The Utopia of Democracy

After waves of protests in the past few years-from North Africa, the Middle East and New York to Frankfurt, Madrid, London, Athens, Bucharest, Sofia, Zagreb and other parts of Europe-whose goal was to force the ruling structures to act in the interest of the general public, it is difficult to determine whether any actual breakthroughs were achieved, apart from the rise of a new political subject – active citizens committed to true democracy and social justice. At the heart of all these uprisings are expressions of a wish for a real democracy, which have been seemingly absorbed by the ruling elites with almost no consequences for the established power relations. A serious discussion about political and utopian potentials of democracy is more necessary than ever.

What is actually un-democratic in systems that call themselves democracies, and how does one build a true democracy? Is democracy an unattainable or an achievable utopia? Is this utopian inspiration a prerequisite for any emancipatory struggle? Following these questions, as well as taking into account current social and political developments, the 6th Subversive Festival, under the general theme The Utopia of Democracy, will take place from May 4-18 in Croatia’s capital Zagreb.

The programme of the 6th Subversive festival features more than 300 participating activists, authors, writers, intellectuals, civil society actors, film directors and artists from the region and the entire world and is organized into several separate programs:

Subversive Film Festival (May 4-12) boasts more than 50 thought-provoking films. This year’s standout is the official competition that offers a selection of recent European and world live action and documentary films thematically connected to the theme of the Festival, the Utopia of Democracy. The Film Festival opens with the Eastern European premiere of the Festival’s special guest Sophie Fiennes’s documentary The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology. Another special guest of the Festival is triple Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone who will present his documentary series The Untold History of the United States, participate in a round table with Tariq Ali as well as in a “late night conversation” with the audience.

Subversive Forum (May 7-18), a series of events on the most pressing political issues of today, includes the following conferences:

  • Peace Forum (May 7),
  • Austerity, Green/d Economy and the Struggle for Democracy (May 8),
  • Nationalism, Neoliberalism and the Left Perspectives (May 9),
  • Commoning the Future (May 15),
  • The Enlargement of Post-Democratic Europe (May 16),
  • The European Left and the Global Crisis of Capitalism (May 17).

A special programme of the Subversive Forum is the 2nd Balkan Forum (May 12-14), a platform for alternative social and political mobilizations that will gather more than 50 progressive movements, organisations and actors from across post-socialist Balkans. The Balkan Forum will be dedicated to the following 6 themes: democratization and participation, workers’ struggles, sex and class equality, new economic models, common and public goods, and media and the public sphere.

Subversive Book Fair, as well as public readings and book promotions, will host a conference Subversive Literature (May 10-11) dedicated to the question of “engagement today” that will be debated by regional and international writers.

Evening conference “The Utopia of Democracy” traditionally hosts the most relevant contemporary critical thinkers. Some of this year’s speakers include Slavoj Žižek, Silvia Federici, Chantal Mouffe, Bernard Stiegler, Susan George, Maurizio Lazzarato, Yanis Varoufakis, Franco Berardi Bifo, Tariq Ali, Erik O. Wright, and Costas Douzinas. The conference also aims to open a discussion with progressive political leaders and will host a debate with Alexis Tsipras and Slavoj Žižek, as well as a key-note lecture by Bolivian vice-president Alvaro Garcia Linera and a discussion on the experiences of Latin American Left with Aleida Guevara, Cuban writer, activist and daughter of Ernesto Che Guevara.

In addition to the programme, the Subversive Festival will host a two-day meeting of Joint Social Conference: Urgently Needed, Maybe Possible – A Broad and Unitary European Social Movement (May 10-11), that brings to Zagreb more than 150 organisations and movements from across Europe.

This year the Subversive Festival once again will offer a space for serious political, social and cultural analysis aimed at questioning and finding alternatives to challenge and change local and global power relations. By raising complex questions and tackling them through various and even opposing perspectives, the Subversive Festival has built a wider international community but also an ever-growing regional audience. It has been recognized as the main regional partner of international organisations and movements such as the World Social Forum, AlterSummit (Joint Social Conference), Attac, the World Forum for Alternatives and Transform Europe and it actively cooperates with Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung and Heinrich Böll Stiftung.

featuring Oliver Stone, Alexis Tsipras, Álvaro García Linera, Aleida Guevara, Slavoj Žižek, Tariq Ali, Silvia Federici, Chantal Mouffe, Franco Berardi Bifo, Yanis Varoufakis, Maurizio Lazzarato, Bernard Stiegler, E. O. Wright, and many others