From Solidarity to Business

When I met with Mariusz Ambroziak in 1993, he was secretary for the Solidarity trade union in the Mazowsze area around Warsaw. He’d been a Solidarity activist for most of his life, starting out as a young worker involved in the famous Solidarity chapter at the Ursus tractor factory in Warsaw. But by 1993, he was having difficulties getting up in the morning and going to work. It took two alarm...
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Poland’s Uncivil Society

During the 1980s, Poland had perhaps the strongest civil society in the world. The Solidarity trade union movement, created in August 1980, eventually counted 10 million members, a quarter of Poland’s population. And when the government cracked down on Solidarity, declaring Martial Law in December 1981, the opposition was strong enough to survive underground under considerably adverse...
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Poland on the Economic Periphery

Poland is in the center of Europe. Poles often stress that their country is in Central Europe, not Eastern Europe. The title of Norman Davies’ immense study of Poland is The Heart of Europe. Indeed, throughout history Poland has been central to the European experience, from the medieval curriculum at Jagiellonian University in Krakow and the scientific theories of Copernicus to the agonies of...
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The Energy of Delusion

The literary scholar Viktor Shklovsky once attributed Tolstoy’s success as a novelist to the “energy of delusion.” The Russian writer was committed to constant trials and experimentation. He had a seemingly endless capacity to put himself in the position of what the Russians like to call a “holy fool” and look at the world as if through a child’s eyes. Journalists also frequently...
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Backlash in East-Central Europe

On February 27, 2015, John Feffer, the director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, participated in the Jean Monnet Eastern Europe lecture series with his lecture entitled  “Backlash in East-Central Europe: What Happened to the Promise of 1989?” From Mr. Feffer’s abstract: The transformations of 1989 in East-Central Europe were, by many standards,...
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Making Green Cool Again

It was certainly cool to be an environmentalist in Hungary in the 1980s. Demonstrations against the government’s plan to build a dam on the Danube drew lots of young people. Opposition to the Communist government, even in the more politically acceptable form that the incipient Green movement took, attracted the counter-culture, the dissidents, and the attention of the international community....
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