In the last year the pandemic has shown us exactly how damaging and antisocial the politics of neoliberalism implemented both at the state and local level are, as they contribute to the ever increasing distress of the majority of the people. To a handful of decision-makers and their networks however, the crisis proved to be a great opportunity to promote their private interests. After a full year of the corona pandemic it has thus become clear that despite the economic crisis the political and financial establishment have prospered, gained even more power and support of the repressive apparatus in order to stifle protests and popular rebellion.
Moreover, the municipality of Ljubljana assessed that in cahoots with the right-wing government and its subordinated police force it could finally execute the erasure of the Rog Autonomous Factory despised by both the state and municipal governments due to its critical views and non-conformism. A crisis, be it the corona pandemic or any other, always provides an opportunity to the powers-that-be to carry out sneaky manoeuvres which they hope will pass undetected in the shadow of the general social distress. But despite that or rather precisely due to that we intend to keep pointing out the destructive capitalist governance of the mayor Zoran Janković and the municipality which has proven to be risky and aimless.
Let us recall what the Ljubljana city center looked like during the first coronavirus wave – an area with no people as there were no tourists nor employees to serve them. This ghost town experience highlighted the uselessness of building up tourist infrastructure that is not aimed at local citizens even though it was built by public funding. It became clear that Ljubljana’s dependence on tourism was a misguided strategy, since such an orientation leads to insecurity, lingering on from one crisis to the next, increasing underpayment and unemployment, and exploitation of precarious labour.
Despite all of that the city government continues to follow its vision of elitization and ‘purification’ of the city. Any surface, regardless how small, is used for constructing elite blocks of luxurious apartments, while the majority of citizens can hardly make ends meet due to skyrocketing rents, underpaid jobs and unemployment. Many people even had to move back in with their parents who, in another era, had better opportunities to achieve a decent standard of living. Huge amounts of public funding go into ‘cleaning’ the city and erasing any expression of disagreement with such policies, which included also the Rog AF. But the municipality is only preoccupied with the appearance of prosperity – it is imperative to build. But for whom? To make business with ‘loyal’ companies and construction speculators and to enrich investors, all of which leads to increasing gentrification of city areas from which regular citizens are being aggressively pushed out. They treat us like dumpsters: removing us and positioning us out of sight of rich visitors – be it underground or in the suburbs.
It is also becoming increasingly clear that during this year living in Ljubljana has transformed into a permanent crisis made even worse by the grip of the repressive apparatus and its tentacles. Never before were there so many policemen, agents, inspectors, security and bouncers in the streets who sanction and normalize institutional violence and take care of any opposition to either municipal or state government. Never before was the control of our lives and behaviour so widespread and deep. It has become impossible to avoid it, as the regulations of ‘appropriate’ or ‘responsible’ conduct change on a daily basis. For many citizens Ljubljana has become unbearable. This limiting of freedom and increasing the jurisdiction of government, economic and housing crisis, demolition of public space, control and punishment in the streets, disciplining and repression need to stop.
Freedom and justice are not simply a gift to be received, therefore we must find courage and invent new creative ways to win them back. Access to the city and joyful dwelling in it is our shared struggle. The Rog members remain in the frontline, despite the government’s violence unleashed upon us during the last two months. We decided again to put the judiciary to the test as well, while staying on the streets of Ljubljana and other towns with all of those who feel the need to resist the seemingly normalized everyday tyranny of the powers-that-be. We won’t let them take away the joy of living in a city of diversity, rainbows and differently different people. Only united we can fight this battle for equality of all, for a community without repressive relationships and for limitless creativity of working and dwelling.
United in resistance!