Srećko Horvat and Igor Štiks: Towards a Utopia of Democracy


“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias.”

Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man under Socialism

Two years after the “year of dreaming dangerously” (2011), we urgently need to raise some questions. What happened after the Arab Spring? What happened after the Occupy movement? What happened after the different protest movements all around Europe, from Zagreb plenums and street protesters, the Indignados in Spain to the “occupiers” in Slovenia? And the answer might, at first glance, be a bit pessimistic: what we got after the Arab Spring in Egypt is a stronger Muslim Brotherhood connected on the one hand with the old nomenklatura and capital from Qatar; what we got in Tunisia after the “Jasmine revolution” is a radicalisation of islamists and the death of true revolutionaries such as Chokri Belaid; what we got after the Occupy Movement is Obama again, who does not dare to change the financial system, drone-warfare or close Guantanamo; and last but not the least: what we got in Croatia after massive protests in 2011, is the fall of the conservative government and a social-democratic government which is even more determined to implement neoliberal economic policies. In a way, we could sum it up in the famous phrase by the Italian writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa: “Everything must change so that everything can stay the same”. But is it really so?

The spectres of recent protests still haunt the world. And they won’t go away. New questions are raised. What is actually un-democratic in systems that call themselves democracies, and how does one build a true democracy? Are democracy and capitalism naturally interlinked? Is democracy an unattainable or an achievable utopia? And last but not least, is a utopian inspiration a prerequisite for any emancipatory struggle? These questions resonate at this very moment across the globe. At the heart of all these uprisings —from North Africa, the Middle East and New York to Frankfurt, Madrid, London, Athens, Bucharest, Ljubljana, Sofia, Zagreb—are expressions of a wish for a real democracy, which have been seemingly absorbed by the ruling elites with almost no consequences for established power relations. A serious discussion about the political and utopian potentials of democracy is thus more necessary than ever. This is why we have invited to Zagreb more than 300 participants, speakers and political and social actors from all corners of the world, from tiny Balkan states via anxious EU members to Cuba and Bolivia.

Zagreb is again a perfect place for this gathering. Croatia will join the EU on 1 July 2013 as the second post-Yugoslav state to acquire EU membership. This event will have significant consequences for the rest of the Balkans. The new EU border pushed towards Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro will significantly influence regional economic, social and political dynamics. It comes at a moment of worrisome economic and political trends in Croatia itself, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia. Croatia’s accession coincides also with the deepest crisis in the EU’s history. The Union is about to radically redefine itself and, as the trends show, fragment internally into core member states surrounded by the EU’s internal periphery and, furthermore, by the EU’s external periphery, most notably the rest of the ‘Western Balkans’ as the EU likes to call the Balkan ghetto it surrounds. Croatia’s accession is the event that symbolically and technically signifies, what we call, the enlargement of post-democratic Europe: territorially, it enlarges towards another Balkan state and at the same time, structurally, it redefines itself as a budgetary and managerial union with several levels of subordination with dubious democratic legitimacy, if any.

The Subversive Forum will take place only a month and a half before Croatia’s official accession to the EU. It will therefore open a large debate on questions related to the EU’s functioning and future, on alternatives models including the Latin American experiments, and, moreover, on the future of the Balkans and the progressive forces fighting fragmentation, economic devastation, corrupted institutions of representative democracy and the new rise of nationalism and extremism. The coming EU accession of Croatia provides thus a significant context for a much-needed gathering of Balkan progressive forces and an urgent development of their cooperation as well as of a common vision of another Balkans built on true democratic foundations, social equality and international solidarity. It is also an opportunity for the insertion of these movements into the pan-European and global struggles.

If all of this sounds too utopian for you, well, then ignore the Subversive festival and ‘mind your business’ as they tell you every day. If, however, you believe as we do that the thing those who benefit from the status quo call utopia is not only possible but necessary, then join this long march towards a ‘real utopia’ of democracy during which, as opposed to only asking, we will be, like so many around the world, both asking and walking! A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at.


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