Call for papers: Socialist movements in Eastern Europe and beyond: past, present, future

Call for papers for dVERSIA’ s fifth annual issue on 

Socialist movements in Eastern Europe and beyond: past, present future

In today’s conjuncture, characterised by stark anticommunist sentiments in Eastern Europe, socialist and democratic socialist movements are often ridiculed, silenced and misrepresented as inhumane, totalitarian and generally unable to achieve social justice. However, there is often one central question which remains unanswered: What did socialists fight against at the beginning of the 20th century that nowadays their achievements are so categorically dismissed? If the answer points towards the fact that these movements resisted capitalist, patriarchal and colonial forms of violence; if it is painfully clear that today we continue to live with the violent effects of such entangled oppressions – then we urgently need to add one further question to the one posed above: Can we productively reactivate and deploy the experience of socialist movements and political programmes in Eastern Europe so as to build our socialist programmes today?  

From the point of view of the year 2020, the beginning of the “transition to market economy” in Eastern Europe, reinforced by neoliberal ideologies, is often presented as a consensual, welcome event. However, a more careful reappraisal of that period (spanning roughly from the end of the 1980s to the early 1990s) reveals that movements questioning “actually existing” socialism were fairly multilayered as regards their political visions and propositions. They were often grounded in socialist, social-democratic and democratic socialist ideals. A telling example from the context of Bulgaria can be found in the participation of two influential members of an early opposition party, The Union of Demoractic Forces, in a recent talk show. In late 2019, Dr. Trenchev and Mr. Simeonov recalled how back in the 1990s the political vocabulary of the opposition purposefully avoided making use of words such as “capitalism”. Instead, it was purposefully utilising notions such as “market economy” and “democracy” so as to avoid being antagonised from the wider public. In this context we ask ourselves whether the time has come to query the past thirty years’ capitalist reality and reevaluate the ideals of social democracy and socialism. On the one hand, we believe that the moment has come to pose a set of questions vis-á-vis the legitimacy of the transition towards capitalist social formations in Bulgaria and beyond. On the other hand, such a critical venture demands both a historical and an actualised account of social democractic, socialist and democratic socialist movements. That would require an examination of their political programmes, ideals and struggles alongside an investigation of the various strategies deployed to stifle and delegitimise them. Today, socialist movements are often challenged on the basis of their purported incapacity to offer any viable alternative to capitalist forms of social organization; that they are small and feeble –  if existing at all. But is this really so?

dVERSIA’s publication will focus on socialist, democratic socialist and social democratic struggles and movements in Eastern Europe from the beginning of the 20th century onwards. For us it is especially important to trace processes of accumulation of capital, the development of capitalist monopolies and the deindustrialisation in the pre-socialist period in Eastern Europe. Moreover, we would like to analyse processes of collectivisation; confiscation of capital; the setting of conditions for the beginnings of new popular democracies; and the development of the social, economic and political programmes of socialist regimes. For our purposes, these processes will be discussed beyond a narrow focus on the economic forces driving them. The aim of the volume is to also consider their effects in the social, political and social spheres. Another question that interests us pertains to the possibility of using the historical experience of socialist movements in Eastern Europe in order to strengthen socialist struggles today. Should this experience be negated in absolute terms or does it not rather harbor potentials for the aims of socialist movements today?

The volume will consist of three parts that will engage with, but will not necessarily be limited to the following sets of issues: 

Part One will concentrate on capitalist forms of primitive accumulation in the pre-socialist period in Eastern Europe. What type of mechanisms did the nascent capitalist class rely on for the accumulation of wealth? What technologies of power were used for the purposes of commodification of labor power, to cater to the needs of capital accumulation? What were the struggles against the forms of primitive accumulation of capital? What were the main ideas and programs of the socialist and social-democrat movements from the beginning of the 20th century in Eastern Europe that struggled against capitalist forms of economic and political organisation (with their unequal distribution of resources and unhealthy and denigrating labour conditions)? What was the role of workers’, feminist and progressive movements for the drafting of the programmes of socialist and social democratic political parties of the period?

Part Two will explore socialist struggles from the point of view of the socialist period. What were its mechanisms in Eastern European socialist states? To what extent did the revolutionary ideas of preceding movements find a place in the political, economic and social programmes of socialist parties? What mechanisms did socialist reforms rely on in order to overcome agrarian, social and political hardships from the pre-socialist period? To what did the changing modes of production and social reproduction seek to offer an alternative? What policies and programs did socialist states devise vis-á-vis the struggles from the pre-socialist period? What were the achievements and limitations of socialist political programmes that we can still use today in order to chart out a more just future for tomorrow?

Part Three will explore socialist, democratic socialist and social democratic movements today, struggling against contemporary forms of oppression and capital accumulation. Although the previous sections will concentrate on Eastern Europe, the third section will strive to open up a more global perspective onto socialist movements today. We welcome papers analysing the histories, aims, strategies, challenges and ideals of such movements from all around the globe.  

Please send us your abstracts (up to 500 words) to info(@)dversia.net by March 31, 2020. We will review the proposals and contact you by April 15, 2020. Articles’ final drafts should not exceed 7,000 words.

We will be able to pay a small fee to contributors thanks to Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Bulgaria, whose financial support will also enable the editing and the printing of this dVERSIA volume. 

dVERSIA magazine is a left magazine based in Bulgaria that offers critical analyses on political, social and cultural subjects. Besides our regular online issues, we also annually print an anthology of selected texts. The book is distributed freely in university and regional libraries, bookstores and social centres.

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