Under the slogan «Utopia of Democracy» Subversive Festival in Zagreb took place from 4th to 18th of May 2013
Since its foundation six years ago Subversive Festival, consisting of the Subersive Forum, the evening Conference and the Subversive Book fair, developed into a central meeting place for the Left in Southeast Europe. Over a hundred participants from the region, many thousands of visitors from Zagreb and a number of prominent international guests took part. The debates with Alexis Tsipras, Oliver Stone, Aleida Guevara, Slavoj Žižek, Tariq Ali and Silvia Federici amongst others draw the attention of a broader public. Boris Kanzleiter talked to Srećko Horvat and Igor Štiks, the co-organizers of the Subversive Festival.
The topic of Subversive Festival was “Utopia of Democracy” but many discussions focused rather on the democratic deficit of the European Union. What are the main conclusions of the Festival in regard of the situation in Europe and Croatia becoming member of EU next July?
There was no real or substantial discussion about the accession to the EU in Croatia. Already the low turn-out to the referendum regarding the accession (only 43%) and the recent first elections for the Europarlament (21%) show there is no more optimism in the air, like in 2004 when 10 countries, including Slovenia, joined the EU. The main conclusions of the Subversive Forum go in that direction: on 1 July 2013 Croatia won't join the EU, but will in reality become a full-fledged member of - the EU periphery. The crisis in Slovenia is a clear sign what could happen to Croatia soon. Instead of deepening the crisis with austerity measures and new privatizations, the main conclusion is that we need a stronger solidarity movement in the South. But, without solidarity between the centre of Europe and the periphery, namely Germany and France with all other peripheral countries, there can be no common movement and no effective solution to the current crisis. The Subversive Forum is, in this sense, part of the new pan-European movement, from Blockupy in Germany, the Altersummit in Greece, to the rising Italian and Spanish movements. There is no democracy without direct democracy, but direct democratic actions can disappear quickly without productive cooperation with different forms of serious institutional struggles like the one Syriza is involved in.
One of the most prominent guests was Alexis Tsipras, the chairman of SYRIZA in Greece. How was his presence and his statements received in the Croatian public?
It was for the first time that Alexis Tsipras visited Croatia and this part of Europe. It is hugely important to break the neoliberal consensus and the prevailing discourse in the Balkans, which is summed up in TINA ("there is no alternative"). Although Tsipras is critical towards social-democracy, which is the main position of the current ruling government in Croatia, he had an official meeting with the Croatian president Ivo Josipović at which he warned him about the crisis of Europe and inappropriate answers by the ruling elites. During his stay in Zagreb, Tsipras also met director Oliver Stone who openly supported him and expressed hope he would be the next prime minister of Greece. And he had a public debate with Slavoj Žižek on "The role of the European Left", attended by almost 1000 people. Of course, some Croatian media were following the German recipe (Financial Times & Spiegel) calling Tsipras a "radical" and “a dangerous man”. However, the general reaction was very positive, and even enthusiastic.
Oliver Stone also attracted a lot of media attention. How were his criticism of the US foreign politics and his sympathy for Hugo Chavez and the Latin American Left received in the public?
The opening of Eastern Europe, but also of the EU in general, to the experience of Latin America is of crucial importance. That is the reason why besides Oliver Stone and Tariq Ali, who is also an expert on Latin America, the Subversive Festival hosted Aleida Guevara from Cuba. Her visit to Zagreb, Rijeka and Istria was a huge success and initiated a lot of public and media interest. Our guests’ thoughts on different social and political models in the "South of Border" - from Venezuela, to Bolivia and Ecuador - provoked a vivid and important debate about realistic alternatives to the current socioeconomic crisis in Europe. Oliver Stone became a new friend of the Festival, and proved that Hollywood can also be useful in our common struggle. His "Untold History of the United States" is a crucial documentary showing the hidden spots of US foreign policy.
Besides lectures by many prominent left intellectuals a second Balkan Forum, as part of the Subversive Forum, took place during the Festival as well. What was the purpose, who participated and what are the conclusions?
The first Balkan Forum gave a clear direction to Balkan progressive movements and actors. We have to build a pan-Balkan movement of mutual communication, cooperation and solidarity. We should fight against artificial, but nonetheless real, borders imposed between our countries. We should detect the main areas of struggle for social, political and economic change in the contemporary Balkans. The Second Balkan Forum confirmed this orientation and gave new impetus to regional cooperation through sessions organised by the movements themselves and in mutual pan-Balkan cooperation, and through very concrete proposals of action in the domains of democratization and participation, sex and gender equality, the commons, workers’ struggles, alternative economic models and, last but not the least, the media and public sphere.
During the Festival there was an international meeting for the preparation of Alter Summit. Do you see possibilities to include social movements from the Balkans in the European mobilization against Austerity politics and Neoliberalism?
For the first time there was a significant participation of Balkan movements in pan-European initiatives such as Alter-summit. Many activists will be in Athens in June. This initiative shows that we are about to succeed in one of the fundamental tasks of the Subversive Forum: break the communication wall between ‘Western’ and ‘Eastern’ Europe and build common strategies and actions in Europe and, furthermore, in the Mediterranean.