Fall of Communism in Poland 1989


Different assertions on Solidarity

Kubik (1994) 

  • 1. Solidarity is a unique social entity
  • 2. Solidarity is an expression and crystalisation of an anti-hegemonic subculture and consequently, a cultural revolution
  • 3. Solidarity is a social formation that was symbolically unified, but ridden by latent political tensions. 

Laba and Goodwyn:

  • Workers portrayed as the primary causal force behind Solidarity
  • The role of intellectuals was non-causal ("creative but not causal" - Laba
  • (Goodwyn) Oppositional subcultures and organisations of workers developed independently from the parallel organisations of intellectuals (KOR) with only minimal and insignificant communication between them. 
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Origins of Solidarity

  • Laba and Goodwyn both argue that Solidarity has overwhelming origins from the working class and it was created autonomously by Polish workers, before the creation of KOR." 
  • Goodwyn states that there is no causal agents other than the workers involved in Solidarity's creation, but admits what KOR did achieve was absolutely vital (creation of fraternal association) 
  • Ost - KOR did the most to perpetuate the idea of forming independent trade unions during the 1980's. KOR organised the influential Committee for Free Trade Unions in Gdańsk in 1978. 
  • Laba & Goodwyn argue that activitsts came from the same single class/group - workers of the Coast.
    • This resembled classical Marxist formulation in which a class itself evolves into a class for itself.
    • This process is accomplished without any held from outside of this class.
    • The Solidarity revolution was carried out by an existing socio-economic class who developed organisational tools that allowed them to challenge the Party-state. 
  • However, since 1980 studies have shown that 1980 Polish society was politically polarised and all classes were thrown together. Differences between various occupational groups cannot be interpreted on the ground of the traditional conception of classes (workers, peasants, intelligensia) 
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Origins of Solidarity (2)

  • Kucyński & Nowak - traits of social structure in Poland with social consciousness was perceived as impossible. 
  • E.P. Thompson/Sider/Wuthnow/Stedman Jones - "not-exclusively materialist" concept of class. Social classes are products of a complicated interwining of cultural, economic and political processes. 
    • Agree with Hunt's thesis that revolution are made by political classes newly emerge & cultural forces play significant roles in the formation of such classes. 
  • Kubik - pre-revolutionary class constellations, based on static criteria, cannot provide all the answers to the question of who was the motor of the revolution. It is easier to comprehend with the same analysis which Hunt used to study the French Revolution which provided convincing explanations of revolutions and the formation of new classes/groups in the revolutionary process. 
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Background to Solidarity

Late 1970's Poland was not for political power, but for authority and legitimacy i.e. for the public predominance of one of the 2 discourses defining social and political order. Distinction between those who had political and economic power and attemped to construct for themselves authority and legitimacy and those who had little power but struggled to make their discourse visible, audible, and hegemonic. 

  • Schama - "a patriotic culture of citizenship was created in the decades after the Seven Years' War.. it was.. a cause rather than a product of the French Revolution." 
  • A confrontation between entrenched political-economic-cultural class and an emergent social entity of the cultural-political class in emergence, made up all of those who subscribed to a system of principles and values. They visualised the social structure as strongly polarised between "us" (society, people) and "them" (authoritities, communists). 
  • Bakuniak - people's beliefs in their abilitiy to shape actively their fate was demanded. It was rather a process whereby people realised the existence of a community united by a common condition - the awareness of local/class interests was built on the foundation of this realisation of belonging to a community. 
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Background to Solidarity (2)

Weber - "the sociological structure of parties differ in a basic way according to the kind of social action which they struggle to influence; that means, they differ according to whether or not the community is stratified by status or class." Status is determined by "social estimation of honour."

  • The criteria distinguishing Solidarity from its opponent were cultural and political; economic criteria which produced classical class cleavages, were insignificant. 
  • Staniszkis - "For Polish workers Solidarity of 1980/1 was not just a union, but leverage in the status competition in their everyday contacts with local authorities." 
  • Cannadine - "What is more urgently needed if we are to understand British society is neither a history of class nor a history of language, but a history of status." - This applies to Polish society in 1970's/80's. 
  • From 1970-89, the cultural-political principle structured social reality in a more profound way than did the socioeconomic principle, but it did not cease to operate. 
  • If we want to comprehend the action fo the Poles who created Solidarity we must see these actions as not simply related/determined by people's socio-economic positions, but as an expression of their belonging to an ascending status (cultural) group - cultural-political class. 
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Political Context

  • "Actual existing socialism" was a system in which the ruling elite had monopolistic power over soviety in all 3 major institutional domains - politics, economy and culture. The power system was overwhelming enough to crush any attempt to form a political and economic institution not controlled by the state. 
  • After 1970, independent institutions were created and endured
  • This indicated that the state's power was not total, hopelessness was not absolute and small islands of freedom could be carved out within the public life dominated by the party-state. 
  • Ost - Polish oppostion in the 1970s was not strictly political, it was anti-political - "the politics of anti-politics." 
  • Goldfarb - "new and completely free cultural institutions are constituted. Such constitution is based on the cultural deconstruction and is the major project of independent politics. Post-totalitarian culture precedes post-totalitarian politics." 
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Political Context (2)

  • Solidarity did not come into being as an exclusive result of the struggle taken by the "workers." It was a struggle of people, many of whom were "workers" but at the same time they were also "Poles," "Roman Catholics" or "citizens" 
  • Solidarity did try to free themselves of the chocking hold the state had on every aspect of their life, fighting against the exploitative practices of the Leninist state in the workplace. 
  • The hegemoic discourse of the Polish People's Republic robbed people of their religion, muddled their political education with ideological hybrids as democratic centralism and socialist patriotism 
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Self-limitations of Solidarity

  • It was self-limiting in the sense that its declarations in the written and spoken language were restrained 
  • They did not contain demands to remove the Soviet troops and restore the nation's sovereignty, but concentrated on work-related issues. 
  • Different people had different objectives
    • Catholics were fighting to assert their religiousity 
    • Poles were trying to redefine their national identity 
    • The citizens engaged in building a free civil society and a soverign state 
    • The workers were struggling for their rights were the same people who were striving to regain their human dignity 
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John Paul II's Visit 1979

  • Catholics and other volunteers realised that civil organisation of the society outside the state was possible. 
  • This led to a barrier of fear vis-a-vis the state and the development of the consciousness of "we" crystalised in the towering personality of the Pope, popularly perceived as the only genuine moral, religious and even political authority. 
  • Simmel - sociability i.e. a mode of social existence in which people "feel that the formation of a society as such is a value." 
  • J.P reinvigorated in massive public ceremonies the symbols of the nation, Catholicism and civil society which were accepted as genuine focus of identification for the Poles. 
  • Also allowed people to realise that the national community can be and is actually defined outside the communist state 
  • Workers also acquired their self-idenfitication as members of wider "imagined" community organised around such readily acceptable symbols as the Pope, Catholic Church and common national heritage. This can be easily construed as the ascending cultural-political crisis that carried out the Solidarity revolution 
  • Proved that there was a non-Marxist discourse in which social and political problems could be articulated in what were widely percieved as morally unambiguous terms. 
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Centralisation vs Decentralisation

  • Ost and Laba - essentially the decentralisers won. Solidarity acquired the decentralised democratic form that effectively governed its actions over the next 500 days of its life." 
  • The ambiguity between centralisation and decentralisation was Solidarity's strength and weaknesses. 
  • Strength came from the flexibility and the encouragement of grasstoots participation that decentralisation allowed.
  • Decentralisation, however, was counterbalanced by a dose of centralism. 
  • Centralism in Solidarity was never rigid, seen when martial law caught the movement off guard, partially because of the poorly developed, decentralised communication and authority structures. 
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Democracy vs Autocracy

  • Goodwyn - Poland in 1980-1 was "the most democratic society in the world" 
  • Laba - Solidarity had "decentralised democratic form that effectively governed its actions. 
  • However, Kubrik states that this was not the case, as from its creation Solidarity was torn betwen tendency toward autocratic, centralised rule and toward participatory democracy, i.e. Wálęsa was seen as undemocratic 
  • "The cult of personality flourished - he was a supreme leader and one could not criticise him. People wanted to rid themselves of their freedom, to had it over to these puffed-up leaders." 
  • Solidarity's democracy was majoritarian, not liberal because:
    • Subscribed to a communitarian, egalitarian and undifferentiated definition of "we"
    • Did not care much for formal and liberal concept of pluralism 
    • Were strongly attached to nationalism. 
  • Populist tendency and authoritarian personalities. 
  • It comes down to the fact that Poles had a tendency to accept strong authoritarian leadership owing to limited education. 
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Democracy vs Autocracy (2)

  • However, this changed towards the 1980s when people accepted a major premise of democracy - political pluralism. 
  • "Poland needs a strong leader, who will institute order in the country" - 48.7% surveyed said "positively yes", 28.9% "rather yes" 6.8% "rather no" and 3.1% positively no. 
  • "The election rules must be changed so that citizens can choose among the candidates representing different political views" 43.1%, 29.5%, 3.8% and 1.2% 
  • Rychard - this paradoxical result indicates that Poles strove for a "good" social order and were against the existing system in the late 1980's, which lacked both the strong executive and political pluralism 
  • Goodwyn - "for a brief instant of historical time (15 months) Poland was the most democratic society in the world." 
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Left vs Right

  • Frasyniuk - "our society is trying to construct a new political model without rigid divisions along party lines. It doesn't want any hand-me-downs from the West. People are afraid of all political colours... a measure of the Pole's maturity is the widespread consciousness that none of the colours of political spectrum - from white to red - is what its about."
  • Basically left style - including the emphasis of self organisation, who appeal to democratic socialist slogans of self-government, worker self-management, participatory democratic and broad social justice. 
  • Also had a right function which conflicted and eroded the left tendencies of the movement. 
  • Social democratic option seen as risky - did not want to promote these ideas in society that was just beginning to shed the unwanted legacy of state socialism. 
  • However, it was a formiddable opponent of communism because it managed to mobilise millions of people through producing strong emotional attachment to a set of "a-political symbols" and discourse. 
  • The symbolic, not political unity of the class movement resulted from 
    • The existence of a common enemy 
    • A common cultural framework. 
  • The deeper programmatic and organisational differences caused the Solidarity movement to cut short in 1992 when it disappeared from the social landscape. 
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