Ref. :  000001594
Date :  2001-07-25
Language :  English
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Author :  Rada Iveković

“Transition” is a word which has come back into usage after the dismantle of the Berlin Wall, to denote what is now usually called “post-communist transition”. Before that, the term was first used to denote Latin-American transitions from dictatorships to democracy. The word is not a well defined term, and it usually comprises some amount of satisfaction of Western capitalism-restoration . We would rather speak of the European integration within the context of globalisation, than only of post-communist transition which is indeed a limiting term, for several reasons. It is limiting not only because the Wall fell on both sides and not merely one, and because the whole Cold War dichotomy East/West, Communism/Capitalism received a blow and because it is not as if Communism alone had failed: the system of the communicating vessels equilibrium broke down. The term of transition is also limiting because the integration of Europe has its own larger framework which is “globalisation” as a whole, both the one of Davos and the one of Porto Alegre in 2001. Post-colonial transition resembles “post-communist” transition to some extent or, the difficult development of the 3rd world looks more and more like what we have in some countries of the Balkans and in Eastern Europe, if not in all countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

Where do the two transitions compare? They do so precisely after the Cold War which is not only a European phenomenon and demarcation (the Cold War was much more acute and not so “cold” in the Third world). The end of the Cold War coincides in the form & also structurally with a new geopolitical, economic configuration of globalised neo-liberalism, which makes it difficult for developing countries of the 3rd world as much as for some of the former socialist countries to catch up (since that is what is now expected). The new resemblance of post-socialist transition is not with the first phase of post-colonialism, where nationalism was the agent of liberation and was legitimated after World War II, all through the sixties down to the same dividing line of more or less 1989, which was also decisive for Europe. Greater integration movements (Europe) and globalisation at one end produce more and more disintegration, ethnicisation, “identitarian fundamentalism”, etc. at the other end, and this is where there is a striking similarity between, say, inner processes in Guatemala today and tensions or war and violence within or among some ethnocracies we know in Eastern Europe. At the same time, the identitarian drives in the same Guatemala - which received a new impetus - were not really an issue during the past 36 years civil war, and have appeared since the reintegration of Guatemala into the international community. Before this last phase of globalisation which dictates a new ethnicized discourse and processes of socio-political communal fragmentation all over the world, conflicts in Guatemala were expressed in terms of class, economic inequality, conflict about land etc. Not that the conflicts have in themselves all of a sudden become ethnic, but the terminology has changed with globalisation. The Cold War period was a period of extreme State and army violence, and really a civil war, directed against the population as a whole in Guatemala by the state and the army. This is certainly not comparable to the history of socialist countries (though post-colonial history in de-colonised countries is), but the aftermath is very much comparable - due to the new uniformisation. The Cold War was also a strict division of two blocks. The new world configuration since the end of the Cold War now favours major planetary integration of capital, accompanied by a fragmentation on the local and social and geopolitical level. Likewise in India, anti-colonial liberation nationalism legitimised a secular nation-building project. With its erosion which is globally contemporary with the end of the Cold War and locally with the liberalisation of the economy by the state, various ethnic, communal, religious and sometimes fundamentalist projects have emerged. They are of a similar topology as those created in Europe (including Western Europe, where particularisms have not always been integrated through happy regional and transnational adjustment): most European countries have some such examples, and Italy is remarkable for it. The complementarity is extended and goes on after the Cold War. We must not loose sight of a wider and even more dubious integration than that of present-day Europe (namely, globalisation).

The divide after World War II compares favourably the socialist project and the project of the first post-colonial state (in an emblematic example, India, it was also secular). By now we know that both have so far failed, as much as has the Welfare State. All three of these forms have failed in the same field - the social, and welfare. It is after all this area that produces the political. No doubt, the failures are political too. The socialist project and post-colonialism did have some corresponding features or at least, ideals (these were social). This period starts with partitions for India and Pakistan, but ends in partition for the former Yugoslavia. In both cases, - socialism and post-colonialism (in the 1st phase) - we have to do with forms of modernity, but it ends up among other things due to lack of real democratisation. In a 2nd phase (after 1989), post-socialism and post-colonialism have corresponding features in further fragmentation, nationalisms, religious fundamentalisms etc, whereby oligarchies of both try to preserve/reshuffle themselves and to negotiate new hegemonies; all of it within a new world-wide globalisation process which now has at one end globalising integration, and at the other end identitarian fragmentation (which are really two sides of the same). As for post-socialism, here partition happens at the beginning of the second phase, which is also a de-legitimation process of the socialist project; post-socialism has to start with ethnocracies and “centre” or rightest groups in power, and has abandoned to a great extent the social & welfare project. At the same time, erosion of the secular nation-project is the lot of post-colonialism which is shaken by severe identitarian movements (nationalisms, etc.) and/or has ethnocracies too. The erosion of the secular project here corresponds to the erosion of the socialist project there. Claims for ethnic recognition are now fitted into a project of human rights and (liberal) democracy formally everywhere, but really emphatically so in areas of the third world and of the former Eastern block. And both post-colonial transition (older, but now in a somewhat disillusioned phase) and post-socialist transition (newer) are capitalist transitions supposed to converge.

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