La Travesía por la Vida – the Proposal for the Balkan Route

In the summer 2021 the coordinations from the Balkan geographies prepared a joint proposal for the journey of the zapatista delegation. It was then realized – sadly in a truncated way – in the second half of September and first half of October 2021. We publish now the proposal without the technical aspects and as it was confirmed by the coordinations froom the Balkans and communicated to the zapatista comrades.

La Travesía por la Vida – the Proposal for the Balkan Route

The coordinations for the territories that make up the Balkans have joined together to draft a proposal for the route that would take the compañer@s Zapatistas on a journey through geographies, history, aspirations, regrets, struggles, failures and crucially the bonds of solidarity that despite all the destructive efforts of the capitalist machine continue to be forged and developed.

We propose to start the tour by starting where the NATO airplanes in the 1990’s took off to sow destruction disguised as humanitarian intervention that facillitated the integration of these territories into the global market. The route would then continue through the many territories where relatively recent revolutionary and popular history was discarded so rapidly by the elites just so that the capitalist restoration through war and nationalism could quickly take place. Through and on to the territories still so rich with fertile soil, forests, water and other ‘raw resources’ that they just have to be pillaged by the predators of the capitalist world. In other words that borrow the names found on the official maps: we propose to travel together from a small part of North-East Italy that is closest to Slovenian territory and is called Friuli Venezia Giulia, then continue through Slovenia, Croatia, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria all the way to Greece.

In the last months the various local coordinations from the Balkans that have been formed with the purpose to facilitate the specific legs of the Journey for Life have been in individual communication with the Zapatista compañer@as with their respective proposals and idea. All these particular proposals of the represented coordinations have now been woven together in one common proposal for La Travesía por la Vida – the Balkan Route. This proposal represents the continuation and update of the previous proposals that came from the respective coordinations.

Our proposal is an expression of our a long-term commitment in grass-roots antiauthoritarian (antipatriarchal, antinationalist, anticapitalist….) struggles in often difficult local environments. We see the La Travesía por la Vida as a political opportunity for us not only to engage with compañer@s Zapatistas but to strengthen our existing networks of solidarity, mutual aid and political cooperation in the Balkans through this same process. The common basis of our cooperation are the decades long struggles against war and nationalism, from the efforts to deconstruct the false promises of Euro-integration; from the struggles against patriarchy; from the myriad of struggles for nature, water, freedom of movement, in short from the many battle-fronts against the particular ways in which the capitalist regime in being imposed on the people of the Balkans. We might not be as big and strong social and political force as the historical challenges demand, but we are here. And we still do not accept the system of borders, nationalism, chauvinism and pillage that only serve the insatiable hunger capital and its loyal local employees.

We hope to be able to find ways across the divisions of language and time and to be able to share our reflections, testimonies, stories, desires and failures. We do recollect that the war is not only about the massacres and violence, it is also about dignity and strength in refusing to participate in them. The destruction of nature, nationalism, borders, transition to capitalism, all of this is also about resistance. Also in the Balkans. This is what we want to share with the compañer@s Zapatistas. Recognizing that our experiences, even our modest victories, and there are some, are just few drops in the rivers of dignity that are gathering strength around the world.

We can offer a sketch of what we envision our discussions might touch upon. It is said with some eery justification that for the past three decades the Balkans too has been a laboratory of the many and diverse mechanisms of the neoliberal era of capitalist devastation. The reality of ‘open european borders’ lies in the Balkans and in the walls, military-grade border installations and constant state organised hunting of people. It was not always like that. In fact until very recently what now are unique opportunities for the security industry not so long ago were just rivers, forests, open plains and welcoming people forging their many pathways through life. The Balkans is not the European backyard but just another territory – among so many – where the powerfull feel no need to hide their ambitions: displacement, imposition of authoritarian petty-masters, constant threat of war, pillaging of nature through legal and illegal logging, mining, land-grabs etc, infinite proliferation of borders and continuous division of population in more and more legal categories, each with specific set of rights.

The Balkans too has been for a long time the territory of emigration. It has also been a territory through which people from other parts of the world try to reach the European Union. This is why it has recently become a site of the enormous strengthening of the infrastructure of Fortress Europe and of huge investments in this regard. This process is from the outside usually referered to as ‘the migrant crisis’. In fact it is an attack on people and huge upgrade of infrastructure of repression and state and para-state violence. The meaning and effect that all this has on both the people on the move and on those who stay is something we want to share and to think about together.

We have said in many of our political encounters of the past decades that the Balkans doesn’t represent some kind of mythical past of Europe, it indicates its future. We also said that this future is far from written and that though the capitalism’s route clearly leads towards more devastation, there are other routes possible, but can only be built through a common effort. This is why among our slogans is ‘Breaking down the walls of nationalism and hate – building the Balkans of solidarity and struggle’.

It should be clear by know that the purpose, the desire and the need for us to organize on the level of the Balkans is deeply connected with the political need to dismiss the premise of the orientalist geography by which the measure of the ‘progress’ of our respective territories is the level of its economic and military integration in European union, NATO, IMF, World Bank (and in BitCoin exchanges…). This is why we stubbornly and consciously transcend the usual notions of what goes together and what not and this is why we drafted a common proposal for a possible Balkan section of La Travesía por la Vida. This very process is also a clear example of the Balkans from below carving its own geography according to the aspirations shared by so many from around the world.

We hope that this summer and autumn we can make this Journey together and to make it count. For Life.

11th July 2021

The proposal was prepared and confirmed by the coordinations for organization of Zapatista encounters from the following geographies: Friuli Venezia Giulia in North-East Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece. It was realized between 22nd September and 11th October 2021, but to our regret the extremely restrictive border regime of italian and greek state prevented the travel of the zapatista delegation to Friuli Venezia Giulia and to Greece.

from the website of the regional Coordination of the slovenian geography: https://zapatista.kompot.si/novice/balkanska-pot