ESR 1 Blog October/November 2023: Gabor Erlich

I remember writing my December 2022 blog post as if it was a few weeks ago, and yet, here I am, gliding through a brand new ‘albums of the year’ list[i], and having a hard time believing that this is my last entry here.

Instead of attempting to provide a sort of abridged closing remarks, I thought to end this stream with a glimpse into the future – better yet, into some futures to come.

One of the (if not the single) most important news items from East-Central Europe is that the Polish voters ousted the chauvinist, ultra-conservative, illiberal ‘Law and Justice’ party in October. It’s too early to know the exact composition of the new government (which will be led by the ‘vested’ Donald Tusk[ii]), but importantly the ‘Left Alliance’ has obtained a great number of the votes, based on which, it is safe to think that they will have a relatively strong voice in the coming coalition government. Make no mistakes, the strongmen of PiS will make it utterly hard to implement any deep and thorough-going change, nevertheless, it really is a glimmer of hope for the entire region, and beyond: a case-study, proving that there are strategies against the rampant rise of alt-right illiberalism.

Personally, I’m very interested in the impact such change will have on the vivid community of postartistic practitioners in Poland; I am also very hopeful that the end of the hatred-driven propaganda, coupled with the presence of new-left voices in the domestic sphere of discussion will be able to redirect the public debate from scapegoat-isms and character-assassinations towards a just, accepting, and kinder tone.

Another significant development to be watched is the current wave of ‘EU-enlargement’, which this time will lead to Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine (in alphabetical order) joining the supra-state ‘bloc’. It is beyond doubt that the populations of these countries are almost entirely in favour of joining the EU, which, considering the geo-and-necro-political exigencies, is all but obvious. The most interesting aspect of this process, in my opinion, lies not in whether the three states will be able to implement the necessary ‘reforms’, but rather the ways in which the current members of the EU will be able to manage this process. For, it has not happened before that a ‘candidate state’ has had ongoing territorial/border disputes (Georgia and Moldova), let alone a full-scale war (Ukraine). But since I am no war/conflict expert, I cannot possibly speculate on the ways in which these issues might be overcome. I have, however, spent some time familiarising myself with the vast body of scholarly work on the EU’s prior Eastward extension (especially when it comes to Hungary and Poland), according to which, the outcome of these cumbersome and lengthy processes is far from a quick and easy “catching up with the West” – a fantasy often shared by old and the new members alike. What it is, in contrast, is a difficult set of opportunities and limitations under the aegis of pan-European liberal democracy and ‘shared values’, an elusive notion that camouflages the real deal almost perfectly: the fact that the EU was set up as a business conglomerate for the affluent Western countries, which has resulted in a grossly uneven playing field between centre and (semi)periphery. The recent (poly)crisis of globalisation, in this light, forces the core powers to restructure and shorter the innumerable production chains, moving manufacturing back closer to home. The enormous reserves of cheap labour in Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine are steadily waiting for the moment when the newest ‘race to the bottom’ can begin, which will, eventually, once again divide these societies into ‘winners and losers.’ All this, coupled with the upcoming EP-elections, where the alt-right illiberal forces have, regrettably, a good chance of taking an even bigger slice of the cake. At the same time, I am certain that the accession will have many positive effects on these societies, and personally, I cannot wait for easier and closer cultural collaborations to happen in the near future, which might even lead to an optimistic scenario in which the West may be willing to learn from the East – hopefully with the assistance of the East-Central European cultural and artistic scenes, those who have been walking this very path for decades now. I, certainly, will continue working on it.

See you around, take good care, and thank you for reading these notes over the years.

[i] My personal favourite is nr74 on the list, an album by the Ugandan ‘Nihiloxica’, which, apart from being an amazing record, is also an act of protest: the band was forced to cancel its already booked UK tour in 2022 due to visa issues. “The process was debilitating for the band, and dehumanising for its members. In response, they made Source Of Denial, (…) which challenges the detached and evil immigration systems of Britain and beyond.” (Skye Butchard)

[ii] Tusk has already led Poland for two terms (2007-2014), the track record of which, to put it mildly, is far from impeccable. Following his domestic defeat, he went on to Brussels where he became President of the European Council (2014-2019). And while this rather impressive comeback on its own would not be enough to hope for something better, members of the ‘Left Alliance’ have entrusted him, claiming that during his years spent in one of the highest European offices led him to shift from technocratic neoliberal agendas towards something closer to social democratic policies. One can only hope he follows this through this time.

Privacy Preferences
When you visit our website, it may store information through your browser from specific services, usually in form of cookies. Here you can change your privacy preferences. Please note that blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience on our website and the services we offer.