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Marta Zimniak-Halajko

Invisible revolutions:
revolutionary concepts of new social movements of right and left in contemporary Poland


The purpose of this study is an attempt of analysis of the role of new social movements in contemporary cultural processes. Those movements claim to propose a new kind of politics and forms of negotiating of social order, that is where revolutionary rhetoric plays significant role. I am conducting my research in Poland and using participant observation method. For the purpose of this paper I have decided to choose two political movements: Workers’ Democracy from the left and National Rebirth of Poland from the right. It is worthy to look at these two movements because of their completely different and clear self-definitions and, at the same time, the similarity of social functions of their declarations and activities. In opinion of both organizations, revolution is an efficient way of social acting. Therefore their rhetoric is radical and declarations - uncompromising. Both organizations are small groups of several dozen of active members. Nevertheless, on the scene of radical politics in Poland they can be considered as relatively important and well known. Both groups are also members of international network organizations: International Socialism Tendency in case of WD and European National Front in case of NRP.

Contemporary analysis of new social movements are focused mainly on the leftist social movements. In my opinion there is a need of broadening this research field: rightist social movements can be considered as being equally important part of social landscape. Very often rightist movements have similar diagnosis of social problems as the leftist ones, at the same time the right wing organisations have a completely different proposals of solving them.

For both organizations revolution is a core issue. This paper deals largely with the structure and function of their conceptions of revolution.

Workers’ Democracy is an alterglobalisation movement. It has a traditional Marxist vision of revolution. Their project is „grass-roots socialism”, that will establish a classless society. This can be achieved only by global revolution, possibly violent. The task of revolutionary party will be to coordinate a struggle for overturn of the capitalist system. Finally, capitalism will be replaced by a system of “worker’s planned economy”, that will be managed by workers’ councils in their workplaces. A process of production will be switched to “producing for need”. In new socialist society such pathologies as racism, oppression of women, imperialism, wars and economic crimes will disappear. In the future there will be no need for money and state, therefore they will be gradually eliminated.

Workers’ Democracy fights against capitalist system by disclosing its mechanisms. Along with participation in protest actions (such as anti-war demonstrations and all kinds of workers’ protests, that is where, in their opinion, a spirit of revolution may be awaken) it is actually the main activity of this organization. In this way WD makes attempt to rise a level of social consciousness. Participation in protest actions is also a declaration of Workers’ Democracy disapproval of official politics. The European Union is particularly criticized by WD, because it believes that the EU is a neo-liberal project, a „union of euro-business”. A better alternative, in their opinion, may offer European Social Forum, where alterglobalists discuss the ways of future social and economic development patterns. Needless to add that WD is always an active member on EFS.

The second movement, the National Rebirth of Poland is a far-right organization of “integral nationalist” orientation. Hence their completely different concept of revolution. For them it is a process of moral and spiritual rebirth; only after such a rebirth social change could be embodied. The aim of the revolution is a creation of “New Man”, a “Political Soldier”; this can be done only by return to the universe of traditional catholic values (sedevacantism) and nationalistic ideas in romantic style. NRP is among those European nationalistic organizations, which had accepted the declaration of the International Third Position. By this NRP postulates a return to the world order, existing prior to globalisation process. Europe of Nations will regain its vital forces, when them counter a process of decline of family, give up birth control, suppress homosexuality, change materialistic lifestyles and minimize immigration. One of proposals of ITP is a resettlement of races to the countries of their origin. NRP is rather hostile to the official political scene and its main enemy is European Union – “Satan organisation”. As an alternative body some European national movements created European National Front, which - by its activity on the field of culture and social consciousness (and also by forming the elite of “Political Soldiers”) - has to promote a new world order.

“A different world is possible” - this alterglobalists' slogan seems to be also a credo of rightists movements. It is interesting, that both of presented movements are inspired by kinds of retrospective utopias. In case of NRP it is a “myth of nature” which takes o form of belief in divine perfect order and the nation as a basic part of this order (NOP). On the other hand, WD is inspired by idealistic concept of primitive society and its economy based on gift exchange; it is possible to return to the ideal form of social justice by revolution. Anachronistic categories (like a “nationalist soldier” or “revolutionist”) serve as guides for acting, while any attempt of discrediting them is perceived an insinuation of “contemporary propaganda”. generally speaking, new social movements are the reaction to social change and its effects in cultural and economic spheres. The main aim of the movements is a symbolic regain of social homeostasis, this aspect has a consoling dimension. Anachronistic models of solidarity proposed by the movements are the answer for a need of new model of solidarity, a reaction to “social anarchy”, which is closely tight with liberal worldview and the crisis of welfare state. These are attempts of creating new great narrations. A great narration can be reintroduced in the world of fragmented senses only by radical means. In the case of new social movements this means radical discourse. Therefore there is a need to define an enemy, in fact it is one for all, though having many faces: a neo-liberal or demo-liberal world order. An alternative social order may, in the opinion of members of the referred movements, grow out of “alter-Europe” visions.

For the time being, revolutionary activity of new social movements has been limited to rhetoric. New social movements are sometimes called the „new media” - they operate mainly in a sphere of social consciousness, providing alternative visions and opening new space of public debate. The debate, which is no place for in official politics.