The recent history of post-communist countries is full of economic, military, and social crises. The entire thirty-years-long process of Westernization has brought nothing but systemic violence from the dismantling of social security networks to outright isolation of those deemed unmodernizable. To pour salt into the wound, what’s been added to the arsenal of crises of neoliberalism in “transitional” countries is the grave dissonance between material reality and political discourse.
Governments of countries in transition (from planned to market economies) have completely given up on dealing with the challenges of our everyday lives. Thus, in attempts to legitimize their positions in power, they respond with creating alternate realities, where “European democracy” is a few steps away, and where poverty is simply a mindset. Large sections of populations suffering from inaccessibility of healthcare and rising costs of life are forced to enjoy organized celebrations of European integration and cheer for the annexation of their lives by capital. Dissonance is institutionalized as reality. In the context of this new governmentality, the meaning of categories like community, sustainability, public good and social welfare are not simply lost but rendered incoherent and archaic.
On the other hand, the resistance to this type of governmentality often finds itself―almost in a strange form of apocalyptic accelerationism―demanding more of the same crisis, effectively implying that the Europeanization is not being implemented fast or strictly enough. Walter Benjamin wrote that anyone incapable of taking sides should say nothing. In transitional societies, almost everyone seems able to take a side in the multiplicity of warring camps and yet rarely is anything productive said. A hysterical polarization of utter nothingness takes the place of actual politics; radicalization of form masks the absolute neutrality of content. Here, politicization is depoliticization.
The imposition of Western modernity categorizes post-communist countries as pre-European, rather than non-European. Ontologically suspended in the air, this temporal peculiarity, a permanent state of remaking, hinders the understanding of the nature of our actual being. But, in hopes of resisting, is it not self-subversive, to pose a programmatic question of the locality of thinking against a western project of modernity whose (philosophical) intelligibility is rooted in its own coloniality? Or, wouldn’t constructing a sort of a regional philosophical Problematik put us even further from identifying our specificities in the global context of power relations that we’re subjected to?
Perhaps a more effective attempt, in this regard, would be to chart the contours of a radical critique of the imposition of modernity that would be rooted in the local experience of transition and would take as its central problem the (universal) disappearance of the commons; thus opening the door for the potential of linking up with the wider domain of decolonial thought, but at the same time, retaining its own historical and theoretical point of perspective as one coming from the post-communist world. The attack on the commons, from primitive accumulation to neoliberal privatization, is not simply a destruction of material welfare of the working class but principally an attack on the potential of popular resistance. The disappearance of public space would be the primary example. The issue of the commons is already at the heart of the pressing questions about the lack of solidarity, resistance and hope in post-communist societies, the task is to put it at the heart of our answers.
Photo: “Towards Berlin!”, by Želimir Žilnik’s movie “Rani Radovi” (Early Works, 1970)