Youth Social Movements and Democratization

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 11:15 AM
Room: 501
Oral Presentation
Grzegorz PIOTROWSKI , School of Social Sciences, Södertörn University, Huddinge, Sweden
In mid-1980s Central and Eastern Europe have witnessed an interesting aggregation of anti-communist struggles. Parallel to the pro-democratic dissidents new movements populated by young people and connected to youth subcultures have emerged, in particular the anarchist and environmental protection movement. These new movements were not only inspired by groups from Western Europe and the US but were also an expression of critique of the dissident movement slowly shifting to (neo)liberal positions and loosing the touch with the workers base as well as the young people whose demands (i.e. regarding compulsory military service) were largely ignored. These newly emerged movements were capable of bridging structures and agency in an unique way.

The popularity of these youth movements partially lays in attractiveness of the subcultures that were the vehicles of the new ideas and not in the topics they were bringing up. Moreover, this subcultural-political connection seems to have an impact on todays radical movements making them mostly a young people's domain and activity. This has far-reaching consequences and recent mobilizations in the region (anti-ACTA protests in winter 2011/2012, many protests in Bulgaria in 2012 or the earlier alterglobalist mobilizations) prove the point that coalition-making possibilities and support from other actors are limited.

The paper is based on long-time research and fieldwork among social activists (alterglobalists, anarchists, environmentalists, squatters) and former dissidents that took an active role in the 1989 transformations for various research projects. Empirical data were collected from in-depth interviews, participant observations and from movements' publications (printed and online) collected over the years.