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August 24th (Note the Change of Day: Tuesday)

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A persistent thread through the history of socialism has been its role as a guiding strategy for political action. In both conscious and unconscious ways, the historical self-awareness of socialists and their critics results in this history constantly impinging on the present. Instead of restricting the relationship to socialism to one of overcoming—in the common mold of Vergangenheitsbewältigung (“overcoming the burden of history”)—how might (post)socialist scholarship figure the history of socialism as an inheritance which can enrich strategy, organization, and action today? In this panel, variations of this question are addressed in the work of Ilona Jurkonyte (tracing the ethical legacies of socialist film culture to the present movement of cinema theatre rescue), Sima Kokotovic (looking at the Subversive Film Festival in Zagreb to bridge historical socialist projects with contemporary political movement via histories of political cinema), and Pawel Koscielny (elaborating the role of “anti-anti communists” in the Central European memory-political field).


Cinema Theater Rescue as Protest
After Lithuania announced its independence from the Soviet Union in March 11, 1990, the first 15 years of (post)socialist cinema culture can be defined as time during which an astonishing amount of existing cinemas in the territory of Lithuania had been closed down. Further years starting roughly from 2005 till present can be identified as a period of attempts to rescue closed down cinemas and a phase of opening new cinema spaces.

Currently there are 28 functioning cinemas in Lithuania, which is comparable to the number of cinemas in the beginning of 20th century, when film production and screening technology was in an early development stage. During interwar period there were 71 cinemas, in 1961 - 99 cinemas and in 1969 - 121 cinemas. The growth of cinema attendances was remarkable till mid 1980s. This came to abrupt change in 1990s with a shift from public to private ownership which also coincided with moving image recording and screening technological developments.

I propose an interpretation of Lithuanian (post)socialist public film screening culture in relation to broader sociopolitical determinants. In this paper, I analyse both material and discursive conditions that structure production of public film screening space shifts. I offer a focus on the cinema theater rescuing strategies and analysis of the debates that were and still are taking place in relation to public film screening practices, film distribution challenges and even meanings coded in cinema theatre architecture. While taking into account major changes brought by the three late decades, I propose an attempt to bridge aspects of socialist film culture to present condition in its fully complex duality of a serious challenge and a meaningful legacy which as such has a potential that is worth to be explored.


The Subversive Festival: Socialist Legacies, Postsocialist Strategies of Resistance
This paper aims to explore the resonances between historical socialist projects and the contemporary political movements invested in countering privatizations and dispossessions of common property resources in the South East European region. With this project, I respond to Vora and Atanasoski’s proposition to pluralize postsocialisms as a way of examining “ongoing socialist legacies in new ethical collectives and networks of dissent” (2018,141).

More specifically, I focus on the Subversive Film Festival, founded in Zagreb, Croatia in 2008, and its relationship with the new left in the post-Yugoslav space. This new left took shape through spontaneous social movements and protests concomitant with the detrimental implementation of neoliberal policies. “Left-wing counter-hegemonic efforts” in the form of cultural events and gatherings, such as Subversive, have been a constitutive aspect of this formation, aiming to “re- legitimize left discourse within the population at large” (Štiks 2015, 143).

Throughout its ten-year history, Subversive has operated as a site of encounter for activists, political filmmakers and leftist intellectuals across the Balkan region. With each edition of the festival being dedicated to one theme (e.g. ‘Homage to 1968’, ‘China 1949-2009’, ‘Socialism’, ‘Decolonization’), it’s specific programming arrangements offered a platform for critical interrogation of the historical experiences of socialism through revitalization of distinct traditions of political cinema. Therefore, by looking into festival’s print materials (festival catalogue and the accompanying critical theory reader “Up and Underground”) and its programming conception, I explore how political imaginaries embodied in histories of political cinema offered to the activists of post-Yugoslav’s new left a repository for projecting an alternative political horizon.


Democratizing Memory Regimes in Central Europe; A New Valence
The post-socialist memory-political field in Central Europe was initially dominated by a triangular classification-struggle over the meaning of 1989. Ex-communists interpreted the rupture as a function of their rebirth as democratic socialists, liberal anticommunists insisted it was a complete revolution calling for a new democratic patriotism, and radical anticommunists sowed suspicion about an unfinished revolution.1 European Parliament resolutions on European Conscience and Totalitarianism (2009) and On the Importance of Remembrance for the Future of Europe (2019) evidence that the radicals hegemonized the field after the EuroCrisis.2 This paper discusses the emergence a counter-hegemony posed by a fourth category of memory-entrepreneurs that I call anti- anticommunist. They trade in a different kind of ‘mnemonic capital’3 than the first three, who are interested in generating political capital by claiming a privileged knowledge of the history of the transition from dictatorship to democracy. Anti-anticommunists instead propose that a nuanced memory of state-socialism not motivated by potential instrumentalization in the political field has value in itself. In Poland and Germany, they have scored meaningful defensive victories against state- sponsored projects to ‘decommunize’ urban space. In Czechia, they have captured the state’s Institute for The Study of Totalitarian Regimes and refashioned the civic-education program from a recitation of the classical totalitarian paradigm into a genuine scientific endeavor. This paper asks: what were the cultural and structural factors making these victories possible? Do they signal a larger reconfiguration in post-socialist memory politics and in the region’s politics at large? Is the link between democracy and socialism being forged anew?