By: Jafe Arnold – CSS liaison to Poland
CSS participates in conference: “History and Perspectives of Cooperation between Slavic Countries”
n December 10th in Wroclaw, Poland, the Association for Poland-East Cooperation hosted an interdisciplinary conference entitled “History and Perspectives of Cooperation between Slavic Countries.” Organized by the Grunwald Patriotic Workers Union, the conference brought together a diverse range of scholars, activists, and organizations to discuss the many facets of historical and contemporary ties between the Slavic states of Eurasia. The Center for Syncretic Studies was represented at the event by its Poland-based researcher and liaison Jafe Arnold.
The broad subject of the conference was matched by the equally broad spectrum of participating individuals and organizations. The organizing group, the Grunwald Patriotic Workers Union, is itself one of the handful of initiatives that have appeared on the Polish political scene over the past few years with the aim of bridging the gap between “right” and “left” in approaching the issues of national sovereignty and social justice in Poland. Grunwald’s representatives opened the conference specifically by referencing the need to approach the history and prospects of cooperation between Slavic peoples from a variety of perspectives. The end goal was declared to be the constructive affirmation of Poland’s past with an eye to collaborating on envisioning a sovereign future for the country currently subject to US-NATO occupation. Grunwald was joined in this endeavor by representatives of the political party Zmiana, the Center for Sustainable Development, the Association for Poland-East Cooperation, the Faithful to Sovereign Poland Association, Falanga, the Center for Syncretic Studies, the All Slavs Committee, and a number of guest professors from Polish universities.
Alternative media sources such as Fort Russ and Polish X-Portal and Antykapitalizm (“Anti-Capitalism”) were also present.
The people, organizations, presentations, and discussion that made up the conference presented a brilliant example of the potential of syncretic approaches to geopolitical and ideological processes. The opening of the conference with a general overview of the contours of Eurasia’s Slavic peoples gave way to specific presentations and discussion on a number of topics ranging from the state of the Orthodox Church in the Slavic states of Central Europe, the threat posed by CETA, TTIP, and other Trans-Atlanticist projects to Poland’s sovereignty, syncretic political movements in Russia in the 1990’s, to the role of esoteric symbols in excavating pan-Slavic identity against globalism, the economic situation in Ukraine and its relations with other Slavic states since the 2014 Maidan, etc.
Out of all of these diverse insights into the historical and contemporary affairs of the Slavic world, one theme made itself glaringly evident: the Slavic countries of Eurasia are all confronted with a common crisis of identity and sovereignty in the face of unipolar globalization. What’s more, despite historical divisions, be they ephemeral or profoundly civilizational, the Slavic peoples of the continent have the potential and sufficient shared common denominators to cooperatively seek their own sovereign place(s) in a fundamentally multipolar world. But to this end, a syncretic geopolitical and ideological approach is needed to cast aside historical prejudices and rescue the right of subjectivity for the numerous Slavic countries that have been reduced to the role of mere objects of international relations. This means deconstructing the liberal paradigm that has induced a distinctly colonial consciousness in the statehood of Slavic peoples, starting first and foremost by decolonizing the Slavic countries’ intelligentsia and reassessing the History that has been written for Slavs by foreign powers and ideologies. Judging by the conference’s discussion, this concerns both the political “right” across the lands of Slavdom and the “left.”
Of course, as was indeed mentioned during the conference’s deliberations, the very concept of “Slavdom”, “Pan-Slavism”, or the “Slavic world” is open to rigorous typological criticism. Nevertheless, the common denominators objectively linking Slavic peoples suggest that the endeavor to identify and understand the diverse and turbulent history of Slavs is not only possible, but is one that necessarily transcends the political divisions of modernity. Indeed, as some participants pointed out, the imposition of the modern West’s political prejudices and quasi-imperial projects on Slavic peoples has more than once led to senseless fratricidal clashes claiming the lives of millions of Slavs for the sake of foreign interests and ideologies.
Central to this debate was the assessment of the historical experience of the Polish People’s Republic (PRL). This question remains the single most divisive issue between the anti-liberal left and right in Poland, and this dilemma is arguably present in most Slavic states. As the organizers from Grunwald pointed out, the statehood of People’s Poland, the socialist experiment that characterized it, and the geopolitical conditions in which the PRL acted represent the linchpin of historical and ideological dialogue between Poland’s anti-Atlanticist tendencies. Recognizing the PRL as an organic part of Polish history and critically examining it from a standpoint analogous to National Bolshevism is indeed a task which demands collaborative efforts and open reflections on the 20th century on the part of Poland’s anti-liberal opposition. Perhaps the Russian-Eurasian experience of this catharsis outlined in the conference’s presentation on National Bolshevism in Moscow in the early 1990’s has some lessons to offer in this regard. Given that the ruling elite in Poland rests its historical legitimacy and justifies Poland’s current Atlanticist subjugation on the basis of an all-rounded denunciation of the People’s Republic of Poland, this question is key to the semantics and syncretic potential of the “enemies of the open society” in Poland.
The fact that this conference on the historical and contemporary state of the “Slavic world” was held in Poland is no coincidence. Once the largest and most diverse state in Europe including numerous Slavic and non-Slavic peoples within its borders, Poland has since been reduced to an object of US-NATO occupation and neoliberal looting whose very existence is once again threatened with partition and even disappearance from the map courtesy of the geopolitical machinations of Atlanticist hegemony. Moreover, increasing political repression against activists and intellectuals who have dared to question Poland’s current course has already yielded its first prisoners of consciousness, the most notable being Mateusz Piskorski, the leader of Zmiana and the European Center for Geopolitical Analysis. Piskorski’s warnings against Poland and Europe’s doomed future under NATO occupation and his calls to reconsider Poland’s place in the world have landed him in prison on no real charges since May 2016. Piskorski’s unfortunate absence from the conference was a reminder of the necessity of unity and resistance.
The conference “History and Perspectives of Cooperation between Slavic Countries” revealed the potential and challenges of gathering the “left” and “right” of the Polish people’s resistance to Atlanticism, neoliberal capitalism, and the infamous phenomenon of divide and conquer which has perturbed Slavic peoples’ geopolitical apperception since time immemorial. Of course, a large number of factors and divergences must be resolved and bridged before a real syncretic approach can be deliberated or any consistent unity of resistance can be achieved. Nevertheless, the recent conference in Wroclaw effectively highlighted and exemplified this necessity not only for Poland, but also for the other Slavic peoples facing the same crises on the same continent that they have inhabited together for more than a millennium.
As it turns out, syncretism might lie at the heart of the raison d’etre of Eurasia’s Slavic peoples, the majority of whom have lived under all of the socio-political systems of modernity and now, under post-modernity, are faced with the Hamletian question: to be or not to be? In the Center for Syncretic Studies’ analysis of the newfound Polish party Zmiana in April 2015, it was suggested that the civilizational identification of Poland remains a pressing question for all syncretic movements in this stronghold of Atlanticism. Overall, Grunwald’s conference was a constructive step in this direction.