This is a picture which invoked a great deal of enthusiasm in my country. The people finally could join forces and take to the streets. Furthermore, the European Union, or rather its establishment, is apparently backing us. Mr Juncker and his vice president, Frans Timmermans, are sending “a clear warning” expressing their concern about the independence of our judicial system and that the “fight against corruption” must continue. The message is clear: now let’s work out why.
The context of current protests, apart from some “technical” details, is the same as that for last winter, the largest in post-communist Romanian history. This is due to the eager desire of the current Parliament, and its Social Democrat establishment party leadership, to bring the judiciary under its own control to provide a cover for their own corrupt practises.
It looks like we are chained to this “corruption battle” narrative, too dazzled to see beyond its horizon. Are we alone in this? Definitely not. All nations newly emerging into “liberal free-market capitalism”, stretching from Eastern Europe (see recent protests in Ukraine) and South America to the Middle East (see the Arab spring) suffer from the same disease. They too have experienced quite intimately the crooked neo-liberal establishment practices meant to divert public attention away from real social matters and to weaken democracy itself by tearing apart one institution after another. This has been masterfully described by Noam Chomsky on many an occasion.
Let’s turn briefly to the protests and see how they were portrayed, back in February last year, in Krytyka Polityczna, in two of its articles. One of them, signed by Demos, a European left-wing civic platform, expressed its deep regret for the manner in which social-democratic ideology has been wretchedly hijacked by the establishment party. The other one, authored by Florin Poenaru, owner and coordinator of Left East platform, dug a bit deeper into the public message around “the fight against corruption”. The underlying argument was that this was on many occasions a scapegoat simply used in order to steer attention away from the “bigger” picture, namely huge social inequalities, huge concentration of capital, 40% of the population living beneath the poverty line, and in some cases also human rights abuses.
Both messages, taken together, overlap with some pillars of the DiEM25 progressive agenda: social justice, freedom and the independence of the media. The sad thing is that the two sides cannot find and express a common message and moreover cannot combine into a strong political force. As has always been the underlying problem, but even more so in Eastern Europe, the Left is divided and can hardly make its message a reality.
I remember I read some while ago an article about why people are not out on the streets after the publication of the Paradise Papers. Following the same reason, I might ask, why were there no protests in Romania about TTIP or CETA, about NATO invasions everywhere, about G20 summits, where the political elites of the worlds’ most influential economies are taking strategic decisions on the back of their people, about austerity measures imposed some years ago in Romania?
Bogdan is a member of DSC Bucharest, but also a humble engineer living in Munich. His main points of interest are socio-political issues of South-East Europe, as well as promoting DiEM25 there.
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