Srećko Horvat and Igor Štiks, eds. Welcome to the Desert of Post-Socialism: Radical Politics After Yugoslavia. London: Verso, 2015.
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Table of Contents
Igor Štiks and Srećko Horvat. “Radical Politics in the Desert of Transition.”
Post-socialist Balkans in common discourse:
- explaining dissolution
- oscillation between authoritarianism and liberalization
- relationship between state, organized crime, and the economy
- regional cooperation and disputes
- EU accession
- ongoing economic and democratic transition
- devastating consequences of transition to capitalism, incl. poverty, public debt, deindustrialization, depopulation (emigration, life expectancy, birth rates), social degradation, unemployment
- protests questioning the transition, defending the remnants of socialism (education, healthcare), natural/social resources (water, power), jobs (industry, public sector), and formulating radical politics (anti-capitalist, democratic)
- critical re-evaluation of socialist Yugoslavia
- interethnic conflict managed by political and economic elites during transition to market economy and power maintenance
- completed transition
- economic semi-periphery with Western hegemony
Communist nostalgia generates no political program, therefore it’s an expression of discontent with the new system and positive re-evaluation of its content, i.e. socialism.
Protest movements react to social/economic situation and abuse of power by elites.
- anti-regime (not just anti-government) protests – e.g. 2011 Croatia, 2012/2013 Slovenia, 2013 Bosnia [2018 as well], [2018 Serbia]
- mobilization for the commons (public spaces like parks or trees, nature like forests or water, urban spaces, public utility infrastructure like railways or electricity) – mostly single-issue movements, rarely successful
- student movements – e.g. 2006 and 2011 Serbia, 2009 Croatia, 2011 Slovenia, against privatization/commercialization of higher education enacted in order to pay for the expansion of higher ed access (“massification”)
- workers’ struggles like defense from privatization
- hegemonic cultural/intellectual efforts to change public and media discourses and introduce alternatives
Post socialist regime is a conglomerate of
- political elites
- Western partners
- media corporations
- NGOs promoting democracy and neoliberal economy
- organized crime
- predatory foreign-owned banks
- corrupt judiciary
- controlled unions
Marko Grdešić. “Workers and Unions After Yugoslavia.”
- workers constituted 1/3+ of adults
- employment was secure
- most vital part of society
- self-managers and producers
- strong unions, 100% of workforce
- workers much less numerous, many unemployed, retired, or in precarious jobs
- weak, fragmented unions; 30% of workforce, clustered in public sector, utilities, large companies;
- no longer celebrated; instead the entrepreneur is celebrated
Maria Todorova. “Re-imagining the Balkans.”
- name – mountain, then peninsula and region
- metaphor – pejorative indication of disintegration of large states into small, weak, backward ones
- symbol – aggressive, barbarian, semi-developed, semi-civilized, semi-oriental
- historical legacy – religions, migrations, Byzantium, Ottoman rule (“the Balkans are, in fact, the Ottoman legacy”), socialism
Despite the fact nostalgia as such is no longer a medical malady but a poetic or literary phenomenon linked to memory, post-communist nostalgia gets a bad rap. All CEE capitals have monuments and most have museums condemning communist rule.
Mitja Velikonja. “Mapping Nostalgia for Tito: From Commemoration to Activism.”
Counter-nostalgia / satirical nostalgia / neostalgia = subversion of current system to explore the problematic pas
11 arguments and refutations concerning Titostalgia
#1 Titostalgia is a consequence of 2 decades of misery from wars to economy. Tito as a symbol of anti-fascism, peace, social/economic modernization and prosperity, and global reputation reminds people and makes them yearn for better times.
This does not explain Titostalgia in prosperous Slovenia.
#2 Titostalgia is a nostalgia for youth.
This does not explain younger generations’ nostalgia, i.e. neostalgia.
#3 Titostalgia is passed down from older to younger generations.
This ignores the differences between (the production and values of) generational knowledge and the fact that young generations without personal experience of his rule see Tito as a new figure.
#4 Tito was a universal character in Yugoslav ideology, both a great leader and a man of the people, someone to admire and at the same time one of us.
This ignores his extravagant life style, something people today resent about tycoons and celebrities.
#5 Tito is esteemed for political originality.
This overlooks the fact all parts of the Yugoslav system had already been invented before, from Yugoslavism to socialism to authoritarian practices (slogans, relays, mass gymnastics) to even “brotherhood and unity”. Goes for the commercialization of Tito’s image a la Che.
#6 Tito’s rehabilitation is one of the obsessions with the past typical of today. And it’s leftists who are nostalgic for him.
This overlooks the fact that no other personalities are nostalgified this way. And that the phenomenon goes across the political spectrum.
#7 Titostalgia is mostly expressed by old people through old mass-culture technologies and will die out when they do.
This ignores the fact that Tito is present in new media (Facebook), swag like t-shirt and postcards, and alternative/subcultures.
#8 Titostalgia is a continuation of his personality cult.
But personality cults die out when the personality does. And Tito’s image is re-generated by younger generations.
#9 Tito represents a political divide between right and left.
But again, Titostalgia is present across the spectrum.
#10 Titostalgia results from Yugoslavia’s superior standard of living, milder authoritarianism, etc. than other socialist countries.
But Yugoslavs had more experience with the West.
#11 Titostalgia is parody.
But it’s also a political gesture, challenging/subverting the dominant political discourses and leaders. E.g. celebrating Tito’s birthday competes with official holidays. It’s a protest, provocation, or even a defense against nationalism.
Younger generations’ rhetoric mirrors that of ageing Titoists. Portrayals are mostly from his Partisan days [reminiscent of Che], not Marshal or president era. It’s not just about rejecting or protesting the present, it’s also about reaffirming the values of the past, e.g. solidarity, security, social justice, national fellowship.
Conclusion: Titostalgia has little to do with Tito himself. New images used in this “retrospective utopia” means the experience of the past doesn’t matter as much as the future of a better world laid out back then.
“Memory is not only evoked [demand] but also created [supply].” Titostalgia is not only about recreation, reinterpretation, reinvention, redefinition, reappropriation but also about “invention and construction of the past as it never existed.” Less about the reconstruction of the past than about its completely new composition. “It is not a welcome back but hello to the new.”
In the slogan “Tito is alive” Tito is not of the past but of the present. Tito hasn’t come back but has been reborn; he is not a replica or redesign, he is new and better than the original. Less a look back to bring socialism back, more a utopia to bring about a better future. Titostalgia is active social notion, rather than passive, reactionary nostalgia.
Titostalgia is not a re-emergence of socialism but a critique of capitalism and nationalism. Tito and the era he represents simply provides a framework for a possible future. It is a wish for better times (leaders, political system, economy) going forward, not bringing the good times back. It is not restorative nostalgia to return the past but “rather a return of the utopias of those times.”
“The Yugoslavia of the nostalgic discourse never existed. (…) The same holds true of Tito.” It’s ironic that the future he envisioned lives only in the imagined world of nostalgia. “…such perfection can only live in nostalgia and exist only as utopia, which…is a place that does not exist.”