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In the Shadow of the Iron Curtain

Central and Eastern European Alterglobalists

Grzegorz Piotrowski

This book examines the alterglobalist activists in Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. Based on lengthy ethnographic fieldwork and numerous in-depth interviews with key figures of the movement, it covers mobilizations and actions between 1998 and 2011 and analyzes the process of adapting the alterglobalist way of thinking, claims and organizational modes in post-socialist countries. By pointing out the main challenges the movement faced, the author discusses the ways it tried to overcome these. The main argument is that the post-communist legacy (expressed in low levels of mobilization, in rejection of leftist ideals and discourse and in deep mistrust towards political life) had a tremendous impact on the formation and the shape of the alterglobalist movement in the region.

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The main incentive for this book was the issue of the different scales – and levels of popularity – of the alterglobalist movement in Central and Eastern Europe and the rest of the world. It all started with a rather personal experience during the largest social mobilization in the world – the 15th of February 2003. It was a global day of action against the upcoming war in Iraq, for which more than 15 million people all over the world went out on the streets to demonstrate their disapproval of this intervention. At the time, I was studying in Copenhagen, and I took part in a demonstration of around 50 thousand people; I had never seen a street protest of that size before. After the demonstration, I went back home to check the news from back home, seeing as my fellow activists organized a protest in my hometown of Poznań as well. Media reports indicated a demonstration of 300 people… Poznań is a city of a similar size to Copenhagen (with approx. 700 thousand inhabitants each), which made me wonder what the differences are between these two cities. Was there a factor, or a set of factors, which would explain the differences in the levels of mobilization? For the purpose of comparison, I have chosen the alterglobalist movement, a movement that is by definition global and transnational (Pleyers 2010). I assumed that comparing the various aspects of the same movement in Central and Eastern Europe, and by cross-referencing the results with...

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