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[15.12.2006] The Balcans as a cultural supermarket.

It is not the first time that we spoke about Greece’s upgraded role on the Balcans as the country taking the initiative in several aspects on behalf of “Europe.” The motto is that culture plays an important role in establishing political stability. This may sound positive, but here too the question is what is meant by stability, stability in favor of whom and by whom.

In April this year the Ministers of Culture of the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe met in the Greek town of Patras. This meeting has been welcomed as yet another Greek initiative within the framework of the European Union. The aim was to achieve the widest possible cooperation between public and private sectors. The ministers underlined that private “cultural industry” should be involved more in this cooperation for the sake of “artistic mobility.” Furthermore the conviction was expressed that cultural bonds between the Balcan countries promotes political stability, because mutual understanding can be established, they said, through commercial-economic cooperation.

The Greek Minister of Culture dismissed Marx with a few words saying that “we ‘re going through a time, in which the concept that progress is guaranteed by the laws of history has been abandoned completely.” In today’s “world of uncertainty culture is the only constant factor of mutual understanding.”

By saying this the interaction between social fundament and superstructure, or cause and effect is turned upside down and culture is seen as an instrument to stabilize the economic-social system, as a factor of economic development.

Elites, masses and other contradictions.

The “European” orientation of the Balcan countries, of which there are already many examples, would be a prerequisite. For instance the 1st Balcan Market (!) of Plastic Arts, which recently took place in Thessaloniki and had been organized following the example of a supermarket: cultural capital managers had selected artistic forms for “promotion”….

These “products of culture” exceeded by far any limit of arbitrariness. This “market” was an example of a new form of cultural commercialization, which either focuses on elitistic formalism, or on the creation of “mass stuff” which is exactly the reverse of the medal. Between these two more and more crystallizing extremes the big looser is real art taken from life destined for the people and made by the people. For this reason the population finds itself more and more alienated from art.

On this whole evolution the label “European” or “western” has been put and anyone belonging to this may consider himself to be lucky, so imperialist logic goes. The words of Albania’s prime minister at the opportunity of the signing in June of the Stability and Association Agreement between Albania and the EU are quite characteristic of this (ideological) tendency:

“…..this text is the most serious agreement in modern history, which Albania has signed with western culture…..this is the great day of the come-back of the Albanians in the family of western countries……”

One could wonder how this contradiction is felt by the high percentage of Albanians who emigrated urged by necessity and certainly not to enjoy western culture!

How we should understand the concept “western” may become clear from the policy of USA and EU in the last 15 years after the dramatic political shifts in the world relations of forces and under the pretext of defending western values in the so-called “clash of civilizations”. For convenience sake it is “forgotten” that Marxism is part and parcel of “western values.” So this same culture contains as well the possibility to question and to overthrow its own fundaments through the shocks caused by economic exploitation and social oppression. Now culture is asked to function as a shock absorber, to moderate and to put under control the insuperable contradictions of the socialeconomic system with Greece as the regional leader of cultural imperialism on the Balcans.

A.I. 15-12-2006.

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