May 02, 2006

Blame in the Aftermath of Polish Communism

We understand the building of a democratic and sovereign state as a process of reconciliation, of bringing together "Poland Discordant": Communist Poland and Solidarity Poland. This is why we were against all attmepts [sic] at decommunization and vetting. We consider decommunization – that is, discrimination against former communist party activists – to be antidemocratic. We see the analogies between decommunization and post–Hitler Germany as misdirected. Gomulka, Gierek, and Jaruzelski were not the same kind of people as Hitler, Himmler, or Goebbells. They were dictators but not mass murderers, and to blur these definitions is wrong.
Adam Michnik, "Independence Reborn and the Demons of the Velvet Revolution" in Between Past and Future. The Revolutions of 1989 and Their Aftermath. Antohi and Tismaneau (eds.), p. 94.

I came across this passage in a book reviewing the fall of communism in Eastern Europe ten years after the events of 1989. It brings up the question of whether individuals can be held responsible for state oppression during the communist period, and to what extent such "naming, blaming and shaming" may be useful at all. Michnik proposes to take the example of post–Franco Spain and post–apartheid South Africa, emphasising the need for enhancing social cohension and reconciliation, rather than "getting one's right". Seventeen years away from 1989 this is less of a difficult statement to accept, but to what extent was this fair to those imprisoned in Poland's jails in the 1970s and 1980s? And can we, as Michnik proposes, differentiate the sin from the sinner?

March 09, 2006

Conference Announcement on Warwick's Insite

Writing about web page

The Conference was also advertised through the much visited Warwick insite page. Click on the link to see how this announcement looked.

March 06, 2006

Evaluation of the Solidarity Conference

The conference was held on the 18th of February, lasting from 9 am to well after the initially scheduled 5 or 6 pm. Quite a few people attended it (some 60–70), and miraculously most students did not disappear after the free lunch. Warwick Polonia enjoyed the day and thought it was a big success.

We would now like to know what participants thought of the day. We invite speakers and attendants to let their thoughts flow, and not to hesitate to be critical. Most of all we would like to hear what you think could be better and what can be improved next time.

Naturally we would also be happy to see further discussion on the legacy of Solidarity posted here. Let your thoughts flow!

November 10, 2005

Wikipedia on Solidarnosc

Writing about web page

This is what I found on Solidarnosc on Wikipedia, the interactive online encyclopedia. To read more, please click on the link I added.

Solidarity (Polish Solidarność) is a Polish trade union federation founded in September 1980 at the Gdańsk Shipyards, originally led by Lech Wałęsa. In the 1980s, it gathered a broad anti-communist social movement ranging from people associated with the Catholic Church to members of the anti-communist Left. The union was backed by a group of intellectual dissidents – the Workers' Defence Committee or Komitet Obrony Robotników – KOR in Polish (formed in 1976). This was renamed the following year – Committee for Social Self-defence (KSS-KOR). Solidarity advocated nonviolence in its members activities.

The survival of the Solidarity was an unprecedented event not only in Poland, a satellite state of the USSR ruled by a (in practice) one-party Communist regime, but also in the whole Eastern bloc (Warsaw pact).

It meant a break in the hard-line stance of the Party which in another protest in 1970 had ended in bloodshed with dozens of people killed by machine gun fire and over 1,000 injured. In 1968, the Prague Spring was crushed by a Soviet-led invasion in the streets of the capital of Czechoslovakia.

Soldarity + 25 Conference this Saturday


Conference on the impact in Britain of the Polish trade union.
Admission free. For info e-mail

Saturday 12 November 2005, 2 – 7 pm.
Room 2B 08, King’s College, 149 The Strand (Covent Garden/Charing Cross tube), London.

Marcin will be attending this conference taking place this Saturday in London. He might be taking some people with him, though this is still to be confirmed. In case you might be interested to come along, just post a reaction to this entry! You might be able to go together with Marcin and some other Warwick Polonia members.

Diary entry four: November 7

November 07, 2005

Solidarnosc conference log update

– Dr. Charles Turner agreed a week and a half ago to be the project's academic sponsor, a ceremonial tutoring role which basically means he gives us technical backing in the course of the event.

– Conference room has been booked.

– A blog address,, has been requested and we are awaiting confirmation from the blog administrator. This page will contain news updates running up to the event, background reading (such as interesting articles, bios of our speakers etc), further info (related conferences, for whoever wants to know more) and we will also post this log on it. The diary is meant to give an idea of obstacles we're experiencing and to help us keep track of where we stand in the organisation.

– Marcin will attend the conference "Solidarnosc + 25, Solidarnosc and Britain" at King's College in London this Saturday and he is looking at finding someone to accompany him. Maarten will be unable to attend the conference.

– We're facing problems getting some of the speakers confirmed. This will need to happen soon if we want to get started on informing the university community and beyond about the event. Advertisement cannot start until some of the basics are secured.

End of the update.

Diary entry three: October 21

October 21, 2005

Second Week of Preparations, a Few Developments

Following up on our meeting with Mike Neary last week Friday, Marcin and me decided to have a weekly meeting about the conference to keep a regular and speedy pace in the organisation. Hopefully this will allow us to stay on top of the situation.

Primarily, we are concerned with financial backing at the moment. This we mostly try to bring about by making some academics in different departments enthusiastic. The history department, after pledging to help us, have now secured us £200.- The Reinvention Centre situated in the Sociology department offers us the big bulk, £1000.-; a fund available for any undergraduate participating in research/academic activity-based learning. To apply for this fund, we need to have the backing of an "academic sponsor". We are currently hoping to attract Dr. Charles Turner for this role. Dr. Turner studied in Warsaw and Cracow for a number of years and speaks fluent Polish, beside already pledging to be interested in the topic of Solidarnosc. At the very least, he will be one of the Conference's speakers, but we are awaiting his response to our request with hope.

Further funds we are still looking into, are potential grants from the Politics department, which department is already providing us with a speaker; the International Office, although we are not sure if they have any budget allocation for such projects; the Centre for Translation, whose director, Dr. Piotr Kuhiwczak, has already declared to be very interested in the conference.

In the meanwhile, Marcin is sorting out the definitive outline of speakers, which is the task he primarily deals with. We are still awaiting replies from a number of high-profile speakers.

End of this week's summary of events.

Diary entry two: October 14

October 14, 2005

First Week Into the Conference Preparations
Although the conference is planned only for February 2006, we are now (luckily) already starting the preparations full blast.

We have been meeting with dr. Mike Neary of the Reinvention Centre based in the Sociology Department on campus, which has turned out to be a lucky bid. From being a society with no budget for this year, we now have potential access to a one-time £1,000.- grant to organise this event. Although this will probably still not be exactly enough, it will help us a whole way further to get stuff done.

Marcin Stepan, our society's president, is presently busy with finalising the day's programme. Getting the speakers confirmed, appointing chair persons for every plenary session (preferably Warwick persons), having a sense of security about a lecture area to hold the event, all of these points will need to be addressed to give the event a greater sense of tangibility. Once we have a clear outline and vision of what we want, I feel the rest will come naturally… getting into action to organise everything, making a tighter budget, applying for funds, and starting to think about how to reach out to the university community and beyond there. Our idea is, for example, to invite several Polish societies in universities across the UK.

Our interest at the moment also goes out to a conference on "Solidarnosc and Its Influence in the UK". As Lech Walesa, founder of the movement and former Polish president pointed out, Solidarnosc "changed the face of the Earth", and possibly not just as traditionally seen within the bloc of communist countries during the 1980s, but also within the western political spheres. It will be interesting to get a better sense of how Solidarnosc was regarded and how it managed to influence political opinion as well as British foreign policy at the time. The conference is set on 12 November at King's College in London.

Diary entry one: October 12

October 12, 2005

In Preparation of a Conference
It has been quite a while since I posted anything up on this blog – mostly just for lack of time. A lot of things needed to be sorted out these first few weeks, while I have committed myself to quite a few activities outside of the curriculum. One of them is an exciting initiative by Warwick Polonia to organise a conference on the worker's union Solidarnosc (outside of the Polish-speaking world better known as Solidarity) which this year celebrated its 25th anniversary.

But how does one organise a conference, if he has never done it before? What are the things to look at, to keep in mind, to work toward?

1) Setting a date. Chosing a prefered yet realistic date somewhere in the future by which time the conference can be organised.

2) Content. Decide what you want to talk about. Who gives added value to the chosen topic of debate. What aspects will give an innovative touch to the conference? Who will we invite, what is manageable?

3) Sorting out money. Making a budget, incorporating all financial aspects of point 2).

To be further elaborated (although advice is always welcome) *

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  • Hi Guys, The Reinvention Cente needs your report. Thanks, Mike by Mike on this entry

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