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“Neoliberalism is Fascism and Should Be Criminalized”: Bulgarian Populism as Left-Wing Radicalism

Abstract

The main argument presented in this essay is that the politics of Ataka, the most successful and influential populist party in Bulgaria, should be construed as a form of left-wing radicalism. Originally a nationalist formation, over the last decade Ataka has evolved into a broader social movement that blames free markets, neoliberalism, and US led neocolonialism for the country's misfortunes. Today its activists routinely assault liberal democracy as a political system unable to cope with the evils of capitalism, and seek to marginalize political actors and social constituencies identified as pro-western.

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References
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1. Bobbio Norberto, Left and Right: The Significance of a Political Distinction (Chicago, 1996), 95.

2. When it comes to elucidating the elasticity and elusiveness of “populism,” the 1969 volume edited by Ghiţa Ionescu and Ernest Gellner is still unsurpassed, Populism: Its Meaning and National Characteristics (New York, 1969).

3. On Ataka’s early history, see Popova Maria, “Who Brought Ataka to the Political Scene?” in Dragostinova Theodora and Hashamova Yana, eds., Beyond Mosque, Church and State: Alternative Narratives of the Nation in the Balkans (Budapest, 2016), 259–86.

4. Ataka won 8.1% of the votes in 2005, 9.4% in 2009, 7.3% in 2013, and 4.5% in 2014; it sent three deputies to Brussels in 2007 and two in 2009.

5. Quoted by Magaš Branka, The Destruction of Yugoslavia: Tracking the Break-Up, 1980–1992 (London, 1993), 58.

6. Homen Sean, “To Begin at the Beginning Again: Žižek in Yugoslavia,” Slavic Review 72, No. 4 (Winter 2013): 710–13.

7. Müller Jan-Werner, What is Populism? (Philadelphia, 2016), 1920 , italics in the original.

8. See Popova, “Who Brought Ataka,” 277–278.

9. Freeden Michael, Ideology: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2003), 98.

10. Ganev Venelin I., “Ballots, Bribes and State Building in Bulgaria,” The Journal of Democracy, 17, No.1 (Winter 2006): 7589 .

11. New Path for Bulgaria (NP) is available online at http://ataka.bg/Programa_ATAKA_PLAN.pdf (last accessed May 8, 2017); Siderov’s Plan Against Colonial Slavery (SP) at http://ataka.bg/Programa_ATAKA_PLAN_full.pdf (last accessed may 8, 2017).

12. New Path for Bulgaria (NP), p. 1.

13. Ibid.

14. New Path for Bulgaria (NP), p. 5.

15. See the Programme here: http://www.syriza.gr/article/SYRIZA—THE-THESSALONIKI-PROGRAMME.html#.WHk5B1yHNAg (last accessed May 8, 2017).

16. Verdedy Katherine, What Was Socialism, and What Comes Next? (Princeton, 1996), 3957 . The term “etatization” was coined by Romanian writer Norman Manea and derives from the Romanian verb “etatizare” which means “the process of statizing.”

17. On anti-liberalism, see Holmes Stephen, The Anatomy of Antiliberalism (Cambridge, Mass., 1993).

18. Wallerstein Immanuel, World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction (Durham, 2004).

19. On 1997 as a political threshold, see Ganev Venelin I., “Bulgaria’s Symphony of Hope,” The Journal of Democracy, 8, No.4 (October 1997): 124–39.

20. Hardt Michael and Negri Antonio, Empire (Cambridge, Mass., 2000), xi, xii.

21. “Volen Siderov za komunista Borisov—izkazvanie v parlamenta, YouTube video, 13:09, posted by Stefan Sarafov, December 12, 2016, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMNgzCoFiHo (last accessed May 8, 2017).”

22. See Müller, Populism, 21.

23. Berman Sheri, The Primacy of Politics: Social Democracy and the Making of Europe’s Twentieth Century (New York, 2006).

24. Žižek Slavoj, “A Leninist Gesture Today,” in Budgen Sebastian, Kouvelakis Eustache, and Žižek Slavoj, eds., Lenin Reloaded: Toward a Politics of Truth (Durham, 2007), 95.

25. Ivan Krastev, “The Populist Moment,” Eurozine, (2007): http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2007-09-18-krastev-en.html (last accessed on May 8, 2017).

26. Popova, “Who Brought Ataka,” 277; and Pierre Rosanvallon, “Penser le populisme,” La vie des idées, posted September 27, 2011, at http://www.laviedesidees.fr/Penser-le-populisme.html (last accessed May 8, 2017).

27. “Plana Ran Ut Susipvaneto na Bulgaria,”YouTube video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNRcav8j5PA (no longer available).

28. “Prof. Stanislav Stanilov za fashizma,” YouTube video, posted by Blife Eu, April 28, 2016, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3lM4wstSqU (last accessed May 9, 2017).

29. Moffitt Benjamin, The Global Rise of Populism: Performance, Political Style, and Representation (Stanford, 2017), 45.

30. Klein Naomi, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (New York, 2007), 18.

31. This argument is developed more fully in Venelin I. Ganev, “The Intellectual History of Postcommunism: Why We Need It, and How Not to Write It,” Perspectives on Politics (forthcoming).

32. For a critique of neoliberalism-centered analyses of postcommunism, see Ganev Venelin I., “The ‘Triumph of Neoliberalism’ Reconsidered,” East European Politics and Societies, 19, No. 3 (Summer 2005): 343–78.

33. Goethe, Faust, Part I, Act III, 1991–1992 (Princeton, 1994).

34. On “the intellectual organization of political hatreds,” see Benda Julien, The Treason of the Intellectuals (New York, 1969), 27.

35. Cass Mudde, “The Problem with Populism,” February 17, 2015, at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/feb/17/problem-populism-syriza-podemos-dark-side-europe (last accessed May 9, 2017).

36. Laclau Ernesto, On Populist Reason (London, 2005), 7778 .

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Slavic Review
  • ISSN: 0037-6779
  • EISSN: 2325-7784
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