Praktyka Teoretyczna - 1(31)/2019
Anti-communisms: Discourses of Exclusion
Redaktor numeru: Piotr Kuligowski, Łukasz Moll, Krystian Szadkowski
Communism is a necessary starting point for any political or theoretical discussion of anticommunism. Exorcised for nearly two centuries, communism today is not just occluded by the prohibition of thinking or practicing it, but also expelled by a complete ban on desiring it. Not only does mention of communism bring disgust on the Right, fully aware that the oncehorrifying spectre is just its pale shadow today; communism is also an uncomfortable relative for the Left. At best a troublesome legacy of the past – at worst, a foe actively fought against. The desire for communism – as a goal, as an experience of everyday life, as co-existence, coproduction and co-abolition of constraints that stand in the way of truly democratic governance – lay at the heart of designing a better future. Therefore, only a mediation in the desire for communism can make the considerations of anti-communism something more than a mere contribution to the emergence of yet another form of “anti” politics.
THE ANTI-STRUGGLES AND ANTI-COMMUNISM
The essay discusses four theses on contemporary anti-communism: 1) anticommunism is general and international; 2) anti-communism is an operator within capitalist ideology; 3) anti-communism is a politics of fear; 4) anti-communism is a lure that communists should reject. It proposes new theoretical framework to understand and contest many-faced manifestations of anti-communism.
Keywords: anti-communism, critique of ideology, politics of fear, far-right politics
The article traces the haunting of the contemporary art field by a post-1989 cultural and political imaginary captured in Douglas Coupland’s novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (1991). This was a formative literary work for its anti-work stance but also the narrativisation of withdrawal in awe of processes of acceleration that saw production principles translating into “dazed and confused” lifestyles. The preference of Gen-Xers for “microcosms”, where withdrawal encountered low-fi collectivism, became more prevalent in subsequent decades and aligned with a democracy realised, and idealised, as the politics of “anti” (including anti-fascism) – exemplified in the art field in its association with an ethical left. Constant and glorified antagonisms join the liberal art field to the social field, forever rescripting ‘anti’ as TINA – the principle that “there is no alternative”. TINA, it is argued, is assuming specific figurations within the largely left-inclined art terrain where commoning practices remain cut off from the propositional politics of communism while, both within and beyond the art field, technophilia is legitimised left and right as a substitute for the desire for communism. The main theses of the article are that: (a) such developments are intertwined
with a political process of struggle that delivers alienation as their main outcome – that is, alienation from an imagined endpoint of the struggle and (b) that such alienation cannot be considered separately from the hegemony of acceleration in light of the traumatic withdrawal from, and of, communism and capitalism’s continuous re-working of prefigurative anticommunism.
Keywords: contemporary art, politics of anti, democracy, alienation, anti-communism,
Generation X, accelerationism, anti-fascism, ethical left
ANTI-COMMUNISM AND HISTORIOGRAPHY
The paper supports the following thesis: the October Revolution influenced the constituency of the Polish independent state in 1918 as well as the structure of class struggles in Poland. The history of this impact is absolutely ignored or even denied in contemporary Polish anti-communist ruling historical discourse. The centenary of the Russian Revolution triggered debates presenting this event as “a demonic source of the 20th century totalitarianism”, without mentioning the enthusiasm the Revolution provoked in Polish people (who were both actively participating in it and inspired by it). The nationalist historical policy, which idealizes Poles at any cost, attempts to erase Polish engagement in “Red October” or belittle it as an insignificant episode. For this reason, by analyzing the dominant narrative about the Bolshevik Revolution in Poland via the example of Mateusz Staroń’s book Traitors: Poles the allies of Lenin, I will show how anti-communist discourse reshapes the past to serve its own ideological purposes and present an alternative narrative about the Russian Revolution in a Polish context, against these dominant anti-communist clichés, concerning 3 issues: 1. Polish participation in the October Revolution, 2. The Revolution’s influence on Poland’s independence, 3. The Polish workers’ council movement as a direct response to the Russian Revolution. In the context of the above, the aim of this paper is not limited to providing an alternative to the ruling discourse, being just another exercise in political and historical imagination, or attempting to bring to light repressed aspects of Polish history. Rather, it is to show the logic and structure of the anti-communist narrative as such.
Keywords: Russian Revolution, Polish independence, anti-communism, historical discourse,
rightist ideology, worker’s councils
ANTI-COMMUNISM IN THE TIME OF TRANSITION
The article discusses the question of feminist interpretations of the poetry of Anna Świrszczyńska, one of the most recognized Polish poets of international renown, whose works and activity are often associated with a strong feminist worldview. Many interpreters of Świrszczyńska’s poetry did not focus enough on the origin of the poet’s feminist attitude, claiming that it was rather exceptional and rare for the period of the Polish People’s Republic. Contrary to the narration established by the interpreters of her poetry after 1989, I argue that Świrszczyńska’s feminist sensitivity was not an isolated and individual phenomenon, as it emerged in a time of increased women’s activity and the development of the socialist project for women’s equality deployed in Poland after 1945. I believe that both the political activity of communist women and the grassroots actions taken by the working-class women in the socialist state became the main factors in shaping Świrszczyńska’s feminist worldview. The Polish feminist narrative after 1989, however, due to its anti-communist approach to the problem of feminism in the Polish People’s Republic, did not include the history of the Polish left-wing women’s movement. This results from applying to the Polish history of women’s movements 1) liberal notions of feminist agency; 2) Western feminist theories devoid of Marxist paradigm; and 3) a normative definition of feminism understood only in terms of antisystemic activity. By taking into account Świrszczyńska’s political and cultural activity, I emphasize the necessity of filling the gaps in the story of Polish women’s movement. Such a strategy is inevitably connected with the necessity of remodelling the genealogy of Polish feminism, redefining the notion of agency, and feminism itself.
Keywords: socialism, emancipation, feminism, anti-communism, genealogy
With the collapse of state socialism in Eastern Europe, anti-communism gained new momentum. In Poland, it has become a hegemonic discourse that manifests itself in (and reproduces itself through) legislation, public history, politics, and education, as well as pop culture. However, the discursive dominance of anti-communism has hardly been researched systematically. In this article, I aim to apply hegemony analysis, as developed by Martin Nonhoff – and based on Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s theory of discourse – to anticommunism in contemporary Poland. I give an overview of the methodology and discuss concrete analytical tools and their possible application and argue that, as a result of an antagonistic division of discursive space, communism becomes a “general crime”, an obstacle that prevents Polish society from finding “ultimate reconciliation with itself” and reaching its (mythical) fullness.
Keywords: anti-communism, discourse, hegemony (analysis), Laclau, Mouffe, Nonhoff
The subject of the article is the recent rise in significance of anti-communist discourses on the example of Polish anti-communism. The aim of the article is twofold. Firstly, to test the limits of usefulness of the theory of hegemony in the critique of anti-communism. I claim that it remains operative as an analytic tool to track practical uses of anti-communism in political rivalry, but it is unable to conceptualize more systemic and non-apparent operations of anti-communist logics in the machinery of contemporary capitalism. I propose an alternative interpretation of anti-communism, drawing mostly on post-operaist Marxism of the common and acknowledging its theoretical assumptions with recent research on the Polish popular classes and their bottom-up social practices. Secondly, I present a hypothesis, according to which proper understanding of the particular example of Polish anti-communism could be helpful to understand the functioning of universal anti-communism as a reaction to the struggles to institute the common.
Keywords: anti-communism, the common, anti-capitalism, hegemony, Polish politics
This is a review essay discussing Magdalena Grabowska’s book: Zerwana genealogia: Działalność społeczna i polityczna kobiet po 1945 roku a współczesny polski ruch kobiecy (Warszawa:Wydawnictwo Naukowe SCHOLAR, 2018).
Keywords: feminism, Polish People’s Republic, Women’s League
This is a review essay discussing an edited volume titled Historical Memory of Central and East European Communism (eds. Agnieszka Mrozik and Stanislav Holubec, Routledge 2018).
Keywords: memory politics, communism, state-socialism, review essay
The primary area of exclusion that anti-communism generates is located in social education. It is the actively anti-communist upbringing offered by the contemporary education system that translates into later anti-communist hegemony – first cultural, then political. The exclusion results here from the total domination of extreme right-wing politics, which is intertwined with the pseudo-neutrality of the markets. Workers do not receive any choice, because the only universal socialization approved by the ideological apparatus of the state is precisely this anti-communist one. Such a system of universal education effectively creates a man faithful to capitalist values and opposing everything related to communism. Media and institutions unfavourable to communism kill every potential worker’s desire for change, while the selection procedures present in education divide people by their class origin and economic status, and do not favour the formation of elites with a different worldview than pro-system and anti-communist.
Let me narrow down the scope of the answer for the questions posed by the editors of “Theoretical Practice” to a specific place and time: Poland after 1989. In Poland after 1989, we had essentially two forms of anti-communism: a liberal and a right-wing one. The first dominated the 1990s; the second came into force after 2015. Each of these two anticommunisms was aiming its anti-communist bludgeon at different targets.
Anti-communism is as old as communism, maybe even older. In the Communist Manifesto Marx
writes about the “spectre of communism”, which “haunts Europe” and against which “all
powers of old Europe” have united: “Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals
and German police-spies”. The communist party had not yet been created, the program had
not crystallised yet, there were not yet people who would have identified themselves with the ideas of communism. Nevertheless, representatives of the old feudal and the new capitalist worlds had already protested against them. And they opposed them fiercely, using all available tools, both legal (prison sentences, fines) and extra-legal (assaults on members of left-wing organisations, destruction and arson of their premises, social ostracism).
Anti-communism is one of the pillars of the right-wing ideological hegemony during the second
decade of the 21st century. The Brazilian president, Bolsonaro, fights communism in his
country, the US president, Trump, and the Madrid journal El Pais fight communism in
Venezuela (as well as in their own countries), and the Polish newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza,
exposes the communist methods of the ruling party, Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, while the progovernment media in Poland trace the communist genealogies of Wyborcza’s editors. Anticommunism blooms in Hungary, in Russia, in Turkey, and in the Philippines. But Poland
remains a very good example of the nature, ideological function, and political meaning of
today’s anti-communism. The analysis of the local form taken by this phenomenon allows us
to reconstruct the most important mechanisms of exclusion that support the anti-communist
discourses and to answer the question of whether and how to fight against anti-communism.