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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

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lecture overview
Lecture Overview
  • Institutional Developments under ‘mature’ communism

a. General -- Party Level/Social Level

b. Poland

  • Evolutionary Development of Resistance

a. General

b. Poland

III. Solidarity – why Poland? Why workers?

i institutional developments communist party
I. Institutional Developments – Communist Party

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.

why didn t post stalinist normalization work
Why didn’t post-Stalinist ‘normalization’ work?
  • According to Jowitt, the answer is two fold:

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.

power and privilege
Power and Privilege
  • As the Ash book on Solidarity demonstrates, before 1989, the Party cadres (or, in Russian, the Party nomenklatura) enjoy immense privileges, including segregated luxury houses, special vacation resorts, special stores with access to Western goods and travel, access to better health care, etc. -- all while the rest of society, most especially in Poland, struggle to survive, waiting in long lines for the barest necessities.
2 abandoning the leninist combat task
2. Abandoning the Leninist combat task

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)

social responses
Social Responses
  • As the Party becomes a closed social caste, reproducing itself by limiting access to higher education and professional advancement, its authority increasingly rests on ‘neo-traditional’ foundations as traditional patterns of interaction between peasants and rulers are reproduced; patterns that reinforce the wide gulf between subject societies, the “we,” and the narrow elites, the “them,” that rule over them.
buying social compliance
Buying Social Compliance
  • In order to minimize social opposition and to secure their privileges, the Party under Brezhnev’s leadership attempts to buy social compliance by 1) offering more consumer goods, opening socialist economies to Western credits and technology imports; and 2) allowing more nationalist forms of political expression in the East European Communist Parties to bolster their claims to rule.
a moral political stalemate
A moral-political stalemate
  • While these efforts fostered a sense of social resignation and “inner emigration”, they did not enhance the regimes’ legitimacy. As Rothschild notes, “The domestic Soviet imperatives that long required the continued imposition of controlled Communist regimes on East Central Europe were precisely the ones that aborted the local legitimacy of those regimes in their countries.” (p. 177) No where is the lack of legitimacy more evident than in Poland where even Gomulka’s efforts to put a more national face on communist rule dramatically fails.
poland after 1956
Poland after 1956
  • Partial liberalization: under Gomulka, collectivization reversed, police abuses curtailed, religious instruction reintroduced in schools, Soviet presence minimized while freedom of expression and intellectual freedoms remained limited.
  • 1968 student and intellectuals attempt to follow the example of the Prague Spring but without workers’ support, their efforts are crushed and many Jewish intellectuals forced to emigrate, including Zygmunt Bauman and LeszekKolakowski.
  • Continuous economic hardship due to Party mismanagement, e.g., paying for investments in heavy industry through the forced export of food, underpaying peasants for their products.
poland after 1970
Poland after 1970
  • Gomulka is removed from power after the 1970 riots in the Baltic port cities protesting an increase in food prices:

“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.

gierek s rule
Gierek’s Rule
  • Under Gierek, “Cavalier extravagance replaced puritanical frugality,” (Rothschild, p. 157) – a phrase that nicely captures Jowitt’s analysis of the shift from revolutionary Stalinism to corrupt neo-traditionalism – and society is bought off with an “orgy of consumerism” fueled with Western imports, funded with credits from the SU and the West.
  • Inevitably, to correct the ensuing budget deficits, Gierek attempted to raise basic food prices in June, 1976 which again give rise to protest demonstrations mostly in central Poland.
poland before solidarity
Poland Before Solidarity
  • Unlike Hungary, the GDR and Czechoslovakia, the Polish Communist regime was unable to secure a standard of living high enough to lull society into passive compliance. The Polish Party did, however, live up to the corrupt standards set across the region.
  • Unlike elsewhere in the Soviet bloc, the Catholic Church retains its institutional autonomy and its moral authority, peasants retain their land and regime oppression is moderate, not as liberal as in Hungary but not as severe as the GDR and Czechoslovakia.
  • The combination of economic hardship, moderate regime repression, and autonomous social institutions with a deeply felt hostility to Soviet-Communist rule give rise to persistent manifestations of overt resistance.
ii evolutionary development of resistance
II. Evolutionary Development of Resistance

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.

lessons learned
Lessons Learned
  • Hungary 1956 – the limits of Soviet tolerance are revealed; the Party’s monopoly on political power and Warsaw Pact membership are untouchable.
  • Czechoslovakia 1968 – Party reformers under Dubcek’s leadership attempt to create ‘socialism with a human face’ while not contesting the Party’s monopoly or Warsaw Pact membership. With the Soviet invasion, a new lesson is learned that Communism cannot be reformed from within. Polish and Czech dissident intellectuals develop theories of resistance that seek to transform society outside of the Party by encouraging individuals to live as if they were free; to create autonomous social organizations based on truth not lies. For excerpts of Havel’s most famous essay, see:

http://history.hanover.edu/courses/excerpts/165havel.html

the evolving role of the west
The Evolving Role of the West
  • As we have seen, the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 represents a moral nadir in the West’s (less than sincere) efforts to “roll-back” communism. Both sides learned from this experience, however, as RFE (and the BBC) now offer neutral information and East Europeans realized that there would be no ‘rescue’ by the West.
  • Helsinki Accords 1977 – possibly the most important act undertaken by the West to undermine communism as East European and Soviet dissidents were able to hold their governments, as signatories to the Accords, accountable for human rights abuses. In the Czech Republic, Havel and others form “Charter 77” which, in part, serves as a human rights watch group. See,

Helsinki Accords - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

social mobilization
Social Mobilization
  • In addition to the external limits imposed by the SU, dissidents also came to appreciate the internal limits posed by inadequate social support. In 1968, especially, opposition in both Poland and Czechoslovakia was undertaken predominantly by intellectuals and students while workers stood aside. At other times, workers demonstrated, as in Poland 1970, without support from intellectuals. Nonetheless, given the socio-economic conditions in Poland, resistance is continuous – a process that may also have produced a very specific evolutionary dynamic of continuous learning on the part of opposition organizers.
chronology of polish resistance
Chronology of Polish Resistance
  • 1956 uprising in Poznan; Stalinist ruler, Ochab, abdicates power in favor of Gomulka, a ‘nationalist’ communist. See,

Poznań 1956 protests - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  • 1968 protests among intellectuals. See,

1968 Polish political crisis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  • 1970 worker demonstrations in the Baltic coastal cities; 5 days of rioting with 100’s injured and 42 dead. See,

Polish 1970 protests - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  • 1971 worker demonstrations in Lodz, a textile factory base; notable for the extent to which women formed the majority of those protesting. Gierek regime backs down on planned price increases for food
  • 1976 worker demonstrations in central Poland. See,

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

poland evolving repetoires of resistance
Poland: Evolving Repetoires of Resistance
  • After the workers demonstrate in 1956, 1970, 1976 and are relatively easily repressed by security forces, free trade union organizers (including Walesa) conclude that occupation strikes afford more protection and are more easily kept under the workers’ control thereby minimizing any ‘provocation’ that the regime can use as an excuse to use force. Repeated experiences also led to a consensus on the claims that should be put forward: right to strike; right to free, independent trade unions.
  • After the experiences in 1968 and 1970, when workers and intellectuals failed to support each other, the 1976 protests give rise to KOR – the Committee for the Defense of Workers – founded by intellectual dissidents (among them JacekKuron and Adam Michnik) to provide legal defense and material assistance for workers facing trial in the wake of the protests.
  • After decades of often violent protests , both workers and intellectuals turn to non-violent resistance both on moral grounds and for tactical reasons again not wanting to give the regime any excuse to use violence against protesters or strikers. A fundamental right, the right to live in dignity, also emerges as a demand shared across the dissident communities – Church-based, secular-intellectual and workers.
the polish pope
The Polish Pope
  • Elected in 1978, the Pope returns to Poland in 1979 where his visit is organized entirely by the Church and local communities that must organize events attended by 100,000’s of people – all undertaken with remarkable discipline, organizational skill and volunteered resources; an experience of social self-organization on a massive scale that would not be forgotten.
  • In his sermons, the Pope challenged his listeners to be not afraid; to bow only before God; to recognize that they had a natural right to live in dignity. Even secular intellectuals like Adam Michnik recall the powerful inspirational quality of those sermons. On the Pope’s historical role, see:

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.

iii solidarity why poland why workers
III. Solidarity: Why Poland? Why Workers?
  • Poland, in short, by 1980 manifests all of the sources of resistance identified by Jowitt (see powerpoint on ‘normalization’): social anger, political anger, frustration of those excluded from privilege and of those dedicated to a more genuine form of humanistic socialism – all galvanized by the election of a Polish Pope. But what exactly are the factors specific to Poland which allow for all of these sources of resistance to culminate in such an extraordinary social movement initiated and in large part led by workers? In other words, whereas resistance in Poland might have been inevitable, the shape and form taken by that resistance is not necessarily inevitable.
ash s explanatory introduction
Ash’s explanatory introduction

In his effort to explain the factors giving rise to Solidarity, Ash presents a familiar list of Poland’s unique characteristics:

  • Polish national conscience formed largely in resistance to external powers
  • Incomplete Stalinism
  • Catholic Church + intellectuals – “kept alive the Poles autonomous collective memory” (p. 11)
  • Polish workers – “strange mixture of patriotic peasant piety and workers self-respect bred by socialism” (p. 14)
  • KOR – as the dissident organization dedicated to creating a bridge between intellectuals and workers
  • Social alliance – tacit alliance between Church, workers and intellectuals
  • Socio-economic conditions – after a brief upswing in material conditions in the early Gierek years, a return to hardship and scarcity by the late 70’s
  • Miracle of the Polish Pope (p. 33)
  • Regime response – a mixture of tolerance and harassment which only fuels resistance across all strata of Polish society.
identifying the critical factors
Identifying the Critical Factors

Moving beyond this general catalogue of factors, can we go a little deeper and identify the most important factors and their underlying dynamics?

  • While Polish national identity has clearly been formed in opposition to external actors, how does this identity get translated into resistance time and time again? Some possible aspects to consider: the extent to which this identity confers legitimacy and possibly social status on those Poles who resist ‘occupiers,’ as opposed to those who collaborate (in contrast to Czech society?); how does the capacity to form resistance networks that constitute ‘underground’ societies get transmitted across generations? Very likely through family histories, narratives of heroism and the transmission of practical knowledge of how to organize underground resistance. Additionally, the Church consistently provides shelter for such resistance.
  • Yet how does the Church survive in Poland, and how do pre-communist resistance families survive capable of transmitting their stories? Recall the brutality of Stalinism in Hungary disrupting and demoralizing families, and the extent to which the Hungarian and Czech Churches were brought under communist control. Here it is important to emphasize the incomplete nature of Stalinism in Poland. While the communist take-over in Poland was accompanied by extensive repression, full Stalinization was avoided.
but why solidarity
But why Solidarity?

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.

images of solidarity
Images of Solidarity

Walesa in the shipyard, 1980

Walesa addressing striking workers in 1988

solidarity s legacy
Solidarity’s Legacy

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.