- Hardcover: 360 pages
- Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (January 16, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0801432871
- ISBN-13: 978-0801432873
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,844,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Rebuilding Poland: Workers and Communists, 1945–1950 1st Edition
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"This book is a solid, well-researched, and well-argued study of the origins of the communist era in Poland. It shows the significance of gender differences in determining working-class action and demonstrates the complexity of Polish labor history, clearly delineating the differences between two working-class communities: Lodz and Wroclaw."―Richard D. Lewis, Slavic Review
"With the passage of time and the opening of archives after the fall of Communism new and more soundly based academic perspectives are emerging about many key issues concerning the establishment of Communist rule in Eastern Europe. Kenney's well-documented study refutes both extreme views. . . . He traces out a more complex and dynamic interpretation. . . . Kenney presents two detailed, but highly contrasting, case-studies of Lödz and Wroclaw in the 1945–50 period."―George Sanford, Slavonic and East European Review
"An important book on an important subject. Padraic Kenney has made a major contribution to our understanding of the social and political evolution of post-war east-central Europe." ―Antony Polonsky, Brandeis University
From the Back Cover
The first book to examine the communist takeover in Poland from the bottom up, and the first to use archives opened in 1989, Re-building Poland provides a radically new interpretation of the communist experience. Padraic Kenney argues that the postwar takeover was also a social revolution, in which workers expressed their hopes for dramatic social change and influenced the evolution - and eventual downfall - of the communist regime. Kenney compares Lodz, Poland's largest manufacturing center, and Wroclaw, a city rebuilt as Polish upon the ruins of wartime destruction. In the collective reaction of workers in Lodz and the individualism of those in Wroclaw, Kenney locates the beginnings of the end of the communist regime. Losing the battle for worker identity, the communists placed their hopes in labor competition, which ultimately left the regime hostage to a resistant work force and an overextended economy incapable of reform.
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One might take issue with Kenney's use of the term "stalinist" - one could easily employ "bolshevik" as well - but he insists on it to keep his frame time-specific. The social form under construction was the Soviet system of nationalized labor, along with new factories and infrastructure; the mass modernization of a largely pre-industrial nation. And true enough, it was only through this method that rapid results could be achieved in such short time.
In Poland, however, there was a strong pre-war workers' culture already in existence, that only partially identified with the Party's top-down model of a workers' state. This contradiction forms the basis of Kenney's analysis of postwar Poland. "Workers' opposition" was in fact a recurring problem from the earliest days of Bolshevism, wherever existing workers' organizations butted heads with the Vanguard Party. Solidarity was thus no anamoly in either Poland or the former socialist bloc; but it was unlikely in other socializing nations without an existing workers' tradition, like Bulgaria or - as he shows - frontier regions of Poland. This is the difference between "bolshevism" - the mobilization of pre-existing workers' organizations under Party leadership - and "stalinism." In the latter the working class itself was being created - virtually from scratch, along with industrialization itself - from a migrant peasant population, where the Party's "guiding hand" was the only social and political glue.
In keeping his focus on the matrix of struggle and cooperation between workers and state, Kenney somewhat shirks the non-class pulls of nationalism, religion (and anti-Semitism) that complicated the Party's "mission." "Reactionary" interests thus often found their way into workers' protests. He is also offbase when he suggests that stalinist Poland was "unreformable." In fact, Peoples' Poland was, as he shows, no longer stalinist after 1956; and was already a mixed economy before the Great Change of 1989. That was precisely why the transition was so smooth.
But Kenney adequately demonstrates that the Revolution of 1944 was indeed real in its determination to reshape Polish society. As depicted here it was one variant among many, not particularly "evil" despite cold war demonology, and was no less genuine than postwar reconstruction elsewhere.