[Marxism] Fwd: Meet the Polish Activists on the Cutting Edge of a Possible Left Resurgence in Eastern Europe | John Feffer

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Sep 30 09:32:57 MDT 2014

Its corner location was unbeatable. But Brave New World cafe faced steep 
competition on Warsaw’s most fashionable thoroughfare: a pricey French 
bakery, a trendy sushi restaurant and the famous Café Blickle, which 
began serving coffee and pastries long before World War I. Moreover, as 
even its passionate defenders would admit, the food at Brave New World, 
though relatively cheap, was not exactly destination dining.

The thousands of customers who flocked to the cafe after its opening in 
2009 did so for a different reason: first-rate conversation and events. 
The fabulously successful cafe and cultural center was an intellectual 
magnet. And the brains behind Poland’s equivalent of Les Deux Magots 
were neither hipster entrepreneurs nor savvy expats. Instead, the 
proprietors were unabashedly devoted to critical theory and left-wing 
politics, all wrapped in a mordant sense of humor. The cafe’s dystopian 
name, itself a critique of Poland’s post-Communist “Eden,” was also a 
play on its location on New World Street.

Such a combination of caffeine, critique and sly comedy would certainly 
attract crowds in the East Village or the Left Bank. But this was 
Poland, where the official left had at least two historical strikes 
against it: an association with Communism before 1989, and an embrace of 
austerity capitalism in the go-go years afterward.

The proprietors of the cafe, a cadre of activist-intellectuals that call 
themselves Krytyka Polityczna (Political Critique) represent a new left 
generation in Poland. Krytyka is uncompromised by any connection to 
Stalinism and uninterested in forming a political party to challenge the 
country’s post-Communist party. Poland’s new left has much larger 
ambitions. From the debut of its eponymous journal in 2002 to its 
collaboration on Poland’s controversial offering in the 2011 Venice 
Biennale, Krytyka has somehow made the left sexy in Poland. It has also 
inspired activists elsewhere in the region to take up its call.

The time for an independent left has certainly arrived in East-Central 
Europe. Voters have revolted against successive waves of austerity 
measures by electing social democratic leadership in several countries, 
including the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia and Slovenia. Last year, 
students, environmentalists, and other civil society activists kept 
Bulgaria in a near-constant state of protest against political and 
economic corruption. Progressives from around the region have been 
gathering annually since 2008 at Croatia’s Subversive Festival to 
discuss the revival of a robust independent left.


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