Imperialism and the resistance against it in Bulgaria

Interview of the Greek left-wing media “ThePressProject” with members of the “September 23” Movement in connection with current international events and the growing aggression of American imperialism

First of all, I would like you to talk to me about the Resistance Movement “September 23”, so that our readers can get to know you.

The „September 23“ Movement is a Marxist-Leninist organization from Bulgaria. It aims to inflame the resistance against imperialism in our country and the struggle for socialism. The movement arose in connection with the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 and the desire of a group of young people with leftist convictions to oppose this crime of the imperialists. Since then, the organization has undergone various changes and reformations. Over the years, various repressions have been carried out against the members of the Movement, such as arrests, trials and attacks by fascist groups, which has had an impact on the development of the organization. The main goal has always been to smooth over a powerful political party of the working class in Bulgaria, which will lead the people’s struggle for socialism. The members of “September 23” Movement have participated in numerous initiatives in support of the struggle of workers in Bulgaria and against imperialist aggression around the world (Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela, DPRK, etc.). Currently, the Movement’s priority is to organize propaganda activities with various street demonstrations, cultural events and educational activities, including the active use of new technologies and social networks, such as Facebook, YouTube and others. The organization also aims to clarify a number of pressing ideological issues, such as the reasons for the collapse of the USSR and the socialist countries of Eastern Europe. The name of the organization comes from the uprising that broke out on September 23, 1923 against the fascists who came to power after a military coup. This event is considered the first armed anti-fascist uprising in the world.

Recent reports mentioned the possibility of increasing the presence of NATO troops on Bulgarian territory, triggering a political confrontation. I come from a country that has become a NATO base for the encirclement of Russia, too. I would like you to describe the level of Bulgaria’s involvement in the Euro-Atlantic axis and how it relates to the war against Russia and Donbass.

There are currently 4 American military bases located on the territory of Bulgaria. These are not even NATO bases, an organization that our country has formally joined voluntarily, but are used directly by the US military. This really means the occupation of the country by the armed forces of imperialism. In connection with the presence of American troops on Bulgarian territory, various incidents occur. In mid-2021, a case of storming a production facility near a U.S. military base “by mistake” by U.S. soldiers carrying civilian weapons was reported in public. In response to this event, we organized a protest in front of the US Embassy in Sofia.

One of the immediate tasks of the ‘’September 23” Movement is to participate in various initiatives and spread the idea of ​​removing US military bases from Bulgarian territory and Bulgaria’s withdrawal from NATO.

The significance of such a military presence is, in addition to protecting the results of the restoration of capitalism and the colonial status of Bulgaria, the use of our country as a springboard for future aggressions of imperialism. At the moment, such an intervention seems most likely against Russia in connection with the crisis in Ukraine.

Due to various historical, cultural, religious and economic reasons, the majority of the Bulgarian people sympathize with the Russians in general. This circumstance would make an imperialist war against Russia (and especially the possible participation of Bulgaria in it) extremely unpopular. In connection with the last episode of tension between the United States and Russia over Ukraine (actually started with the Maidan in 2013) in Bulgaria there is a growing sentiment against the country’s participation in NATO and the deployment of foreign troops on our territory. For the most part, Bulgarians sympathize with the resistance of the people of Donbass against the aggression of the fascists in Kiev. In 2014, for months in the center of Sofia, weekly marches were held with hundreds of participants entitled “Bulgaria – a zone of peace“, in which the Movement “September 23” took an active part. The Movement has made a significant contribution to the creation of the reportage-documentary film “Spring in Donbass“, which was broadcast in many Bulgarian cities, and these events were accompanied by lively discussions and manifestations of solidarity with the people of Donbass, despite the authorities’ attempts to stop the screenings under pressure from the Embassy of Ukraine.

However, the mood among the people contrasts sharply with the behavior of the Bulgarian colonial elite and its political representatives. There is an indestructible consensus among the ruling circles on Bulgaria’s participation in the Euro-Atlantic alliances, even if it means the country’s involvement in military aggression.

How are the imperialists involved in the political, economic and social life of your country?

Currently, the main political entity in Bulgaria is the US Embassy. All key decisions in the state take place in this building. This is evident in the way it is guarded. The US Embassy is a kind of fortress, which is guarded by men armed with automatic weapons, and shooting even in the direction of the building is prohibited, including during protests and demonstrations.

Bulgaria is under the total domination of foreign capital and American imperialism. This is evident in almost all spheres of life. Hundreds of foundations and non-governmental organizations with Western funding (mostly from the USA and Germany) operate in Bulgaria to consolidate this state of affairs and to find an ideological justification. They finance and develop various propaganda activities related to culture, education, journalism, public life, etc. The largest of these structures, the “America for Bulgaria’’ Foundation, has a budget of $400 million provided directly by the US Congress. They finance various institutions convenient to imperialism, organizations, media, activists, etc. According to former Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, the GERB party, which has ruled the country for 12 years, was founded with money from a German state foundation affiliated with the ruling party in Germany.

Bulgaria’s main resources, such as natural resources, grocery stores, telecommunications companies, electricity distribution companies, etc. are in the hands of foreigners. Every month billions of euros flow out of our country in this way. All this is happening at the expense of the Bulgarian people and the working class. This is a result of the restoration of capitalism, the privatization and liquidation of key sectors of the Bulgarian economy and the imposition of neoliberal paradigms that the state is a “bad master”. Paradoxically, some of the privatized key sectors of Bulgarian economic life were purchased by foreign… state-owned companies.

Is there a reaction from the Bulgarian people against the country’s involvement in NATO?

Bulgaria’s participation in NATO has never been very popular among the people. It took place without much debate and without a referendum. At the time of accession in 2004, for many it seemed only a necessary step towards Bulgaria’s accession to the European Union, for which certain circles hoped for new economic opportunities. Something that brought new troubles to the people.

Bulgaria’s accession to NATO took place at a time when utopian understandings of the “end of history” and the advent of a unipolar world centered on the United States were still relevant. This circumstance made our country’s entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization seem predestined and doomed the resistance against this accession to failure. The new foreign masters of Bulgaria wanted to strengthen their positions with a military presence.

The subsequent deployment of foreign military contingents in 2006 contributed to the trampling of the national dignity of the Bulgarian people. There have been no foreign troops on the territory of Bulgaria for a long time since the liberation of the country by the Ottomans in 1878.

Over the last 10 years, sentiments against Bulgaria’s participation in NATO have been growing. However, these sentiments still fail to materialize in sufficiently serious and structured actions and organizations. This is in line with the overall level of political culture and activity in Bulgaria.

However, on February 3, 2022, a new protest was held in Sofia against Bulgaria’s membership in NATO and the deployment of additional US troops on our territory.

In conclusion, could you please describe the working class’ conditions of living and the political map in Bulgaria, both in relation to the bourgeois and the communist or left-wing parties?

 The Bulgarian working class lives in a constant process of deteriorating material and working conditions. Bulgaria is definitely the poorest country in the European Union with a big difference compared to the others, and in this indicator it is surpassed by many non-EU countries. The minimum wage is also the lowest in the Union, rising to 360 euros this year. The amount of money that Bulgarian pensioners receive is approximately at the level of the so-called “Third world”. The minimum pension in Bulgaria is about 180 euros.

With this background, our country would be the leader if there was a competition for the largest number of right-wing parties per capita. There are hundreds of political organizations across the right – between the extreme neoliberals and the extreme conservatives. In essence, there is no significant difference between them – they are all united by anti-communism and the belief in the need for domination of private property in society.

The country is currently ruled by a coalition of four parties. The incumbent party became popular in the election campaign with the slogan “achieving left-wing goals with right-wing measures”. The group in question is a direct spokesman for the US Embassy, ​​and its founders have repeatedly emphasized their education at prestigious American universities.

The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) is among the four parties in the ruling coalition. The presence of the word “socialist” in its name does not change the overall character of the government, which is expressed in the protection of big capital and the country’s Euro-Atlantic path. The BSP claims to be the political successor of the Bulgarian Communist Party, founded by the great figure of Marxism in our country Dimitar Blagoev. In essence, such a claim serves only to exploit the nostalgia of large groups of older people during the socialist era before 1989 in order to gain electoral support. The BSP has rightly been accused of making a significant contribution to the restoration of capitalism and Bulgaria’s accession to the EU and NATO. This party is associated with some of the most extreme market reforms. The country has a neoliberal “flat tax”, which contributes to growing inequality in society, introduced in 2009 by a coalition government with the mandate of the Bulgarian Socialist Party.

In recent years, various small groups of left-liberal intellectuals and activists have emerged in the country, spreading social-democratic views. They usually receive funding for this from various foreign sources, including the German state, through the Rosa Luxemburg (Die Linke) and Friedrich Ebert (SPD) foundations. Some of their activities are probably not useless in the context of Bulgarian political life, but the funds received from abroad directly make them dependent and turn them into conduits to the ideas of their sponsors. Despite the funds received, these groups do not grow into anything more than elitist clubs of intellectuals with social democratic and left-liberal beliefs (with different nuances). They often focus their activities on the so-called identity policies and issues, thus entering into the narrative of cultural imperialism.

As for the Marxists in Bulgaria, it could not be said that the situation is better. There are dozens of formations in the country with the word “Communism” in them (Example: Party of Bulgarian Communists, Communist Party of Bulgaria, Bulgarian Communist Party, Union of Communists in Bulgaria, Bulgarian Workers’ Party (Communists), etc.). However, behind these loud names often lies a completely different reality. For the most part, these are very small groups of very elderly people, sometimes just consisting of members of the same family. Although most of them could be called honest people and probably good communists, for objective reasons they don’t manage to be adequate in time and gradually disappeared.

In this situation, we consider it a priority to work on the preparation and creation of a modern and revolutionary party of the working class in Bulgaria, which will raise the flag of the struggle against imperialism.

P. G.