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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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Chapter 3: Western activism meets Eastern reality: alterglobalism in Central and Eastern Europe


The issue of transnational activism in Central and Eastern Europe became an important topic in public debates and academic discussions after 1989, previously, although the whole region was regarded as a closed enclave, the existing cooperation between the dissidents and the groups which supported them was unidirectional. The latter does not mean that cooperation between the dissidents and their counterparts from western Europe was non-existent, or that there was no interaction of the youth subcultures with the rest of the world. On the contrary, there were very strong interpersonal ties, as well as exchanges of ideas – ranging from non-violent conflict resolution to philosophical inspirations for action repertoire. This is best illustrated in the history of pro-democratic dissidents (Sussman 2010) or environmental groups (Flam 2001; Fagan 2005; Fagan and Carmin 2011). However, the opening of borders, and the further unification with (mostly) European and world structures, initiated a whole new chapter of transnational cooperation for groups from the region.

It is necessary to note that my primary focus was on the activists rather than on groups or organizations. The organizational belonging is a fluid issue within the alterglobalist movement, groups change their names, people change their affiliations and many groups cease to exist after a short while. When looking at the outcomes of research conducted in Poland around 2004 (Krzemiński 2006), at least half of the groups that were described there did not exist by the end of 2010. This does not mean there was a...

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