Reassessing Communism

Concepts, Culture, and Society in Poland, 1944–1989
book cover of Reassessing Communism
$105.00 / €88.00/ £75.00
Publication date: 
May, 440 pages

The thirteen authors of this collective work undertook to articulate matter-of-fact critiques of the dominant narrative about communism in Poland while offering new analyses of the concept, and also examining the manifestations of anticommunism. Approaching communist ideas and practices, programs and their implementations, as an inseparable whole, they examine the issues of emancipation, upward social mobility, and changes in the cultural canon.

The authors refuse to treat communism in Poland in simplistic categories of totalitarianism, absolute evil and Soviet colonization, and similarly refuse to equate communism and fascism. Nor do they adopt the neoliberal view of communism as a project doomed to failure. While wholly exempt from nostalgia, these essays show that beyond oppression and bad governance, communism was also a regime in which people pursued a variety of goals and sincerely attempted to build a better world for themselves.

The book is interdisciplinary and applies the tools of social history, intellectual history, political philosophy, anthropology, literature, cultural studies, and gender studies to provide a nuanced view of the communist regimes in east-central Europe.

List of Acronyms

Introduction: Communism Studies in Central and Eastern Europe: A New Approach
Katarzyna Chmielewska, Agnieszka Mrozik, and Grzegorz Wołowiec

Part One: Critiques of the Dominant Narrative

1. The Red and the Brown: On the Nationalist Legitimation of Communism in Poland Once Again
Grzegorz Wołowiec

2. Communist (Auto)biographies: Teresa Torańska’s Them: Stalin’s Polish Puppets and the Contemporary Paradigms of Understanding the Past
Anna Artwińska

Part Two: New Analyses of Communism

3. Legitimation of Communism: To Build and to Demolish
Katarzyna Chmielewska

4. Eroticism and Power
Tomasz Żukowski

5. “’Cause a Girl Is People”: Projects and Policies of Women’s Emancipation in Postwar Poland
Agnieszka Mrozik

6. An Adventure in the Steelworks and in Mariensztat: Family and Emancipation of Women in 1950s Polish Cinema
Aránzazu Calderón Puerta

7. The “Adolescent Sphinx”: (Post-)Thaw Novels for Girls
Eliza Szybowicz

8. “Here I Stand, I Cannot Do Otherwise”: Around An Open Letter to the Party and the Notion of Revisionism in Discourse About the Political Opposition in 1960s Poland
Bartłomiej Starnawski

9. Socialist Education Ideals and Models of Patriotism: Some of the Problems of Polish Pedagogics and the Education Policy of the People’s Republic of Poland in the 1970s
Anna Sobieska

Part Three: New Analyses of Anti-Communism

10. The Waning of Communism in the People’s Republic of Poland: The Case of Discourse on Intelligentsia
Anna Zawadzka

11. The Thought of Stanisław Brzozowski in Polish Academic Writing and Journalism in the Years 1945–1974: Currents, Parallels, Polemics
Paweł Rams

12. Around Jerzy Andrzejewski’s Miazga, Kazimierz Brandys’ Nierzeczywistość, and Polish Leftist Thought of the Late 1960s and Early 1970s
Kajetan Mojsak

13. Scheming as a Business: “Communism” in the Language of the 1980s Opposition; The Example of The Little Conspirator
Krzysztof Gajewski

List of Contributors

“I have been waiting for years for someone to write this book. Reassessing Communism represents a long-overdue corrective to the one-dimensional approach that has characterized so much historical scholarship on the communist period in Polish history. Breaking away from the image, seen mainly through the lens of political power, as a land only of ‘totalitarian’ oppression and misgovernance, contributions to this volume show that the Polish People’s Republic was also a place in which people pursued diverse goals and sincerely attempted to build a better world for themselves. After all, the communist vision of a better social order necessitated more than mere submission: it also required public compliance, even assent. Reassessing the communist era from this perspective also allows us to critically examine the anticommunist opposition and break away from the unproblematized mythologies that have dominated public memory for too long.”
"This edited collection, which reads like a multi-authored monograph, crowns the efforts of 13 contributors; the contributors are cultural and social historians, philosophers, and literary scholars, Reassessing Communism is a welcome contribution to the field of communism studies and an important voice against contemporary tendencies in Poland that try to reduce the four decades of People’s Poland to ideology-driven cliches, one-sided narratives, and non-reflective and anti-intellectual historicism."
“Reassessing Communism: Concepts, Culture and Society in Poland, 1944–1989 brings new and important reflections and interpretations of communism in Poland. The book is intended as a polemic with the dominant historical and popular narratives in which communism appears in terms of strangeness: as an aberration or a ‘black hole’ in Polish history. The authors consistently and convincingly deconstruct this type of narrative. Instead, they propose a picture of communism that cannot be easily subordinated to established patterns, national-centric stereotypes, or totalitarian theories. The authors’ approach to communism as a multidimensional ‘revolutionary project’ is a new and needed perspective in the current state of research on the history of postwar Poland.”
"Much of interest is proposed in this extensive volume, which draws attention to notions of continuing intellectual and perhaps practical importance."