The above title(s) are a paraphrase of a newspaper column I, a Communist by the late journalist Jurij Gustinčič. It was published in Mladina weekly in 2002. I am mentioning this case as an example of an engaged position in times when declaring that one was a communist was not a preferable public/political/or personal stand in a post-socialist state such as Slovenia.
So the first point that I am going to talk about is history. One of the key issues or as it seems “unresolvable” problems of our current times is precisely the “problem” with history. Many have written about it; who has the right to history, by whom is the history constructed (history from above, from below), what kind of positions are taken within history, how to deal with historical negationism, historical revisionisms, etc. This has been even more evident in the past months, with the pandemics and all the consequent restrictive measures that happened in the countries affected, turning the political discourse/orientation towards the right or even extreme right, at the same time bringing forward issues of racism, colonialism, new and old forms of fascism and so on. As we know history is dynamic, history is a discipline of critical thinking, and it is transnational… but what is important is the distinction between “historical revision” (which means creating new knowledge, discovering new historical sources and interpreting them) and “historical revisionism” (manipulation of historical facts to achieve a political goal).
Since the nineties, the revisionist attempts of changing the accepted historical facts mainly about the partisan resistance and the role of communists during the Second World War have been more and more widespread, especially in former Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe. This “narrative” claims that the anti-fascist parties and especially the Communist Party (Yugoslav, Italian etc.)“ had, as David Broder writes in Jacobin, “institutionalized their own myths as official history while silencing those who dared to question their authority”. So as a consequence, the “new” historical perspectives were written and legitimized by revisionist historians, causing, among other things, the resurrection of right and extreme right in many countries around the world. We can place in this context a resolution “Europe must remember its past to build its future” adopted in 2019 by the European Parliament. This resolution is dangerous as it condemns communism as equivalent to Nazism and, this way opens the door to “criminalizing” the contemporary anti-fascist movements. It is a pity that this resolution has not received more criticism and public response. Solidarity with this kind of anti-fascist history has unfortunately been omitted.
Altogether different is a recent declaration called “Defend History!” written by a group of historians from the countries of former Yugoslavia. It emphasizes another danger coming from historical revisionism: and that is that revisionism is enabling the continuing of the Yugoslav Wars of the 90s by other means. These wars are also becoming subject to political manipulation just like the Second World War.
Slovenia is not an exception in all this and in March, at the beginning of the pandemics, the right-wing party returned to political power, leading the country towards Hungary-style Orbanization. Since then every Friday there are protests around Slovenia where thousands of cyclists/pedestrians take to the streets. The government used the pandemic to restrict freedoms, increase police powers, incite hostility toward migrants, of sacrificing the elderly during the pandemics (elderly people sick with covid were not sent to hospitals), attack critical media, culture, etc., etc. What is especially dangerous is the tendency towards cultural homogeneity, with anti-immigrant sentiments being one of the main “arguments” of their nationalism. Historian Božo Repe in his recent text on the political situation in Slovenia asked: At what point of transition to fascism are we today?
Looking back to the 1920s, and 1930s and the rise of fascism, the new political situation does not come as a surprise, as it was not really a surprise to read Trump’s tweet on 31 May saying "the USA will be designating Antifa as a terrorist organization." This demonization of antifascism, and proclaiming the movement as “alt-left”, is dangerous as it relativizes fascism.
But the core of fascism today lies in neoliberalism. Tomaž Mastnak wrote an excellent analysis in today’s newspaper column. He basically warned the left that the alliance with neoliberalism against fascism means at the same time an alliance with the forces of the system that gives rise to fascism. Fascism will not be stopped this way. What we should do is start changing the system.
But changing the system is not easy. How to even start doing that, how do we take a stand (think of Gramsci’s text “I hate the indifferent” as a source of inspiration), and how do we actually become part of the movement, resistance? I think the next speakers will discuss some of these aspects more thoroughly. Just to give an example: Arundhati Roy in a recent interview pointed out that the best way (and the starting point) of supporting the movement is to understand where it comes from: the history of slavery, racism, the civil rights movement, and I can add also fascism and neoliberalism to the list.
Bu the basis for all political action and engagement is solidarity. The usual interpretation is that solidarity requires a shared political aim, and collective action for justice. Decolonizing solidarity (Fernanda Carvajal for example writes about it) proposes a new, horizontal format as a tool for promoting mutual relationships between peoples. A different concept of solidarity is a definition by Avery Kolers. He is saying that solidarity is when you act alongside the other even if you think they are wrong, so you act on their behalf. Solidarity can then be defined as »political action on others’ terms«. It is not about justice but about treating people justly.
Perhaps in this line of thinking I will end this short introduction with another concept, that of empathy. The empathy that is not empathy from above, not pity or sympathy, nor Christian love but empathy as a basis for a new kind of political solidarity that could reach across racial, class, gender, and intergenerational lines as well as across different human and non-human species. Empathy is understood in line with → hapticality of Kike's presentation yesterday or in a way Manolo put it in his introduction: »of being present in the other«.
I, an animal, I, a poor person, I, a sick person, I, a refugee...