The development of the environmental non-governmental movement in Slovakia
The Slovak Union of Nature and Landscape Conservationists
The history of the Slovak Union of Nature and Landscape Conservationists (SZOPK), because it spans the communist and post-communist periods, illustrates some common problems affecting social organisations, and particularly non-governmental organisations (NGOs), faced with the collapse of one set of macro-social institutions and the need to reintegrate into the qualitatively different institutional environment which is slowly emerging from the ruins of communism. Such a process of re-adaptation throws up a series of dichotomous choices for collective social actors: continuity versus discontinuity; autonomy versus greater institutionalisation; centralisation versus decentralisation; 'big' versus 'small-scale' politics. Organisational traditions are important here, as are the new opportunities and constraints imposed by new political, social and economic conditions, especially new opportunities for NGOs to fulfil an information-generating function and thereby contribute to the governance and self-governance of society. A hitherto unthinkable degree of self-determination and self-reflection is apparent – and arguably necessary – if an existing organisation is to survive or a new one establish itself. Organisations are ultimately accountable to their members or adherents, legitimised and reproduced insofar as experiences of belonging, participation, solidarity or empowerment are valued by a critical mass of individuals involved in the life of the organisation. In a real sense the internal transformation of SZOPK therefore represents a test-case for the success of the 'great transformation' of post-communist societies, a measure, above all, of its participativeness – whether and how it is 'lived out' by grassroots actors; and whether social movements are on the one hand accepted as legitimate players in political decision-making and on the other hand able to establish a creative balance between utilising institutional channels of in uence and reproducing 'alternative' identities.