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?