Archive for October, 2007

David Ost, Solidarity and the Politics of Anti-Politics.

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

Lessia Shatalin
The book focuses of the development of the Solidarity, trade union organization in Poland and how this movement for free association of workers progressed from anti-political to political and in the end to solidify its place within the government of Poland. The author starts with discussing how the ideas of building a civil society were formed in Poland since 1968 and ends his book with the year 1989 when Solidarity gained control of the government. The first part of the book was the most interesting to me as there Ost discussed how the ideas of creating a civil society were developed and especially his take on politics of anti-politics, that is the belief that Solidarity leaders and organizations that preceded it had that their activities had to be social and not political and did not aim to challenge the Party’s control of the state. There aims were to organized citizens in civic activities thus creating a civil society and they borrowed their ideas from radical movements in the West. Instead of trying to reform the political they focused on the social that is the development of a civil society. Once citizens became more socially aware – organized into unions and began to organize strikes their demands seemed to be heard and Solidarity was legalized.
Once Solidarity was legalized and recognized by the state (the Party) its initial goals had been accomplished and now it had to move towards political which it was not prepared for. It could not ignore the question of state power anymore. After reading the book it seems that Solidarity’s leadership only focused on the immediate goals and once they had been achieved they had no idea as to how to proceed next. The same happened in the next stage of Solidarity’s development that is their strive to create a political system of neo-corporatism. And once again Ost explains this system and the debates over it within Solidarity in an impressive manner. Neo-corporatist approach entails the coming together of Solidarity, State and Church together in the task of governing the country. However, once neo-corporatism was achieved (Round Table Accords of 1989) the opposition leadership – Solidarity – was once again facing new challenges. It moved form a position of opposition to a position of power, something it was not prepared for and definitely did not envision at the beginning.

Solidarity and Anti-Politics in Poland.

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

Ost, David. Solidarity and the Politics of Anti-Politics: Opposition and Reform in Poland Since 1968. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990.

In Solidarity and Politics and Anti-Politics, David Ost (more…)

The People’s Republic of Albania by Nicholas C. Pano

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

This book demonstrates the rise to power of the Communist Party in the country of Albania. It starts with the background of the country and moves on to the years of World War Two, when the communists came to power in the country. There were two kinds of communists in the country, those who associated themselves with Yugoslavia and those who followed the path of the Soviet Union. The relationships between the two are the subjects of this book. Albania is a very poor country and the leaders of it had to associate themselves with one of the regimes in order for the country to survive. At first the regime was loyal to Yugoslavia then to Soviet Union and in the end of 1950’s and 1960’s Albanians found China as their protector following many disagreement that occurred between Albania and Soviet Union. The problem with the book is that it was written in 1967, so the reader is left with many questions unanswered, what happened after 1967? For the reader today, additional research is needed in order to further follow the developments in this country.
The author goes in a lot of detail in order to show the development of the relationship between Albania and Soviet Union. His task is to show why Albania moved away from Moscow and found a new protector in China. The main reason why the shift between the two occurred is because Soviet Union developed friendly relations with Tito, and as we see from the history of Albania there is a strong ‘dislike’ of the Yugoslavian leader and the country by many Albanian Communists. This attitude towards Yugoslavia is founded by the fact that it wanted to make Albania part of Yugoslavia following the war, moreover, Albania had claims over the territory of Kosovo, because of the large Albanian populations living in the territories. However, this territory went to Yugoslavia and Albanians were very bitter about this development.
Yugoslavia was a threat to Albania, Soviet Union on the other hand, was far away from Albania, so there was no threat of physical absorption on its part. Moreover, Moscow had greater resources, so it was more capable of helping Albania in its economic development, as well as military protection. Albania made many improvements it the country due to the monetary support by the Soviet Union. However, Soviets wanted it to develop its agriculture, and not heavy industry. Albanians viewed it as a way of controlling the county, and continued to develop its industry instead of agriculture. However, the main reason for the worsening of the relations between the two was Yugoslavia, which Albanians claimed was not truly communist and they called on all communist republic to return to true Marxist-Leninist roots. As the relationship with Moscow worsened, and money stopped coming in, Albania stood by its principles and did not give in to Moscow, instead it found new source of support in Beijing. At the same time Soviet-Chinese relations worsen and it became Albania and China against the rest of the communist world. Albania was not very important to Soviet Union and the only reason it was given so much importance is because of China. Soviet Union used Albania as its proxy through which it carried out their struggles against China (Pano, p.141). The book ends with Albania still the only communist country in Europe with no friend on its continent, having the only friend in Asia.

1968 – rebellions and questions of objectivity

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Mark Kurlansky, 1968: The Year that Rocked the World, (New York, NY: Random House Publishing Group, 2004)

 

In this book, Kurlansky takes a wide-ranging look at war, culture, and politics during the year 1968 in an effort to understand not just that year’s events, but the underlying causes that led to them and the year’s lasting impact on the world.

The book follows a more or less chronological path and as such, it jumps back and forth from many different locations; from the eastern bloc to Southeast Asia, from the U.S. to Nigeria, from Cuba to Western Europe. It also jumps topics; from war to poetry to politics to fashion. It is very difficult to encompass all these different locations, different facets of culture, into one lucid and coherent narrative. And I think it is in this area that the author deserves the most credit. It does a good job of providing a slightly chaotic feeling that matches what many people felt at the time, that everything was coming apart at the seams. Yet he also ties in a lot of common threads that made people in various different parts of the world, who had little or no direct contact with each other, feel like they had some sort of communal bond.

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Solidarity and the Politics of Anti-Politics

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Solidarity and the Politics of Anti-Politics

By David Ost

David Ost argues that the Solidarity movement in Poland, which asserted itself as a purely social organization and not political, was true as well as false to this claim: true because that was the stated intention by Solidarity leaders and the actual practice for several years, but also false because inevitably the desire for social power will lead to confrontation with the state. His book reads like a history of Poland from 1944 until 1991 with an emphasis on the Solidarity movement. His thesis is that the Solidarity movement in Poland successfully exploited a previously unexploited chasm between state government and civic society to wear down the repressive communist party and eventually force change in Poland. (more…)

Communism Out, Diversity In

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Rothschild, Joseph, and Nancy Wingfield, Return to Diversity: A Political History of East Central Europe Since World War II, 3rd edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Joseph Rothschild’s Return to Diversity, initially published just before the fall of Communism in East Central Europe, while eerily prophetic and to some to degree unintentionally so, traces the changes in eight countries of this region from post-World War II to 1989 in the first edition. The third edition, with updates provided by Nancy Wingfield, adds a final chapter to address the changes in the 1990s. Rothschild’s Return to Diversity argues that the collective failures of the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany and the Soviet Union to understand the nationalistic forces at work, as well as the failure of Titoism Communism and the Soviet Union’s failure to create a monolithic Communist bloc in the eight countries considered by Rothschild, are primary reasons that East Central European countries have retained their national histories and have reestablished the political diversity present before World War II.

Rothschild creates the setting by briefly summarizing the interwar developments which led to the emergence of the corridor of countries precariously situated between the Great Powers of Germany and the Soviet Union. Based upon this setting, Rothschild suggests that the failure of nerves on the Allies’ part meant abandoning the wedge of countries, leaving most of the region at the mercy of Germany. However, Germany’s inability to grasp the value of national sovereignty pushed some, if not many of the East Central European countries into the hands of Communism. Ironically, Stalin and the Soviet monolithic model of relegating the countries to satellite, colonial-like status, repeated the same mistake that Germany committed, ultimately leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall, break up of the Soviet Union, thus bringing about the return to diversity that gives Rothschild’s analysis a prescient quality, albeit somewhat inadvertent with respect to the breakup of the Soviet Union.

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Difficulties of Implementing Stalinism in Poland and Czech lands

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

I read two articles for our discussion this week: Remaking the Polish Working Class: Early Stalinist Models of Labor and Leisure by Padraic Kenney and Students, Workers, and Social Change: The Limits of Czech Stalinism by John Connelly. Kenney notes that stalinist regimes sought to transform society through mass social mobilization and integration into political and economic life. He looks at how social mobilization and integration was attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, in two Polish cities, Wroclaw and Lodz, through labor competitions and organized leisure. (more…)

“Sovietization” is not just a cool sounding word.

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Connelly, John. Captive University: The Sovietization of East German, Czech, and Polish Higher Education, 1945-1956. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000

Thoughts by Ammon Shepherd.

John Connelly seeks to look at the process of “sovietization” through the lens of universities of higher education. Before Connelly’s research, it was thought that the process and outcome of the Soviet Union’s control over East Europe was consistent and equal across the board. Studies of individual nationalities had been done previously, and each showed the process in which universities and other aspects of a nation were sovietized. By looking closely at three nationalities together- East Germany, the Czech Republic, and Poland- Connelly can compare the sovietization processes and see more intricately the similarities and differences. Connelly shows that while many aspects of the sovietization of the universities are similar, each nation was able to supplement their own societal and national differences into the process. Connelly includes extensive notes and an lengthy bibliography.

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Matt Hobbs – Reid & Crowley’s “Style and Socialism: Modernity and Material Culture in Post-War Eastern Europe”

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Susan Reid and David Crowley’s Style and Socialism: Modernity and Material Culture in Post-War Eastern Europe

The study of material culture is a subset of the wider field of cultural history. While a cultural historian will “read” the texts of various events, places, and subjects such as fairs and expositions, r the development of specific themes within a culture’s art, the material culture historian will look at the physical aspects of these same things. To continue the examples used, the material culture historian may be more interested in the commemorative trinkets produced for the exposition than in attendance or specific exhibits, or the actual physical production, exhibition, and/or sale (consumption) of art of a specific genre within a culture. It is important to remember that historians in this field are not antiquarians or appraisers. There interest in the physical ephemera of past times is important only because it tells us about the people of that time, not the physical items themselves. Style and Socialism is a collection of essays from historians of Eastern Europe who specialize in material culture, and what it can say about the societies of the Soviet bloc during the 1950s and 1960s.

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A Return to Diversity and the Pitfalls of Historical Surveys

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

By Laszlo Taba

Joseph Rothschild and Nancy Wingfield, Return to Diversity: A Political History of East Central Europe Since World War II (1999)

Joseph Rothschild’s and Nancy Wingfield’s Return to Diversity: A Political History of East Central Europe Since World War II is well written, though it shares some of the typical problems of historical survey literature. For an area of history that is complex and difficult to explain, they do an admirable job of organizing their subject. The problems with the book predominantly have to do with its structure.

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