(in)direct democracy and the student movement

This email was sent out by a student organiser from Skopje, Macedonia over the International Student Movement mailing list in response to some of the of organisational forms adopted by different student groups around the world, particularly that which is at the centre of the Dhaka university struggle which erupted in Bangladesh last week.

Hello comrades,

I’m a student activist from Skopje, Macedonia. I am a part of a group fighting for free and emancipating education and as such I am interested in following news on similar movements throughout the world.

What I’ve noticed by the reports on this mailing list and on other social media, is that although all of us who are part of the ISM are unanimously struggling for free education, we don’t seem to stand on common grounds when it comes to ways of organizing. By ways of organizing I mean direct versus indirect democracy, voting for student representatives versus student self-organizing etc.

I’m bringing this in question because I can see that in many countries protests for our cause are being organized by official student bodies, such as student unions, student parliaments etc (as it is at the Dhaka uni for exemple). That quite surprises me, since here in Macedonia (and also in the rest of the Balkans) we struggle not only for free education, but also against parliamentary democracy at the universities, since we believe that student representatives are easily corrupted and bought, they defend their own privileges and not the student rights, and they are being used by the governments as a tool for control over the student masses. The only real democracy we believe in is the DIRECT DEMOCRACY, since students are capable to defend their rights by themselves and they don’t need any “voted representatives” to do that for them; the only legitimate way for a decision to be made is if ALL interested students take part in the decision-making, if all are included in confining their destinies, instead of being passive and uninterested.

So what we’re trying to do here is organize general meetings at all universities (we call them “plenums” or simply meetings), where all interested students (and not only “the voted ones”) can come and express their opinions, where each voice matters and all are equal. These meetings are particularly important when a university is occupied as a means of struggle, and they’ve been succesfully held during many protests in many Balkan cities, such as Belgrade, Zagreb, Ljubljana etc.

We are actually struggling to destroy the privileged and protected by the state official student representative bodies, and we’re applying the horizontal way of organization also in our movement. We do not acknowledge leaders and are trying to keep our actions collective, rather than individualized. The representative model in student organizing does not work, the same way it doesn’t work in the State Parliament.

So I was wondering how come there is such a difference in our mutual struggle for free and emancipating education, and I’m interested in your opinions. Student union at my university not only does not fight for free education, but is also constantly boycotting our efforts for that cause.

I’m hoping this important aspect will raise discussion.

In solidarity from Skopje


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