Museums are there to protect our mind and memory. Some fifteen years ago when I used to teach in Finland every year, the statistics of Finnish museums be it by the variety, quality and by their social configuration was impressive. I believe, now is only the better. Finland is a successful society, a capitalist country but with a balanced sense of values. Teaching internationally and at home I often used the slide above telling that at that time Finland (which I knew relatively well) has had six institutions dedicated to the history of work and working class. I took the information from Internet, from their sites. I even took their red flags, as illustration, out of two reasons. First, because it was historically legitimate symbol of worker’s rights and resistance to exploitation. The second one was provocative, as in Eastern European countries which were formerly socialist, red flag was tacitly expelled from the societies; the neo-conservative power centres controlling media and entire culture constructed a repulsive aura around it. It was much helped by the defectors, by the former communist party members who were eager to wash their biographies by the new, opposite orthodoxy. (The fiercest among them appropriated the neo-fascist agenda). In fact, history is neither black nor white and indeed, it can legitimately be even red. Objective vantage point, however important as context to museum/heritage institutions and public narratives, has even a worse implication: the honour of work and fight for dignity, freedom and human emancipation in the society was turned, in the matter of two decades, into a blabber of the ridiculous leftist nostalgia. In the casino capitalism, the value of human effort, of work and working class disappeared in the labyrinth of market terror and new unquestionable legitimacy of ultra-rich class; the work itself became a sort of necessity of the poor, un-resourceful populations and shiftless individuals. Regrettably, the “mob” responded enthusiastically to the new propaganda and for the most, tacitly consented to dream of getting rich themselves. Public institutions like the public intellectuals should have remembered that the prime task of museums is to protect the endangered values to assure that we do not lose the painfully earned collective experience accumulated by predecessors. Should we suppose that some tactic conspiracy was at work to erase that societal memory? Not knowing one’s own job is a sufficient explanation. The increasing absence of museums of work and workers in contemporary society is making the rule of corporative profit-obsession easy and ever obscener.
Labour, society, public memory, Eastern Europe