What can you say with a can of spray paint? Fistra, Jelena, and Dado use graffiti to add their voice to the urban landscape. Peppering the city with anarchist slogans and anti-fascist tags, militant activists create forums for discussion and confrontation on mailboxes, signposts, and the sides of buildings. Read More
A first-time visitor to Zagreb in the early years of the twenty-first century could be forgiven for concluding that social unrest, even leftist revolt, was imminent in Croatia’s capital. Our guest would not see revolution in the colorful yet orderly marches of Croatia’s labor unions, united briefly by their shared opposition to a new “Law on Labor.” That law, once adopted, liberalized the country’s labor market, undermining social rights in a move towards much greater “flexibility.” And our visitor would certainly not see any trace of leftism in the series of nationalist protests of the period, like the 2001 gathering of hundreds of thousands in the port of Split. “We are all Norac,” they declared in solidarity with indicted Croatian General Mirko Norac, wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. Rather, it was Zagreb’s walls that evinced a militant resistance movement. The graffiti read: No war between nations, No peace between classes!; Sabotage the war in Iraq!; We don’t recognize national identity!; Against the politics of fear and hatred; Another world is possible; Viva Zapata!; Freedom begins with the death of the state; Destroy banks and corporations!.
The walls, of course, gave the wrong impression. And as I came to know Zagreb’s small radical activist scene I learned that many of the hundreds of militant slogans, some sloppily scribbled, others artfully stenciled, had been written by a handful of dedicated individuals.
But as Fistra tells us graffiti is just one medium, like the anarchist punk music he and his friends reproduce and distribute across the Balkans, just one medium through which Zagreb activists communicate their politics to a broader audience. During what one activist called the “Years of Lead” in Croatia (1995-2000), the Do-It-Yourself ethic of self-initiative and autonomous production influenced the publishing of anarchist fanzines, pamphlets, and other printed materials.
Marko Strpic, who got his start in publishing with a series of influential zines and who has gone on to publish a dozen books on Anarchism, explains this burst of anarchist production:
I found a fanzine from abroad, found some addresses inside, and wrote to them. I wrote to London Greenpeace, for example, not even knowing how anarchist oriented they were. They had just started the massive McLibel Campaign, so they sent me a pile of materials. Through those materials I found five or six more contacts. The classic principle of the network but before the Internet was widely available. They would send me anarchist journals. I’d review them in my fanzine and include addresses…All kinds of publishing were happening and all of a sudden there was a complex underground network without anyone setting out to create it.
Infoshops, anarchist bookstores and reading libraries that also usually serve as activist bulletin boards and meeting spaces, are another form of activist media. At Fistra’s antifascist punk band concert (watch AK47), for example, a table is set up with anarchist patches, pins, zines, books, fliers, tapes and music CDs. Almost everything is homemade in accordance with the anarcho-punk ethic of Do-It-Yourself.