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Sociology from Romania

CriticAtac: An Anti-Capitalist Manifesto from Romania

Members of CriticAtac: Victoria Stoiciu, Vasile Ernu, and Ciprian Siulea introducing themselves to Michael Burawoy.

October 27, 2012

Global Dialogue’s editor came across this enterprising and open-minded group while visiting Romania. CriticAtac collaborated with the sociology department at the University of Bucharest to stage a colloquium on “Marxism after Communism,” attended by a packed audience. This seemed to be a remarkable departure for this part of the world where Marxism has been deeply discredited by its association with the Soviet past.


CriticAtac is a social, intellectual and political group, founded in September, 2010 in Bucharest. Our group’s ideology is leftist, but we are not an ideological faction and don’t go around patting each other on the back for the brilliant and concerted line of our thinking. One of our main aims was to create something new in a rather worn-out, inarticulate, routinized and authoritative public space, and that is one reason for our diversity.

CriticAtac is not an academic group, although we do have academic connections. We have an electronic platform http://www.criticatac.ro/, but we also go beyond the online space and organize meetings, seminars, and debates in the universities. In November, 2011, we organized the Romanian Social Forum, bringing together all the important groups and social movements from Romania to discuss crucial issues for our society: public goods, forms of protests, democratization. We strive to get people engaged in social and political issues, and to attract new audiences to a public sphere  that is now on the verge of collapse. Too many people are without voice and representation, while “writing the agenda” is left to the predictable few.

As enthusiastic supporters of the market, today’s Romanian mainstream intellectuals have learnt how to entertain the public, and perpetuate a captive cultural market that leads nowhere. We have an intellectual “free market” where the prevailing success criteria are legacies and oligopolistic arrangements. We’re also in a serious gridlock when it comes to topics: anti-communism, the obsession with “Westernization,” compulsive pro-capitalism, aggressive elitism seem to be the bovarist themes that have taken us nowhere for the past 20 years since the fall of the communist regime, in part because they are not meant to take us somewhere.

We have commented on the major topics of the public agenda, as well as topics which we consider fundamental for our society: equality, the individual and societal right to follow one’s own path, discrimination and privilege, inequality and equal opportunities, relations between employers and employees, relations between society and the state, the future of the political system, and much more. Moreover, we aim to discuss all this in a relevant and accessible manner. However, we’re not interested in sham anti-corporate activism, fanatical “environmentalism,” or fashionable anti-consumerism lacking sound arguments.

We do not want to partake in party politics. The limitations and ritualism of the current political system are so deeply rooted that genuine politics can only be made outside its terrain. We want to have a political impact from outside the establishment but not from the position of a civil society flirting with the political system, or from the position of a civil society condescendingly suggesting public policies or opportunistic political strategies to parties. All these are top-level games which disregard the importance of separating the civil and the political. Instead, we aim to introduce into the political equation what is urgently required: the idea that representative democracy must represent everyone and that politics should not be confined to narrow political, technocratic, intellectual elites. And before devising any elaborate proposals for public policies, we want to radically reshape the lens through which we examine the pressing issues of today.

Victoria Stoiciu, Ciprian Siulea, Mihai Iovanel, Ovidiu Tichindeleanu, Costi Rogozanu, Florin Poenaru, and Vasile Ernu, all representing CriticAtac

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