By: Jože Biščak
The shock could not be greater. The street protests against the government, hitherto owned by the left, which implemented them against every right-wing government, are suddenly no longer controlled by the progressive (non-)governmental organisations, but by a real civil society. For now, by the farmers and pensioners.
The mainstream media is completely confused. They are frantically searching for a member or supporter of a right-wing political party among the crowds of people who gather in Republic Square or at the construction site of the C0 sewage canal at the initiative of the Voice of Pensioners initiative and the 1st of October Institute. And when they find one, they triumphantly announce that Janez Janša‘s Slovenian Democratic Party (Slovenska demokratska stranka – SDS) is behind the protests. When, during the term of the Janša government, the “cyclists” protested and many prominent members of the then left-wing opposition were seen among them, this was deliberately ignored. But we are used to double standards on the left anyway: if the left did not have double standards, it would have no standards at all.
The government at the anti-government protests
But it is even more bizarre when public press conferences and rallies are organised by the far-left NGOs the Voice of the People – Glas ljudstva (led by Jaša Jenull) and the 8th of March Institute – Inštitut 8. marec (led by Nika Kovač). They announce that they are protesting against the government, and then Prime Minister Robert Golob appears at the protest as if in support of the protesters. This exact thing happened at the beginning of the year, when Jenull organised a strike “for equal and accessible public health care for all.” I don’t think we have ever seen a case of government representatives protesting against themselves, anywhere in the world. Apparently, this is a Slovenian peculiarity, which shows the lack of ideas and the desperation of the left, as their monopoly on public protests is slowly slipping out of their hands.
What is even more strange is that the 8th of March Institute did not join the opposition to the construction of a sewage canal through the groundwater catchment area, from where the citizens of Ljubljana get their drinking water. Nika Kovač, who boasted that they defeated the then-centre-right government coalition in the 2021 Clean Water Referendum, now replied that her Institute is not an “expert” in this field and, therefore, cannot join the protests of local farmers against the arbitrary actions of Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković. In other words: they are experts in clean water, but they do not know enough about dirty water. This is, of course, a complete mockery of people’s common sense. But the left-wing media are not bothered by such a spin, even though Kovač should lose all credibility because of this and end up, together with her Institute, on the ash heap of its short history.
The difference between the protests
When the authorities (government) do not act in the interests of their citizens, it is the duty of the people to act. The political left and the media are trying to make us believe that this is what they did when the Janša coalition took over the government in March 2020, which, of course, is not true. They were protesting before the government was even formed, their demands were not concrete but rather mere ideological platitudes, saying that the government was fascist (they labelled it as such before it had even started work). “The cycling protests were planned and orchestrated, aimed at seizing power and gaining influence over decision-making in the society,” said analyst Edvard Kadič.
Those protests were very different from the current rallies of pensioners and farmers, who have very concrete demands. The former are demanding that the material situation of pensioners be corrected by increasing pensions, the latter that the Municipality of Ljubljana stops the construction of a sewage canal across the drinking water catchment area. Mitja Iršič believes that the current protests are actually the protests of the unheard. “The voice of those who usually don’t have time to protest in Ljubljana with the spoiled left-wing youth,” says Iršič.
Left-wingers more receptive to protests
Literature and research show that leftists are more susceptible to protests and want to impose their will in the streets and bypass established democratic procedures. This is also evident in Slovenia, where they are not only bothered by a particular political party, but in recent years have grown to accept the opinion that the right should not be in power at all. That is why they protest, without knowing exactly what they are protesting for, organising street press conferences where they explain their demands in an inarticulate and very general way. And the mainstream media, which is predominantly very left-wing itself, gives them its space and time uncritically.
When left-wing activists organise rallies and protests, they often turn violent. We saw this in 2020 and 2021, when unregistered protesters occupied the streets of Ljubljana and blocked traffic. Even the northern part of the Ljubljana ring road was blocked. When the police used coercive means to stop them, the government of the time was accused of excessive use of force and compared to totalitarian regimes. Although the fines written at the time for breaches of law and order were fully justified, they were annulled by the Golob government, and one of the main street “troublemakers,” Jaša Jenull, is now meeting with Golob’s Minister of the Interior, Boštjan Poklukar. This sends a clear message to the public: if you protest against the right and are violent in doing so, nothing will happen to you. Just like the Mayor of Ljubljana, Zoran Janković, who told the Croatian national television a few years ago that he would never go to jail as long as he was an opponent of Janez Janša.
The end of the left’s monopoly
“Farmers and pensioners are rebels, and in the past, they were the ones who tolerated the bending over backwards for a long time, but when the water spilt over the edge, they became a danger to the authorities. Golob and its phalanx should remember the years 1988, 1989 and 1990. Things are becoming very reminiscent of what we did not finish in 1991 with independence,” said Vinko Vasle, a retired journalist, editor and writer. The current protests could be the start of something bigger, when several small uprisings come together to form a larger one. Vasle highlighted the 1988 trial against JBTZ, when on the morning of the first day of the trial, only he, the late journalist Vesna R. Marinčič and Podkrajšek (identified on Twitter as Cikibucka) were present on Roška Street, but then in the afternoon, 100 people gathered there already, and more than 500 the next day. “That is why we need to consider a permanent rebellion against the GEN-I-uses in power,” Vasle believes.
Opinions differ on whether the right-wing protests and rallies will actually happen. Examples from France and the Netherlands show that they can be successful. So far, in Slovenia, we have been used to either left-wing activists or people from the public sector (fighting for higher wages) taking to the streets and protesting. That is to say, those who are financially supported by the state budget. What is new are the protests of private individuals, who fill the state’s piggy bank and depend on the work of their own hands for their livelihood. But one thing is for sure: on the left, together with the mainstream media, they are shocked that the monopoly on protests is slipping out of their hands.
Pavel Rupar: The Golob Government took us back to the 1980s
Before the third rally of the pensioners’ initiative, on the 31st of March in Ljubljana, we had a brief talk with Pavel Rupar, the initiator of the Voice of Pensioners initiative, about the big rallies.
“It seems that with the protest movement that started with pensioners, a civil force is emerging that is not in the domain of left-wing activists and their NGOs. Is the time of the silent majority awakening finally here?“
“Absolutely! This force is not in the domain of anyone but the people themselves! Indeed, the time is coming when people’s eyes are opening, when it no longer matters who you believe in, who you voted for, and what ideology you have adopted as your own. The reason for this is simple – we are living a life which is not what it was promised to be all those years ago, when the media and politics sowed hatred among the people and division among the nation so that they could rule and deceive the electorate! Once you feel the error of your ways and the deceit of politics in your wallet and standard, you sober up. Unfortunately, the correction of these mistakes takes longer than the period of deception and is usually much more expensive for ordinary people.”
“You have also received threats because of your successful rallies. The latest was that your name was written on a bullet. Do you feel threatened?”
“I can honestly say that although I was “shaken,” I was not scared! On the contrary! It is gestures like this that make me even more determined to go all the way, to the success that people, pensioners and retired people expect.
But we should not underestimate such extremists, they must be taken seriously! Just remember the late Ivan Kramberger. If anyone really believes that he was killed by a drunken Rotar, they are very naive. In the state he was in, he had a one-in-a-million chance of being killed, as he was. The ruling politicians and the small uncle have instilled so much hatred, malice and obsession in the nation through the media that anything is possible … “
“The Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia, Urška Klakočar Zupančič, refused to see you. What do you think of that?“
“I wrote a letter to the Speaker, and I sent it to her by ordinary mail. Apparently, it did not reach her, but I actually believe that it was put away. I drew this conclusion from the ignorant attitude towards the people’s initiative – the Voice of Pensioners. If you just think back to how she greeted Nika Kovač at the gates of the house of democracy and almost danced with her, then the difference she is making between us is clear. At the second rally, we submitted a law on raising pensions for the procedure, and she rejected it twice because of nonsensical “mistakes,” such as the emphasis on both sexes in the text. It is quite clearly a mockery, and it is because of these conceited, arrogant gestures and self-importance on her part that we have still not been able to start collecting the 5,000 signatures to start the procedure. “
“You will also extend the rally on the 31st of March to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Robert Golob. What are you accusing him of?”
“It is true. If I were to list all his slip-ups, a whole issue of your magazine would not be enough. In the year since his election, he has shown us absolutely nothing, and the whole government has done even less. Instead of progress, we have been thrown back to the 1980s in terms of development, standards, and just in general. The healthcare service is practically dead, the pensioners are on the verge of despair, no reform has begun, wages are miserable, businesses are under strain, and they are fleeing from our country. Strikes and discontent outweigh the disillusionment with him. Mr Golob should have the self-criticism to resign himself. We know that he has a large majority in the National Assembly, but we also know that there will be no other Prime Minister than one who is ideologically compatible with the majority of MPs. That is why, rightly, a huge number of people are demanding Marjan Šarec back. Bankruptcy and the complete collapse of the country are in sight.”
Conservatives are more down-to-earth
We asked analysts, columnists and journalists whether the recent protests (organised by farmers and pensioners) show that more conservative-leaning people are taking the initiative against the authorities from progressive NGOs. Can they be successful?
Mitja Iršič, co-author and co-host of the show An Evening In the Hayek Coffee Shop (Večer v Kavarni Hayek) on Nova24TV, told us: “While representatives of the conservative rural parts of our country will not bring about change on the street, the Netherlands’ example shows that such tractor stories can quickly turn into a snowball that rolls down the valley and carries with it the ruling left elite, who think that the voice of the countryside is irrelevant. It is, in fact, the voice of the unheard. The voice of those who usually don’t have time to protest in Ljubljana with the spoiled left-wing youth. Such people, who now live in a state of hopelessness and lethargy, can quickly find a new reason for political activism and electoral energy if they regularly gather in large groups.”
Andrej Drapal, columnist and consultant, said: “People with conservative values by definition try harder than others to improve themselves and to nurture grounded business and social innovation. Progressive (left or right) chanting in the name of any utopia is alien to them. The farmers’ revolts that happened a few years ago in France, which are now happening in the Netherlands and in Slovenia, speak volumes about the fact that the conservative minority feels threatened in a part of the social territory where progressivism has not yet penetrated. But I doubt that the conservative minority can achieve anything in a hostile environment of those who say that there are ‘f***ing more of them’.”
Edvard Kadič, analyst: “The latest protests show that the level of discontent in our society is reaching a boiling point. The cycling protests were planned and orchestrated, aimed at seizing power and gaining influence over decision-making in society. In short, they were directed at themselves. The current protests are the opposite, they are a cry for help to sort out a concrete situation for all. That is precisely why they have a great potential to succeed.”
Vinko Vasle, retired journalist and editor: “Because the current government thinks it can deceive the people indefinitely, something has happened to it, which is a serious announcement of a revolt against lies, repression, deception, theft and corruption. When pensioners, and especially farmers armed with tractors, come out on the streets and roads, it is the end of the bluffing of the so-called NGOs, which are the revolutionary forces of the present anarcho-leftists and communist mafia.”