Human and Social Studies Foundation
E-Mail: junes.tom [at] gmail.com
Polish Communists and the Belgian and French Left, 1968-1989
This project aims to study the relations of the Polish communist establishment with the Belgian and French Left from 1968 to 1989. It will explore these relations through the bilateral contacts and exchanges between Polish party members, trade unionists, student activists, and academics and their Belgian and French counterparts during the last two decades of state socialism in Poland. The project is built around a double hypothesis.
Firstly, it assumes that after 1968 opportunities proliferated for leading Polish communist activists to come into contact with an increasingly diverse Western European Left. The ideas emanating from the latter as well as the encounters with Western culture, consumerism and lifestyle in general were compelling enough to inspire or exert influence on those Polish activists. This became apparent when subsequently ideas, policies, or reforms were advocated that were presumably the result of such contacts.
Secondly, during the years of martial law this example did not lose its appeal. Instead, once the domestic and geopolitical situation allowed for it, reformist members of the communist elite who represented a younger generation of activists and were more directly inspired by the Western European Left came to the fore. These party activists would come to constitute the core of the later post-communist social-democratic successor party, which was in addition pro-European.
The project will test and elaborate on this double hypothesis through a case study of Polish-French and Polish-Belgian contacts in which the examples of the French and Belgian cases will be placed within the broader context of the Western European Left. The transnational Western influence on the communist establishments of the Soviet bloc states is a problem that is key to further the understanding of the Eastern European transformation and transition to democracy within the framework of the later European integration.