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However, is it possible to imagine a leftist appropriation of the European political legacy? Let us begin with the question, What is politics proper?
This identification of the nonpart with the whole, of the part of society with no properly defined place or which resists its allocated subordinated place with the universal, is the elementary gesture of politicization, discernable in all great democratic events, from the French Revolution in which the Third Estate proclaimed itself identical to the nation as such against the aristocracy and clergy to the demise of European socialism, in which groups such as the Czech Civic Forum proclaimed themselves representative of the entire society against the party nomenklatura.
When the excluded, from the Greek demos to Polish workers, protested against the ruling elite the aristocracy or nomenklatura , the true stakes were not only their explicit demands for higher wages, better working conditions, and so forth but their very right to be heard and recognized as an equal participant in the debate.
In Poland, the nomenklatura lost the moment it had to accept Solidarity as an equal partner. In this precise sense, politics and democracy are synonymous: the basic aim of antidemocratic politics always and by definition is and was depoliticization, that is, the unconditional demand that things should return to the normal, with each individual doing his or her particular job.
It is thus politicization that reemerged violently in the disintegration of Eastern European socialism. From my own political past, I remember how, after four journalists were arrested and brought to trial by the Yugoslav army in Slovenia in , I participated in the Committee for the Protection of the Human Rights of the Four Accused. Officially, the goal of the committee was just to guarantee fair treatment for the jounalists; however, the committee turned into the major oppositional political force, practically the Slovenian version of the Czech Civic Forum of the East German Neues Forum, the body that coordinated democratic opposition, a de facto representative of civil society.
Four items made up the program of the committee: the first three directly concerned the accused, while the devil residing in the details, of course, was the fourth item, of the arrest of the four accused and thus to contribute to creating the circumstaces in which such arrests would no longer be possible — a coded way of saying that we wanted the abolishment of the existing socialist system.
For that reason, in almost daily negotiations with the committee, Communist Party officials were always accusing us of having a hidden agenda, claiming that the liberation of the accused four was not our true goal, that is, that we were exploiting and manipulating the arrest and trial for other, darker political goals. Sometimes the shift from politics proper to policing can be simply a matter of a change from the definite to the indefinite artical, like the East German crowds demonstrating against the communist regime in the last days of the GDR.
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A Leftist Plea for "Eurocentrism"
Skip to search form Skip to main content You are currently offline. Some features of the site may not work correctly. DOI: When one says Eurocentrism, every self-respecting postmodern leftist intellectual has as violent a reaction as Joseph Goebbels had to culture-to reach for a gun, hurling accusations of protofascist Eurocentrist cultural imperialism. However, is it possible to imagine a leftist appropriation of the European political legacy?