This thread was started under the title “Cultural conflict with the former Soviet block”. A few participants mentioned that they see a broader issue with the rhetoric ES currently uses in its program, because it can alienate people and be easily used against ES. Apparently, it causes discomfort not only to people with a background from the former Soviet block, so I am changing the title of thread as to facilitate a more general discussion, as proposed by Jonathan. Martin, on the other hand, is warning us that we should not lose the “bite” in the political discussion and turn into radical centrists who are afraid to have an actual position.
I cannot agree more with Angelo’s statement: “I’m not only anti fascist, I’m also anti totalitarian.”
Below is the original text of this posting.
Cultural conflict with the former Soviet block
ES currently runs the risk of antagonizing potential supporters from the former Soviet block, which makes it less likely to succeed as an EU-wide party. In a nutshell, many formulations in the program are unacceptable for our culture (the way I experience it). We stand behind the values, but the way they are formulated is just too triggering for us. People from the western side of the iron curtain can more easily subscribe to or just simply ignore some “radical left” formulations and look at the big picture, while for us, these are deal-breakers for historical reasons.
My long-term aim here is to try to move the program to more neutral language without questioning the values behind it. Having spent 18 years in Bulgaria, 10 in Germany, and 2 in Missouri, I will do my best to help translate what needs to be said into language that will be equally acceptable for people in Plovdiv and in Orleans.
Let me provide some examples. You write “jobs guarantee”. Why do you go out of your way to sound like our governments in the 80s? No one will say that “jobs for everyone” is something bad per se, but this is literally what our dictatorships used to promise. What I understood from that point was “policies that make sure that jobs go where people are and not the other way around” and this is not a jobs guarantee. We need more cultural awareness here. First, win people’s trust, then if you really want to make sure that really everyone has a job - cool, do it. Does it have to be in the program for the first election?
You write “workers” everywhere. I understand what you mean, but this is 2019, we don’t need to explicitly sound like Marx.
The reasons for our distrust towards this rhetoric are numerous:
- Our states were and are bad at doing stuff. If the state decides to do something, it fails. You don’t want help from a state like that. If the state promises “jobs”, we know for a fact that the jobs situation will get worse.
- Our governments use rhetoric like that in order to hide their inability to make real reform. We are unable to reform the railway system, so we will just subsidize it with a few billion and tell people we are guaranteeing their jobs. (I am not implying that subsidies for railways are bad, I am criticizing the rhetoric)
- We do not see the left influence in the West. We look up to Denmark and Germany, but we do not know that it took a lot of left thought in order to make Denmark what it is. We have been told that Denmark is capitalist, period. We envy the quality of life in Vienna, but we are oblivious for the fact that due to leftist administrations, 62% of apartments in Vienna are subsidized.
- The former authoritarian leaders kept most of their money and power. They still use leftist rhetoric. For us, people who sound like ES’s program are lying. We don’t need to listen to them because they are trying to become dictators, even if they are saying nice things. Very much the same way as Western rightist totalitarians, who are promising order and security but what lurches behind is totalitarianism. Same thing, different rhetoric.
- The Internet is very US-American, so we observe the discussion within US society (where one side calls itself socialist and the other side is “anti-socialist” and very authoritarian). Since normal people in the East are “anti-Communist”, it is easy for them to go down the rabbit hole and start subscribing to totalitarian statements precisely because they feel that this is the way to be against the totalitarianism that threatens us.
Do you think we can find a way to make ES more welcoming for people from the former Soviet block?