what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Bulgarian populism and the protests

Globalism has failed. Monetarism has failed. The liberal politics of “less government, the market has the final say” has failed. The worldwide financial crisis, caused by the US, is a clear sign of this. Market fundamentalism, transformed into a religion by the financial and political establishment of the US, has suffered an abysmal defeat…. We say no to the world’s speculative capital, no to supranational corporations, which destroy market economies, no to Wall Street, and we say yes to more common sense, balance, and equity
What could be more sensible than that? And yet the words are taken from the right-wing Bulgarian Аtaka party’s 2013 manifesto. I found them a few days ago in an excellent overview of Bulgarian populism on Anna Krasteva’s blog. The article, written, in English, by a Bulgarian academic who lives in Sofia, continues
The populist rage is targeted mostly at international capital, which “drains” the national wealth: Ataka have estimated that 28 billion 257 million levs have been diverted from the pockets of Bulgarian tax payers into the treasuries of foreign companies selling food, clothes, electricity, banking services etc.“All institutions, all ministries, the fields of culture, healthcare, and education altogether receive 10 billion levs less than the foreign colonizers!“  (Аtaka 2013, 8).Anti-Europeanism is the other topic which attracts the critical pathos of populist negation. It strikes out in three directions.
  • The first one concerns the accusations of neo-colonialism: the EU “is becoming a new Soviet Union, functioning by force and against the constitution” (Аtaka 2013). The full version of the program bears the arrogant title Siderov’s Plan against the Colonial Yoke; the text begins with the story of “how we were enslaved after the fall of the Berlin Wall”.
  • The second criticism is institutional and is leveled at Europe’s institutional structure: “the fake figure of EU president has been imposed, which contradicts both national and international law”; this claim also targets the consequences of Bulgaria’s political strategy: “The Euro Pact invalidates the Parliament and the government, the elections, and democracy at large.”
  • The third direction has to do with Europeanization as a form of globalization: “The Euro Pact reinforces the power of the supranational and corporate oligarchy“. All of these criticisms converge in a cluster whose core conveys the message, “the EU is a threat to the national identity, sovereignty, and dignity”: “Bulgaria is threatened with a loss of identity and with extinction”; “Bulgaria is losing its sovereignty“.
Of course, the Ataka style is highly aggressive and intolerant – but I see no reason to fault this sort of the discourse which you will find in all current European “populist” parties. The romantic pull of the village and its traditions does seem stronger in Bulgaria than (say) in Romania - and the Romanian peasantry (unlike the Bulgarian) does seem to retain its loyalty to socialist/communist elements of political organisation......

In a long post just a couple of weeks ago, the same author has a rare and useful analysis of the protests which have now lasted here in Bulgaria for one year now.
I would identify three waves and three types of protests:
  • the anti-monopoly protests of winter/spring 2013;
  • the anti-oligarchy protests of summer 2013;
  • the anti-government student protests of autumn 2013.
The political geography of the winter protests was decentralized. Sofia did not win first place, but neither did it vie for it. I have called those protests ‘Varna Spring’ because the protesters in Varna outnumbered those in Sofia, as well as because their outrage was well-targeted – against the mayor and a business group. Not against business in general, but against criminal groups suffocating business; not against the elite in general, but against a mayor who had brought the city to its knees before behind-the-scenes interests; not against government in general, but against that which was devouring Varna’s Sea Garden and stifling the vitality and enterprising spirit of Bulgaria’s seaside capital (Krasteva 2013c). 
Just days after the winter protests, the government of Boyko Borisov resigned although the protesters had not demanded – nor even thought of demanding – its resignation. After six months of protests against the Oresharski government, protesters were still demanding its resignation but the government, Parliament, and even the opposition were now saying that the incumbents were likely to remain in power for some time to come. The political effect of the winter and the post-winter protests was opposite, but they were similar in that, paradoxically, both led to the opposite of the desired results.In terms of duration, the protest year 2013 is unprecedented in Bulgarian democratic history.
We remember from history how a trivial occasion – an African American woman’s refusal to surrender her seat to a white man – led to the abolition of racial segregation and a profound transformation of American society. The Bulgarian protests also started from a concrete occasion – the exorbitant electricity bills and the appointment of Delyan Peevski, a controversial media mogul, as chief of the State Agency for National Security (DANS) – but the protest wave outlived the occasion (Peevski did not remain in office for more than a day), rightly interpreting it not as an exception but as an inevitable consequence of the whole political system which became the target of its outrage.
This is a most useful update of a rather more general 2008 article on Bulgarian populism entitled Radical Demophilia by Conservative MEP Svetoslav Malinov  and should be put in the wider context of the collection of articles I referred to a few days ago on European populism, the general tone of the articles being (typically) elitist and disapproving. 
What, I have to wonder, is wrong with being in tune with popular opinion these days - let alone picking out the corporate and political elite for denigration?????

The painting is one of the favourite Socialist Realist ones I have in my collection. Of partisans, it gives a sense of the village against the enemy.......

No comments:

Post a Comment