When the ruling elite from Bosnia and Herzegovina inflicted general poverty on and ruined the lives of thousands of workers in Tuzla – also privatizing 4 major factories – people took it to the streets, setting government and presidential buildings on fire. The cantonal government resigned, and a hunt has already started to replace it. The protests are against capitalists irrespective their ethnic identity, and against all nationalism and political parties, since politicians are considered by people to be all the same and part of the ruling oligarchy. People look at government buildings in ruins and say “politicians earned it.” This is not so surprising considering Bosnia’s unemployment rate of 30%.
State officials fled from people’s fury. In a northern town of Bosnia, people protested on Saturday in front of a new mansion of a local strongman of the ruling party, SDA. Police stopped Asim Kamber from threatening protestors, after he took out his gun and pointed it at the people who were calling him “Thief, Thief!.”
Capitalism’s “creative destruction,” which robbed Bosnians of their resources, while allowing Western-backed feudal barons enrich themselves in the name of “the market,” finally got what it deserved. “We have been sleeping for two decades!” said one protester from Sarajevo urging people to take it to the streets:
Protests erupted in Tuzla, the third largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, once the industrial heart of the North, in what seems to have been the last straw.
“You have really hungry people who decided to do something,” said Dunja Tadic, a Bosnian woman from Tuzla. “People here are not living lives, they are simply surviving. Maybe 15% of the population lives well, mostly those who are stealing and their relatives. They destroyed the so-called middle class. All in all I don’t see how it can be any better here.”
Police were sent in to attack workers in Tuzla, in order to quell their demonstration.
5,000 local residents took it to the streets in response. Government buildings were set on fire.
In less than 24 hours, solidarity protests erupted in the Croat-Muslim half of Bosnia and Herzegovina: government offices and the presidency in Sarajevo were set on fire, and the same happened in Zenica. People flooded the streets in Bihac, too, and later hundreds took it to the streets in Banja Luka, the capital of the Serb half of the country. “We are all citizens of Bosnia and we all have the same difficult lives here,” one of the organisers Aleksandar Zolja of the rally in Banja Luca told the rally.
On the walls of government buildings in Tuzla people wrote “Everybody to the streets. Death to nationalism!”, a powerful cry in the region where people suffered some of the worst ethnic massacres at the end of the last century.
A cry that unites the working people, since the rebellion is the clear result of the class war led by the ruling elites against working people for decades now.
One protester in his 20s said: “Everyone is here because everyone has a problem with this government. Young people don’t have jobs. Older people don’t have pensions. Everyone is fed up.”
This is an election year, but everywhere protesters reject political parties, and these protests attack all politicians.
In the cheers of a crowd of peaceful residents, one old man wrote on a government building in Sarajevo: “He who sows hunger reaps anger.”
The region was hit and destroyed by criminal privatizations – which created a feudal-like ruling class – and forced factories to shut down in a country where one in 4 is now left without work or means to survive. In the Northern region of Bosnia, more than 100,000 people are unemployed.
Four companies, which employ thousands of locals, were privatized by the state and the new owners sold the assets, sacked the workers, and filed for bankruptcy. They have not paid the salaries of the workers for months. One of the workers tried to commit suicide.
Hana Obradovic, an unemployed philosophy and political science graduate who participated in the protests in Tuzla said: “Our government sold state companies for peanuts, leaving people without their pensions or social security,” she said. “Their families have nothing to eat, while our politicians sit in these institutions and steal from people.”
A classical modus operandi of the criminal privatization process everywhere in Eastern Europe and even in the West, hailed by the capitalist elites as “reform.”
Even some mainstream media outlets admit that: “Many say that feuding political leaders, brought to power by a power-sharing system created under Bosnia’s 1995 peace deal, offer few solutions for the country’s problems.”
Everywhere in Eastern Europe privatization has produced local capitalist barons, immersing the working class in poverty or economic migration as cheap labor for the Western Europe.
Thursday in Tuzla, workers from Vladom TK took it to the streets to demonstrate peacefully to put a stop to their factory being shut down and to save their jobs. Riot police attacked them to break their demonstration and beat the people who called the protests.
They arrested their union leaders. One of them, Sakib Kopić, from “Polihema” union, spoke to local journalists by phone while he was under police arrest: “They keep us here for more than an hour, and nobody tells us anything.”
People’s fury exploded. 5,000 local residents in Tuzla joined the workers and set fire to government buildings, tires and police cars.
The government arrested Aldin Širanović, one of the leaders of the group called “Stroke,” which together with another group called “Revolt” helped people organize. He was released after a few hours, and said he was severely beaten under arrest. Union leader Sakib Kopić said he saw Širanović broken by the police: “Blood was pouring from his nose. They did not take him to hospital.”
“They were given the order to remove us from the streets, and that’s it. Then they started to attack us. Lots of people got injured. I saw a child of 15 years old who was all bloody, and who was crammed in one bus. They did not let him out. Doctors wanted to help him, but the cops locked the boy in the bus,” said Kopić.
When police started to arrest protesters, more residents and workers from other companies joined the demonstrations. They were joined by students from the Electrotechnical School, which is located near the government buildings. For now people respond to police repression, but there are no signs of other forms of organisation.
However, an organisation called the anti-corruption league demanded the government to obligate the company they privatized to re-hire the workers they fired. They demand the government to employ social workers in elementary schools, and secure incomes for unemployed mothers, an increase and equalisation of social benefits, an increase of pensions, the abolition of financial privileges for state officials (they have salaries of thousands of euro a month while people barely survive), equalisation of all the salaries of politicians with the salaries of other people in the state sector and in the private sector all over the federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and, as they say: “We want the right to life.”
In response to the police violence, in less than 24 hours, solidarity protests erupted all over Bosnia and Herzegovina: 20 cities all over the country rose in fury, beyond the ethnic divide responsible for some of the most horrific massacres of the past century.
Hundreds gathered in front of the government building in Sarajevo. People threw stones and eggs in the parliament building. “Out with you, you bunch of thieves”, shouted people at state officials and lawmakers.
“We need to stay united and stand by Tuzla. We have to wake up from hibernation. There is no way out of this but Revolution,” protesters said.
“We are collectively dissatisfied and unhappy in this country. We have to put an end to crime, corruption and oppression of citizens,” said Latif Tajic, a protester.
In Zenica, when ministers saw the people on the streets expressing solidarity with the workers in Tuzla, they fled in hiding. “Get out, you thieves,” shouted people who surrounded their government offices.
“Today has been a struggle for Tuzla. Tomorrow it will be the struggle for all of us,” said protesters.
After they covered the government buildings in Bihac in eggs and stones, people occupied them. Protests have been largely peaceful here. In Mostar, dozens of people blocked the traffic when news of police attacking workers in Tuzla reached them. People kept shouting the same thing: “Thieves! We want change!”
The Anti-Corruption League appealed to people all over Bosnia and Herzegovina to rise up: “The corrupt political elite… steals from all of us in the same way. In war we all suffered the same. They all profited from the blood and the ruins in all our countries.
They are all the same. It’s time to denounce the war profiteers and the political mafia in the Balkans and pronounce their sentence.” This league supports the dismissal of the government ministers who “are lying to us for 20 years. We are tired of nepotism, corruption and robbery.”
“We are people. We are not slaves. We want to live lives worthy of humans. Take it to the street everywhere in the Balkans. Tell the elite their time is up.”
This privatization process, enforced by Western capitalist elites, has been creating a new ruling class, formed by local and regional tycoons or barons, who control the political and economic power in Eastern Europe – among many other places. Liberal “democracies” call that “transition and reform,” but it’s nothing other than the forced dependency of people on “the market.” Mainstream media focused their reports on chairs thrown and windows broken, and police being attacked after they failed to end the protests, but they don’t say that what is happening in Bosnia is the result of western-backed mafia politicians and policies, aimed at sacrificing people’s lives for the creation of malls and economic migration of cheap labor.
Such pathetic propaganda neglects to say a word about the reasons which left people in Bosnia and Herzegovina with no other choice but to riot. They seem to miss the point of these protests: working people don’t expect any “salvation” from EU or US, they have had enough of that over the past decades.