Il discorso di Rada Ivekovic a Padova, al convegno nell'ambito di Civitas 2001
In the following paper, I shall start by describing (though in a loose way) transition, comparing post-colonial and post-socialist transition. We are talking of transition today, within globalization, the other end of which are fragmentations along "ethnic" national lines. I shall further investigate the importance of the threshold of 1989 and especially of its meaning for the making of Europe.
"Transition" is a word which has come back into usage after the dismantlement of the Berlin Wall, to denote what is now usually called "post-communist transition". Before that, I believe the term was first used to denote Latin-American transitions from dictatorships to democracy. The word is not a well defined term, and it usually comprises some amount of triumphalism of Western capitalism-restoration . We would rather speak of the European integration within the context of globalization, than only of post-communist transition which is indeed a limiting term, for several reasons. It is limiting not only because the Wall fell on both sides and not merely one, and because the whole Cold War dichotomy East/West, Communism/Capitalism received a blow and because it is not as if Communism alone had failed: the system of the communicating vessels equilibrium broke down. The term of transition is also limiting because the integration of Europe has its own larger framework which is the globe of "globalization" as a whole, both of Davos and of Porto Alegre in 2001. My work on post-colonialism in some countries, on the partition of the Indian sub-continent and on partitions compared, has convinced me that post-colonial transition resembles "post-communist" transition, or that the difficult development of the 3rd world resembles more and more what we have in some countries of the Balkans and in Eastern Europe, if not in all countries of Central and Eastern Europe. And that we can learn something from that experience.
The two transitions:
Where do the two transitions compare? They do so precisely after the Cold War which is not only a European phenomenon and demarcation (it was much more acute and not so "cold" in the third world). The end of the Cold War coincides in the form and also structurally with a new geopolitical, economic configuration of globalized neo-liberalism, which makes it difficult for developing countries of the 3rd world as much as for some of the former socialist countries to catch up (since that is what is now expected). The new resemblance of post-socialist transition is not with the first phase of post-colonialism, where anti-colonial nationalism was the agent of liberation and was legitimated after World War II, all through the sixties down to the same dividing line of more or less 1989 which was also decisive for Europe. Greater integration movements (Europe) and globalization at one end produce more and more disintegration, ethnicisation, identitarian fundamentalism etc. at the other end, as we have seen in the case of the Balkans and of some other European Partitions. It is my belief that the integration of Europe and the disintegration/restructuring of the Balkans are one and the same process, and that the violence in the Balkans was the cost of European integration. That price, which could have been set otherwise, is the result of the Balkan countries impatience to rush into Europe by the end of the 80's, and of European unreadiness to integrate them or to produce a schedule of programmed and gradual integration from the short to the long run. At that time, Europe did not have the courage (nor the political identity) to tell them that they will either be received together, or will not be received at all. Most of those countries thought they might better adhere separately. This is where there is a striking similarity between some Third World countries, say, inner processes in Guatemala today and tensions or war and violence within or among some ethnocracies we know in Eastern Europe. At the same time, the identitarian drives in the same Guatemala - which are new - were not really an issue during the past 36 year civil war, and have appeared since the reintegration of Guatemala into the international community. Before this last phase of globalization which dictates a new ethnicized discourse and processes of socio-political communal fragmentation all over the world, conflicts in Guatemala were expressed in terms of class, economic inequality etc. Not that the conflicts have in themselves all of a sudden become ethnic (World War II was after all also an "ethnic war" going by our new vocabulary, but that is not what it was called), but the terminology has changed with globalization. The Cold War period was a period of extreme state and army violence, and really a civil war, directed against the population as a whole in Guatemala by the state and the army. This is certainly not comparable to the history of socialist countries (though post-colonial history in decolonized countries is), but the aftermaths are very much comparable - due to the new uniformization. The Cold War was also a strict division of two blocks. The new world configuration since the end of the Cold War now favours major planetary integrations of capital, accompanied by a fragmentation on the local and social and geopolitical level.
Likewise in India, anti-colonial liberation nationalism legitimized a secular nation-building project. With its erosion which is globally contemporary with the end of the Cold War and locally with the liberalization of the economy by the state, various ethnic, communal, religious and sometimes fundamentalist projects have emerged. They are of a similar topology as those created in Europe (including Western Europe, where particularisms have not always been integrated through happy regional and trans-national adjustment): most European countries have some such examples, and Italy is remarkable for it.(1) Not all of these phenomena can be attributed to "post-communism". Specific forms of the latter exist, but they vary greatly, discouraging any stereotype, and encouraging comparison. What is now called "communism" was not another planet, just a specific form of modernity, like "capitalism". The complementarity is extended and goes on after the Cold War. We must not loose sight of a wider and even more dubious integration than that of present-day Europe (namely, globalization).
The divide after World War II - comparing A) "East" Europe, in my example mainly Yugoslavia and B) post-colonial countries, in my example mainly India (such is not the case of my other example, Guatemala), - runs somewhat as follows:1st PHASE, where socialism (A) and post-colonialism (B) have corresponding features; Cold War;
a) real socialism (with significant differences between, say, USSR and Yugoslavia; surely, over the following period countries such as Poland, Czechoslovakia or Hungary escape the fate of the former, regarding violence, much to their advantage), period of the consolidation of the Party-state. This period ends in Partition (Yugoslavia, USSR, Czechoslovakia). Countries of the third world like Guatemala, on the other hand, have enjoyed no liberation but a most brutal repression during the Cold War period (they were within the US sphere of interest).
And,b) Here, for post-colonial countries (B), Partition happens at the beginning of this first phase and is covered by the official image of the anti-colonial revolution (there are correspondences to the socialist revolution in the way these two events are "foundations"); it is the first post-colonial period of the Nehruvian secularist project, the consolidation of the secular centralized state.
In both cases, socialism (A) and post-colonialism (B) in the 1st phase we have to do with forms of modernity, but the first phase ("unconscious", but "happy", or happy because unconscious) - ends up among other things due to lack of real democratisation, as the>2nd PHASE, where post-socialism and post-colonialism have corresponding features in further fragmentation, nationalisms, religious fundamentalisms etc, whereby the oligarchies of both try to preserve/reformulate themselves and to renegotiate hegemonies; all of it within a new world-wide globalization process which now has at one end globalizing integrations, and at the other end identitarian fragmentations (which are really two sides of the same). This is roughly 1989 (a threshold never so clear-cut when it comes to post-colonialism as it was for socialidsm.
a) As for post-socialism (A), here partition happens at the beginning of the second phase, which is also the de-legitimation of the socialist project; post-socialism (A) has ethnocracies, and "centre"or rightest groups in power; first period of the post-partition effects, violence, wars, consolidation of the ethnocracies; this period can't really be compared to some "decolonization" from socialism, though there have been attempts to. Among other things , because socialism subsidized underdeveloped regions.(2)b) Erosion of the secular nation-project, post-colonialism (B) is shaken by severe identitarian movements (nationalisms etc) and/or has ethnocracies too. The erosion of the secular project here corresponds the erosion of the socialist project there. The effects of the time-bomb of partition in India multiply on the inner level, and continue on the regional-international one. Further "ethnicization". After this period, countries of the third world such as Guatemala enter directly the "2nd phase", i.e. a time of further ethnicization which is the dynamics of globalization. Claims for ethnic recognition are now fitted into a project of human rights and (liberal) democracy formally everywhere, but really emphatically so in areas of the third world and of the former Eastern block.
All these mechanisms can therefore profitably be compared.
Observing the countries of the former Yugoslavia as they are today(3), in a form which one knows to be transitory, cannot but leave one skeptical. No exaggerated euphoria seems today possible over such ethnocracies, over countries where the "de-nazification" after the bloody wars of the eighties has not yet been achieved,(4) or over some of those pseudo-statal entities. Considering that nations are by definition incomplete and unstable forms, non-identical to themselves in their search for their own identity, one must admit that it will take at least some decades for the area to geopolitically take shape and to heal the wounds of the past protracted violences. And that settlement will take place as Europe itself takes contour. But Europe is built of the same material, over the same setup and in the same way as its periphery, with the only difference that the process is more violent at the margins. So, although there is no alternative to Europe and although it is an on-going process, no excessive euphoria over Europe the way it is being constructed seems to be possible either. It is true that, as things stand, there is no alternative to the integration of Eastern European and Balkan countries into Europe. Yet over that too, no excessive optimism. Namely, any inclusion implicates some exclusion. Will Europe stop at Turkey? Or one day at Azerbaijan? It is a matter of time, certainly, but Europe is not a single continent, it can be seen as the Western appendix of Asia, and its process of integration only makes the boundary move somewhat further to the East, while the mechanism, so far, remains the same. In the good preliminary paper "Di-Segnare l'Europa..." we received with the invitation to start discussion, no mention is made at all of inner Western European mechanisms of ethnicization, rampant rightist populism in the regions, disintegration, which are not at all different, though they are for the time being softer, than the mechanisms described (in the same paper) as going on in the Balkans. It is also these should be taken into account at the re-construction which is under way. That the Balkan countries should be counted as "virtual members" (though it is not clear what that means) of Europe comes more than 10 years late. Had it been an integrating principle 10 years ago, the process of integration would have been slower certainly, but possibly less violent in the Balkans, and possibly the expectations before the elections in Italy in two weeks would have been different. Also, it should be thought what citizenship in Europe means. Because you may remove the border of Europe further to the East, but if you don't change your idea of citizenship and the concept of border, state, nation etc, you will have the same residua - boat people, illegals. Will European trans-national identity be thought differently than national identity is thought know? For the time being, national and state identity is an exclusive concept, it excludes those who do not "belong".I don't think that relying on the concept of civil society, self-government and the like alone can be a solution, and I certainly don't think that any kind of community or communitarianism, communalism, can be of any use because of its intrinsically patriarchal structure: civil society is not a miracle, it reproduces the quality of society or community you have. We have seen in the formerly Yugoslav countries civil society and public space bring about the freedom and possibility to express any kind of racist and ethnicist views. If you have a non-democratic society, its civil society will be non-democratic too, - it will not be civic (cf. civil/civic). If we don't cultivate resistance, democratic pluralism, opposition, citizen's defiance and control of power, as well as an openness and hospitality to others at the heart of Europe, if we neglect the expression of the plural citizenship of all individuals, we may well be fomenting tomorrow's conflicts, both inner and outer. Europe could have been imagined differently too.
What I really think we need, is to philosophically reconstruct thoughtfully the concepts we are using (I am a philosopher), but this is not the place and the time for it. Yet, we can learn a lot from the past. For example, the still ongoing partition of India and Pakistan which started in 1947-48 through a short civil war not recognized as such because it took place within the anti-colonial movement, can help a lot in understanding the Yugoslav disintegration. I have written about that extensively elsewhere.(5) What can be shortly said about that lesson is that there is no particular reason that the process of disintegration should stop. One could imagine it going further on, including within Europe, as part of the latter's reconfiguration. Partition leads to new nations, and the nation itself brings about partition, - that seems to be a kind of a general rule, if we understand nation as never identical and never adequate to itself, and also as a fiction and as something imaginary given through narration and discourse. The nation is the ideal we give ourselves in advance with the promise to fulfill it in the future, as a credit of an as if. It is a process. Also, it is a community and not a society, and it takes time to build it into a society, whereby the state, which is also rather communal (patriarchal) is not really always helpful. But, at the end of the eighties, Europe didn't allow any time to the former Yugoslavia as a possible future member, there was no future vision, and the request was immediately. "Immediately"can only mean violence and war. But the mechanism of violence was also not studied by our Europe makers.
The real problem is how to understand regional integrations, the threshold for us being today 1989, which is also the date from which globalization became visible as an economic ultra-liberal configuration. It is within that framework that Europe is being constructed the way it is, with its inner and also external paradoxes and contradictions.
The threshold of 1989:
The year 1989 is usually the demarcation line of the end of socialism, and the date of embarkation for the post-socialist "transition" which was never clearly defined. The general loss of universal, or its corruption since 1989, seems to point to some search for a new totality through such attempts as the enlargement of Europe etc. Elsewhere, even the Talibans seem to confirm this. Their fuel is the political canalization of an enormous sexual frustration and segregation which is intelligently (and perversely) maintained and instrumentalized by a totalitarian anti-political movement. Their collective madness shows not only that the sexual difference is at the bottom of any political problem, but also precisely that what is at stake is (Western) modernity , of which "socialism" or "capitalism" are only specific forms. Nationalism (whose origin in the French Revolution was certainly at the political left from which it has since disconnected itself) is itself but an attempt to reconstruct a universal after the collapse of the previous one which turned out to be false - since it proposed as universal a mere particular interest.
After the big shattering of the world dichotomy, the nation as well as trans-national integrations like Europe (it is only a matter of denomination) was and remains an attempt to avoid social divisions through a higher ideological and imaginary office. It is a vertical and patriarchal principle which is supposed to provide a cohesion beyond divisions, vested of a divine transcendent power (which replaces, and secularizes, the divine power of the Ancien regime). The nation is so revealed to be one of the great historical figures of transcendence. It claims a state when it doesn't coincide with one, in order to get a juridical framework whose aim is the neutralization of differences. At the same time when this is being finally achieved for the "late-comers" that we euphemistically call "developing countries", within the framework of the globalization (mondialisation) of the Western pattern of modernity, the "capital-sans-frontières" becomes trans-national and indicates towards a new universal, in relationship to which the same will be "late" again. This is usually pacified multi-culturalism, referring to the recognition of differences... within the neo-liberal hierarchy. Transitions take place under such unequal conditions.
In all these countries, the political space is in need of opening and reconstruction, and political subjects, citizens, need to appear, including those who have been silenced in the past. Here is where a negotiation takes place over who will have access, and under what conditions, to the public and the political space. This is what "transition" is all about - a period of renegotiating political relations. But a democratic political subject will only be reconstructed in a sharing and reciprocity of judgement practiced in common by every individual, avoiding the extremes both of individualism or of collectivism and of forced identities. Self-realization must now comprise sharing, as would say Romano Màdera.(6) On the other hand, it is clear that we need new epistemological instruments in order to grasp on-going changes. "It remains to be seen what happens during this transition of the present system towards another or other ones", writes Immanuel Wallerstein concerning the transformations of the "world-system" within globalization.(7) And, says he further, "usual ways of reading will not appear appropriate any more."
The constant claim for differences in the rhetoric of the war-lords and in that of foreign peacemakers is only the sign of their rejection at their hands. Their appeal is ambiguous when it is imperative as it is, because one and the same expression in language covers both acceptance and rejection. The language that stiffens difference pretends to be able to define everything, to exhaust the meaning and to legiferate on it. It pretends to possess truth and to prescribe the only significance.
So Europe self-legitimizes itself through the universal and humanist image it gives itself in its narratives, getting justified and recognized in its turn through the others (as in a mirror) to whom she would serve as a model to imitate: Eastern Europe has played this role, and so has the Third World.
Promises that are not held: the anticipated enjoying of Europe by itself (Europe constituted but also, to be constituted) happens through violence, because it follows in the same pattern as liberalism which "imitates the distribution of rights"(8) while making a new political theory which replaces economy. Abstract and useless rights, such as this locus of investment of the imaginary that is the Nation - are opposed to the concrete place of enjoyment of the goods they anticipate without ever really leading to them. Socialism, as a promise of a future happiness remaining out of reach, belongs to the same order for that matter. Also, the Balkans imitating Europe because it is the way to enjoy it (an eternal postponement). Europe is that big promise not held and untenable under the conditions of the reaffirmed dichotomy. Under such conditions, there may be truces but no peace. These lying anticipations of untenable promises, like the one of the anticipated enjoyment of the Nation in and through war, level in advance the temporal dimension bearing diversity and differences, as much as they allow to justify violence.NOTES:
(1) see the concept of "Alpine populism" of Paolo Rumiz, or the work of Bruno Luverà and others. P. Rumiz, "Le populisme alpin", in Transeuropéennes 18, 2000, p. 103-123; La secessione leggera. Dove nasce la rabbia del profondo Nord, Editori Riuniti, Roma 1998. B. Luverà, I confini dell'odio. Il nazionalismo etnico e la nuova destra europea, ER, Roma 1999; Il Dottor H. Haider e la nuova destra europea, Einaudi, Torino 2000. Also: Michel Huysseune, "Masculinity and secessionism in Italy: an assessment" in: Nations and Nationalism, vol. 6, Part 4 October 2000, special issue on "Gender and Nationalism", ed. by Deniz Kandiyoti, pp. 591-611.
(2) Ivan Ivekovic, "Yugoslavia, Fragmentation and Globalization: Some Comparisons", manuscript prepared for the "World Forum for Alternatives" (WFA) as one of the basic texts for its Annual Report "The World Seen By Its People"(2001).
(3) Gabriella Fusi, "Il movimento studentesco in Jugoslavia", in Primavera di Praga e dintorni. Alle origini del '89, a cura di Francesco Leoncini e Carla Tonini, Edizioni Cultura della Pace, San domenico di Fiesole 2000.
(4) but the de-nazification of Germany was possible among other things thanks to the post-war colonization by the Allies which, except for Kosovo and partly for Bosnia-Herzegovina was not done here.
(5) See the special issue of the journal "Transeuropéennes" 19/20, 2001 (Paris) on partitions compared.
(6) Romano Màdera, L'alchimia ribelle. Per non rassegnarsi al dominio delle cose, Palomar, Bari 1997.
(7) I. Wallerstein, "De Bandoung à Seattle. "C'était quoi, le tiers-monde?", in Le Monde diplomatique, août 2000, pp. 18-19. Retranslated into English by me.
(8) Jacques Poulain, at the conference "Guérir de la guerre et juger la paix", Université de Paris-8, juin 1995, and other writings.
* The present paper is a shortened and reshuffled version of the paper "Gender and Transition", given at the conference "Women and Radical Change" in Sydney, 2-4 April 2001, for the conference "Di-Segnare l'Europa. I Balcani tra integrazione e disintegrazione", Padova 5-5-2001.