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Нови Леви Перспективи
"По-лесно е да си представяш края на света, отколкото края на капитализма." Фредрик Джеймисън
First published in CriticAtac

In the bestiary of east European political monsters Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov is a peculiarly elusive species. When he first came to power in 2009 both the remains of the 1990s liberal anticommunist concert (think tanks-media-the old right wing parties), and the ordinary people were thrusting contradictory hopes on Borisov’s shoulders. The liberal elite was seeing in him a handy populist tool that could be skillfully used to further the perpetually unfinished neoliberal reform package and stabilize its shaking ideological hegemony. Ordinary people on the other hand voted Borisov hoping to put a halt to the enchanted spirals of the never ending transition and to take revenge over its masterminds. Borisov delivered to these contradictory hopes – but in such ways that left both elites and people surprised with the results, while he managed to get an ever more firm grip over Bulgarian society.

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On Wednesday, 20th of February 2013, the Bulgarian government headed by Boyko Borissov has deposited its resignation. What happened? What comes next?

Over the last week, Bulgarians in most big cities have been out in the streets, protesting against the increased electricity and heating bills. While the increase has happened gradually throughout 2012, the bills that were delivered to the post-boxes of the population in January 2013 were often times bigger than they would normally get. The wave of contention in response to the rise of electricity prices spread throughout the country, resulting in blockades of roads, barricades, increasing popular rage and police violence. An old man cut his veins in a village in North Bulgaria in a feat of desperation over his bill. One of the organizers of the protests in Varna was stabbed with a knife. The boss of the police force in traditionally rebellious city of Pernik was beaten up by angry protesters. In Sofia over ten people were arrested, and further twenty five beaten by the police. A team of journalists were shot upon with private weapon from a building in the center of Sofia. Police cars and barrels of rubbish were turned upside down after the protests on Sunday and Monday night. Bills, flags, and cars were burnt, and windows broken before offices of the few power distributing companies and their local representatives. The protesters were mostly rank-and-file Bulgarians fed up with the political system of the last 23 years that has lead to their full impoverishment and total alienation from the political process. Middle-aged men and women, young couples with children and students all went out on the streets to protest the deadlock which successive governments had installed on them. The protests were also joined and partly hijacked by a number of right-extreme groups. Mobilized around the neo-Nazi march this Saturday, commemorating interwar General Hristo Lukov, the Hitlerite leader of the Bulgarian Legions, who and introduced anti-Semitic laws, they were ready to provoke and loot. Their reactions jeopardized the energy of the protests which peaked on Sunday, and resurged on Tuesday. Tuesday night saw bloody clashes with the police in Sofia on the even of the commemoration of Vassil Levski, the only uncontested hero and political martyr of the Bulgarian national liberation. When Boyko Borissov said he would resign on Wensday morning, it was this blood on his hands, he said he could not tolerate. Yet, most people see his resignation as a way to desert the sinking ship of the Bulgarian state amidst the crisis previous cabinets started and he deepened. Пълният текст ...
20.02.2013, 19.00 at the fridge & xaspel. Sofia, 8 boul. Madrid.
New Left Perspectives:
Seminar with Prof. Sean Homer
Associate Professor in Writing and Literature at American University in Bulgaria.

In this talk I will reflect upon two loosely converging trends within the present conjuncture in Greece. First, Slavoj Žižek’s deployment of Walter Benjamin’s essay ‘Critique of Violence’ in his recent work calling the European radical Left back to the “Idea” of communism. For Žižek, Benjamin’s distinction between mythical and divine violence, the objective, systemic, violence of the state and the divine violence of the revolutionary, as a subjective reaction to systemic violence violence, is crucial in his demand for a new strict egalitarian justice, an emancipatory terror and revolutionary discipline. This is not a rallying call I have found very convincing or helpful in rebuilding the Left today. Secondly, therefore, I will consider the rise of revolutionary violence in Greece today. Greece has a long tradition of resistance and struggle and we can trace the most recent manifestations of revolutionary violence – November 17, Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire, Revolutionary Struggle - back to the fall of the military Junta in 1974. The rise of revolutionary violence is creating something of a political dilemma for the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), of which Žižek is a very prominent supporter. SYRIZA can neither condemn the violence nor support it as some of it comes from the more radical fringes of SYRIZA itself.

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We publish the transcript of the short opinion addresses made by Leart Kola, Artan Sadiku and Agon Hamza during the panel "Is anti-capitalism an alternative for the Left today?" in the framework of the two-day forum "The Exit for the Left" held on15.12.2012, the fridge & Haspel, Sofia, Bulgaria.

Leart Kola
(Antonio Gramsci Institute/GAZETA, Tirana, Albania):

I just wanted to take 2-3 minutes to explain a bit the context of Albania. Because I think that the problem with the Balkans is that we don’t know about the political context of each country. In 1992 we had this changing system, so we switched from totalitarian Enver Hohxa regime into a pure capitalist society. During 1992 and until 1997 the right wing party that was in power at that time had strong policies of privatisation. They had no control over the market, so the state was in a way ran by the president at the time, who was using more and more the police and the army to control the population. From the organised crime that was part of the state. This strong privatisation created something at the time called pyramid schemes, so because there were no banks, people acted like banks. And this system collapsed. In 1997 people were protesting in the streets for a couple of months and after that they took the guns from the military and we were on the verge of a civil war. This situation of total collapse lasted for four of five moments. A situation where we had no state at all. In the right wing history this is called the communist revolution. The right wingers say that the communists organized these attacks and everything. The socialist party, the ex-communist party that was in opposition from 1992 to 1997, was really weak. They did not have the legitimacy to be in front of these protests. After six or seven months without a state, they were elected. But in a way nothing changed in substance. This is really weird because from 1992 till 1997 they had strong left-wing policies, they were very much in the left. And after they came to power, they started to act with neoliberal policies. We learn that a desperate group of people without any theoretical idea what they are doing, find themselves in the situation where they are governed by the same people with a different color on their logo.
From 1998 till 2005 the socialist party was in power and then most of the state companies were privatized. They started the whole process of privatisation. They promoted very strong neoliberal policies. In 2005 we have again the right wing party in power. The SP still had this attitude that we should not stick in ideological debate, we should be more pragmatic, we should see case by case. The ideological debate between right and left doesn’t exist. This was going on till 2011. Now we have very interesting political situation. The SP is more and more on the left, still not as seriously as we would like. But we at least have a debate. The crisis helped to open this debate and now we more and more have the right-wingers going into nationalism, claiming for the unification. But from my point of view this is good, because these parties differentiate. This is the situation in the last 18 years in Albania. So me and Andi [Kananaj] were a part of the Mjaft! Movement from 2003 till 2008. This was, most of the people say, the most influential organisation at the time. Some say that we were the actors who brought the right-wing paradox into power, because we were protesting against the prime minister at the time. We saw that in this situation there was no ideological debate. The left wing was losing itself, people from the left were not represented by any organisation or political party. So we started the Antonio Gramsci Institute in 2008. We wanted to be called “Antonio Gramsci” not because we are specifically connected to him in some way, but because we wanted to put a communist’s name. Some communist that would leave no ambiguity at all. Because it was this situation with the left in Albania: “yes, we are left, but not as left as…”. So this way people would not ask “Are you in the Left?” or something like that. A lot of organisations in Albania are promoting these neoliberal ideas and they are very strong at the university. So we thought that we did not like that and that we should open a debate in Albanian society, so people can understand what is the left alternative. So we started this newspaper in 2008 and we were very active. People knew us from the Mjaft! Movement, so we had spaces in newspapers and in public TV and we decided to be very active there too. Some radical friends said to us: “You should not go to mainsteam media”, but we think it is important to be part of the debate and go into their field. And so we were very active and we are very active now also.
The Antonio Gramsci Institute deals mostly with translation, publishing, so it has this duty to open the debate and be part of it. Thus it could attack the right-wingers in the university and in the public sphere. And it is very hard nowadays, because we have all these money that are spent mostly to translate and write books and make them part of the curriculum. So we wanted to enter into this field.
Our other structure is [called] “Political Organisation”. This is an organisation that deals with workers so we are involved in these workers’ strikes for four years now. What we do is try to organise by going to the factories around Tirana and in most of the cities of Albania. We try to create a difference between the traditional syndicates that are mostly kidnapped by the state. We want to help workers organize horizontally, but in general to have some kind of organisation, because the situation of the workers is more and more difficult, specifically this of women. Most of the exploited workers are women. They work for 16 hours in textile factories, and this is the biggest industrial branch in Albania. Apparently, Italy uses Albanian workers as second-hand human beings, so to say. We have a lot of problems, but we spend most of the time in the villages.
The third structure is like a legal aid studio that mostly offers help to people who cannot pay for a lawyer for political trials. For instance, now we represent the families of the four people that were killed by the police last year during this big demonstration. Also, in 2008, there was this huge explosion when 26 people were killed. We represent their families too. We help people start syndicates in their working places.

Artan Sadiku
(Leftist Movement Sodiarnost/Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities – Skopje, Macedonia):

I’m Artan, from Skopje. I am part of Solidarnost which is not as communist a name as Antonio Gramsci. What brought us together in Solidarnost is the political idea of the left in Macedonia. There were some organisations before that also and Zdravko talked about them yesterday. We consider that we would organize around this new political idea, because in the other organisations that we are active in, we face some barriers. Those organisations have strictly decided not to become a political party or they would not collaborate with certain sectors of the left here and there, not to appear in media. That is why we organized around the idea that we must use as much as possible the capacities or resources available to promote the left idea in Macedonia – the real new left. The context in Macedonia is not that different from the one in Albania or Bulgaria. Basically, to understand what happens today and what are the conditions for a new political rhetoric, new political ideas in Macedonia, we have to have a short overview of Macedonia since the Independence and since the fall of the ex-Yugoslavian socialist system. The terms in which the fall of the system was argued were terms mainly around this vague idea of “freedom”. When we try to answer the question “Is the new Left an anti-capitalist Left?”, we have to bear in mind that this left that we are trying to mobilize in Macedonia now has to face this difficult trouble of explaining the people that if you are against what they conceive as freedom, you are not against the freedom as such. Because then no one said “We are now entering capitalism”. On top of the day was “Now we are entering Freedom”. Freedom or democracy. Capitalism, freedom and democracy were three equal terms that would go hand in hand. So today we have to play very smart with this category, so people would not refuse you as someone who is nostalgic for the past system or who would bring authoritarian forms of government in the country. And then with this rhetoric, as in other countries in the Eastern block, all the real political rhetoric was lost, because we went into the process of transition. And in Macedonia it was carried out by the left social-democratic party. Basically there was nothing left in their rhetoric, there was no left content that we could catch upon and further develop. So we had to invent the rhetoric from the very beginning, the whole discourse. The other process which went hand in hand with the privatisation, which was called transition, for very particular aim, was the process of depoliticizing, demobilization of the citizens. The political parties were the only formally recognized actors in the political field. The citizens did not and still do not conceive of themselves as political actors. They thought that to be in politics means to be in one of these political parties. For those people who live in Macedonia, the first word which is used the most in Macedonian politics in terms of arguing is the word “transition”. And with this word they managed to become uncriticizable – all the governments, the ruling ideology. The term transition was interpreted as a process which has not ended yet in 20 years, so we should still hope that we will have the final figure of the system. We have left Yugoslavia, the previous system, and we are going towards something and still we do not know when we will reach it. This figure of a very concrete system with running laws and stabilized ideology of the government with this cover of transition became uncriticizable. Because they would say “Well, this is not the true thing yet.” One of the challenges that we faced is to make it clear that the transition has ended long time ago because we have a system, we have a market-oriented economy, all the economic policies are neoliberal. So there is no transition to anything else. We have reached a final result, so now we have to build a rhetoric against this final result. There is no more transition. Now there is an attempt to breach this transition with the road towards the EU. “If this is the final system, we will go to the next transition and you should not criticize it anymore because it will be better.” This entire process becomes a vague space and time, where the Left cannot find strong arguments to push them into the political rhetoric. And I think that one of Solidarnost’s aims is to make a clear break with this continuity. Our role is to make a gap into these ethnic political divisions, because the political lines in Macedonia go hand in hand with the ethnic. We have purely ethnic parties, there are no mixed parties. So what we in Solidarnost are trying to do, also with tomorrow’s anti-nationalist conference [held on 16.12.2012 in Skopje and organized by Solidarnost – ed.], is trying to provide this gap inside through the New Left political rhetoric, which goes beyond ethnic divisions in the country. The ways in which we try to further this argument of the Left is that we use mainstream media, because there are some advantages. We were criticized by our friends in Greece because the appearance in mainstream media is very problematic. But actually, as long as we have this space provided in mainstream media, mainstream places, where you can speak of anti-capitalism, of communism, why not? In a sense, the media in Macedonia are ideologically still highly ignorant. They never censor anything in mainstream newspapers. You can write anti-capitalist and communist articles, they would publish them. This ignorance is helping us so far.

Agon Hamza
(Dialectical Materialism Collective, Prishtina, Kosovo):

I come from Dialectical Materialism Collective, which is a collective based in Pristina. Our collective is the result of a number of crucial ideological breaks within the Marxist intellectual scene in the country. We [were] established two, two and a half years ago. Our aim is to intervene philosophically in certain domains or structures which are non-philosophical by definition. We try to intervene philosophically in current political, ideological debates. Also in theology, in some sorts of artistic and aesthetic debates and all the rest of it. The aim of this collective is to, this will sound bombastic, but to create the conditions for intellectual emancipation, following the good old Lenin dichotomy “without revolutionary theory, there cannot be revolutionary organisation”. Our collective is in a way weirdly structured. There are three levels. The first one, if I may put it so, consists of theoreticians. The second one consists of artists and two or three punk bands, who are on the far left. The other one is translators and “technicians”. What we’ve done so far is that we have published a couple of books. Soon we will start with a journal, I guess the first issue will be out in January. We borrowed the title from this Brecht and Benjamin journal Krise und Kritik. It somehow encapsulates the current predicament not only in the country but also in the region and beyond. In March we will have this big conference on philosophy. In the summer we will have what we now famously refer to as summer school which will be Maoist. It will be divided into two: the first part in June, and the other one in the late August. This collective is an effect of certain ideological conjunctures. I come from a country which is very new. Kosovo is practically a country whose foundations after 1999 are humanitarian. What Foucaultians would refer to as humanitarian governmentality. Following the NATO intervention and the brutal neo-imperialist administration until the declaration of independence in 2008. If you borrow the title from this Marxist remark, the period from 1999 to 2008 was farce and from 2008 until now is a tragedy. So this is the predicament of the country. Following humanitarian governmentality, we got humanitarian independence, which is some sort of independence based on very strange plan. Practically, there are three main principles which are turned into the administrating principles of neo-imperial administration in the country. The first one is stability, the second one is privatisation and the third one is multi-ethnic ideology. Stability is extremely problematic, because in the name of stability everything else is repressed and practically the political freedom is limited. Privatisation – there is nothing new with it. They privatise everything existing. And multi-ethnic ideology, which is the most problematic for me, turns, translates, alienates a pure political conflict into ethnic or now even cultural conflict between two barbarian tribes – Serbs and Albanians. It is extremely problematic. These three principles in a way render visible the weakness of the Left. When you talk about stability, everybody likes to live in a stable country – no riots, no the rest of it. Privatisation – we do not have actually a clear alternative. Everybody likes to make this distinction between public-owned enterprises and private property, which, in my view, is a fake dilemma. KFOR, the NATO troops in the country, issued a billboard in which a cat and a dog were hugging each other and [was] followed by the message: “If they can make it, why cannot we?” My question is who is the cat and who is the dog? This is the level in which the so-called white liberal racism goes to.
Let’s talk about the Left in the country. It is extremely weak, practically it does not exist. There are some interesting groups here and there. Anarchists are very active in the country, but they divide the Left into two categories, refering to Lacan. The first is hysterics – the anarchists, they try to provoke the Master continuously, but yet unsuccessfully. And then you have this nostalgia which is nostalgia for good old Yugoslavian times. It is interesting to analyze them, because, in my point of view, it is a cling away from getting rid of the lost object. The situation is really desperate.

Transcribed by Madlen Nikolova

See also: The Exit for the Left: Return of the anti-capitalist alternatives agenda
Also: Audio from the event
Ahmed Dogan, the all-time leader of the Bulgarian party “Movement for Rights and Liberties” (DPS). whose voters are mainly Bulgarian Turks, was attacked with a gun at the VIII National Convention of the party on Saturday, 19th of January. DPS has been in Parliament constantly since 1989, often as a coalition partner of the parties in rule. The Convention of DPS took place at the National Palace of Culture. It had delegates from Bulgaria and Turkey, and visitors from the Liberal International and the European Liberal Democrat and Reformist Party: two organizations whose members DPS is. The offender, Oktay Enimehmedov is a 25 years’ old Bulgarian citizen. He is of Turkish ethnic origin, and resides in Bourgas. Enimehmedov is a student at the Architecture, Civil Engineering, and Geodesy University in Sofia. The young man has a criminal past related to robbery and physical assault. Enimehmedov has been a political activist in DPS-Bourgas and was a candidate for the Municipal Council in the city.

The events in brief: at midday on Saturday Enimehmedov, a tall and strong young man, former box champion, walked freely up to the tribune of the Convention. At that time Dogan was making his speech at the rostrum. Enimehmedov pointed a gun at the white-haired small-built Dogan. DPS’s leader made an astounded mimic. He raised his left arm toward the offender. Instead of shooting, Enimehmedov started a fight with Dogan. At that point only, Dogan’s security and a number of male delegates at the Convention jumped at the stage. They disarmed Enimehmedov. They pushed him on the ground, crossed his arms behind his back, and then started physically abusing him. A number of delegates, among whom current and former MPs from the National Assembly, both Bulgarians and Turks, jumped up the stage. They started kicking and beating the young man with honest and brutal aggression. The offender was made to knee and trapped by two guards. While this happened, a young man pulled the pants of Enimehmedov down. He pushed his fingers into his pocket and took out a pocket knife; then the pants went down and the fingers into the behind of the young attacker. Тhe offender was taken out of the hall and beaten again, then put into an ambulance (surprisingly, not a police car) and taken away. The gun laid on the ground for a good half and hour. It was later revealed it was futile. It was a gas pistol. It had three bullets: two watch-fire bullets and a pepper-bullet that is used by shepherds to protect themselves against cattle. All three bullets could not have possibly caused any serious damage.
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John Feffer's website

A major change that has taken place in East-Central Europe in the last few years is the emergence of a new left. In the same way that the New Left in the United States distanced itself in the 1960s from the old-style Communist Party and its fellow travelers, this new left in Eastern Europe has taken pains to distinguish itself from the Communist Party politics of the Cold War era.

Partly this is a generational shift. Young people who did not live through the era of Todor Zhivkov and Wojciech Jaruzelski don’t automatically associate socialism with massive human rights abuses and failed economic planning. Partly too it’s a thorough disenchantment with what liberalism has brought – austerity economics, a widening gap between rich and poor, hollow democratic institutions, a disregard for environmental issues. Many people in the region have come up against these shortcomings of liberalism and veered right, into nationalism. Another group has struck off in the opposite direction to create a new kind of progressive politics.

Georgi Medarov, soft-spoken and pony-tailed, is part of this new generation of activists. He works at an environmental NGO in Sofia and also participates in a group called New Left Perspectives. “We accept the liberal position on human rights, but we don’t think it’s enough,” he says. “We don’t accept the militarism and capitalism that a lot of liberal organizations accept.”

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14-15 December, the fridge & Haspel, 8 Madrid Blvd.

This two-day forum with participants from the Balkan region and Bulgaria aims to speak about several main issues of the contemporary left-wing movements in the Balkans in the context of the continuing systemic crisis of neoliberalism and the economic crisis after 2008. The aim is to present both the alternative politics in the Balkans in the left political range and its problematization of the system of political representation, and to present specific practices, models and examples of resistance, often associated to this day with anti-capitalism. At the same time we will pay attention on how the left is being changed, what are the rifts between old and new forms of left in the Balkans and in which direction goes their political axis.

Is anticapitalism only left? Do today’s leftist movements want to or should be related with the abticapitalist strategy? To what extent the left in the Balkans is identified today with alterglobalism, and concepts such as ParEcon and life after capitalism?
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The case Pussy Riot revealed the most horrible sides of contemporary Russian capitalist society. Fuse of religious, state and corporate interests, misogyny, authoritarianism, impossibility to respect diversity. This case is a culmination of a long sequence of similar cases in Russia since the 1990s.

However, differently to previous cases with Russian artists, this case is rapidly losing its critical and transformative potential and is becoming a commercial spectacle, empty of meaning. This senselessness is thus serving the very mechanisms of contemporary misogyny, against which the group was seemingly protesting at the beginning. What happened with these three women has been a perfectly orchestrated (intentionally or not) spectacle of contradictions. Often the actions taken by the different parties, pro or against them, did not lead to the intended effect, but rather to its opposite.

I won't discuss the ridiculousness of the “common sense” moralist preaching of the persecutors. Their weakness have been perfectly summarized on CNN by the director of the Russian think-thank for Democracy and Cooperation in New York - Andranik Migranyan. His arguments against Pussy Riot’s ideas and personas, were the ones of an illogical, authoritarian populist, a macho, who appeals to some not quite definable “moral” values of the “majority,” a majority that, according to him, wants the girls to be punished. For that purpose, as he says, the state has no other option but to punish the three women. Poor Pontius Pilate, so outdated.

However, I think more attention than the anti-Pussy statements, deserve the once in their defense. Those are arguments that actually promote highly conservative ideas. In longer term exactly these supportive opinions, can completely erase all possible transformative potential of Pussy Riot's ideology that initially seemed so progressive. Here are some of the main questionable arguments in Pussy Riot's defense, although the list can be extended: Пълният текст ...
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