This paper examines the cross-pollination of the neo-Marxist critique of real existing socialism with the critical practices of the radical stream of the East European neo-avant-garde, and examines the extent to which the imprint of debates over the radical overhaul of the socialist system can be detected in the practices of artists and curators. Artistic affinities with the neo-Marxist debates that flared across the Eastern Bloc can be identified in a shared willingness to question authority, a subversive attitude to canonical thinking and a new interest in the role of an individual in socialist society. Considered also is the shift over the course of the 1970s from a belief in the possibility of a reformed socialism, to one of resignation, cynicism and frustration towards party bureaucracy, in which even the bureaucrats had stopped believing in the official ideology. This change in attitudes towards socialism is detected both in the change in tone in the writings of dissident theorists and in the approach of artists who could no longer muster the neo-avant-garde enthusiasm for the utopian desire to transform the world. The difficult paths taken by those, who sought to recover the radicalism in Marxist thought from under the blanket of state bureaucracy may also be viewed as a valuable source for contemporary social criticism of the post-communist order by a new generation of theorists and artists.