Tales of the Students' Plenum
Four college students from the Republic of Macedonia, all of whom participated in the Students' Plenum - a grassroots youth movement which initially formed as a way to counter an unpopular government higher education bill, which if enacted, would have severely infringed upon the autonomy of Macedonia's public universities, but later it grew to represent a new form of student organisation, based on the principles of horizontal structure and direct participatory democracy.
It was founded in October 2014 by a small number of philosophy and law students, but quickly expanded to all the different faculties of the University of Skopje and the rest of the universities in Macedonia, and in a matter of months, following several public gatherings and marches, its membership grew to a couple of thousand students - attracted not only by the opposition to the government proposal, but also to the idea of participating in an informal movement which aimed to reform higher education, and make it more egalitarian and participative. It was the first grassroots movement in our country's history which was supra-ethnic and multicultural, not defined by a single nationality, creed, religion or political ideology, as well as the first movement to stand up to and fight the increasingly authoritarian decade-long regime of the right-wing ruling party VMRO-DPMNE.
The opposition to the government bill, culminated in February 2015, when students took over several University buildings and proclaimed them "Autonomous zones", as a means of protest. The "Autonomous zones" lasted for three weeks, during which students lived and slept in the buildings of the Faculty of Philosophy, the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and the Faculty of Architecture and no official classes were held, but an extensive number of alternative classes were held in their place by supportive professors, assistants, older students and public figures concerning topics such as activism, the arts and a plethora of other topics of interest for young people, students and social activists. After less than three weeks, the government capitulated on the issue and not only revoked the intended bill, but gave university professors and students an opportunity to write a whole new higher education law, which would follow the intended principles of the Students' Plenum. The Plenum didn't stop there, with further activities including reforming the way students participate in the decision-making processes of their faculties and universities, and further spread to high school students, who founded their own movement which was concerned with the issues faced by high schools, and high school professors and students in Macedonia. More than a year after the end of the "Autonomous zones", the idea of a free-thinking and progressive youth opposing the authoritarian government lead to, what is now known as the "Colorful revolution" which finally ended the right-wing regime of VMRO-DPMNE just last year.
CONNECT | https://www.facebook.com/StudentPlenum/
WORKSHOP A Rogue Students’ Guide to modern day revolutions
Every beginner revolutionary or a protest veteran seeks to find innovative ways of instigating change either in the local community or across the wider public. Drawing from their own experiences of the short lived but successful student uprising in 2014 and 2015, four students from Macedonia will try to give a different perspective of organizing a collective stand against system erosion and injustice.
In this workshop we will describe how the discontent and anger of few students transformed into a full-blown strike for better conditions for students, corruption-free education and autonomous university. As the story goes, when a movement is born ideas spread like wildfire and an effective organization is on order. The second part of the presentation will tackle the tips and tricks of how to canalize the boycott into an effective advocacy which can satisfy the movement passion while not losing track of its goals.
The third part of the story tackles the core concept ideas of the movement methodology; the university occupation, the horizontal hierarchy, inter group communication and policy change. The discussion at the end will hopefully reveal the aftermath; the results of the movement and lessons learned for a continuous student struggle for better education.