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December 9, 2022

The ruling power’s sociologists

Premier Victor Ponta has a new “strategist” in his team. At one point this role was much more prestigious. Vasile Dancu, the main “spin doctor” of Adrian Nastase, who was the new Premier at that time, became (after the crushing elections victory of 2000, a victory which he had “foreseen”/aided with his surprising opinion polls) the Social-Democrats’ Goebbels – to use the term coined by a journalist intrigued by the mission of the new Public Information ministry. But even the new star of political propaganda had to take a step back towards the end of the term, as is appropriate for a “strategist” meant for the ruling power’s backroom laboratories.
It was however just the start of the decline of an office. Now the place of Goebbels “the magician” has been taken by a more mediocre PR agent who has already jumped to justify the Premier’s controversial options.

As a self-respected sociologist, he invoked the figures. The majority of Romanians are in favour of the Rosia Montana gold mining project – the expert in public opinion polls converted to “government strategist” says. The protesters are a minority and by giving in to street pressure, the sociologist continues, the government would seriously dissatisfy the population. But from “the figures don’t lie” he moves on to other theories. Who are the protesters who are taking part in protest marches? Some “satiated” persons who do not believe in “the poor man’s hunger.” Well integrated in the new capitalist society, these youngsters have good salaries – some earn them precisely from the much-hated multinational companies – and they can afford to think about something else than food, clothes, homes and cars. But most Romanians cannot afford that. Consequently they support the mining of gold, because for them the priority is making a profit, even in the state’s case.
Weird logic. As if Romanians are engulfed by ‘gold fever,” the premise for an expected economic boom. And the Premier is fighting to fill everyone’s pockets with gold nuggets. But the weirdest is the argument that refers to the disgruntled youths. “They are satiated, they can afford to protest” – this is a perverse delegitimization. As if “socialists” are in fact capitalists that are thinking about “the people,” while the protesters (some of them thinking about “revolution”) are mere profiteers to whom the urge of subversion came out of satiation. If we are to leave these convoluted (and ridiculous) arguments aside, we can wonder why a multinational company employee revolts against capitalism. First of all, with the exception of certain rather anarchist sensitivities, this is not a radical revolt. The excesses of capitalism are targeted in general: the irresponsibility of exploiting resources with no ecological concerns, the corruption that undermines political offices, the conceit of the almighty money. They do not preach poverty, sacrifice or equality, most of them do not want a great social reform. However they want to set limits, to ensure a (socially legitimized) space of dignity and freedom. They want not to feel the pressure of the State, they want not to be treated like electoral figures (nor to take refuge in no voter turnout), they want to impose alternative types of sociability, apart from the classical conflictual and exclusivist hierarchies and dynamics. They don’t want power but the freedom (with a post-modern undercurrent) to live differently.
Of course, it’s not a clear project but it’s a state of mind. This is such a movement’s source of strength and weakness. Compared to revolts the likes of 1968, the difference consists of “weak thinking,” of the general lack of radical ideological benchmarks, of replacing revolutionary nihilism with a certain “political hedonism,” a social way of living that would not depend solely on the laws of “labour organisation.” Work relations have experienced a veritable revolution in the post-industrial age, and today’s protesters are the children of this new style of activism that is both professional and social. In this sense one can say that they are in the vanguard of social developments, despite being deprived of political representatives that would be something else than mediocre backward persons (and possibly “reactionaries”).
The stake of the current protests goes beyond their (serious) economic pretext, because its pretense implicitly concerns the outlook of a social project. But where are its “theoreticians”? Where are the “sociologists” that would not do PR work for the government’s hesitations but would politically think this state of mind all the way through, as prophets of change? Where are the political analysts that would not end up being ministers without intellectual credibility, but that would prefer to be a real ferment of political innovation? In its postwar history the West experienced plenty of protest movements that backslid towards deadly violence. The Red Brigades in Italy were devised by young “sociologists.” But there is always a “middle way.” Where are those intellectuals that would propose (apart from the interminable narcissistic talk-show) something other than reaction or subversion, corruption or violence? Even with hedonistic or anarchical tendencies, the protesters have values that they do not want to see dissolved by the erosion of irresponsible politics. Could it be that the governmental “sociologists” may not have heard of the active minorities’ theory? Those groups that are a ferment of historical evolution. And whom certain political regimes can seriously contrast, with unpredictable consequences. What would have happened if the miners’ riots of the 1990s would not have led to the first great wave of brain drain after communism?

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