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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

That is just the beginning!

By: Gašper Blažič

Since the recent protest rally at the Congress Square in Ljubljana, barely a week has passed. However, it is been enough time to assess the mood and changes that have occurred as a result of this rally, which I myself attended. Because more than the event itself, it is the reactions to it that speak volumes. And there were plenty of those.

The arrogant response, especially from the largest ruling party with its “freedom-loving” name, is not actually so concerning. On the contrary – it is a good sign. It means that the protest gathering achieved its purpose. The numbers provided by the Ljubljana police, claiming that no more than two thousand people attended the event, are a poor consolation for the creators of the “emperor’s new clothes”. Even if there were indeed only as many attendees as at the previously worst-attended rally of the Rupar retired initiative, the ruling party should reflect on the fact that one of the two opposition parties (and the one much more hated and stigmatised by the regime-controlled media) managed to gather so many people. Mind you, we are talking about political parties, not some influential civil society. Therefore, the number of participants, considering the organiser, is remarkably high.

And as observed, the protesters were not predominantly retirees. Anyone who still thinks that only seniors were standing at the Congress Square, whose numbers will halve in about five years, is quite a poor consolation for those in power. We could say it is more a reassurance to their arrogance, reminiscent of what we once saw with LDS. Remember Anton Rop?

If the ruling coalition can find any solace in this rally, it is the fact that the protest gathering last Thursday itself does not yet bring a critical mass for serious changes. This is understandable considering that so far only one party has organised the “wake-up call”. However, this wake-up call is just the beginning, as a significant portion of the public was waiting with a high degree of pessimism for the “protest Thursday”, thinking that only a handful would protest again. It turned out to be quite a robust crowd. This is an important psychological breakthrough for those who have hesitated and resigned to fate. Indeed, most of the public still lives in a kind of illusion of indifference and in the mentality of “I do not care”. Such a mentality has the main merit that, for example, autocrat Vladimir Putin still holds power in Russia. What would the famous French political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville say about this today?

Historical experiences teach us that circumstances can change radically overnight. Some of the most famous gatherings in the late eighties are known for being a great risk, as people are not interested anyway. For example, on May 8th, 1989, during the so-called public session of ZSMS at the same congress square, the May Declaration was read – fifteen minutes before the start of the gathering, the attendance seemed very poor. But then the square suddenly filled up. Even those who were “apolitical” and only interested in their own comfort came – because they realised that this time it could be about their heads, not just their wallets.

So, the rally that took place on March 21st is not the first and certainly not the last. More will follow. I hope that this time with the support of more parties and above all with the support of civil society. Parties cannot replace its role. If we continue to be lukewarm in the civil society sphere, every new deception will succeed for the creators of the “emperor’s new clothes (and new faces)”. They will simply put a new coat over the current faded cellophane labelled Gibanje Svoboda, while the content will remain the same. Do we really want that?

In short, what happened at the Congress Square is just the beginning. Slovenia, rise up!

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