We have developed this project in order to address the post-socialist evacuation of alternatives to neoliberal capitalism in contemporary public debates and spaces. This evacuation of the future from popular imagination led to the natural projection of political imaginaries onto the past where the major struggle is over the “correct” interpretation of what went on during Socialism and before. For example, public intellectuals are setting the scope of the debates narrowly on whether the period before Socialism counts as Fascism or not (the implicit suggestion being that since communists maintained it was Fascism surely they have lied therefore it couldn’t have been Fascism.) Obviously, this unfortunate revisionism serves as a legitimation of contemporary instances of far-right parties and groups who do not shy away from drawing explicitly on inter-war fascist party symbolism.
The eradication of the future meant there was only one possible future (as well as present): [neoliberal] capitalism under the auspices of the EU.
Another problem is the frequent fallacy of interpretation of the “transition” as lacking authenticity, in the sense that it did not lead to “real” western democracy. The perceived lack of authenticity is projected on the fact that 1989 did not mark a radical replacement of the former elite because 1989 constituted a de facto coup d’etat internal to the Communist Party. The latter fact becomes mobilized in the following interpretative scheme – we have only formal democracy, hiding the power of the economic “communist” oligarchs. Ironically, this scheme is identical with the vulgar leftists critiques of capitalism – democracy is only a fraud belying the reality of capital’s domination.
One brand of opposition to capitalism today, articulated in terms of the past, is framed in a nostalgic language of the “good old times.” Juxtaposing the experience of the current social disaster of the endless “transition” this move depoliticizes and psychologizes social critique by casting itself inadvertently as nostalgic. This is leading to commodification of past symbols as enterpreneurs are quick to capitalize on this nostalgia by turning it into a market niche and releasing products that cater to the needs of people missing certain socialist-era goods.
This phenomenon deprives the opposition of Utopian imagination and it displaces politics with objects of consumer desire. Even worse, such pseudocritique tends to substitute radical social achievements of the past with nationalist pride in the “lost national grandeur”. Further, replacing the social for the national, the nostalgic pseudocritique obscures some reactionary dimensions of the socialist past, i.e. ethnicl, sexual and gendered inequalities that existed during state socialism. Significantly, this longing for the past is sometimes directly associated with the extreme right, whose sympathizers present the socialist past as the time when “transgressive elements” (e.g. gays, Turks, Roma) “knew their place.”
The seminar series will try to pave a way out of the current deadlock, where the only future imaginary beyond global capitalism is “a return” to the “glorious” past, be that of state socialism or pre-socialist rightist authoritarianism. The current situation obscures alternative possibilities to draw connections between new social inequalities and the post-socialist integration in the global capitalist market, a trend that strengthens the constant production of new reactionary movements. In order to open way for new utopian imaginaries, we seek to initiate a radical critique of the present political economy, that is, to reassess the realities of the post-1989 capitalist restoration in critical anti-capitalist terms that would allow for new and just social alternatives to be politically articulated.
The project is being realized with the financial support of Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung.