Short book review: Srećko Horvart's “Poetry from the Future: Why a Global Liberation Movement Is Our Civilisation’s Last Chance”

Srećko Horvart, a philosopher from Croatia, is one of the most interesting thinkers in Europe today (don’t take my word for it: the German magazine Der Freitag has called him as “one of the most exciting voices of his generation”). He is also a political activist, involved in many causes across Europe and co-founder of the pan-European Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (Diem25). His new book, “Poetry from the Future: Why a Global Liberation Movement Is Our Civilisation’s Last Chance” is a passionate — yet historically-grounded — call for bold political action. He puts current events into historical context, and cogently argues for radical democracy, internationalist approach.

Written in a clear, straight-forward style and making ample references to literature and history but also pop music, punk culture, cinema and TV series, the book is very accessible — contrary to what its somber subject could lead one to expect. Written from the perspective of a privileged white, cis male European — like myself and, I suppose, most of his readers — he is constantly challenging us to think beyond our immediate reality: “We have to ask why all this — the refugee crisis, terrorism, the militarization of our cities — wasn’t normal in Europe until this point. Or, to put it another way, why was it normal in all other parts of the world, but not in the West?” (p. 62).

Significantly, Horvart makes us confront our own responsibility in the current abysmal state of affairs — “our task today is to be aware of the steps we are taking: to realize that the real question is not how did all this — Donald Trump, the disintegration of the EU, refugee camps, walls, climate change and new wars — come about, but what were the steps we ourselves took during all this” (p. 74). He talks about the importance of “acquiring a political subjectivity through the experience of organizing and protesting, of confronting the system and one’s own contradictions, and last but not least, of sharing comradeships, and friendships across identities and borders, this feeling of togetherness” (p. 33) and for that “we need news songs” both “metaphorically and literally” (p. 34). In order for this to be achieved, we have “to create the conditions for our own future, not to follow the already written script from the past: it means to produce a crack in the present, a disruption in the imposition of capitalist temporality, the rhythm of power” (p. 137). Importantly, Horvart formulates a constructive way for activists and grassroots movements to frame the defeats of the past: “it is out of these defeats that we must learn and build something different: a stronger movement. And so, the struggle goes on: from protests to general strikes, from refugee solidarity movements to cooperative markets. It is this hope without optimism that can carry us into the future, because it salvages what has passed not as something that has to be repeated, but as a potential that might lead in new directions and that can still — if we keep constantly in mind the lesson that there is no final defeat — change the present” (p. 100).

In sum, this book manages to find hope (albeit a “hope without optimism”) in our desperate times, grounded in history and in activism. It is a timely reminder that nothing is set in stones, destiny is in our hands, the future is ours to make — but it requires political engagement. It is a great antidote to the feeling of impotence and incapacity that so many in the Left feel today.

Research Associate & PhD candidate at Freie Universität Berlin’s Governance in Areas of Limited Statehood

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