28 November, 2023
Vladimir Mitev (photo: Vladimir Mitev)

The idea for the overcoming of tranisiton, which has done a lot of social harm, is not clearly articulated. But it existsts on subconscious level. Evidently, there is a long way until the accomplishment of this dream, which could remain just a dream

Vladimir Mitev

This article was published on 7 August 2020 at The Barricade.

It is high time that there was lustration and those who have governed in the times of transition leave, said a Bulgarian protester in Sofia in the beginning of August 2020 before the TV cameras. 

Wishful thinking? No, a key to understanding what the Bulgarian protests represent unconsciously. A desire for entering in the post-transition after decades of transition, which has dehumanised both its winners and its losers.

Transition was dominated by the ideology of anti-communism. Under its banner a system of crony capitalism was created, oligarchs emerged, while privatisation and neoliberal reforms tore apart the social tissue and hundreds of thousands went abroad for decent job and living conditions. Now prime minister Borissov, who is threatened by the protests, applies anti-communist rhetoric in order to create divisions, hinting that if he falls “the communists” will come back in power. At the same time, important currents of the protesters claim that this is neither right-wing, nor a left-wing protest, but it is a protest of the honest, decent people against the mafia, that has captured the state. 

So it looks like GERB is a party of the transition, while the protests look beyond it. Could it be that the urban middle class – the main driving force behind the protests, considers the last 30 years as a fake transition? Does it want real transition to liberal democracy now – with no captured institutions and capitalism of the in-groups? 

Various analysts remind that GERB has become reminiscent of the party-state that used to rule until 1989 and if it loses power, not only will it disintegrate, but also there will be persecution against its privileged elites, just as there were processes against some communist leaders. A similar protest mindset was observed in the Romanian demonstrations in 2014, which brought Klaus Iohannis to power. Then Romanians were waving revolutionary flags from 1989 with a hole in the middle (symbolising the cutted heraldic sign of communist Romania), demonstrating that this is the second and real revolution, while the first one was fake.

Nobody uses the word “post-transition” today. Nobody articulates what that would mean as ideas, policies, social conflicts, beyond condemnations for the corrupt elites of the last 30 years. The idea for leaving behind the period that did a lot of social harm is not clearly articulated, it is subconscious. Obviously, there is a long way until the realisation of this wet dream and it might remain just a dream. 

Bulgarians want change, but can they indeed give birth to something new? Is it possible that the winners of transition – the urban middle class, which now protests, put an end to transition? Won’t it become a conservative force opposing social policies, as soons as it gets Borissov down? The prime minister adopted a social and economic package of 0,6 billion euro, giving money to various categories of working and unemployed people. Could he be using the handbook of the Romanian Social Democratic Party, which ruled between 2012 and 2019 through giving benefits to the poor and marginalized citizens, who are traditionally despised by the Romanian urban right? Won’t the unprivileged and socially insecure people rally behind GERB, because this party at least gives them something? If that happens change would probably be thwarted or delayed.As I wrote in the autumn of 2019 post-transition could mean humanisation of the social relations, incremental strengthening of labour with regard to capital, under the motto “The people (stand) before profits!”. Are these protests, led by the nascent urban middle class of enterpreneurs and young professionals a historic chance for the weak new left to articulate a vision and demands for post-transition? Change implies not only political, but above all social transformation. Now left activists make citizen assemblies and listening posts, practicing democracy at the squares, while other protesters challenge the ruling party at its rallies or from the tent camps. We need to remember that change is not in the accumulation of power or in the replacement of one weaker domination with stronger one. As soon as a critical mass commits to a clear vision of post-transition, these protests will give birth to a new Bulgaria.

Photo: “We want social change, not the replacement of certain parties with others!”, claims a protest banner in Sofia (source: Autonomous Labour Syndicate)

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