist movements in the Balkans which were at the time taking different forms: in Slovenia through wide-spread opposition to NATO membership; in Greece through opposition to presence of US and NATO army and involvement of Greek state in imperialist wars; in many Balkan countries through initiatives against military service and everywhere throughout the Balkans against those political forces that were using nationalism and a threat of war as tools to divide the population in order to gain or reproduce their power.

Twenty years of organising later the anarchists in the Balkans remain actively engaged with consistent anti-nationalist and anti-militarist political work. As the movement developed the analyses that motivated it developed as well, including of the ways in which nationalism, war, patriarchy and militarism are all intertwined and inherently linked to the system of exploitation and destruction known as global capitalism. This understanding has been a constant reference point and a continuous driving force behind many political mobilisations in our geography.

It is clear that the capitalist system – based on enslavement, patriarchy, exploitation, domination and in a conjunction with other forms of oppression is destroying our lives, our communities, nature and the environment. It has nothing to offer to an increasingly big majority of people and is politically bankrupt. Our analysis from the past that capitalism is crisis is being confirmed through incessant succession of crises as the capitalist regimes are being upgraded to levels of authoritarianism that is even more based on militarism, securitisation, repression and violence against popular classes. Only in last few years this processes have brought enormous devastation through war to people in many parts of the world, including Ethiopia, Syria, Yemen, Congo and Sudan. The war in Ukraine is just the closest and most televised example to the official European eye. Capitalism is war.

Inasmuch is to be expected that ongoing wars might attract most of the attention both on the level of political organising and reflection, they also serve as painful windows into the wars of the past. What many of us in the Balkans see through these windows are wars of destruction of Yugoslavia in the 1990’s. We see how nationalism was used by the ruling classes of emerging new states to spread ethnic and religious hatred (all with the agenda to establish new rule of exploitation) and how violence unleashed during and after the wars robbed the whole generations of any realistic prospect of life and dignity. In the ashes of war that ended in nationalistic and capitalistic peace our geographies were and are still subjected to the rule of some of the most vulgar and unscrupulous ‘democratically elected’ leaders whose only political program is their own power.

We also see NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 and how a simplified representations of the Balkans as something not yet civilised played a crucial role in building of consensus for the wars as well as NATO actions. Contrary to our analysis the ruling classes and its proxies are establishing the discourse that war is a natural state in the Balkans – something similar happened to Middle East or Palestine – that we are the place where peace on people’s terms is not possible. This has been one of the cards played by our oppressors.

It is on the background of these tragic events that we have discussed war and militarisation at practically every Balkan Anarchist Bookfair since 2003 and on other occasions. This discussions formed the base of our many statements on the topic and of our political actions. In Zrenjanin (Serbia) in 2010 the participants of BAB wrote: “Contrary to the prevailing belief that conflicts that have shaped our part of the world lately are some old remnants of the ’19th century’, we think this is not the case. The Balkans are not the past, they are the future of Europe. The wars of the 1990s were not the “last wars of 19th century”, but the first clear manifestations of the destructive content of capitalist relations for the introduction of which those same wars have provided an invaluable cover.” [1]

And in Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina), the city that suffered enormously during the Bosnian war and remains divided until this day, in 2014: “Many in the Ukraine today think they have to respond to the false choices of war posed by states and corporations (amongst them are even some anarchists and ‘anarchists’). We, however, maintain that nationalism is always an ideology that reproduces the State, a system of repression and exploitation, and pits the exploited and oppressed against one another. Today we see in the Ukraine the same mechanism that was used also in the war(s) in former Yugoslavia: Nationalism is the tool of those in power to push people into war for the interests of capital. As anarchists, we opposed all war efforts in former Yugoslavia through solidarity that continues to this day. Far from liberal pacifism or obsessions with left-nationalist guerrilla armies, our struggle will never take the side of militarist politics and the destruction that all states are based on.” [2]

And then again in 2018 in Novi Sad (Serbia), in a town where a lot of people rejected mobilisation in Serbia’s war in the 1990’s and then experienced NATO bombs in 1999: “On the periphery of the global capitalist system, looting and war transform large segments of the population who are turned into migrants and refugees; this process is not just a theoretical problem to us in the Balkans, but a lived experience as well. As the diverse and heterogeneous population searches for place to call home and to rebuild their lives, they are targeted by capital and its political structures: the former directly integrates them in capitalist economy as cheap labor, while the latter uses them as scapegoats to justify increased social control of everybody, surveillance and repression of antagonist segments of society and to feed the popular right and undermine solidarity among the oppressed.” [3]

When a new war erupted fully in Europe a year ago not only history caught up with our analysis, but also – again – the task that we are faced with became once again very clear. Just like in Zrenjanin in 2010: “The need to transform the Balkans into a space of struggle, anti-nationalism and solidarity, concretely, starting now and from below, is obvious.” [1] We believe this starting point is absolutely fundamental for any kind of future in the Balkans; the future that would not lead to another round of death, destruction and pillage led by caring hands of the assorted militaristic machines with imperial ambitions. This is why we are opening space to continue the discussions from the past, to update our understandings, to reaffirm our internationalist anti-nationalist, antimilitarist perspectives and to continue building resistance and solidarity against war in the Balkans and everywhere.

We hope that this cluster discussion and BAB will develop this points further. To understand our own realities, current global situation and the direction of our actions we would like to open some concrete questions: How do we as anarchist militants respond to this developing situations? How do we understand the current composition of global powers and geopolitical context? How do we understand war in Ukraine? How can we fight against all states, all armies and all imperialisms? What strategies our movements should follow to dismantle the system that produces, enables and needs war? How do we support victims of wars and our comrades in the war-zones? How can we make more visible the processes that build the consensus for wars and fight against them in our local areas and everyday?

We are calling all comrades from the Balkan Anarchist and Anti-authoritarian Networks that would like to participate in the cluster discussion Balkan Anarchists against War to send us their confirmations ASAP and a written input by 23rd of June 2023 on our e-mail: bab2023 (at) riseup (dot) net

Speakers (and their inputs for discussion):

Pan-Balkan internationalist anarchist/anti-authoritarian demonstration against all nationalisms, capitalism and war: for Balkans of solidarity and struggle! 10/03/2018, Thessaloniki, Greece