Radical Fight For Democratic Socialism In Serbia
It has been 30 years since people in Serbia had a genuine leftist option representing the interests of the majority. Many things happened in those three decades – civil war conflicts, the NATO bombing, the October 5th Revolution, transition to democracy implying predatory privatizations, and the hurtful downfall to the autocratic regime led by the Serbian Progressive Party. Meanwhile, authentically progressive ideas have been marginalized in favor of the rich. The country is currently in a neocolonial position, being a haven for the cheap labor force, the land of the oppressed majority. There is finally a political party ready to stand against the complex capitalist dehumanization of common people because this party is made by common people.
Over the past weekend, on 5th and 6th September, a party formerly known as Social-democratic Union held its 12th Congress, organized online and offline to be adjusted to the challenging situation with the coronavirus, becoming the first-ever party in Serbia to hold its Congress online. That is, hopefully, not the only historical achievement of this Congress. Over the past six years, the new generation of the party’s leaders and members was leaning more to the left, abandoning social democracy and adopting democratic socialism, building alliances with workers and unions, and initiating other activist initiatives. The party has also worked on uniting leftist actors scattered across other organizations, such as The Left Summit of Serbia and Serbian chapter of DiEM25, as well as on attracting new people who were not previously engaged in politics. As a result, the Congress members have conducted the transformation of the party now officially named The Party of the Radical Left.
The values this party promotes do seem radical in capitalist circumstances. The party, however, insists that these values should be normalized, with the new Program highlighting the importance of labor rights, the right to roof above head, access to essential resources and services, equality, solidarity, freedom, democracy, internationalism, anti-imperialism, anti-fascism and the society valuing people over profits. Determined to combat diverse types of inequalities, the party is also determined to reflect those tendencies in its own structure. The party is now led by five presidents, with three of them being women, which is a huge leap forward in Serbian context. Milena Repajić (32), a historian from Smederevo, Mina Milošević (22), a student from Požarevac, Isidora Aćimov (29), a student from Zrenjanin, Ivan Velisavljević (38), a playwright from Šabac and Ivan Zlatić (45), an activist from Čačak, make the new presidential team engaged to sharing the decision-making processes, responsibilities and party representation. The Congress members have also voted for the 30 members of the new Main Board of the party, in charge of designing the core strategies of party’s work.
The party has several hundreds of members coming from across the country and gathers primarily workers and activists fighting with and for them. The struggle was grassroots all along, based on workers’ efforts around factories such as Jugoremedija in the north and Prvi maj in the south of the country, on preventing forced evictions through Collective action A Roof above Head, on defending nature resources through The Right to Water, with these two activists’ initiatives being co-founded by the party. The struggle also includes the forces of students’ movements from Belgrade and Novi Sad, the country’s most populated cities. Being fully grassroots also means scarce finances, relying solely upon members’ contributions. The lack of funding is being compensated by the selfless amounts of invested energy, knowledge and time, as well as the determination of the members to mirror their own struggles in the party structure and program and to create a political option that was not present on the voting ballots in decades.
Hence, the party includes specific bodies for achieving a holistic approach to a fair future. The Board for International Collaboration is focused on re-establishing regional collaboration through partnerships with leftist parties from the region. This Board has recently launched a Declaration of regional solidarity during the COVID-19 crisis with Workers’ Front (Croatia), The New Left (Croatia) and The Left (Slovenia), signed by around 2000 people. The Board for Social Issues is direct its work towards establishing collaboration with workers and unions and, amidst the coronavirus crisis, it ran a campaign for providing workers in supermarkets with better labor conditions. The Labour Youth is the party’s autonomous organization for youngest members, while Women’s Front is an autonomous women’s body fighting for gender equality and operationalizing feminist values inside and outside the party.
Besides attracting new people and establishing new territorial units across the country, the nearest future brings the continuation of struggles the party is already recognized by – fighting for labor rights, the right to housing and women’s liberation, as well as tightening the bonds with regional partners. As the recent experience from the region has shown us, with the success of leftist forces in Croatia, the need for genuine leftist options not only exists but also is growing, regardless of the efforts of the establishment to demonize the ideas of socialism. With the capitalist oppression present in every aspect of our lives, we do not have the luxury of “tackling” the oppression anymore; it is needed to crush such an unfair system and create a new system on fair grounds, which is a task only a radical left party is able to conduct.
Author: Galina Maksimović (26) is a playwright and feminist activist. She is a member of The Party of the Radical Left, a member of the Party’s City board in Belgrade and a member of the Party’s Main board.