POLAND: Genesis of a Revolution by Abraham--Ed. Brumberg
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POLAND: Genesis of a Revolution

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Nine original essays--supported by numerous documents--on the theme that communism is an alien system of rule in Poland, not integrated into (or accepted by) Polish society. Writing on the place of history in Polish politics, Yale sociologist and historian Jan Tomasz Gross takes note of the Catholic Church as a bar to communist movements. Combined with a romantic tradition of Polish nationhood and the WW II legacy of decimation by both Nazis and communists, this has resulted in ""rejection of a transplant brought into the country in an experiment in social engineering."" The economic failure of that experiment is catalogued by economist Wlodzimierz Brus (Wolfson College, Oxford). Poland resisted collectivized agriculture and otherwise upset the political goals of the economic planners, who failed to use open discussion to adjust the system to public preferences and attitudes. Even an economically-justified action like the raising of food prices is done by diktat, and is therefore rejected by the populace. The reliance on Western credit to compensate for the system's failures only exacerbated and dramatized the situation. Alex Pravda (Dept. of Politics, Univ. of Reading) describes the new generation of workers who led the Polish reform movement, emphasizing their ability to learn from the past, the change in their expectations from those of their parents, and their greater militancy. But as philosopher Leszek Kolakowski (All Soul's College, Oxford) points out, it was the union of Church, intellectuals, and workers that made the Polish movement unique and accounted for its strength. (His forecast that the government would try to break that alliance has of course been borne out.) Among the other articles, journalist Tadeusz Szafar's account of the political uses of anti-Semitism as a weapon against the reformist wing of the Polish communist party is particularly interesting--though he doesn't answer his own question as to why party moderates stand by despite the likelihood that they themselves will eventually get caught up in the purges. The 27 translated documents--which range from underground publications to purloined government papers, and occupy half the book--include an exchange between historians Piotr Wierzbicki and Adam Michnik on ""Ticks,"" defined by Weizbicki as those who stand between the political masters and their opponents. ""Tickery,"" he says, ""is a phenomenon characteristic. . . of the upper intellectual levels. . . . A tick stands erect on his two hind legs and thinks. About what? About how to justify the idea that that which is must be."" Tickery was clearly a fading phenomenon in the late 1970s as these documents, questioning practically everything, demonstrate. The volume as a whole--solid essays, documentary color--stands alongside Neal Ascherson's The Polish August (1982) as the best writing on the failed, unforgotten revolution.

Pub Date: April 28th, 1983
Publisher: Random House