By: Dr. Matevž Tomšič
Recent events in the area of the former Rog bicycle factory in the center of Ljubljana have fully revealed the true nature of those who consider themselves a kind of cultural, artistic and other avant-garde in our country. The decision of the city authorities to finally take matters into their own hands and undertake the arrangement of the space, which so-called alternative people arbitrarily appropriated years ago, and established a kind of “autonomous zone” in it, which by the nature of things also included their eviction, provoked the indignation of the “progressive” public as expected. They were greatly appalled by the violence of police officers and security guards, saying that they had literally thrown people out of their “homes”. In short, it is supposed to be another proof of the existence of a police state that tramples on its citizens.
Suddenly, even the mayor of Ljubljana, Zoran Janković, who until recently was considered one of the greatest heroes of the Slovenian left, found himself on the “dark side”. His actions were also described as nothing less than “fascism”. Obviously, he is not much better now than the Prime Minister Janez Janša, who is so hated among leftists.
Soon, however, it became clear what was being hidden in the area of the former factory. The space, which was portrayed as the focus of “urban progressive creativity”, where innovative ideas and social practices are supposedly born, is a real ecological time bomb. It is more reminiscent of a landfill than a cultural center. There, tens of tons of waste, even flammable, were discovered. This means that an outbreak of fire would endanger all surroundings, which also includes residential buildings, not to mention the soil pollution caused by such an amount of garbage. What’s more, a large number of new bicycles and household appliances were found at the scene. This suggests the suspicion that purely ordinary criminal activities, such as the sale of stolen goods, took place there.
Apparently the so-called Rog Autonomous Zone is an “image and opportunity” of our alternative scene, which rejects the existing system, attacks capitalism and everything connected with it, and at the same time enjoys the support of a significant part of Slovenian politics and the public. The belief that someone can simply move into a facility that is not owned by them and then reside in it for free is very widespread in these circles. And neither was it made up yesterday. Maybe someone else remembers the so-called Molotov Autonomous Zones from the beginning of the millennium, when a group of radical left-wing activists tried to usurp a building owned by Slovene Railways and then – with the support of many media – started shouting and screaming when the owner decided to demolish the building (and, logically, they had to be evicted from it). They also tried to evict Rog “residents” as early as 2016, but the municipality of Ljubljana was unsuccessful at the time. Then as now, the users of these facilities claimed that it belonged to them (saying that they were the first ones there).
This so-called alternative is in fact a breeding ground for a socialist mentality in which property rights mean nothing, as they see it as a remnant of “exploitative capitalism”. It is no coincidence that its members are often among the participants in various “anti-fascist” and similar protests (such as last year’s Friday cycling). Therefore, despite their declared anti-systemic orientation, they are a useful tool for transitional centres of power, which they like to include in their agenda (for example, the overthrow of the current government).
There is nothing wrong with alternative culture per se. On the contrary, it is an expression of the cultural plurality and diversification that characterises modern Western society. Therefore, it undoubtedly belongs to the city in the urban environment of the Slovenian capital. However, the conditions for its operation must be regulated systematically, without usurpation and extortion, when someone thinks that s/he is simply entitled to something, regardless of the laws and interests of the community.
Matevž Tomšič is a sociologist, university lecturer and publicist. Since 2008 he has been teaching and researching at the Faculty of Applied Social Studies in Nova Gorica. In addition, he is also engaged at the Faculty of Information Studies in Novo mesto and at the Faculty of Media in Ljubljana. He is also a collaborator of the Study Center for National Reconciliation and president of the Association of Journalists and Publicists.