Politicising the Communist Past
The Politics of Truth Revelation in Post-Communist Poland
Poland is a particularly interesting case of truth revelation and transitional justice in a post-communist country. This is because of the radical change of trajectory in its approach to dealing with the communist past, and the profound effect this had on Polish politics. The approach moved from 'communist-forgiving' in the early 1990s, to a mild law vetting individuals for their links with the communist-era security services at the end of the decade, through to a more radical vetting and opening up of the communist security service files in the mid-2000s. This book examines the detail of this changing approach. It explains why disagreements about transitional justice became so prominent, to the extent that they constituted one of the main causes of political divisions. It sets the Polish approach in the wider context of transitional justice and truth revelation, drawing out the lessons for newly emerging democracies, both in Eastern Europe and beyond.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction: What are truth revelation procedures and why do they matter?
2. Truth revelation in post-communist Poland: A case of late (and recurring) lustration and file access
3. What drives late truth-revelation?: Electoral-strategic interests or ideological-programmatic concerns (or both)
4. Truth revelation and post-communist democratisation: The revival of lustration and file access debates in the mid-2000s
5. The ‘Bolek’ affair: Using truth-revelation procedures for political legitimation and de-legitimation
6. Communist-forgiving or seeking historical justice?: Public attitudes towards truth revelation and dealing with the communist past
7. Conclusions: The unfinished business of a contested transition?
Appendix 1 – List of interviewees
Aleks Szczerbiak is Professor of Politics and Contemporary European Studies at the University of Sussex, UK.
The book meticulously unwinds the twists and turns of lustration debates and laws, taking in major controversies such as the accusations, now seemingly proved, that Lech Wałęsa was, for a period in the early seventies as a relatively obscure working-class activist, an active informer for Poland’s communist secret police, the SB.
Sean Hanley,University College London, https://drseansdiary.wordpress.com/2018/04/07/polands-secrets-and-lies/
Clear, detailed and extremely knowledgeable.
Professor Andrzej Zybertowicz, Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, and adviser to the President of the Republic of Poland
A highly valuable source of theory-orientated analysis [that] offers detailed insights into the logic of the Polish truth revelation discourse.
Ireneusz Pawel Karolewski, Wroclaw University, in Polish Political Science Review
Politicising the Communist Past provides an authoritative and balanced analysis of the post-Communist political scene. Aleks Szczerbiak’s study of the convoluted politics of transitional justice and truth revelation in Poland will particularly interest students of Central and Eastern Europe, but also provides food for thought to readers interested in the dilemmas of enacting transitional justice in other countries across the globe…This is a rigorously researched, clearly argued and solidly structured monograph.
Anne White, University College London, in Slavonic and East European Review