All entries for May 2006

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?

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

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