Report on 1993 Bulgarian anarchist conference

Revisiting Bulgaria is one thing, giving an objective
account-a different one. I have to guard myself against my own hidden emotions
and fight the temptation to project them into the reality of my observations.
The best I can do is to try a libertarian account of the situation.

As a prelude, I may mention the following. All marks of my libertarian past
are erased. My childhood lives in my memory without any external signs to
corroborate it. Also, my hopes to see a flourishing anarchist revival have been
dashed by the marasmus of social relations, hardly propitious for libertarian

Under the yoke of Bolshevism the classical Protagoras' maxim: "Man is
the measure of all things" had been translated into "Man is measured
by material possessions only, and it is they that determine h/er
significance". By imprisoning the imagination and reducing the individual
to pauperism by the "materialistic" interpretation of history,the
Bolsheviks succeeded in creating the new "socialist" person: without
personality, a slave and a cog in the gigantic state machinery, unable to
participate in making h/er own history and even less able to arrange h/er own
life. In this Cimmerian culture any change is a scary venture. Security is
preferred to freedom- Instead of independence, people whose life has been
marred by the gospel of Marxist-Leninism, after-the collapse of their idols,
grabbed the opportunity to manifest their subservience to the new masters by
waving the gospel of the New World Order. In such a background the anarchist
congress took place.

The congress was well attended, some 300 people at least, about a quarter of
whom were women. A lot of enthusiasm but it echoed a past. While in the past
there were ample opportunities for a wild regeneration of anarchism the
Bolshevik long winter buried such possibilities. The Bolsheviks used all means
to wipe out any revolutionary tendency and more-specifically anarchism. They
had tried to ensure that no revolutionary force could resur rect out of the
ashes of destruction. This to a great extent explains the lack of youth
participation at the congress. A sad reality! And no delegate missed an
opportunity to stress it but it was a rather rhetorical issue since no serious
analysis was advanced.

Another aspect was that many comrades used the podium to lecture about
anarchism to anarchists and to reiterate the fundamental principles of
anarchism. Thus considerable precious time was wasted. The time would have been
better employed to try to establish a common premise for activities aiming to
implant anarchism in present day conditions. Instead there were many references
to the past practices, forgetting that 50 years ago is not 50 years after.
Perhaps this was a cover for their own disappointment.

Fifty years ago it was youth. Today white hair was a predominant feature of
the congress. There was plenty of enthusiasm and the hearts were at the right
place but something was missing. The burden of work was on the shoulders of old
comrades whose energies were withering away- Definitely they were enjoying the
twilight of their existence but their eyes were clouded by sadness, an anguish,
perhaps a fear that their sunset will be enveloped in eternal silence. They,
who survived the Bolshevik holocaust, who passed through fire and hell, and who
put so much time to revive anarchism as an alternative , are, it appears,
condemned to oblivion, not as persons but as anarchists. They are aware that a
movement without youth is a sunset without sunrise and unless there are
depositories of memories the Phoenix cannot arise from the ashes.

Nonetheless, this pessimism was accompanied by some hopes. After the
catacombs of the Bolshevik's era any light will dazzle the spirit. The baits of
liberal capitalism with its promises of earthly paradise appeases the minds of
the have-nots and their longing for a brighter future. But since the New World
Order and I.M.F. are not interested in peoples' well being they will not be
able to deliver the goods. Perhaps at this point the baits will be seen as a
bitter pill and the consciousness will awake to anguis in herba/a snake in the

In my view, at the opening day, a lot of precious time was allotted to the
representatives of political parties who described their various platforms.
With the exception of a social democrat and a section of the agrarian party,
the rest hardly could see the anarchist point of view less so perceive
anarchism as an alternative to the authoritarian social make-up. As to the
invited journalists, nothing came out in the press. Perhaps the spectre of
anarchism still haunts the new and old bourgeois and their lackeys. Therefore,
they prefer silence to seal the lips of enquiries. In the afternoon there was a
lengthy paper giving an historical account of anarchism and of anarchist
doctine and principles. This paper concluded that anarchism has a future since
it is the only viable alternative to oppression.

After this paper there was discussion about the future of anarchism. This
discussion was resumed on the second day. The gist of it all was that there is
a need for anarchist activities in the work place, the community, the
universities and so-forth and the virtual impossibility of this happening given
the lack of A new generation of anarchist activists. Another issue that failed
to be address satisfactory was the circulation of the printed word and access
to it by the largest possible number of people.

This stated, in no way am I condemning the comrades many of whom really work
hard to make anarchism a viable social proposition. But the facts remain: age
is taking its toll. And no abnegation, dedication, faith, enthusiasm can
prevent what is not preventable: the disappearance.

This harsh reality within which Bulgarian anarchists operate is due to the
fact that years of totalitarianism has destroyed personal singularities and
undermined any autonomous affirmations. The individual was incorporated into
authoritarian relationships and accomodated to hierarchical structures in service
of the giant octopus- the Party. Within those precincts the individual
underwent sessions of castration to become a respectful member of society and a
faithful servant of Big Brother.

The armour forged by such a society had devastating social and personal
consequences. A glance at liberal-democratic benevolent terrorism is, perhaps,
sufficient to provide some insight into the naked terrorism of the Party-State.
To get rid of the fear of terror and to dismantle the armature that strangles
the person, to change a non-identity identity grounded on authoritarian
moralism and the ethics of obedience is a complex process. It is easier to talk
of revolutionary awakening, advancing libertarian propositions and insist on
emancipation but it is more difficult to try to establish a genuine
revolutionary praxis and autonomy. For an authoritarian revolutionary, for whom
an ideological unity is a priority, coercion is a tool but it cannot apply to

The collapse of Bolshevism created a vacuum which was quickly filled with
other icons and beliefs to prevent any revolutionary social project. Again the
people missed the point to capture the reins of their own destiny.
Understandably! Victims of a slave mentality, atomized by a deliberate policy,
they were easily manipulated by their ex-masters, now dressed in the attire of
liberal socialists, whose "Peaceful coexistence" metamorphosed into a
collaboration with national and international capitalism to prevent
revolutionary possibilities. The people! They were left with their soporific
medicine and ideological hallucinations. And the old capitalist order now
baptized as The New World Order appears to the poor as a future heaven of
happiness, plenty and luxuries. The only hurdle they see is the lack of quick

Privatization! It is in Bulgaria that I've seen the authentic face of this
tragic farce. It is an ugly phenomenon. Rampant exploitation Homo homini lupus!
Long hours of work and sometimes without pay. Accidents are the workers'
responsibility while hospitals are beyond their reach. The poor cannot afford
hospitalization. Luxury is a pornographic commodity enjoyed by a few in the
background of abject poverty. Prices are so high that many people live on
saliva rather than food. Doctors are extortionists. So privatization is a
bonanza for a few and a scourge for the majority. And yet the I.M.F. demands
more rigid measures if Bulgaria is to get more loans. Loans that will fill the
coffers of the new bourgeoisie and privatization that will guarantee the freedom
of people to starve to death.

Now the ex-Marxist-Leninist revolutionary avant-garde, by restructuring the
capitalist economy, are restructuring their share of the plunder, but as
private citizens. Their lyric of the revolution is rewritten to the tune of the
New World Order. Banks are mushrooming! Business is flourishing. The spoils
that ex-party functionaries and apparatchiks exported are coming back to the
country as investments for their own benefit. Excellent methods! Day light
banditry! And a better yoke for their dear proletariat. The new bourgeois-red
cowboys are chewing the surplus value of the nation in the final synthesis of

On the other side revolutionary trade-union consciousness among theworkers
is absent. Anarcho-syndicalism has no impact whatsoever since it was eliminated
by the paladins of socialist realism now the knights of the New World Order.
The workers in particular, and people in general, lack perspectives for a
genuine revolutionary transformation. Submerged for so long in party slogans
they are very submissive and prefer to operate within what impermissible by
their exploiters and rulers. Thus their project is not to transcend State,
hierarchy and inequality but to substitute new idols, gurus or king for them.

In conclusion I have to say that despite my longing to see the spreading of
anarchism in Bulgaria, we have to recognize the cruel facts. Bolshevik
terrorism destroyed the vision of a future anarchist society and also any
vestiges of revolutionary changes. By making communism a religion it perverted
revolutionary thought, action and praxis. The desert, I hope it is temporary
phenomenon, that follows its collapse makes the task of the Bulgarian
anarchists a difficult enterprise since cultural conditions are absent for an
anarchist venture.

Jack Grancharoff


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