On nationalism and globalization. The Bulgarian example

Prof. D-r Zahari Zahariev
President of the Slavyani Foundation

The twentieth century will remain in history primarily by two basic events that marked two turns in the civilizational course of mankind. The first of them was the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia, which paved the way for a unique attempt at an alternative social, economic and political perfection of society and the state..

And the second turn is undoubtedly associated with the historical changes in Europe and the world in the late 80s and early 90s of the last century. Although revolutionary in nature, unlike October 1917, they generally had an evolutionary course. Starting with the ideas of “perestroika” in the USSR, they very quickly changed our ideas about the structure of society and the world. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the “gentle revolutions”  in Eastern Europe unambiguously showed that in the course of historical progress nothing is and cannot be immutable, that the structure of society and the state directly depends on what is “forged” in civilizational terms.

Objectively assessing the current situation, both in the national and in the broad socio-political and interstate terms, we cannot but state that there are two alternatives that are still far from their historical outcome. They cohabit on the territory of the European space, carrying destabilization, insecurity and quite a lot of drama for both Europeans and the world as a whole. What are they?

FIRST: this is a civilizational rise along the spiral of historical development, a rise that guarantees not only new horizons for scientific and technological progress, but also a qualitatively new stage in the democratization of socio-political and economic relations with guaranteed peace and security in the international space.

SECOND: the scientific and technological revolution, which exceeds the ability of society to harmonize its existence and morality, with its offensive course and thus bringing new and new conflict “nodes” and “ulcers” of development. And this means strong tendencies towards destabilization of public relations, erosion of statehood, lack of stability and predictability in international relations due to national egoism, chauvinism and hegemonic ambitions.

It will not be exaggerated if we say that after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the equilibrium of bloc confrontation, the impossibility of building of a stable, effectively functioning planetary security system is directly related to the failures of the European dialogue.

The continuing presence of hotbeds of tension and military conflicts, of selfishly motivated, mutually confusing as goals and visions about the future of the integration process, treading on one place of negotiations on a new structure of the European space – this is only part of the symptoms of schizophrenic duality of civilizational European identity.

In this context, the theory of globalization destroying national-state borders should also be criticized. Of course, there is no reasonable thesis that can challenge the “shortening of distances” between countries and peoples in the modern world, as well as the associated dynamization of ethno-cultural dialogue between different civilizational circles. All this is completely objective. This, however, does not mean an asserting tendency to unify values and traditions, and even less the possibility of imposing a single development model, even if it would be subject to the most democratic norms of cohabitation and the functioning of the economic and political system within the framework of one society.

Integration policy also has an ambiguous impact in this regard. Artificially forcing its pace, which contradicts the objective course of development, block supercentralization strengthens the anonymous nature of power, removes the individual from real civil rights and limits his opportunities for reactivity to administrative decisions that are lowered from above. And this gives impetus to an extremely dangerous process – losing faith in the functional abilities of the state, the public mood is directed towards a different logic of social behavior. And it consists in this: since the state is incapable of performing its functions, then people should provide themselves with their own ideas of justice, relying solely on their own strengths and capabilities. This phenomenon opens the gates to spontaneous protest, uncontrolled riots, violence and terrorism. It inflates the sails of primitive populism, nationalism and xenophobia, religious intransigence and chauvinistic hatred.

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The development of Eastern Europe over the past 30 years provides many examples in this regard. Unfortunately, although highly localized, such examples have not disappeared for good. In many places, such as the Balkans and the territory of the former Soviet Union, such trends are becoming part of the public daily life. It is even more frightening that from the destabilized, after the “gentle revolutions”  and 30 years of unsuccessful experiments, Eastern Europe, they tend to spread  their manifestation in the life of traditional Western European democracies..

Now, we are faced with another new situation. It is connected with the fact that the traditional party ideologemes, unfortunately, are outdated. They no longer correspond  to realities and do not respond  to new requests that general civilizational changes pose to society and  to the individual. And when there are no ideologemes, then the inability of political elites, i.e. leadership of traditional parties, is also felt, to fully fulfill their functions as leaders of states when they are in power, or as the most important opposing political subject when they are in opposition in the political life of these states. Thus, the interests and policies of these elites and the expectations of ordinary people progressively diverge. At the same time, there is an interesting element – conservative parties  or relatively speaking, right-wing parties, in spite of the reduction in their membership, somehow move forward, gaining public confidence during elections. We have reached the point where there are only 4-5 ruling Social Democratic parties in the entire United Europe..

Why does it happen? The answer is that, despite the decrease in the number of people ready to vote, conservative or so-called right-wing parties are building their ideology on the basis of traditional values of modern society. These are values that originate from the Ten Commandments of God and have not changed in the process of development of civilization and humanity. At the same time, the socialist movement was conceived as a movement of visionaries. Its mission is ideologically confirmed as a pioneer who outlines new horizons for the development of human civilization. Today is no longer possible. Social Democracy has become so tightly integrated into the existing capitalist system that it has become an element and thus a custodian  of  the same system against which it initially fought and which no longer functions.

A concrete example in this respect is provided by the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Bulgarian “left”. They are going through a deep organizationa, ideological and political crisis. The reason for this is connected both with the above-mentioned civilizational changes, and with the specifics of the transition from the so-called “real socialism” to a malformed capitalist reality.

The roots of this reality should be sought, first of all, in the watershed events after November 1989. Because the development of the political situation, and hence the economic and social future of Bulgaria were then still on the scales of history. Its ability to successfully pass its history exam also depended on the ability of the BKP / BSP to self-critically assess itself and its responsibilities, and to look critically not only at the current situation, but also at the passing turning point in the public consciousness.

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Today, on the threshold of the past decades, we can definitely say that its leadership failed to give impetus in this direction. Endless compromises both in relation to self-criticism and in relation to the overdue tragic realities predetermined the nasty “birthmarks” on the body of the BSP. But this, which then looked only as a cosmetic ailment,  subject to correction, later turned out to be the beginning of deadly ulcers. Murderous for the BSP – torn apart by personal ambitions and selfish group interests, by political egoism and historical disbelief. Murderous, however, through the BSP and for Bulgaria itself, which followed the path of economic and social destruction, of spiritual and moral decay, of statehood erosion.

The main reason for this predetermining course of today’s realities is to be found in the clash of two diametrically opposed approaches to the historical choice of East European socialism and its vision for the future of the former socialist countries.

The FIRST approach was opportunism, the policy of the easiest resistance, subordinated to the maxim: Let development leave us to where it was predetermined by the course of history! However, without taking into account the fact that something, which at the moment looks like a logical predetermination, very often turns out to be only a dead-end sleeve of the historical process.

And the SECOND approach to change was of those who did not want to accept opportunism as their political destiny. Although often led by different ideological motives, although not always with similar approach towards political tactics, they were united by the vision that the conjuncture cannot be decisive for the strategy of a mass left party. Even more, when that party wants not only to survive, but also to be a leading factor in the political and socio-economic development of the country.

The dominant line of political behavior that determines the character of both the BSP and all socialist parties in Eastern Europe since the turning point years has been and remains opportunism: the course of adaptation to what was asserted as a model of development from outside and compliance with the political arguments of the internal opposition forces. All the time this opportunism, gaining momentum and strength, was skillfully camouflaged – either under the guise of slogans about “socialist modernity” and “political pragmatism”, or by dressing it in the clothes of the traditions of the socialist movement.

At the same time, the alternative trend was weakening. Isolated from real politics, it lost a perspective view of the future, “drowned” in nostalgia for yesterday. Squeezed in the throngs of  the feeling of hopelessness, ordinary bearers of the socialist idea turned more and more into the past. On this basis, a suitable atmosphere was created for confrontation between generations – artificially introduced and convenient for many political leaders. In its fertile soil, a campaign was carried out to “throw out the ideological ballast.” But it turned out that along with it, the socialists threw away a significant part of their political identity. So we reached to the point that those who were looking for the truth in the creative course of the socialist idea could not get an adequate political platform. They had no choice but to quit, or seek salvation in their past as time of political consciousness.

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In this regard, special attention should be paid to the attitude of the socialist leadership to the topic “national-international”. Back in 1992, the BSP officially adopted the thesis that, by tradition, from its very inception, it is a “national party”. Deciphered, this meant that at the heart of each of its political actions, lies national interest. Unfortunately, practice has shown that in this regard, the declared deviates far from reality.

Many of the gloomy pages, associated with our “Euro-Atlantic orientation” are directly linked to managerial involvement or to passive behavior of the party’s leadership. Under the guise of sham internationalism, the BSP, like other Eastern European parties, has made its “socialist” contribution to firmly binding Bulgaria to the philosophy and politics of globalism. Thus, patriotism, which is naturally inherent in true leftist politics, begins to sound more and more like empty, fruitless patriotarity. But due to this, the choir of participation in the so-called “European and Euro-Atlantic values” sounded loudly, remaining  however, incomprehensible to a huge part of the Bulgarian people,.

Thus, there is a surge of radical political movements. But there is also another surge – of nationalism.

Why exactly nationalism? Because people are looking for some kind of stability somewhere. Where can they find such? A social reflex is triggered: the best defender of their interests is the nation state. That is why more and more people cling to nationalism, to patriotism and try to use it as a saving barrier to get out of this critical situation. Under the pressure of this trend, these ideas are being perceived more and more in mass propaganda by both the right and left parties. Populism is becoming part of our daily routine.

So what is the exit from this situation? The way out was indicated by one person who was born 200 years ago, his name is Karl Marx. He wrote that the political crisis, the crisis of the impossibility of a peaceful transition in a new socio-political state, is the moment when society, ordinary people do not want to live in the old way, but the political elites cannot rule as before. Thus, as he said, and as it was written in the communist Manifesto, we arrive at the state that requires that imposes on us to  “destroy this world.” What does this mean? It means that we must move to a new civilizational state. Of course, Marxism played a role in that transitional period. Unfortunately, there is still no new Marx, and despite all our efforts, we still cannot answer all the questions that are pouring down on us from all sides. But we must understand that an alternative, based on the existing “status quo” is impossible, that objectively, the destruction of this world and the formation of a new state of humanity are required. This means that we have reached the turning point of needing a new social deal, a new social contract, i.e. to build a new world and a new society, at the expense of the one in which we live.