Freedom Fight Movement (Pokret za slobodu)

By taking off and destroying the Privatization Agency plaque we want symbolically to start the process of abolition of the institutions which have been acting against the interests and the existence of the majority of Serbian citizens since its creation. It is just another step of our organization in fighting the capitalist actions against workers and peasants. We also want to set an example for other workers and to show them the way we should fight in the future.

For years we have been leading the battle against the privatization in Serbia and we have organized numerous protests, trying to call the attention to the systematic destruction of economy for the sake of just a few people. Workers’ fight had the effect and caused the reconsideration of numerous illegal privatizations, but the whole robbery system still exists. The current state fight against the corruption goes into the wrong direction, because there is no abolition of the institutions responsible for the biggest robberies. We want to say very clearly that there is no chance for an economic recovery without the abolition of the Privatization Agency and the privatization capitalist policy. Only then we will be able to create an alternative economy under the democratic people control which will benefit all citizens and care for the common goods, the land, the natural resources and the environment.

We do not care about the fact we have committed an illegal act. It is an absolutely legitimate action when we look at the unconstitutional actions of the Privatization Agency and their effects on the workers’ standard of living and the unemployment rate. It is an absolutely legitimate action because our future must be built on the completely new anti-capitalist and anti-privatization foundations.

We call to workers for solidarity and continuous fighting.

Until the victory is won!

Your POKRET ZA SLOBODU (FREEDOM FIGHT MOVEMENT)

Belgrade, 25 March 2013.
Interview by Ana Vilenica, magazine Uzbuna
translated to English by Noëmie Duhaut
 - The current urban transformations in Serbian cities are closely related to the process of de-industrialisation, the new entrepreneurial urbanism as well as to the change from social to state and private ownership. Yugoslavia was a country of workers, that is, of working people. What effect did these changes had on the workers of former public firms? And what is their situation today?

All the mentioned processes are the consequence of the fact that people from this region have lost the battle with the imperialist plans for the region. The atomised and bickering statelets of former Yugoslavia in no way decide their fate, they are completely subordinated to the interests of big business. Being weakened, they do not have the strength to fight for the capacity to decide on anything substantial, or to protect the interests of their inhabitants, and thus all areas of social life are subordinate to the processes leading to the complete degradation of social rights. The dismemberment of Yugoslavia by the ruling nationalist elites suited international powers – bothered by every sovereign state whose existence is an obstacle to the expanding the interests of global capital – much more than them. The mechanism of destruction of Yugoslavia by instigating tribal, nationalist passions and arming their supporters is now being applied in other countries that have not yet put their markets and natural resources at the disposal of the global interests of big capital which has the world's most powerful military force. If the general degradation of workers' rights is considered in the context of an emerging colonial system, many things become more understandable. Every segment of society has to be subordinated to the dominant logic of profit-making ruling, to corporations and investors, whether in production, politics, urban planning, art or education. The workers are, according to this logic, the most unimportant factor; they are consumer goods, especially in a society with so many unemployed.
By Srećko Pulig (www.novossti.com), 25.02.2013.
Translated by Vladimir Bogićević
From Serbia news arrive that about a hundred workers and small shareholders from all across the country, gathered at the demonstrations in Belgrade, demanded for the Privatization Agency, local counterpart of the Croatian Privatization Fund (CPF), to be abolished. One of the reports begins like this: “Without job, without money, without much hope to achieve justice and to reclaim property of social enterprises where they once worked, and which are today mainly in bankruptcy, liquidation, or with assets sold and capital drawn into far islands firms, about a hundred workers and small shareholders of Kragujevac, Vršac, Zrenjanin, Subotica and Belgrade companies protested yesterday before the Privatization Agency, and then before the Presidency. The list of demands is not long, but it strikes at the core of privatization disaster wherein about a half million people lost their job”  (from Miloš Obradović’s article).

New Pokret za slobodu's protest walk will take place on Monday, 18th February, beginning with gathering before the Privatization Agency at 4 pm. From there, protest procession will proceed to the Serbian Parliament and Ministry of Economy, and then to the Presidency, where we expect negotiations initiated at the last protest to continue.
WE DEMAND:
- Determining responsibility of the state and of the competent institutions for privatization theft.
- Determining Privatization Agency's responsibility and its closing down.
- Passing the Law on non-limitation of offenses in privatization.
- Restoring production in damaged companies.
- Restoring domestic production instead of subsidizing multinational corporations.
- Stopping the sale of companies and agricultural land.
COME TO CREATE FUTURE TOGETHER
POKRET ZA SLOBODU - FREEDOM FIGHT

Statement of Coordination Committee of Workers and Peasants Organizations

In the last decade, workers protests have, directly and indirectly, led to certain positive changes in our society. However, there are still many things to be changed. On Monday 18th February in 4 PM, by gathering before the Privatization Agency, we will continue our long year struggle against corruption in privatization. Like all recent protests in POKRET ZA SLOBODU's organization, this one too is dedicated to the memory of VERICA BARAĆ, the person who made the most effort for the rights of common people to be respected in our country. We invite all workers, associations and unions that care about the public interest of society we live in to join us and support the protest.
All together to victory!
Coordination Committee of Workers and Peasants Organizations
Pokret Ravnopravnost, Zrenjanin
Udruženje Solidarnost, Subotica
Pokret akcionara, radnika i sindikata, Kragujevac
Udruženje Paori, Crepaja
Udruženje Obruč, Ratkovo
Građansko-sindikalni front, Vršac
Udruženje bivših radnika Zastave elektro, Rača
Udruženje akcionara i bivših radnika Srboleka, Beograd
Udruženje za zaštitu prava radnika Uranak, Rakovica
Samostalni sindikat UP ‘‘Tri grozda‘‘
Samostalni sindikat metalaca Srbije Minel Transformatori
Savez samostalnih sindikata Srbije u IP“Prosveta“ a.d, Beograd
Udruženje akcionara IP“Prosveta“ a.d, Beograd
Pokret za slobodu
FREEDOM FIGHT MOVEMENT (Serbian: POKRET ZA SLOBODU) organized protest in front of Agency for privatization and in front of Presidency to put a pressure on a state to repair the damage that was done to the economy during the privatization process. Protest led to the negotiations with the Oliver Antić, adviser of Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić. He made a promise that state will investigate all failed privatization cases and work on recovering the production in companies destroyed by the state-led privatization. If the promises are not fulfilled, the workers from Freedom Fight Movement will soon continue their protest until the final victory.
Platform for agricultural reform adopted by workers and peasants organisations that participated in the Freedom Fight movement (Pokret za slobodu) conference in the village Ljubiš on Zlatibor 9th-10th of June 2012
To the head of EU Delegation to Serbia, Mister Vincent Degert,
To the European Parliament Special Envoy for the Balkans, Mister Jelko Kacin,
To the European Commission,

http://pokret.net/cms/uploads/PropositionForMonitoringSerbiaAdvanceToEU.pdf

Letter sent on 17th April 2012

In memory of Verica Barać, 17th April Pokret za slobodu held a press conference and organized a protest during which the representatives of executive power were again delivered the reports of Anti-Corruption Council to which there has been no answer for years.

17th April 2012 - Over three hundred people gathered to protest illegal and corrupt privatization outside the Government of Serbia in Belgrade on the afternoon of April 17th. Organized by Freedom Fight (Pokret za Slobodu), the demonstration took aim at the economic and social problems which have accompanied privatization and the introduction of neo-liberal market reforms: unemployment, deindustrialization, poverty, etc. The protest began with a march to the state building from a press conference in which representatives from Freedom Fight and various workers’ organizations announced that they would deliver a report on corruption and privatization to the Balkan representative of the European Commission. The report follows from a resolution of the European Parliament last month calling on Serbia to investigate 24 contentious and potentially illegal privatizations, a list that includes some of the country’s  the most prominent firms: Mobtel, C Market, Jugoremedija, Sartid, Zastava Elektro and ATP Vojvodina. The resolution poses an obstacle to Serbia’s quest for EU membership and European integration more generally, and highlights the urgent need to renew the country’s manufacturing base and prevent further economic collapse. The presentation of the report also aimed to honor the legacy of Verica Barać, the recently deceased president of Serbia’s Anti-Corruption Council, and her long battle against the corruption, criminality and theft carried out in the name of privatization. Today’s protest marked only the latest effort on the part of workers, students, small shareholders in privatized enterprises and others to challenge systemic corruption and injustice in Serbia, and the state apparatuses that have enabled, tolerated and even colluded in the impoverishment and upheaval that has resulted.
by Irina Cerić

In June 2011, for six days Serbian farmers have blocked the roads in Vojvodina, Serbian „wheatland“. Most of the Danube bridges have been impassable for days, while the city of Novi Sad was completely cut off. The peasants’ protest reached all the way to Pančevo, northeast of Belgrade. The conflict, berely noticed among the European public, was a reaction to reduction of already low subsidies for land cultivation in agriculture. That incident speaks not only of the situation of peasant men and women, but also of the effects of privatization and deindustrialization in Serbia.

Miroslav Grubanov in the picture

17th Novembar 2011, University Johan Keppler in Linz, conference ''Krise und reale Utopien''

By John Jordan and Isabelle Fremeaux (Paths Through Utopias, 2011)

Our arrival in Central Europe is astounding. Our old van struggles on the deserted mountain roads of Slovenia, giving us plenty of time to admire the forests whose fir-trees are weighed down under the snow and bathed in a pinkish golden light.

We get to Croatia without problem and go through the border in a matter of minutes whilst, on the other side, Fortress Europe reveals itself in the shadows of endless queues of waiting cars.

On the day of 22nd December, conference Social struggles in Serbia: future of workers-peasants movement took place in Media center in Belgrade, where gathered the representatives of workers and peasants organizations that collaborate with Freedom Fight movement (Pokret za slobodu) in the struggle for preserving enterprises and agriculture. During the conference, first were presented two platforms which had been adopted after a number of discussions which members of Freedom Fight movement had led with workers and peasants groups and organizations. Freedom Fight movement is organization that works on advancement of workers and peasants associations and tries to facilitate alliance of actors of various social struggles in order to create the basis for wider mutual solidarity and support.
Pokret za slobodu (Freedom Fight) joined international initiative for struggle against land grabbing. In Serbia, large quantities of land in possession of a small number of people are on the rise too. During the privatization of collective farms and agricultural complexes tycoons have acquired a large area of arable land for small amount of money. Over 100.000 hectares are in possession of no more than four rich landowners. In the process of privatization they have usually payed just 500 euros per hectare. Four years after Stabilization and Association Agreement took effect, they’ll have opportunity to sell that very land to foreign companies for a price 10 or 100 times greater. Privatized agricultural plants and enterprises go to bankruptcy because owners are not interested in production – they rather resale their land or transform agricultural soil into construction fields. In that way, land is mainly used for making a small number of people richer – instead of being protected as a basis of socially most needed branch of economy. Half of Serbian people live in the country, and third of employed ones work in agriculture. Under circumstances of deindustrialization and low level of industrial production, land and agriculture should be prized as a drop of water in a desert.
In order to support the Jugoremedija workers’ struggle, please sign this e-mail below and send it to the following 5 addresses:

delegation-serbia@eeas.europa.eu,

president@europarl.europa.eu,

jelko.kacin@europarl.europa.eu,

info@pokret.net,

pismo@freedomfight.net

Letter of support to workers of Sinvoz and BEK, Serbia, Zrenjanin

A year and a half ago, more than 60 prominent intellectuals and activists of the world supported the struggle of the workers-shareholders of Zrenjanin pharmaceutical factory Jugoremedija. That support was key to the most important victory of Serbia's workers over the past eight years: on March 1st 2007, Jugoremedija became the first factory in Serbia controlled by its workers-shareholders.

Today the Jugoremedija workers-shareholders are supporting the struggle of other Zrenjanin workers for their rights.

We are asking you to read the following description of the circumstances that forced us to occupy our factories and if you would like to sign this letter of support, please send it to the following addresses, thank you:

pismo@freedomfight.net,
kabinet.merr@merr.sr.gov.yu,
kontakt.predsednik@predsednik.yu,
info@priv.yu,
aleksandar.gracanac@share-fund.co.yu 

[more...]

 


Catalan, Serbian workers 'squat' in factories
By Martha Grevatt

http://www.workers.org/2008/world/catalan_serbian_0110/

WORKERS WORLD (USA)

Published Jan 6, 2008 9:42 PM

The phrase "sit-down strike" generally evokes images of the 1930s,
specifically the 1936-37 takeover of General Motors in Flint, Mich., that
led to the recognition of the United Auto Workers. However, in 2007 a number
of sporadic sit-downs have occurred outside the U.S., most recently in
Serbia and the Catalan region of Spain. Workers at the Behr auto parts plant
in Barcelona and the "Shinvoz" factory in Zrenjanin, Serbia, are ringing in
the new year by occupying their place of employment.

Earlier this year workers occupied factories in Canada, Australia, Wales and
in the Spanish state.
The 470 Shinvoz metal workers are protesting the privatization of their
factory. They are supported by workers of Jugoremedija, a pharmaceutical
plant that workers had occupied to protest being privatized. They ended the
nine-month occupation when their 58 percent stake in the plant was restored.
"At this moment," writes the Balkan edition of Z magazine, "these workers
are the most progressive element of Serbian society. They are fighting for
their own working places, for equal rights, and they are inspiring whole
Serbia to fight against neoliberalism."

The article went on to explain that when a firm is privatized, "the buyer of
the state-owned factory does the following: through illegal means he first
puts the company in enormous debt to his own firms. Then he takes it out of
bankruptcy. This rids his company of all smaller shareholders and all
obligations towards the workers from the original collective bargaining
agreement with the privatized company."

Meanwhile, the 300 Frape Behr workers are protesting a "labor force
adjustment plan" to eliminate their jobs, as well as the retaliatory firing
of six workers. Their slogan in Catalan is: "Guerra, guerra, guerra, La
Frape no cerra" (War, war, war, La Frape will not close). Supporters are
demonstrating outside the occupied plant.

Behr, based in Stuttgart, Germany, makes automobile air conditioning units.
The workers have received messages of solidarity from unionists in Germany,
Norway and Canada. They have asked for protest letters, faxes, and phone
calls to be sent to Behr company locations in the United States:

 

Sinvoz: a photo essay on factory blockades and a privatization tragedy

On December 28, 2007, about 400 Sinvoz worker-shareholders blockaded the factory and demanded the cancellation of privatization agreement with Ivkovic and relief from bankruptcy. In response to pressure brought to bear by the workers, the Privatization Agency’s last investigation confirmed that Ivkovic had not invested in Sinvoz as required by the privatization agreement but did not cancel the contract, instead giving him an extra 15 days to complete the required investments.

[more...]

 

Workers of ``Shinvoz``, factory from Zrenjanin, Serbia, occupied their factory, 28 decembar 2007.

Workers are now squatting in the factory to put pressure on the Agency for privatization to break a privatization contract because it caused bankruptcy of factory.

Workers of ``Shinvoz`` are supported by other workers of ``Jugoremedija``, ``Bek``, etc, factories from Zrenjanin that are already managed by workers.

At this moment these workers are the most progressive element of Serbian society. They are fighting for their own working places, for equal rights, and they are inspiring whole Serbia to fight against neoliberalism by supporting Balkan edition of Z magazine.
www.freedomfight.net

1. novembar 2007

Z Magazine Balkans, print magazine that is distributed in Serbia, is not allowed to enter Croatia. The only one Croatian press distributor ''Tisak'' that is shiping press from Serbia to Croatia refused to distribute Z Magazine Balkans with an explanation that it is ''not appropriate for them'' and ''it don't fit in their policy'' although the Croatian Media Law claims that ''press distributors can't refuse to take press of other publisher that ask for and states that accepts General Rules'' for all publishers.

Z magazine Balkans is a print magazine produced by Freedom Fight, a grassroots organization based in Serbia, and it is modeled on Z Magazine US and utilizing content from it as well as local content bearing more directly on the Balkans. It is published four times per year and the next issue is coming out on 1 Decembar. Web address is on www.freedomfight.net.

 

 

Freedom Fight is producing ZMag Balkans, a new print magazine, for Balkan audiences, modeled on Z Magazine US and utilizing content from it as well as local content bearing more directly on the Balkans

Interview: Freedom Fight, ZNet, February 20, 2007.

If you could first introduce Freedom Fight to ZNet readers, and then give us something of the socio-political background of contemporary Serbia. I have just been reading the latest UNICEF report, according to which there are over 300,000 children today who are living in poverty or are at risk of poverty. These kinds of things were unimaginable 15 years ago. They were, dare I say it, unimaginable not only in the times of Yugoslav state-socialism, but also in the times of Slobodan Milosevic's cleptocratic regime. It seems that neoliberal, modern and European Serbia demonstrates certain atavistic social traits. Serbia is now considered to be "the last Balkan state". Balkan is still considered to be a permanent and natural powder keg of Europe, pacified by the international capitalist community, a region that is, as Richard Holbrooke pointed out, "too complicated (and trivial) for outsiders to master". How does an anarchist feel living and fighting in this "strange and feral Balkans" (Simon Winchester)?

[more...]

 

Interview: Freedom Fight, Monthly Review, February 02, 2007.

Milenko Srećković is a spokesperson for the Balkan anarchist movement FreedomFight and is one of the editors of the webzine www.freedomfight.net.

Q: Could you start by telling us a bit about the alternative media initiative you are involved with?

[more...]

 

Private companies in serbia forbid workers to organise labour unions, ZNet, July 11, 2007

Belgrade, Serbia July 3rd--The results of research conducted on the rights of workers and their access to labor organizations for middle and large sized companies throughout Serbia are now compiled and documented by Freedom Fight, a grassroots organization based in Balkan.

[more...]

 

Parecon as a New Path for the Balkans?, ZNet, August 01, 2007 

by Michael Albert and Andrej Grubacic 

The following interview was prepared for ZMag Balkans, a new print magazine, produced by "Freedom Fight collective" for Balkan audiences, modeled on Z Magazine US and utilizing content from it as well as local content bearing more directly on the Balkans. The interview was done, more specifically, at the request of the workers in a pharmaceutical factory, "Jugoremedija," in Zrenjanin (Serbia) for an issue of ZMag Balkans focusing on participatory economics. The workers are running the plant, having taken it over, and are looking for information and ideas about how to rearrange their workplace to escape the ills of both capitalism and the market socialism they experienced in Yugoslavia. The interviewer was Andrej Grubacic, who is working with both the new magazine and the workers in the plant.

[more...]

 

Major Victory for Worker Recovered Factory "Jugoremedija" in Serbia 

by Association of Worker-Shareholders of Serbia -- AW-SA

December 28, 2006

Dear comrades, allies, and supporters,

A major victory for worker's rights and struggles in Serbia has been won following a 9 month factory occupation and a 2 and a half year strike by the workers of Jugoremedija in Zrenjanin, Serbia. On December 14, 2006, the Belgrade Higher Economic Court reaffirmed the  June 2006 ruling of the Zrenjanin Economic Court that the recapitalization of the Zrenjanin-based pharmaceutical factory Jugoremedija be repealed because it was carried out illegally through the illegitimate manoeuvres of businessman Jovica Stefanovic Nini to attempt to gain majority ownership. This means that the ownership of the workers has now been restored to their rightful 58% of the company shares. With this decision, Jugoremedija is set to become the  first factory amongst the "transition" countries in Eastern Europe undergoing neoliberal privatization to be recovered and controlled by its workers.

[more...]

 

Chronology of fight for Jugoremedija

Although without jobs for two years, the workers of «Jugoremedija» refused to quit. Their militancy and creative direct actions made them a symbol of resistance to neoliberal capitalism in Serbia.

The Recuperated Factory Movement Spreads to Eastern Europe: Jugoremedija Pharmaceutical Factory Workers Face Eviction

Serbian pharmaceutical factory «Jugoremedija», from the town of Zrenjanin, was privatized in 2000, in such a way that 58% of the shares were given to the workers, and the state took 42%. In 2002, the state sold it’s shares to Jovica Stefanovic, an infamous local capitalist, who made his fortune smuggling cigarettes, and who was wanted by Interpol at the time he bought the shares of «Jugoremedija». As all the other buyers in Serbian privatization, Stefanovic was not even investigated in money laundering, because the Serbian Government’s position at that time was, and still is, that it’s better to have dirty money in privatization, than to let workers manage the company, because that will “bring us back to the dark days of self-management”.

Allow us to give you a little context.

The first attack on Yugoslav self-management happened before the break up of socialist Yugoslavia. The first organized attempt to dismantle the system of self-management in Serbia dates back to the times of Slobodan Milosevic. But the real full-blown process of privatization and curtailment of workers rights happen after Milosevic was sent to the Hague Tribunal. In this context in transitional Serbia of the 21st century, with the transition to capitalism and parliamentary democracy, everything became allowed in the fight against what the new neoliberal government saw as the “ideological monster of self management” – even if it means the government and the court break laws.

Breaking all the rules, the state allowed the new co-owner of Jugoremedija, Stefanovic to become the dominant owner of the factory. Through various illegal maneuvers the ownership structure was changed: Stefanovic was given 68% of the shares and the workers portion was reduced to 32%.

In December 2003 the workers began a strike, and factory occupation, as well as a lawsuit against the recapitalization. This was the first work place occupation in the post socialist Yugoslavia!

In May 2004 the state, pressed by the workers, investigated privatization of «Jugoremedija» found that Stefanovic’s investment was in violation of the contract.

The state did nothing to enforce the violation of the contract. In response the workers, mainly women, came to the capital, Belgrade, and occupied the state’s Privatization Agency for one whole day. Only after this occupation did the state begin to take the violation seriously. Meanwhile the factory occupation continued.

During summer of 2004, Stefanovic’s private army tried several times to take over the factory, but the workers, with breathtaking courage, kicked them out. Sometimes using their bodies to block the military vehicles. This kept the boss out. … but he returned …

In September 2004, the private army was joined by the Serbian police, who had the order to evict the workers from «Jugoremedija». Police and the private army forced their way into the factory, resulting in the hospitalization of many workers and the arrest of four of the leaders of the strike. The workers were then charged with disturbing the peace. Criminal proceedings are still taking place. Now that he physically emptied the factory he illegally fired the two hundred workers.

After participating in a Peoples Global Action conference in Belgrade, in August of 2004, workers from «Jugoremedija» joined with workers from other factories to form the Union of Workers and Shareholders of Serbia. At first the Union’s mission was limited to fighting against corruption in privatization, but after experiencing different aspects of Serbian privatization, the Union came out with another demand – the call for a constituent assembly. They believe that the people should make the decisions that effect their lives and work places, and a new constitution can help make this happen. Graffiti appeared on the walls of Belgrade asking, “ Who owns our factories?”

Although without jobs for two years, the workers of «Jugoremedija» refused to quit. Their militancy and creative direct actions made them a symbol of resistance to neoliberal capitalism in Serbia.

Finally, as a response to a series of direct and legal actions, in May 2006 the Serbian Supreme Court reached the decision that recapitalization was in violation of the contract, and ordered Zrenjanin Economic Court to re-open the case. Last Friday, Zrenjanin Economic Court brought ownership structure back to 58%-42%.

According to Serbian law, workers-shareholders need three weeks to call for an assembly of all shareholders, in order to appoint their management. Stefanovic needs to be prevented from dividing up the company, and a court injunction would allow the workers to democratically decide who manages their factory, and how.

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