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- Unhealthy Waves of Post-communism, 1992
The Unhealthy Waves of Post-Communism
Bulgarian Quarterly. Gerdjikov, S. “The Unhealthy waves of Post-communism”. Bulgarian Quarterly, Autumn/winter, 1992/3, pp. 163–174.
THE SOCIAL WORLD is a giant network of meanings. Social dynamics is the change in that network. Waves of meanings come and go. Forces stand behind them. They carry the meanings and objectify them in signs and texts. The social macro-dynamics could be described as flow or waves of big changes in the world of social meanings which are set in motion by macro-forces. This is the situation in any system which is not in equilibrium. The flows(dissipations) depend on the tensions, the gradients and the forces and continue till equilibrium is established. The flows can be transformed using their own energy to create new tensions and new flows.
1. The Post-communist Storm
There is hardly a more drastic change in history than post-communism. Even today it is still unknown how it will end up. None of the post-communist countries has reached equilibrium that could compare with the equilibrium of Western democracies. It is not clear whether the future equilibrium will correspond to the criteria of modern society. It might turn out that post-communism is sort of a chronic disease and it will never lead to equilibrium. In the best case a future equilibrium will bear the traces of communism.
The post-communist blizzard is created by the huge imbalance gradients of communism. What tensions does the communist catastrophe and subsequent stabilization remove and create? What does the catastrophe set free and what kinds of spirits does it let out of the bottle? Time will give an answer to these question. A forecast needs a deep insight of communism. An unsound system is destroyed owing to its destructive tensions. Economic, political and cultural meanings and texts change fast. Stability which is forcibly maintained explodes and the waves, winds, flows and the storm of post-communism are unleashed. This dynamic state is so shaky that it be defined as shock.
What are the consequences of this shock? Will there be a normal market economy, normal democracy and a sound mind in the foreseeable future? And if the cost of the future equilibrium is deformations into which the communist forms have been transformed, what could they be? And if the equilibrium is packed with anomalies and sources of new waves that are not in equilibrium, what will they be?
The “ship of democracy” is sailing in the storm of postcommunism. The Reform is being carried out as a series of actions by the power to create a system of market economy and democracy. What chances does the ship stand? How do the “unhealthy flows” effect the attainment of the goals of the reform? Perhaps the waves displace the forces and meanings in a way which is essentially independent of the goals of government and essentially anomalous for the “normal state”. The anomalies may be chronic in the absence of forces to neutralize them in the foreseeable future.
So post-communism appears to be a period of intensive recovery with vestiges of anomalies and strong “side effects” and complications. The effects are unique and unprecedented in history.
Here unhealthy power and unhealthy spirit mean power and mentality bearing the dirty scars of communism. As a total anomaly communism is transformed into new anomalies and does not vanish into thin air.
The two basic diagnosis characteristics on which I posit to describe power and mind are blocking and apathy. The communist bureaucracy and policy create a “pyramid of concrete” where each step that people take is blocked. The communist mind in the right frame of ideology creates an apathetic mentality which is to be traced in lack of strength and will, slow reaction and apparent indifference to social reality.
These diagnosis characteristics are cores of tension which explode during the catastrophe of communism. The blocking unleashes a wave of energy which is largely destructive. Indifference flows in the veins of the nation’s sick body and dims the new meanings. The communist mentality dims the adequate reaction to the shock and leads to new anomalies.
In such a situation the establishment of Parliament, Government, Presidency, Justice, Trade Unions and Free Press will go with a hitch and deformations. No doubt these structures will produce new meanings. But they will be superimposed on the utterly alienate contaminated meanings that communism has produced. This means that decommunization is not simply the change of the system and that the change of the system is a highly rational and highly responsible task which must take into account anomalies and restrict them.
2. Unhealthy Power
Unhealthy power was born by the huge tension of totalitarian power. Each individual in the giant Building is assigned a definite place by the authorities. He plays a role in the Building. The authorities, despite the arbitrary rule, play a role which is firmly established by the Teaching and Moscow. This is total violence, violence over everybody. Every day millions of people are subjected to the pressure and humiliation of the collective, the bureaucrat, the boss, the shop assistant, the taxi driver, the manufacturer. The citizen cannot even think of free association and press. So much energy is concentrated for the survival under pressure. The urge for freedom in such circumstances generates huge tension.
Within a couple of days the wall of concrete cracks and tumbles down. Tremendous human energy spouts forth. People quickly realize that time for active protests has come. They avail themselves of the right to public rally, association and speech. Opposition organization spring up and explosive diversity does not always stand for diversity of platforms. People are keen to experience the feeling of being the ones who exercise their civil right.
The political waves that determine the course of postcommunism follow the track which leads away from totalitarian unity. The explosion wave of crashed communism disperses “radially” the centers of political activity and political entities that spring up are too many in a normal democracy. The unhealthy wave of political speculation rises.
First, as with unclean money, it is the unhealthy wave that transforms communist power and forces into socialist. Postcommunism abounds in things unprecedented in history. The transformation of the communist totalitarian parties that are responsible for the catastrophes into legitimate political parties that again have claims to rule is most shocking. Discredited by their grave mistakes and crimes that are inherent in the very Idea and Practice of Building and burdened with crimes that are now disclosed, those people clearly expressed their will to rule in the name of “change”. Thus it became clear again that their ultimate goal is power and nothing but power regardless of whatever moral and lawful justification.
Nowhere in Eastern Europe and in the USSR did those parties disintegrate and disappear from the political scene. They had sound position which helped them survive and in defiance to the rules of democracy resorted to the mechanisms and institutions of democracy and to those of market to make their anti-democratic power democratic. They readily acquiesced to radical ideological change and upheld ideas and platforms which they had previously castigated for one single end: to retain as much as possible of their previously unlimited power. Like red money the red power rushed to the scene of the “political market” in a new coat. The men at the top “readjusted”, “recognized” the opposition, sat together at the table of negotiations and set a date for elections.
The symptom of unhealthy power is not borne by the communist elite alone. It is the symptom of masses of people who voted. It was a painful vestige of the slave mentality of the communism. People were deeply contaminated by the “values” of poor stability, the peace of uneventful reality and the social “security” of the alms given by a state that had gone bankrupt long before. Political tricksters energetically took advantage of the fear of novelty and of conservative pro-socialist mentality to take over power again. Populism has become the weapon not only of communists but also of new enemies to the democratic opposition.
The “non-communist” enemies of a Western-type democracy very many. The ERA-3 Union is a vivid example of leftist populism based on the low culture of the population and the large-scale socialist delusions in Bulgaria. This dirty political current has embraced freedom of association, speech and press to slander in every possible way the democratic opposition to the Union of Democratic forces (UDF), its policy as a Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), its policy as a ruling party, its values and actions.
The “dirty politicians” inherited the totalitarian mentality of ambivalent attitude to power: Power is a lucrative job and arbitrary rule; Power is a good thing when “we” have it and terrible thing when “they” have it. Those people staked on the absence of political culture and on the utopian expectation of a new kind of society of justice and equality. With the socialist meanings of equality as distribution of welfare and not as the exercise of equal rights this mentality was slowly giving way to the mentality of individualism, responsibility, freedom and risk. But the purge is slow and even impeded enormous difficulties in the life of ordinary people. The struggle to make ends meet even when the market is growing abundant, the low living standards, social unrest and insecurity harbor populism and socialist illusions among the victims of socialism. It such conditions the real opposition to communism as an exponent of the idea of liberal democracy more often than not failed to enjoy the acceptance and understanding of the man-in-the-street voter. The UDF’s rating was highest when the socialist government was discredited to the maximum. But as soon as the UDF team started the market reform in the beginning 1990, people realized that the new rulers could not “give” benefits enough for a peaceful and safe life and wery quickly disappointed. They expected that the new government would give what they had waited for from the communists for decades. The majority simply did not know else to expect.
Throughout 1990 the dynamics of the rating of the two leading political forces in Bulgaria was in favor of the UDF while the rating of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) was falling but as soon as the UDF took over power and responsibility for the reform it was reversed. Despite the obvious “drift to the right” of masses of the Bulgarian population, the majority of communists included, the drift from collectivism to individualism was not strong enough to suppress the growing discontinued with the “deterioration”. The UDF government which from November 1991 onwards is no longer shared is trying to check the fall into the abyss whereas the majority of people want to feel the positive effect of the new government in their pocket and table.
Therefore, the victory of democratic, moreover rightist political forces in Bulgarian in October 1991 is “dirty” in the sense that it does not rest solid reversal of the electorate from communism to democracy, from collectivism to individualism and from totalitarian to liberal mentality. The processes in this country did not take the course of the Central European ex-communism countries Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia where communism was swept away by a strong wave of opposition nor did they take the course of Albania, the USSR and Romania where the communists remained in power long enough to be discredited by famine, bloodbath, demagogy and helplessness.
Political equilibrium in Bulgaria rests on the dynamic balance of opposite tendencies in the forces and meanings and in the people’s action and thought and not on a monolith stability of the transition. On something like parity.
In the Balkans it is a tradition to tread power of something unclean. Beside corruption and debauchery the Bulgarians expect from the government a strong hand to solve the people’s cardinal problems. The individualistic ethos of independence from the state and the ousting of the state from the lives of people in this country have nit struck root yet. The Bulgarians pin their hopes of high wages, low prices, high pensions, stable security, free of charge education and public health on the authorities rather than on themselves. Even today, two years and a half after the communist catastrophe the Bulgarians object to the rich-poor division which is underlying the market economy.
For the majority of power has little in common with the concept of power in the West. The ruler is not a highly place civil servant who plays a responsible role in the solution of economic and political problems. In the opinion of Bulgarians the ruler is preoccupied with how to become rich, “stuff himself” and grab what there is to grab. Those who take up politics are as a rule poor, therefore, they must be seeking a more spacious flat, more money, more overseas trips. Corruption is presumed a sine qua non but condemned at the same time.
This mentality which is party to be found in the politicians themselves reproduces a flow of dirty power. No doubt this is a type of charismatic power which communism additionally strengthened and deformed.
The contamination of the new democratic institutions with the unhealthy law and power of communism is enough to deprive those institutions of much of their efficiency. The depolitcized structures of the ex-communist power – the army, police, secret services, overstuffed ministries and departments – do nothing, resort to demagogy, guard their lucrative jobs and oppose the professional approach to indispensable staff cuts.
Elements of totalitarian mentality, totalitarian meanings, types of rationality and action can be traced in the UDF itself as an exponent of the liberal democratic idea and of the new spirit of Western democracy. These are the elements of dirty power for they reproduce meanings which otherwise they want to overthrow. These elements are:
1. The collectivist frame of mind. The elite of the ruling UDF, largely in response to the strong united socialist opposition, tries to be unanimous. The explanation is simple: it is impossible to enforce the UDF program at Parliament with this composition unless the MPs vote unanimously. This is easy to understand. But it creates the parliamentary ethos of strict party discipline which may deprive the MPs of independent, free and committed stands.
The imposition of political relations on personal relationships even worse. The political enemy is a very unpleasant and undesirable partner in informal communication. The political ally or party colleague deserves informal confidence and acceptance by presumption. An atmosphere of privacy of the ruling elite is created or rather carried on. This privacy is at the expense of outside control, rational decisions and actions and responsibility by everyone for what he says or does.
2. Authoritarianism and intolerance. The present rulers as an elite come from among the activists in the resistance a couple of years ago. They were the first to materialize discontent and paved the way by creating the opposition organizations. They have the moral right to enjoy the confidence of the electorate and they do.
It is easy to see that many of them are unable to govern. They are incompetent in politics, law and economics. But they don’t want to step aside, they want to make a political career. They have what they want in an authoritarian way despite the resistance of the public and of their organizations. A typical example of authoritarianism was the rejection of the decisions of a national conference by a group of activists in the former UDF Coordinating Council in the summer of 1991 when they formed an illegitimate body and founded new organizations in the face of the decisions by their forums. They tended to attach the label “totalitarian” to any collective democratic decision which affects their good status in the UDF’s hierarchy of power.
3. Chaos. Political organization in Bulgaria are in chronic chaos. However the huddled years of party life has taught the communists some order. Their “democratic centralism” which virtually rules out opposition inside the party likewise helps. Opposition comes from the space where communist organizations have not spread. Opposition seeks to destroy. So the organizational life of the opposition generates destructive chaos. It is very difficult to build democracy. It needs erudition; compromise, tolerance and sound judgment are needed to combine and make an utmost use of divergent stands and proposals. It needs strong concentration, accuracy, efficiency which the communist organizations failed to inculcate. Without discipline to bind naive democracy soon turns into chaos. People are not accurate. They waste their time and time of partners. They disregard the agenda of discussions. They are not good listeners. They don’t know how to extract the valuable core from different stands and proposals. In the long run the tiring meetings end up with authoritarian decisions by the leadership. The democratic mechanism don’t work. Vain efforts are made to come up with a sensible decision.
4. Lack of responsibility. It is a consequence of the lost habit to take responsibility for what is said or done in politics. As a totally irresponsible association of people who are not free to have their say communism nurtures lack of freedom as lack of responsibility. The “Collective”, the “Boss” and the “Objective Circumstances” are the decision making factors. I am not the decision maker. I obey. My mistakes are not “mistakes”; they are a products of circumstances or of decisions from the Top. Involvement in the government does not presuppose that the action shall necessarily suit to the word; predominantly it boils down to making public addresses and appearances at political gatherings, newspaper columns, radio and television.
Just like businessmen, many politicians today do not produce anything, do not write down programs, do not make laws and do not take decisions. Just like the profiteers at the pseudo market they speculate by the verbal demonstration of political attitudes, proposals and actions which are not their product. Thus they earn dishonest dividends for their profession, daily life and career. They make self-advertisement sometimes at the expense of potential rivals who have not been admitted to the political scene.
I am inclined to admit that in Bulgaria the elements of dirty power in the Union of Democratic Forces are more pronounced and harmful than in any democratic organization in the West. The “logo” of political and actions is not invariably respectful and clean. Political leaders are still too much preoccupied with doubts about backstage actions, suspicions of “agents provocateurs”, hostility to “traitors” and “apostates” and gratitude to obedient people.
Those unhealthy components of the political process if post-communist change could generate new anomalies which as a matter of fact will be transformations of the total anomaly of communism. No doubt they will delay the democratic process in this country. They will be opposed by the forces of life, creative endeavors and morality in politics. The new institutions revive new meanings and create a “traction” for a natural selection which like the rational market will discard pseudo politicians, pseudo organizations and incompetent politician without sense of responsibility.
3. Unhealthy Spirit
The flow of unhealthy spirit runs in parallel with the flows of dirty wealth. It is the dominating communist spirit of total apathy that has been preserved or transformed. Here apathy is understood in a broad sense as shortage of sensibility, dull response to good and evil, insensitivity caused by the excessive number of injuries and deformation and corruption. It is the spirit of hacked and drab existence. This spirit – unchanged or transformed – covered the communist’s world and still covers it after the catastrophe of communism. It was apathy that prevented the explosion of the street in the autumn of 1989. It was apathy again that barred the way of the politically committed in 1990. The people “behind the windows”, the “socially vulnerable” and the politically indifferent people decided that Bulgaria should be a backward post-communist country.
Recovery is not always possible. The injuries of totalitarianism persist. Only people who lived with dignity under communism and had carved their niche to escape from humiliation are relatively sound in mind and free. For the majority postcommunism is a shock on their brittle, compressed and little world. The storm of post-communism found those people on their bend knees and scares them. Light is painful after a long spell of darkness.
The dimensions of communist apathy are the dimensions of the communist world. Each world has its own logic, space and time. Each spirit has its own truth, goodness and beauty. The logic of the communist world is a absurd. It is a world which by definition is being built. It is not “be”, it is “being”. It is changeable, slippery and dialectic. Everything in this world is and at the same time is not. Everything is it and not it. “Voluntary” means to join for the fear of expulsion. “Compulsory” means for the sake of appearance. The “plan law” means that fake figures will be reported. In theory, practice is the criterion of truth; in practice, theory is the criterion. The main rule of this logic is: “Take more and give less”. Addressed to everybody it means: “Wait for something out of nothing”. This is the message of “They can’t pay me as little as I can work for them”.
The catastrophe of communism is a shock in the communist’s world outlook that is accustomed to such a communist absurdity. Again he reasons in of the absurd “something-out-of-nothing” logic. He waits for goods without manufacturing them, for rights without responsibilities and for success without risk.
The moral dullness which communism creates has materialized in the dictum “Anything goes”. Democracy means permissiveness, lawlessness and absence of power. The permissiveness and the inability to plead quietly by the communists who until yesterday governed the country has the immoral implications of lack of quit and responsibility. People lose the habit of dignity and respect.
People lose the habit of elementary honesty. Non-freedom turns into lawlessness. Criminal leanings benefit from such attitudes. The communist respect for property, dignity and freedom that the totalitarian rule successfully kept within certain “confines” is unleashed now as snowballing crime.
Dirty morality is focused on insanity to plead guilty. The communist Mafia is again the leading example. The question of guilt which was raised and broadly discussed in the first two years of port-communism has resulted in two sentenced and a few accused men. The communist party shocked the world by its reorganization after which it pleaded not guilty. Yesterday I stole, killed, tortured and oppressed. But today I am not what I was and I am not to be burdened with past guilt. If tomorrow I dislike what I am today I will make the same renunciation and be unblemished again.
The socialist leaders advanced the “theory” of political responsibility (it is to be wondered how such a responsibility is borne) and personal responsibility. None of the communists had the courage to say: “I am to blame for this or that” and the result is the sweeping social wave of immorality. If the comrades are not to blame for the consequences of a catastrophe which they have caused and from which they even gain, why should I be to blame for my little shady deal?
As an understandable reaction to communist immorality anti-communism gets nervous, arrogant and aggressive. The energy of moral protest pours forth into a vociferous and lengthy vilification and then subsides and forgotten. Guilt is not punished; it is just censured in public.
Most of the new anti-communism is nothing more than the rage of former and present outsider and riff-raff who could not sell well under communism, however it was not their democratic ideas that stood in the way. When such people go out into the streets, provoke the quiet red demonstrators and sometimes resort to assault and arson, it is recommunization, not decommunization.
All this means that the moral cure communism is to purge and not to settle accounts. It is the inner cure of the mind, self-responsibility, risk and self-reliance, no reliance on the all-powerful State, renunciation of “collective responsibility”, slander, labels, insistence on guilt of which no proofs are adduced, the presumption of mistrust, malice and crime.
Decommunization in morality is to bridle your rage, to keep cool in the face of arrogance, to abstain, to be magnanimous and to show understanding for others, to have the courage to face a guilty man and to be normal as you try to prove that he is guilty in compliance with all rules of liberalism and democracy and finally to sentence him, if you can.
Moral decommunization is the powerful “negative entropy” of conscience and reason. It must overcome, swallow and remain a trait of a sound mind. The pendulum of extremes can gain momentum from evil and evil can snowball and crush the weak or take away the strength of strong souls.
The legacy of ignorance is a terrible scourge for the postcommunist mind. Communism is economically irrational. It inculcates irrational attitudes by making people feel helpless to live a rich life “in a normal way” and pushes them to dishonest tricks to get what they need daily. People are absolutely ignorant in the economics realities. They have no idea how the state wealth is generated and how it is redistributed. They live with the illusion that the government could generate wealth out of nothing as long as they know how to govern. According to the communist attitude to the economy the government institutions are absolutely responsible for anything: for my wage, for my taxes, for my job, for the prices in the nearby shop, for pensions, for public health, for education, for import and export, for electricity, for my life in the long run. The majority of Bulgarian peasants understand the possibility become farmers as a decision of government which forces them to cultivate land which is alleged to be “theirs”. When the government compels me to take the land and cultivate it, let the government supply the money, machinery, raw materials, fodder and market for me to work. It’s not me who sets the terms of my production. It is for the authorities to do it.
Total economics ignorance is a huge potential of inadequate expectations, inadequate discontent, inadequate passivity, inadequate protest. It is a wave of disappointment without understanding that may slow down the reform or restore communism in some forms. The post-communist political entities find legitimacy in the voice of mass ignorance. Besides, they largely share it. It is common in Parliament for socialists to insist on greater budget allocations to pensions, young families, public health and education while they say nothing as to from where the budget could receive the money.
This unhealthy wave will be an incredible obstacle to the decommunizatuon and modernization of the country. The soul will suffer a lingering disease. This wave dims and soils the image of Bulgarians in the world. Even an insignificant gaff concerning Bulgaria is trumped about while niceties are bypassed. Instead we help to cast a bad image.
Awareness of the unhealthy wave is the beginning of revival. The spirit is invincible. It is stronger than the entropy of ignorance, untruthfulness, evil and ugliness. People are brittle but also tough. The more so are the people with a sound and creative mind. The genius of the nation will pierce the dirty veil if it is to survive with dignity.
Indeed the reform cannot do much to extricate the spirit from misery. But it can give less encouragement to evil, ignorance and tastelessness. The same holds true of the unhealthy waves of wealth and power.