Kritikë dhe Aktivizëm
Artikulli i mëposhtëm është shkruar për portalin ballkanik Bilten. (Shën. red.)
It’s not a matter of philosophical or humanist connotation of the term. It is about a blunt and somehow etymological denotation of obscurantism, i.e., the Albanian government’s actual reformation of the energy sector which is cutting down electrical power to the poor and criminalising them legally and ideologically for the collapse of this energy sector.
The analytical narrative should start from the scratch. The overwhelming majority of the Albanian citizens use electrical energy in their homes provided by a corporation which before the neoliberalizing process used to be in state administration. In the multifaceted process of privatization and commodification of the electrical power sector, the company was firstly divided into two and then, in 2009, its most important distribution sector was privatized to the Czech firm CEZ, a privatization which was coordinated politically with the Czech Republic presidency of the European Council in 2009. The centre-right government of the time used the application for membership in EU as a propagandistic gesture before the general elections, and the Prime Minister Berisha delivered the application directly to the Czech prime minister whose governmental influence in the privatization of CEZ was allegedly felt. In ideological terms the privatization of distribution sector and the application to the EU were considered as further steps in the ultimate national goal: the integration in EU and the structural reforms – like privatization – that it required.
To cut a long story short the privatization of the distribution sector not only did not improve the electrical power service to the general population, but deepened the crisis. Bad administration, overtariffing the citizens, abusive practices, increasing debts, and technical loses of the energy deliverance almost led the system into collapse. This forced the centre-right government to the restatalization of the distribution sector. On the other hand the legal dispute between CEZ (the last proprietor of the distributive sector) and the Albanian government led to an agreement where the Albanian government was obliged to pay to CEZ almost the exact sum (approximately 100 million Euros) it had sold the sector five years ago, meaning that CEZ profits couldn’t be touched and, more importantly, the debts that the company had created during these years should be paid by the newly statalize company (OSSHE). Ironically enough this dispute was solved before the EU decision to accept the Albanian application for the candidate membership, where the Czech Republic government veto was feared.
In this predicament, pushed by the World Bank’s advices and conditions, the current centre-left government has decided to restructure the electrical power sector by cutting down loses (not so much the most important technical loses of the distribution net, but the cutting down of electrical power to people who have not paid the electrical bills) and increasing the electricity price by almost 30% (although it is still being debated, the governmental agency that has the legal competence to propose the new price has asked for an increase of 30%). On the other hand the new tariffing scheme of the electrical power consumption betrays another class-bias approach, where those who consume less energy (the poor) would have to pay more – almost 30%, and those who consume much more (the rich) would have to pay less.
This is not all. In the recent weeks the Albanian government, its electrical power administration and police, have started an enormous campaign of cutting down electrical power to those who have not paid their bills. The average number of consumers which have not paid or have delayed the payment of electrical power bills goes to 20%, whose overwhelming majority consists of poor families, unemployed, beneficiaries of social care, precarious workers etc. For example in the poorest region in Albania, Kukës, only 4% of the consumers have paid the energy bills. The current process of class warfare has made a lot of poor people to live in utter darkness, and poor neighbourhoods are being thrown to premodernity. To give a wider picture the real unemployement rate in Albania is considered to reach more than 30% despite the governmental claims to the contrary, and the fall of remittances from emigrant workers in Greece and Italy have led to the worsening of the economical conditions of the already poor and impoverished even more people. In this conditions where to find a job – no matter how low-paid and without rights – is being turned into a privilege, the governmental attack on the poor is worsening their social conditions. There are reports that poor children are doing their homework in the candle light and covered with blankets as cold weather is approaching. But what is worse, any tentative especially by the poor to individually reconnect energy power – when it does not lead to the accidental death of the person trying to work with electrical cables – is being prosecuted and examples of poor people going to jail are being used for governmental propaganda in order to trigger the payment of the electrical bills. In one case, the police even apprehended a young unemployed mother together with her five years old daughter, although later the Albanian prime minister was forced to apologize for the police misbehaviour.
Ideologically the government is trying to build a discourse where it silences the poor and vilifies those who don’t pay the bills and especially those who “steal” energy power as dishonest citizens versus whom it tries to picture itself as the representative of the honest majority. It silences the class-based contradiction, and treats its citizens as morally obliged Kantian subjects who should not be parasites on the others’ shoulders. As usual, this kind of ideological discourse tries to touch the nerves of the micro-bourgeois part of the masses whose self-perception as law-abiding citizens is a commonplace. For example the government is using the case of pensioners whose rate of electrical power bills payment is over 90%, silencing though the fact that in Albania the pensioners might be poor, but are not the poorest, taking in consideration that they still have a stable income (unlike the unemployed) and most of them profit from their children’s working abroad remittances. As for the poor the government is promising to compensate the raising price, but without making it clear on what criteria would poverty be defined. If it is going to be defined, as usual in Albania, according to those families who get social revenues of approximately 30-40 Euros per month, it doesn’t say anything on how those families (most of whom have continuously not paid the electrical bills) are going to afford paying the entire bill, which in a month exceeds its social revenue.
More generally, the neoliberalization of the Albanian social formation in the recent decades was built on a tacit consent between the economic-political elite and the masses, especially the poor. The former have continuously “tolerated” the latter’s unlawfulness as a ligne de fuite from the most extreme consequences of poverty and social disempowerment. The non-payment of energy bills from the majority of the poor has been considered as a social cost necessary for their pacification, so that neoliberal reforms could be implemented without major resistances. Nowadays this tacit consent is broken, and new spaces of organizing politically the social wrath are opened.