Reassessing Communism

Concepts, Culture, and Society in Poland, 1944–1989
$105.00 / €90.00 / £85.00
Publication date: 
May 2021, 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.

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

Critiques of the Dominant Narrative

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

Anna Artwińska, Communist (Auto)biographies: Teresa Torańska’s Them: Stalin’s Polish Puppets in the Perspective of Modern Paradigms of Understanding the Past

New Analyses of Communism

Katarzyna Chmielewska, Legitimation of Communism: To Build and To Demolish

Tomasz Żukowski, Eroticism and Power

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

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

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

Bartłomiej Starnawski, 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

Anna Sobieska, 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

New Analyses of Anti-Communism

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

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

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

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