Resistance in Institutional and Evolutionary Context. Notes from April 27, 2009. Lecture Overview. Institutional Developments under ‘mature’ communism a. General -- Party Level/Social Level b. Poland Evolutionary Development of Resistance a. General
Notes from April 27, 2009
a. General -- Party Level/Social Level
III. Solidarity – why Poland? Why workers?
After Stalin’s death, a measure of stability and predictability enters into Party life as, under Khrushchev’s leadership, the terror and purges are called off and the Party attempts to introduce more moderate, rational + scientific methods of rule. The consequences of this internal stabilization and external moderation vis-à-vis society at large were not, however, what Party reformers expected.
1. In the absence of terror as a source of perpetual insecurity (that feeling of constantly looking over your shoulder), Party cadres began to conflate their private/personal interests with the interests of the Party-State. The opportunists that were always prone to joining the Party (recall Kovaly’s account of who joined the Party after WWII and why—former collaborators with the Nazi occupation), now multiply and their fusion of power with rampant self-enrichment pervades the Party’s organizational ethos. So, the Stalinist fusion of fear and power is now replaced with the fusion of greed, privilege and power.
In addition to the rise of opportunists through the ranks, the post-Stalinist downgrading of the Party’s revolutionary combat task frustrated dedicated Party cadres, they too become cynical; morally adrift without a guiding purpose. In short, shifting from a heroic revolutionary mission to transform society to an attempted bureaucratic-technocratic managerial style of command produced institutionalized corruption rather than efficiency. (For an interview with Jowitt, see http://globetrotter.berkeley.edu/people/Jowitt/jowitt-con0.html)
“Though Gomulka’s last years in power had been tarnished by errors and repressions, he merits retrospective credit for his personal probity, his political courage during the Stalinist purge years 1948-1954, his dignified patriotism in 1956, and his consistent aversion to systematic mass terror. The only Polish Communist ever to have been (albeit briefly) an authentic national hero, he died, despised, on Sept. 1, 1982, at age seventy-seven” (Rothschild, p. 157)
Central to this kind of ‘retrospective’ crediting of Gomulka is the extent to which Gierek, his successor, came to exemplify the corrupt, bloated, self-indulgent apparatchik of the ‘banquet’ regime in the Brezhnev era.
If Rothschild is correct, at the heart of continuous resistance to Soviet rule is the profound illegitimacy of that rule in Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia. Over time, however, the forms of that resistance evolved as lessons were learned about the limits of Soviet tolerance, Western engagement and the domestic limits of social mobilization.
Helsinki Accords - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Poznań 1956 protests - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
1968 Polish political crisis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Polish 1970 protests - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
June 1976 protests - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
* 1980 strikes in the Baltic coastal cities that give rise to Solidarity
* 1981-82 scattered but significant resistance to the imposition of martial law
YouTube - Stan Wojenny/ Martial Law in PolandRelated Videos
Martial law in Poland - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
* 1988 wave of strikes across Poland
5 MORE COAL MINES JOIN POLISH STRIKE - The New York Times
Watch on the West: Pope John Paul II and the Dynamics of History – FPRI
* The visits of the Pope fundamentally validate the organizational capacities of Polish society and provide a legitimating ethos for continued resistance to communist rule.
In his effort to explain the factors giving rise to Solidarity, Ash presents a familiar list of Poland’s unique characteristics:
Moving beyond this general catalogue of factors, can we go a little deeper and identify the most important factors and their underlying dynamics?
Clearly, given the above factors, the potential for wide-spread social participation in a resistance movement was present in Poland, but why was that movement initiated by workers? Doubtlessly, workers elsewhere in Eastern Europe could also be defined in terms of patriotism and the self-respect inspired by socialism (as Ash defines the Polish workers). One, possibly very significant, difference is the frontier mentality of rugged individualism that emerged in the younger generation of workers in the ‘recovered territories’. When combined with socialization in the traditions of Polish romanticism and heroic resistance during WWII, the self-confidence of this generation allowed them to take the lead in organizing social resistance, a role historically played by the Polish aristocracy and gentry.
For an elaboration, see: Tomasz Grabowski, “Breaking Through to Individualism: Poland’s Western Frontier, 1945-95,” UCBerkeley Dissertation, 2002.
Walesa in the shipyard, 1980
Walesa addressing striking workers in 1988
For analyses of Solidarity’s effects on Polish society, see:
Jan Kubik and GrzegorzEkiert, Rebellious Civil Society: Popular Protest and Democratic Consolidation in Poland, 1989-1993 , 1999.
MaryjaneOsa, Solidarity and Contention: Networks of Polish Opposition , 2003.
Shana Penn, Solidarity’s Secret: the Women Who Defeated Communism in Poland , 2005.