Dissidents in Communist Central Europe: Human Rights and the Emergence of New Transnational Actors 3030226123, 9783030226121

This monograph traces the history of the dissident as a transnational phenomenon, exploring Soviet dissidents in Communi

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Dissidents in Communist Central Europe: Human Rights and the Emergence of New Transnational Actors
 3030226123,  9783030226121

Table of contents :
Series Editors’ Preface......Page 7
Preface......Page 11
Acknowledgements......Page 15
Contents......Page 18
List of Interviews and Personal Communication......Page 21
From Analyzing Dissent to Analyzing the Dissident......Page 23
The Importance of a Transnational Approach......Page 26
Methodological and Theoretical Approach......Page 28
Structure of the Book......Page 32
References......Page 36
Who Is a Dissident?—A Compendium of Definitions......Page 42
Dissent......Page 49
Dissidence......Page 51
Dissidentism......Page 53
References......Page 56
Stalinism in Central Europe......Page 59
Communist Neophytes: Left-Liberal Intelligentsia Under Stalinism......Page 61
From Heretics to Dissidents: 1956–1968......Page 66
Hungary: A Revolution Between Two Burials......Page 67
Poland: Two Currents of Evolutionism......Page 69
Czechoslovakia: Belated de-Stalinization......Page 75
1968 in Warsaw and Prague......Page 77
References......Page 81
Chapter 4 Dissent Gains Names and Faces......Page 84
Kuroń and Modzelewski......Page 87
Michnik and the “Commandos”......Page 90
The Radicals: Uhl et al.......Page 92
Havel, Kohout, Kundera, and Vaculík: The Dissident Writers......Page 93
The Popstar Turned Dissident: Kubišová......Page 96
Summing Up: The Right Conditions for Dissidence......Page 97
References......Page 103
The Landscape After 1968: Similarities and Differences Across Central Europe......Page 106
Dissident Interpreters—A New Generation of Exiles......Page 108
Transnational Circulation: Samizdat, Tamizdat, Radio, and TV......Page 111
Opposition in Search of a New Identity......Page 116
Human Rights, the Helsinki Accords, and the Re-appearance of Open Opposition......Page 121
1975: Two Open Letters......Page 125
References......Page 130
KOR Enters the Scene......Page 137
Michnik’s Tour......Page 141
Charter 77......Page 143
International Resonance and Domestic Slander......Page 144
The Transnational Network of Dissidence......Page 152
Dissidents en vogue—The Growing Western Attention......Page 155
References......Page 159
Chapter 7 Molding the Dissident Figure......Page 163
Molding the Dissidents: Experts and Sovietology......Page 166
Making Sense of the “East”—A Job for Experts?......Page 167
Friends of Dissidence: Going Native in Central Europe......Page 171
The Absent Women......Page 173
References......Page 177
Responding to the Dissident Figure: Resistance and Performance......Page 180
The Effects of the Dissident Figure: Security and Its Limits......Page 187
To Kill a Dissident......Page 191
References......Page 196
Chapter 9 Generalization of the Dissident Figure......Page 199
From Individual Charisma to Transferable Charism of the Label......Page 203
Dissidents and Politicians: The Political Power of the Label......Page 206
Dissident Label’s Empowerment and Its Limits......Page 208
New Actors and Freeriding on the Dissident Figure......Page 210
Fame: Dissidents’ Climax and Decline......Page 213
References......Page 219
Dissidentism as an Analytical Category: The “Dissident Triangle”......Page 223
Dissidence: Open, Legal, Non-violent Dissent Facing Repression......Page 224
Domestic Infamy and Fame......Page 225
Western Attention, Transnational Ties, Empowerment from Outside......Page 228
Central Europe in a Post-Dissident Era......Page 229
Expelled from the Fairytale: Post-Dissident Realities......Page 231
We Were All Victims, We Were All Oppositionists......Page 233
Imported Power: A Clash of Representations......Page 235
Anti-elite Backlash......Page 238
References......Page 242
Index......Page 246

Citation preview

Dissidents in Communist Central Europe Human Rights and the Emergence of New Transnational Actors

Kacper Szulecki

Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements Series Editors Stefan Berger Institute for Social Movements Ruhr University Bochum Bochum, Germany Holger Nehring Contemporary European History University of Stirling Stirling, UK

Around the world, social movements have become legitimate, yet contested, actors in local, national and global politics and civil society, yet we still know relatively little about their longer histories and the trajectories of their development. This series seeks to promote innovative historical research on the history of social movements in the modern period since around 1750. We bring together conceptually-informed studies that analyse labour movements, new social movements and other forms of protest from early modernity to the present. We conceive of ‘social movements’ in the broadest possible sense, encompassing social formations that lie between formal organisations and mere protest events. We also offer a home for studies that systematically explore the political, social, economic and cultural conditions in which social movements can emerge. We are especially interested in transnational and global perspectives on the history of social movements, and in studies that engage critically and creatively with political, social and sociological theories in order to make historically grounded arguments about social movements. This new series seeks to offer innovative historical work on social movements, while also helping to historicise the concept of ‘social movement’. It hopes to revitalise the conversation between historians and historical sociologists in analysing what Charles Tilly has called the ‘dynamics of contention’. More information about this series at http://www.palgrave.com/gp/series/14580

Kacper Szulecki

Dissidents in Communist Central Europe Human Rights and the Emergence of New Transnational Actors

Kacper Szulecki Department of Political Science University of Oslo Oslo, Norway

Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements ISBN 978-3-030-22612-1 ISBN 978-3-030-22613-8  (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-22613-8 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2019 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover credit: Tiago Fernandez/Alamy Stock Photo This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

To the memory of Jamal Khashoggi, Jan Kuciak, Martina Kušnírová, and all those who paid the highest price for tirelessly speaking truth to power.

Series Editors’ Preface

Around the world, social movements have become legitimate, yet contested, actors in local, national, and global politics and civil society, yet we still know relatively little about their longer histories and the trajectories of their development. Our series reacts to what can be described as a recent boom in the history of social movements. We can observe a development from the crisis of labor history in the 1980s to the boom in research on social movements in the 2000s. The rise of historical interests in the development of civil society and the role of strong civil societies as well as nongovernmental organizations in stabilizing democratically constituted polities has strengthened the interest in social movements as a constituent element of civil societies. In different parts of the world, social movements continue to have a strong influence on contemporary politics. In Latin America, trade unions, labor parties, and various left-of-center civil society organizations have succeeded in supporting left-of-center governments. In Europe, peace movements, ecological movements, and alliances intent on campaigning against poverty and racial discrimination and discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual orientation have been able to set important political agendas for decades. In other parts of the world, including Africa, India, and Southeast Asia, social movements have played a significant role in various forms of community building and community politics. The contemporary political relevance of social movements has undoubtedly contributed to a growing historical interest in the topic. vii



Contemporary historians are not only beginning to historicize these relatively recent political developments; they are also trying to relate them to a longer history of social movements, including traditional labor organizations, such as working-class parties and trade unions. In the longue durée, we recognize that social movements are by no means a recent phenomenon and are not even an exclusively modern phenomenon, although we realize that the onset of modernity emanating from Europe and North America across the wider world from the eighteenth century onwards marks an important departure point for the development of civil societies and social movements. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the dominance of national history over all other forms of history writing led to a thorough nationalization of the historical sciences. Hence, social movements have been examined traditionally within the framework of the nation-state. Only during the last two decades have historians begun to question the validity of such methodological nationalism and to explore the development of social movements in comparative, connective, and transnational perspective taking into account processes of transfer, reception, and adaptation. While our book series does not preclude work that is still being carried out within national frameworks (for, clearly, there is a place for such studies, given the historical importance of the nation-state in history), it hopes to encourage comparative and transnational histories on social movements. At the same time as historians have begun to research the history of those movements, a range of social theorists, from Jürgen Habermas to Pierre Bourdieu and from Slavoj Žižek to Alain Badiou as well as Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe to Miguel Abensour, to name but a few, have attempted to provide philosophical-cum-theoretical frameworks in which to place and contextualize the development of social movements. History has arguably been the most empirical of all the social and human sciences, but it will be necessary for historians to explore further to what extent these social theories can be helpful in guiding and framing the empirical work of the historian in making sense of the historical development of social movements. Hence, the current series is also hoping to make a contribution to the ongoing dialogue between social theory and the history of social movements. This series seeks to promote innovative historical research on the history of social movements in the modern period since around 1750. We bring together conceptually informed studies that analyze labor



movements, new social movements, and other forms of protest from early modernity to the present. With this series, we seek to revive, within the context of historiographical developments since the 1970s, a conversation between historians on the one hand and sociologists, anthropologists, and political scientists on the other. Unlike most of the concepts and theories developed by social scientists, we do not see social movements as directly linked, a priori, to processes of social and cultural change and therefore do not adhere to a view that distinguishes between old (labor) and new (middle-class) social movements. Instead, we want to establish the concept “social movement” as a heuristic device that allows historians of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to investigate social and political protests in novel settings. Our aim is to historicize notions of social and political activism in order to highlight different notions of political and social protest on both left and right. Hence, we conceive of “social movements” in the broadest possible sense, encompassing social formations that lie between formal organizations and mere protest events. But we also include processes of social and cultural change more generally in our understanding of social movements: This goes back to nineteenth-century understandings of “social movement” as processes of social and cultural change more generally. We also offer a home for studies that systematically explore the political, social, economic, and cultural conditions in which social movements can emerge. We are especially interested in transnational and global perspectives on the history of social movements, and in studies that engage critically and creatively with political, social, and sociological theories in order to make historically grounded arguments about social movements. In short, this series seeks to offer innovative historical work on social movements, while also helping to historicize the concept of “social movement.” It also hopes to revitalize the conversation between historians and historical sociologists in analyzing what Charles Tilly has called the “dynamics of contention.” Kacper Szulecki’s monograph Dissidents in Communist Central Europe: Human Rights and the Emergence of New Transnational Actors is the first in our series that tackles an important, yet neglected topic in the history of social movements: The way in which concepts from social movement scholarship can be applied to developments in Cold War Europe eastern side of the Iron Curtain. Hubertus Knabe raised this issue in the late 1980s and 1990s, but there has been little



systematic and conceptual research since. This question matters for two reasons. First, the concept “social movements,” in Western scholarship, was in one important strand of research directly linked to the diagnosis of the emergence of post-material values in de-industrializing societies. This analysis sat awkwardly with assessments as well as self-assessments of the societies in socialist Central Europe, who regarded themselves as materialist and industrialist. Second, the concept of “social movements” potentially sat oddly with the reality of politics and society in socialist Central Europe, in that the concept emphasized self-organization rather than instruction from above. At the same time, “the dissident” was a key figure of projection in the West, signifying heroic resistance against the totalitarian political system of state socialism. But the making of the figure of “dissident”—and of the dissident as activist—has its own history. It is this history that Szulecki tells. By engaging with concepts from political sociology and the history of knowledge and by focusing on the emergence of actors making claims around human rights, his wide-ranging work tackles these problems in two ways: First, he traces the meanings of “dissident” and “dissidence” intellectually and in the practice of protest, paying attention to what dissidents made of themselves and what others made of them; second, he analyzes these developments not by focusing on specific dates, but by tracing the chronological development around a number of key processes. Szulecki’s transnational approach helps him to relate self-assessments and assessments by others in the making and unmaking of dissidence. Importantly, he also highlights the importance of Western assessments for perceptions east of the Iron Curtain, thus situating his work in the growing body of scholarship that highlights the significance of East–West interactions during the Cold War. This move helps Szulecki to make a significant contribution not only to the history of social movements, but also to the history of dissidence in Cold War Eastern Europe. It also enables him to historicize the caesura of 1989 by bringing out ruptures and continuities more subtly than in much of the current research and to sharpen our understanding for the political and social conditions in which agency in social movements is generated. Bochum, Germany Stirling, UK

Stefan Berger Holger Nehring


A Chinese artist, a Saudi journalist, a Russian chess champion and an Iranian feminist do not appear to have much in common, yet they are all categorized as “dissidents.” “Dissidents” have long been the object of Western attention, and they are often protagonists of media coverage as well as scholarly works. But the category itself is rarely scrutinized. So who is a dissident? This seemingly easy question is a trap because it logically leads to three very different ones, requiring completely different kinds of answers. The first of these questions asks about the meaning of the word—what does “dissident” mean? Another question is—what are the characteristics of people who are dissidents? It inquires about a set of features that can help us tell apart dissidents from non-dissidents. Finally, the third question implied is this—who is called a dissident? Here, the emphasis is actually on not only the called but also the caller. This book is set on the premise that the “dissident” is not a simple descriptive category and not really an academic concept. It is a transnationally functioning figure. It carries meaning and has an impact on the people who are described by it. To illustrate this, let us turn for a moment to literature rather than scholarship. Nell Freudenberger’s novel The Dissident captures all the important elements of the dissident figure (2007). It tells the story of a Chinese independent artist exiled in the USA, seen through the eyes of an American writer, Joan. Throughout the book, the characters refer to the Chinese émigré almost exclusively as “the Dissident.” This, apparently, contains his entire life story, as well as streamlining the reader’s expectations toward him as a person, an artist xi



and a political activist. Using the word “dissident” does not require additional explanations to invoke a certain dissident figure, which implies not only a rough ideology, but also a very general, if implicit, theory of authoritarian society. Those implicit presuppositions are reflected in some minor details. As Joan notes upon meeting “the Dissident” for the first time: “It was rare that someone corresponded so exactly to the image of him. In fact the dissident wasn’t what she’d been imagining, for exactly that reason” (Freudenberger 2007, 104). The dissident figure apparently also carries expectations about individual psychology—“[His] expression was one of polite interest, but Joan wondered how trivial this conversation must seem to someone who had recently been jailed for his political beliefs” (Freudenberger 2007, 105). This last passage signals yet another important trait in thinking of the dissident figure—the parallel proximity and “othering,” the idea of knowing the dissident as an object, but at the same time the realization of the incomparability of democratic and authoritarian contexts, a gesture of searching for the Self within the Other, while being aware that there will always remain some distance. Finally, there is a hint toward the source of knowledge about “the dissidents” and an entire attitude of knowing about them. In one scene, when “the Dissident” is telling the story of his family, Joan’s American friend finds it appropriate to correct him and display what is supposed to be superior knowledge of “the Dissident’s” home country. “Perhaps they aren’t telling you everything” (Freudenberger 2007, 2)—the American tells the Chinese exile. The curiosity of dissidents as flesh and blood human beings, overshadowed by the a priori knowledge of dissidents as figures and of their political backgrounds, will also be an important element of this book—pointing to Western media correspondents as well as “Sovietology” experts as the (re)producers of the dissident figure. This book is about the dissidents. Real people and their actions are described, but the ultimate object of analysis is the “dissident” as an abstract example of the power that can be exercised through language. I do not ask if the dissidents brought down Communism. Neither is it my goal to investigate individual motivations (the psychology of dissent) or even group motivations (social psychology or sociology of dissent, depending on one’s preferences). It is also not to reconstruct the dissidents’ lifeworld—the “worlds of dissent.” Fortunately, an excellent book on this topic has already been written by Jonathan Bolton (2012). In fact, the main reason I can get away with such an approach is that,



thirty years since the fall of Communism, heroic narratives of dissent have given way to more critical or simply much more lively appraisals and analyses. “Yes, moral courage, living in truth, all that was important”— one Polish dissident told me—“but you have to remember that we were also having a lot of fun while doing what we were doing. Put that in, please.” The work of Bolton, Robert Brier, or Michal Kopeček, which— like dissent itself (at least declaratively) strives for truth about dissident lives, practices and impact—has been an important source of inspiration and opened up the possibility for a book like this one. Therefore, instead, I take the representations of dissidents as an entry point to analyzing their practice. A history of dissidence in Central Europe is told as a basis for the analysis of the dissident figure. As did the dissident protagonists of this book, I pay much attention to words, combining both “great faith” and “great distrust” in language (Bolton 2018, 216). This is well captured by Ian Hacking’s notion of dynamic nominalism (Hacking 2002a, b), which sees words not as mere symbols, but as two-way bridges between designates and designators. Words matter—and the dissidents often emphasize this quite strongly: “Some of the dissidents are perhaps the only allies of the system. Because they believe in the magic of words … Its foundation is the conviction that not the thing is important but the name of that thing, not the fact but the naming of the fact, not the object, but the word denoting the object” (Szczypiorski 1978). Being referred to as “dissident” rarely leaves the object indifferent. Opposition intellectuals noticed early on the artificial quality of the “dissident” category. In a continued reflexive process, they argued with it, criticized it, and struggled to remodel it. That was possible only to an extent, as the source of the “dissident” label was also clearly marked— “the West.” The category “dissident,” I argue, emerged and made a career as a simple heuristic. But precisely as a heuristic, a mental shortcut, it began to invoke certain meanings. I try to identify what those meanings were, and where they came from. Understanding that the category “dissident” created a new type of transnational actor in the modern world and that it became detached from the individuals it was first meant to describe—and so became a figure rather than a category—I ask: how did the figure of the dissident come to be and what is its constitutive impact? The underlying idea of this book is that the phenomenon of “dissidentism” around the world is comparable. This is why it is still relevant to



discuss the history of dissent in Central and Eastern Europe before 1989 as to a large extent analogous to the experiences of the democratic opposition in other parts of the world. There are lessons to be learned from them all—both their successes and spectacular failures. But it is important to remember that behind our elaborate considerations regarding the way dissent is represented, there are actual people taking risks and confronting powers which often do not hesitate to use brute force and violence. While inviting the reader to help in taking down all the gilded ornaments of dissident legends and heroic narratives, I would not like to obscure the real courage of many dissenters and the risks they take to stand by what feels right. Some of them, like Jamal Khashoggi, Jan Kuciak, and Martina Kušnírová, who were all murdered at the time when this book was in the making—paid the highest price for believing that there is a truth and it should be uttered. Let us never forget that. Oslo, Norway

Kacper Szulecki

References Bolton, Jonathan. 2012. Worlds of Dissent: Charter 77, the Plastic People of the Universe, and Czech Culture Under Communism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ———. 2018. “The Shaman, the Greengrocer, and ‘Living in Truth’.” East European Politics & Societies 32 (2): 255–65. https://doi. org/10.1177/0888325417745131. Freudenberger, Nell. 2007. The Dissident. London: Picador. Hacking, Ian. 2002a. Historical Ontology. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ———. 2002b. “The Looping Effects of Human Kinds.” In Causal Cognition: A Multidisciplinary Debate, edited by Dan Sperber, David Premack, and Ann J. Premack. Repr, 356–95. Symposia of the Fyssen Foundation. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Szczypiorski, Andrzej. 1978. “Dysydenci i rzeczywistość.” Krytyka [samizdat] 1 (1): 38–43.


I am very grateful to a large number of people without whom this project would be quite different, or would never have been completed at all. Since the process that led to the publication of the book that you are holding was over thirteen years long, there has to be some structure to my thanks. Chronologically, I should begin by thanking the “godparents” of the initial idea: Nina Witoszek and Jeffrey Checkel. I am also greatly indebted to my teachers at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Ben Crum and Kees van Kersbergen, who spent a lot of their free time in helping me to sharpen the initial idea and to find a place where I could conduct my research. I am very grateful to my “doctoral father”, Andreas Langenohl, who has been a most inspiring supervisor. I also owe a great deal to Padraic Kenney, who became something of an informal supervisor, commenting on the different articles and chapters as well as sharing his priceless expertise and to Wolfgang Seibel who acted as my co-supervisor. I also thank Wolfgang Schlott and the late Jaroslav Šabata whose kind words about the importance of my project came at exactly the right time. I thank the “Idioms of Social Analysis” research group: Nicole Falkenhayner, Michael Nau, Johannes Scheu and Doris Schweitzer as well as Konstanze Baron for their comments along the way, and for the common searches for the meaning of the Idiom. Thanks to Heiko Pleines, I was able to present an early draft at Forschungsstelle Osteuropa in Bremen, while Bianka Pietrow-Ennker and Ulrich Schmid organized a workshop around dissidence in St. Gallen xv



where I received some timely feedback. On the very last lap, Alexander Etkind gave me the chance to present the final draft of the manuscript at the History and Civilization Department at the European University Institute in Florence. Consequently, some (definitely not all) of the people who were kind enough to criticize my project constructively were: Paul Blokker, Robert Brier, Kjetil Duvold, Barbara Falk, Gregor Feindt, Andrzej Friszke, Philipp Gassert, Jeffrey Goldfarb, Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann, Jan Kavan, Bernhard Kleeberg, Wawrzyniec Konarski, Michal Kopeček, Jarosław Kuisz, Thomas Lindenberger, Christie Miedema, Martyna and Marcin Nowiccy, Andrzej Paczkowski, Jiří Přibáň, Patryk Wasiak, Piotr Wciślik, and Karolina Wigura. I also acknowledge the help of the archivists at Karta (Warsaw), Libri Prohibiti (Prague), and FSO (Bremen). My involvement in the COST Action “New Exploratory Phase in Research on East European Cultures of Dissent” (NEP4Dissent) helped in tuning back to the dissident topic after several years of allowing the manuscript to gather dust. I thank the participants of our Leuven Workshop, most importantly Muriel Blaive, Katarzyna Chmielewska, Kim Christiaens, Costis Dallas, Idesbald Goddeeris, Ferenc Laczó, and Tamas Scheibner, with whom I had very interesting conversations about dissidence and transnational history. However, I must especially thank Daniela Koleva who pointed me to the work of Ian Hacking, which helped in building the final conceptualization of the dissident figure’s emergence and role. Finally, I am grateful to all four anonymous reviewers, who provided a thorough critique of this manuscript in different forms and at different stages between 2017 and 2019. The manuscript benefitted from the copyediting and polishing work of Hilary Abuhove, John Acker, Mathew Little and most importantly James Longbotham. Naturally, all the remaining mistakes and inconsistencies are only my fault. I am very grateful to my parents, not surprising in general, but it is also important in the context of this book. When I was growing up in Poland before, during and after transition, they clearly showed me who the heroes were—the dissidents. But more importantly, while showing me what was black and white, they also clearly made me aware of the entire nuanced space of gray that lay in-between, which was also linked to our family stories. And, as Adam Michnik once stated, stuttering,



“gray is good.” If I (hopefully) managed to avoid easy judgments, this is greatly thanks to you, M. and D. Last but definitely not least, I thank Julia. Thank you for your continuous support, help and above all—patience. Thank you for being a priceless research assistant, and for reading all those bits and pieces that I produced over the past thirteen years. Thank you for being there for me. Thank you for everything.


1 Introduction 1 From Analyzing Dissent to Analyzing the Dissident 1 The Importance of a Transnational Approach 4 Methodological and Theoretical Approach 6 Structure of the Book 10 References 14 2

Who Are the Dissidents? 21 Who Is a Dissident?—A Compendium of Definitions 21 The Vocabulary of Resistance: Dissent, Dissidence, and Dissidentism? 28 Dissent 28 Dissidence 30 Dissidentism 32 References 35


Marxist Neophytes and Democratic Heretics 39 Stalinism in Central Europe 39 Communist Neophytes: Left-Liberal Intelligentsia Under Stalinism 41 From Heretics to Dissidents: 1956–1968 46 Hungary: A Revolution Between Two Burials 47 Poland: Two Currents of Evolutionism 49 xix



Czechoslovakia: Belated de-Stalinization 55 1968 in Warsaw and Prague 57 References 61 4

Dissent Gains Names and Faces 65 Kuroń and Modzelewski 68 Michnik and the “Commandos” 71 The Radicals: Uhl et al. 73 Havel, Kohout, Kundera, and Vaculík: The Dissident Writers 74 The Popstar Turned Dissident: Kubišová 77 Summing Up: The Right Conditions for Dissidence 78 References 84


Between Prague and Helsinki: Setting the Transnational Stage for Dissidence 87 The Landscape After 1968: Similarities and Differences Across Central Europe 87 Dissident Interpreters—A New Generation of Exiles 89 Transnational Circulation: Samizdat, Tamizdat, Radio, and TV 92 Opposition in Search of a New Identity 97 Human Rights, the Helsinki Accords, and the Re-appearance of Open Opposition 102 1975: Two Open Letters 106 References 111


The Birth of the Dissident Figure, 1976–1977 119 KOR Enters the Scene 119 Michnik’s Tour 123 Charter 77 125 International Resonance and Domestic Slander 126 The Transnational Network of Dissidence 134 Dissidents en vogue—The Growing Western Attention 137 References 141


Molding the Dissident Figure 145 Molding the Dissidents: Experts and Sovietology 148 Making Sense of the “East”—A Job for Experts? 149


Friends of Dissidence: Going Native in Central Europe The Absent Women References


153 155 159


The Looping Effect of the Dissident Figure: Resistance and Performance 163 Responding to the Dissident Figure: Resistance and Performance 163 The Effects of the Dissident Figure: Security and Its Limits 170 To Kill a Dissident 174 References 179


Generalization of the Dissident Figure 183 From Individual Charisma to Transferable Charism of the Label 187 Dissidents and Politicians: The Political Power of the Label 190 Dissident Label’s Empowerment and Its Limits 192 New Actors and Freeriding on the Dissident Figure 194 Fame: Dissidents’ Climax and Decline 197 References 203

10 Conclusion: Can Dissidentism Explain Post-Dissident Politics? 207 Dissidentism as an Analytical Category: The “Dissident Triangle” 207 Dissidence: Open, Legal, Non-violent Dissent Facing Repression 208 Domestic Infamy and Fame 209 Western Attention, Transnational Ties, Empowerment from Outside 212 Central Europe in a Post-Dissident Era 213 Expelled from the Fairytale: Post-Dissident Realities 215 We Were All Victims, We Were All Oppositionists 217 Imported Power: A Clash of Representations 219 Anti-elite Backlash 222 References 226 Index 231



Interviews and Personal Communication

Seweryn Blumsztajn, 24 March 2010, Warsaw Petr Brod, 29 April 2010, Prague* Mirosław Chojecki, 4 August 2010, Warsaw Jacek Czaputowicz, 16 March 2010, Warsaw; 18 August 2011, Reykjavik* Dominik Dobrowolski, 4 May 2011, e-mail communication Jarosław Dubiel, 11 June 2010, Szczecin Jiří Gruntorád, 11 May 2010, Prague Jan Kavan, 20 April 2010, Prague; 11 February 2012, e-mail communication* János Kis, Budapest/Oslo, 16 January 2019, telephone interview Petr Kužvart, 9 May 2010, Prague* Joanne Landy, 8 November 2011, New York Jakub Patočka, 26 February 2012, e-mail interview Petr Pospíchal, 18 May 2010, Čelákovice László Rajk, Oslo/Budapest, 18 January 2019, Skype interview Aleksander Smolar, 18 March 2010, Warsaw Eugeniusz Smolar, 30 March 2010, Warsaw* Jaroslav Šabata, 25 May 2010, Brno* Petruška Šustrová, 18 May 2010, Prague Wolfgang Templin, Berlin/Oslo, 27 February 2019, telephone interview Barbara Toruńczyk, 30 March 2010, Warsaw Bronisław Wildstein, 14 May 2010, Prague * Additional materials obtained xxiii



Archives and Libraries Biblioteka Miasta Stołecznego Warszawy, Warsaw Biblioteka Narodowa, Warsaw Biblioteka Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego Bibliothek der Universität Konstanz Forschungsstelle Osteuropa Archiv, Bremen HumSam-biblioteket, University of Oslo KARTA Archive, Warsaw Libri Prohibiti Archive, Prague Sächsische Landesbibliothek—Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek (SLUB), Dresden Slavic Library, Clementinum, Prague



From Analyzing Dissent to Analyzing the Dissident Thirty years after Communism collapsed in Europe in a relatively peaceful way and through the expression of “people power” (at least so it seemed on the TV screens), it is hard to imagine that for decades between the end of World War II and the symbolic fall of the Berlin Wall, societal opposition in Eastern Europe was not an important subject of scholarly attention. The focus of scholarship was, by and large, on the decision makers. There was a reason for that; namely, for many years after the end of World War II, there was little significant opposition to speak of. Another reason was politics. Anti-communist observers, especially on the Right, tended to depict the Soviet system as totalitarian and thus did not leave much space for dissent, even if, in their view, most people in these societies were deeply against Marxist-Leninist ideology (Friedrich and Brzezinski 1957). Left-wing scholars, conversely, often had a hard time acknowledging societal dissent in the Eastern Bloc and later were more eager to focus on ideological nuances (Fischer-Galati 1963; Bauman 1971; Rakovski 1978; Szymanski 1984). The former would dismiss dissent as weak in the face of the totalitarian state apparatus and the latter a result of atavisms, class tensions, or structural reasons. In both cases, there was a tendency to downplay the differences between particular societies and speak rather of the “Soviet model.”

© The Author(s) 2019 K. Szulecki, Dissidents in Communist Central Europe, Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-22613-8_1



Barbara Falk’s excellent review essay on the historiography of resistance and dissent in Central and Eastern Europe goes into much finer detail than this section is able to. She points out that admitting that “the picture of world communism as monolithic was not accurate” (H. Gordon Skilling’s observation) coincided with the nascent interest in dissent (Falk 2011, 322). As examples of independent initiatives multiplied in the 1970s, that interest intensified. An important contributing factor was the large-scale migration, including scholars with backgrounds in political and social sciences and with direct experience of state socialist realities who suddenly appeared in the West en masse, eager to share their perspectives, and popularize the activities of their colleagues back home. This is also the time when the word “dissident” became popular. Instead of overarching systemic analyses of “Soviet societies,” case studies of particular countries and social movements began to appear (Kende and Pomian 1978; Kusin 1978; Chiama and Soulet 1982; Summerscale 1982; Curry 1983; Rubenstein 1985; Bugajski 1987). Along these lines, the interest in dissident ideas, later framed as theories of civil society, spread (Skilling 1981, 1989; Garton Ash 1983). Analyses, such as those contained in the remarkable volume edited by Jane Leftwich Curry, were well informed and argued convincingly about the (possible) impact of different opposition forces on domestic politics (Korboński 1983). A significant shift came with the Polish trade union Solidarity, which emerged in 1980 (Garton Ash 1983; Weschler 1984). At that moment, observers realized that bottom-up societal change in the Eastern Bloc was not wishful thinking, but  that it was within the realm of the possible, and that the “opposition” or the “dissident movements” did indeed possess political power (Misztal 1985). Closer to 1989 and especially shortly after the fall of Communism, “civil society” became the buzzword, and in a sense, the attention of scholars was again drawn away from concrete examples to a new catch-all term (Keane 1988; Tismaneanu 1990; Rau 1991; Skilling and Wilson 1991; Cohen and Arato 1994). All the time, however, there was little reflection on the word “dissident” itself. Arguably, the first scholarly attempt to tackle the dissident as a concept, a category, and thus, a form of representation was the work by Walter Parchomenko on how Soviet dissidents were perceived by the domestic authorities and the public (Parchomenko 1986). However, before scholars took notice of the issue, it was reflected upon by the “dissidents” themselves. In Chapter 8, I go through that debate in some detail. Here let me just call up the best early analysis of the “dissident”



as a label and as a figure—Václav Havel’s famous essay “Power of the Powerless.” Havel’s key point was that the term was misleading and useless—he resisted it, as did many other oppositionists bundled together by the “dissident” category. It took academics a while to put their finger on the peculiar quality of the “dissident.” An early trace of that move can be found, mentioned only in passing, in a text analyzing the evolving political line of the famous French periodical Tel Quel. François Hourmant writes of the impact of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn on the intellectual imaginary of the late 1970s: “In him the heroic gesture of an intellectual struggling against the false mirages of temptation and betrayal is condensed. He incarnates to perfection that exemplary figure: the figure of the dissident” (Hourmant 1996, 122).1 Much later, Robert Horvath, focusing on the same period and studying especially the Soviet dissidents, noted that the “persona of ‘the dissident’ gradually supplanted that of the revolutionary, the guerrilla and the terrorist, as the ideal advocate of human liberation in the imaginations of a coterie of anti-totalitarian thinkers” (Horvath 2007). As did Havel’s essay, both these authors point to the appearance of a relatively stable image of a “dissident” that is abstracted from reality. What Hourmant does not say is where that image came from. Horvath suggests a “Solzhenitsyn effect,” which is of course a slight oversimplification, and it would be misleading to see only one oppositionist (or even all Soviet dissenters) as the “source” of the dissident figure. What the two works also do not tackle is: What were the characteristics as well as the impact of the dissident figure on those who were described with the word? The sociologist Jeffrey Goldfarb noted two different characteristics of the “dissident persona”—its link to fame and the fact that the imposition of such a label tends to blur the actual content. Such a “dissident-celebrity persona … however bright is a negative reflection of the official culture of politics and politics of culture, and is therefore limited in the same way as is satire” (Goldfarb 1989, 98). Goldfarb hints at the mechanism which creates the dissident figure, involving “an individual’s bravery and talent, Western media attention” and the officially promoted Soviet [i.e., domestic] culture. The elements which are constitutive for dissidentism and enable the dissident figure, in my conceptualization, are three: open, legal, and nonviolent action under a repressive sanction (dissidence), Western attention, as well as domestic recognition. These three elements form the “dissident triangle” on which accents can be put differently, and this has


implications for the empowerment and nature of legitimacy that people operating under the dissident label receive. But to analyze this, one has to break with an inward-looking national approach to history—as this will not only disable any useful comparisons across cases, but also fail to capture the transnational dynamics.

The Importance of a Transnational Approach The concept of the transnational, as opposed to the international, was propagated in the social sciences by international relations scholars, in the face of the visibly growing importance of non-state actors (who are not captured by the internationalist paradigm) and an apparent decline in the significance of nation-states (Risse-Kappen 1995). An idea that is seemingly self-explanatory in fact goes against the grain of both the humanities and social sciences, which tend to see the world in terms of its most important dividing categories of post-Westphalian practice: discrete entities like (nation) states and (national) societies. Nationally written histories of opposition still dominate, and most renowned historians of the opposition are very often unaware of research done in other countries, unless it directly relates to their own backyard. Muriel Blaive targeted this problem, pointing out one important consequence: “if you don’t know what historians are writing in other countries, you risk thinking your own situation is unique whereas it is not, and you fail to learn from their lessons and their progress” (Blaive 2019). Only recently has dissent studies realized that while the Iron Curtain and the interstate borders of the Eastern Bloc were quite tight, they were not hermetic (Brier 2013b; Kind-Kovács 2014). This means that transborder exchanges, influences, inspirations, and dialogues existed, and single-country case studies are insufficient to understand the influence of dissent. Comparative studies, which use the same theoretical framework to discuss several cases, are an important step in the transnational direction, comparing the significance of the same turning points, like 1968 (Klimke and Scharloth 2008), or certain ideas and processes (Renwick 2011; Blokker 2011). Barbara Falk’s influential comparative endeavor crossed that important border: Much has been written by and about each of the former dissidents individually. However, my purpose is to examine their herculean collective effort … Through literary and personal connections, the smuggling of samizdat



across borders, and the dynamic played by a host of external events and players, the dissidents developed their political theory and strategies for change – together. (Falk 2003, 2)

In this way, Falk entered the field of transnational history and (to a lesser extent due to her focus on individual intellectuals) transnational social movement studies—without explicitly stating that. Other scholars have recently argued for a transnational approach. In their groundbreaking edited volume on Transnational Moments of Change, Gerd-Rainer Horn and Padraic Kenney argue that such an approach “may address the causes and/or the reasons for the emergence of similar phenomena across national frontiers” (Kenney and Horn 2004). An ongoing research project on protest movements across all of postwar Europe has produced several volumes, one bearing the telling title The Transnational Condition (Teune 2010). In the studies of Cold War dissent, protest, and opposition, the last decade has seen a very quick proliferation of transnational research. This includes analyses of contacts, exchanges, and circulation across the East– West divide (Kind-Kovács 2008; Brier 2011; Christiaens and Goddeeris 2013; Nehring 2013; Szulecki 2013; Kind-Kovács 2014; Miedema 2015, 2019), as well as more integrated transnational analyses of “global moments” such as 1968 (Klimke et al. 2011). The international “Nuclear Crisis Project” has been breaking new ground in this respect, consciously looking at both the West and the East, and their interactions at different levels (Becker-Schaum et al. 2016). But the question of contacts and exchanges within the Eastern Bloc itself, breaking with the remnants of its image as a monolith and discovering mechanisms, which were previously undetected due to “methodological nationalism,” is perhaps the most important achievement of the last decade, with Robert Brier’s edited volume taking the conceptualization of transnational dissent history a step further (Brier 2013b). Transnationality is evidently the buzzword, but what does it really mean? There are different answers, and the contention lies on both the level of ontology (what constitutes a transnational phenomenon?) and epistemology (how do we analyze transnational phenomena?). Scholars studying social movements (from the perspective of political sociology) detour the first question, assuming that, for example, movements which declare themselves to be “transnational” are transnational.2 This raises difficult questions when upon close examination it turns out that national


activism over a “universal” issue can in fact produce no visible transnational synergy, requiring the characterization “transnational approach” (Jossin 2010; Smith and Kutz-Flamenbaum 2010; Della Porta 2011). Kenney, on the other hand, is eager to propagate transnational history, which he understands as micro-level, often face-to-face, contacts between people from different national contexts, which allow ideas and artifacts to travel across borders (Kenney 2013). He provides a typology of six transnational modes of contact: command, text, legend, pilgrimage, courier, and convocation (Kenney 2004). Diffusion through text is naturally the mode that intellectual transnational historians focus on (Kind-Kovács and Labov 2013; Kind-Kovács 2014; Feindt 2016), but circulation of ideas is not limited only to tracing the channels of communication, but a broader diffusion of particular concepts and their transnational “life” (Brier 2011, 2013a; Szulecki 2011, 2013). In this study, the transnational approach results in a narrative which tells the histories of dissidence in several Central European countries in parallel, not one by one as a comparative history would. Most emphasis is on cross-border exchanges, contacts, face-to-face meetings, and circulation of ideas and texts. Finally, the main object of analysis is the dissident figure which only occurs—and thus can only be understood and analyzed—on the outer frontiers of the West and under its gaze.

Methodological and Theoretical Approach It is the research problem, or actually a set of problems, that the project tries to tackle which positions it in the discipline of political sociology. This book draws, however, both on (cultural) sociology and on (interpretive) political science, as well as cultural and media studies, for theoretical grounding and inspiration. Because of its historical focus, and the nature of the empirical material, it also extensively quotes and at times closely resembles works in contemporary and international history. Indeed, this book attempts to produce theoretically grounded historical narratives of the emergence and evolution of dissidentism, as well as its impact on ideational debates. It is strongly rooted in the Weberian tradition of interpretive social science, which combines detailed historical narrative with explanation, in what Patrick T. Jackson calls a singular causal analysis (Jackson 2011). I trace the emergence, evolution, generalization, and decline of the figure of the dissident in Central Europe and construct an ideal-typical model of dissidentism.



Such an approach necessitates a wide array of sources. The analysis is founded on a combination of primary and secondary literature. The latter comprises existing historical, sociological, and political science work on East European politics and societies between 1945 and 1989. Wherever possible, I try not to duplicate the work by “re-discovering” what has already been written. I do, however, read that literature from a new angle, looking for elements significant to my narrative, which were usually mentioned only in passing. Primary sources are very diverse. For dissident self-reflection and the accounts of the way the dissident figure impacted on the oppositionists themselves, I look into memoirs, (auto) biographies, and published interviews (contemporary and retrospective). I conducted over twenty interviews with former activists and took part in several “witness” panels and conferences (see the Sources section). Finally, a considerable bulk of literature is samizdat and tamizdat. Samizdat (from Russian caмиздaт) literarily meaning “self-published” is used here to describe all sorts of unofficial (uncensored) publishing activity that took place in Eastern Europe under Communism. The techniques used varied from the most typical type-written carbon copies, through guerilla publishing using simple copying devices (silkscreen duplicators, often named after the Polish original—ramka), illegal offset printing, up to Xerox usage in the late 1980s (Forschungstelle Osteuropa 2000). Tamizdat (“published there”) in turn means texts coming from the dissident circles but printed and published abroad and then smuggled back into the country of origin (Kind-Kovács 2014). The difference between tamizdat and exilic publishing is often blurry and depends on the proportion of domestic and exilic input and the attitude of the émigré circle. The geographical focus requires some explanation. As the title suggests, this book looks primarily at Central Europe—a notion that means different things to different people. It is not my goal to reconstruct the emergence and history of the mobilizing idea of “Central Europe” with its heretical geopolitical edge—some of which I tried to do elsewhere (Szulecki 2015). From this point on, this book refers to “Central Europe” to denote the non-Soviet countries of the Eastern Bloc: Czechoslovakia, Hungary, East Germany, and Poland. “Eastern Europe,” in turn, implies the inclusion of Russia and the non-Russian Soviet republics in Europe (Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukraine), as well as other Communist countries: Bulgaria, Romania, and in some instances Yugoslavia and Albania.


There are several reasons for this geographical focus. Firstly, the history of Soviet dissident movements is already quite well researched. So is the history of Czechoslovak, Polish, or Hungarian dissent, one could reply. Indeed, but the main reason for not including the Soviet Union as a primary focus is that, in my view, it was Central Europe that turned out to be pivotal for the emergence of the dissident figure as we now know it. For sure, Soviet rights activists and internationally renowned dissident intellectuals set the ground for this, and I discuss it quite extensively in Chapters 5–7. However, due to the domestic conditions of the Soviet Union, which limited the scale of dissident activities and their immediate political impact, Central European opposition achieved more and maintained a much closer transnational network of contacts and circulation, enabling dissidentism and the universalization of the dissident figure. Similarly, I chose not to include Romania and Bulgaria—the other non-Soviet states of Eastern Europe—because their domestic conditions differed quite significantly, and so did forms and practices of dissent. But there are more important reasons here too. Since the dissident figure is a Western construction, this book necessarily follows a Western gaze. It looks at the representation of dissidence more than its practice, at the reflection of Central Europe in Western media, not only at the region “as it is”. Following the Western observer, my analysis pays more attention to those objects that she lays her eyes on. Selected, not necessarily representative, and not necessarily reflecting the significance they were given by Central European societies. This gaze is exclusive and does not value nuance. Hence, in Czechoslovakia, Czechia is present much more than Slovakia, Prague more than Brno, Ostrava completely absent. Some dissidents are present more than others: intellectuals more than workers, men more than women. Some minorities can be overrepresented—particularly Jewish—while others were virtually excluded. While I draw on revisionist histories of dissent, the edge of my own critique is aimed at Western practices of reporting, naming, and knowing dissidence to a much greater extent than on dissident auto-descriptions and legends. A careful reader will notice that within this narrower Central European focus, I also look more at Czechoslovakia and Poland than Hungary and East Germany. While there is a case to be made regarding the significance of Poland’s KOR and Solidarity as well as Czechoslovakia’s Charter 77 as groundbreaking innovations in East European dissent, another reason is more pragmatic. Real historical



depth can only be achieved through work on primary sources and that requires language competences that I do not have—in German and Hungarian—which meant that for these cases I could only draw on secondary literature. I focus primarily on intellectuals and “writing people,” as writers are overrepresented in dissident compendia, and in Central European countries, it was quite difficult to find outstanding authors who did not engage in some form of dissent. However, unlike Falk who produced an in-depth analysis of the roots and evolution of dissident ideas—understood in terms of intellectual production (Falk 2003)—I treat dissident intellectuals not only as elite “creators of ideas,” but rather, as “discourse engineers.” “Discourse engineers” can create new elements, but they can also rearrange existing ones, as bricoleurs or creative actors (Joas 1996). This different perspective on intellectuals, which is inspired by, among others, the work of the Slovak-American sociologist  Edward Šnajdr (1999, 210), has both empirical and theoretical roots. Empirical (if not overtly political) because the “classic” definition of the (dissident) intellectual was adjusted to accommodate the work and impact of people like Václav Havel and Adam Michnik, and not the younger dissenters of the 1980s, whose activity is often entirely omitted in the narrative of opposition. The “dissident” is a concept developed in Western discourses on Eastern Europe and, more generally, on non-Western Others.3 It is constitutive in the sense that “dissidents” are “created”—i.e., constructed and empowered through transnational recognition (Searle 1995). It is idiomatic in the sense that it carries an implicit assumption about both the relationship between the West and Eastern Europe and the role “dissidents” play in relation to their own societies and their rulers (Falkenhayner et al. 2015).4 Crucial for the theorization of the constitutive effects of the dissident figure is Ian Hacking’s notion of the looping effects of human kinds (Hacking 2002). In his sociological study of the social sciences, Hacking noted that modern social sciences created categories to describe people—“human kinds”—which were different from “natural kinds” precisely because of their specific “looping effects.” By coming into existence through classification, human kinds change the people classified. The greater the moral connotations of a human kind, the greater the potential looping effect, and additionally, the objects of classification are not only affected by the act of classification, but they also shape the understanding of the category, creating “a feedback effect on our classification systems themselves” (Hacking 2004, 99). Treating


the dissident label as that type of category, resembling Hacking’s “human kinds,” allows me to trace the effect of classification as dissidents and the reshaping of the dissident figure by those who were labeled as such. This classification impacts the objects’ identity—or to be more precise, the situated subjectivity and self-understanding, one’s “sense of who one is, of one’s social location, and of how … one is prepared to act” (Brubaker and Cooper 2000, 17). In the title and in the remainder of this book, I write of the figure of the dissident. I understand the figure as a representation rooted in the reflection of a certain reality, but one that has been detached from it. Drawing on Andreas Langenohl, I define it as “a representation of a person or a group of persons the validity of which [the representation – KS] does not rest on the actual existence of that person or group” (Langenohl 2011, 87). In other words, the figure hinges on an absence; he/she is a symbol which has lost the link to its initial designate and is therefore free to acquire new contents. In Chapters 3–9, I trace the way dissidentism emerged as a sociopolitical phenomenon in Eastern Europe; then, the way “the dissident” became a category and later a figure; and finally how that figure was generalized and used to describe (or rather label) almost any opposition activity, in the process losing both its initial reference to “prominent dissidents” and its (dubious) analytical quality. The notion of the figure rests on the tripartite relationship of the representation, the supposedly represented, and whoever uses it as a label. In this case, the latter is the Western media and public opinion. I use the word label to signify that being called a dissident is a speech act which calls up the dissident figure.

Structure of the Book This book consists of a conceptual chapter and seven empirical chapters, following the emergence and evolution of dissidence in Eastern Europe, though focusing on Soviet satellite states in what, for reasons of clarity, I call Central Europe. In Chapter 2, I tackle the question “What does the word ‘dissident’ mean?” by surveying all the definitions I managed to identify in a broad query lasting over ten years. I then move on to discuss the definitions of two interrelated concepts, dissent and dissidence, before proposing a new, perhaps awkward neologism which will be developed in this monograph—dissidentism.



As the story of dissidence unfolds, different elements necessary for the appearance of dissidentism are also described. Conventional histories of resistance and opposition in the Soviet bloc focus on a handful of dates: 1953, 1956, 1968, 1976, and 1980, which often appear to lead to the logical consequence of 1989. While all these dates are important, they are only steps in a long ladder, and much of what is most interesting for the evolution of dissidence actually happened in-between, not during those years of upheaval. Thanks to the recent work of many colleagues, I am able to graft the dissident story onto a nuanced social history of Communism. This helps to avoid the “caricature” of life under Communism, which is informed by readings of George Orwell’s 1984 rather than the real experience of what post-Stalinist state socialism was (Bolton 2012, 20). Oppositionists in Central Europe were dedicating their time, risking their careers, and facing imminent repression, and the fact that actively and openly resisting an authoritarian regime requires civil courage is undeniable. But dissent is not binary, it is rather one end of a continuum in which many people participated, though some were doing it full-time and with graver consequences. “Prominent dissidents” were most often part of an intelligentsia elite, and an important feature of their activity is their visible, above-average social and cultural capital: They were people who knew how to write, who knew how to organize, and who knew others like them—as well as, more often than not, knew those who would persecute their dissent. The popular image of the dissidents as a tiny elite challenging the Party elite, one that Havel rhetorically resisted but also reproduced (Brier 2013c, 14), is a caricature. The opposition constituted a countercurrent within broader elites that overlapped to an important extent with the Party elites, as well as those who were neither fully for nor fully against Communism, but were simply living in Communist states. For this reason, Chapter 3 begins with a lengthy discussion of Czesław Miłosz’s Captive Mind, a treatise on the seductive power of the Marxist doctrine on many Central European intellectuals shortly after World War II. From the moment Central European countries were liberated—for better or worse—by the Red Army, the newly established regimes sought to coopt the intellectual elite, because that was fundamental for their legitimacy and ability to govern. Apart from totalitarian extremes, such as Nazism, Mao’s cultural revolution, or the Khmer Rouge, authoritarian regimes do not exterminate intellectual elites but


try to get them to conform—by terror, like in Stalin’s Soviet Union in the 1930s, or by a mixture of incentives and potential repression, as in Stalinist era Central Europe. Despite the popular and proletarian character of Communism, intellectuals, especially artists, were very important for the system, and this is why their assent and dissent were so significant. According to Miłosz, the seductive power of the “New Faith” could not survive the confrontation with totalizing political reality—and that is where the initial heresy of reformism came from. Because dissent needs to be purposeful and open, in the 1950s it could only come from within the Left (revisionism) or in some contexts, be grounded in Christianity (Poland’s Catholic evolutionism). Chapter 3 tells the story of zealous neophytes turning into reformist heretics, beginning to challenge the regime from the inside on the premises set out by Marxist doctrine itself. Between the reformist heyday of 1956 and the collapse of reformist hopes in the aftermath of 1968, a new kind of challenge emerges—democratic dissidence. The Open Letter to the Party written by Jacek Kuroń and Karol Modzelewski in 1964, although firmly rooted in a leftist revisionist tradition, is arguably the first act of that new dissidence. Chapter 4 discusses the way open acts of dissent, combined with a new strategy of the regime for confronting it, based on naming and discrediting individual dissenters as “traitors” or “scum,” allowed this new wave of dissent to gain names and faces. I introduce some of the characters that already after 1968 gained significant domestic renown or even fame, in Czechoslovakia and Poland. This includes former revisionist intellectuals, radical young activists, dissenting writers, as well as a pop star. In Chapter 5, covering the early 1970s, I analyze the way a transnational stage was set for dissidence to gain a previously unseen level of empowerment. In this, the mass emigration from Central Europe after 1956 and more importantly still after 1968 played an important role as future “dissident interpreters.” To become transnational, dissidence needed communication channels, and these were provided by the emerging domestic samizdat, exilic tamizdat, and their symbiosis with radio broadcasters directed at Eastern Europe: Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, etc. But communication required one more thing to be effective: a new language in which the griefs and grievances of dissent could be made intelligible for Western and Eastern audiences alike. This is when the universalist idiom of human rights gained relevance and became institutionalized in East–West détente through the Helsinki



Accords of 1975. The chapter ends with a discussion of two open letters—one sent by a Czechoslovak playwright, Václav Havel, to the Party boss Dr. Gustav Husák, and the other issued by a group of 59 Polish intellectuals to the Communist authorities to protest the changes in Poland’s constitution. Their appearance already in 1975 challenges the notion of a “Helsinki Effect,” popular in Western scholarship, which apparently brought Eastern European dissent into existence—and rather shows Helsinki as a political opportunity that presented itself at just the right time to be strategically exploited by the nascent opposition. Chapter 6 tells the story of that new opposition, beginning with Poland’s Workers Defense Committee (KOR) in 1976 and Czechoslovakia’s Charter 77 some months later. I argue that between 1976 and 1977 all the elements necessary for the emergence of the figure of the dissident were finally put in place: There were open, publicized acts of legal and nonviolent dissent, which were met with media attention in the West, thanks to the intelligible idiom of human rights and the momentum created by the Helsinki process. A transnational network of dissidence also began to form, and dissident fame was built on both domestic slander campaigns—which for many at home were read exactly opposite to the Party’s intentions—and international recognition. Thus, there were names and faces that could be known, following the example of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, but not reducible to another proposed “Solzhenitsyn Effect.” By the end of 1977, the term “dissident” became popular and fashionable, and Central European dissidence—the new, visible, and active groups as well as some of their prominent members who began to be recognized in the West, like Adam Michnik—contributed to the emergence of this new transnational actor-figure. In Chapters 7 and 8, I draw directly on Ian Hacking’s concept of a “looping effect” to show how the “dissident” as a category and label was molded by Western experts, journalists, and Sovietologists, as well as who was included in the collective designate of the “dissident” and who was excluded. Here, I pay particular attention to the all-male character of the dissident pantheon and explain why women who were crucial for the practice of dissent were largely written out of its historiography. In Chapter 7, I show how the “dissident” label impacted the “object”—the Eastern oppositionists. I go through both the examples of resistance to the dissident figure as the practices that helped to reshape it reflexively by performing dissidentism in new ways, with the transnational network at their core. Finally, I point to an important positive effect of the dissident


label—the protective umbrella that it extended over the designates. At the same time, however, the semantic limits of the dissident label, the fact that not every oppositionist in the East was able to benefit from it, show the limit of that protection, and consequences were fatal for some. Building on the distinction between the notion of individual charisma and a generalizable charism, in Chapter 9 I explain how the dissident figure became what we now know it to be—a universal transnational actor that can be summoned whenever the West encounters an authoritarian other. That generalization and its limits were, in my view, both contributing to the triumph of dissidence in 1989 and the post-dissident demise of the former oppositionists. The conclusions in Chapter 10 sum up the empirical findings and propose a conceptualization of dissidentism and a “dissident triangle” as analytical categories, while also explaining how the transnational empowerment that dissidents benefitted from before 1989 rebounded against them in democratic conditions.

Notes 1. All translations from non-English sources are by the author unless indicated otherwise. 2.  The European Nuclear Disarmament (END) is an example of such a movement, but compares studies of contemporary movements (Routledge 2008; Walgrave and van Laer 2010). 3. The “West” itself is understood here in the political sense of the Cold War context, meaning the capitalist and more often than not democratic (however blurred the concept is) states of non-Communist Europe as well as the USA and Canada. Reifying as it may seem, such a usage is necessitated by the empirical sources on which I draw, coming from the Cold War imaginary and always emphasizing the bipolar political division of the world (Szulecki 2015). 4. With respect to representing their societies, we can therefore treat the “dissidents” as a part taken for the whole—a synecdoche.

References Bauman, Zygmunt. 1971. “Social Dissent in the East European Political System.” European Journal of Sociology 12 (1): 25–51. Becker-Schaum, Christoph, Philipp Gassert, Martin Klimke, Wilfried Mausbach, and Marianne Zepp, eds. 2016. The Nuclear Crisis: The Arms Race, Cold War Anxiety, and the German Peace Movement of the 1980s. Protest, Culture and Society Volume 19. New York: Berghahn Books.



Blaive, Muriel. 2019. “Comforting Lies or Unpleasant Truths? The Job of a Historian.” Britské listy, March 4. Blokker, Paul. 2011. “Dissidence, Republicanism, and Democratic Change.” East European Politics & Societies 25 (2): 219–43. Bolton, Jonathan. 2012. Worlds of Dissent: Charter 77, the Plastic People of the Universe, and Czech Culture Under Communism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Brier, Robert. 2011. “Adam Michnik’s Understanding of Totalitarianism and the West European Left: A Historical and Transnational Approach to Dissident Political Thought.” East European Politics and Societies 25 (2): 197–218. ———. 2013a. “Broadening the Cultural History of the Cold War: The Emergence of the Polish Workers’ Defense Committee and the Rise of Human Rights.” Journal of Cold War Studies 15 (4): 104–27. https://doi. org/10.1162/jcws_a_00396. ———, ed. 2013b. Entangled Protest: Transnational Approaches to the History of Dissent in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Osnabrück: Fibre. ———. 2013c. “Entangled Protest: Dissent and the Transnational History of the 1970s and 1980s.” In Entangled Protest: Transnational Approaches to the History of Dissent in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, 11–42. Osnabrück: Fibre. Brubaker, Rogers, and Cooper Frederick. 2000. “Beyond ‘Identity’.” Theory and Society 29 (1): 1–47. Bugajski, Janusz. 1987. Czechoslovakia: Charter 77’s Decade of Dissent. New York: Praeger. Chiama, Jean, and Jean-François Soulet. 1982. Histoire de la dissidence: Oppositions et révoltes en URSS et dans les démocraties populaires, de la mort de Staline à nos jours. Paris: Seuil. Christiaens, Kim, and Idesbald Goddeeris. 2013. “The East Versus the South: Belgian Solidarity Movements with Poland and Nicaragua During the Early 1980s.” In Entangled Protest: Transnational Approaches to the History of Dissent in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, 173–98. Osnabrück: Fibre. Cohen, Jean, and Andrew Arato. 1994. Civil Society and Political Theory. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Curry, Jane Leftwich, ed. 1983. Dissent in Eastern Europe. New York: Praeger. Della Porta, Donatella. 2011. “Social Movement Studies and Transnationalization: An Uneasy Relation or a Happy Start? An Afterword.” In Protest Beyond Borders: Contentious Politics in Europe Since 1945, edited by Hara Kouki and Eduardo Romanos, 200–6. Oxford: Berghahn. Falk, Barbara J. 2003. The Dilemmas of Dissidence in East-Central Europe: Citizen Intellectuals and Philosopher Kings. Budapest and New York: Central European University Press. ———. 2011. “Resistance and Dissent in Central and Eastern Europe: An Emerging Historiography.” East European Politics & Societies 25 (2): 318–60.

16  K. SZULECKI Falkenhayner, Nicole, Andreas Langenohl, Johannes Scheu, Doris Schweitzer, and Kacper Szulecki, eds. 2015. Rethinking Order: Idioms of Stability and Destabilization. Culture & Theory. Bielefeld: Transcript. Feindt, Gregor. 2016. “Opposition und Samizdat in Ostmitteleuropa: Strukturen und Mechanismen unabhängiger Periodika in vergleichender Perspektive.” Zeitschrift für Ostmitteleuropa-Forschung 65 (1): 17–42. Fischer-Galati, Stephen, ed. 1963. Eastern Europe in the Sixties. London and New York: Praeger. Forschungstelle Osteuropa. 2000. Samizdat: Alternative Kultur in Zentralund Osteuropa; die 60er bis 80er Jahre. With the Assistance of I. Bock and W. Eichwede. Bremen: Ed. Temmen. Friedrich, Carl J., and Zbigniew Brzezinski. 1957. Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Garton Ash, Timothy. 1983. The Polish Revolution: Solidarity 1980–1982. London: Jonathan Cape. Goldfarb, Jeffrey C. 1989. Beyond Glasnost: The Post-Totalitarian Mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Hacking, Ian. 2002. “The Looping Effects of Human Kinds.” In Causal Cognition: A Multidisciplinary Debate, edited by Dan Sperber, David Premack, and Ann J. Premack, 1st ed. in pbk., repr, 356–95. Symposia of the Fyssen Foundation. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ———. 2004. Historical Ontology. Reprinted. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Horvath, Robert. 2007. “‘The Solzhenitsyn Effect’: East European Dissidents and the Demise of the Revolutionary Privilege.” Human Rights Quarterly 29: 879–907. Hourmant, François. 1996. “‘Tel Quel’ et ses volte-face politiques (1968–1978).” Vingtième Siècle. Revue d’histoire (51): 112–28. http://www.jstor.org/ stable/3771305. Jackson, Patrick Thaddeus. 2011. The Conduct of Inquiry in International Relations: Philosophy of Science and Its Implications for the Study of World Politics. The New International Relations. London: Routledge. Joas, Hans. 1996. The Creativity of Action. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Jossin, Ariane. 2010. “How Do Activists Experience Transnational Protest Events? The Case of Young Global Justice Activists from Germany and France.” In The Transnational Condition: Protest Dynamics in an Entangled Europe, 42–63. New York: Berghahn Books. Keane, John. 1988. Democracy and Civil Society. London: Verso. Kende, Pierre, and Krzysztof Pomian, eds. 1978. 1956: Varsovie-Budapest, la deuxième révolution d’Octobre. Paris: Seuil. Kenney, Padraic. 2004. “Opposition Networks and Transnational Diffusion in the Revolutions of 1989.” In Transnational Moments of Change, 207–23. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.



———. 2013. “Electromagnetic Forces and Radio Waves or Does Transnational History Actually Happen?” In Entangled Protest: Transnational Approaches to the History of Dissent in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, 43–53. Osnabrück: Fibre. Kenney, Padraic, and Gerd-Rainer Horn. 2004. “Introduction: Approaches to the Transnational.” In Transnational Moments of Change, ix–xix. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield. Kind-Kovács, Friederike. 2008. “An ‘Other Europe’ Through Literature: Recreating a European Literary ‘Kontinent’ in the Light of the Helsinki Final Act.” In Europa im Ostblock: Vorstellungen und Diskurse, 1945–1991, edited by José M. Faraldo, Paulina Gulińska-Jurgiel, and Christian Domnitz, 267– 300. Köln: Böhlau Verlag. ———. 2014. Written Here, Published There: How Underground Literature Crossed the Iron Curtain. New York: Central European University Press. Kind-Kovács, Friederike, and Jessie Labov, eds. 2013. Samizdat, Tamizdat, and Beyond: Transnational Media During and After Socialism. Studies in Contemporary European History Volume 13. New York: Berghahn Books. Klimke, Martin, and Joachim Scharloth. 2008. 1968 in Europe: A History of Protest and Activism, 1956–1977. 1st ed. Palgrave Macmillan Transnational History Series. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Klimke, Martin, Jacco Pekelder, and Joachim Scharloth, eds. 2011. Between Prague Spring & French May: Opposition and Revolt in Europe, 1960–1980. New York: Berghahn Books. Korboński, Andrzej. 1983. “Dissent in Poland 1956–76.” In Dissent in Eastern Europe, edited by Jane L. Curry, 25–47. New York: Praeger. Kusin, Vladimir V. 1978. From Dubček to Charter 77: A Study of “Normalization” in Czechoslovakia, 1968–1978. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Langenohl, Andreas. 2011. “Öffentliche Reaktionen auf das Schweizer Referendum über Minarettbau und auf „Deutschland schafft sich ab“.” Gießener Universitätsblätter 44: 83–93. Miedema, Christie. 2015. “Struggling Against the Bomb or Against the Bloc Divide? The Dutch Peace Movement and Eastern Europe.” Dutch Crossing 39 (3): 261–74. https://doi.org/10.1080/03096564.2015.1101302. Miedema, Christie. 2019. Not a Movement of Dissidents: Amnesty International Beyond the Iron Curtain. Göttingen: Wallstein. Misztal, Bronislaw, ed. 1985. Poland After Solidarity: Social Movements Versus the State. New Brunswick and Oxford: Transaction Publishers. Nehring, Holger. 2013. “The Politics of Security Across the ‘Iron Curtain’: Peace Movements in East and West Germany in the 1980s.” In Entangled Protest: Transnational Approaches to the History of Dissent in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, 229–48. Osnabrück: Fibre. Parchomenko, Walter. 1986. Soviet Images of Dissidents and Nonconformists. New York: Praeger.

18  K. SZULECKI Rakovski, Marc. 1978. Towards an East European Marxism. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Rau, Zbigniew. 1991. The Reemergence of Civil Society in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Boulder: Westview Press. Renwick, A. 2011. “The Role of Dissident Values in Institutional Choice: 1989 in Comparative Perspective.” East European Politics & Societies 25 (2): 296–317. https://doi.org/10.1177/0888325410387645. Risse-Kappen, Thomas, ed. 1995. Bringing Transnational Relations Back In: Non-state Actors, Domestic Structures and International Institutions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Routledge, Paul. 2008. “Transnational Political Movements.” In The SAGE Handbook of Political Geography, edited by Kevin R. Cox, Murray Low, and Jennifer Robinson, 335–49. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi, and Singapore: Sage. Rubenstein, Joshua. 1985. Soviet Dissidents: Their Struggle for Human Rights. Boston: Beacon Press. Searle, John R. 1995. The Construction of Social Reality. New York: Free Press. Skilling, H. Gordon. 1981. Charter 77 and Human Rights in Czechoslovakia. London: Allen & Unwin. Skilling, H. Gordon. 1989. Samizdat and an Independent Society in Central and Eastern Europe. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Macmillan Press. Skilling, H. Gordon, and Paul R. Wilson, eds. 1991. Civic Freedom in Central Europe: Voices from Czechoslovakia. Basingstoke: Macmillan. Smith, Jackie, and Rachel Kutz-Flamenbaum. 2010. “Prisoners of Our Concepts: Liberating the Study of Social Movements.” In The Transnational Condition: Protest Dynamics in an Entangled Europe, 212–27. New York: Berghahn Books. Šnajdr, Edward. 1999. “Green Intellectuals in Slovakia.” In Intellectuals and Politics in Central Europe, edited by András Bozóki, 207–24. New York: Central European University Press. Summerscale, Peter. 1982. The East European Predicament: Changing Patterns in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Szulecki, Kacper. 2011. “Hijacked Ideas: Human Rights, Peace and Environmentalism in Czechoslovak and Polish Dissident Discourses.” East European Politics and Societies 25 (2): 272–95. ———. 2013. “‘Freedom and Peace Are Indivisible’: On the Czechoslovak and Polish Dissident Input to the European Peace Movement 1985–1989.” In Entangled Protest: Transnational Approaches to the History of Dissent in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, 199–228. Osnabrück: Fibre. ———. 2015. “Heretical Geopolitics of Central Europe. Dissidents Intellectuals and an Alternative European Order.” Geoforum 65: 25–36. https://doi. org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.07.008.



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Who Are the Dissidents?

Who Is a Dissident?—A Compendium of Definitions While 1989 is seen as a caesura of groundbreaking importance for Central Europeans, on the global scene it meant that prisoners of conscience from this part of the world would nearly disappear from the pages of Amnesty International bulletins. Opposition to authoritarianism and dictatorial power continues worldwide, and the struggle of the “dissidents” lives on. But what does “dissident” mean? This seems to be a simple but also a very awkward question. Many understand the concept but hardly ever consider a definition. Over the past eleven years, I posed that question to a number of people and got a number of quite deviating responses, unified by only one thing—an initial awkward pause. Analyzing the meaning of the term “dissident” is difficult and involves considering three different elements. These are: the historical roots of this particular term (which vary in meaning from society to society), the meanings, contexts, and connotations in which it was used by various Western actors (subjects, who reinvented the term), and the meaning and definitions that the “dissidents” themselves (objects) resisted, dismissed, or on the contrary wished to give to it. The word “dissident” comes from the Latin dissidere—“to sit on the side.” As the Polish poet Stanisław Barańczak pointed out, this suggests being outside the mainstream, not necessarily in opposition to it, but deviating from the norm, acting unusually, staying on the margin (Barańczak © The Author(s) 2019 K. Szulecki, Dissidents in Communist Central Europe, Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-22613-8_2



1982). The original meaning of the term “dissident,” drawing on medieval Latin, was synonymous to “heretic” or “renegade” and described a religious or theological position (Szulecki 2011). If there is a faith, there are those who follow it uncritically, and those who deviate or on the contrary argue that the mainstream has deviated from the Scripture. It is in that heretical religious sense that “dissident” first appeared in English in 1769. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when the word “dissident” was used for the first time in the context of Eastern European communism, but for sure, the origin is in the anglophone media’s coverage of Soviet politics. Since about 1921, the word has been used in American press to denote opposition to the mainstream Communist Party.1 Frequent uses can be noted already in relation to the Soviet Union of the 1930s, when expert commentators from the West wrote on the intra-party opposition to Joseph Stalin’s rule. After the war, Albania and Yugoslavia were depicted as “dissident” from Moscow. Some secondary sources point to the 1950s, after Stalin’s death, as the moment when the “dissident” in its modern use gained some popularity: “The term ‘dissident’ (in the sense that interests us) was coined in the West”— says [Krzysztof] Pomian, “to describe the group of Soviet intellectuals arguing soon after 1956 for the deepening of the on-going Thaw, reaching further than the official Party line wanted to see it” (Złotnik 1985). According to this thesis, the first “dissidents” are “revisionists.” Clearly, the Soviet and later broadly speaking East European context is the first one in which we observe the shift from the original religious meaning of the word “dissident” and its deployment as a secular, political category. To be able to understand the different reactions to the “dissident” label, one needs to grasp the culturally dependent webs of meanings of the term itself. In the remainder of this section, I present the different and distinct definitions of the “dissident” in its secular and political sense that were gathered through primary and secondary literature analysis, as well as interviews with scholars writing on “dissidents” and the former dissidents themselves.2 We cannot forget linguistic differences. In some languages, the word “dissident” and its derivatives have taken root, while in others they continued to sound artificial, as an alien transplant from abroad. For instance, while the Poles were and are very hostile to it, not easily letting go of the religious and Communist association, the Czechs and Slovaks introduced the word into their domestic dictionaries. The Czechoslovak émigré Jaroslav Suk, for example, described the “slang” of Czechoslovakia’s most important opposition initiative—Charter 77—in



which various opposition-related activities and objects were referred to using the prefix disi- or dizi-, as in “disimateriál” or “dizinotes” (“This moron keeps a disinotebook where he writes everything”). The prefix was also a popular abbreviation for “dissident” (Suk 1981, 35–36). The five distinct (and two related) definitions presented in the table below cover the semantic field of the term “dissident” almost entirely in its uses referring to political and cultural, but not religious incarnations. The first understanding (1), closest to the original religious meaning of “dissident,” was also the first one in its modern reinvention. It is still persistent in Central European discourses, especially those of the anti-communist right. As such, it is sometimes used to discredit as “dissidents” that part of the opposition that was rooted in the Left— either former Communist Party members or Marxist intellectuals, rooted in Marxist revisionism. In this sense, it retroactively imposes the negative connotation of Communism on them, carrying implicit accusation of treason. In a slightly more moderate version, it simply explains the unease of some former oppositionists with the label that was used to describe them. On yet rarer occasions, it is used as a positive element of self-understanding, like in Adam Michnik’s collection of essays tellingly entitled The Confessions of a Converted Dissident (Michnik 2003)— consciously playing with three religiously charged words (Table 2.1). The second definition comes from the actual philosophy of action and self-conception of the Soviet dissident intellectuals in the late 1960s. For many scholars, journalists, and oppositionists alike, Soviet rights activists, whose trials in the 1960s were first in a series of similar political events, remained a benchmark as the “original” dissidents. It is close to the concept of internal migration, “giving testimony” of moral superiority as well as what others still refer to as “performing with the body … politics of the body, that is of one’s own life, of prison, truth, but with no real hopes for bringing change”.3 It has deep moral underpinnings, which were best expressed by Czechoslovak authors Václav Havel and Jan Patočka. Havel once said that the dissident “is someone resembling Sisyphus, pushing his stone uphill, despite the realization that the chances of reaching his goal are almost nonexistent; he pushes simply because he has no other option to live in accord with himself and at least in this way give his life a bit of sense and discover a horizon of hope” (Michnik 2011, 20). This understanding of the “dissident” is also close to political martyrdom in the mode of nonviolence, as well as the ancient Greek concept of parrhesia, speaking the truth to power, despite the risk (Foucault 2000).

24  K. SZULECKI Table 2.1  Definitions of the “dissident” No.


Implications and comments


A former Communist dissenting from the Party’s line


A solitary moral oppositionist


A solitary actor/member of a minority group, a non-conformist outsider


A person fighting for human rights in an authoritarian country


A general label encompassing most political opposition activity


A non-conformist, a rebel


A non-conformist intellectual

Often a synonym for “Revisionist” or “Reformist” Close to the original religious meaning Brought up by anti-Communist circles locally In a pejorative sense, contrasted with “oppositionist” Implying passivity vs. oppositional activity Sometimes implying a small minority, representing only themselves (see 2a) Based on the example of Soviet “original dissidents” Resulting from a specific, negative interpretation of definition 2, implying lack of contact with the society at large and escapism Focusing on the “abnormal” and “deviating” trace in the Latin dissidere Emphasis on open activity Even if illegal, calling up a higher legal register A “positive” twist to the term, source of meta-political recognition and universal empowerment of the dissident “figure” Often used this way in non-expert Western publications Overlooking nuances and differences between different strands of dissent Enabling a generalizable “dissident” label Allows for broad generalizations and comparisons, especially with Latin America. A very broad understanding, which leaves no analytical value to the word Suggests that dissidents appear in all social systems and conditions, opposition against Communism or authoritarianism being only one of them



The Polish opposition very often used the term “dissident” as a negative benchmark. Thus, the “dissident” was conceived as passive, while the “opposition” should be active; the “dissidents” are solitary, often elitist and intellectual outsiders, while the opposition needs to establish a dialogue with the society, mobilize it and lead it. “Every oppositionist is a dissident, but not every dissident is an oppositionist”—said the East German opposition veteran Wolfgang Templin, suggesting that a “dissident” simply meant a non-conformist, but an oppositionist was someone who not only thought but also acted against the regime.4 This is similar to the variant of this definition (2a) which bears traces of the Communist propaganda that tried to discredit the “dissidents” and diminish their role by alienating them. Such a strategy had the exact opposite consequence and in fact enabled the “figure of the dissident” to come to life. However, some former “dissidents” explained to me that isolation and intellectual ghettoization were their greatest fear, and they saw the “dissident” as a negative example of such complete detachment.5 “We felt elitist, perhaps”—says Seweryn Blumsztajn, recalling the early 1970s—“but we first of all felt very lonely.”6 That loneliness was seen even as late as 1977, as the Soviet exile Vladimir Bukovsky testified: “Before he departed from Paris to Poland, Michnik asked me in confidential terms: ‘tell me, sincerely, how many dissidents are there really in the USSR?’ – ‘Generally speaking: enough’ – I replied evasively. – ‘In Poland only a handful, almost none’ – replied Adam sadly, and added – ‘everyone around, such conformists’” (Bukovsky 1984). In reality, especially since the late 1970s, both the Czechoslovak and Polish communities constructed their position in relation to the negative benchmark of the Soviet dissidents, whose courage, intellectual, and moral richness was beyond doubt, but whose position in the society was universally seen as that of a grain of a tiny community in an ocean of ignorance (Romaszewski 1979). The Polish opposition leader Jacek Kuroń, who looked to his Russian counterparts for inspiration, nonetheless suggested that probably the names and deeds of the Soviet dissidents were better known in Poland than they were in Russia (Artykuł nadesłany z kraju 1974). “The label ‘dissidents’”—wrote a younger oppositionist in the 1980s—“was associated with the actions of the Soviet fighters for human rights (to whom the label was first attached and so the characteristics of their practice began to delimit the meaning of the word) which – with all due respect – everyone tried to avoid” (Złotnik 1985, 34).


The third definition (3) carries an important positive trace, related to the idea of human rights. The “dissidents” are seen as “human rights activists.” That understanding becomes visible already in the late 1960s, when dissent against Communism becomes associated with rights, mostly in light of the Soviet writers trials (Nathans 2007, 2011; Metger 2013). The platform of communication constructed on the idea of human rights, as the following chapters show, worked both domestically and internationally, helping to transcend and blur political differences, and finally to generate universal and meta-political support for those oppositionists in Eastern Europe who were able to “talk the talk” of human rights. This kind of activity requires and presupposes openness— it is not a conspiracy, even if it is clandestine and requires underground means (e.g., samizdat printing, contacts across borders, gathering funding) to function. The fourth definition (4) nearly equates the “dissident” with “oppositionist” (in the Communist context). It is therefore used to describe anyone opposing the regime—the motivations are not relevant, and neither are the person’s political and ideological views. The broad usage of the term thus defined, combined with other associations and meanings of the word, enabled the generalization of a figure of the dissident that took place in the 1980s. The term in this understanding was used by Western correspondents and journalists. It can still be found in Western European media coverage of non-Western politics. The last definition (5) casts the “dissident” in the relational position of being against, resisting. Because it also equates all forms of resistance, intellectual, moral, societal, and even military, it allows for comparisons (or at least drawing parallels) between such far-off figures as Václav Havel, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Rudi Dutschke, and Che Guevara. Such parallels, it has to be said, are rarely drawn. What is important is that they are possible to think of and express. The original religious meaning of the term was stripped off, leaving only the structural, dyadic relation of opposing. The fifth definition has a variation (5a) which was used much more often. When the cult of the dissidents was becoming more evident, some among the Western radical intellectuals tried to use the popular term for a reorientation (Judt 1988; Horvath 2007). Already in 1977, David Cooper wrote “Dissidence – what a strong alibi! We are all ‘Dissidents’. We do not need to do more than express our left-radical opinions clearly” (Cooper 1978, 5). In fact, he continued, every madman is also a



dissident, everyone who opposes the system, not only the “brave people in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe” but also those who live in the “capitalist Mega-Gulag” (Cooper 1978, 32). Julia Kristeva also tried to extend the meaning of the term to cover all non-conformist intellectuals (Kristeva 1977). That was also the line of the radical periodical Tel Quel in its special issue on the “dissidents” and “dissidence” (Hourmant 1996). The focus was only on the relation of opposition and not on the context (i.e., consequences for dissidents in authoritarian and totalitarian societies as compared to the “dissidents” in democracies). A similar move is made in the emerging literature on “dissent,” which casts it as a political category transcending the blurry division between authoritarian and liberal political systems (Dorfman 2016a). In contemporary writing, the following passage illustrates that conceptual inflation: “An alternative figure to the intellectual of statecraft is the dissident intellectual – the critically minded intellectual who is less interested in obtaining and exercising power than in challenging the prevailing ‘truths’ of geopolitics and the structures of power, political economy and militarism they justify” (Ó Tuathail 1998, 10). This unifying and eclectic approach is also found in Roland Bleiker’s book (Bleiker 2009), where in one chapter he describes the artistic dissent of the East German Prenzlauer Berg circle, refers to Solzhenitsyn, Havel, and Michnik, while in another chapter presents Paul Celan’s poetry as “political resistance” and “dissent” (Bleiker 2009, 97). This shows the extent to which the concept is flexible and extendable. On the other hand, Bleiker gives clear hints as to the way he defines it, for example proposing a “dissident/collaborator” juxtaposition (Bleiker 2009, 116), using the term “conventional dissidents” in contrast to the “linguistic dissent” of the Prenzlauer Berg group. He also writes that “dissent has too often been understood only in romantic terms, as heroic rebellions against authority, exemplified by demonstrating masses, striking workers and brick-throwing students. Dissent, however, is a far more daily and far more intricate phenomenon” (Bleiker 2009, 118). This approach carries the risk of overstretching the concepts of “dissent” and a “dissident” leads almost to the point where any activity which is not fully in line with the will of the regime becomes dissident. As such, it comes close to the historical revisionism of some Central European historians, trying to prove the thesis that Communist states saw mass dissent and practically everyone was “against” the system, and so practically everyone was an oppositionist. “You stole a brick, you were a dissident”—jokingly


remarked Havel in the 1990s. The political goal of this sort of writing is to diminish the role of the actual “dissidents,” that is, opposition activists, and we will return to this in the conclusion.

The Vocabulary of Resistance: Dissent, Dissidence, and Dissidentism? Dissent That arguable overstretching of the meaning of the word “dissident” requires another conceptual discussion, this time, defining three words sharing the same semantic stem, and nearly synonymous, but nevertheless distinct. For the sake of clarity, in this section, I delineate three similar concepts which occur throughout the book, from the most general to the most specific. Dissent, by far the broadest category, is about saying “no,” as Ben Dorfman, the editor of a recent volume dedicated to dissent, put it. In his view, it is “a moment; an act” (Dorfman 2016b, 11). Barbara Falk traces the Latin root of the word, which interestingly is not the same as that of the dissident, in dissentere, to differ in sentiment. For her, dissent implies “both the possibility and the opportunity to engage with and criticize the status quo – literally, to ‘speak truth to power’” (Falk 2016, 24). However, speaking truth to power is much more than saying no to power, and Falk does not reflect on that. Her definition implies that dissenters are in the right, while “the powers that be” are necessarily in the wrong. Such a static attachment to truth has been characteristic for much of Central European opposition under Communism and functioned well in the black-and-white world of authoritarianism, state monopoly on information, and censorship. It does, however, make dissent beyond authoritarian contexts more problematic (Szulecki 2018). What it underlines though is that labeling a political act “dissent” and the actor “dissenter” or “dissident” is morally charged and a sign of approval (Falk 2016, 30). Although Falk suggests that dissent is a category narrower than resistance, and that is because dissent has to be purposeful and in some way public, there “is no clear-cut line” between them. It is therefore no surprise that she is able to categorize a variety of political practices in many geographical and historical contexts as part of the broad idea of dissent, suggesting that, like the dissident category, it has religious roots



traceable back to the emergence of toleration (Falk 2016, 25–26). Those different occurrences of people saying “no” are, in her view, not unrelated, but can be seen as links in a long chain, an evolution, a “long durée history of dissent” (Falk 2016, 31). The broad sweeps of her conceptualization leave little space for political conflict that could not be classified as dissent in one way or another. Simply put, it does not seem to matter for the naysayers to what kind of regime they object: “dissidents and dissenters are concerned amateurs that take risks beyond the daily ebb and flow of life, regardless of the type of government they support, oppose, or wish to change” (Falk 2016, 44). This all-encompassing idea of dissent does not tell us what is unique about it, but it does help social movement studies build bridges between regions and historical eras to argue that in fact all dissent is one (Jørgensen 2015). Falk does not even have a problem incorporating judicial dissent in her story alongside the core, which is contentious politics. The reason for this is simple: The word dissent can take it all. A major problem here is that its English meaning is almost impossible to directly translate into other languages. As such, the entire literature on dissent from the point of view of a non-native English speaker creates an artificial wedge driven somewhere between resistance and protest, a catch-all term which potentially describes most contentious politics and acts of disagreement. As Ralph Young’s book title aptly notices, this is An American Idea (Young 2015), though surely saying no to authoritarian power is not (Collins and Skover 2013). This confusion appears to be completely unnoticed from within. Furthermore, imprecise translations help the proponents of dissent colonize areas which were hitherto untouched by its uniformizing steamroller. Most importantly for East European dissidents, Paul Wilson’s canonical translation of Havel’s essay Power of the Powerless begins with the paraphrase of The Communist Manifesto: “A specter is haunting Eastern Europe: the specter of what in the West is called ‘dissent.’” In the original, Havel uses the word disidentství, which is an extremely clunky neologism best translated as “dissidentism,” following Agnieszka Holland’s Polish translation from 1978—dysydentyzm. This first sentence already tunes the reader to Havel’s ironic distance to the dissident figure, a distance completely absent in the English version. Interestingly, the 2018 edition of Havel’s essay is preceded by many of Wilson’s linguistic comments on his original translation in hindsight but does not take note of this quite important intervention.


Bolton (2012) on the other hand refers to dissent in a contingent manner, nesting it as a particular set of practices, a philosophy, and a mind-set which emerged within a particular milieu at a specific point in time.7 Finally, other authors use dissent interchangeably with dissidence to describe a form of politics specific to the Eastern Bloc opposition (Brier 2013; Joppke 1995). When dissent is used in the remainder of this book, and it is used quite often because in the Central European context it is the preferred generic term for what oppositionists did, it is understood as the “public and deliberate manifestation of political disagreement” (Brier 2013, 17). The public nature of dissent is key, and as Falk notes elsewhere, what makes resistance (the still broad set of all conscious or unintentional practices of defiance) political is precisely that it is public. But there is a caveat here. For public manifestations to make something political, the very border between public and non-public has to be politicized. Only in contexts where freedom of expression is challenged can public resistance automatically become political. Furthermore, what distinguishes dissent from protest, which is also a public and deliberate manifestation of political disagreement, is that dissent is a kind of political action which is performed in the name of common good, or some broader, universalizing framework. This picks up where Falk stopped—if dissent is something unique, it is because dissenters aspire to being right, not just to being against. Dissidence This book tells the history of dissidence in Central Europe and uses that history as the basis for analyzing the transnational dimension of dissidence, which is dissidentism. Dissidence refers to “a new form of politics that began to emerge in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in the late 1960s” (Brier 2013, 11). Following Havel, Robert Brier suggests that it began with individual acts of defiance. But defiance is politically meaningless, as is public demonstration of disagreement, if there are no constraints on it and no pushback from the structures of power. In other words, defiance becomes a dissident act when there is a sanction. To understand how difficult societal change under Communism was, let us for a moment imagine that we are civil society activists in the eastern part of Europe of the 2010s, and we want to take on corruption among political elites, like Romanians did in 2018. It is not an easy



task—organizing street demonstrations, gathering information, spreading the word, writing up texts, drawing banners, monitoring legislation, making sure the media publish our message, and watching out for more or less direct political pressures to let it go. Now let us imagine that we want to do the same thing, but taking to the streets is likely to result with the demonstrators severely beaten up and locked up for at least forty-eight hours, and possibly fired once they return from jail. That attempts at gathering information quickly end up with an unmarked car following you around, and the file where you kept the gathered data disappearing from your locker, which is followed by a visit from two frowning gentlemen asking if your child at the kindergarten should really grow up as a half-orphan. That spreading the word requires watching out for people who might very quickly report you to the police, eager to charge you with a criminal offense—related, or not, to your actual activity. That contacting foreign media is equated with espionage and state treason and punished accordingly. This gets more and more difficult, narrowing down the circle of potential corruption fighters. And let us not forget that Communism was not only about corruption. The bottom line, however, is that sanction and repression turn dissent into dissidence. Repression against dissidence is disproportionate to the threat that it poses (Brier 2013, 16), but that was the logical consequence of a system which could not tolerate any open defiance. Though “polite and moderate in tone,” unlike rebellion or armed resistance, anti-utopian and initially limited to a narrow elite, dissidence “contains the seeds of revolutionary transformation – the regime cannot abide by the demand for plurality and difference” unless it ceases to be what it is (Joppke 1995, 16–17). An important paradox of post-totalitarian Communism was that it still actively sought for challengers and was eager to publicize dissident activities to justify its own practices of stabilization—at the same time, those very oppositionists were indeed contributing to the system’s gradual derailing (Szulecki 2015, 112). Repressions were not “an exceptional and unfortunate postponement of dissident activity, an epiphenomenon or temporary abeyance” (Bolton 2012, 32). It was constitutive for dissidence not only in the deeply practical sense that Bolton analyzes—conditioning the ways in which dissidents would live their lives and how they would practice their dissent—but also symbolically, because repression gave dissidence its meaning and moral power. Sanction turns dissent from a civic reflex into an act of civil courage characterized by the Greek term parrhesia, meaning the conscious


act of “speaking the truth to power” at the risk of grave consequences (Foucault 2000). The more drastic the gap between the actual “polite and moderate tone” of an act of dissent and the brutality of repression, the greater the appeal of dissidence. This means that by definition dissidence is based on nonviolent methods, and that it values legality—or at least remains cautious of pretexts for criminalization. Legal dissent in authoritarian contexts is rarely possible, because dissent is banned—de jure or de facto—and so the sanction is inevitable but useful as long as it can be easily demonstrated that it violates some more fundamental feeling of justice. According to Lyudmila Alexeyeva, dissidence “starts from the very beginning,” grounded in a basic “social instinct.” Francis Fukuyama in his famous essay on the end of history, epitomizing the triumphalist narrative of the Cold War’s end, similarly suggested that East European dissent was the result of a moral imperative to defend one’s thymos—a Platonic mechanism describing humanity’s drive toward dignity throughout history (Fukuyama 1992). Dignity is the “social instinct,” and the ultimate benchmark in dissidence, that is why human rights emphasizing and building on individual dignity became its language. But for dissidence to amplify the moral power resulting from the combination of open, legal, nonviolent dissent met with disproportionate repression, there is the need for an audience, a “world stage” where dissidence can be staged. If dissent is indeed an act—and usually a speech act—then understanding the role of the audience is vital for grasping the political dynamics of East European dissidence. Dissidentism If the former two terms needed definitions only for the sake of clarity and perhaps a dose of academic pedantry, dissidentism is a conceptual innovation which requires justification. Building on Havel’s observation in the Power of the Powerless, I propose that we take his idea of disidentství seriously and move it from the realm of action to that of analysis. What Havel finds itchy in that “spectre haunting Eastern Europe” is not the actual practice of dissidence—which he usually refers to as “opposition” in the essay—but the peculiar dynamics that occur on the tangent point between those practices in the East and their representations and interpretations in the West. He particularly picks out the “dissident” as a peculiar figure, which this book will trace and analyze. Dissidentism



then is dissidence which encounters the “dissident” figure—dissidence in a transnational context and under Western gaze. A “court of world opinion” outside the domestic box is necessary for the moral superiority of dissidence over the authoritarian regime to be fully spread out. Adam Michnik argued that international attention turned individual defiance into political activism (Brier 2013, 29). Havel—an artist and a thinker with a sense for existing and emerging social phenomena and the capability of giving them a name—noticed the artificiality of the “dissident” category: “the term ‘dissident’ was … chosen by Western journalists and is now generally accepted as the label for a phenomenon peculiar to the post-totalitarian system” (Havel 1985, 57). He tried to reconstruct the meaning of the term based on its usage, pointing, among other things, to transnational recognition. When “the West shines its spotlight … on a few isolated examples of protests and elevates them with the exalted names ‘dissident’ and ‘dissent’,” it is, according to Bolton, in dialogue with Havel, “an example of Western journalists invoking a phenomenon that does not really exist, and thereby summoning it into existence” (Bolton 2018, 260). Interestingly though, Western journalists never cease to shine their spotlight on the darkness of the outside world. In November 2018, the title of an op-ed in The Guardian suggested that “A new wave of dissidents in the east can turn back Europe’s populist tide” (Nougayrède 2018). The “dissidents” were in fact various kinds of protesters taking to the streets from Poland to Romania, on a variety of issues. Eugeniusz Smolar explained: Journalists care for the clarity of their message, but also have to take into account the space on the page that they have. The word ‘dissident’ was supposed to fix everything; they saw no problem in that. For us it was a problem, because we wanted to cut our links with the Party, with Marxism, with that whole tradition … but to get to the people in the West in an abbreviated manner, we were not fighting against that.8

Jiří Gruntorád, leading the archive of Czechoslovak samizdat, Libri Prohibiti, explained along similar lines: My friend Martin Jirous [leader of the underground band The Plastic People of the Universe] who has been a dissident par excellence since the 1970s, always says ‘I’m no dissident’ … so nobody is a dissident, but journalists that have to be brief coined this term.9


The dissident figure functions as a heuristic, a mental shortcut which allows packing maximum meaning in minimal word count. However, words matter, and the dynamic nominalist outlook I adopt here suggests, as did Bolton, that calling someone a “dissident” does not leave the object unchanged. My goal is to establish dissidentism as an actual analytical category (see Chapter 10), which requires a better theorization of the figure of the dissident, as well as the looping effect of the dissident label (Hacking 2002). But in order to do this, we need to first trace the history of dissidence and the gradual emergence of the conditions under which the dissident figure could be constructed.

Notes 1.  This is suggested by Julia Metger who wrote her dissertation on the Western German correspondents and the media coverage of the Soviet activists’ trials (Metger 2016). 2. By “primary sources,” I mean samizdat and tamizdat articles, reflecting on the term “dissident” and describing the opposition activities in Eastern Europe as well as Western media articles and interviews. “Secondary sources” refer to scholarship touching upon the topic of Eastern European opposition. 3. Interview with E. Smolar, Warsaw, 30 March 2010. 4. Telephone interview with W. Templin, Berlin/Oslo, 27 February 2019. 5. Interview with M. Chojecki, Warsaw, 4 August 2010. 6. S. Blumsztajn at a meeting promoting A. Friszke’s book Anatomia buntu, 24 March 2010, Warsaw. 7.  The Czech language has adopted disent directly from English, though Havel does not use the word in his essay yet. In any case, disent is not a translation of dissent, but rather Czech for dissidence. It appears that Bolton is rather bringing disent back to English with the meaning of what I call dissidence, rather than tapping into the “dissent studies” use. He also picked up on the mis-translation of disidentství as well as the (ab)use of quotation marks in Havel’s essay, seeing it too as a sign of ironic distancing and “sheepishness in using the term” (Bolton 2018, 261). 8. Interview with E. Smolar, Warsaw, 30 March 2010. 9. Interview with J. Gruntorád, Prague, 11 May 2010.



References Artykuł nadesłany z kraju. 1974. “Polityczna opozycja w Polsce.” Kultura 11 (326): 3–21. Barańczak, Stanisław. 1982. “Kto jest dysydentem?” Kultura 6 (117): 3–7. Bleiker, Roland. 2009. Aesthetics and World Politics. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire and New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Bolton, Jonathan. 2012. Worlds of Dissent: Charter 77, the Plastic People of the Universe, and Czech Culture Under Communism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ———. 2018. “The Shaman, the Greengrocer, and ‘Living in Truth’.” East European Politics and Societies 32 (2): 255–65. https://doi. org/10.1177/0888325417745131. Brier, Robert. 2013. “Entangled Protest: Dissent and the Transnational History of the 1970s and 1980s.” In Entangled Protest: Transnational Approaches to the History of Dissent in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, edited by Robert Brier, 11–42. Osnabrück: Fibre. Bukovsky, Vladimir. 1984. “Z listu Władimira Bukowskiego do Zbigniewa Bujaka.” KOS [samizdat] 60 (24.09): 1. Collins, Ronald K. L., and David M. Skover. 2013. On Dissent: Its Meaning in America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cooper, David. 1978. Wer ist Dissident. Berlin: Rotbuch Verlag. Dorfman, Ben, ed. 2016a. Dissent! Refracted: Histories, Aesthetics and Cultures of Dissent. 1st, New ed. Political and Social Change 3. Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang. ———. 2016b. “Refractions: Dissent and Memory.” In Dissent! Refracted: Histories, Aesthetics and Cultures of Dissent, 11–22. 1st, New ed. Political and Social Change 3. Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang. Falk, Barbara J. 2016. “The History, Paradoxes, and Utility of Dissent: From State to Global Action.” In Dorfman 2016a, 23–50. Foucault, Michel. 2000. Fearless Speech. Los Angeles: Semiotext. Fukuyama, Francis. 1992. The End of History and the Last Man. New York: Avon. Hacking, Ian. 2002. “The Looping Effects of Human Kinds.” In Causal Cognition: A Multidisciplinary Debate, edited by Dan Sperber, David Premack, and Ann J. Premack. 1st ed. in pbk., repr, 356–95. Symposia of the Fyssen Foundation. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Havel, Václav. 1985. “The Power of the Powerless.” In The Power of the Powerless: Citizens Against the State in Central-Eastern Europe, edited by John Keane, 23–96. London: Hutchinson.

36  K. SZULECKI Horvath, Robert. 2007. “‘The Solzhenitsyn Effect’: East European Dissidents and the Demise of the Revolutionary Privilege.” Human Rights Quarterly 29: 879–907. Hourmant, François. 1996. “‘Tel Quel’ et ses volte-face politiques (1968– 1978).” Vingtième Siècle. Revue d’histoire 51: 112–28. http://www.jstor.org/ stable/3771305. Joppke, Christian. 1995. East German Dissidents and the Revolution of 1989. London: Macmillan. Jørgensen, Martin Bak. 2015. Politics of Dissent. Political and Social Change Volume 1. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang Edition. Judt, Tony. 1988. “Radical Politics in a New Key.” http://www.law.harvard. edu/faculty/unger/english/pdfs/discussions10.pdf. Kristeva, Julia. 1977. “Un nouveau type d’intellectuel: le dissident.” Tel Quel 76: 40–44. Metger, Julia. 2013. “Writing the Papers: How Western Correspondents Reported the First Dissident Trials in Moscow, 1965–1972.” In Entangled Protest: Transnational Approaches to the History of Dissent in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, 87–108. Osnabrück: Fibre. ———. 2016. Studio Moskau: Westdeutsche Korrespondenten im Kalten Krieg. Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh. Michnik, Adam. 2003. Wyznania nawróconego dysydenta: Spotkania z ludźmi: szkice 1991–2000. Warszawa: Zeszyty Literackie. ———. 2011. “Wielka historia Vaclava Havla.” In Siła bezsilnych i inne eseje, edited by Andrzej Jagodziński, 7–39. Warszawa: Agora SA. Nathans, Benjamin. 2007. “The Dictatorship of Reason: Aleksandr Vol’pin and the Idea of Rights Under ‘Developed Socialism’.” Slavic Review 66 (4): 630–63. ———. 2011. “Soviet Rights-Talk in the Post-Stalin Era.” In Human Rights in the Twentieth Century, edited by Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann, 166–90. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Nougayrède, Natalie. 2018. “A New Wave of Dissidents in the East Can Turn Back Europe’s Populist Tide.” The Guardian, November 22. Ó Tuathail, Gearóid. 1998. “Introduction: Thinking Critically About Geopolitics.” In The Geopolitics Reader, edited by Gearóid Ó Tuathail, Simon Dalby, and Paul Routledge, 1–12. London and New York: Routledge. Romaszewski, Zbigniew. 1979. “Moja podróż do Moskwy.” Biuletyn Informacyjny 28(1979): 55–61. Suk, Jaroslav. 1981. “Slang chartistů.” Svědectví 65: 32–36. Szulecki, Kacper. 2011. “Neophyten, Häretiker, Dissidenten: Polnische Linksintellektuelle und (Anti-) Kommunismus.” Jahrbuch für Historische Kommunismusforschung 2011: 61–88.



———. 2015. “Order of the Orderless: Dissident Identity Between De-stabilization and Re-stabilization.” In Rethinking Order: Idioms of Stability and Destabilization, edited by Nicole Falkenhayner, Andreas Langenohl, Johannes Scheu, Doris Schweitzer, and Kacper Szulecki, 105–24. Culture & Theory. Bielefeld: Transcript. https://doi. org/10.14361/9783839424728-006. ———. 2018. “Truth in the Time of Infowars: Moral Politics and Conscience.” East European Politics and Societies 32 (2): 320–27. https://doi. org/10.1177/0888325417742494. Young, Ralph F. 2015. Dissent: The History of an American Idea. New York: New York University Press. Złotnik, Karol. 1985. “Dysydenci drugiej generacji.” Krytyka [samizdat] 21: 33–38.


Marxist Neophytes and Democratic Heretics

Stalinism in Central Europe In 1945, Central Europe was effectively turned into a constellation of satellite states of the Soviet Union. Communist Parties governed Poland as of 1947, Czechoslovakia as of 1948, and Hungary and East Germany as of 1949, with no significant challengers to their leading role in each state. Until 1989 Communism was those states’ sole official ideology. Central European countries formally became “people’s democracies,” or as others put it “Soviet-type societies”—a misleading term popular in Anglo-Saxon historiography—or even “real-existing socialist societies,” the awkward wording preferred by the region’s political scientists and historians. “Nowhere did Communists come to power through democratic means,” Jan-Werner Müller points out, “but it would be wrong to think that all experiments at establishing ‘people’s democracies’ therefore obviously lacked legitimacy at the beginning” (2011, 157). The initial phase of Stalinism was marked by the prominence of Marxist-Leninist ideology (or at least Stalin’s interpretation of it), propaganda, strict central economic planning, uniformization of culture, closed borders and militarization, the promoted cult of Joseph Stalin and selected domestic leaders, and political terror executed through the state security apparatus—including extrajudicial killings, widespread use of torture against political opponents, and show trials of selected “class enemies.” Ideology overruled other points of reference: tradition, natural © The Author(s) 2019 K. Szulecki, Dissidents in Communist Central Europe, Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-22613-8_3



law, religion or morality, and civil rights, not to mention firsthand experience of reality. Nothing was simply as it appeared, unless interpreted through Party doctrine and sanctioned by the Party line. While it is easy to simplify Stalinist technology of government to “terror,” implying a sort of rule by some external force—the looming presence of the Red Army, the Moscow-backed apparatchiks, the secret police—the key method of control and rule was denunciation. The encouragement to denounce one’s neighbor, colleague, friend, and parent, the ideological ennoblement of narking, the promise of reward for snitching, and the constant threat of being overheard all created a suffocating atmosphere and tore apart most remaining bonds of trust, few as they were after the war. This marked “the worst Stalinist period, when a parent would be afraid to speak to their child, a pupil to a friend, fearing that it would be dragged out and condemned publicly, with all the consequences ensuing” (Bikont and Łuczywo 2018, 109fn.). The point of denunciation for the Stalinist state was not so much to surveil, as the state did not have the Orwellian capacity to digest all the information. It was to create a permanent state of moral anxiety, to borrow the name of the 1970s current in Polish cinema. In the five decades between 1949 and 1989, political opposition against the Communist regime took different and evolving forms, ranging between the extremes of right-wing anti-communism and leftwing revisionism. The former did not accept the legitimacy of the new regimes, perceiving them as “alien” and existing only due to the external support of the Soviets. The latter accepted the geopolitical and ideological status quo, but sought to reform it from within. State terror of the Stalinist era was to a great extent directed at the remnants of the anti-communist organizations and succeeded in pushing armed underground resistance to the absolute margins, while open anti-communist views were confined to the privacy of people’s homes. Not surprisingly, then, the first episodes of organized opposition would come from the left wing rather than the anti-communist right. But that does not mean that the communist rulers would treat them as less dangerous. On the contrary, already in the early 1950s it was clear that the Stalinist security apparatus was being recalibrated from targeting class and ideological enemies to all kinds of internal renegades. The same went for workers’ protests. This became most visible in East Germany in June of 1953. Half a million workers went on strike in over 700 factories across the German Democratic Republic, and between 1 and 1.5 million



protested in the streets of over 300 cities, most importantly in the center of East Berlin. They demanded lower production norms, lower food prices, and democratization of political life (Applebaum 2013). Even though they were workers protesting in a self-proclaimed people’s democracy led by a workers’ party—or precisely because of that fact— they were treated as counterrevolutionaries. Several hundred protesters were killed and thousands arrested as Soviet tanks rolled into a Central European city for the first time since the war. Similar events—workers’ strikes portrayed as a Western-inspired counterrevolution and broken through army backlash—took place in Poznan, Poland, in June 1956. The new regimes also introduced a new order: social, legal, political, and economic. Grounded in the pre-war Soviet experience of Communism, this order carried a universal Stalinist totalitarian trait but was grafted onto local political cultures and social institutions, creating a specific mix. After Stalin’s death and Khrushchev’s takeover in Moscow in 1956, once the terror eased, all Central European systems gradually (and at different paces) evolved toward what Václav Havel, in his famous essay “Power of the Powerless,” called post-totalitarianism (Havel 1985). The space for internal critique only opened during the so-called Thaw, the period of liberalization that followed Stalin’s death. Before that, radical, liberal, and social democratic intellectual elites of Central Europe experienced a phase of seduction by the communist New Faith. It is important to briefly review this experience, because it was not only foundational for at least two generations of (mostly left-wing and liberal) intellectuals, but would also later be perceived as the dissidents’ “original sin.” Those initially seduced by Marxism and Soviet communism (portraying itself as the only true realization of Marxism) can be called neophytes.1

Communist Neophytes: Left-Liberal Intelligentsia Under Stalinism While Central European dissidentism later acquired a clear anti-communist edge, it grew out of anti-totalitarian rather than simply anti-Marxist roots. Left and liberal circles, though not a clear majority in the dissident movements, provided an initial push that started the entire ­ process of the formation of the dissident figure. In fact, it could be argued that dissidentism could only develop from positions that shared


much ground with the dominant ideology and were therefore treated seriously by the authorities. As the renowned historian of Polish opposition, Andrzej Friszke, wrote: The use of Marxist economic and sociological criteria to the real-existing system was a critique hitting right on the spot, all the more painful, because it undermined the Marxist legitimization of the entire system. Communism’s critique departing from anti-Communist positions was formulated in various ways for decades, but had no influence on the Communists. A critique that departed from the same assumptions and used the same concepts and categories was difficult to ignore— and difficult to refute. The response was a prison sentence. (Friszke 2010, 11–12)

It should be made clear that left-liberal currents in Central Europe were linked to pre-war political traditions, so they were not, as the right would have it, “alien.” The postwar political earthquake was welcomed by many who had waited for radical social change as a response to the failures of former political establishments. In Poland and Hungary, there was militarized rule which before the war drifted ever closer to nationalism and anti-Semitic paranoia. In Germany, there was a mixture of guilt and trauma following the fall of Nazism. In Czechoslovakia, there was the still fresh memory of the 1938 Munich Agreement. The young “liberal” or “socialist” (much less “Marxist” or “Communist”) intelligentsia often regarded itself as a guardian of humanist values. “I condemned the capitalist system,” wrote one of those “liberals,” the Polish poet Czesław Miłosz. “[T]he Marxist experience, in the end very complex, was very useful for me and I rarely succeed in finding common ground with people who have not gone through it. The division between reactionaries and progressives escapes any precise definitions, but it is not imagined, (…) like musicality of non-musicality” (Miłosz 2001, 109). Miłosz was a representative example of this group—already politically active before the war, shaped by the pre-war experience, and struggling to remain critical and bestow certain ideals inherited from the preindependence Polish Socialist Party (social democracy). One of these ideals was social justice; the other—perhaps more important for Miłosz and many others who grew up in the Eastern, ethnically mixed parts of the country—was resistance to ethno-nationalist xenophobia (Szulecki 2011b). They were far from mourning the “old ways”: “I did not long



for the socio-economic order of pre-war Poland and those who dreamed of its revival were my opponents” (Miłosz 2001, 235). After the hecatomb of the War, the left-liberal intelligentsia found itself in unknown territory. Without the stigma of “fascists,” “nationalists,” or “reactionaries,” their landing in the new reality was relatively soft. Intellectuals and especially artists and writers—all types of symbolic engineers—were vital for more deeply anchoring and legitimizing the new system. That is why, although it might be difficult to understand from a contemporary and Western perspective, they were also held in high esteem and cherished—at least if they were willing to do and write what the Party expected of them. As time went by and Central Europe entered the grim period of Stalinism, this contract began to seem more and more like a pact with the Devil. There were different motivations for going with rather than against this powerful historical current. According to Miłosz in his review of diaries by Maria Dąbrowska, another left intellectual, some joined the Party in an attempt to “save whatever was left,” while “hearing the call, the silent grievance of the defeated and constantly insulted nation” (Miłosz 2008, 174). On the other hand, many young people joined out of sheer enthusiasm for building a “brand new world.” This influx of enthusiasts was perhaps the strongest in Czechoslovakia. The country had a pre-war experience with the radical Left—a homegrown Communist Party had been both legal and the strongest opposition force in the parliament for years. The new Communist elites were not marginal activists straight out of prison or imported from Moscow but often established figures, such as Klement Gottwald, Rudolf Slánský, or Vladimír Clementis. A Communist intellectual who would later break with the Party and live in exile in Vienna, Zdeněk Mlynář, explained the experience of his generation, born in the late 1920s or 30s and “made prematurely aware of politics” because of the War and its aftermath: “One of the chief results [of the war experience] was a black-and-white vision of the world […] Thus our unique experience drummed into us the notion that the victory of the correct conception meant quite simply the liquidation, the destruction of the other” (Mlynář 1980, 1–2). Miłosz, who requested political asylum in France in 1951, came to represent the first group of left-wing Central European anti-totalitarians. Many others remained in their home countries.2 He soon identified the main question the Central European liberal Left of his generation


had to cope with: What are the roots of Stalinist terror and how does it attract intellectuals into its trap? He addressed these problems in his most famous piece of prose and a canonical opus of anti-communist liberal thought: The Captive Mind (Miłosz 1990). Its main thesis is that the political influence of the Soviet Empire was not simply about brute force and terror (as the exiled right-wing anti-communists suggested), but rather formed a complex ideological web in which the minds of those under Stalin’s reign were trapped. Miłosz’s main point is that the new rulers were able to govern not only because of geopolitical conditions in postwar Europe and the Cold War bipolarity of the world system. Neither is the complex apparatus of invigilation, intimidation, and terror enough to explain their influence. In fact, Miłosz argued, the citizens of Soviet satellite states were attracted to the “New Faith” (as he called it, emphasizing the quasi-religious qualities of Soviet Communism) because it was constructed on philosophical foundations which were immensely attractive in the way they made sense of the world. He claimed that even thoroughly “trained” intellectual minds (artists, writers, journalists, etc.) were on their own: in the historical context in which they operated (here meaning the Stalinist 1940s and 1950s) they were unable to question the dialectical materialist method, much less oppose it and overthrow it. An example was the philosopher Leszek Kołakowski, who was a fierce “believer” in the New Faith under Stalin, and who needed both temporal and spatial distance (emigration to Britain in 1969) to finally face the Marxist Method and defeat it on philosophical grounds. The record of this “mental duel” required three thick volumes from an Oxford professor of philosophy (Kołakowski 1976). How then, asked Miłosz, should we expect a regular person or even a less-educated intellectual to cope with this task? The initial reception of The Captive Mind is a good illustration of the difficulties of voicing anti-Communist judgments from a leftist perspective in the 1950s (and in the West). It also marked the beginning of the long journey that the East–West intellectual dialogue had before it, until the “dissident figure” could achieve a contemporary universal recognition. Miłosz’s book was heavily criticized from all sorts of perspectives when it was first published in France in 1953.3 French leftists, who accused Miłosz of being a reactionary American “agent,” especially attacked it. The left-wing guru Jean-Paul Sartre was among his fiercest critics, while Albert Camus was the only prominent intellectual who praised the book and, until his death, “protected” Miłosz, who later



emigrated to the USA. Miłosz recalled bitterly: “all this masquerade. ‘Communism’ and ‘Anti-Communism.’ I could tell them a thing or two about Communism, but I had to keep my mouth shut. All in all it was not worth it, the same words had different meanings for us and for them […] admirers of progress in the East, hens demanding the seed of propaganda lies” (Miłosz 2001, 231). On the other hand, hardline conservatives and McCarthyists suggested that Miłosz was a crypto-communist. The Polish exilic intelligentsia in England was also highly skeptical of the book, claiming that it was not some abstract “enchantment” but rather terror and treason that allowed the Communists to rule Polish society, and pointed to the author’s suspicious flirtation with the regime.4 If the New Faith was enchanting enough to attract minds and captivate them, and thus if the regimes were upheld by ideas and not merely by sheer force, then more than force was needed to overthrow them. The only military power capable of facing the Communists was some national guerrilla movement or large-scale popular revolution. But that was unimaginable, especially since, contrary to what the reactionary exilic elites claimed, Central European societies were anything but unanimously against the new rulers (Kenney 1997). On the contrary, for many social groups the postwar “people’s democracy” was an opportunity and promise of a better life, so going back to the “old ways” was the last thing on their minds—captive or not. Miłosz points to several factors that explain the “captive” condition. One of them is the overwhelming feeling of metaphysical or existential emptiness, which causes a subconscious need to be useful—not necessarily for society as a whole, but for the people. Intellectuals are, according to Miłosz, traditionally skeptical toward the masses. In a different book he describes a friend, a New Faith convert, who “could manifest his love for the people, but the people as an idea; in fact he feared the peasant (cham), indifferent to the subtleties of the mind and enmeshed in his biology” (Miłosz 2001, 239; Witoszek 2019, 106). Usefulness, filling the hollowness, was more about being recognized by those in power.5 Central European intellectuals had to transcend that deeply engraved skepticism toward the masses; some critics of the “dissident intellectuals” argue that it was something they never quite managed to achieve (Branach 2005, 27). Paradoxically, however, it was in opposition to the (post-)totalitarian communist regime that the Central European intelligentsia found a possibility to rediscover an ethos of action and a sense of social responsibility, overcoming the hollowness.


The mechanism of irrational seduction of certain intellectuals, and their opting for communism in the 1940s and 1950s, is also the topic of Milan Kundera’s 1969 novel Life is Elsewhere, although the Czech novelist deals with it in retrospect, from the vantage point of post-Stalinist liberalization. It is the story of the teenaged poet Jaromil, a character standing for artists and people of incredible sensitivity, who nevertheless chose a totalitarian path. Kundera too points to the communist New Faith as a logic and system of references, but shows that it was also an entire language, which carried in it the totalitarian germ. It is in a sense a double-edged critique, simultaneously attacking the likes of Miłosz and Kundera himself, for taking part (even briefly) in the construction of Stalinism, and striking at those leftist dogmatists who were not able to see through the communist idiom in 1968 (in Prague, Paris, and Berlin). Miłosz depicted the state of mind of the intellectual in a time of great and overwhelming change. The Captive Mind is an explanation of the Central European intellectual elite’s curious enchantment with the Marxist “Method.” It is also a fierce critique of Stalinism and Soviet Communism as such, voiced by one of those who “wanted that Poland to work, although its inaptitude and feloniousness, [which they] witnessed daily, drove them to despair” (Miłosz 2008, 175). Miłosz does not give constructive hints about how to overcome the tyranny—he was, after all, a poet, not a political writer—but he does point to the irresolvable tension between the preaching of the New Faith, the lies of the propaganda, and the reality. The better the intentions, the wider the gap, and the greater the tension. That was the initial seed of dissent, and the reason why it first arrived from the most fervent and idealistic believers in… Communism. Such dissent was revisionism, which was a heresy within the faith.

From Heretics to Dissidents: 1956–1968 Under Stalinism, none of the elements constituting what we now understand as “a dissident” were possible: neither open nonviolent dissent nor domestic and transnational recognition. However, with Stalin’s death in 1953 and Nikita Khrushchev’s speech condemning Stalin’s terror and despotism in 1956, Eastern Europe, at different paces depending on the country, began to experience gradual de-Stalinization—an apparent liberalization of the socialist system, ending the period of the “revolution”.6 For many intellectuals (Party members or not) who were captivated by



Communism in the earlier phase, the Thaw opened an opportunity to erase the sins of the Stalinist dark age, returning to some ideas they were truly attached to (Friszke 2007). In Poland that meant a radical change in the Party elite in October 1956, followed by a thirteen-day revolution in Hungary, which saw the toppling of the reformist Imre Nagy and a Soviet intervention with 2700 casualties. In Czechoslovakia, such liberalization did not occur until the mid-1960s. Hungary: A Revolution Between Two Burials While chronologically the events in Hungary followed from the Polish reforms of October (Kende and Pomian 1978), we look at them first, because their trajectory was quite unique and resulted in Hungary establishing a variant of state socialism considerably different from those in the rest of Central Europe. Between 1948 and 1953, Hungarian Stalinism under the leadership of Mátyás Rákosi had seen some 480 public figures executed and over 150,000 people imprisoned for political reasons (Judt 2007, 313). After the death of Stalin and at Moscow’s request, Imre Nagy became the new leader in 1953. By 1955, after the Soviets realized how unpredictable Nagy was in his reformist orientation, he was in turn replaced by Rákosi, but an unofficial “Nagy group” within the Party functioned as a kind of informal opposition (Judt 2007, 314). Rákosi remained at the helm for only a year, replaced by Ernő Gerő in July 1956. Hungary’s revolution began and ended at a burial. In October of 1956, Gerő permitted the public reburial of László Rajk and other victims of a Stalinist purge and show trial. Rajk’s coffin was to be moved from an unmarked grave to Budapest’s Kerepesi cemetery. The ceremony, held on the anniversary of the burial of the leaders of the 1848 uprising against Habsburg rule, which was thwarted by Tsarist Russian intervention, gathered the family of Rajk as well as tens of thousands of mourners (Applebaum 2013, 508). One of the show trial survivors spoke: “For the hundreds of thousands who pass by this coffin desire to honor not only the dead man; it is their passionate hope and their firm resolve to bury an entire epoch. The lawlessness, arbitrariness and moral decay of those shameless years must be buried forever” (Judt 2007, 314). What the demonstrators on the evening of that rainy October day realized, however, was that despite the symbolic burial, nothing had changed (Applebaum 2013, 508).


Some days after the burial, students at the old established university in Szeged formed the League of Hungarian Students, which soon spread across the country and indeed demanded that an epoch be buried. On October 22, they issued a “Sixteen Points” manifesto, demanding reforms, freedom of speech, and Nagy’s restoration as prime minister. The following evening, over twenty-five thousand people gathered at the statue of Józef Bem, the Polish revolutionary general who took part in Hungarian uprising of 1848, to demonstrate their support for Poland’s reforms and demand their own—that night, the statue of Stalin at Heroes square in Budapest was toppled (Applebaum 2013, 511). The next morning, Nagy was reinstalled as Hungary’s prime minister, but Soviet troops entered Budapest, ready to confront the revolting crowds. Nagy was hardly able to contain the popular unrest. If anything, he tried to catch up with the escalating demands of the street. After promising political pluralism and a multi-party government, he went on to open negotiations for Hungary’s withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact. For Khrushchev that was unacceptable, and Soviet forces began advancing toward Hungary’s borders. On 1 November, Nagy announced that Hungary was pulling out of the Pact and becoming neutral. Four days later, the Soviet invasion was already underway, pushing a new Hungarian government under the leadership of Nagy’s erstwhile friend János Kádár. After three days of armed resistance that took the lives of hundreds, the Red Army secured its rule over Budapest and Kádár was sworn in. Nagy fled to the Yugoslav embassy where he was granted asylum, but he was later tricked into leaving it and was immediately arrested (Judt 2007, 318). Political trials, life sentences, and executions for taking part in the counterrevolution lasted well into 1957. Nagy, together with two colleagues, was executed on June 16, 1958, his body buried in an unmarked grave. The bloodiest revolution that the Eastern Bloc would ever see was ended with Stalinist methods, but what followed was a period of significant liberalization. The rebellious society had to be tamed, but Stalinist terror was no longer an option. Instead, Kádár relied on a normalization strategy that Poland and Czechoslovakia would try in the 1970s—a drab consumerism and stability in exchange for political acquiescence. This should not be read in the standard, somewhat snobbish post-dissident paradigm: that the Communists “bought” the society. As Bolton points out, the idea that millions of Central Europeans “sold their political souls in exchange for a few consumer goods” is simply implausible (Bolton 2012, 21). Müller describes the leading principle of what would



later be dubbed Kádár’s “goulash communism” as “the exact opposite of a principle of totalitarian mobilization: ‘He who is not against us is for us’ […] As much as possible he removed politics from people’s lives” (Müller 2011, 164). This meant that Hungary would stand out in the Central European crowd, but at the same time be locked into a revisionist spirit much more firmly—the Communists involved in the 1956 revolution could still remain intellectual leaders—and struggle with societal apathy disarming dissent. Poland: Two Currents of Evolutionism In 1956, shortly after Khrushchev’s speech, the leader of the Polish communists Bolesław Bierut died. Urban myth has it that he could not bear the shock of the disclosure of Stalin’s crimes. In any case, Władysław Gomułka, previously imprisoned for going against the Stalinist mainstream, replaced him. The so-called Polish October of 1956 reshuffled the party Politburo, expelling the hated Soviet-backed minister of defense Konstanty Rokossowski and putting the more homegrown and patriotic Gomułka at the helm. These events, along with a grassroots uprising of workers and students eager to support such reform, meant new opportunities and required new strategies of action. Much of this was based on a new wave of enthusiasm for “making the system work.” The system may be faulty, but as long as it was no longer monolithic, one could attempt to change it—slowly, gradually, in an evolutionary way. Two currents of evolutionism, to use Adam Michnik’s term, formed within the system: revisionism and neo-positivism (Michnik 2009). The former was a movement of internal change within the core of the party, advocated by prominent figures of the PZPR, and supported (to some extent) by broader circles of liberal and leftist intellectuals (known collectively as the “October Left”)—Leszek Kołakowski, Zygmunt Bauman, and Krzysztof Pomian, to name only a few recognized in the West. Neo-positivism in turn was a strategy adopted by the liberal Catholic circles and supported by the Catholic Church (which regained many rights and privileges after the end of Stalinism) that searched for such compromises with the Party that would enlarge the free public space within conceivable limits. Sticking to religious parallels, Michnik wrote that “Revisionism was faithful to the Scripture [Marxism], although interpreted in its own way, while neo-positivism [was loyal] to the Church [USSR], although hoping for its disappearance sooner or later” (Michnik 2009, 104).


An important shift within de-Stalinization, easy to overlook if we only consider the reshuffling of political elites and discussions within the Marxist paradigm, was the rehabilitation of truth. Under Stalinism, a perception of reality was accepted as correct when it was expressed in the language of the New Faith and accepted by the audience as corresponding to the Party line. This applied not only to openly political statements, but also to observations of the world. Poverty or supply shortages were presented as temporary failings resulting from a conjuncture of factors derived from the ideology. The full-hearted acceptance of the Thaw resulted from the simple fact that it again became possible to call a spade a spade. Czech poet Jaroslav Seifert said at the Writers’ Congress in Prague in 1956: “Again and again, we hear it said at this Congress that it is necessary for writers to tell the truth. This means that in recent years they did not write the truth […] All that is now over. This nightmare has been exorcised” (Müller 2011, 311). And that is what the writers did, in Poland at least. Adam Ważyk, the Secretary of the Polish Writers Trade Union and a key proponent of socialist realism, threw the first political bomb of the Thaw: he published the Poem for Adults, a lengthy critique of Stalinism, focusing on corruption, absurdity, and decay witnessed at Nowa Huta—the newly built utopian district of Krakow and a symbol for Communist propaganda. Henceforth, going places and reporting how things really were became a radical and powerful tool for revisionist journalists—and even after censorship reemerged, there was no coming back to the Stalinist ways. That was the spirit of the flagship magazine of the Polish Thaw, Po Prostu. Making the content correspond to the title (which translates as “simply put”), a new editorial board which took over in 1955 tried to steer the former Communist youth weekly to a sincere forum of student and societal dialogue (Junes 2015, 78). However, the refreshing climate of the Thaw only lasted for about a year, and soon the liberalization plans were dropped. The society was entering a phase of relative prosperity referred to as the “small stabilization,” a very ascetic version of socialist consumerism, which nevertheless gave a large part of the society the perspective for a stable and relatively comfortable life. For the adults who went through the war experience, that was already something. However, following the postwar baby boom, 40% of Polish society consisted of people under the age of nineteen. With time and the arrival of a new generation into public life, the perception of the state was changing. It was, historians argue, seen perhaps as ideologically alien, but nevertheless as a Polish state. In the



years 1960–1967, the Polish United Workers Party doubled its membership, reaching two million (Świda-Zięba 1997). However, because of the visible relaxation of repressions (compared to the Stalinist era),7 and perhaps a gradual shift in popular attitudes, the early 1960s brought the first organized forums of resistance and moderate dissent. A large part of the reformist movement was made up of people who had little or no conscious experience of pre-war Poland. For them, communism was the sole reality—and one in which they wanted to operate. A member of the PZPR and the Socialist Student Association in the 1950s, the young historian and pedagogue (and future dissident) Jacek Kuroń declared himself a Communist. His first act of public dissent was in fact made from a position farther left than where the Party itself stood. He made a point of that when he described the general political situation of that time: “The government was sure of the society. They could afford not to fear it; that is why they could also not fear many dangers, especially from the Left. And I was then the Left, undeniably” (Kuroń 2009, 195). The October Thaw opened a narrow space for intellectual deliberation and moderate critique; tolerated as long as it did not spread beyond hermetic clubs, artistic cafés, and universities. One such intellectual oasis of relative freedom was the Krzywe Koło Club (the “Crooked Wheel Club,” named after a street in Warsaw’s Old Town where the participants met). It gathered the liberal and Catholic intellectual elite, but it was no more than a discussion club, albeit an inspiring one, until it was forced to close down in 1962. Jacek Kuroń and the historian Karol Modzelewski, along with other academics, organized their own leftist discussion club in the early 1960s. The participants “read Karl Marx’s Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, that was then the holy book of revisionists. ‘Young Marx’, one said, contrasting him to the older Marx … We were also reading Trotsky’s Betrayed Revolution, which told us a bit about Stalin’s terror” (Kuroń 2009, 191). Other groups were also popping up. A group of sociologists and economists from Warsaw University established “a little study group that researched who paid the cost of industrialization in Poland under Stalinism.” They concluded that the workers had been the real victims: “Our study showed that the communist party that claimed to rule the country as the crystallization of the dictatorship of the proletariat had actually exploited workers. Obviously, this was not something the Party liked”, commented Adam Przeworski, one of the participants (interview with Przeworski 2003, February 24). But the results of this


study were not made available to a wider audience, and so they did not constitute open dissent but rather an early sign of clandestine intellectual tendencies. At the time, revisionism had already gained an iconic figure: Milovan Djilas, the Serb Montenegrin intellectual, former partisan, and Communist Party leader in Yugoslavia. In the early 1950s, Djilas began to voice ever stronger criticism of Josip Tito’s rule, and did so as the member of the Executive Committee of the Party’s Central Committee—so definitely from within. He became a “dissident” in the pre-war Soviet sense, and in 1945 was expelled from the government and all party positions. Hoping that international recognition would make him untouchable, he gave an interview to the New York Times criticizing the party harshly. This resulted in his trial and imprisonment for spreading anti-state propaganda (Müller 2011, 161). While in prison, he authored several works, among them The New Class, the master oeuvre of revisionism. It had great influence on Polish revisionists as well, but Kuroń and Modzelewski would soon go a step further, both in their theoretical critique of Communism and in their dissident activity: bottom-up and practice-oriented. Kuroń, Modzelewski, Przeworski, and their peers were firm believers in Marxism, and yet they were fully aware of the shortcomings of “real existing socialism.” They just needed to point them out, diagnose, and cure them. That mode of thinking, characteristic of revisionism (even if Modzelewski and Kuroń stood farther to the left than the October intellectuals) was built on the belief that Stalinism exposed the weaknesses and flaws of the system. However, within this model, these flaws were external, while the most violent wrongdoings were a thing of the past. Therefore, the goal was to reform the system from the bottom-up. Kuroń wrote: The whole time Karol and I believed that we should act according to the same method, meaning: to alter and influence existing, official organizations … We were sure that a large part of the society—especially the youth—are opponents of the system, but they equate it with socialism, and so they also become anti-socialist. There was a need to provide a broad, thorough critique of the system from a Marxist position. (Kuroń 2009, 221–22)

That was the position that he and Modzelewski took in their internationally renowned Open Letter to the Party (1965).8 What started out as a Memorandum to the communist authorities—after initial repressions



against its authors—became an open critique in the form of a long essay, analyzing state socialism as a repressive system in the language of Marxism. It was perhaps the last manifestation of intra-systemic critique, motivated (at least in declaration) by the “struggle” to liberate the working class and the society. But it was also a signal of something new. Andrzej Korboński argues that the Letter can be “seen as the precursor of similar declarations produced by the Polish dissidents in the late 1970s” (Korboński 1983, 30). We can agree with this thesis, but it needs further elaboration. The open letter was a new form of expression of dissent, first appearing in Poland in 1964 with the so-called Letter of 34—a protest of thirty-four writers against shortages of paper and against censorship (Eisler 1993). Unlike that protest, however, Kuroń and Modzelewski’s letter was a thorough critique of the system. Kuroń and Modzelewski’s standpoints are different from the two evolutionist strands described earlier. They are heretics, because they call to revive the “Scripture” and accuse the Party of distorting the doctrine; they write as “pure” Marxists. Unlike revisionists, however, they were already “excommunicated”—and so their position was beyond anything that could be accepted. Dissident declarations of the 1970s were no longer written in that heretic spirit: They denied the legitimacy of the (post-)totalitarian communist system altogether. Kuroń’s and Modzelewski’s “Letter” can arguably be seen as the last stroke of revisionism, although only in the sense that they still appeared to want to amend the system from within. In fact, it was a call for rebellion. But Letter’s true novelty was not in the act itself but in the reaction of the authorities and the wide international reception, as well as the personalization of dissent. Its significance lay “not in its intellectual or programmatic merit,” which could be refuted, but in the fact that “two men dared to ruthlessly describe the nature of the system, call for rebellion and do it under their names, challenging the totalitarian state” (Friszke 2010, 220). The reply of the regime was stark: arrest, closed trial, and four-year-long sentences. This new open heresy was considered a real threat. The prosecutor general stated in 1964: “It seems that for many years there was no criminal group in the country comprising of people on such an intellectual level, which would develop a programme containing so explicitly hateful formulations against the socialist system” (Friszke 2010, 13). Although the publication of the letter was not officially disclosed, the press published elaborate essays in defense of


Marxist-Leninist doctrine against the emergence of two kinds of “revisionism”: the classic, reactionary revisionism which, in its “pro-capitalist rightwing form is now tightening its loosened bond to its next of kin— anarchist revisionism.”9 The discussion club’s meetings and the writing of the Letter, Kuroń and Modzelewski’s arrest, as well as the “Letter of 34” initiated a spiral of dissent and repression, culminating in the brutal backlash of 1968. But instead of taming the university, the arrest of two dissident academics only escalated the bottom-up protest movements. In 1966, a conference organized at Warsaw University to mark the tenth anniversary of the October Thaw turned into a spectacle of the “heretics.” Two young students, Adam Michnik and Seweryn Blumsztajn, presented a paper on the illusions of revisionism. Kołakowski and Pomian, who also took part, were expelled from the Party for the speeches they delivered (Bouyeure 2009, 80). When Kuroń was released from jail in 1967 he noted: “they arrested us, to tame the University, and the result was the opposite— opposition activity intensified” (Kuroń 2009, 288). This was mostly due to a group of young students, later nicknamed the “Commandos” (Komandosi) for the way they would pop up, like paratroopers, at meetings and debates and use their outstanding rhetorical skill and boldness to make them more openly political. Kuroń, a pragmatic theorist of political action, had been prepared for potential imprisonment since childhood (Kenney 2017, 65). Jacek witnessed his father Henryk’s anti-Nazi underground activity during the war and even became obsessed with becoming prepared for torture, should he face this ultimate test at some point. While Henryk, a declared leftist, spoke to his son about imprisonment, he meant that when times are hard decent and active people eventually end up behind bars. Kuroń junior understood the symbolic value of political prisoners: In general, leaders in prison are very good for a movement. Excellent, in fact. Overall, prison helps political activity. Makes it more dynamic, gives it a goal understandable for everyone outside. It allows disseminating the propaganda of the movement, to agitate, for the movement that is a formidably beneficial thing. And one needs to say—the ‘Commandos’ used that in full.10

Among those gathered around Michnik were the later renowned academics and oppositionists Jan Tomasz Gross, Irena Grudzińska, and



Jan Lityński—whom the Party earlier called the “toddler revisionists.” This milieu of young, radical intellectuals would later constitute the leftof-center of Polish domestic opposition and exilic activism. Czechoslovakia: Belated de-Stalinization Developments in 1950s Czechoslovakia were somewhat slower. The President of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, Klement Gottwald, died shortly after Stalin in 1953. Unlike in Poland or the Soviet Union, however, this did not initiate de-Stalinization. On the contrary, the Party used the opportunity to introduce the cult of Gottwald, imitating that of Stalin. Stalin’s cult was thus anything but condemned. In fact, while the Thaw was already visible across the region, in 1955 world’s largest statue of Stalin—“the liberator of the land”—was finished, meant to dominate the Prague skyline “forever” (Keane 1999; Szczygieł 2014). Gottwald’s successor, Antonín Novotný, was not eager to rehabilitate the victims of totalitarian persecution, as this would also necessitate dealing with the perpetrators, including himself. Nevertheless, cracks were slowly appearing. In 1960, a new constitution was introduced, declaring the end of class struggle and the birth of an “all-people’s state.” Generational and ideational changes resulted in a revival of legal thought (Williams 1997), and the promotion of a new “socialist legality,” leading to the rehabilitation of Stalinism’s victims in 1962. That same year, the statue of Stalin was demolished—it was “forever” until one morning it was no more. Meanwhile, socialist revisionism entered the intellectual scene, coupled with an emphasis on technological progress and innovation, which strengthened the position of the young intelligentsia. The 1963 founding conference of the Youth Higher Education Committee marked the first stirring of student movements (Nebrensky 2011). By the mid1960s, Czechoslovak culture seemed to flourish and emanate to other countries in the Eastern Bloc. This was visible in cinema (Miloš Forman and Jiří Menzel), avant-garde theater (Václav Havel), and literature (Bohumil Hrabal, Ludvík Vaculík, and Milan Kundera). And it was this cultural world that gave the first impulse for radical reform. The fourth Czechoslovak Writers’ Congress in June 1967 is often mentioned as the harbinger of the Prague Spring. Rightfully so, but in our story it is additionally important because of some of its participants and the Party’s reaction to their dissent. Already on the first day of the Congress, the participants voiced open criticism of the Party line.


In his speech, brilliantly illustrating how in Central Europe the cultural either substitutes for or enforces the political, the novelist Milan Kundera remarked: In his letter to Helvetius, Voltaire wrote a beautiful phrase: ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ This formulates a fundamental ethical principle of modern culture … everyone who—through bigotry, vandalism, uncivilized behavior, or closed-mindedness—undermines cultural progress is, at the same time, undermining the very existence of this nation. (SCS 1998)

This was a bold statement about censorship, and it was voiced in public and in person. But others followed. A sort of side-event was constituted around a letter that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn had sent to the Congress of Soviet Writers that same year. Solzhenitsyn was already then a recognized defiant writer, though not yet banned. He had published One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, a novel set in a labor camp, in 1962 with Khrushchev’s personal approval. This turned out to be a bad decision for the Party—Solzhenitsyn’s book caused an eruption of long-tamed griefs across the Soviet society, and Solzhenitsyn became the “single figure who caused most immediate and lasting damage to the Kremlin’s authority”, and his sharp words and displays of personal courage “attracted a large international following” (Suri 2005, 107–8). His translated letter, also criticizing censorship and the Soviet authorities, was copied and circulated and finally read out loud by the writer Pavel Kohout. This was met with many public comments, among them a speech by a thirty-one-year-old aspiring playwright, Václav Havel: It was most useful … that the letter was read here; its moral strength, which is derived not from grand words but from its great cogency and which therefore inevitably wins the respect of even his most ardent opponents, can serve as a perfect lesson for all of us of the supreme, self-reliant poise of a writer. (SCS 1998, 10)

The boldness of the writers’ speeches was met with an angry reaction from Jiří Hendrych, representing the Party. “We must severely criticize Comrade Kohout,” he thundered, “for having publicized a Soviet document [Solzhenitsyn’s letter] that was not addressed to the congress and that had not been published as a document of the fraternal writers’



union”. He went on to “wonder what Vaculík and others like him are seeking and what Havel and his ilk are after” and then suggested: Maybe some have seen the last issue of Tigrid’s Svědectví… an attempt was made to smuggle several hundred copies of the issue containing instructions for the writers’ congress… There is no need to discuss who Tigrid is; … an agent employed by the American intelligence service, which finances his magazine. (SCS 1998, 11)

He was referring to Pavel Tigrid, the editor-in-chief of the exilic Svědectví (Testimony), based in Paris. Tigrid was indeed a well-known figure, representative of the pre-1948 emigration, who played a similar role in the Czechoslovak context as Jerzy Giedroyć and Gustaw HerlingGrudziński and the Parisian Kultura did for the Poles. An accusation of being in contact and being steered by external, enemy forces was to become a peculiar synonym for dissidentism in the years to come. In addition, it was coupled with the personalization of dissent and the individualization of the dissident. However, before we sum up the theoretical significance of these events, we need to discuss their climax in 1968.

1968 in Warsaw and Prague In the spring of 1968, youth strikes erupted in Warsaw, led mostly by the “Commandos” and young reformist academics. The reasons were manifold, but they focused around a protest against the censoring of a patriotic play and the subsequent expulsion of two students: Adam Michnik and Henryk Szlajfer. They were expelled not because they took part in the protests, but because they went to see the correspondent of Le Monde, Bernard Margueritte, to explain what was going on (Skrzydłowska-Kalukin 2011, 133). That was not the first time. Szlajfer, who had joined the “Commandos” milieu shortly before, had ventured radical ideas. One of them was getting in direct contact with Western press correspondents, to make sure the student movement was heard and understood. He first contacted the Associated Press and New York Times journalists and took Michnik, along with another student, with him (Friszke 2010, 466). Whereas this action was risky and got them into trouble,11 it marked a new strategy for the Polish opposition and secured the nascent dissident movement some publicity. The historian of dissent’s Western media coverage Julia Metger suggests that by


the 1970s dissidents have grown to understand Western correspondents as important allies (Metger 2013). The March 1968 protests, which began with a solidarity demonstration for Michnik and Szlajfer, escalated into street riots in which other groups, such as young factory workers, took part. These events caused vast repressions and arrests, combined with an anti-Semitic campaign organized by and within the Party. Later that same year some 100,000 Polish citizens of Jewish origin were forced to leave the country, and they were soon followed by many disillusioned “believers,” including Bauman and Kołakowski. Even idealists like Kuroń understood that the Party was not going to liberalize itself, while the young generation, brought up in communist Poland, experienced shock at the police brutality and also became aware that the limits of freedom were very narrow (Ascherson 2008). The Prague Spring likewise began with student protests. The entire 1960s were marked by a gradual alienation of the students as a social group by the ruling Party elites. As the head of Czechoslovak television, and later exilic publisher and parliamentarian Jiří Pelikán remarked, whereas his (1950s) generation felt a sort of ownership and bond with the Party, because it was a channel of expression for the most active and socially engaged students, the 1960s generation did not feel the Party belonged to them. On the contrary, the students “felt attacked by the Communist Party for belonging to the ‘intelligentsia’”(Bren 2004, 121). The spark for protest was a blackout in the student dormitories at Strahov in Prague, in October 1967. Students “gathered in the courtyard and shouts of ‘Let’s all go out!’ began to he heard … they all began to march down toward the castle … shouting, ‘We want light!’” (Bren 2004, 122). They were then surrounded by police cars and forced back inside the dormitory courtyard. There, to their immense surprise, the riot police attacked them using batons and tear gas. Central to the Strahov events was this “show of brutality of police against the students, which further indicated the deteriorating relations between the regime and the intelligentsia, who were being ‘handled like an enemy class’” (Bren 2004, 122). This is where the Czechoslovak and the Polish tracks converge for a brief moment, characterized by the young and often radical student groups’ disillusionment with the regime. However, the Czechoslovak story had its continuation in the great, though brief, festival of freedom. The same night the police were beating the students at Strahov,



a Communist Party plenum held behind closed doors marked the first signs of intra-Party dissent, led by the Slovak Communist Party secretary Alexander Dubček. These processes led to the so-called Prague Spring, when Dubček replaced Novotný as the country’s leader, press freedom was introduced, and socialism was apparently gaining “a human face.” That is, until the Warsaw Pact tanks rolled in. And so, the results in Czechoslovakia and Poland were similar. Both nations entered 1969 steeped in deep disillusionment with real socialism. Former neophytes and believers, who were initially enthusiastic for an internal revision of communism, finally understood that heresy within the system, the faith in its power to liberalize, was futile. Michnik later stated that in 1968 he finally understood that communism and fascism are two equal evils (Bouyeure 2009, 56). However, despite or perhaps in part because of the high price paid, the year 1968 changed the Central European landscape profoundly. In Poland, argues Friszke, basing his thesis on a meticulous study of the police and Party archives, “a small group of people—the authors of the Open Letter and the student Michnik together with a dozen of his colleagues—shook the institutions of the state. Their dissent moved the ‘top’ of the security apparatus and the prosecutor’s office as well as the Party leadership” (Friszke 2010, 12).


1.  Georg Simmel (1950, 383–384) called zealous newly adopted members of a religious, national, or ideological community “renegades.” That word, which can in fact be a synonym to “dissident,” implies a radical change of camps. The Central European intellectuals were neophytes of the New Faith but were often not going against their prior beliefs. The initial conceptualization of the evolution of dissent from neophytes, through heretics, and finally to dissidents was developed in (Szulecki 2011a). 2. Adam Michnik differentiates between pro- and anti-communist left-wingers in his 1977 essay The Church and The Left. However, he does that ex-post, from a time where anti-Communism was already the only decent option both for left- and right-wing intellectuals, and to prove a certain point. Miłosz tries to show that being either pro or contra was not entirely an individual choice, but largely an outcome of external factors.


3. Despite its criticism by prominent intellectuals and more radical forces on both Left and Right, the book was a success and after its Polish publication in the exilic Instytut Literacki (Paris), it was quickly translated to French (La pensée captive, Paris 1953), German (Verführtes Denken, Köln and Berlin 1953) and English (New York, London, and Toronto 1953), then into Italian, Swedish, and Spanish, and later in some 20 other languages. Interestingly, in 2011 it was even published in Chinese. 4. Discussions of Miłosz’s communist affiliations are still quite lively. An example of fierce hatred for the poet is an essay by the right-wing literary scholar Majda (2002). Miłosz, however, has numerous defenders, much more competent than the critics. See Choinski (2009). 5. The flirtation of intellectuals with power and strength was later the subject of an analysis from a more Western perspective, but with a clear reference to Miłosz already in the title: Mark Lilla’s The Reckless Mind (2001). 6. This expression is used by Zygmunt Bauman, who attempts to fit the political developments in Eastern Europe into a general pattern of revolutionary upheavals. From today’s perspective, this might seem odd, but it illustrates well a post-revisionist mode of reasoning. See Bauman (1971, 43). 7. Bauman went as far as to suggest that the Eastern European security apparatus was by all means less violent than that in the West—especially in the USA (1971, 32–33). That comparison is also made by the political scientist Adam Przeworski, who recalled that when he first visited the USA as a student, coming from Poland still under the influence of revisionist Thaw, he was surprised to discover that “democracy” did not necessarily bring the individual freedom he had expected. On the contrary, his experience of the late McCarthyist America was that of a police state— close to Stalinist Poland, except that in his native country people were at least passively resisting the police, while the Americans seemed to obey and respect them despite obvious power abuse. He notes, however, that when he came back to Poland in the 1960s, after the Thaw, he was confronted with a much grimmer reality and when he finally settled in the USA around 1968, a radical democratic spirit was beginning to boom there. See Przeworski (2010). 8. An English summary can be found in Johnson (1966). 9. Jan Sikora, “Podstawy ideowe kierowniczej roli Partii,” Trybuna Ludu (?), photocopy and scan on file with the author. Acquired from the KARTA Archive, Kolekcja Jacka Kuronia. 10. J. Kuroń, “Imprisonment aided our political activity”, undated filed interview available at https://www.webofstories.com/play/jacek.kuron/68 (accessed 22 December 2018).



11. Earlier, in 1961, the communist politician Henryk Holland (father of the film director Agnieszka Holland) was charged with espionage for contacting the Western media (he passed on Khrushchev’s secret speech about Stalin, as well as other materials, to a Le Monde correspondent), and during the search in his Warsaw apartment he jumped out of the window. This was a known case and for many years, it was suspected that the SB killed him (which in the end was proven not to be true). Michnik attended his funeral, so dissidents were aware of the risks of their activities.

References Applebaum, Anne. 2013. Za żelazną kurtyną: Ujarzmienie Europy Wschodniej 1944–1956. Warszawa: Świat Książki. Ascherson, Neal. 2008. “The Polish March: Students, Workers, and 1968.” Open Democracy, March 6. http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/globalisation/ the_polish_march_students_workers_and_1968. Bauman, Zygmunt. 1971. “Social Dissent in the East European Political System.” European Journal of Sociology 12 (1): 25–51. Bikont, Anna, and Helena Łuczywo. 2018. Jacek. Warszawa: Agora. Bolton, Jonathan. 2012. Worlds of Dissent: Charter 77, the Plastic People of the Universe, and Czech Culture Under Communism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Bouyeure, Cyril. 2009. Adam Michnik. Biografia. Wymyślić to, co polityczne. Kraków: Wydawn. Literackie. Branach, Zbigniew. 2005. Mit ojców założycieli: Agonia komunizmu rozpoczęła się w Gdańsku. Toruń: Agencja Reporterska “Cetera”. Bren, Paulina. 2004. “1968 East and West: Visions of Political Change and Student Protest from Across the Iron Curtain.” In Transnational Moments of Change: Europe 1945, 1968, 1989, edited by Gerd-Rainer Horn and Padraic Kenney, 119–36. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. Choinski, Karin. 2009. “W obronie Miłosza.” Znak 650–651 (Lipiec-Sierpień): 101–16. Eisler, Jerzy. 1993. List 34. Wyd. 1. Warszawa: Wyd. Nauk. PWN. Friszke, Andrzej. 2007. “Polski Październik 1956 z perspektywy pięćdziesięciolecia.” In Przystosowanie i opór: Studia z Dziejów PRL, 107–23. Warszawa: Więź. ———. 2010. Anatomia buntu: Kuroń, Modzelewski i komandosi. Wyd. 1. Kraków: Społeczny Instytut Wydawniczy “Znak”. Havel, Václav. 1985. “The Power of the Powerless.” In The Power of the Powerless: Citizens Against the State in Central-Eastern Europe, edited by John Keane, 23–96. London: Hutchinson.

62  K. SZULECKI Johnson, A. R. 1966. “Kuron and Modzelewski’s ‘Open Letter to the Party’.” In Radio Free Europe Research. http://www.osaarchivum.org/files/holdings/300/8/3/text/42-2-132.shtml. Judt, Tony. 2007. Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945. London: Pimlico. Junes, Tom. 2015. Student Politics in Communist Poland: Generations of Consent and Dissent. Lanham: Lexington Books. Keane, John. 1999. Václav Havel: A Political Tragedy in Six Acts. London: Bloomsbury. Kende, Pierre, and Krzysztof Pomian, eds. 1978. 1956: Varsovie-Budapest, la deuxième révolution d’Octobre. Paris: Seuil. Kenney, Padraic. 1997. Rebuilding Poland: Workers and Communists, 1945–1950. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ———. 2017. Dance in Chains: Political Prisoners in the Modern World. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Kołakowski, Leszek. 1976. Main Currents of Marxism. New York: W.W. Norton. Korboński, Andrzej. 1983. “Dissent in Poland 1956–76.” In Dissent in Eastern Europe, edited by Jane L. Curry, 25–47. New York: Praeger. Kuroń, Jacek. 2009. Kuroń. Autobiografia. Warszawa: Wydawn. Krytyki Politycznej. Majda, Jan. 2002. Wisława Szymborska, Karol Wojtyła, Czesław Miłosz. Kraków: Oficyna i Poligrafia Zakonu Pijarów. Metger, Julia. 2013. “Writing the Papers: How Western Correspondents Reported the First Dissident Trials in Moscow, 1965–1972.” In Entangled Protest: Transnational Approaches to the History of Dissent in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, edited by Robert Brier, 87–108. Osnabrück: Fibre. Michnik, Adam. 2009. “Nowy Ewolucjonizm: 1978.” In Szanse polskiej demokracji: Artykuły i eseje, 103–15. Warszawa: Agora SA. Miłosz, Czesław. 1990. The Captive Mind. New York: Vintage International. ———. 2001. Rodzinna Europa. Kraków: Wydawn. Literackie. ———. 2008. “‘O „Dziennikach” Marii Dąbrowskiej’.” In Historie Ludzkie, 173–75 XXV. Warszawa: Zeszyty Literackie. Mlynář, Zdeněk. 1980. Nightfrost in Prague: The End of Humane Socialism. New York: Karz Publishers. Müller, Jan-Werner. 2011. Contesting Democracy: Political Ideas in TwentiethCentury Europe. New Haven: Yale University Press. Nebrensky, Zdenek. 2011. “Early Voices of Dissent: Czechoslovakian Student Opposition at the Beginning of the 1960s.” In Between Prague Spring & French May: Opposition and Revolt in Europe, 1960–1980, edited by Martin Klimke, Jacco Pekelder, and Joachim Scharloth, 32–48. New York: Berghahn Books, Inc. Przeworski, Adam. 2003. Interview by G. L. Munck, February 24. New York.



———. 2010. Democracy and the Limits of Self-Government. New York: Cambridge University Press. SCS. 1998. “Document No. 1: Proceedings of the 4th Czechoslovak Writers’ Congress, June 27–29, 1967, and a Follow-Up Resolution by the CPCz CC Plenum, September 1967.” In The Prague Spring 1968, edited by Jaromír Navrátil, Mark Kramer, and Malcolm Byrne, 8–12. Budapest: Central European University Press (Excerpts). Simmel, Georg. 1950. The Sociology of Georg Simmel, edited by Kurt H. Wolff. New York: The Free Press. Skrzydłowska-Kalukin, Katarzyna. 2011. Gajka i Jacek Kuroniowie. Warszawa: Czerwone i Czarne. Suri, Jeremi. 2005. Power and Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Detente. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press. Świda-Zięba, Hanna. 1997. Człowiek wewnętrznie zniewolony: Problemy psychosocjologiczne minionej formacji. Warszawa: ISNS UW. Szczygieł, Mariusz. 2014. Gottland: Mostly True Stories from Half of Czechoslovakia. Brooklyn and London: Melville House. Szulecki, Kacper. 2011a. “Neophyten, Häretiker, Dissidenten: Polnische Linksintellektuelle und (Anti-)Kommunismus.” Jahrbuch für Historische Kommunismusforschung, 61–88. ———. 2011b. “Poeta prowincji, który podbił świat.” Uczyć Łatwiej - Miłosz odNowa (Wiosna): 4–7. Williams, Kieran. 1997. The Prague Spring and Its Aftermath: Czechoslovak Politics, 1968–1970. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. Witoszek, Nina. 2019. The Origins of Anti-Authoritarianism. London: Routledge.


Dissent Gains Names and Faces

“Adam, the boss mentioned us in his speech, did you hear?” said Jacek Kuroń, then thirty years old, to his scout apprentice Adam Michnik. He meant a statement by the General Secretary Władysław Gomułka of the PZPR in 1963. “I don’t have time for this silliness, I have a retake in physics,” stuttered the seventeen-year-old blond public enemy (to be) and proto-dissident (Kuroń 2009, 211). In the 1960s, a new tendency became visible as the Central European opposition made the step from anti-communist resistance, conformist adaptation, and intra-systemic revisionism to actual dissidentism. That tendency is the personalization of dissent—the emergence of opposition names and faces. The leaders of the Prague Spring, but also many important figures in the background, became household names, recognizable on the domestic scene and beyond. Michnik, for example, recalled that already in 1968, the rebellious students of Warsaw University were aware not only of Dubček or Mlynář—the liberal communist apparatchiks—but also of the young playwright Václav Havel (Vondra 1988). In Poland, the organizers of the student strike and the resulting riots were targeted as “hooligans” and “spoiled brats.” The intellectual elitism

© The Author(s) 2019 K. Szulecki, Dissidents in Communist Central Europe, Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-22613-8_4



of the “Commandos” was made more tangible when it was represented as a material elitism of socialism’s “golden kids”: In the grey student mob the leaders were dressed up in trendy nylon coats, fancy turtle-necks, foreign boots and jackets of all colours and types … heroes of a ‘dolce vita’, extravagant in dress and attitude, provocatively aggressive, bold and self-confident. They could lose several thousand overnight playing poker in the dungeons of their student clubs, their girlfriends in leather costumes calling: ‘Dżery, pass me the Coca-Cola, this Polish crap ain’t worth a thing. (Reutt and Andruszkiewicz, March 24, 1968a)

Aside from this disparagement, however, such rebellious figures were also mentioned by name in the media for the first time in Communist Poland. While the first articles covering the March events spoke only of “a small group of brawlers,”1 soon the readers learned about “students Michnik and Szlajfer” and later also Aleksander Smolar, Seweryn Blumsztajn, Irena Lasota, Józef Dajczgewand, Jan Lityński, Barbara Toruńczyk, and others.2 Michnik, as well as Kuroń and Modzelewski, was prior to that mentioned mostly in intra-Party communication. Michnik was only a high school student when this process started. When he became a university student in 1965, he was already listed as a uniquely dangerous “central figure of enemy activity among the students” and was continuously surveilled by the secret police (Służba Bezpieczeństwa—SB) (Friszke 2010, 392). In March, public opinion was informed about the violent and stupid behavior of the group that “Kuroń and Modzelewski managed to form, and channel their political interests into directions opposing the line of the Party.”3 The workers, a youth newspaper reported, “state that they no longer want to hear what Mr. Michnik, Mr. Kuroń and Mr. Modzelewski want to tell them” (Reutt and Andruszkiewicz, March 24, 1968a). In April, as the focus was moving away from the riots and to more general s­ capegoating, the regime targeted Leszek Kołakowski (Reutt and Andruszkiewicz, November 24, 1968b). Along with five other professors, he was fired from Warsaw University for “corrupting the young.” One of the chief apparatchiks, Zenon Kliszko, singled him out as the main culprit in the “escalation of revisionist pressure” (Z. Kliszko in Trybuna Ludu, July 9, 1968, quoted in: Labedz 1989, 137fn), and a series of articles in the Party’s Trybuna Ludu attempted to show that Kołakowski was no longer a Marxist (Labedz 1989, 138). Not able to teach or publish, he decided to emigrate shortly after.



The Communist authorities relied on individualization to depict the “troublemakers” as marginal, avoiding any idea of an organized opposition. The other probable reason for listing individual names and life stories was to underline the high proportion of students of Jewish origin among the leaders and participants of the protests.4 Foreign-sounding or well-known names, indicating children of Party officials, were meant to discredit them. What the Communist authorities achieved, in fact, was to give these individuals a peculiarly negative sort of fame, a notoriousness as “anti-socialist elements” (Szulecki 2015). The regime could be less and less sure of society, and the Communists did not realize that by turning someone into a villain, they made him or her a hero for a growing group of unsupportive citizens.5 Friszke, ten years younger than Michnik et al., recalled his own interest in the opposition, which illustrates that process: After some years I decided to learn more about the “Commandos” from the only literature that was available — the slandering articles in the official press and the equally malicious book by Maria Osiadacz … reporting on the post-March trials. You would read those texts in versus, against the intentions of their authors, topsy-turvy. You would extract the facts, but reverse the sense of the interpretation. And so, the stigmatized villains became positive heroes, their condemned deeds caused admiration. (Friszke 2010, 14)

Of course, not every recipient of communist propaganda reacted in the same way and not everyone was as skeptical to its “truths.” Some had to wait much longer to discover a different face of the famous dissidents from the one published in the official media. One of the many letters Kuroń received when he became Minister of Labor after 1989 exclaimed: “the Marxists since 1968 claimed that the worst troublemakers in Poland are Kuroń and Modzelewski. But now… I saw and heard you for the first time in my life and you were simply phenomenal!” (Kucharska 1990, 5). Modzelewski recalls how he ended up back in prison after the March 1968 riots. He was jogging around the jail yard, passing by a fellow inmate peeling potatoes. The inmate was looking at him intensely. When Modzelewski passed him, the potato-peeler whispered: “From Warsaw?” Modzelewski nodded and jogged along. “From the riots?” asked the inmate on the next lap. The historian nodded. “You are Modzelewski?” “Yes,” he replied. “Good job you did there, but too weak! You need


to hit that red spider harder next time!”6 This shows the speed with which this “negative” fame travelled—even behind bars. It also points to the failure of propaganda attempts to fully discredit the recognizable dissidents. In the next couple of weeks after the March riots, the tone of the newspapers turned more violent and nasty. The enemy targeted was again a loosely identified group—the Zionists, who played the role of the “kulaks” or “reactionaries” in the Stalinist age. Domestic dissent was projected onto a complex web of international links, which escaped any obvious logic (i.e., claims that the riots were inspired by Zionist elements working for the alliance of West Germany and Israel). In any case, the organizers of the demonstration were targeted as Jews, aliens, Stalinist perpetrators, and their “biological and ideational offspring.”7 This was the last Stalinist-type “spectacle of hatred” in Polish propaganda. If we bring the Prague Spring and its aftermath into the picture, we will see that 1968 brought a broader change in Central Europe—opposition to the Communist Party gained names and faces. In Czechoslovakia, new critics of the system and the regime (many of them coming from within the Party) would simply appear on national television and radio, write hotly debated op-eds in major newspapers, etc. Many of them will be important protagonists of the next two chapters. In Poland, two very different logics of antagonizing the society met: the groupist logic of Stalinism and the individualizing logic of post-totalitarian socialism. It is the latter that enabled dissidentism and later allowed the “figure of the Dissident” to develop.

Kuroń and Modzelewski Let us focus for a moment on several of these prominent defiant figures, who would later play a crucial role in the opposition. As suggested earlier, in Central Europe it all started with Kuroń and Modzelewski. The two initiated a path for future oppositionists to follow—from a public act of dissent, through a highly publicized case and court trial, to prison. Arrested and sentenced for the publication of their Open Letter, they quickly became recognizable villains domestically as well as symbolic names internationally. As a leftist periodical article from 1967 asserts, “the very existence of this document, as well as some rather vague notion of its content, became … public knowledge, and was reported by some Western newspapers, most notably by Michel Tatu in Le Monde”



(Kuroń et al. 1967). Barbara Toruńczyk, a friend of Michnik’s and Blumsztajn’s, travelled to Western Europe for ten months in 1966 and 1967, at the time when the authors of the Letter were in prison. “I was very much moved by the fact that those two young academics, whom I did not know in person, are going to prison for their beliefs … I thought that the world needs to be shaken so that they are set free.”8 Therefore, she sewed photos of Modzelewski and Kuroń inside her cape and, in the West, approached contrasting political and cultural organizations, asking for protests of solidarity. But first, in Munich, she went to see Jan Nowak-Jeziorański of Radio Free Europe’s Polish section, to tell him all about the Kuroń and Modzelewski case and the developments at Warsaw University. She also wrote a series of articles that RFE broadcast and thus informed Polish and Eastern European societies of the case in detail (Friszke 2010, 461–63). Toruńczyk then travelled to Italy and Paris, where she got in touch with the émigré magazine Kultura, Amnesty International, and the radical Jeunesse communiste révolutionnaire (Friszke 2010). The Open Letter was smuggled out of Poland as a microfilm by two French Trotskyists in 1966. Shortly afterward, it appeared in French, published first as a book by Maspero editors and later as a document of the Fourth International, and “soon became a bestseller among the radical young leftists” (Friszke 2010, 389). It was published in Polish by Kultura in Paris and read serially on Radio Free Europe. In 1966, it was published in English as a booklet and in parts in New Politics (Kuroń et al. 1967). The booklet’s title—A Revolutionary Socialist Manifesto Written in a Polish Prison—perhaps did not fully reflect the truth, but reinforced a powerful romantic myth, echoing the legend of Antonio Gramsci. Soon translations appeared in Italian, German, Swedish, Czech, and Japanese. Through this, it became “one of world’s best known analyses of the communist system” and its leftist methodology, Friszke argues, “was not a flaw but an asset.” It showed that “the system is criticised not only by its traditional opponents, but also ‘from within’ … its language, today irritating, was not contradicting the language of the then dynamic left-wing movements of the West” (Friszke 2010, 222). The Western European Left was going through a turbulent time, on a journey that would culminate in the 1968 revolts. It was looking for new ideas and inspirations. A voice of true, dedicated leftists from Eastern Europe, criticizing the Soviet system from very radical positions, was something very much called for at that moment. Their fame


was lasting, although they were probably not aware of it. “Kuroń and Modzelewski— those became the symbolic names for an entire generation of the 1960s,” claimed Aleksander Smolar, who in 1971 emigrated to the West and soon became a key “dissident translator.”9 When a judge asked Daniel Cohn-Bendit for his name during his trial after the May 1968 riots in Paris, he replied “Kuroń-Modzelewski.” “We know your name is Cohn-Bendit,” said the judge. “If you know, why do you ask?” replied the young student leader (Michnik, March 24, 2008).10 Inspired by Barbara Toruńczyk, Amnesty International did indeed launch a campaign of solidarity with the imprisoned Poles. Of the five arrested in the case (along with Kuroń and Modzelewski, these were Romuald Śmiech, Kazimierz Badowski, and Ludwik Hass), they especially focused on Hass, since he was a former prisoner of the Gulag as well as a known Trotskyist. This was a recognizable label, so his story was supposedly deemed more inspiring for a general audience. Western Trotskyists demanded the liberation of the entire group, also focusing at first on Hass. In Britain, a large action was already launched by the spring of 1966, including letters of protest to the Polish embassy, leaflets, and demonstrations (several hundred people picketed the embassy). It was coordinated by Isaac Deutscher, a famous Sovietologist of Polish origin. The philosopher Bertrand Russell was also involved. Deutscher issued an open letter to the Polish Communist Party Secretary Gomułka, published in the Labour Party’s periodical Tribune and summarized in the Guardian (Deutscher 1972). The Polish government succeeded in blocking further publications in the Times and the Observer, which shows its concern with the international outcry. The Polish authorities were not indifferent to the protests. The Amnesty International campaign especially seemed to have an impact on the prisoners’ conditions. This was the first time Poland’s communist apparatus encountered the organization. A report by the prosecutor general stated that “from the information of the security service (SB) it seems that the aforementioned organization may be inspired by Zionist or intelligence centers, especially in England” (qtd. in Friszke 2010, 347). Kuroń and Modzelewski received 66 letters of support, while Western public opinion was under the impression that the campaign led to the release of Hass.11 General Secretary Gomułka was especially upset with the criticism from the mainstream Western left and furious that Kuroń and Modzelewski, while imprisoned, were invited by the Italian Communist Party’s Instituto Gramsci to a conference in Rome



(Friszke 2010, 349). By the time they were sentenced to prison once again, in 1968, they were already internationally recognized prisoners of conscience.

Michnik and the “Commandos” The second half of the 1960s brought new recognizable opposition names. Among them, the best-known today is Adam Michnik. He seemed to have rebellion in his blood, at least judging from his high school and university troubles. In the elitist Crooked Wheel Club, he was by far the youngest member. Kuroń and Michnik first met when the latter was only eleven and became a member of a “red scouting” group led by Kuroń, a passionate pedagogue. From that point on, they cooperated intensely, forming a duo of the most prominent left-liberal dissidents in Poland. The communist propaganda would later use their names (as they once used Kuroń and Modzelewski) in an inseparable tandem. “Jacek was portrayed as the devil by the communists— and I was his little deputy-devil,” wrote Michnik after Kuroń died in 2003 (Michnik 2005). Still, they remained very different, both in their characters and in their roles. Kuroń was an activist, while Michnik always wanted to be an intellectual in the quasi-messianic sense, a guardian of the nation’s conscience, a leader of minds. Michnik was also a representative of a new generation. His biographer, Cyril Bouyeure, wrote: Michnik’s biography symbolized the path of a whole generation, united by the feeling of deep disappointment. A post-war generation, for which People’s Poland was the only experience and horizon, a generation of youth, for whom socialism was the daily bread since their birth…The wave of freedom in October ’56 revived [hope], but in the end truth imposed from the top down and fear prevailed. But the lid was open and the young people, who beheld a ray of light, would not forget it easily. (Bouyeure 2009, 98)

Michnik became active in decisively political opposition circles at the age of seventeen; together with Seweryn Blumsztajn, he formed the youth Contradiction Seekers’ Club. For Blumsztajn, this was an opportunity for his first media appearance: He was asked to talk about the Club on public television. Soon afterward, when it was criticized by


Gomułka personally, the Club was closed down. Michnik’s colleague, one of the rebellious students, described him this way: Michnik performed with his entire self … that was a different anthropology, where he was the real human, and we were the submissive slaves … his charisma was in that he said what we all thought— but only thought— or thought we could think. It was seductive, the way he spoke— stuttering, and so, struggling with the authorities and with himself— he uttered things that then were not allowed to be said aloud … What attracted me to him the most was Michnik’s conviction that, firstly, ideas and words exist and secondly— and that is surely his achievement from the time— that one just needs to express those ideas— because they can be expressed! … And then thirdly that speaking one’s mind reflects on politics, that the one who knows more possesses a political strength. (Duda 2005)

For some time, Michnik seemed to be in a privileged position to do just that—his father was an important Communist activist, though from a much older generation, who by then was already critical of the regime. Others in the Club were also the children of prominent communist clerks, a fact that both the regime’s propaganda and the right-wing strands of the opposition would later use against them. They became known as the “Commandos”—a nickname that became a symbol of “enemies of the state” and gave them a certain notoriety that never left them. When Michnik was suspended as a student before 1968, the side effect was the popularization of the group in the University community, much like Kuroń and Modzelewski became widely known before their trial thanks to Radio Free Europe. Already in 1966, his name was seen as suspicious for the censorship and his early journalistic pieces in the economic Życie Gospodarcze appeared under the pseudonym “Adam Sędek” (Friszke 2010, 407). In 1964, aged eighteen, he made his first international tour: from Vienna to Munich and then on to Rome and Paris. He got to know Nowak-Jeziorański at RFE in Munich, and was bold, if not arrogant enough, to advise him: “if you want RFE to be listened to in Poland, start expressing yourselves in ways understandable for everyone, not in an intellectual jargon” (Bouyeure 2009, 70). He also met Zbigniew Brzezinski and the editor-in-chief of the influential exilic periodical Kultura—Jerzy Giedroyć. However, upon his return, he was dragged into the Kuroń–Modzelewski affair and soon arrested, along with



Blumsztajn, for possessing copies of the illegal Kultura. When he left prison in 1965, he got involved in the “Commandos” and after March 1968, he returned to prison, this time for sixteen months. But by then, he was “an icon— the regime recognized him as one of its main enemies” (Bouyeure 2009, 96).

The Radicals: Uhl et al. In Czechoslovakia, too, there was a radical left current in the student movement—in fact, the student movement there was perhaps closer to those in Western Europe. That movement also produced a group of recognizable personalities, many of whom later landed in prison or exile. One of the leaders was Petr Uhl, who declared himself a Trotskyite. In 1965, Uhl went to Paris for the first time and soon became part of the bustling radical-political life of the Sorbonne. He later returned to Prague to share some of these experiences, and became involved with the informal group of “Prague radicals.” The group, gathered around the periodical Student, was looking for inspirations from the West as well, but unlike Uhl, they focused on Berlin instead. In the spring of 1968, the icon of the Western ’68, Rudi Dutschke, visited Prague and gave a lecture to the students, later followed by debates (Bren 2004, 124). Although his charisma made an impression, the differences between his utopian ideas and Czechoslovak realities were difficult to surpass. This became even more evident when a group of Czechoslovak students travelled to West Berlin for two evening discussion sessions. There, the deep disagreement between the groups visibly revealed itself. The crucial difference was centered on the German students’ “inability to distinguish utopia from reality, goals from the means of achieving those goals, and theory from practice” (Bren 2004, 126). Soon the Czechs began to look to Poland rather than Western Europe, where the students were chanting “We are not with Dubček, we are with Mao” as the Warsaw Pact invasion hung in the air (Hilwig 1998, 338). One of the Czech students later recalled that although the Western New Left had a very well thought-out political language and a broader scope, incorporating the problems of the Third World, their “dictionary was so reminiscent of the well-known Stalinist parlance … that it was repelling” (Suk 1982, 615). But the young Czechoslovak radical left kept searching for ideas.12 In the summer of 1968, as the Soviet tanks rolled in, Uhl was again in


Paris. Perhaps there he got in touch with the Trotskyists; in any case, back in Prague he met Charles Urjevitch, one of those who smuggled Kuroń and Modzelewski’s Open Letter out of Poland on microfilm. In June 1968, Uhl’s Czech translation of the Letter was published by the Student Parliament (Friszke 2010, 222 and 389). On his return to Czechoslovakia, he became one of the leaders of the Revolutionary Youth Movement (Hnutí revoluční mládeže), together with Petruška Šustrová and Ivan Dejmal, both of whom later became important opposition figures. According to the account of another member, the West German student activist and Uhl’s partner at the time Sibylle Plogstedt, the group studied the writings of old Bolsheviks and Western Marxists, made propaganda at universities, organized debates, and translated and published texts. An entire international seminar was held with representatives of the New Left from France, Austria, and other countries (Suk 1982). In July 1969, “the whole group left for West Berlin to hold discussions with radical leftist groups in Germany and West Europe” (Plogstedt, qtd. in Kusin 1978, 150). When they returned, they tried to set up a clandestine organization, but this ended with their arrest and a trial in which the members either received very long jail sentences (Uhl got four years) or were forced to leave the country.

Havel, Kohout, Kundera, and Vaculík: The Dissident Writers In Czechoslovakia, because of the scale of the Prague Spring events— which opened up many previously blocked channels of communication— the short period of hope for change created a whole class of recognizable characters. Among them were the leaders of the liberal strands in the party, but also younger and often non-communist public intellectuals. There was Milan Kundera, whose novel The Joke, published in 1967, was put on the movie screen during the Prague Spring. The book is a personal trial with the author’s Stalinist past. Pavel Kohout travelled along an identical trajectory, and together with Kundera was expelled from the Communist Party and the writers’ union after the Prague Spring’s defeat. They were both banned from publishing, as was their colleague Václav Havel—who, unlike them, was never a member of the Party. Havel came from an established bourgeois family from Prague. Not able to pursue a university education because of his class affiliation, he studied economics and technical sciences (Szulecki 2011). However, he



soon felt the urge to be a writer. In 1956, he attended his first young Writers’ Congress, where he met his later friend, Kohout, who was then still a devout communist. In 1964, due to the continuous liberalization of culture, Prague was struck by the performances of three major works of theatre of the absurd: Ionesco’s The Bald Prima Donna, Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, and Jarry’s Ubu Roi (Keane 1999, 157). Havel plunged into these poetics, which proved to be ideal for his sensitivity and style. By 1967, he had become a dramaturge in Prague’s avant-garde Theater on the Balustrade and authored or co-authored seven plays. Therefore, at the fourth Congress of Writers he was a young and promising playwright with a significant record, recognized in intellectual circles. His theatrical biographer Carol Rocamora even suggested that by the time of the Prague Spring, Havel was “his country’s leading playwright, and gaining an international reputation. His plays were produced all over Europe — in Berlin, Rome, Belgrade, Paris.” In the West, he was seen as “the most important Czech voice in the theater and the first to achieve international recognition since Karel Čapek” (Rocamora 2005, 72). However, it was during the Prague Spring that Havel voiced his first public words of dissent. In 1968, he published the essay “On the theme of an Opposition” in Literární listy—a cultural periodical which became the medium of the Prague Spring change, with a circulation of 200,000 and a readership reaching one million: intellectuals, technocrats, and factory workers alike. Havel later commented, “The article attracted quite a lot of attention, because … it was the first time that a demand for a new democratic opposition party was voiced publicly.”13 Like Michnik, Havel also travelled to the West, using the last opportunity during the Prague Spring. In 1968, he went to New York but also passed through Paris, where he met Pavel Tigrid—the same exilic publisher and regime’s villain that Comrade Hendrych suggested was steering the dissenting writers. Havel and his wife Olga managed to spend a week in Paris, although they had no permit. Due to the general turmoil of les évènements, border control went on strike the day they arrived. Tigrid and the émigrés were important contacts for Havel’s later opposition activity. In New York, he stayed longer as his play Memorandum was staged in the Public Theater. He made a great impression on the artsy crowd, but so too did the atmosphere of 1968 New York impress the Czechoslovak writer. Probably never before and never again had he found the place and time so right for his personality and talent. He breathed in the


alternative and hippy culture, plunged into rock music, hung out with Miloš Forman, and roamed the streets with a peace sign on his neck (Rocamora 2005, 91). He took part in the huge march and demonstration in Central Park amid the grief and protest that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King. “For Václav it was a different world … it made a huge impression on him,” recalled a fellow playwright (Rocamora 2005, 93). In May, he headed back to Prague, passing through London where he gave an interview to the BBC. For a short time after the Soviet invasion, Havel continued to be an important public figure. He was one of the signatories (along with Vaculík) of the so-called Ten Points Manifesto, a petition to the Czech General Assembly (Kusin 1978, 148–49). At a meeting held at the Faculty of Arts, in front of a crowd of 1200 students, he spoke in defense of Dubček. In August 1969, Havel even wrote Dubček a private letter, in which he tried to convince him to make a strong statement in support of the reforms.14 However, from the beginning of the so-called normalization introduced by Gustáv Husák’s neo-Stalinist clique, Havel found himself on the margins of political and cultural life. This was related to his growing fame as an oppositionist, not only a playwright. The Soviet authorities, orienting themselves in Czechoslovakia after the invasion, saw him as “an anti-communist plotter” (Rocamora 2005, 97). Somewhat ironically, he later had the characters of one of his quasi-autobiographical plays reference his colleague, Pavel Kohout, symbol of the writers’ role in the Prague Spring: MICHAEL: Life is rough and the world is divided. The world doesn’t give a damn about us and nobody’s coming to our rescue — we’re in a nasty predicament, and it will get worse and worse — and you are not going to change any of it! So why beat your head against the wall and charge the bayonets? VERA: What I can’t understand is how could you have got mixed up with those Communists – VANEK: What Communists? VERA: Well, Kohout and his crowd. (Havel 1993, 234)15

Of these four writers, however, Ludvík Vaculík reached perhaps the widest recognition as a political opposition thinker during the Prague Spring. He became a rising star of Czechoslovak literature following the publication of The Axe (1966), a novel breaking with the



official communist representations of rural life. When speaking at the Writers’ Congress in 1967, he was already a prominent figure on the literary scene, editor of Literární listy. In June 1968, shortly after censorship in Czechoslovakia was suspended, he authored the manifesto entitled Two Thousand Words to Workers, Farmers, Scientists, Artists, and Everyone (later known simply as Two Thousand Words). The manifesto published in four newspapers and signed by a large number of people, intellectuals, workers, and farmers, and it had a “dramatic impact” (Falk 2003, 77), stirring up a heated discussion within the Party and the reformist camp, but also alerting the Soviets to the seriousness of the challenge the Prague Spring was posing for the Communist system.

The Popstar Turned Dissident: Kubišová In no other case would dissident fame converge with actual celebrity as visibly as in that of Marta Kubišová. She began her career as a singer at the age of twenty, at the Theater Rokoko in Prague. Together with Helena Vondráčková and Václav Neckář (who was also an actor in Jiří Menzel’s 1960s films), they formed the “Golden Kids” trio which stormed through Czechoslovak and other Eastern European radio charts, becoming the most successful pop group of the time. During the Prague Spring, Kubišová sided with the reforms. Not just privately: she spoke on Czechoslovak television to support Alexander Dubček when he was returning from his impossible mission in Moscow. But that was not all, there was also a bit of pure coincidence. She sung the theme song for the TV series A song for Rudolf III. It was recorded on August 23, 1968, two days after the Warsaw Pact invasion and broadcast soon after. The song’s lyrics depicted an imagined land going through a dark time of “anger, envy, shyness, fear and feud,” but promising that dark clouds will eventually part and “the lost power” would “return to the people.” It was a ready-made anthem of the fading societal resistance. In 1969, she recorded Tajga-blues, a subtle reference to the Soviet dissidents who protested against the invasion of Czechoslovakia. The incoming neo-Stalinist apparatchiks immediately targeted Kubišová. In 1968, at the height of her career, she won the nation’s most prestigious musical prize, the Golden Nightingale. To make sure that despite the overwhelming popularity she would not win again in 1969, the male and female singer categories were merged, and some of the votes cast on Kubišová destroyed. She ranked seventh, and although it was customary that all top-10 artists


performed at a joint concert when the prize was announced—in 1969, only those ranked first to sixth were invited (Szczygieł 2014). But banning her songs from the TV and radio was apparently not enough. In 1970, the state security fabricated a fake Danish porn magazine with photomontage of Kubišová’s face on one of the models. Copies were then sent not only to major newspapers, television and radio stations, concert offices, but also to many individuals across the country who were suspected of reformist sympathies—as a warning. The Party daily Rudé pravo informed the public that since Kubišová took part in a porn photo shoot, she can no longer be called a socialist artist (Szczygieł 2014). When the photo-slander appeared, she was eight months pregnant—the shock led to a miscarriage and a coma. Though she won a court case against the slandering newspapers, her career as a singer in communist Czechoslovakia was over (Skilling 1981, 35). While she became something of a social pariah—apparently many former friends would cross the street to avoid meeting her—she was still a celebrity when seven years later she became Charter 77’s spokesperson.

Summing Up: The Right Conditions for Dissidence The end of Stalinism—which began after the despot’s death in 1953 and peaked in 1956—meant a shift in some structural conditions shaping Central European politics and the very possibility of organized political dissent. Most importantly, it meant the reduction of terror, extrajudicial killings, and mock trials ending in the execution of political opponents, in response to pressure from outside as well as from within the Communist parties. This was no small thing, as facing prison rather than imminent death makes political opposition a different kind of practice. It also meant the end of the surveillance state, which had pushed its citizens into a permanent state of moral anxiety and distrust. Political liberalization and the visible opening up of public debate created space for the expression of dissenting opinions, while expanding the margin of what can be said, what can be demanded, and what can be questioned. Finally, the end of Stalinism meant a rehabilitation of truth, understood as the correspondence of the words and the reality, in place of the expected correspondence of words and ideology. It also saw the emergence of a “socialist legality,” which rehabilitated the role of the law and made invocations of the letter of the law meaningful again.



The following period of de-Stalinization began with the reformist revolts in Poland and the showdown between Stalinism and reform Communism in Hungary and ended with the invasion of Czechoslovakia. If the events in Budapest and their aftermath, notably the execution of Imre Nagy in 1958, were the first clash between reformism and Stalinism, constituting perhaps the last episode of the latter (though leading to liberalization), the Prague Spring “was the last instance of ‘reform Communism’ or ‘revisionism’ with any real credibility in East or West” (Müller 2011, 169). It also opened a completely new chapter of democratic opposition to post-totalitarian Communism. One additional thing that became apparent after the bloody thwarting of the Hungarian revolution, and again after the Warsaw Pact invasion to break the Prague Spring, was that there would be no direct external help for domestic opposition in Central Europe. In the Poland of the 1940s and 1950s, the anti-communist opposition too was hoping for a Third World War that would see Western Allies invading and reclaiming the country, preferably with the exiled general Wladyslaw Anders, commander of the Polish Army on the Western front, arriving on a white horse. During the fighting in Budapest, Radio Free Europe deluded the Hungarians that foreign support was on the way (Judt 2007, 319). Any remaining illusions were erased by the Warsaw Pact “Operation Danube” and the firm non-intervention line of Western powers. This led to an important realization: Politics happens at home. There would be no foreign miracle, so Communism could only be reformed or brought down from within. But there was also another realization, which came a bit later. Normal politics will not work—there is a need for more subversive strategies. What we see in the scattered evidence presented here is that three elements are necessary to bring about the modern “Dissident,” all of which emerged at this time. First, there needs to be a public act of dissent against the ruling powers. Underground and clandestine opposition can easily be criminalized. That is why “dissidents” need to operate in the sphere of legality. Second, these acts need to be publicized. This can happen through two primary channels. One is the exilic media, such as tamizdat journals, but more important are radio broadcasts (Radio Free Europe, Voice of America, Radio Liberty, BBC, etc.). The other is the domestic, regime-controlled media, which had a much greater range, and through their shaming and blaming campaigns could achieve exactly the opposite results to those intended. A third


channel—samizdat—developed in the second half of the 1970s and in Poland especially became an important medium. Third, international contacts and recognition offered added empowerment to the opposition and created an effective security umbrella, protecting those whose names and cases went public in the West. This set of factors was not in play before 1956, when the scale of repressions made open acts of dissent less likely, the groupist strategy of domestic shaming did not allow for “infamous” individuals to become known, and international contacts were much more limited. However, these elements would converge and consolidate in the 1960s. This is also the time when the figure of the “Dissident” begins to emerge. Djilas, the godfather of radical revisionism and what he called “democratic socialism,” was at the same time the first of these new dissidents and the last in a long row of high-profile Communists to dissent from the party line—a tradition going back to Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky. While in many ways similar, the first truly “dissident” act in Central Europe was the Open Letter to the Party by Kuroń and Modzelewski. The Letter can be seen as one of the last chords of post1956 revisionism, but it was not in itself revisionist. It went beyond that. Like Djilas’ The New Class, it targeted the Party (the Bureaucracy) as an opponent of society, but it went farther than the Yugoslav revisionist. Although it still used Marxist language, the depth of this clandestine heresy was unprecedented. Like Djilas, Kuroń and Modzelewski gained international recognition, but the 1960s were already different in that respect too. The student revolt was on the horizon. Several opposition-minded personalities had already made a name for themselves during the 1960s. Their initial fame, however, was of a different kind. Defiant writers like Kundera or Havel were already known domestically and associated with their political attitudes before and during the Prague Spring. However, transnationally they were known only in artistic circles—and expressions of solidarity were all that could be expected from such milieus. Kuroń and Modzelewski, on the other hand, gained some heroic notoriety as rebels who went to prison (twice, by the end of the decade) for their beliefs. But those beliefs—radical leftist critique of East European socialism—were of course politically charged and provoked different reactions among different audiences. The Western public in the late 1960s, apart from the young Left, was much more focused on developments in the Soviet Union. Likewise, the names of Solzhenitsyn, Sinyavsky, Daniel, and Orlov were surely more



recognizable for wider audiences than those of Kuroń and Modzelewski, not to mention Havel’s. This was due partly to the central role of the Soviet Union, but also to the fact that the dissidents there were beginning to use a more universal idiom of rights. In fact, as Friszke points out, already in their 1964 trial, Kuroń and Modzelewski used rightsbased arguments, calling up the Polish constitution and civil rights (freedom of speech) in their defense (Friszke 2010, 12). The same was true for the young “Commandos.” This rights-based dissent, not necessarily referring to the universalist idea of human rights, but rather—the letter of the law, constitutions, international covenants—would become a trademark of dissidence, “stepping outside the system’s boundaries,” while pretending to “remain within its framework” (Brier 2013, 19). The developments in Central Europe at the time were, as it turned out, of no less importance than the emergence of first Soviet dissident groups and the political trials. In August 1968, a group of eight Soviet intellectuals protested in Moscow against the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia (Wojnowski 2018, 85). Their trial—sending them to prison or a psychiatric ward—was closely observed by the Western media, who popularized the word “dissident” in describing Eastern European opposition. Alongside the evolving attitudes of the intelligentsia in the Eastern Bloc, the meaning of the term “dissident” evolved too. Initially denoting intra-Party opposition, in the 1950s “dissident” meant revisionist. But, by the end of the 1960s, a new meaning emerges. It sees the dissidents as solitary moral protesters but also, more and more, as rights activists. Through a meticulous analysis of a large set of Western newspapers, Julia Metger has been able to show the way Western correspondents in the Soviet Union, covering the trials of the nascent Soviet opposition, especially of Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuri Daniel, moved from calling the accused “young Russian intellectuals” and “liberal writers” to “young dissenters,” “dissident intellectuals,” and finally the “dissident movement among Soviet intellectuals.” They became “prominent dissidents” and part of a “civil rights action group.” The English-language media (New York Times and the London Times) were the first to use the word “dissident” (1968/69), but Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung soon followed with “prominenten Dissidenten” (1972) (Metger 2013). It is important to note the clear association with civil and human rights, an indicator of a change in the understanding of the word “Dissident,” now filled with positive content.


The modern understanding of the term “Dissident” begins to form at the end of the 1960s. An important factor that Metger highlights, already visible in my analysis of the Czechoslovak and especially the Polish case, is a shift toward direct contact of Western correspondents with the opposition forces in the Eastern Bloc. No longer perceived either through the lens of propaganda or merely through the interpretations of Western experts (who tended to focus on the power elites anyway), the dissidents begin to emerge as political agents, if not yet causing change then at least attracting attention. Through gaining media coverage both at home and abroad, they were becoming characters of flesh and blood, not merely the vessels of an abstract and vague idea. There were still limits to the impact and reception of Eastern European dissidentism. The transnational platform of understanding, which would eventually enable the Eastern European opposition to catch Western attention and gain recognition, was simply not there yet. Revisionism, like that of Djilas, was an internal problem of the Left, and up until 1968, many prominent Western leftist intellectuals maintained considerable illusions about Soviet-type regimes. The first “Dissidents,” although they themselves turned away from Communism once and for all after 1968 (or even before, after the arrest of Kuroń and Modzelewski), were still only able to communicate with left-wing Western audiences.16 Barbara Toruńczyk recalls that she had great contacts among the Trotskyists. When asked why, she replied, “At that time only the Trotskyists were interested in what is going on in the East. The rest no, not at all. There was Yalta, nobody wanted to overturn Yalta.”17 This may seem a within-family division, but links to the Trotskyists were, in fact, seen as a major offense in Eastern Europe, almost on par with contacts with American or West German intelligence (Friszke 2010, 159). Many people among the other strands of the 1960s Left still regarded anti-governmental dissenters in Eastern Europe as reactionary mastodons. Kuroń’s and Modzelewski’s Open Letter changed attitudes to an extent. “This was a discovery”—says Aleksander Smolar—“a new idea which came from the East and which used a language they all knew. But it was also a discovery for the Right. The right-wing did not share their views, but for them it also became important that there is a new opposition being born in those countries. Those names, that what they were writing— it existed in the public conscience.”18 The Prague Spring and its brutal pacification was another factor that changed the



attitudes of many in Western Europe, including the pro-Soviet factions of the Western Left which started losing ground, and had to further revise their perceptions of the Eastern opposition after the publication of Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago in 1974. “Dissent was born of a particular world” writes Jonathan Bolton “and that world was born in the fall of 1968” (Bolton 2012, 4). However, the post-1968 Central European emigrants from both Czechoslovakia and Poland were still suffering from a certain isolation and reticence, and even their friends and sympathetic interlocutors dismissed their passion as bitterness typical for exiles. What was needed in the East–West dialogue was a common unifying language in which the opposition’s struggles could be expressed, so as to reach the ears of all, not only radical leftists and liberal Catholics. That common idiom, necessary for the dissidents to gain a voice, would turn out to be human rights.


1. Anonymous, “Komu to służy?” Życie Warszawy, 9 March 1968, p. 8. For a good synthesis of the March events through a propaganda lens, see Sęczyk (2009). 2.  Anonymous, “Ku rozwadze,” Życie Warszawy, 10–11 March 1968, p. 12. Also: Anonymous, “Spokój, porządek, odpowiedzialność,” Życie Warszawy, 12 March 1968, p. 2. Trybuna Ludu is quoted as a source of the list of names. 3. “Co się kryje za ulicznymi awanturami? Przemówienie I Sekretarza KW PZPR Józefa Kępy,” Życie Warszawy, 13 March 1968, p. 4. 4. This is also clearly visible in the extensive although caricatured reporting of the “Commandos” trials. See Osiadacz (9 February 1969a, 23 February 1969b). 5. However, it needs to be pointed out that in 1968, the vicious anti-Semitic campaign did resonate with large parts of the society. Most importantly, after 1968, the nationalist-Catholic political tradition, previously at odds with the regime, found strong anchoring points in the Polish symbolic sphere. 6. Told by Karol Modzelewski at a meeting promoting A. Friszke’s book Anatomia buntu, 24 March 2010. 7.  Anonymous, “Do studentów Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego,” Trybuna Ludu, 1968. Acquired from KARTA Archive, Kolekcja Jacka Kuronia, AO III 12 K.37.04. 8. Interview with B. Toruńczyk, Warsaw, 30 March 2010.


9. Interview with A. Smolar, Warsaw, 18 March 2010. 10. This shows the power of the international symbol of the two Polish intellectuals in 1968 (for left-wing rebels). Some far-right and hate-driven critics of Cohn-Bendit failed to see the joke and believed that “KurońModzelewski” was his real name, while “Cohn-Bendit” was an alias. The source can be easily found but is not worth quoting. 11. In fact, Hass was released mostly because he decided to collaborate with the security service by writing detailed reports, and he continued to be an informer until the mid-1980s. See Friszke (2010, 343). 12. An in-depth analysis in Czech can be found in Tesař (2003). 13. Passage from an interview with Havel by Erica Blair (John Keane) in the Times Literary Supplement, 23 January 1987 (Havel 1991b, 25). 14. Havel begins the letter by reintroducing himself to Dubček: “I don’t know if you remember me: we talked once a year ago at a small gathering of writers and politicians. Nor do I know if you know me as a writer.” This is of course a sign of modesty, but also proves that before he became famous as a dissident, Havel was not yet a “celebrity” (Havel 1991a). 15. Kohout is also mentioned in other plays: Audience and Protest. 16. The other milieu that was interested in and sympathetic of early East European dissent was the Catholic personalists. See Kosicki (19 September 2010). 17. Interview with B. Toruńczyk, Warsaw, 30 March 2010. 18. Interview with A. Smolar, Warsaw, 18 March 2010.

References Bolton, Jonathan. 2012. Worlds of Dissent: Charter 77, the Plastic People of the Universe, and Czech Culture Under Communism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Bouyeure, Cyril. 2009. Adam Michnik. Biografia. Wymyślić to, co polityczne. Kraków: Wydawn. Literackie. Bren, Paulina. 2004. “1968 East and West: Visions of Political Change and Student Protest from Across the Iron Curtain.” In Transnational Moments of Change: Europe 1945, 1968, 1989, edited by Gerd-Rainer Horn and Padraic Kenney, 119–36. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. Brier, Robert, ed. 2013. “Entangled Protest: Dissent and the Transnational History of the 1970s and 1980s.” In Entangled Protest: Transnational Approaches to the History of Dissent in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, edited by Robert Brier, 11–42. Osnabrück: Fibre. Deutscher, Isaac. 1972. Marxism in Our Time. New ed. Jonathan Cape paperback 85. London: Cape.



Duda, Wojciech. 2005. “Po śladach: Rozmowa z Bronisławem Świderskim.” Przegląd Polityczny 70. Falk, Barbara J. 2003. The Dilemmas of Dissidence in East-Central Europe: Citizen Intellectuals and Philosopher Kings. Budapest and New York: Central European University Press. Friszke, Andrzej. 2010. Anatomia buntu: Kuroń, Modzelewski i komandosi. Wyd. 1. Kraków: Społeczny Instytut Wydawniczy “Znak”. Havel, Václav. 1991a. “Letter to Alexander Dubček.” In Open Letters: Selected Prose 1965–1990, edited by Paul Wilson, 36–49. London and Boston: Faber and Faber. ———. 1991b. Open Letters: Selected Prose 1965–1990. Edited by Paul Wilson. London and Boston: Faber and Faber. ———. 1993. The Garden Party and Other Plays. 1st Grove Press. New York: Grove Press. Hilwig, Stuart J. 1998. “The Revolt Against the Establishment: Students Versus the Press in Germany and Italy.” In 1968, The World Transformed, edited by Carole Fink, Philipp Gassert, and Detlef Junker, 321–50. Cambridge, UK, and New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. Judt, Tony. 2007. Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945. London: Pimlico. Keane, John. 1999. Václav Havel: A Political Tragedy in Six Acts. 1. publ. London: Bloomsbury. Kosicki, Piotr H. 2010. “Peace and the Human Person: The ‘Foreign Policy’ of the Polish Catholic Intelligentsia Clubs with France, Belgium and West Germany, 1956–1978.” Conference “Transnational Perspectives on Dissent and Opposition in Central and Eastern Europe,” September 19, Warsaw. Kucharska, Marta. 1990. Kuroń ty draniu! Warszawa: Dom Wydawniczy ABC. Kuroń, Jacek. 2009. Kuroń. Autobiografia. Warszawa: Wydawn. Krytyki Politycznej. Kuroń, Jacek, Karol Modzelewski, and Einde O’Callaghan. 1967. “A Socialist Manifesto for Poland.” International Socialism 28 (Spring): 25–27. https:// epress.anu.edu.au/history/etol/newspape/isj/1967/no028/kuron.htm. Kusin, Vladimir V. 1978. From Dubček to Charter 77: A Study of “Normalization” in Czechoslovakia, 1968–1978. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Labedz, Leopold. 1989. “Kolakowski: On Marxism and Beyond.” In The Use and Abuse of Sovietology, 135–54. New Brunswick and Oxford: Transaction. Metger, Julia. 2013. “Writing the Papers: How Western Correspondents Reported the First Dissident Trials in Moscow, 1965–1972.” In Entangled Protest: Transnational Perspectives on the History of Dissent in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, edited by Robert Brier, 87–108. Osnabrück: Fibre. Michnik, Adam. 2005. Wściekłość i wstyd. Warszawa: Zeszyty Literackie. ———. 2008. “Marzec, Maj - a z wolnością kłopot: Interview with D. Cohn Bendit.” Gazeta Wyborcza, March 24.

86  K. SZULECKI Müller, Jan-Werner. 2011. Contesting Democracy: Political Ideas in TwentiethCentury Europe. New Haven: Yale University Press. Osiadacz, Maria. 1969a. “Obsesja ‘posłannictwa’.” Prawo i Życie, February 9. ———. 1969b. “Drugi garnitur.” Prawo i Życie, February 23. Reutt, Alina, and Zdzisław Andruszkiewicz. 1968a. “Apostołowie.” Walka Młodych, March 24. ———. 1968b. “Sojusz nienawisci: ‘Komandosi’ przed sądem.” Walka Młodych, November 24. Rocamora, Carol. 2005. Acts of Courage: Vaclav Havel’s Life in the Theater. Hanover, NH: Smith and Kraus. Sęczyk, Waldemar. 2009. Marzec ’68 w publicystyce PRL: Studium z dziejów propagandy. Wałbrzych: Wydawnictwo WPWSZ. Skilling, H. Gordon. 1981. Charter 77 and Human Rights in Czechoslovakia. London: Allen & Unwin. Suk, Jaroslav. 1982. “Československá radikální levice.” Svědectví 17 (62): 613–29. Szczygieł, Mariusz. 2014. Gottland: Mostly True Stories from Half of Czechoslovakia. Brooklyn and London: Melville House. Szulecki, Kacper. 2011. “Citizen Havel Leaves.” http://www.deliberatelyconsidered.com/2011/12/citizen-havel-leaves/. ———. 2015. “Order of the Orderless: Dissident Identity Between De-stabilization and Re-stabilization.” In Rethinking Order: Idioms of Stability and Destabilization, edited by Nicole Falkenhayner, Andreas Langenohl, Johannes Scheu, Doris Schweitzer, and Kacper Szulecki, 105–24. Culture & Theory. Bielefeld: Transcript. Tesař, Jan. 2003. Zamlčená diagnóza. Praha: Triáda. Vondra, Aleksandr. 1988. “Lidská tvář bez komunizmu: RR interview s Adamem Michnikiem.” Revolver Revue [samizdat] 11. Wojnowski, Zbigniew. 2018. “The Impact of the Prague Spring on the USSR.” In Eastern Europe in 1968: Responses to the Prague Spring and Warsaw Pact Invasion, edited by Kevin McDermott and Matthew Stibbe, 71–95. London: Palgrave Macmillan.


Between Prague and Helsinki: Setting the Transnational Stage for Dissidence

The Landscape After 1968: Similarities and Differences Across Central Europe The Prague Spring, an eruption of unmatched societal nonviolent power, was still to a large extent about intra-Party reform, steered from above. The events of March 1968 resulted from a bottom-up student movement, not yet detached from reformist ideas that fueled much of the Czechoslovak upheaval (Junes 2015). However, due to Poland’s remnants of parliamentarian pluralism, the March events had repercussions in the Sejm (parliament), where the small Catholic opposition club “Znak” issued an interpellation about the repressions against students (Kozłowski 2018). The reactions to this parliamentary dissent were the end of hopes for the post-1956 evolutionary strategy of changing the system from within (Michnik 2009; Szulecki 2011b, 79). One common result of the two events was a large-scale migration of a completely new generation of people, who had perhaps much more in common with each other (Czechs, Slovaks, and Poles) than with the representatives of “old” émigré communities from their own home countries. Another result was a break with Communism and eventually a much looser relationship to Marxism combined with the search for a new opposition identity. While Czechoslovakia and Poland saw significant waves of comparable and almost simultaneous post-1968 migration, the Hungarian experience was slightly different. Some 200,000 Hungarian refugees © The Author(s) 2019 K. Szulecki, Dissidents in Communist Central Europe, Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-22613-8_5



left the country in the aftermath of 1956 (Lénárt and Cooper 2012), heading for Austria and Yugoslavia. Austria received most of the refugees initially, and in total, 37 countries around the world resettled nearly 180,000 Hungarians (Cellini 2017). Whereas the political process in Hungary took a different path from that of its Central European neighbors, with no dramatic “1968,” the shock following the Prague Spring across the Danube was very strong (Békés 2018). Thus, for the emerging Hungarian dissent, “1968 was a crucial event” as well. Firstly, as a “shock of the open violent suppression of the experiment with democratic socialism” became a “watershed for intellectuals with diverse backgrounds,” many now realized (as did their counterparts in Czechoslovakia and Poland) that “socialism could not (or no longer) be democratized from within” (Apor et al. 2018, 371). This set many Hungarian intellectuals on a “long road of dissent.” The older revisionists were disillusioned, while the younger generation, which similarly to the Polish “Commandos” and the Czechoslovak radicals, dropped many leftist dogmas and instead began to explore other traditions, such as liberalism. The thwarting of the Prague Spring thus resulted in the realization of the Hungarian 1968ers “that their cause was truly similar to that of the 1956ers, with whom, until then, they had only sporadic contacts” (Apor et al. 2018, 372). In the German Democratic Republic (GDR), the Prague Spring’s thwarting was a great shock, and a declaration of protest handed over to the Czechoslovak embassy in Berlin—the first clear and public protest carried out against the regime (Vilímek 2013, 57). But East Germany was an outlier all along, thanks to its relationship with the Federal Republic (West Germany). This “unique situation” was due to a shared culture, language, and a contiguous border, resulting in both a “greater possibility of information flow” through radio and TV, and “a correspondingly greater control at the state security level” (Burgoyne et al. 2018, 416). Inhabitants of the GDR had continuous access to Western radio and TV, which was received all across East Germany apart from the so-called “valley of the clueless” (Tal der Ahnungslosen)—the mock name for southern Saxony and the northeastern part of Mecklenburg where Western TV signals did not reach. Linguistic and geographic proximity allowed for a much closer circulation of ideas as well as people—and escapees from the East did not necessarily play the role of “exiles,” for instance Rudi Dutschke, who fled the GDR in 1961 and became the leader of West German student protests. To many citizens of



the Eastern Bloc, a one-way ticket to the West might not have seemed like the worst of punishments. It was something of an “upscale Siberia,” key Charter 77 activist Anna Šabatová remarked (Vilímek 2013, 79), but it was also devastating for opposition activities in the GDR. The East German dissidents had to rebuild any structures they managed to create over and over again, as within a week all signatories of a protest declaration could simply find themselves in West Berlin with no way to cooperate with their friends across the wall (Vilímek 2013, 68). They also had to struggle with the stigma of anti-Communism among Western activists, and deafening silence from those left behind (Joppke 1995, 205). In the GDR, 1968 was a watershed date as well—both through the experience of the “Western 1968” seen on television and, no less important, because of the Prague Spring. “While enjoying a substantial rise in the standard of living, together with a decline of classical-style repression, and as the citizens adjusted to the Communist regime and vice versa … [m]any intellectuals (especially writers), although supportive of the political establishment, started to speak out” after the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia (Combe 2018, 143–44).

Dissident Interpreters—A New Generation of Exiles Unlike the postwar emigration, the new exiles, those who left Central Europe after 1968, were shaped in Communist realities, in which they lived their entire adult lives. They had first-hand experience and a deeper understanding of the way societies operated. Lacking the stereotypes common among the older, often deeply anti-Communist exiles, they were more eager to politically engage with the regime which they treated more as a fact of life. Despite the trauma of often forced and psychologically costly banishment, they quickly found their way into important cultural and political centers in the West—universities, media, and political elites. The new émigrés were on the one hand very receptive to the voices coming from their home countries (where many leading oppositionists were their friends and colleagues) and on the other were able to retell the domestic story in languages and “vocabularies” understandable to prominent groups in their host countries. They became dissident interpreters and played a crucial role in the transnational circulation of the 1970s and 1980s and in the formation and sustaining of the dissident figure.


In contrast to the earlier exilic generations, the 68ers were often open to left-wing discourses, and despite socialism’s gradual self-discrediting, they were determined to uphold that political identity. That was the case of Jiří Pelikán, whose complex biography is not unique. A devout communist in his youth, Pelikán went the whole way from initial neophyte zeal of the “captive mind” through the heresy of reformism to disillusionment with Soviet-style Communism—but not socialism. As a director of the Czechoslovak television in the 1960s, he played a role in the Prague Spring, actively supporting the liberalization movement and broadcasting all the major events. But after the Soviet intervention, he was removed from office and sent as a diplomat to Italy, where he pleaded political asylum in 1969. Already in 1971 he launched the important exilic periodical Listy, which later became a crucial forum for left-liberal Czechoslovak thought and an active center of dissident promotion.1 After obtaining Italian citizenship, Pelikán became a member of the European Parliament for the Italian Socialist Party and remained in this prominent position for a decade until 1989, becoming an even more important “focal point” in the transnational network of dissidentism. Pelikán’s path became openly political. There were a few other Central European dissident interpreters who followed it. Milan Horáček fled to West Germany and soon became a co-founder of the Greens, for whom he was also a Bundestag member in the 1980s. Zbigniew Brzezinski’s role in Washington, especially as Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor during and after the Helsinki negotiations, was, among other things, to interpret and translate Central European opposition realities. Another path was followed by exiled writers and artists—like Czesław Miłosz, Milan Kundera, Antonín Liehm, Josef Škvorecký, and many others, who had contacts with their Western counterparts and thus, though seemingly not directly political, could have some influence on public opinion. Nina Smolar was a biochemistry student in Warsaw, but her involvement with the “Commandos” brought her a three-month prison sentence, and combined with the anti-Semitic backlash of March 1968, forced her to emigrate, together with her husband Eugeniusz, to Sweden in 1970. Her words capture the attitude of most future dissident interpreters from this new émigré wave: We found ourselves in an alien country, surrounded by an alien language and alien culture. This meant that we first had to learn how to adapt to it,



how to domesticate this alienness. We didn’t want to resign from the [professional] ambitions we had back in Poland, to fall below a certain level. This is always a great problem for emigrants. So from the start we set off to realize the goal of reaching a certain professional position, so that we could feel equal to the “natives”. This is what we spent the first two-three years on, in the meantime still living with Polish affairs. (interview with N. Smolar 2016)

She was able to combine an academic career, obtaining a doctorate in Uppsala and then moving on to work at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, with co-editing the émigré periodical Aneks and later, in the 1980s, its literary publishing house. Her brother-in-law, Aleksander Smolar, followed the same academic path. After leaving Poland in 1971, he traveled through Western Europe to settle in Paris with a position at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, where Krzysztof Pomian was also employed. Leszek Kołakowski ended up at Oxford University. Irena Lasota, who in 1968 read the student appeal in support of Michnik and Szlajfer at the Warsaw University square, eventually became a lecturer at Yale, where another former member of the “Commandos,” Jan T. Gross, was also teaching, while his wife Irena Grudzińska-Gross pursued a Ph.D. at Columbia University. Václav Bělohradský left Czechoslovakia and became a lecturer in Genoa. Those prestigious affiliations gave the former oppositionists visibility and a chance to approach many prominent figures in the Western intellectual elites. Nina’s husband, Eugeniusz Smolar, resumed university studies in Sweden, having been expelled from Warsaw University and imprisoned after the March 1968 events. In 1973, the brothers together with Nina and Aleksander’s wife, Irena Grosfeld-Smolar, set up the periodical Aneks (Bertram 2016). Eugeniusz later moved to London and became a journalist of the BBC’s Polish Section. He therefore became one of another group of exiles, who found positions directly in the Western media.2 There he met Petr Brod, a Czech émigré who, using his position in the Czechoslovak section, was eager to conduct a “war in the ether” with the regime that forced him out of his homeland. When he was no longer able to do that, due to the BBC’s moderate policies, he moved to Munich to work at Radio Free Europe.3 In Britain, Smolar also met Jan Kavan, another important dissident interpreter. Kavan’s father was a diplomat, sentenced to 25 years of prison in the infamous Slánský Trial—an


exemplary internal cleansing that took the lives of eleven prominent Party figures, inspired personally by Stalin (Lukes 1999). A student and one of the “Prague radicals” in the 1960s, Kavan left Czechoslovakia after the Prague Spring, settled in London, and soon began to set up Palach Press—a publishing venture specializing in the translation and promotion of Czechoslovak dissident materials, almost a dissident press agency. Together with Eugeniusz Smolar, and the Hungarian George Schöpflin in 1985, he published the first issue of the East European Reporter, gathering information and analysis of dissent east of the Elbe. These are only some examples of the people who played the role of dissident interpreters. What is important, they were determined to catch the attention of the Western public and make the domestic political struggles understandable and significant (Szulecki 2011a). The new émigrés were not suffering from a “ghetto syndrome” characteristic of large parts of the postwar emigration—they were eager to assimilate quickly in their host countries. At the beginning of the 1970s, their main goal was to break through the reticence and the silence that gathered around Eastern European questions. With the emergence of new dissident groups and movements in the second half of the decade, their function became vital—being mediators between the East and the West, both interpreting and promoting dissident activities and personages. But there were also other functions they performed. Still on a transnational level, they helped to establish contacts between opposition circles within the Eastern Bloc. What started out as a cooperation of emigrants of different nationalities later became an alternative channel of communication across borders in the East. Texts were translated and then smuggled into new countries; meetings were set up both in the West and in the East.

Transnational Circulation: Samizdat, Tamizdat, Radio, and TV What this new wave of exiles also enabled was a new set of channels and a completely new intensity for transnational circulation—of texts and ideas. Circulation, according to the conceptualization of Benjamin Lee and Edward LiPuma (2002), must “be conceived as more than simply the movement of people, ideas and commodities from one culture to another”—it is a dialectic process in which novel qualities and meanings are created. For domestic dissent to become transnational dissidentism, that circulation of texts, ideas, and people was crucial, and we



have seen early examples in Chapter 3, with the exilic and foreign-language editions of Kuroń and Modzelewski’s Open Letter to the Party. The 1970s across Eastern Europe saw the intensification of independent publishing practices—jointly labeled samizdat (from the Russian “self-publishing”) and tamizdat (“published there”), meaning the publication of prohibited texts abroad for domestic as well as international audiences (Kind-Kovács and Labov 2013; Kind-Kovács 2014; Parisi 2015; Feindt 2016; Burgoyne et al. 2018). As the key organizer of Hungarian samizdat publications, László Rajk, the son of the minister whose reburial in Budapest was one of the first steps leading to the 1956 events, notes: “samizdat immediately started or tried to be international.”4 Once these new forms of communication became more institutionalized, they allowed for the occurrence of a mechanism that Eugeniusz Smolar emphatically calls the “circle of hope,” somewhat similar to what Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink term the “boomerang effect” (Smolar 2006; Keck and Sikkink 1998) compare (Risse et al. 1999; Szulecki 2011a). Copies of samizdat would be smuggled into the West. There they would then be “amplified,” that is, reprinted in a larger circulation and then smuggled back. But the crucial point here was the radio. Not only samizdat, but also reports of the dissidents’ activities and the regimes’ repressions would be smuggled out, and then broadcast through one of the several radio stations in different Central European languages that were focused on providing uncensored information to these societies (Kind-Kovács and Labov 2013). This mechanism was universal for the entire region. The editor of Hungary’s most important samizdat journal Beszélő, János Kis, recounts: “we printed 1000 up to 1500 copies. We estimated that each copy was read by some ten people. So that’s 15,000 readers. But remember Radio Free Europe! After 1989, I would travel around the country giving talks and everywhere I went, there were people who knew our texts.”5 The legendary archivist of Czechoslovak samizdat, Jiří Gruntorád makes a very similar calculation: “we printed 2000 copies, perhaps they were read by 20,000 people. But after this was broadcast by the radio, we reached 100,000 people, maybe more.”6 However, Gruntorád sees this seemingly broad resonance as an illustration of the limits to dissident’s samizdat messages. Even 100,000 was not even a percentile, of Czechoslovakia’s population (at the time reaching 15 million). “It was not percent but permille”—Gruntorád underlines. As a Czechoslovak worker recalled: “Just take the fact that people like me, but others too,


never had the chance to read any of those opposition pamphlets that were being condemned in the official press … Well yes, “Dva tisíce slov” [Two thousand words, a petition issued in spring 1968, written by Ludvík Vaculík] I did read. It was published in 1968. At the time, it was still possible to publish it. [But] who read the Charter 77 declaration? It was impossible to put your hands on” (Vaněk and Mücke 2016, 30–31). Samizdat journals “continued ‘holding the hands’ of the emigrants by urging them to keep in contact with the opposition” (Bozóki 2009). They welcomed the writings of the democrats who emigrated, hoping that this would enrich domestic intellectual and political debates. But more importantly perhaps, the exiles continued “holding the hands” of friends in the opposition who stayed home. The full title of Aneks, the periodical set up by the Smolars, was “Annex to the censored Polish press.” This was a very important statement of purpose and a departure from the practices of earlier emigration. Unlike the older generations of political exiles—be it Polish, Czech, or Russian—the 68ers believed that “life is elsewhere”; they believed that politics is made at home, not abroad, and that the role of the emigration is to help, to facilitate, to publicize, and to explain, but never to direct the domestic opposition.7 Yet, at the same time, they considered themselves (through friendship as well as a feeling of obligation) an “intrinsic part of the opposition” (Smolar 2006, 3). The same was true for the Czechoslovak equivalent of Aneks—the Rome-based Listy. Its editor-in-chief, Pelikán, explained in a letter to his fellow émigré, Dušan Havliček: “I’ve just sent you the first issue of Listy, which will be appearing bimonthly … apart from this, you will get a package with ten other copies with the request that you, in some way, help in transporting it home, where they are primarily intended.” Printing periodicals in Western Europe with the intention of smuggling them to Eastern Europe was not only a logistical challenge, but primarily a financial one. Jerzy Giedroyć paid for the first issues of Aneks, but the “business model” had to rely on subscriptions among émigrés and fundraising. Pelikán continued, mocking the Communist propaganda, but highlighting this problem: “It [Listy] is also for those living permanently abroad, with the indication that they subscribe (for 10 DM per year), which is not much but will help us, because the CIA pays badly, and [Willy] Brandt is not paying at all. Maybe I’ll get some money from the ‘Zionists’, now that I found myself to be part of their group, but



since they are at war with those good Arabs, I don’t think they’ll have much left for us…” (Havlíček and Pelikán 2013, 34). After the periodical gained momentum and resonance, amplified transnationally by the German edition Listy-Blätter which Horáček organized (Vilímek 2013, 62), the Communists were not in a joking mood: By 1974, the Czechoslovak security service (Státní bezpečnost - StB) deemed Listy to be so dangerous as to attempt the assassination of Pelikán with a mail bomb (Cysařová 2004). Paris was to become “the capital of Eastern European dissidence” (Boel 2010) and a publishing center for exilic periodicals, both of the “old” emigration, the Paris-based Kultura (Polish, steered by Jerzy Giedroyć) and Svědectví (Czech, published by Pavel Tigrid), and those developed already in the 1970s: Kontinent (Russian, published by Vladimir Maximov) and Magyar Füzetek (Hungarian, published by Pierre Kende). There were also numerous periodicals published in hostcountry languages, to increase awareness of independent political initiatives in the Eastern Bloc: L’Alternative (Francois Maspero, 1979–1985) and La Nouvelle Alternative (Karel Bartošek, since 1986), Lettre internationale (founded by the Czech Antonín Liehm and Paul Noirot in 1984), and finally the already mentioned East European Reporter (since 1985). The impact of this “circle” was immense, a fact proven well by the scale of propaganda campaigns meant to discredit the exilic publishers, their periodicals, and the radios (Hajdasz 2001). While the BBC was not jammed at all over Central Europe, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, and the Voice of America were. Despite the continuous jamming, RFE was listened to by one-third (!) of the Polish population in 1965 (Machcewicz 2007). Drawing on confidential reports from sociological surveys commissioned by the Party leadership, Jolanta Hajdasz reconstructs the approximate audience of RFE in Poland between 1968 and 1992, oscillating between 5.6% in 1974 and an outstanding 53% in 1981 and 48% in 1968 (Hajdasz 2001, 252–54). The Polish section of the Voice of America (Głos Ameryki) was comparably popular. These statistics, even treated with a large margin of error, show the broad resonance of the “circle of hope,” but also illustrate the fluctuation between periods of societal apathy (low shares of listeners in the early 1970s and mid1980s) and political engagement (1968, 1979–1982, and later 1988– 1989), or dissatisfaction with domestic media. Technology played a very important role in the development of dissidentism and mass societal protest—a fact that public opinion focused


on recently in relation to the “Arab Spring” of 2011. But it was also a very important element in the East European context, one that Padraic Kenney enumerates among four structural factors that enabled the “global 1989” (Kenney 2010, 4–6). In the early days of dissidentism, contacts with Western media correspondents were used to transmit messages and full texts—sometimes through diplomatic channels. Otherwise, the texts would be smuggled out by people traveling to the West, who were then asked to post these (because post is anonymous) to a given address, from where it would then circulate normally—to publishers, media, and radios. The Polish opposition went for a shortcut. Already when reporting about the Kuroń-Modzelewski case repercussions at Warsaw University, Barbara Toruńczyk called Michnik directly from France. Later, Kuroń would regularly call Aleksander Smolar in France on the phone and read entire texts of documents and declarations, lists of signatories and accounts of repressions. These were recorded and then transcribed and passed on, again on the phone, allowing the Smolar brothers to jointly edit their exilic periodical Aneks from France, Sweden, and Britain. In the 1980s, the opposition began using telefax to send documents and low-quality photos quickly to the West, while photocopying machines, home desktop computers, and printers broadened the scope of samizdat. Finally, there came video. Mirosław Chojecki, a founder member of the Workers’ Defense Committee (KOR), who found himself in the USA when Martial Law was declared in Poland, later moved to France and joined the already wide network of dissident interpreters, set up the first dissident “television” in 1985—Video-Kontakt. It was soon followed by the Czechoslovak equivalent, London-based Videomagazín (Lovejoy 2013). Using professional and archival material as well as their own production, they began to record videotapes, which were smuggled back to the East, copied and distributed through the same channels as samizdat. “Father Jankowski [the chaplain of Gdansk’s Solidarity – KS] managed to organize 200 copies overnight”—recalls Chojecki.8 People would then gather in apartments of those who had a VCR and watch these documentaries and chronicles. If the image says a thousand words, that was an epochal change, breaking the state monopoly on the dissemination of images. Apart from the short “window” of Solidarity in 1980– 1981 when opposition was televised, even if many people heard about different prominent oppositionists, they hardly knew what they looked like. In late 1988, with some help from the European Parliament secured



by Pelikán, Chojecki went a step further and set up a satellite television—Euro-Kontakt—that broadcast its programs at specific times, which were made known through Radio Free Europe. By that time, however, independent video-samizdat was also produced domestically, e.g., Video Studio Gdańsk or the Czechoslovak Originální Videojournal launched in 1987 by a group around Olga Havlová (Lovejoy 2013).

Opposition in Search of a New Identity In both Czechoslovakia and Poland, the aftermath of 1968 left domestic critics of the regime in limbo. The shock of immediate repressions, arrests, then humiliating trials, and prison sentences or forced exile— along with ideational shifts that the opposition was not yet able to cope with—all these changed the Central European landscape greatly. In Poland, an important issue for the opposition was that it visibly split into intellectual dissent and working-class revolt. It is often emphasized that in March 1968 the workers did not support the striking students—on the contrary, as the police were traditionally not allowed to enter the university grounds, the authorities organized factory militias, equipped with wooden batons, who brutally attacked the student manifestation. Police officers in turn chased and beat the students fleeing to the streets and clashed with other demonstrators in different parts of the city. Although, as recent historical research shows, numerous workers, especially those of a similar age as the student protesters, joined the riots, the myth of an inter-societal split was born.9 As the standard narrative goes, in response, when strikes and street protests by workers erupted in Gdansk and other cities on the Baltic Coast in 1970, the students stayed indoors. Meanwhile, regional Party headquarters were set aflame and the authorities reacted with shots fired at the demonstrators, killing many. Discussing the powerful illustration of that “foundational myth of Solidarity” (which was to transcend the intelligentsia-working class divide) in Andrzej Wajda’s film “Man of Iron,” Tom Junes points out perhaps a more important dimension: the “moment of generational strife” which saw the clash of postures between “the students with their utopian or unrealistic vision of revolution finding no ear with the working-class,” accusing them of “naiveté and lack of understanding of the political realities of the time” (Junes 2015, 16). Meanwhile, Czechoslovakia after the Prague Spring entered the period of “normalization”—with the repressive new administration of


Gustáv Husák. While for most of those actively engaged in the Prague Spring Husák was an opportunistic villain, for many less involved (not only hardcore Communists) he was, and still is, “someone who wanted to restore peace and quiet in order to get on with the business of governing and repairing the economy,” while avoiding “excesses and bringing consistency and a firm hand to high politics after the chaos of Dubček’s rule” (Bolton 2012, 57). From this perspective, the Prague Spring might appear as a mere interlude in communist conservatism dominating in Czechoslovakia (McDermott and Sommer 2018). Apart from the gradual step-back from the early reforms, apart from the repressions against the reformers, what was most clearly hanging in the air was the feeling that the society’s moral backbone had been broken. In a desperate act of individual moral protest, a philosophy student at Charles University— Jan Palach—tried to commit suicide by self-immolation on the stairs of Prague’s National Museum. He died some days later. The witnesses compared his deed to the death of the late-medieval religious reformer Jan Hus—burned in Constance in what was represented as an act of moral protest (Szczygieł 2006, 215). As the doctor who tried to save Palach’s life later explained: It was not so much in opposition to the Soviet occupation, but the demoralization which was setting in, that people were not only giving up, but giving in. And he wanted to stop that demoralization. I think the people in the street, the multitude of people in the street, silent, with sad eyes, serious faces, which when you looked at those people you understood that everyone understands, all the decent people who were on the verge of making compromises. (Vaughan and Cameron 2003)

Although his act caused an initial uproar, and although Palach’s funeral became an occasion for demonstrations, the ideals of the Prague Spring were becoming a thing of the past. Neither his act nor the 26 further self-immolation attempts that followed could change this. The increasing societal apathy and the idea of “normalization,” meaning the retreat to private affairs with a guarantee of peace and modest consumption opportunities, began to rule over Central Europe, which entered the post-totalitarian period of socialism. However, margins of liberty for those seeking to think independently varied across the region. The intensity of anti-liberal repressions in Czechoslovakia needs to be underlined. Whereas in Poland the tragic events of 1970 resulted



in a new, less repressive, more West-oriented and modern Party leadership led by Edward Gierek, in Czechoslovakia any forms of opposition were rapidly muted. One of the characteristic forms of punishment for reformers was exclusion from public and professional life. And so, writers became stokers, university lecturers were night watchmen, doctors were cleaning windows, and playwrights were brewing beer. At the same time, however, it would be an oversimplification to say that since political dissent was muted for several years,10 there was no societal opposition. Czechoslovakia spawned a unique sociocultural phenomenon in the form of its artistic and musical underground, which was quite distinct from anything else seen in Central Europe. Jonathan Bolton provides a very good synthesis of what the underground, and its icon (created somewhat post-factum)—The Plastic People of the Universe—was about (Bolton 2012: 118–34), though to capture the spirit it might be wise to refer to the “source” (Jirous 2008). By contrast, to their Czechoslovak counterparts, the Polish oppositionists, even active ones, were often allowed to keep their positions, or—in the worst case—publish under pseudonyms.11 The nascent democratic opposition in Hungary developed in official institutions and think tanks, where some degree of critique was allowed, as long as it was kept rather technical. “The typical pattern of the dissident role was an oscillation between different public faces, as the practice of ‘double publishing’ was more or less tolerated by the cultural policy of the Kádár regime” (Bozóki 2009). The Hungarian “goulash” socialism under Kádár and East German relative prosperity were examples that other neighbors sought to emulate, at least to the extent that some informal social contract providing stability could be established, balancing political grief with an improvement in living standards. This was done, especially in Poland, through money from Western loans. Whereas in the first half of the 1970s the strategy seemed to function well, and Central European societies threw themselves into a socialist-consumerist prosperity, toward the end of the decade, dependency on foreign credit made governments vulnerable to Western pressures. New circumstances required a new strategy from the opposition. There were lessons to be learned from ’68 and ’70. The three most obvious: Communism, even after the end of Stalinism, is a quasi-totalitarian system (or “post-totalitarian” as Havel would have it), where the authorities are no longer using a totalitarian rhetoric or seeking to eliminate


broad categories of “class enemies,” but are nevertheless prepared to shoot, assassinate, beat up, arrest, or expel those who dare to dissent. And censorship was still a fact of life across the Eastern Bloc, even if daily mainstream media no longer read like Stalinist propaganda. There was a need for a new idea regarding the organization of society to face and eventually overthrow such an authoritarian regime. Secondly, dissent has to cut across social groups and classes, and divisions need to be bridged. This seemed especially true in Poland and Hungary, where history illustrated that workers can be approached both from the Left and from the Right. The anti-Semitic campaign of Polish March 1968 proved that nationalism was still a powerfully mobilizing discourse. That led the opposition in Central Europe to search for some common platform or at least the smallest common denominator. It also required a change in language—at least for those, like Jacek Kuroń or the Prague Spring reform communists Jiří Hájek, Zdeněk Mlynář, Jaroslav Šabata, or the Marxist reformists like Ágnes Heller and Mihály Vajda, accustomed to the language of revisionism. Kuroń noted: “We could not reach some people because of the language we spoke. People not interested in politics, or traditionally linked to the Home Army or the Right,12 were not listening to what we were saying. Our language was that of the October Left. The Contradiction Seekers’ Club – Adam Michnik and others – they did not speak that language anymore, although they clearly looked for their roots in October ’56” (Kuroń 2009b, 210). The younger generation had to look for other sources of inspiration. Michnik recalled: “We used to meet quite often and slowly I was transforming from a rebellious follower of Marxism into an acute reader, and believer in the Polish democratic thought” (Michnik 2003). That turn began to be visible already in the late 1960s, when the young “Commandos” discovered, so to say, the idea of national culture, and led the protests against the censoring of an important patriotic theatrical play, the grand romantic drama by Adam Mickiewicz—“Forefathers eve” (Dziady) (Ascherson 2008; Junes 2015, 136). For left-wing intellectuals like Kuroń and Michnik “what now?” was indeed an important question to be tackled. A theoretical diagnosis was provided by their former teacher, now émigré philosophy professor Leszek Kołakowski in his 1971 “Theses on Hope and Hopelessness” (Falk 2003, 160). But a more practical inspiration came surprisingly from a book of nineteenth-century history, which passed through



censorship in a very narrow window of liberalization that followed Gierek’s power takeover. Bohdan Cywiński’s 1971 essay “Lineages of the Defiant” described the late-nineteenth-century Polish rebellious intelligentsia, both lay and deeply Christian, working hand in hand toward the common goal of independent statehood and the development of an alternative civil society (Cywiński 1996). Meanwhile, the possibilities of reforming the system from within were deemed futile. The critique of post-1956 evolutionism, a strategy marked by a certain dose of conformity disguised as “realism,” is clearly spelled out in Michnik’s major essay “New Evolutionism” (Michnik 2009). The essay is one of the manifestos of a nascent nationwide opposition, which would culminate in the Solidarity movement in 1980–1981. Michnik points out that firm revisionism as well as firm neo-positivism “in the face of open conflicts [as in 1968 and 1970—KS] inevitably lead to siding with the authorities and adopting their viewpoint. Solidarity with striking workers, demonstrating students or dissenting intellectuals questions the very strategy of intraparty shifts in revisionism and the conformist policy of neo-positivism” (Michnik 2009, 109). Former heretics were admitting their mistakes and looking for new paths to follow. Milan Kundera retrospectively analyzed his experience of Stalinism in his novel The Joke (written in 1965 and published in 1967). Already in exile, he published Life is Elsewhere which was a personal attempt to understand what it is that makes people collaborate with totalitarian power, or even enthusiastically build it.13 Jacek Kuroń symptomatically titled his autobiographical description of that time “Faith and Guilt” (Kuroń 2009b). The analysis of personal guilt of an opposition activist—this time focused not only on the work in the service of a totalitarian utopia, but even a good cause—was expressed in a later essay “The Evil I cause” (Kuroń 1984b). Kuroń’s social program, although still visibly leftist, drew on the traditions of humanism, democratization, and the critical aspects of Marxism, discarding any Leninist, Stalinist, Trotskyite, Maoist, or other totalitarian appendices. And there were no excuses: “I have no wish to justify my deeds with good intentions. Evil is evil no matter what the intentions.” In a programmatic statement, which would apply to most of the nascent “democratic opposition” movements in Eastern Europe, Kuroń writes: We stand against totalitarianism, meaning such a social structure in which initiative, information, decisions are focused in one centre. If we

102  K. SZULECKI would like to be coherent in what we do, we should also reject an analogous structure of the opposition movement, reject the rule of unanimity, uniformization and one, centralized organization. If therefore I treat the programmatic idea as the basic platform of agreement of various centres, streams, milieus, then I do not mean the creation of one single and uniform programme, but rather such formulation of different and varied texts, that a genuine and sincere discourse between them is achievable. (Kuroń 1984a, 37)

As a result of this soul searching, which occurred between 1968 and roughly the mid-1970s across the Eastern Bloc, opposition rooted in socialist revisionism and resistance coming from liberal and conservative milieus converged in what many choose to call “democratic opposition.” I use this term to indicate an ideational shift, although in terms of opposition practices this means the expansion of dissidentism.

Human Rights, the Helsinki Accords, and the Re-appearance of Open Opposition As was already suggested, in order to effectively communicate with the Western audiences, or even to catch their attention, the opposition needed a new international language. Human rights, which were gaining a career in political discourse after 1945 and especially after 1968, became that lingua franca, a universal idiom, the Esperanto of détente. This was somewhat paradoxical, as the policy of détente, which dominated East–West relations in the 1970s rested on the idea of mutual respect, and by consequence non-intervention into domestic affairs of the other side (Villaume and Westad 2010). That is why Eastern European opposition activists displayed something of an allergy to many manifestations of the détente way of thinking about Cold War politics, seeing it first and foremost as a cynical great power handshake above the heads of those inhabiting “spheres of influence” (Szulecki 2015a). Whereas the 1960s can be seen as the high point of reformism and the radical Left, both the Prague Spring and the student upheaval in Poland carried elements of human rights-based critique, in the Czechoslovak case calling up the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The post-1968 wave of political migration from Central Europe greatly enhanced the diffusion of information and ideas, first from across the Iron Curtain and later within the Bloc. Although human rights became



an internationally mobilizing issue only in the mid-1970s, references to the ideas behind this vague label were made by the Czechoslovak and Polish political opposition ever since its symbolic initiation in 1968 (Szulecki 2011a, 2015b). What seems uncontroversial from today’s point of view—that human rights are a “political vernacular” (T. Judt) and “Esperanto of resistance” (J. Bolton)—was not initially the case at all. It was not “until the last two decades of the twentieth century that human rights developed into the ‘lingua franca of global moral thought’,” notes the leading historian of human rights, Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann (2011). While the rich literature in the history of human rights points to different roots and sources of this powerful idea (perhaps better—powerful rhetorical commonplace), in Christian personalism (Moyn 2011, 2015), decolonization struggles (Jensen 2017), and the international institutionalization, what is important for the dissident story is that in the second half of the 1970s human rights indeed became a mobilizing and universally acknowledged symbol (Brier 2016b). The Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe signed in the summer of 1975 re-installed human rights on the agenda and turned them into a platform of social communication transcending state borders and ideological barriers (Snyder 2011). It was then not so much the ideational content of human rights, as their role of a “post-ideological – or perhaps post-political – consensus reconciling Left and Right” (Müller 2011, Fig. 9) which became relevant for the Eastern European opposition. Charter 77 spokeswoman Petruška Šustrová pointed out: “we knew very well that if it wasn’t for human rights, we would have nothing at all in common.”14 Prior to that, opposition to communism in Central Europe was understood on a different transnational “platform”—Marxism. Those who opposed the Party’s political line were then either “anti-Communists” (remaining outside the ideological sphere of the Party) or “reformists” (heretical insiders). The original religious meaning of the term “dissident” refers to the latter. The human rights discourse stripped the term “dissident” of the remaining traces of that original meaning and widened it to encompass all those who advocated for a “common” understanding and practice of human rights (later to be transposed to other values recognized by the West). By invoking human rights, Eastern European groups and individual intellectual dissenters hoped to mobilize international support. If


human rights were indeed “post-political,” they could at least arguably avoid taking sides in the Cold War, but instead “appealed to a universal, anti-political morality” (Brier 2013b, 31). That was true only in principle, because the actual practice of human rights monitoring and activism very quickly turned a universal moral idiom into a benchmark for ruleof-law and repression. Western leaders who, like Jimmy Carter, embraced human rights norms as an element of foreign policy would be criticized for selectivity—e.g., focusing on the Eastern Bloc but turning a blind eye to perhaps much more violent human rights abuses in Latin America. In 1977, Noam Chomsky called human rights campaigning “a device to be manipulated by propagandists to gain popular support for counterrevolutionary intervention” (Moyn 2010, 157). In the 1980s, the emerging neoconservatism indeed understood human rights as a synonym of anti-communism. However, in the mid-1970s, all this was still difficult to foresee. Human rights ideas were not alien or new to Central Europe, as some suggest (e.g., Thomas 2001), and were later grafted onto other ideational traditions in what can be called a process of their “glocalization” (Szulecki 2011a, 2012, Chapter 5). How was this new human rights dissent enabled? Transnational communication was important, but we should not forget that daily dissident practices took place “at home.” Firstly, rights-based dissent was difficult to dismiss, if Communist states wanted to uphold the internal consistency of legality (Přibáň 2002). This was a socialist legality to be sure, but in a grand majority of everyday court cases, rule-of-law was necessary for the societies to function normally. Arbitrary exceptions, and using legal measures against the regime’s opponents, were of course possible—that arbitrariness is what distinguishes liberal constitutional democratic states from different forms of authoritarianism. But each such exception had to be pushed through as an individual case. It was difficult to teach young lawyers about jurisprudence, Roman law, etc., and then ask them to at times completely forget about it (Kuisz 2008; Szulecki 2015b; Williams and Krapfl 2018; Kopeček 2017). Secondly, the idea of human rights had to be articulated by the opposition in ways that were compatible with the dominant political ideology—which was at once the regime’s pillar and Achilles’ heel, as Havel pointed out. That was possible partly due to the intrinsic fluidity of human rights, partly due to the common radical root they shared with socialism, and finally due to the explicit inscription of human rights into socialist constitutions (Kopeček 2016, 12). Thirdly, legitimacy of



opposition activities could be gained only by making the human rights discourse appealing for local populace. This required combining an abstract and dry legalistic notion with some locally functioning tradition or myth—a powerful and inspiring story. This was not an easy task. To a certain extent, the internal tension present in the idea of human rights allowed this semantic transformation. On a fundamental level, human rights can either emphasize the relation between an individual and the authorities (the state) and be uttered in the language of constitutionalism and rule-of-law; or, they can put more emphasis on human dignity in the interaction with the Other, perceiving humanity as indivisible. The first interpretation was used in the struggle with the communist authorities, while dissident philosophy and a platform for “localization” were constructed on the latter (Szulecki 2011a). However, “human rights talk” carried a significant risk for the dissidents overusing it. Strategically useful for international communication and awareness raising, morally pompous discourse of universal rights could be alienating “to their neighbors at home, or even to themselves … [c]omitting themselves to this maximalist program” dissidents “risked weakening their appeal to all those people who made different calculations (both moral and strategic) about the value of dissent” (Bolton 2012, 28). Ultimately, however, the CSCE Final Act of Helsinki, together with the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was signed in 1966 but entered into force in 1976 and was also called up by the dissidents, was understood as a political opportunity, rather than an inspiring set of novel ideas. The signing of the Helsinki Accords provided an institutional anchor for the opposition internationally. But this realization was not instantaneous. “The iceberg from Helsinki / has crept all the way to the center of Europe,” lamented the Czech underground icon and philosopher Egon Bondy, calling the Accords “a disgusting pact” (Bolton 2012, 25). Initially, the Helsinki Accords were perceived as “the last nail to the coffin of Central Europe” and a final cementing of the Yalta division of Europe, the CSCE Final Act later proved to have a great dissent-enhancing potential (Thomas 1999). Those first impressions resulted from the ease and activeness with which Eastern Bloc countries engaged in shaping the human rights agenda (Brier 2013a, 122). With time, however, these changes in attitude and the Third Basket of the Helsinki Accords, which introduced human rights and cultural issues as a legitimate subject of interstate politics, were understood as a break with the traditional “Westphalian” perspective on domestic politics as the sole domain


of sovereign nation states. After the signing of the Accords (and in light of the approaching economic crisis in Eastern Europe), Western governments could now ask difficult questions about human rights abuses—even if not all of them were willing to.

1975: Two Open Letters In an essay-sized letter sent from Poland to the editors of the Parisian Kultura in 1974, an anonymous author claimed quite stunningly that the people resisting the current political regime “are so numerous and so significant is their place in the society that one can speak of a movement of political opposition as a constant element of the country’s life” (Artykuł nadesłany z kraju 1974). This observation was so surprising that the author (in fact the piece was written by Jacek Kuroń with the help of Adam Michnik [Friszke 2011]) spent the remainder of the opening paragraph on disclaimers and explanations. For in 1974, few oppositionally minded people in Central Europe would have accepted that statement without raising their eyebrows. While there were indeed some initiatives—intellectual dissent, cultural alternative, even attempts at political terrorism—they were not very significant.15 The historian Andrzej Paczkowski writes that “for some years [following 1971] the oppositional activity did not exceed beyond such forms as social meetings, discussions and polemics … All this, however, was little known or completely unknown to the broader opinion and only the secret police and the highest Party leadership had an image of the different forms of dissent and resistance” (Paczkowski 2005, 287). The opposition retreated to closed private circles, resigning from public activity. But certain forms of alternative public life continued, and Havel would later suggest that it was an iceberg, of which the dissident activity was only the tip (Havel 1985). The relatively little-known essay by Kuroń (and Michnik), published in Kultura, is significant in that it shows a new paradigm in the thinking about what “opposition” to a post-totalitarian system means, what form it takes, and what goals it may have—a paradigm that would later find its most famous articulation in Havel’s Power of the Powerless. The “political opposition” they have in mind is more modest, more mundane, and perhaps more banal—but thanks to this, it is also more widespread and universal. With the regime refraining from open violence and maintaining its grip though bureaucratic practices, corruption, egoism, etc., opposition was also no longer about armed resistance, heroic uprisings, or even



mass demonstrations. It was more of a daily practice of challenging the system through small acts of resistance and dissent. Kuroń’s essay was not just describing a reality, but rather proposing a new pair of glasses to look at the world, allowing potentially tens, hundreds, or maybe thousands of people to recognize that they do have something in common and have some potential to change political reality: “if you want to fight – read, read a lot! Talk, talk a lot, write and speak at meetings, and search, search for others like you. Ask your relatives and friends for books from abroad and lend them. But first and foremost, buy yourself a penal code and never break it” (Kuroń 2010, 57). And so the essay itself aimed at creating what it proclaimed had existed. It anticipated the emerging dissidence and prescribed its methods. Although it took the opponents of Communist regimes in Central Europe several years to adjust to the new realities of normalization (some spent part of that time in prison, like Czechoslovakia’s most notorious dissenter family: Jaroslav Šabata and his children Anna and Jan, all sentenced to several years in 1971), by 1975 the paradigm shift was complete, and dissent could begin to re-emerge. There was one important transnational impulse that helped attract Western public attention to what writers, intellectuals, and other dissenting individuals were doing on the eastern side of the Iron Curtain. Shortly before Christmas 1973, the French publisher Seuil published the Russian original of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, and English as well as French translations followed in 1974. Deutsche Welle broadcasts of the text, recorded on tape, circulated in audio-samizdat for a decade. The Communist Party leadership immediately recognized the danger this literary report on the mechanics of Soviet repression posed and reacted with a defamatory campaign against Solzhenitsyn—turning him into the regime’s number one enemy and incidentally “a mythic presence, comparable in stature to a biblical prophet” (Horvath 2005, 27). This strategy of personalizing dissent which we saw already in the previous chapter resulted in Solzhenitsyn gaining unprecedented fame and recognition both at home and abroad—the “dissident triangle” was working again. Solzhenitsyn was arrested in February 1974, but this already sparked a campaign of domestic support and reunited the ranks of dispersed dissident intellectuals. In protest against his deportation to West Germany, ten prominent Soviet dissidents signed an open letter, which became known as the “Moscow Appeal” (Horvath 2005, 28). Among the signatories was the nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov—who was the first


Eastern European to receive the Nobel Peace Prize (in 1975) for his dissident stance, or “for his opposition to the abuse of power and his work for human rights” as his official Nobel bionote puts it. In April 1975, Václav Havel, who was refraining from any public statements since 1969 (including his plays, as he was banned from publishing and performing them), wrote a letter to the Czechoslovak President Husák. Although in 1973 Ludvik Vaculík and Pavel Kohout were interviewed by Die Zeit about the state of independent culture in Czechoslovakia in 1973, and subsequently Kohout wrote a letter to the Czechoslovak minister of culture, Havel’s letter was the first open attempt at a broader critique of the system, breaking a several-years-long silence (Kusin 1978, 283). Havel explained: “I felt that if I said what I thought openly, I’d be contributing – perhaps – to the process of social selfawareness … I simply wrote it in the belief that it might have, let’s say, a certain ‘socio-hygienic’ significance. In general, I believe it always makes sense to tell the truth, in all circumstances” (Havel 1991b, 84–85). The letter was a reflection on the condition of the Czechoslovak society under the “normalization.” Specifically, it targeted the method of governing society by empty consumerism on the one hand and fear maintained by the security apparatus on the other (Havel 1991a). Fear confronted with truth is the main thread, probably for the first time in Havel’s essays. Havel called on Husák and his government to look critically at their own role in maintaining this social system. “Of course I got a letter from the addressee”—explained Havel—“or more precisely, from a Mrs. Sedláčková in the president’s office.” She returned the letter with an explanation that Havel “had made it available to hostile press agencies and thus revealed [his] hostility to his country” (Havel 1991b, 88). Indeed, Havel made sure that the letter reached foreign audiences and through that channel became known to Czechoslovak audiences. The people in Hrádeček, the mountain village where Havel lived in his country cottage, “knew about [the letter] very soon. Foreign radio broadcasts carried the news, and someone always hears and passes it on” (Ibidem). “Dear Dr Husák” was definitely an epistolary work, which brought its author a dose of international fame similar to what Kuroń and Modzelewski received a decade earlier. It was one of the reasons Havel became Czechoslovakia’s no.1 “dissident” and also one of the most recognized representatives of that species in history. But his was only the first of a whole wave of open letters coming from Central Europe. In the fall of 1975, the Polish Communist authorities introduced a project of



changes to the constitution. That was already after the Helsinki Accords were signed, and there were some obvious mismatches between the proposed changes and the Accords. Jan Olszewski proposed a legally grounded open letter in protest. Olszewski was a critical journalist in his youth, and later, as a lawyer, he acted as the advocate in almost all important political trials of the opposition. He defended Kuroń and Modzelewski in 1965, Michnik and other students after the 1968 strikes, as well as the members of the “Ruch” plot who intended to destroy the museum of Lenin in 1970. In December 1975, a group of 59 intellectuals issued a letter, which called for respecting the existing constitution and most importantly guaranteeing freedoms of: religious practice and conscience, work, speech, and information, as well as research, claiming that the “acknowledgement of these freedoms, confirmed by the Helsinki conference, today gains an international sanction, as where there is no freedom, there is no peace and no security.”16 This was the first East European dissident document to directly refer to the CSCE. These two letters were an important sign of the reinvigoration of dissidentism. After a long break, the elements of the “dissident triangle” were back in place: open legal dissent, transnational, and domestic recognition. That last factor would soon be increased, again by the Communist propaganda. Some argued that by addressing the Communist authorities, the dissidents implicitly sanctioned their legality. Kuroń replied to that: “in fact the authorities were not the main addressee of these letters. We simply had the duty of giving a testimony and through this, we were becoming more and more free” (Kuroń 2009a, 404). Another element that we now see as emerging is the new reference point, CSCE, and the new languages—of human rights and freedoms. Kuroń and Michnik’s 1974 essay illustrates that the Helsinki Accords institutionalized human rights but did not bring that discourse into Eastern European dissent (Szulecki 2011a; Brier 2016a). The “Helsinki Effect” tells us more about the reasons why “the dissidents found a ready-made audience abroad” (Bolton 2012, 26) than about their own ideological and tactical evolution. The essay ends with an important self-identification: “It is we – the opposition – who fight for fundamental human values, and that includes just and universal rights [prawa]. It is they [the government] who are lawless – so let them be the only ones to trample the law!” (Kuroń 2010, 57). Havel’s letter strikes even more universalist tones. Instead of depicting the problem of Czechoslovakia as singular or related only to


the Eastern European context, he attempts to position it within universal categories: human condition, conformism, fear, and the general crisis of identity. As such, his reflection becomes understandable beyond (geo) political divisions. Finally, the Helsinki Accords were not a cause of the re-appearance of dissidentism—Havel’s letter to Husák was issued before the Final Act was signed, and the idea for a letter protesting against the changes in the Polish Constitution grew out of initial informal protests already in February 1975. But they were definitely a crucial bridge between the Eastern opposition and the Western public opinion. In the next two years, dissidentism suddenly erupted and with it appeared the unprecedented international interest in East European societal opposition. For the sake of coherence, I follow these events chronologically wherever possible, at times jumping from the domestic to the transnational level of analysis and back. The transnational shifts were a response to the domestic events, but they were also influenced by other processes.

Notes 1. Among Listy’s publicists was Zdeněk Mlynář, the reformist Czechoslovak Communist Party secretary during the Prague Spring, then Charter 77 signatory, later exiled in Austria. Mlynář became well known in the 1980s due to his friendship with Mikhail Gorbachev. Unlike Pelikán, however, Mlynář cannot be perceived as a dissident interpreter. His role was in fact much closer to that of the old anti-communist emigration, only that it was its exact opposite reflection—an attempt to continue pre-exilic political activity and thought. 2. Others were, for example, Leopold Unger at Le Soir and International Herald Tribune, Bohdan Osadczuk in Neue Zürcher Zeitung or Michał Szułczyński in Der Spiegel. 3. Interview with P. Brod, Prague, 29 April 2010. 4. Skype interview with L. Rajk, Oslo/Budapest, 18 January 2019. 5. Phone interview with J. Kis, Budapest/Oslo, 16 January 2019. 6. Interview with J. Gruntorád, Prague, 11 May 2010. 7. Interview with E. Smolar, Warsaw, 30 March 2010. 8. Interview with M. Chojecki, Warsaw, 4 August 2010. 9. Along with some 600 arrested students, 900 mostly young factory workers (of the same generational cohort) ended up in jail (Friszke 2010). 10. The period would not be that long in any case. Jaroslav Šabata was arrested in 1971 and his trial in 1972 was perhaps the finale of the Prague Spring political dissent, while as we will see, Havel’s open letter to Husak was



issued already in 1975, so those dark ages of normalization which gain monstrous proportions in dissident accounts were around four years long. 11. Jacek Kuroń found a job as a trashy crime novel writer. He was asked, however, to provide a ghost-writer’s name as a cover up. He suggested “Seweryn Blumsztajn,” which was not accepted by the publishers for obvious reasons—Blumsztajn’s name was also banned from the public sphere. 12. Kuroń is referring to the Polish underground Home Army (Armia Krajowa—AK), the massive organized clandestine military resistance to Nazi German and Soviet occupation after 1939. It was generally politically neutral, and soldiers’ backgrounds varied from nationalist to social democratic (radical right, agrarians, and Communist had their own underground armed forces which were not in the AK structures). After 1945, although the nearly universal sentiment that AK soldiers were heroes and martyrs prevailed—and practically every family had at least one member in the AK—the Communist authorities treated the entire force as a reactionary rogue organization and executed or imprisoned the surviving soldiers. The 1968 shift in Party leadership put many guerilla and underground veterans in positions of power and led to the final rehabilitation of the AK (initial rehabilitation took place after 1956), which won the government some support in the more patriotic and even nationalist circles. 13. Although it was written already in 1969 in the Czech language, it was published first in French in 1973 as La vie est ailleurs and only in 1979 in Czech by the Toronto based Sixty-Eight Publishers. 14. Interview with P. Šustrová, Prague, 18 May 2010. 15. For more on the opposition activity in Czechoslovakia, see Kusin (1978, 275–86) and more recently (Otáhal 1994). 16. The authors of the letter were Olszewski, Kuroń, Jakub Karpiński and Aniela Steinsbergowa. We know that thanks to the secret police reports from Steinsbergowa’s apartment, which was tapped (Friszke 2007).

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The Birth of the Dissident Figure, 1976–1977

KOR Enters the Scene In June 1976, the workers in several Polish cities went on strike and took to the streets to protest against price increases. Many were beaten and arrested on the charges of hooliganism. Responding to that, having already digested the memory of worker-intellectual reticence from the 1970s, some groups of the Warsaw intelligentsia began spontaneously to gather financial aid for the sacked or arrested workers and their families. They also offered legal assistance. From these initiatives initially organized by Antoni Macierewicz grew the Workers’ Defense Committee (Komitet Obrony Robotników—KOR) in September 1976 (Bernhard 1993; Brier 2013). It was an unprecedented mode of societal opposition in Eastern Europe. Previously, we have seen mass riots, some quite violent; there were intellectual protests, open letters, declarations and show trials. But never before was there an attempt by a grassroots social organization to create parallel institutions acting outside and often against the state. This was the path of the “defiant” that Bohdan Cywiński (1996) described in his inspiring book—the most important lesson that the 1970s opposition could draw from the experiences of their nineteenth-century spiritual ancestors was self-organization. The element that they added—unthinkable in anti-Tsarist conspiratorial days—was openness and legality. Already in 1966, Adam Michnik stated that “we need to opt for legal forms of action because in this system © The Author(s) 2019 K. Szulecki, Dissidents in Communist Central Europe, Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-22613-8_6



clandestine conspiracy has no chance of success” (Friszke 2010, 409). In the essay co-authored with Jacek Kuroń, they added: “if you have conspired, perhaps even set something aflame, or were planning to set something aflame, not mentioning expropriation, then the court will sentence you in the majesty of the law and it’s hard to condemn it” (Kuroń 2010b, 57). The part about expropriation was a direct reference to the independence activists and freedom fighters of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, especially the Polish Socialist Party militants—Kuroń’s grandfather among them. Expropriations had a Robin Hood-like aura to them, but from the perspective of those expropriated, they were mere banditry (Bikont and Łuczywo 2018, 12–13). This time there was to be none of that. Intellectuals should “leave the cafes, write illegal brochures, edit illegal papers, and give illegal lectures at an illegal university” (Michnik 2009, 153),1 that is, conduct concrete and visible activity, both underground and pushing on the margins of legality. There is something paradoxical in the idea of being at the same time within the confines of the legal code and pushing on it, engaging with unofficial and formally illegal activities. This is when human rights and a broader conception of legality came in handy. The opposition had to avoid shameful criminal acts and practices that could easily be used to delegitimize it. But as far as realizing basic freedoms of thought, expression, press (samizdat), and gathering, although breaking the laws of Communist states, the dissidents felt the Law with a capital L was on their side. KOR had a positive program of action, not just one of contestation. Kuroń had been developing this action plan for several years, practically since his imprisonment after 1968 (Kuroń 2009b, 333–54). The notion that there is a need to “do something” and not just talk about it was crucial and necessary to reach out to the workers. KOR united anti-systemic oppositionists from the Left and the Right, lay and Christian. It brought together intelligentsia and the working class. What is more, it grouped many young and “aspiring” activists under the protective umbrella of some big names—the so-called Oldies (Starsi państwo), renowned intellectual figures of the pre-war generation. Among them were for example Aniela Steinsbergowa (1896–1988), a famous attorney who had the courage to defend “enemies of the regime” as early as 1959, and Edward Lipiński (1888–1986), an economist and member of the pre-war League for the Defense of Human and Civil Rights, as well as father Jan Zieja (1897–1991), a progressive Catholic priest with a long experience of social activism (KARTA 2007). The fame of the Oldies was of a different



kind than that of Kuroń or Michnik. They were an elite, recognized as elite by both domestic and international elites due to their long-term civic engagement and consistency, dating well back to the pre-war years. They were a collective institution. When half a dozen of them were stumbling out of two taxis and walking slowly into the court building to assist a trial, someone remarked that here was five hundred years of Poland’s history entering (Bikont and Szczęsna 2011). As far as visibility and openness were concerned, they lay in the fact that all members of the Committee disclosed their names and addresses. Kuroń’s flat in Warsaw became the headquarters of the grassroots movement, and many closer and farther opposition affiliates can still today recite his phone number from memory. A former opposition journalist and later leader of the Green Party, Marek Kossakowski, recalled that he once dialed Kuroń’s phone incorrectly, mixing up two digits. When a male voice answered, he asked unsurely: “Jacek?”—“No, sorry, wrong number” replied the male voice—“for Mr. Kuroń, you need to dial….” What is more, they received visitors from all around Poland. Many were security service agents, some were slightly eccentric, but most were concerned scattered citizens who were looking for help, or some organization or simply—a breath of freedom. They all came specially “to see Mr. Kuroń” (Skrzydłowska-Kalukin 2011, 89). KOR put great emphasis on legality. At the very beginning of the Committee, Antoni Libera, a young writer, discovered a phone booth in one of Warsaw’s central squares, which was “broken.” You could phone anywhere in the world for the smallest piece of change. This was an important discovery, because the financial resources of the opposition were always limited, and contacts with exiled friends and journalists very important. However, Kuroń was reluctant to use that opportunity. He reckoned that the authorities might use this against the opposition and “if you are to go to jail, it’s better to do it for a cause than for a theft.” He would often quip, that if you wanted to be an opposition activist you should always buy a tram ticket, so that you are not caught on the tiniest offense. This emphasis on legality had a deeper, subversive trait, which Kuroń realized at the time, according to his biographer: “as if there was no political police, and the constitutional sections on civil liberties were actually effective” (Skrzydłowska-Kalukin 2011). That was something slightly different from the Soviet dissidents’ “rights talk” (Nathans 2011)—it was “rights action,” which Havel later famously called “living as if”—as if in a free country, where the citizen can use his or her prescribed liberties.


The Communist authorities were aware of a growing economic crisis and anticipating possible uproar in the summer. To avoid the trouble that could occur if the workers got support from the intelligentsia, they decided to get rid of the key opposition figures. Karol Modzelewski, after serving a three-year prison sentence, stepped back from political activity and moved to Wrocław to teach medieval history at the university there. But Kuroń and Michnik were still visibly active. And so, in July 1976 Kuroń (then aged 42) was called up for military training in a special camp organized for critical intellectuals, suspicious workers pointed out by the SB, and petty criminals. What is more, although he was already a lieutenant of the reserve (having passed through the repressive military on several occasions earlier), he was to attend the camp as a private—he was, apparently, degraded in the meantime (Kuroń 2009a, 408). He only got out once during his three-month service and used the opportunity to attend the meeting where KOR was initiated. Shortly before leaving for the military camp, Kuroń wrote to the Italian Eurocommunist leader Enrico Berlinguer—in what was perhaps the last clearly leftist symbolic communiqué (Kuroń 2010a; Friszke 2007). Aleksander Smolar explains that Kuroń wrote the Italian politician not because of ideational proximity, but because of the conscious knowledge of his position. “If the leader of the Italian Communist Party criticized Poland, for the Polish authorities it would be a much tougher blow, it would be a de-legitimization by an important ‘bishop’ of that ‘universal Church’.”2 Western European ideational and political landscape had changed significantly since 1968. After the Prague Spring and the Polish workers’ massacre of 1970, but perhaps more importantly after the publication of Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago in 1974, the Left was in retreat and at a loss. Soviet sympathizers were by now a small minority, and the Western Communist parties looked for democratic traditions in left-wing thought—Eurocommunism was the possible alternative. On the other hand, human rights as a very basic idea, on which nearly everyone could agree, were also slowly taking over the imagination from Right to Left and that was very much thanks to the Helsinki Accords. In those new circumstances, and with the immediate help of the network of dissident interpreters, the opposition quickly learned how to use transnational recognition as an enhancer of domestic publicity and power. Michnik suggested that “Eurocommunism is something of a restraint for repressions against the opposition in Eastern Europe” (Bouyeure 2009, 171). In the letter, Kuroń appealed to Berlinguer as



“the head of a workers’ party, as a politician, who fights for socialism in accord with human rights, as to a Communist, because in my country Communists are in power,” and asked him to pressure for a general amnesty for the arrested workers which was the only way to “put an end to anti-labor terror.” The escalation, Kuroń ventured, could lead to bloodshed and the political bankruptcy of the Left in all of Europe (Kuroń 2010a). The Italian Communists reacted within two days—sending an official letter to the Polish Embassy in Rome. The Polish leadership panicked and in the next months was doing much to improve its image, mostly through letters, envoys, but more importantly—amnesties for the arrested workers and dissidents (Friszke 2007, 281–83).

Michnik’s Tour For Michnik, the government had other plans. In August 1976, he finally got a passport to travel once again to the West—for which he had been applying since the 1960s. The authorities figured that he would be less dangerous abroad than at home. They were gravely mistaken. Michnik set off for France and soon made sure that everyone in the West knew everything about KOR and the East European opposition. In 1976, he was already a big name, invited by Jean-Paul Sartre himself (although they were not able to meet in the end, due to Sartre’s ill health). The grounds for his visit were prepared by the post-68 emigration (but also the people of Kultura), the dissident interpreters. They made sure that he got the money to live and travel in the West for several months, that he met people from the entire political spectrum, that he held lectures and press conferences wherever he went, and that he got a chance to publish in the best newspapers. The list of people whom he met and befriended during his journey includes, among others, Raymond Aron, Francois Furet, André Glucksmann, and Eugene Ionesco. He met Trotskyists (J.J. Marie), socialists (G. Martinet), communists (Italian and Spanish), liberals, and Catholics (the editors of Esprit—J.M. Domenach and P. Thibaud). For the first time, contacts were established between dissidents and exiles from Central and Eastern Europe. Michnik got to know the Czechs: Pavel Tigrid, Jiří Pelikán, Antonín Liehm; the Hungarians: György Konrád and Pierre Kende, as well as Russians, like Andrei Amarlik and Vladimir Maximov, and even the Iranian dissident philosopher Ramin Jahanbeglou. Especially meeting Konrád was significant from the perspective of the dissident figure. In


the 1980s, after their works appeared in English almost simultaneously, Michnik, Konrád, and Havel would become the most renowned dissident intellectual triumvirate in Europe. At the time, Konrád was living in West Germany, on a DAAD scholarship. Banned from publisging domestically after his literary debut in 1969, he was left without income other than foreign honoraria and wages he could earn from manual labour.All this was meant to pressure him to emigrate, but instead, together with Iván Szelényi, he wrote The Intellectuals on the Road to Class Power, a critical essay soon published in Western outlets. After 1974, Szelényi did emigrate permanently while Konrád was allowed to travel with the assumption that he is less of a problem as an international literary celebrity than a domestic oppositionist. When in 1977 his novel The City Builder made it through domestic censorship, its French, German, British and American translations established Konrád as a literary star. During his tour, Michnik also had a chance to speak to Czesław Miłosz for the first time. He also wrote pieces for Le Monde and because of the visit got a permanent monthly column in Der Spiegel. He would publish more than twenty pieces until 1989, and his column after Martial Law was had been introduced in December 1981 would even make the journal’s front page (Brier 2011, 201). Michnik spent most of his time in France, but also went to Rome, where he attended the Italian Socialist Party conference and was received enthusiastically (Brier 2013, 112). He then visited London and on his way back—Stockholm, Copenhagen, and West Germany. At a large conference organized in Paris by Pomian and Kende, he presented the early theses of his “New Evolutionism” and got a standing ovation, as well as positive reviews in Le Nouvel Observateur. This was also eye-opening. “Specialists decided that the thesis is credible and that this strategy may open the way for change in Central Europe. The politicians realized that on the other side of the Iron Curtain intellectuals are not only either collaborators of anti-communist freaks” (Bouyeure 2009, 178). As a result, Seuil republished the essay originally published by Kultura soon after Michnik’s return to Poland. In West Germany, Michnik gave interviews, among others for Die Zeit, and attended a demonstration of support for the nascent Czechoslovak Charter 77—where Liehm and Pelikán introduced him to Milan Horáček, Rudi Dutschke, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, and Joschka Fischer (Bouyeure 2009, 166–79). Eugeniusz Smolar explains Michnik’s



phenomenon: “he was fascinating for them, because he was brilliantly well read in Western political thought. And so, depending on his interlocutors, he knew how to choose the right set of arguments. He was an optimist, he was convincing. They might not have shared that optimism, but they were impressed and they passed his message on.”3 Unlike the numerous exiled oppositionists, Michnik was constantly proving that he had one leg in the West and one back in the East. He was trying to explain what the KOR struggle was about, and what the realities of socialism were in general. The whole time he kept in touch with his friends in Warsaw, at one time organizing a “live” conference, where he called Jacek Kuroń on the phone and reported “live” about the events in Poland (Bouyeure 2009, 172). “Adam had more persuasive power than linguistic skill”—argues Smolar—“nevertheless, thanks to our contacts, among other things, he was effective in reaching party and union leaders, intellectuals and students so that after he returned [to Poland] we had an excellent base to keep up those links.”4 The Polish communist authorities regretted the decision to let him out, and to fix that problem, the secret police organized a plot to either keep him abroad or kill him. Apparently, an assassination was planned during Michnik’s stay in Hamburg, but failed. When he returned to Poland in 1977, he was already a “star in the theater of opposition.” But more importantly—he single-handedly helped to construct a strong foundation for the figure of the dissident.

Charter 77 In January 1977, Czechoslovakia’s most important dissident initiative emerged around a declaration entitled “Charter 77” (Charta 77), initially gathering 242 signatures. The document made direct references to the Helsinki Accords and enumerated Czechoslovakia’s rights violations. The usual way of telling the story of the Charter’s emergence is by referring to the trial of the Plastic People of the Universe—one of the icons of Czechoslovak avant-garde underground. As Jonathan Bolton points out (Bolton 2012, 115–17), it is a retrospective stylization, which, like the story of the student-workers reticence in 1968–1970 in Poland, appears to be forged to fit a later mainstream narrative. The Plastics’ trial was part of a larger crackdown on the art and music underground, which created a space of intellectual freedom in the first half of the 1970s, when political dissent was largely on hold. Domestic dynamics were surely


more important to understand what happened and why—and why the Helsinki Accords were in the end understood as an opportunity to create something new, but not the cause of that realization. At the trial “something happened,” and Havel thought that it “should not be allowed simply to evaporate and disappear but … ought to be transformed into some kind of action that would have a more permanent impact, would bring this something out of the air onto solid ground” (Rocamora 2005, 165). The nascent dissident movement attracted people of different political backgrounds. Writers—Havel, Vaculík, Kohout, and the poet Jaroslav Seifert, who would receive the Nobel Prize in literature in 1984; former Communist officials—Jiří Hájek, Zdeněk Mlynář, Ladislav Lis, František Kriegel—as well as former Party intellectuals—Jaroslav Šabata, Milan Šimečka, Jiří Dienstbier, and Petr Pithart. There were the rebellious students, now with prison experience—Petr Uhl (then already Šabata’s son-in-law, husband of the brains behind later human rights activism, Anna Šabatová) and Petruška Šustrová. There were Christians—like Václav Benda and the Catholic priest Václav Malý. There were some (though not many) Slovaks—apart from Šimečka, another academic Miroslav Kusý and the writer Dominik Tatarka. There was the forbidden pop star Marta Kubišová, whose song used to be— involuntarily—the anthem of the Prague Spring. And last but not least— there was the phenomenologist Jan Patočka, described as the greatest Czechoslovak philosopher of the twentieth century, as well as his ideational doppelganger, the existentialist literary critic Václav Černý. Like KOR, Charter 77 decided to be transparent and open. At all times, there were three official spokespersons, whose names, addressed, and phone numbers were published in the samizdat press (the main periodical, typewritten samizdat was INFOCH—Informace o Charte 77). Indeed, the names and addresses of all the signatories were published.

International Resonance and Domestic Slander As KOR’s activities were scaled up in the fall of 1976, the official media launched a campaign to discredit the dissidents, condemning the “so-called workers defense committee.”5 The readers were given quite detailed accounts as to what KOR was, where it came from and what it was doing.6 One could for example learn that “Jacek Kuroń, Adam Michnik, Antoni Macierewicz and Jan Józef Lipski, along with others, known from prior acts against socialism” formed the group and that it originated from “the



March commandos of 1968.” The leaders, Kuroń and Michnik, were also “accused” of collaborating with the West, and the mode of collaboration— especially the transfer of information—was explained in detail: “on May 10th 1977 J. Kuroń sent information to London, for Smolar, linked with the March commandos, today one of the editors of a diversionary periodical called Aneks, published with financial help of the Kultura in Paris.” Knowing the credibility that the Parisian Kultura had for many critically thinking Poles, one could not imagine a better reference. The method of transferring information was indeed exactly as presented in Życie Warszawy (Smolar 2006). “One day Jacek called me, and simply said that they established KOR. And that from this day on he, or someone in his name, will call us regularly, and tell us what’s going on” recalls Aleksander Smolar.7 KOR established its Biuletyn Informacyjny—a regular samizdat publication printed on clandestine offset printers. A very similar campaign of depreciation and infamy took place in Czechoslovakia after the appearance of Charter 77. The Charter quickly acquired international resonance, but it is the media campaign at home that is perhaps more interesting. The authorities, repeating the strategy that the Polish Communists followed in 1968, personalized the protest. Their attention focused on the banned playwright Havel—who was only one of the many signatories and just one of three spokesmen of the group. Czechoslovakia’s major daily newspapers Svobodne slovo and Lidova demokracie published an impressive piece (3 full newspaper pages) entitled “Who is Václav Havel?” so that anyone who until that day did not know of the dissenting playwright now did.8 And if they did not read the papers, the Czechoslovak national radio broadcasted a feuilleton under the same title. Interesting, the same title also appeared in Rude pravo in February 1989. A Czechoslovak electrician recalled: “I listened to Radio Free Europe every day … it was when Václav Havel, whose name I had never heard before, wrote a letter to President Husák. There was a terrible uproar in the state. How dare some Havel write to Husák himself? But nobody told us what was in it. The same thing happened with Charter 77: [it] was simply condemned, denounced … And the names [the signatories] were being called: traitors, renegades, rabble … But nobody knew what was in it, I did, because I was listening to Radio Free Europe, and I started listening to it because of that Havel guy” (Vaněk and Mücke 2016, 32–33). Domestically Havel was being constructed—as were Kuroń and Michnik in Poland—as the state enemy number one, and his life story


and activities, albeit caricatured by the propaganda, became known to the public. In the text, Havel is portrayed as a “millionaire’s sonny” who came from a privileged family and until then maintained contacts with Western capitalist and imperialist centers. His psychological portrait was painted to fit the sociological analysis: His former colleague was quoted as saying that “Havel always seemed an egoist, vain and conceited; looking with pride at the past of his family … he seemed a man that looked down on everyone around.”9 Slander was mixed throughout the text with general information about Havel’s work as a playwright and the editor of the artistic periodical Tvář. However, the text argued, the quality of his plays was highly debatable, and they were only performed in Western Europe in an attempt to create a mythical “alternative culture” that supposedly existed in Czechoslovakia. But the key message, apart from creating Havel’s image as a bourgeois detached from the society, was the emphasis of his links with foreign institutions and agents—again, Pavel Tigrid among them. Therefore, on the one hand, the article provided Havel with a lot of (negative) publicity; on the other, it supplied an ideational framework for the critique of prominent dissidents: detached, elitist, and transnationally networked. It would be used against them without even the incentives from the Communists and well after 1989. A more painful act of slander took place when Havel was let out of prison for the first time. The authorities suggested that he would be released if he wrote a formal request. That “mistake of a debutant prisoner,” Michnik commented later, almost cost Havel his reputation. The Communist propaganda used his application as a basis for a denunciation of the Charter, adding a clause to the text of his application saying that he formally resigned as Charter 77 spokesperson (Rocamora 2005, 171). Having repaired his reputation after explaining what happened to the other Chartists, Havel was since then very careful not to give the regime any such opportunities. In any case, compared to the ruthlessness of the slander that the StB used against Kubišová only some years earlier, fabricating a whole set of pornographic photos, the way Havel was treated was rather soft. Alongside individual campaigns, the regimes responded to both initiatives with attacks on their collective identity. KOR was from the start portrayed as a dubious and irrelevant group, who either dreamed of taking over the power in Poland or was linked to West German intelligence. To Charter 77 the Czechoslovak propaganda machine replied with an “anti-Charter”—a widely publicized spectacle of condemnation,



but more importantly a denial of the Charter’s claims. “We are aware that our socialist world is becoming better and better”—wrote the “progressive artists” who signed the declaration. The authors also tried to challenge the framing of the Helsinki Accords that was present in the original Charter document with tiresome propagandist parlance: “That is why, in accord with the Final Act of the Helsinki Conference, we extend our hands across the borders of states and continents, aware that real art, real culture needs to help in the development of nations and humanity” (Anonymous 2007). And finally, they directly targeted the Charter signatories: we therefore despise those who in the indomitable pride of vain superiority, in selfish interest or simply for filthy money … and such a group of renegades and traitors is also to be found here, who are removed and isolated from their people, [the people’s] life and real interests and who, with relentless logics become the tool of anti-humanist forces of imperialism and in their service voice the split and disagreement among nations. (Anonymous 2007)

Mainstream artists and pop stars gathered at a televised meeting in the National Theater in Prague, as well as workers in factories all across the country, were expressing their anger and shame at the “treacherous act of reactionary politics.” In that way many Czechoslovak citizens learned the name “Charta 77” and found out that although what it was really about remained unclear, it was something that the Communists did not approve of. Again, a good enough recommendation for some. Numerous workers also wanted to read the declaration they were asked to condemn but were not allowed to—which undermined the regime’s credibility. The Czechoslovak interior minister estimated that if the document was made public and its signing was not penalized, it would probably get the support of 90% of the population (Thomas 2001, 178). The international resonance of both KOR declaration and Charter 77 was unprecedented. John Keane, Havel’s biographer, describes the media’s reaction to the Charter proclamation: Next morning Havel was rearrested for a second round of questioning, the whole world awoke to hear the extraordinary news that a petition with the simple title of Charter 77 had been launched in Prague by several hundred prominent ‘Czechoslovak dissidents’. The story was in the front section

130  K. SZULECKI of newspapers like Le Monde, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (which published the text in full), and The Times of London, which described the document as ‘not the work of a Machiavellian secret policeman concocting evidence against dissident intellectuals’, but ‘a remarkable gesture of courage’ signed by ‘the flowers of Czechoslovak intelligentsia’, including ‘Mr. Vaclav Havel, a prominent playwright’. The document was headlined by Voice of America and mentioned by tens of thousands of radio and television programmes scattered around the world. (Keane 1999, 243–44)

This tactic, which was standard for all dissident publications, was a problem for the communist governments. They could ignore intellectuals, but not “ignore what was written on the front pages of major Western newspapers” (Brier 2011, 202). Not surprisingly, when a group of Chartists, including Havel, was arrested already in January 1977, expressions of solidarity and pressure on Czechoslovak authorities spilled across the West, e.g. from German writers Heinrich Böll, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Günter Grass, and others (Vilímek 2013, 62). The resonance of KOR was also growing, although enhanced by a very unfortunate event. The group was developing contacts and structures outside Warsaw. By 1977 some students in Krakow, previously an oppositional desert, got involved in its actions. In May 1977, one of them, Stanisław Pyjas, was found dead in the gateway of one of the buildings in the Old Town. All evidence seemed to point to the security service.10 His friends, together with KOR, organized a Black March gathering thousands of protesters and muting the ongoing student festival. Later that month, a dozen KOR affiliates gathered in a Warsaw church and held the first of many (later popular) hunger strikes, protesting against Pyjas’s death and the arrest of key KOR figures, demanding a fair investigation and the release of the imprisoned activists and workers. The Western media reaction to Pyjas’s death as well as the hunger strike was thundering, and it evidently shook the entire Polish state bureaucracy and security apparatus. In defense, a large propaganda campaign was launched, worth quoting in some detail for some of the recurring tropes that it brought. The main line of argument juxtaposed the domestic insignificance, futility, and weakness of the dissident initiatives with the apparent overemphasis of their Western representation. This was, logically speaking, a good point—very often opposition actions were greatly enlarged, and at times (especially in the 1980s) even blown out of proportion by the



Western media. The only thing is that this was precisely the point in the dissident strategy of action. Not being able to access public opinion directly or influence the state apparatus, they relied on the “boomerang effect” of transnational mobilization and the information channels that amplified the strength and visibility of their message. The propaganda image of this strategy was in fact its parody. To emphasize this, the word “dissident” appeared in the Polish media, implying solitary and detached protest without immediate political significance (Dylawerski, 1977). “KOR, whose activity, due to the lack of a social base, has thwarted lately … attempted to reach out to the university youth and through it to move on to street demonstrations”—commented a well-known journalist (Horodyński, May 22, 1977). For several days “Kuroń, Michnik and Blumsztajn were feeding lies about the death of a student to the Western media” (Roliński, May 29, 1977). “A proverbial ‘bomb’ was needed to reinvigorate the interest of public opinion, especially Western public opinion, in the deteriorating activity of the, so-called, workers defense committee”—judged another paper. It later cited Der Tagesspiegel as suggesting that the “opposition has little understanding among the every-man” but now “has a victim – a martyr” which will make its cause better known. That denounced strategy is at the heart of “the attempted provocation in Krakow, for which the unfortunate death of the student Stanisław Pyjas is used so shamelessly and immorally” (Łukasiewicz, May 28, 1977). “What took place in Krakow”—wrote one Communist official in the Trybuna Ludu—“is a method characteristic for weak people, lacking both societal support and political influence” (Grzymek, May 31, 1977). The troublemaking and irresponsible pessimists were contrasted with the optimistic majority of the population, who, as the author asserted, cooperated in the continuous rebuilding of the country. Tremendously advertised by RFE and the Western papers, longing for ‘events in Poland’, the ‘hunger strike’ ended on Tuesday morning. The ‘fasters’ left the Warsaw church from a side entrance, headed for the called-up taxis and set off. For an in-depth report on how they made it through the seven-day ‘hunger strike’ we need to wait. The Western press will reach us, especially some West German newspapers, which are particularly keen on describing the ‘Polish affairs’ … a week ago the beginning of this demonstration received loud applause, today the Western agencies, and only some, sum up the event with a dozen or so sentences. The news boils down to what was missing. There were no cheering crowds awaiting

132  K. SZULECKI the end of the demonstration, no applause and no fanfare. Those who were portrayed as the martyrs of a cause sneaked out through the back door and went home. And thus, the seven-day mystification announced as a hunger strike ended. (Kłodzińska, June 2, 1977)

And who was there, who demonstrated? “There were members of the ‘old gang’”—continues the author implying figures who are already known to the readers—“Barbara Toruńczyk, who back in the day belonged to the ‘second file’ of the ‘commandos’ organizing incidents among students in 1968,” and so the list goes on, name by name. The strategy of familiarizing the public with the opposition, or personalizing dissent, was striking—and still a bit surprising. But then again, as another journalist explained, “an informed nation is a conscious nation, and a conscious nation is united” (Kochański, June 1, 1977). Therefore, it was worth elaborating on the cunning strategy of the “old foxes” seeking to destabilize the situation in Poland, hand in hand with the “political bankrupts from the periodical Kultura.” The major “acceptably critical” weekly, Polityka, commented that the “circle of the ‘oppositionists’, obviously aware that a regime change is beyond their power, uses such acts to create the false impression for foreign use that Poland is not stable, but torn apart by conflicts.” Apparently “this does not lie in the interest of any major group in Poland, perhaps only a minority group planning to use that, daydreaming about some internal power play” (Redaktor 1977). All these tropes would later be summed up in an entire book analyzing the phenomenon of the “political underground” in Poland as power-seeking and foreign-inspired agents (Wojtasik 1983). Mocking as they were, these comments reflected deep concerns for Poland’s reputation in the new, post-Helsinki circumstances. “For no Polish person can the way their country is depicted abroad be irrelevant … With satisfaction we observe that more and more often the image of Poland matches its significance and achievements.” However, there were still sources of “black” and “grey” propaganda against Poland—the latter being a mixture of truth, manipulation, and outright lies. It comes, the author of the piece suggests, from “people and groups reaching out for a societal mandate that they were never granted … for example, Adam Michnik in an interview for the West German Die Zeit warned the Bonn government against ignoring his group’s postulates” (Jaworski, June 2, 1977). This is followed by a direct translated quotation from Michnik’s interview, and it is not the only example of very detailed reports of what



the opposition members were saying abroad (Roliński, May 29, 1977). The official papers, in a desperate act of propaganda self-defense, were actually willing to boost Michnik’s and KOR’s publicity further. “I do not know Adam Michnik, I do not even know what he looks like”— claimed another journalist (Kossak, April 14, 1977), as if to deny that obvious policy failure. He then went on to accuse Michnik, along with Leszek Kołakowski, of contacts with the West German extreme Right and expellee organizations (i.e., Bund der Vertriebenen, the Federation of Expellees)—an accusation which passed the threshold of absurdity.11 They could not reverse the growing fame of the dissidents. In the summer of 1977, a general amnesty was declared, liberating both KOR activists and the remaining workers. It was announced to one of the KOR Oldies, Edward Lipiński, through a personal meeting in the General Prosecutor’s Office. The transnational network of rights activists, constructed around the dissidents and the dissident interpreters, together able to stir up an international campaign in the media and policy-making circles, definitely played a role. Daniel Thomas, who provides a transnationalist perspective on the opposition and human rights, notes that the amnesty came shortly before the Belgrade CSCE follow-up meeting where the US government was supposed to play the human rights card (Thomas 2001, 173–74). However, historians specializing in the domestic opposition, as well as former participants in these events, display a surprisingly ambiguous attitude toward these transnational links. On the one hand, they acknowledge their importance, and on the other downplay their impact. “We were all helpful”—says Eugeniusz Smolar—“but we did not try to claim it was our success. That would have been totally counterproductive, if we tried to suggest to the Western journalists that it was us. And, first of all, it would not be true. This was the result of the domestic balance of power in Poland.”12 A former oppositionist suggests that transnationality was only a part of the power of the opposition—“one-third, or perhaps even one-fourth.”13 The real power was domestic. Indeed, the internal power of the dissident movements was probably decisive—and this explains, along with broader structural factors, why such a campaign worked in Poland but failed in Czechoslovakia in the case of the Charter and VONS members (see the following chapter). The point is, however, that the domestic strength of the opposition and those structural factors are also constituted by the transnational context. As I tried to show so far, transnational recognition enhanced domestic recognition and was an additional


argument in the struggles with the regime. It provided some levels of security—so it had a defensive aspect. The Czechoslovak dissident Martin Palous recalled a policeman as saying “we are ready to arrest you, but the Foreign Ministry won’t let us” (Thomas 2001, 159). But the transnational dimension also provided additional, or even the sole channels of pressure on the government—which is an offensive aspect. And so, by no means denying the importance and the fundamentality of dissident domestic agency, I strongly emphasize the way its transnational context provided opportunities, tools, and additional empowerment—more and more favorable conditions for that agency.

The Transnational Network of Dissidence If human rights provided an idiom for East–West communication, and a potentially useful weapon for domestic political struggles, we cannot ignore their third transnational role: a common platform for dissidence within the Eastern Bloc. Appealing to the same documents, and invoking the same ideas, helped to very quickly transcend national differences, historical animosities, and variations of Communism that each national dissident community had to cope with. Dissidence was, as Barbara Falk underlines, a collective effort (Falk 2003, 2), and it was transnational by definition. “We have no doubt that we are united by common ideas and that the incentives of our actions are the same … The unification of standpoints and the community of action among Defenders of the Law in USSR, Czechoslovakia and Poland can be treated as an accomplished fact”—wrote the Polish KOR to their Soviet colleagues (Skórzyński 2012, 359). Like samizdat, dissidence immediately began to aspire to transnationality. Already in 1975, when Andrei Sakharov received the Nobel Prize, Michnik, Kuroń, Blumsztajn, Toruńczyk, and Lityński wrote and sent a congratulatory telegram, including “expressions of admiration and solidarity for your adamant struggle for human rights which for us is an encouragement and exemplar … [signed] Polish Friends” (Skórzyński 2012, 38). The message was telephoned to Giedroyć in Paris, who passed it on to Sakharov’s wife Elena Bonner who traveled to Oslo in his name. The speed of transnational communication runs against our contemporary imagination of Cold War Europe as a space divided into discrete blocs and the East additionally divided into insulated states. As a matter of fact, Sakharov replied to that letter in a jointly authored open



letter from 1978, addressed to “Human rights defenders from Poland and Czechoslovakia” signed by six other Soviet dissidents (Skilling 1981, 279). Indeed, communication between Eastern European movements most often took place via the West, but not only, especially if one was bold enough. In 1979 another physicist, Zbigniew Romaszewski, one of the most important KOR activists, went to Poland’s only state-owned travel agency “Orbis” and purchased an individual trip to Moscow. He crossed the border despite some problems on the train, where the Polish border guards noticed that Romaszewski’s name was on their list requiring an additional search, and his fellow traveler informed the entire train car that “it’s an oppositionist, I know his name from the radio,” and snitched on him when the Soviet soldiers appeared, but to no reaction (Romaszewski 1979). When he reached the Soviet capital, he went straight to Sakharov’s apartment, knocked on his door unannounced, and introduced himself to the mother in law of the Nobel laureate—Sakharov was away. After a short phone call, Romaszewski returned that same evening, to find Sakharov in casual dress, welcoming him with “great modesty and friendliness.” Romaszewski described the visit in KOR’s Biuletyn Informacyjny: “Sakharov knows about Polish opposition activities mostly from the BBC and Voice of America. From these he learned about a joint telegram KOR and Charter 77 sent to him expressing solidarity” (Romaszewski 1979). But he quickly realized the insurmountable difference between Soviet and Polish domestic realities. “When I told him about the circulation, the literary periodicals, or the activities of the TKN [the underground lecture series], I began to feel like an alien from the other side of the Iron Curtain. Another Curtain runs along the Bug River”—and he decided that interviewing Sakharov about openly political issues would be untactful. The next day he met a group of Sakharov’s friends, the core of Moscow’s dissent—and was surprised and amazed by the lightness and firmness with which they tackled their societal isolation. He could not fully express the admiration he had for their courage. They agreed to author a guest edition of the KOR opinion periodical Krytyka. This face-to-face meeting and the mutual expressions of solidarity became an important element of a performative side of dissidentism (Kenney 2004), and we will return to this in the next chapter. Like Sakharov, Hungarian critical intellectuals were also listening to the radio, and in January they heard about Charter 77. Their


first reaction was to send a letter to Prague, signed by thirty-four leading intellectual figures, and made it public through the same channel as KOR did. Another letter of solidarity would be sent in 1979, when the Czechoslovak members of the Charter 77 legalist offshoot, the Committee for the Protection of Unjustly Prosecuted (Výbor na obranu nespravedlivě stíhaných—VONS), were put on trial. “Originally, the idea for this was purely moral”—Janos Kis explains. But given the official condemnation of VONS activity by Hungarian authorities, it gained a deeper meaning. “You saved the honor of Hungary”—he heard from a friend after their letter was published. “That was the beginning of dissidence in Hungary”—he adds.14 In April 1977, a group of theology students from Naumburg prepared the “Querfurt Paper,” a proclamation inspired by Charter 77 and invoking the Helsinki Accords, but dissident activity was more difficult in the GDR due to the already mentioned deportation policy. Additionally, the East German intellectuals were not yet tuned to the same frequencies as their Czechoslovak and Polish counterparts. Though contacts with the Czechs were more frequent, important ideological differences emerged. “What bothered me especially about the East Germans was that they always flirted with Communism, they simply said things which among us not even ex-Communists would have said”—remarked František “Čuňas” Stárek, one of the musical underground members put on trial in 1976 (Vilímek 2013, 82). There was “a specific leftist nuance in the GDR opposition”—suggested Jaroslav Šabata, himself an ex-Communist Party intellectual, pointing out that Charter 77 samizdat published the writings of Rudolf Bahro, but they ran counter to the Czech oppositional milieu because even for him the German thinker was an “age-old socialist” (Vilímek 2013, 77), who nevertheless, along with Djilas and Haveman belonged in “the library of dissidence.” As Christian Joppke points out, however, the writings of Bahro at the time could not be more at odds with the emerging mainstream of dissidence. As Michnik’s 1976 essay New Evolutionism emphasized the struggle for human rights, Bahro’s The Alternative dismissed the emphasis on rights and pluralism as “obsessions of the intellectuals” and pleaded a reform of the ruling party and a revival of the Communist revolution’s goals (Joppke 1995, vii). According to Joppke, this is just a symptom of a deeper division, which resulted in the fact that East Germany did not see dissidence in the same sense as the rest of Central Europe until well into the 1980s, and even then rights and peace activism was a slightly different



tone—with Marxist revisionism remaining the basis for dissent until the fall of the Berlin Wall. The awkwardness worked both ways. When in 1979 the physicist and later peace activist Gerd Poppe visited Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Poland, and found to his surprise the extent to which oppositionists there, even former Marxists, managed to free themselves from the legacy of reformism. Wolfgang Templin, who came to Poland for a oneyear long student exchange in 1976, to witness the emergence of KOR only some weeks after he arrived, suggests that the trajectory of the East German critical thinkers evolution was the same as in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, or Poland, but lagging behind. His first encounter with Polish opposition thought was Kuroń and Modzelewski’s Letter—but he read it in the 1970s and it expressed his radical Trotskyite feelings. Only after his return from Poland in 1977, he began to consider the need to seek change from outside the system, and started to look for others who thought the same,15 which in the 1980s would result in the formation of the Initiative for Peace and Human Rights (IFM) (Nehring 2013). This evolution coincided with the GDR version of the “Helsinki Effect.” East German Communists were against the Helsinki Process all along, seeing it as a potential threat in the fragile relations with the Federal Republic. The security police—Stasi—warned about this all along, but given the pressure from Moscow, the SED leadership gave in, trusting that Stasi surveillance will neutralize any dissent that Helsinki could enable. The Stasi did its best to deliver on that promise, but the visibly increased repressions and tightened surveillance—though it made dissent difficult—contributed directly to de-legitimizing the SED regime in the longer run (Bange 2010, 71–72).

Dissidents en vogue—The Growing Western Attention East European dissidents were definitely becoming fashionable, and the cherry on top of the cake was put in July 1977 by Michel Foucault himself. However, to understand this we cannot forget about the Soviet dissidents. Even if their domestic impact was comparably the smallest, the international audiences were most eager to see any sign of societal opposition in the Soviet Union. In his fascinating analysis of the “demise of the revolutionary privilege” and the emergence of human rights as a foundation for a new “radical humanitarianism,” Robert Horvath analyzes the role of Soviet intellectuals in the shift taking place in the West.


He points out that personalities such as Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975, but also Bukovsky, Orlov, and Shcharansky “became household names” by the middle of the 1970s and one could observe the “growing authority of dissidents in Western public life” (Horvath 2007, 880). Indeed, Soviet dissidents were always received with more interest than their Central European counterparts. That was due to the general supposition that because Russia was the heart of the Eastern Bloc then dissent there should have more influence than any other scene. As Smolar points out, the emergence of KOR, which was simply an opposition phenomenon of a very new quality, changed this to some extent. When the Solidarity trade union appeared in 1980, the distance between dispersed moral dissent in the Soviet Union and the levels achievable for political opposition in the satellite states of the Eastern Bloc became undeniable. Horvath traces a certain “Solzhenitsyn effect,” which had an impact on the way the Western left intellectuals departed from revolutionary positions as a result of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s writing and stance. Solzhenitsyn’s Nobel Prize speech in 1970 made an impact in those circles: “Not since Tolstoy had a Russian addressed the West with such urgency, literary force, and moral authority” (Horvath 2007, 896). That was later amplified when the defiant writer was expelled from the USSR after deciding to publish the Gulag Archipelago abroad, and as the book indeed hit the shelves. Among the “children of Solzhenitsyn”—the Western leftist thinkers who revised their position in the revolution and real socialism mostly in response to the Nobel laureate—were Glucksmann and Levý, the “New Philosophers,” as well as historians, like Furet. Together with Foucault, as well as older, non-Leftist intellectuals like Aron, they were all exemplary of and responsible for France’s apparent intellectual “anti-totalitarian moment” (Müller 2011, Chapter 6), though the latter—a consistent liberal—probably in the spirit of “I told you so.” Shortly after Adam Michnik returned to Poland, Foucault and Glucksmann organized a reception of French intellectuals and East European dissident exiles at the Théâtre Récamier in Paris. It was meant as a counter-balance for Leonid Brezhnev’s visit to France. Foucault explained that “we thought that on the evening when Mr. Brezhnev is received with grand pomp by Mr. Giscard d’Estaing, other French people could receive other Russians who are their friends” (Horvath 2007, 902). Indeed, the French authorities took the “top-down” détente idea very seriously, and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing had very friendly relations



not only with Brezhnev, but also other leaders like Edward Gierek, and was reluctant to sacrifice these by supporting independent political initiatives (Boel 2010, 233). In France, which discontinued its radio transmissions aimed at Eastern Europe already in 1974 and adopted a “realist” foreign policy attitude toward the East, the party at Théâtre Récamier was an act of defiance. As Horvath comments “this hospitality marked a vast reversal in attitudes” and “the coming of age of the dissident,” since when Brezhnev arrived in 1971 “hardly a murmur of criticism had been elicited by the decision of the French authorities to welcome the Soviet leader with a police round-up of prominent East European émigré intellectuals [among them Tigrid – K.S.], who were banished to a Corsican hotel for the duration of the visit” (Horvath 2007, 902). The reception at Théâtre Récamier is indeed a milestone, marking both the emergence of the figure of the dissident as a recognized transnational actor, as well as the role of human rights in East–West exchanges. In 1977, it was already visible that “a large ideological void seemed to have opened up. Human rights appeared to be one area where – after Solzhenitsyn – long-standing liberals, renegade leftists and, for that matter, even some unreconstructed leftists could unite in a moral project that transcended deeply entrenched ideological disputes” (Müller 2011, 209). However, the ground for all this was set not only by Solzhenitsyn’s solitary example and not even by Soviet dissidents and refuseniks alone, but also—and perhaps even more importantly for the change of imagination as to what opposition in Eastern Europe can be like—by the activities of Central European dissenters. The fact that Adam Michnik was probably the first real active dissident that everyone could meet and touch definitely played a role. Unlike the exiled dissidents with no right to return, he was “someone from the other side” but at the same time so close and thus impressive. György Konrád’s stays in the West after 1976, combined with his growing literary fame and activity as a political essayist would have a similar effect. Events featuring the émigrés and dissidents, or just discussing the role of the dissidents, were becoming quite frequent. The publicist Władysław Bartoszewski recalled a seminar on “Intellectuals and Politics” that was organized in Cologne in September 1977 (Bartoszewski et al. 2010, 179–78). The panel was chaired by Heinrich Böll, the speakers, besides Bartoszewski, were Kołakowski, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, and Zdeněk Mlynář, who was already then expelled from Czechoslovakia after having signed Charter 77. The debate was held in the Volkshalle with some two


thousand people in the audience. Bartoszewski, as someone who, like Michnik some months earlier, was in the West only in passing, was asked to comment on the situation in Poland. In order not to get in deep trouble (he was a public figure in Poland, the secretary of the Polish PEN Club), he could only tell a general story; he would then kick Kołakowski under the table, so that the philosopher provided the details. Böll and Dürrenmatt, according to Bartoszewski, showed a deep sensitivity and understanding for the nuances of Eastern Europe. The event was widely commented on in the media. Finally, the 1977 Venice Biennale in November was dedicated to East European dissidents and defiant artists. The popularity of the dissident topic and the interest of the media were growing, and, as one oppositionist declared, they no longer needed to ask the correspondents for their attention—Western journalists were tearing every declaration out of their hands (Snyder 2011, 65). The interest became so great that eventually it created situations of internal competition between the different movements. Barbara Toruńczyk recalls how at the “parallel conference” of the Madrid meeting of CSCE in 1980 she was trying to publicize and comment on a large report of human rights abuse in Poland (Anonymous 1981). The report was indeed well developed and documented, an impressive example of concrete dissident action. She was, however, unable to get in front of any camera, because as soon as she tried, one of the Soviet exiles would elbow his or her way up front and start talking about Soviet issues. At one point, she got angry, grabbed one of her Soviet counterparts and said: “Natasha [Gorbanevskaya – KS], it’s my turn now, let me say something about what I have here”—to which she heard the reply that “No, Russia is more important, we are the largest.”16 That was indeed the case, at least until the Solidarity movement emerged in Poland some weeks later.


1. The quote is a paraphrase of Józef Piłsudski’s recipe for radical political action in his early days as leader of the Polish Socialist Party and a revolutionary activist in Tsarist Russia. 2. Interview with A. Smolar, Warsaw, 18 March 2010. 3. Interview with E. Smolar, Warsaw, 30 March 2010. 4. Eugeniusz Smolar at the panel on the 30th anniversary of the Workers’ Defense Committee: http://www.kor30.sws.org.pl/Panel_2.htm (accessed 31.3.2012).



5. “Prawda o jednej prowokacji,” Życie Warszawy, 116, 18.5.1977, p. 3. 6. Sociological studies of the way rank-and-file workers perceived the opposition leaders, especially KOR, were conducted during the “Solidarity” period 1980–1981. As one such study shows, the laborers were aware of KOR’s existence and often quite supportive. They were also receiving its samizdat publications (see Krzemiński 1983). 7. Interview with A. Smolar, Warsaw, 18 March 2010. 8. “Kdo je Václav Havel?” 10 March 1977, Lidova demokracie, as well as Svobodne slovo; also: 9 March 1977 broadcast of the Československy rozhlas. The author of the pamphlet was Havel’s colleague and writer Tomáš Řezáč. 9. Tomáš Řezáč quoted in “Kdo je Václav Havel?” 10 March 1977, Lidova demokracie, p. 2. 10. The case is not fully explained until today, although the consensus is that Pyjas was indeed killed by the SB—the remaining question is if it was an accident or an attempt to intimidate the opposition. A journalistic investigation claims to have confirmed the statement of a doctor who saw Pyjas’s body and noted a bullet hole in his head. 11. Indeed, the link between KOR and the German “revisionists” represented by BdV’s Herbert Czaja and Herbert Hupka—for the Polish public opinion symbols of Nazism thriving in West Germany—was strongly emphasized and based on an actual declaration of support made for the Polish opposition. 12. Interview with E. Smolar, Warsaw, 30 March 2010. 13. Radosław Gawlik’s critique of my arguments in Maszkiewicz and Zalewski (2012, 86). 14. Phone interview with J. Kis, Budapest/Oslo, 16 January 2019. 15. Phone interview with W. Templin, Oslo/Berlin, 27 February 2019. 16. Interview with B. Toruńczyk, Warsaw, 30 March 2010.

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Molding the Dissident Figure

The end of the 1970s saw dissidence in Central Europe enter a completely new level. The Polish Workers’ Defense Committee (KOR) was not only the largest, but certainly the most successful opposition group in the Eastern Bloc—as it achieved its goal of defending the arrested workers who went on strike in 1976 (Brier 2013, 108). Another event which proved important for empowering the civil society structures parallel to state power—that is, the Catholic Church and the opposition that was able to join forces with it—was the election of Karol Wojtyła as Pope John Paul II in 1978 and his visit to Poland a year later. Christian Caryl goes as far as to suggest that 1979—as a result of several important processes that converged then—can be seen as “the birth of the 21st century” (Caryl 2013). However, for the political opposition in Central Europe this was surely the beginning of a new but still quite long and bumpy road, and it was anything but clear at the time where it would lead. With the momentum gained through the Helsinki Accords and the emergence of first dissident initiatives of a different type, new groups were also appearing. In April 1978, Czechoslovakia saw the establishment of the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Prosecuted (VONS). This was a human rights monitoring group, consisting mostly of Charter 77 signatories, but unlike the Charter which displayed a “broad sweep,” it focused on individual cases of human rights abuse (Falk 2003, 92). It was called up in response to the wave of repressions © The Author(s) 2019 K. Szulecki, Dissidents in Communist Central Europe, Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-22613-8_7



that the Chartists were suffering, but from day one monitored other abuses as well (Blažek and Pažout 2008). In Poland, oppositionists previously linked with KOR, but determined to organize a more specific human rights advocacy group, established the Movement for the Defense of Human and Civil Rights (Ruch Obrony Praw Człowieka i Obywatela— ROPCiO) in March 1977 (Waligóra 2006). Coming from slightly different milieus, ROPCiO’s activists displayed a right-wing inclination, whereas KOR was becoming more decisively left-liberal. Both VONS and ROPCiO acted openly, “above ground.” The members (or at least selected spokespersons) made their names and contact details publicly available, so that every recipient of a samizdat journal or bulletin was able to get in touch with them. In that way, they also further built their authority and fame—and through that, legitimacy. After the initial impressive success of merely being able to organize and link up into a transnational network of human rights (Snyder 2011), there came the first obstacles. The repressions against Charter and VONS members were severe, and by 1979, most of its founder members were put on trial, and five—including Havel and Uhl—received long prison sentences (up to five years). The group of imprisoned activists, dubbed “Uhl et al.,” became an important focus of transnational solidarity campaigns, one of the clearest after the “human rights turn.” That “turn” was only really complete around 1979. As Robert Horvath points out, before human rights became a “universal ideology,” even Amnesty International had great problems in defining who should and who should not be considered a “prisoner of conscience,” which is best illustrated by AI support for the imprisoned Baader-Meinhof group members (Horvath 2007, 894).1 The campaigns in support of VONS were not successful, unlike the earlier mobilization for the Polish workers and the KOR members in 1977. Eleven members of KOR, including Michnik, Kuroń, Macierewicz, and Chojecki, were arrested in May 1977. The combination of different factors—international political and societal pressures, domestic protests, and a broader shift in the line of the authorities to avoid spectacular repressions—led to a general amnesty in July 1977, in which not only the activists, but also the last remaining workers were set free, thus making the original goal of the Workers’ Defense Committee obsolete. The movement continued its work in human rights advocacy and grassroots self-organization as the Committee for Social Selfdefense KOR (Komitet Samoobrony Społecznej KOR—KSS KOR), with



the “KOR” kept in its name because by then it was a widely recognized brand (Friszke 2011). The emergence of committees and movements, led by recognized personas but also acquiring a name for themselves—as dissident groups— was the first major step toward the generalization of the dissident figure. That generalization had two aspects. For one, more and more people began to fall under the category “dissident,” and secondly, the category itself was being stretched. Eugeniusz Smolar points out: If I asked you if you know the names of the dissidents in Burma, you would probably name one – Aung Sang Suu Kyi, right? Not more. And there are some sixty people in prison there now from the opposition leadership [in 2010 – KS]. That was the attitude of the West to the opposition in Central Europe. They didn’t know the names, they didn’t know the circumstances, everything was given, the world was divided … And then KOR appeared. And some strange figures appeared, and began to give interviews to Western journalists.2

The KOR amnesty was a visible success of the opposition, and it bred further interest in the phenomenon of dissidentism. Julia Kristeva, the Bulgarian-French literary critic and philosopher, called the dissident “a new type of intellectual” (Kristeva 1977; Moyn 2010, 170), as the fashion visibly exploded. The “cult of the dissidents” (Hassner 1979–1980, 521) was becoming so strong that its long-term supporters Claudie and Jacques Broyelle saw it as a “banalization of dissidence” (Horvath 2007, 903). Indeed, the word was used more and more often to describe nearly every manifestation of minority activism. The special issue of Tel Quel on the theme of dissidence and dissidentism was clearly pointing in the direction of generalization (Hourmant 1996). Another important step was made with the emergence of the Solidarity trade union in 1980 and the appearance of its leader—Lech Wałęsa. Even the violent crackdown on the mass social movement and the introduction of a militarized regime led by General Wojciech Jaruzelski, known as the Martial Law in December 1981, could not reverse the shift in the minds of Poles, East Europeans in general, and the completely changed perspective of the Western public watching the developments. There were now, simply, many more “dissidents.” In this chapter, I trace the way the figure of the dissident influenced those who were described with it. Following Ian Hacking’s dynamic nominalism,


I argue that creating ways of classifying people—which he calls human kinds, and to which I refer as labels—affects the people classified and “create new ways for people to be” (Hacking 2002a, 100). The greater the moral connotations of a “human kind,” the greater, Hacking argues, the “looping effect” it has (Hacking 2002b, 370). In this chapter, I begin with the classification—how dissidents were molded, who was included and who was excluded—and then in the next chapter trace the looping effect that initiated in opposition practices.

Molding the Dissidents: Experts and Sovietology Although dissident activities in Central Europe had gained significant momentum after 1976, and new initiatives, declarations, arrests, and trials were becoming frequent news in Western media, the attitude toward dissent was by no means universally positive. The French president, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, saw Jimmy Carter’s attitude toward human rights activism as “a troublesome and disrespectful interference with détente” (Moyn 2010, 170) and his socialist rival François Mitterrand, agreed with this, as did, at least to some extent, the German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and the main architect of détente Willy Brandt (Brier 2013, 110). The fact that the East European independent societal initiatives remained for such a long time outside the scope of Western public opinion was of course largely related to the low profile they kept in the first half of the 1970s. But it was also a result of mainstream diagnoses and theories of international politics. The typical Cold War narratives left (and still leave today) little space for societal dissent. Once the dissidents eventually became interesting objects of media coverage, and some of them later even “media darlings” (Falk 2011), the actual meaning of their activity could be reinterpreted. It is no exaggeration to say that the “West” first proposed the term “dissident” in the 1960s and then in the late 1970s and 1980s molded the figure of the dissident through the discursive practices of media correspondents and experts in disciplines such as “Sovietology”—the study of the USSR and its satellites. Whereas the dissidents’ own practice and the mediation of the “dissident interpreters” were key to the emergence of the dissident figure, Western expert knowledge left imprints on its representation. After all, the very word dissident was a Western import and a catch-all heuristic that, on the one hand, was helpful at times and on the other hand was a distorted vision. The dissidents—or rather the



independent activists in the Eastern Bloc who were called that name— tried to either counter and alter these representations or use them for their own struggles.

Making Sense of the “East”—A Job for Experts? When Adam Michnik visited London and together with Leszek Kołakowski held a press conference at the Foreign Press Association, he was asked if he feared a Soviet invasion in Poland. “No, why?”— replied Michnik, and once again explained the role of KOR in defending the workers, taking people out of prison, etc. But then he decided to provide a deeper reflection, a very complicated analysis of hypothetical scenarios, and after some minutes reached the conclusion that “if the Communist Party was removed from power in Poland, then perhaps the Soviets could intervene.” The next day, the front cover of The Times read: “Dissident Warns: Soviet Invasion of Poland Imminent.”3 This is just one bright example of how interpretation (and not merely manipulation) mattered in representing the dissidents and Eastern Europe as an entire construct. In this section, I draw inspirations from Edward Said’s concept of Orientalism and its application to Eastern Europe by Larry Wolff (Said 1994; Wolff 1994). Said pointed to the Orientalists, that is, academics and intellectuals who professionally dealt with the “Orient,” as those who carved and reproduced Orientalism as a discourse. Wolff and others have noted that a very similar mechanism of Othering was conducted on Eastern Europe. This requires identifying institutionalized forms of knowledge (re)production that dealt with Eastern Europe in the Cold War—and Sovietology, a very specific form of area studies, was definitely the most important of these. Some accounts and comments found in the sources and in conversations with participants clearly indicate that experts mediated between the actual dissidents and the public in such a way that they influenced the representation of dissent and the dissidents. In a Polish samizdat journal, we read: Usually if one of the oppositionists or a scholar from Central Europe was asked to take part in a radio panel or a debate, a Western expert would speak after that and explain or interpret what the other one meant … Émigré intellectuals are publishing in prestigious papers, but they are merely “factologists.” It is the Western expert, the Sovietologist, who interprets the facts. (Birman 1985)


One could get the impression that these Sovietologists held a monopoly on expert knowledge and “truth” about Eastern Europe. As long as the two blocs remained closed on each other, the monopolization of knowledge and the Othering of the opposite side (this indeed worked both ways) were relatively easy to sustain. Eyewitnesses who provided alternative narratives of East European politics and came up with competing explanations of certain problems were easily marginalized. That was the case of Czesław Miłosz and the initial reception of his Captive Mind, as well as other émigrés who were often treated as obstacles in policymaking rather than a trustworthy source. The problem re-emerged when the figure of the dissident began to form as a generalization of the activities of prominent dissidents. Armed with fame, charisma, and authority, they were listened to. The founding father of American Sovietology, George Kennan, complained that it was “painful” to see prominent and influential Congressional figures ignoring academic Sovietologists and “sitting humbly at the feet of visiting Russian dissidents in the search for information on Russia” (Horvath 2007, 880). But that was the exception. Normally, Eastern Europe was far away, behind a border often difficult to cross and a wall of stereotypes, which was even less penetrable. Misinformation and linguistic barriers were difficult to negotiate. That is why it was often the sole responsibility of the experts and correspondents to report on the political and intellectual processes there and to safeguard quality and earnestness—a responsibility not always fulfilled. At times, the actual content of a dissident’s message diverged from what the experts and commentators wanted them to be. The essayist Piotr Kłoczowski, writing anonymously in the Polish samizdat, spoke of a typical mistake among journalists interested in Eastern Europe, who “project the problems and political categories on the new and uncommon phenomenon of Solidarity” and the opposition in the East (P.M.K. 1984). “The result”—writes Horvath—“was a growing chasm between the dissidents in the Soviet bloc and their self-proclaimed supporters in the democratic West.” He recounts an article by a long-serving Moscow correspondent from Le Monde, who mocked Solzhenitsyn’s idealist political program, which was met with an open critique from Glucksmann, who accused the correspondent for “trimming quotes” so as to “horrify the Parisian reader” (Horvath 2007, 895–99). Solzhenitsyn himself complained upon his arrival in Switzerland that the main lines of his thought—that truth should defeat the Soviet system rather than any sort of revolution “was not even noticed by Western



journalists” (Czapski 1974, 5). Since the very word “dissident” was a Western construct, so was its understanding. A characteristic element was the implicit assumption that the intellectual dissidents are in some way pulling the strings—based on the image of the counter-elite. Most dissidents were certainly part of a sociocultural elite, in fact most often the same one as the Party apparatchiks, but here, the “elite” was understood in much more instrumental and plotting ways, more reminiscent of revolutionary cadres or 19th century conspirators. If for the “Kremlinologists” what mattered were the master plans of Party leadership, then once the interest in the dissidents emerged, they were also portrayed as strategists. Sometimes it resulted from misconceptions about East and Central European realities. As we have seen in the previous chapter, after 1968 the Central European democratic opposition recast itself on the premise that normal politics—and reforming the system from the inside of its political apparatus—were not viable. If they wrote “strategies”—and they did, not only Benda, Havel, Kuroń, or Michnik, but many others too— those were conceptual pieces on postures or organizational matters, not recipes for toppling the regime. At times, misconceptions apparently gave way to conscious attempts at spicing up the message from the “East,” and as Kuroń attests, could cause much turmoil: There was a slight forgery in a Der Spiegel article. When I left prison, I walked into a press conference back at my home. Among the journalists there was the Russian Spiegel correspondent, on his way from Moscow back to Germany. He decided to write a piece from Warsaw. He constructed it so that my flat appeared like a leadership headquarters. His own assertion that what happened [the emergence of Solidarity in Gdansk in 1980 – KS] was not the result of a workers’ strike but a precise, strategic plan of the KOR, and he put this suggestion right after a quote of mine. KOR – headquarters, Wałęsa – a puppet, a line officer. That was the spirit of the entire piece … the content of the article was very helpful for the communists, on the same day it appeared in Der Spiegel it was broadcast by Czechoslovak and Soviet television. (Kuroń 2009, 534)

It was easier for the dissidents to sustain control over their images once they were invited, as Adam Michnik was, to publish in Western papers. But not everyone had that option—Havel published literary reviews (to subsist on the honoraria) under a pseudonym (because it was too dangerous to publish openly). One of the key dissident interpreters, Jan Kavan, recalled that “in the East European Reporter we tried to publish as much


original material as we could, to let the dissidents speak. Other journals on Eastern Europe that were out there published only Western experts’ analyses – and sometimes even their advice for the Eastern opposition.”4 That is why the publishing activities of the dissident interpreters and making as much material as possible available in Western languages played an important role in regaining control over the image of the dissidents— although that happened most fully in the 1980s. In his essay on Orwell and 1984, part of a critical reflection on Sovietology, the émigré supporter of East European dissent Leopold Labedz asked rhetorically: Who can be listened to on the subject today? Not the twister who just can’t bear to concede a point which Orwell himself insisted upon a dozen times; and certainly not the Soviet “Rehab” corps. I recommend the East European dissidents, the “Winston Smiths” … who are talking to us with the chastened voice of historical experience … They know where Big Brother has his headquarters. (Labedz 1989, 173)

“The ideological nuances and cleavages within the democratic opposition in Eastern Europe, the perception of those differences in the West was very limited, or perhaps even nonexistent. More subtle pieces, showing these nuances, they’d appear much later and still played a secondary role”—suggests Aleksander Smolar.5 This is not really the Western media’s or public’s fault: These differences were consciously played down by both the dissidents in their transnational contacts and the dissident interpreters in their “translations” of dissidentism for foreign audiences. These were already conscious strategies of using the figure of the dissident, once it became general enough to accommodate new emerging groups. Dissident interpreters, for their part, were gaining a reputation as reliable intermediaries, and so “whenever there was a journalist about to travel to Poland, we were the information center and the contact point. He would be told where to go, where not to go, whom to meet, we would get them addresses.”6 They would eventually almost entirely substitute Western experts in their consultative role. In 1988, when the British prime minister Margaret Thatcher was preparing for her visit to Poland, she had meetings with Eugeniusz Smolar and Timothy Garton Ash, going through the “who is who” and “what is what”—names, roles, and histories. Smolar was even part of her official delegation. The Communist authorities were reluctant to grant him a visa until Thatcher quipped in the presence of the Polish ambassador: “No Gienek, no



visit.” Hearing the British PM referring to Smolar as “Gienek” (a diminutive denoting intimacy), the Polish government had no option but to give him the visa.7

Friends of Dissidence: Going Native in Central Europe Garton Ash, journalist and historian, is an example of a different type of area specialist that became visible in the 1980s. In a similar manner as some long-term correspondents or scholars with a soft spot for Central Europe, like H. Gordon Skilling and Jacques Rupnik, he “went native” with the Central European opposition and provided a more benign form of the dissidents’ molding and representation—one whose goal was to make the West more aware of their value and more universally supportive of their cause.8 It was arguably thanks to people like Garton Ash, Skilling, and Rupnik that the Central European dissidents equaled and then surpassed their Soviet counterparts as “household names.” They were welcomed as friends of the opposition—and they undoubtedly were its friends—but this was also because their narratives echoed the self-perceptions of the dissident intellectuals. This also meant holding up the implicit idea of the dissident as the “Self within the Other.” Michnik suggests that the “Visegrad triangle” of dissident intellectuals—Havel, Konrád, and Michnik himself—first appears as a trio in Garton Ash’s 1986 essay “Does Central Europe Exist?” (Garton Ash 1989; Falk 2003). Jonathan Bolton also notes the idea of picking out a set of selected voices from across the Iron Curtain and shaping them into a new category: During the Cold War, the West – newspaper editors and academic scholars alike – selected a few dissident thinkers and fashioned them into a transnational pantheon that conducted an international conversation about antipolitics, civil society, and living in truth. In this pantheon, there was room for one or two thinkers in each country – next to Havel one usually found the Pole Adam Michnik, the Hungarian György Konrád, and a constellation of other figures. (Bolton 2012, 3) (my italics – KS)

Garton Ash’s pieces in the New York Review of Books, Spectator, or the Times Literary Supplement made dissidentism not merely an interesting political phenomenon, but a fascinating story. In addition, they definitely helped turn Havel from a marginally recognized playwright and


prisoner of conscience into a “star in the theatre of opposition” and a major political authority (Kopeček 2007). They emphasized the courage and humanity of the dissidents even more than their political role. At times, this crossed the border of romanticizing. In 1988, John Rensenbrink, an American political scientist and supporter of the Polish environmental movement, described Michnik as “one of Poland’s best known and most often jailed dissidents … who has lived much of his life in jail” (Rensenbrink 1988). In reality, Michnik was no penitentiary record-holder among the Central European oppositionists, but prison was indeed good for political movements, and such descriptions added to his name’s authority (Kenney 2017). Rensenbrink’s approach to the dissidents is symptomatic of one more phenomenon. The Western experts and correspondents, especially those who were sympathetic and supportive of the opposition, at times tended to perceive it or at least represent it as a synecdoche of the society as a whole. And so, about Michnik we read that “he speaks the voice that most characterizes the stance of Solidarity” (Rensenbrink 1988, 174). The idea behind this was that the dissidents were “leading theorists” (Weschler 1984, 24, 106) or “leading advisers” (Rensenbrink 1988, 146) or “prominent intellectuals” who were listened to in the society and therefore, apparently, could speak for the society. That was a comfortable position, especially since, as Jonathan Bolton rightly observes, dissident proclamations and reports were “generally written with half an eye on their Western reception” (Bolton 2012, 27). What implicitly followed was the expectation that if the dissidents spoke what the society thought, then of course the society must be like the dissidents that at least large parts of Central European societies were liberal, open, and democratically aware like the dissidents. The dissidents themselves in fact reinforced that impression. A younger KOR member would later claim, “it is thanks to us, to my circle that Europe and the world believed that Solidarity is like us … That was not a true picture, but a very positive one for our aspirations to freedom” (Lubczyński, June 4, 2009, 130). This would have some political implications already in the late 1980s, but more visibly after 1989. The sociologist Jeffrey Goldfarb, himself a strong dissident sympathizer, put his finger on that process of romanticization and empowerment already in the late 1980s: The Western media’s concentrated concern and reports about the fate of dissident artists and intellectuals, and the political elevation of such



concern as the central subject for discussion in an East-West forum such as the Helsinki Conference, turned isolated artists and intellectuals into potential spokesmen for every sort of discontent experienced by the citizenry of the Soviet bloc, spokesmen heard not only in the West but, through Western broadcasts, in their home countries. Though at times dissidents have a broader audience in the West than in the East, when they reach their compatriots their stances are readily understandable and meaningful. As isolated romantic heroes they are twentieth-century versions of nineteenth-century visions … By itself the stellar quality of the dissident makes social opposition difficult, because opposition becomes a realm beyond the reach of mere mortals … Thus sentimental romantic image of the dissident artist or intellectual as a hero places a serious constraint on cultural excellence and political action. (Goldfarb 1989, 98–99)

The undoubtedly positive shifts in the amount of attention given to the dissidents and the clarity of their representation had two, more ambivalent, political repercussions. Firstly, they indirectly and involuntarily reinforced the Communist myth of the dissidents as agents of the West, detached from their native societies. As the image of the prominent oppositionists, distorted by the Western lens, returned to the domestic context, it was often in dissonance with a complex local reality. Garton Ash recalls an interesting scene at a factory gathering during the 1989 electoral campaign in Poland, which illustrates (perhaps even over-illustrates) that process: I said that, as an independent observer, I wanted to tell them that the name of Adam Michnik was well known in the West, and that it had become a synonym for integrity, courage and resistance. Thirdly, I wanted to tell them – as an independent observer – that if they voted for Adam Michnik, and his admirable fellow candidates, then the West would probably give more money to help Poland. (Garton Ash 1993, 11)

The Absent Women The other result was that due to the character of their personal contacts and friendships, these “new Sovietologists” directed the spotlight onto certain people, movements and events, while leaving others out of the picture, and thus had an important impact on the formation of a particular narrative of opposition and the roots of the 1989 events. This


discursive operation, probably largely unintended, is a recurring theme throughout attempts, like this book, to revise the historiography of dissidentism. One category of actors which is surprisingly absent from the dissident “pantheon” is the female oppositionists. This is quite striking, given that women not only constituted a large part—from one fourth to one third—of formal opposition organizations, but also conducted much work “in the background,” allowing the entire machine of dissidence to function, or had day jobs that allowed their “professional oppositionist” husbands to subsist. Though functioning as solitary figures in the Western media, at home Havel was unimaginable without his wife, Olga, and Kuroń relied on his wife Grażyna (Gaja) to keep his entire dissident life together. When eleven (male) KOR members were arrested in 1977, their wives and friends took over, so that putting the steering group behind bars did not even leave a dent on the Committees outside image. Gaja Kuroń, Małgorzata Naimska, and Zofia Winawer-Blumasztajn took the lead, with the help of Anka Kowalska, Aniela Steinsbergowa as well as those who avoided arrest: Jan Olszewski and Zbigniew Romaszewski (Skórzyński 2012, 244). When Havel went to prison for over four years, Olga Havlová and her brother in law, Ivan, continued the work of the samizdat Edice Expedice, and Olga later became an orchestrator of other dissident activities and publications. The KOR periodical Biuletyn Informacyjny was run almost exclusively by women: Anna Dodziuk, Joanna Szczęsna, Zofia Romaszewska, and Anka Kowalska, while “the spiritus movens of the [KOR] worker’s spreadsheet, Robotnik, was Helena Łuczywo, who also created the Solidarność Press Agency” (Witoszek 2019, 159). Halina Mikołaska was KOR’s spokeswoman, while Gaja Kuroń—like Anna Šabatová in Prague—was responsible for international contacts. Often “more eloquent in foreign languages than the male stars, they gave interviews to the foreign press” on their behalf (Witoszek 2019, 159). In other words—Western correspondents in Central Europe, exilic dissident interpreters and foreign journalists would interview women, get their “facts” from women, and call women to confirm their source information—but they nevertheless end up reporting almost exclusively on male leaders, intellectuals, and dissident figures. Nina Witoszek quotes an interview with Solidarity’s activist and journalist Janina Paradowska, which explains the two-way nature of



this exclusionary mechanism. Paradwoska herself prepared a collection of interviews with Solidarity leaders, which featured… only men, and explained that “there were no women in the movement who had any vision or stategy.” But then she reflects that she could have talked to a number of iconic Solidarity women, as a matter of fact: Anna Walentynowicz, Alina Pieńkowska, or Joanna Gwiazda. And adds: ‘Without women there wouldn’t have been any underground at all! They did their job but were not chosen as [Solidarity] representatives […] Because this is how it was. [They] were not invited. Generally their role was to do their job … and men had the power’ … Paradowska laughs heartily, first bemused by her discovery. But her face gets serious. She speaks slowly, more to herself than to the interviewer. “Yes, it’s like we agreed to be some kind of a service staff, support staff, logistics staff … it doesn’t make sense.” (Witoszek 2019, 158–59)

The openly sexist character of this division of labor is striking from today’s point of view. “We were small, petty girls, we smoked lots of cigarettes … we felt empowerment and a sense of community” (Witoszek 2019, 160). For instance, a very typical “girls” task in the opposition as to organize—and hold—hunger strikes, which is neither easy nor pleasant, but contributed greatly to international prominence of the dissident cause. As one male oppositionist explained: “that was a thing for the girls, we thought it would be good for them, like a diet, they’d get slimmer.” Whatever impression Havel’s sophisticated Letters to Olga (1989) might give, or however poetic the letters between Jacek and Grażyna Kuroń (2014), opposition culture was full of a peculiar machismo, and “prominent dissidents”—particularly Havel, Kuroń and Michnik—were alpha males and notorious womanizers, which all of the more critical biographies (Kaczorowski 2014; Bikont and Łuczywo 2018) and friends’ testimonies underline. At the same time, we should not let ourselves be tempted to orientalize this—they were just like their Western counterparts. In a monograph which first appeared in 1994, not long after the fall of Communism, Jacqueline Hayden offered a balanced and nuanced account of the mechanics of Poland’s democratic opposition—from KOR to Solidarity and after—which featured a dozen protagonists, half of them women (Hayden 2016).9 However, already at the time forgetting overshadowed remembering in dissident historiographies. Over the last two decades, a number of studies tried to revive the female


perspective on and experience of the opposition, focusing particularly on the Solidarity movement (Kondratowicz 2001; Penn 2005). But this archeological work had to counter not only openly sexist downplaying of women’s role in dissent and the poignant feeling that “the revolutionary semiotics is male” (Witoszek 2019, 160), but also—different forms of rationalization of self-marginalization. That self-marginalizing mechanism is inseparable from the patriarchal spirit of the day—East and West. Western audiences were not actively seeking out female voices, on the contrary, Western media—not only conservative—were quite content with having an all-male pantheon. However, female dissidents were not actively seeking attention either. Case studies and interviews cited by journalists and scholars provide “ample evidence to the effect that most women who were part of anti-authoritarian opposition did not think that they were underestimated or treated unfairly. On the contrary, they emphasized the value of male friendship … Some insisted that their public invisibility was their own choice. They did not care for fame … [Others] stress that their invisibility was strategic: it was the guarantee of the continuity of work on forging a parallel society” (Witoszek 2019, 160–61). Undeniably, the security apparatus perceived women as less prominent and therefore less dangerous—very often they would be set free shortly after arrest, while their husbands went to jail—though that was not universal, and a number of female dissidents served long prison sentences. But since open dissent was by and large a risky business, it was seen as something “for the guys to do,” while women would perform less visible and arguably less risky tasks—even if it was actually heavier work. The realization that something is wrong, like in the case of Paradowska, often dawned on them quite late. Openly feminist ideas began to be present only in new opposition movements of the late 1980s (Charkiewicz 2008, 39), and the Freedom and Peace (WiP) movement’s periodical A-Cappella was the first to publish a special issue on women’s rights, though the board reported problems in acquiring texts. But when that realization dawned, there was no return. At one of the numerous anniversary gatherings of the Freedom and Peace movement, when a meeting of the “veteran” foundation was held, one of the former leaders suggested that “someone should take notes, perhaps one of the girls?”— to which one of the movement’s affiliates from Wroclaw, Małgorzata Albrecht, snapped—“no! those times when you boys would sit and discuss all night and we would only make sandwiches are long gone!”10




1. The Baader-Meinhof group, formally the Red Army Faction (Rote Armee Fraktion), was a radical leftist terrorist organization, formed in 1970. It was named after the two leaders—Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof. Meinhof’s turn toward direct action, “resistance” as opposed to “protest” and eventually—political terrorism—was initially a response to the attempted assassination of Rudi Dutschke in 1968. The RAF became notorious for bank robberies and bombings. The group members were arrested in 1972, charged with multiple murders and attempts at murder—and it was during that time that AI campaigns occurred. 2. Interview with E. Smolar, Warsaw, 30 March 2010. 3. E. Smolar’s input in the panel on the 30th anniversary of the Workers’ Defense Committee: http://www.kor30.sws.org.pl/Panel_2.htm (accessed 31.3.2012). 4.  Interview with J. Kavan, Prague, 20 April 2010. Kavan emphasized “advice” with some emotion. 5. Interview with A. Smolar, Warsaw, 18 March 2010. 6. Interview with M. Chojecki, Warsaw, 4 August 2010. 7. Interview with E. Smolar, Warsaw, 30 March 2010. 8. The collection of his essays from the 1980s is tellingly dedicated “To Them” (Garton Ash 1989). 9. I thank one of the monograph’s anonymous reviewers for pointing me to this publication, as well as suggesting the need for this whole section. 10. Witnessed at the 12 June 2010 WiP 25th Anniversary Meeting in Szczecin.

References Bikont, Anna, and Helena Łuczywo. 2018. Jacek. Warszawa: Agora. Birman, Igor. 1985. “Dlaczego oni nas nie słuchają?” Vacat [samizdat] (4): 71–83. Blažek, Petr, and Jaroslav Pažout. 2008. Nejcitlivější Místo Režimu: Výbor Na Obranu Nespravedlivě Stíhaných (VONS) Pohledem Svých Členů: Diskusní Setkání 19. Října 2007. 1. vyd. Praha: Pulchra. Bolton, Jonathan. 2012. Worlds of Dissent: Charter 77, the Plastic People of the Universe, and Czech Culture Under Communism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Brier, Robert. 2013. “Broadening the Cultural History of the Cold War: The Emergence of the Polish Workers’ Defense Committee and the Rise of Human Rights.” Journal of Cold War Studies 15 (4): 104–27. https://doi. org/10.1162/jcws_a_00396. Caryl, Christian. 2013. Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century. New York: Basic Books.

160  K. SZULECKI Charkiewicz, Ewa. 2008. “Zielony finał PRL-u.” In Polski odcień zieleni: Zielone idee i siły polityczne w Polsce, edited by Przemysław Sadura, 35–48. Warszawa: Fund. im. Heinricha Bölla. Czapski, Józef. 1974. “Sołżenicyn.” Kultura 12 (327): 3–8. Falk, Barbara J. 2003. The Dilemmas of Dissidence in East-Central Europe: Citizen Intellectuals and Philosopher Kings. Budapest and New York: Central European University Press. ———. 2011. “Resistance and Dissent in Central and Eastern Europe: An Emerging Historiography.” East European Politics & Societies 25 (2): 318–60. Friszke, Andrzej. 2011. Czas KOR-u: Jacek Kuroń a geneza Solidarności. Kraków: Znak. Garton Ash, Timothy. 1989. The Uses of Adversity: Essays on the Fate of Central Europe. New York: Random House. ———. 1993. The Magic Lantern: The Revolution of ‘89 Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin, and Prague. 1st Vintage Books. New York: Vintage Books. Goldfarb, Jeffrey C. 1989. Beyond Glasnost: The Post-Totalitarian Mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Hacking, Ian. 2002a. Historical Ontology. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ———. 2002b. “The Looping Effects of Human Kinds.” In Causal Cognition: A Multidisciplinary Debate, edited by Dan Sperber, David Premack, and Ann J. Premack, 356–95. Repr, Symposia of the Fyssen Foundation. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hassner, Pierre. 1979–1980. “Prosaique et puissante: l’URSS vue d’Europe occidentale.” Commentaire 8 (Hiver). Havel, Václav. 1989. Letters to Olga: June 1979–September 1982. New York: H. Holt. Hayden, Jacqueline. 2016. Poles Apart: Solidarity and the New Poland. First Issued in Paperback. London, New York, and Dublin: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, Irish Academic Press. Horvath, Robert. 2007. “‘The Solzhenitsyn Effect’: East European Dissidents and the Demise of the Revolutionary Privilege.” Human Rights Quarterly 29: 879–907. Hourmant, François. 1996. “‘Tel Quel’ et ses volte-face politiques (1968– 1978).” Vingtième Siècle. Revue d’histoire (51): 112–28. http://www.jstor. org/stable/3771305. Kaczorowski, Aleksander. 2014. Havel: Zemsta bezsilnych. Wydanie 1. Seria Biografie. Wołowiec: Wydawnictwo Czarne. Kenney, Padraic. 2017. Dance in Chains: Political Prisoners in the Modern World. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Kondratowicz, Ewa. 2001. Szminka na sztandarze: Kobiety “Solidarności” 1980– 1989. Warszawa: Sic!



Kopeček, Michal. 2007. “Charta 77 očima Západu: Co přinesl disent politice a politickému myšlení.” Dějiny a současnost 2: 30–34. Kristeva, Julia. 1977. “Un nouveau type d’intellectuel: le dissident.” Tel Quel 76: 40–44. Kuroń, Jacek. 2009. Kuroń. Autobiografia. Warszawa: Wydawn. Krytyki Politycznej. Kuroń, Grażyna, and Jacek Kuroń. 2014. Listy jak dotyk. Edited by Maria Krawczyk. Warszawa: Ośrodek Karta. Labedz, Leopold. 1989. The Use and Abuse of Sovietology. New Brunswick and Oxford: Transaction Publishers. Lubczyński, Krzysztof. 2009. “Moje kłopoty z Solidarnością: Z Andrzejem Celińskim, posłem lewicy, uczestnikiem obrad Okrągłego Stołu, rozmawia K. Lubczyński.” Trybuna, June 4, 130. Moyn, Samuel. 2010. The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Penn, Shana. 2005. Solidarity’s Secret: The Women Who Defeated Communism in Poland. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. P.M.K. 1984. “Solidarność oczyma Brytyjczyka.” Krytyka [samizdat] 18: 223–25. Rensenbrink, John. 1988. Poland Challenges a Divided World. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. Said, Edward. 1994. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books. Skórzyński, Jan. 2012. Siła bezsilnych: Historia Komitetu Obrony Robotników. Wyd. 1. Warszawa: Wydawn. “Świat Książki”. Snyder, Sarah B. 2011. Human Rights Activism and the End of the Cold War: A Transnational History of the Helsinki Network. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. Waligóra, Grzegorz. 2006. Ruch Obrony Praw Człowieka I Obywatela 1977– 1981. Warszawa: IPN. Weschler, Lawrence. 1984. The Passion of Poland, from Solidarity Through the State of War. New York: Pantheon Books. Witoszek, Nina. 2019. The Origins of Anti-Authoritarianism. Routledge Studies in Modern History Volume 44. London and New York, NY: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. Wolff, Larry. 1994. Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment. Stanford: Stanford University Press.


The Looping Effect of the Dissident Figure: Resistance and Performance

Responding to the Dissident Figure: Resistance and Performance “Dissident” as a figure was “spoken into being.” Note the expression “prominent dissidents,” a nearly inseparable pair which according to Havel “lead to the impression that ‘dissidents’ are some prominent figures, an exclusive group, a protected species” because “a number of people have been chosen and turned into a special social category” which he saw as entirely artificial (Havel 1985). At the same time, he recognized the pragmatic argument in gaining and maintaining international recognition, and putting prominent names on oppositions documents. In his theatrical dialogue, “The Protest,” Stanek expresses that opinion, with Vanek’s mild resistance: Stanek: Fifty signatures should be enough! Besides, what counts is not the number of signatures but their significance. Vanek: Each signature has its own significance! Stanek: Absolutely, but as far as publicity abroad is concerned, it is essential that some well-known names are represented, right? (Havel 1993a)

© The Author(s) 2019 K. Szulecki, Dissidents in Communist Central Europe, Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-22613-8_8



From the very beginning of the world’s international currency, East European oppositionists were not indifferent to the “dissident”—their imposed nickname. There were several different possible responses. Firstly, the category could be resisted, or “rebounded” to other people. Secondly, there could be attempts to alter it for one’s own use. Thirdly, it could be used as a source of empowerment, most importantly in the processes of localization and glocalization of certain ideas (Szulecki 2011a). What follows is an analysis of resistance to the “dissident” label, attempts at its re-definition and altering with certain counter-narratives. In recent years, no one has made such a career in the intellectual life of Europe and America as the dissidents. There is in that career something of a fad, and so a troubling note … The term ‘dissident’ appears in Western press very often, and this makes the entire question less clear because the concepts are simplified. The West does not notice the differences between various dissidents, their genealogies are irrelevant to it, and thus – the political perspective of the problem seems deceptive at times. (Szczypiorski 1978)

Those are the opening lines of an article by the Polish writer and KOR member Andrzej Szczypiorski. The piece, initially published in the West German Europa-Archiv, was clearly aimed at Western audiences. Szczypiorski continues: “popular is the notion that the dissident is a person who steps up against Communism in a society subjected to Communist state rule”; however, “one single dissidentism does not exist.” Uniformization seemed painful for the opposition, because many currents of independent life were toned down, misrepresented or simply left unnoticed by the international public opinion, complained Piotr Łukasiewicz (Złotnik 1985, 37). The Polish democratic opposition definitely had a problem with the “dissident” category. It took it very seriously. Nearly all former oppositionists, to whom I had the chance to speak, protested to the imposition of the word on their political activity. The right-wing underground press, once opposition in Poland grew large enough to display visible internal political differences around 1978, chose to understand the word “dissident” as if it had a meaning close to its original, religious sense. Rather than understanding that it is a heuristic, they would use it as a weapon to discredit left-liberal opposition by suggesting their common roots with the Communists.1 But there were also voices of oppositionists seeing certain merits in the dissident category. Jan Walc in his critical essay “Powerlessness of the



omnipotent” argued that the dissidents were indeed heretical, but their heresy was not from Communism, but from the officially prescribed values and rules of the real socialist state. “Dissidents are apostates in this sense that … they call up the same values, which are openly declared in their home countries.” That referred to constitutional norms, legality and human rights. “Because of this, the authorities are practically powerless: under no conditions can they agree to enter into a discussion with the dissidents, which would disclose that the regime acts against the slogans that it preaches, and it cannot rely on mass repression (other would not be effective), for they would imply the same thing” (Walc 1980, 8). There were others who, like Havel, were rather questioning the unexpressed implications of the dissident figure in its Western form. The exiled poet Stanisław Barańczak pointed out that the word “dissident” comes from the Latin “to sit on the side,” therefore, someone who acts abnormally. Consequently, such a person is in the minority (Barańczak 1982).2 Reality, Barańczak argued, was exactly the opposite. A writer who tries to conduct his writing in a normal way or a scholar who values truth above propaganda—dissident writer and dissident scholar, respectively, through the Western lens—is actually behaving quite normally, as anyone should. This is, however, something apparently beyond the comprehension of Western experts and parts of the public opinion who contrast the “romanticism” of the opposition with the “realism” of the Communist authorities. After Solidarity, argued the poet, it is in fact the Communists who “sit on the side, act abnormally and – are a minority” (Barańczak 1982, 7). The question of the relationship between the so-called dissidents and the societies was seen as crucial. In the Western understanding, drawing heavily on the representation of the Soviet rights activists of 1968 and 1972, a dissident elite would be juxtaposed to passive, perhaps even hostile masses. The term “dissident” reflected the social imaginary of the Communist system that came from the West and so: it resonated with the image of the Communist society that the Western public opinion held. It was the image of a little known (directly), closed, enslaved society controlled by an ambitious regime seeking to ‘reach and surpass the West.’ Against the background of that monolithic vision every independent act of public expression gained in spectacularity but seemed in a sense alienated – the link to what the general society ‘thinks’ was unclear. (Złotnik 1985, 7)


The answer given, many oppositionists suggested, was that there is an enlightened elite which speaks up, while the rest can neither comprehend it nor join it. Václav Havel’s most famous essay, the 1978 “Power of the Powerless,” among other things tried to deal with that problem. His early theorization of the phenomenon of the “dissident”—in the sense of a figure rather than a neutral description—was probably more spot-on than most scholarly analyses. What apparently infuriated Havel the most was the fact that “the dissident” seemed to be something of a vocation, a professionalization of opposition: Stanek: Even I got used to the idea that the signing of protests is the business of specialists, professionals in solidarity, dissidents! While the rest of us – when we want to do something for the sake of ordinary human decency – automatically turn to you, as though you were a sort of service establishment for moral matters. In other words, we’re simply to keep our mouths shut and to be rewarded by relative peace and quiet, whereas you’re here to speak up for us and to be rewarded by blows on earth and glory in heavens! Perverse, isn’t it? Vanek: Mmn. (Havel 1993a)

After leaving prison in 1983, he explained in a Le Monde interview: “I am not, I never was and I do not have an ambition to become a politician, a professional revolutionary or a professional ‘dissident’. I am a writer.”3 As a writer, though, a person widely known, Havel acknowledged he had certain obligations “to speak up about certain things, louder than those who are not known.” In the “Power of the Powerless,” he forcefully argued that the dissidents are but the tip of the iceberg of the “alternative” societal life, and that in fact there are very many people who seek to “live in truth” even if only to some extent—as much as they can (Havel 1985). Somehow contradicting the idea of obligations, he claimed that the “famous dissidents” became famous through their dissident act—and not vice versa; they were not dissidents because they were famous. The reactions to his essays at home varied. There were critical voices, of those who read it not as an attempt to overcome the elitist depiction of the dissidents, but rather as reproducing it. A small group within the Charter 77 gathered around the scholar Emanuel Mandler suggested that in Havel’s view, the open democratic opposition “set itself up as a ‘moral judge’ of society” which served in practice “to deepen the division between ‘normal’ citizens and ‘dissidents’, and thereby



exposed the opponents of the regime to state repression” (Keane 1999, 281). Ludvík Vaculík was also slightly critical, pointing out that “people should be asked only for unheroic, realistic deeds” (Judt 1988, 123), which resonated perfectly with Kuroń’s often quoted opinion that one cannot demand courage from others. Walc’s somewhat polemical, or at least complementary essay “Powerlessness of the Omnipotent” also targets Havel for the construction of dissidentism on individual rather than communitarian, psychological rather than sociological, and moral instead of political foundations (Walc 1980). There is indeed an internal inconsistency in Havel’s stance. On the one hand, he was always sympathetic and understanding of human weakness, fear, reluctance to risk concrete things for abstract goals. On the other, he would argue that the inability to sacrifice—even one’s life— was a symptom of a certain nihilism and the general “crisis of human identity.” This argument is echoed in the important, though much less-known essay “Anatomy of reticence” when Havel criticizes the slogan “better red than dead” (Havel 1991a; Szulecki 2013). In Havel’s “political” and “autobiographical” plays—Audience, Unveiling and Protest—the problem of dissidentism as an act of courage transcending the everyday simple consumerist choices appears as well (Havel 1993b). And here too there is a feeling of inconsistency. On the one hand, the arguments against open dissent are appealing, and it seems that in many situations (for family reasons or other), people can be “excused” from openly challenging the regime. On the other, Ferdinand Vaněk—the “Havel character”—always stands on the side of those courageous few who chose the path of self-sacrifice to “live in truth.” Stanek – Are you angry? Vanek – No… Stanek – But you disagree… Vanek – I respect your opinion… Stanek – But what do you think? Vanek – What would I think? … Stanek – I am very well aware what is hidden behind you respect … a feeling of moral superiority… Vanek – That is not true….(Havel 1993a)

We can or perhaps even should read Havel’s plays as political treaties. They are closer to Plato’s dialogues—and so, essays in dramatized form—than his theater of the absurd dramas of the 1960s. Whereas


Havel politicized his theatrical pieces in the 1970s, he also dramatized his essays. Nearly every one of his political and ethical essays introduces a character and on his example illustrates some more abstract processes. The famous protagonist of the “Power of the Powerless” is the greengrocer, putting up a propaganda slogan in his shop’s window. But the main character of all Havel’s work from 1975 up until 1989 is the “dissident”—either an anonymous character, or the self-represented Václav Havel/Ferdinand Vaněk “the dissident.” Instead of reading this as merely an input in the dissident community’s self-reflection, an internal debate, we can see it as a conscious externally oriented attempt at the reinterpretation of the dissident figure. Havel had an unprecedented talent for reaching different audiences. Michnik’s persuasive skills vis-à-vis the Western public in direct communication was signaled in the previous chapter. Kuroń, who wrote extensively, but usually tactical pieces on the organization of the opposition, was a fantastic speaker and interviewee, who despite his complete lack of any linguistic skills was fascinating for the correspondents. “They loved him, he was larger than life”—Eugeniusz Smolar attests.4 Havel’s skill was not merely in direct arguments, but in translating a post-totalitarian reality to Western readers for whom it was completely alien. In doing that, he also introduced and grounded an important element in the Central European dissident figure—a feeling of cultural and axiological proximity with the West. This was achieved with a direct, seductive style, with recognizable cultural references and the substituting of a bashing, resentment-driven argument with a story.5 His essays thus played a double role—telling the story of the dissidents, recasting the dissident figure and attracting the Western public’s attention to nuances, and secondly providing a script for the theater of the opposition. That script had to be staged—and here, we reach the performance of dissidentism. Havel put forth the idea of living “as if” in a free society. And so, the idea had to be put to life. If you want to meet your foreign colleagues, you go and meet them. The logistics behind the first large meeting of Czechoslovak and Polish dissidents were arranged with the help of the exile network. With Charter 77 suffering from daily repression and the KOR activists released from prison shortly before, the mere idea of a meeting sounded absurd. But it took place in late summer of 1978 on a mountain top at the Czechoslovak–Polish border. The mountain tourist refuge on the Sněžka/Śnieżka was accessible without passports from both sides (Friszke 1994). While there, the KOR and



Charter 77 members first agreed on a common declaration, fearing that the secret police would show up anytime, and then, when no police appeared, had some lunch and got to know each other. Kuroń, Michnik, Macierewicz, and Lityński on the KOR side, met Havel, Kubišová, Jaroslav Beneš and Tomáš Petřivý from Charter 77. All in one place, acting “as if” they were free to do anything. The dissidents “had made the border into a performance space for freedom; it became a place to which one traveled to show that one was free”; thus, they “deconstructed the very idea of the border, taking the fear out of the barbed wire and guard towers long before they were physically removed” (Kenney 2004, 216). That was a blow for the regime and for both SB and StB. The pictures of dissidents talking, eating sausage, and sunbathing hit the Western media. That was really a performance of dissidentism, but not the alienated, solitary one—but rather displaying boldness and freedom. The groups issued a joint communiqué on the 10th anniversary of 1968 and the vitality of independent societal initiatives (Skilling 1981, 227). “This whole meeting left a colossal impression on us”—Kuroń recalled—“there were all those secret and overt policemen, snitches, and we are sitting at a table, on it rum, salami, cheese, bread – everything from Havel’s bottomless bag, above us rustling firs and here we are in fraternal discussion on how to overthrow our common tyrant” (Kuroń 2009). They repeated the meeting a month later, in a bigger group, this time with, e.g., Zbigniew Romaszewski on the Polish, and Anna Šabatová, Petr Uhl, and Jaroslav Šabata on the Czechoslovak delegation (Skilling 1981, p. 278). There was no third time—the security services on both sides were already furious with the way they were tricked twice, and this time arrests blocked the Poles and the Czechs from reaching the mountaintop. While the Poles were set free after the usual forty-eight hours, Jaroslav Šabata was jailed for two years, charged with attacking a police officer, and other Chartists were also punished. The significance of these acts was mostly symbolic; no long-standing cooperation could be established. Havel’s name was added to the imprint of KOR’s major intellectual periodical Krytyka. But the idea of playing with the border prevailed and the meetings were repeated through the initiative of the youngest among the early Charter signatories, Petr Pospíchal, in 1988. After the fall of Communism in 1990, Lech Wałęsa and Václav Havel would meet for the first time on the same mountaintop. The Hungarian democratic oppositions, as they would come to be known, were in a privileged position compared to the other Central


Europeans in that most of them—even if they had dissident inclinations known to the state security—retained the freedom to travel within the Eastern Bloc. Hence, both Janos Kis and Laszlo Rajk went to Warsaw in 1979 to learn from KOR. “It was supposed to be secret, we went to see Adam Michnik but did not find him at the address we were given. We did find him at Kuroń’s, and it turned out that he knew all about our visit. So much for secrecy. But later, when I was passed on to Mirosław Chojecki, the conspiracy started. You know, changing cars, visiting secret printing houses – like in a spy movie.”6 Kis spoke Russian and a bit of Polish, which helped, since Kuroń never managed to learn any foreign language. Rajk spoke French with Michnik. He would later, in 1982, travel to Czechoslovakia, to meet Anna Šabatová and Petr Uhl, at the time the Czechoslovak dissident “Foreign Ministry,” despite constant surveillance. Transnational contacts and exchanges became a core element of dissident activity. It was from transnational resonance that domestic dissidence got its additional boost. It also helped in tapping to ongoing international debates, and stay in touch with the leading intellectual figures of the era. Many foreign guests would visit the dissident groups in Central Europe’s—it was easiest in Hungary, more difficult in Czechoslovakia and Poland. E.P. Thompson visited Budapest in 1982, and in an organized debate visibly changed some of his views on East– West relations (Szulecki 2015, 28). The “underground university” lectures organized by Julius Tomin and Ladislav Hejdánek saw such guests as Charles Taylor, Paul Ricœur, Jürgen Habermas, Richard Rorty, and Ira Katznelson (Falk 2003, 93–94). Jacques Derrida was arrested in 1981 on the Czechoslovak border and jailed, with the fake charge of drug trafficking, and it took several days before he was set free (Echikson 1982). The Norwegian economist, Thorolf Rafto, was arrested in 1979 after a clandestine lecture he held in Prague (Skilling 1981, 115), and beaten so badly by the StB that he suffered from the inflicted injuries until his death in 1986, at the age of 64.

The Effects of the Dissident Figure: Security and Its Limits There is an important feature of the dissident label that was very often “reported” by its bearers, namely security. In his fascinating novel Life Is Elsewhere, Milan Kundera tells the story of Jaromil, a boy growing up in



Stalinist Czechoslovakia, and an aspiring poet. At one point, as a young child, Jaromil misbehaved and would otherwise be punished, were it not for the fact that he also uttered a funny rhyme, and the adults laughed instead of spanking him. “Jaromil could not fully grasp the reasons of his success, but we know very well that what saved him from getting a spank was the rhyme, and that in this way poetry for the first time disclosed its magical power to him” (Kundera 2000). As we have seen already in Chapter 2, intellectuals and particularly artists, writers, poets were all important for the Communist regimes, and being a member of the cultural elite allowed you to do a bit more than the average Joe would be allowed.7 Their social function, as well as their fame and authority not only empowered the dissidents but also made them safer, acted as a “protective umbrella.” In the Polish case, that protective umbrella was initially given to the KOR by its Oldies (Starsi Państwo). “The division of labor was as follows: the young KOR acts and the Oldies … give their names as insurance policies against repression. Because if you wanted to lock up Mrs. Steinsbergowa you had to be prepared for an outcry in half of Europe” (Skrzydłowska-Kalukin 2011, 74). Aniela Steinsbergowa was one of the first female attorneys in Poland, famous for defending workers in pre-war political trials and many other political prisoners, e.g., former Home Army under Communism. She was an icon of democratic socialism, internationally renowned and cherished by Polish lawyers. The Oldies, aware of their physical inviolability, many of them veterans of extreme, daily violence in Nazi concentration camps, in Gestapo as well as Stalinist prisons, they could afford to play with the police. When one of the Oldies received vulgar phone calls, asking “for how much did he sell Poland?” he would reply: “We are doing our best to sell it expensively, but so far, no buyer could be found” (Kuroń 2009, 430). With time and recognition though, that protective umbrella was extended automatically to a much wider circle of “prominent dissidents.” “The Poles realized that being known protects you, rather than the opposite”—remarks László Rajk, explaining that the Hungarian democratic opposition followed that example and chose to act “above ground.”8 Seweryn Blumsztajn claims that he never felt as safe as in the days of the opposition:

172  K. SZULECKI For the direct care of the SB was characterized by one thing – that to do something to the surveilled person, the decision had to be made by the highest leadership. I was much more afraid of a regular policeman, who checked my documents, when I was strolling drunk at night, because he might not know who I was and he could come up with some weird idea … My ‘shadow’ was always a warrant of my inviolability. (SkrzydłowskaKalukin 2011, 101)

This may sound surprising, but one needs to realize what was the main role of the security services after the end of Stalinist totalitarianism. “For us the most important thing was to know, not to break up”—says the SB officer who for several years led the three men unit that followed Jacek Kuroń (Skrzydłowska-Kalukin 2011, 87). The main activists of Charter 77 and KOR were observed day and night. Michnik was followed since 1965; Havel first found a recording device in his flat in 1969. The latter liked to publicize his experiences with the StB. One such report appeared in the Encounter, and one cannot help thinking that Havel’s passion for theater of the absurd was well realized here: When I left my house on foot, for instance, to take the dog for a walk, a policeman always went with me … Any car coming to our place was subjected to stricter controls, and my guests were always told to proceed ‘at their own risk’. At least twice I asked what the danger was (if there was any, surely I had a right to know) only to be told that members of the police force were not authorized to specify the danger. (Havel 1991b, 216)

Finally, a small hut on four poles, a kind of wathctower, was erected just outside the plot of Havel’s mountain house, where he spent most of his time. Anna Šabatová and Petr Uhl had two policemen sitting on chairs by a small table just outside their flat doors, round the clock (Kloss, June 21, 2008), as had numerous other Chartists. The police “guardian angels” and the dissidents developed peculiar relationships, even certain sympathies. Havel would bring grog out to the policemen on chilly days. Once he apparently tried to lose a police car tailing him, driving on the winding mountain roads like it was a rally—but when he saw that the police car behind him crashed, he immediately stopped to see if they were okay (Špaček 2012). When Kuroń went for a walk in the yard of his block of flats, the “undercovers” asked if he was just taking a breath of fresh air or intended to leave, and when he assured them he was just going to stroll around the block, they would sit back down on their bench. The



dissidents’ wives did not share that sympathetic tone. Olga Havlová was always trying to show the StB how much she despised them, while of “Gaja” Grażyna Kuroń the SB was simply afraid. They did not want to mess with her and even complained to Kuroń that his wife was mean to them. The officer in charge “was terribly afraid that one day he would have to use force against her. And he did not want to, because observing the Kuroń household, he grew to like and respect her. Some even claim that she fascinated him” (Skrzydłowska-Kalukin 2011, 93–94). All this seems very sweet, but it not always was that way. The security apparatus also used different forms of indirect repression and intimidation. Blackmail, nasty phone calls promising sudden death, bothering with constant surveillance, checking the ID of every person visiting or even met in the street, threats of violence against children—those were also day-to-day S(t)B methods. The life of the Chartists after the document was published “began to feel as if it was one continuous round of threats, bright lights, padded doors, wooden desks, sliding chairs, handcuffs, truncheons that pointed to a limited future” (Keane 1999, 254). Similarly, most KOR affiliates “became eternal fugitives, forever pursued, arrested, released and re-arrested. Many lost their jobs and careers, some experienced social isolation and even toyed with suicidal thoughts” (Witoszek 2019, 73). If open violence to the family members would be considered too much, then at least the pet could be targeted—Kuroń discovered that someone was continuously poisoning his dog. Living next door to a dissident was a nightmare for his surroundings, as Kuroń’s next door neighbor, later an environmental activist and journalist, Adam Wajrak recalls: From my balcony I could see the car with the secret policemen, and when my mum asked me to take the trash out, I had to pass by that car… I was afraid. Once, I saw the policemen beat up Maciej Kuroń [Jacek’s son] terribly … [Jacek Kuroń] would stand in the yard, gesticulating and talking to the likes of him or to foreign television crews. It was well known that those who come visit him, are in trouble with the authorities. (Wajrak 2018)

In Czechoslovakia, where apparently no oppositionist was killed by the police, there was the procedure (present widely in the USSR) of sentencing dissidents as “asymptomatic schizophrenics” to long-term repressive psychiatric treatment—a practice described by Jan Tesař in his “Suppressed diagnosis” (Tesař 2003).


Krystyna Starczewska, a KOR activist, was kidnapped from the sidewalk, interrogated all night and then threatened that she would be run over by a car when crossing the street and her daughter raped in a park. In such cases, the transnational channel could help considerably. When she called Radio Free Europe and explained that she was threatened and if something happened everyone should know who did it. The SB car following her drove away before she even left the phone booth (Bikont and Łuczywo 2018, 402). When the police detained all KOR members for the first time for the traditional “forty-eight,” Kuroń heard from an officer “Mr. Kuroń, your wife already passed the news on to RFE, you will be out anytime now” (Skrzydłowska-Kalukin 2011, 84). Finally, when KOR could not meet for a longer period due to police surveillance and repression, Eugeniusz Smolar asked a BBC journalist who was traveling to Poland if he would not be interested in making a documentary on the opposition. The Committee met at Aniela Steinsbergowa’s apartment in the presence of the film crews. When the SB entered the apartment to detain the activists, they immediately stepped out noticing BBC cameras, and the meeting continued.9 To Kill a Dissident The regime and secret service was also much more willing to use brutal force against the workers, and the KOR members who visited the Ursus and Radom protesters’ trials were astonished at just how far this could go. For a young KOR activist from Warsaw, Anka Kowalska, “it was one thing to hear about the strikes and read the official lies in the newspapers, but entirely another to see blood and puss coming out of the ears of the men dragged out of their jail cells and thrown on the bench of the accused” (Witoszek 2019, 69). Similarly, the predominantly working-class milieu of Czechoslovak musical underground received a much harsher treatment than Charter 77 intellectuals. In the so-called “Budejovice massacre” of 1974, riot police units driven from around the country organized a vicious festival of violence against mostly young alternative music fans who attended an illegal concert in the town’s suburbs, to the extent that a witness of the police beating shouted at the officer in charge: “Sir! Do something, this here looks like Chile!” (Jirous 2008). No wonder that the key figures of the underground, like Martin Jirous, were initially feeling quite a bit of reticence toward the Prague intellectuals, like Havel, perceiving them as part of the same elite that persecuted them.



Violence, not merely threats, was also an option. The infamous legend of “unknown perpetrators,” the official description of secret police thugs, haunts some of the former oppositionists. In the 1970s, there was perhaps more violence in Czechoslovakia than in Poland and surely Hungary. The actor and Charter signatory Pavel Landovský was beaten up severely by a secret policeman and had his leg broken (Kriseová 1993, 167).10 Kuroń’s family were not fully safe either. A group of martial artists and boxers linked to the socialist youth organization entered their apartment to break up a meeting of the clandestine “Flying University.” I saw how they beat Henryk [Wujec], how his face was covered in blood, how his head bumped down the stairs … I ran back in, to see how they were beating my son. Terribly and methodically. Many held him, one beat … I saw how one of them grabbed Gaja by her hair and lifted her up … I ran into the last room, and there a couple of them were holding Adam [Michnik] upside down, back to one guy hitting him precisely on the kidneys. I grabbed one of them and heard: ‘No, leave Mr. Adam’ … and those pulled punches, fists stopping above me in mid-air. They were obviously instructed not to hit me … The Times correspondent [who saw the brawl] asked me why I was doing all that. And I told him, that I don’t know that now I am really afraid. (Kuroń 2009)

In this case, the status of prominent dissidents saved Kuroń and Michnik (once he was identified) from being beaten up badly. But even that not always helped. The elderly philosopher Jan Patočka was interrogated so violently in 1977 after the publication of the Charter declaration that his heart did not stand it. He died shortly after, bereaving the Charter. Some sources suggest that Michnik escaped death only by a narrow margin as he traveled in the West, as two hit men were hired in SB’s Operation “Drone” (Truteń) either to beat him up and steal his passport, or to kill him in a Hamburg brothel, in the worst case scenario (Morawski, June 17, 2006). On the whole, however, the prominent oppositionists were in a much better situation than the “rank and file” and their sympathizers. In Poland, the list of confirmed and probable victims of the SB is quite long. During the kidnapping of oppositionists, an SB agent supposedly claimed that “two hundred people a year disappear in unknown circumstances in Poland.” There are indeed many unexplained deaths, especially in the years after the introduction of the Martial Law (Górski, May 31, 2009). The name of Stanisław Pyjas, the Krakow student killed in May


1977, was already mentioned. In May 1983, when the tensions of the Martial Law were already lifted, high school graduate Grzegorz Przemyk was beaten to death during “routine” police questioning. He was the son of an opposition poet Barbara Sadowska, who was gathering money for Solidarity’s political prisoners and had been beaten up just days before. These were the two best-known cases, but there are many others. Kuroń was aware of those risks—and he felt guilty. That was part of the message of his essay “The evil I cause.” He condemned himself as an “evildoer” through the risk that he brought upon his younger colleagues while organizing the strikes of 1968 or the pain inflicted to his family because of the years he spent in prison. In very subtle and modest words, he questioned the ethical right to cause any (even the smallest) harm to actual human beings, in the name of an abstract cause, faith or idea, because “the good, to which I serve, is far-off and uncertain, while the evil I cause – close and sure” (Kuroń 1984; Szulecki 2011b, 76). Overall, however, one can risk the hypothesis that fame linked to the dissident status was an effective umbrella, but its generalizability ended at the friends, family and collaborators of the dissident elite. Kuroń once witnessed a police search in the apartment of a worker linked to KOR: “on this example I could very well see the difference between a search at my place, where mutual politeness was the rule, and in the apartment of a worker” (Kuroń 2009, 461). Havel noticed that problem in the “Power of the Powerless,” and discussed further in his drama-dialogue “Audience”: The Brewmaster: You, intellectuals! Gentlemen! Those are all fancy words, but you – you can afford it, because nothing can ever happen to you, all the time there is an interest in you, you can always fix things for yourselves, you are on the top even if you are on the bottom, while the regular man works his ass off, and has nothing from it, no one gives a crap about him, and he is never heard … Principles! How would you not defend them, this will pay off perfectly for you. You will sell them nicely and get great money from it, you live off those principles. And me? I can just get my ass kicked for them! You will always get a chance – but what chance do I have? Nobody will care about me, nobody worries about me, nobody will write about me, nobody will help me … when you go back … you will be a hero! And me? Where can I go back to? Who will notice me? (Havel 2009).



The obvious discrepancy between the regime’s response to intellectual dissent and opposition activities among the working classes was indeed a problem, and so it is surprising to read Michnik’s dismissive comment on this quote: “how many dissidents heard such tiresome monologues in those days” (Michnik 2011, 11). The tragic story of Father Jerzy Popiełuszko, the “chaplain of Warsaw’s Solidarity,” is a difficult case for the theory that famous opposition figures were inviolable. Popiełuszko became active in the opposition during the strikes of August 1980. After the introduction of the Martial Law, he organized help for the imprisoned, but more importantly, became a charismatic spiritual leader (Kindziuk 2008). His trademarks were regular “Fatherland Masses” where hundreds of people would gather in and around his parish church in northern Warsaw (across the yard from Kuroń’s apartment) to pray, sing patriotic songs, and express support for the repressed Solidarity. Due to his firm defiant stance, when most of the opposition heads were either in prison or in hiding, Popiełuszko grew to become one of the leaders of the people, displaying a fantastic bond with the workers. He celebrated the funeral mass for the police victim Grzegorz Przemyk and later that year he was targeted by all the official media in a painful campaign of provocation and slander that by 1984 extended even to the Soviet newspapers. The authorities pressured the Episcopate to silence Popiełuszko, continuously trying to intimidate him as well. When none of that worked, the priest was kidnapped by members of a special unit of the SB in October 1984—Group D of the 4th Department of the Interior Ministry, dressed up as traffic police. He was tortured and thrown into the Vistula in a sack loaded with stones. The perpetrators were arrested and tried shortly afterward. Some 250,000 people were said to attend Popiełuszko’s funeral in Warsaw (Ruane 2004). Group D is suspected of the murder of seven other, lessknown priests, as well as violent attacks on a number of oppositionists. Little is known about its functions and proceedings as it was deeply undercover even within the SB and tended to destroy all documentation shortly after accomplishing each mission, because its methods were illegal under the law of the People’s Republic of Poland (Lasota 2003). How can Popiełuszko’s death be explained in light of the thesis of the dissident label’s protective umbrella? There can be three answers. Firstly, his importance and defiance exceeded the domestic authority of any of the opposition figures, and he became too dangerous for the regime to tolerate—and the cynical benefits outgrew terrible costs.


Secondly, perhaps it was indeed, as the Communist authorities claim, an “independent initiative” of lower rank officers and cannot be perceived as a rationalized political murder. An important element in both these hypotheses could be the anti-clericalism of the Communist state apparatus, after the emergence of Solidarity reaching the proportions of open priest-hatred. Lastly, it could be argued that neither Popiełuszko nor any other of the murdered priests fit into the “dissident” category in the way the prominent oppositionists did. In the following chapter, I discuss the limits of the constitutive power of the dissident figure, suggesting that the actual designate needs to at least minimally fit with the expected characteristics of the figure to use its empowerment. As a Catholic priest expressing his struggle with the regime in a fairly conservative and traditionally patriotic idiom, Popiełuszko was less of an object of Western attention (BBC 1984). This is not an attempt to explain the reasons behind Popiełuszko’s death, but it might point to one additional factor that the authorities had to take into account when dealing with the opposition—transnational recognition. For instance, when Havel fell very ill in prison, the authorities decided to shorten his sentence precisely because they decided they could not afford to risk his death for the international outcry it would imply. There was already a campaign going on when he was in prison, of which everyone, including the wardens, was aware (Petrov 2010). Meanwhile, another Czechoslovak rights activist, member of the Jazz Section11—Pavel Wonka—whose brother Martin was a Charter 77 signatory, died in prison in 1988, despite a large transnational campaign involving Helsinki Watch and Amnesty International, asking for his release due to ill health. Wonka organized a hunger strike to protest the treatment and torture he faced in prison, but the domestic and international mobilization was not enough to save him from another sentence, which he did not survive (Devátý et al. 1988). Perhaps in Popiełuszko’s case this was not as important as domestic considerations. The society was shocked by his death; Lech Wałęsa was allowed to speak publicly for the first time since the Martial Law in a desperate attempt to tone down the uproar. The reaction of the authorities was defensive, trying to suggest that the high government leadership had nothing to do with the murder, and as many note, repressions against oppositionists became visibly lighter since 1985. As one former activist expressed it, “The regime got scared of itself.”




1. That was also the line of critique adopted by Andrzej Nowak against my project. Conference “Intelligentsia, Empire and Civilizations in 19th and 20th Century”, OBTA, Warsaw University, 22 June 2007. 2. This too is a text aimed at a Western audience, first presented at the “Conference on Dissidence” at the Boston University in May 1982. 3.  Le Monde, 10, April 1983. 4. Interview with E. Smolar, Warsaw, 30 March 2010. 5. In that, he was continuing the best traditions of Czech intellectual and cosmopolitan essay. Reading the pre-war work of Karel Čapek addressed to the Britons, one cannot help noticing the similarity of style and atmosphere of those works with Havel’s (Čapek 2009). 6. Skype interview with L. Rajk, Budapest/Oslo, 18 January 2019. 7. This was also the way the working class saw things. The workers-intellectuals divide was a cleavage easily exploited by the Communists, and it took groups like KOR a lot of time and effort to overcome initial reticence. 8. Skype interview with L. Rajk, Budapest/Oslo, 18 January 2019. 9. Interview with M. Chojecki, Warsaw, 4 August 2010. 10. He later decided to emigrate. It is noted that the Chartists after 1979 were aware that their life would not be threatened, that the worst consequences of dissident activity were either prison or exile. 11. The Jazz Section (Jazzová sekce), initially part of the Union of Musicians of the Czechoslovak Republic, emerged in 1969 and by the late 1970s developed into one of the countries most active groups propagating alternative, non-conformist culture, organizing jazz festivals and other events. Repressed since 1977, it was subject to a fierce security service campaign, which culminated in its dissolution in 1985 and the 1986 trial of its officers charged with “illicit trading” (Palouš et al. 1986).

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Generalization of the Dissident Figure

Dear Adam, I have finally finished writing that essay of mine which I promised to write as an introduction to our planned collection and so I am sending it to you … It is a bit longer, and I am sorry for that, but I am that kind of author who is at first too lazy to write, but when I start writing, I am then too lazy to stop. But if the collection is fatter, I hope nothing will happen (in the extreme case it can be divided into two volumes). Here is some information on how we imagine it from our side. (Havel 2014, 23)

That is the beginning of a latter Václav Havel sent to Adam Michnik in 1978, alongside a copy of the “essay which he promised” during their mountain meeting—the Power of the Powerless. He then goes on for several pages on the technicalities of the planned joint volume of Eastern European dissident texts, suggesting that exiles (Zdeněk Mlynář, Leszek Kołakowski) are invited to submit and that perhaps other prominent dissidents should be approached—listing Milovan Djilas, Mihajlo Mihajlov, Andrei Sakharov, and Zhores Medvedev. For KOR members reading the letter, it must have perfectly illustrated the distinction they drew between dissidence and political opposition. Havel seemed preoccupied only with an intellectual exchange, and some of the names listed—particularly Djilas—in 1979 sounded like echoes of a very distant past. That volume never materialized, but Havel—out of modesty or his openly antipolitical attitude—seemed to have no grasp for the political significance of © The Author(s) 2019 K. Szulecki, Dissidents in Communist Central Europe, Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-22613-8_9



the essay that he was sending, which only months after that would be read at Polish student houses, intelligentsia homes, and most importantly—factories, like the Ursus Tractor Factory, where Zbigniew Bujak and Zbigniew Janas worked. They would soon become key leaders of the Solidarity trade union. One of them recalled: We have been speaking on the shop floor, talking to people, participating in public meetings, trying to speak the truth about the factory, the country, the politics. There came a moment when people thought that we were crazy. Why were we doing this? … We began to doubt the purposefulness of what we were doing … then came the essay by Havel. Reading it gave us the theoretical underpinnings for our activity. It maintained our spirits … and a year later - in August 1980 – it became clear that the Party apparatus and the factory management were afraid of us. (Havel 1991, 125–26)

In his essay, as we have seen, Havel distanced himself from politics or at least refused to take up the role of a political activist. But the Power, even if it laid ground for a peculiar antipolitical politics, was read as a strategy for action more than a theoretical reflection. While KOR and the other Polish opposition groups, like the emerging Free Trade Unions (Wolne Związki Zawodowe—WZZ) were aimed at action and that action as understood as political practice, the Charter 77 was split on that issue. Most notably, Jaroslav Šabata, who took over as spokesman in April 1978, was pressing for the development of a new policy and new methods within the Charter (Skilling 1981, 32–33). Šabata, a Prague Spring reformist, resembled Jacek Kuroń in many respects. A “man of ability” with visible charisma, inspiring for several generations of activists who got to know him between 1970 and the 2000s, he was interested in turning the Charter into something more like KSS “KOR,” an “organization” and “a political force” (qtd in Skilling, p. 33). His vision, again resonant with Kuroń’s ideas, was that of a “new democratic” left, challenging the system from without (Tichák and Burian 1997, 65), as well as a “heretical geopolitics” challenging the Cold War division of Europe (Szulecki 2015a). According to Skilling, the meetings with KOR on the state border were also Šabata’s initiative, and he paid for them with two years in prison. By the time he was released in December 1980, however, the limits of achievability of political opposition within the Eastern Bloc were already redrawn, and his radical vision no longer appeared as radical. That was thanks to the August 1980 strikes in Poland and the subsequent emergence of the Solidarity trade union.



Nearly everything changed with the emergence of a 10-million-strong movement of opposition, which altered the society’s ideational landscape for good, and even the Martial Law was not able to reverse this. This historical moment most significantly pushed the figure of the dissident away from its original, fairly few real-world designates and into what it now is—a general label. The union too had icons—one in particular. The electrician and unionist Lech Wałęsa came to symbolize the movement and its mass character, becoming a dissident not through his intellectual production, but rather as a popular activist linked to a certain moral program. Wałęsa was born in 1943 to a peasant family in northern Poland. His life trajectory is that of a worker and so was his political engagement. In 1970, when the workers went on strike and took to the streets on the Baltic Coast, the young electrician was already one of the leaders at his workplace. But those workers’ protests were perceived as mass movements—and Wałęsa would later become the first “face” of the Polish labor movement. Already in 1978, he became affiliated with Gdansk’s Free Trade Unions, a group closely linked to KOR. That was the moment when the path of Wałęsa and Warsaw’s dissidents first crossed. At first looking up to them, he made the intellectual oppositionists his advisors in 1980. But his fame exceeded theirs manifold. By 1983, when he received the Nobel Peace Prize and became the symbol of nonviolent anti-authoritarianism on par with Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama, he could afford to look down on anyone else in the opposition. His only “competitor” for the title of Eastern Europe’s number one dissident would be Václav Havel, but only later, once he became the president of Czechoslovakia. Wałęsa’s spokesman at the time later noted that “the often critical words about Havel suggested that it was about envy and ambition … [Wałęsa] was in pain that Havel after several mass gatherings got the thing that he still would have to strive for”—presidency (Kurski 2008, 51–52). That said, before 1989 Wałęsa’s fame and authority outgrew the other dissidents. In a 1988 communiqué from the Polish to the Soviet government, Wojciech Jaruzelski, general secretary of Poland’s PZPR, provided a telling comparison: “the West is urging us to recognise Wałęsa. They say that M.S. Gorbachev had telephoned Sakharov (in internal exile in the city of Gorky). But Sakharov is not Wałęsa” (Kemp-Welch, October 21, 2010). Wałęsa was the symbol of Solidarity, and Solidarity became a symbol of unarmed struggle in the Eastern Bloc, appealing to practically


everyone in the political spectrum—from right to left. The movement and its leader were indeed the favorite of the Western powers—Thatcher and Reagan hand in hand with trade unions and former Maoists. Michel Foucault, who was a professor at the Warsaw University in the 1950s and held a soft spot for the country ever since, became one of the great supporters of the movement. He joined forces with another leading intellectual, Pierre Bourdieu, publishing an appeal in Liberation to mobilize support for Poland. After the Martial Law was declared, he proudly wore his Solidarity badge, spent “hours on bureaucratic work for a Polish exiles committee in support of Solidarity” and in September 1982, alongside Simone Signoret and Bernard Kouchner joined a convoy with humanitarian aid headed for Warsaw (Brier 2016, 76). For other social movements in other parts of the world that united fascination with Solidarity was a source of frustration. The Brazilian trade unionist, later president, Luiz Lula da Silva met Wałęsa in Rome in 1980 and later recalled, complaining: He left with 60 million for a Solidarity printing house, and I left without cash for a return ticket … Because he was backed by the entire Christian democracy and the entire West, which wanted to overthrow Communism. He was the darling of the whole world. New York Times and Estado de Sao Paulo boasted about him daily. And about our struggle against the dictatorship they never wrote. (Stasiński, September 24, 2011, 37)

Lula also suggested that Wałęsa’s fame and power did not come from the backing of an actual mass social movement, but from the political support of the conservative Church—an interesting observation, pointing to the limits of the dissident figure as drawn by its Western origin and human rights-based definition. But for many other observers, Wałęsa’s case showed that the opposition did not have to be limited to intellectual circles. The crackdown on the Solidarity movement brought a new wave of political emigration. Many of them did not choose exile—they were simply traveling in the West when Poland’s borders were suddenly closed. That was the fate of Seweryn Blumsztajn as well as Mirosław Chojecki, Barbara Toruńczyk, or Bronisław Wildstein. The latter, a close friend of the murdered Stanisław Pyjas, notes that the emigration of that time was so large that it could again afford to transfer all the political and “social” divisions from the home country into the diaspora, forming, what he called, an “émigré ghetto.”1 But these divisions were hardly visible or comprehensible for the host societies. Hundreds of



people actively engaged in anti-systemic opposition left Poland and confronted the Western public. They were all “dissidents.” The word that in the 1970s was still used to describe the “prominent dissidents”—members of the still rather elitist movements—in the 1980s described practically all East European oppositionists in the Western media.2 The label “dissident,” although detached from its original designates—first revisionist intellectuals and then famous dissenters of the 1970s—carried traces of their characteristics and as a figure, that is, a certain abstracted actor, also reflected the authority of these “original dissidents” through the figure’s own charism. And so, even nearly anonymous oppositionists could for example engage in dialogue with Western intellectual stars, because they were dissidents.

From Individual Charisma to Transferable Charism of the Label When Jacek Kuroń was arrested on the night of 13 December 1981, as Martial Law was introduced, he witnessed the peculiarity of the dissident’s domestic recognition on his own skin. We were driving in a convoy, two in one van … Our hands were cuffed, each to the opposite wall … horribly uncomfortable. Suddenly one of the guards asked, ashamed. “Mr. Kuroń…” – “Yes?” – “Mr. Kuroń, would you give me your autograph?” – “OK, but you need to get these cuffs off – at least off one hand.” And so they all queued up to me. (Kuroń 2009, 757)

This tragicomic scene where a dissident is feted like a rock star (albeit handcuffed) points to a very important additional quality of “prominent dissidents,” namely—their fame. “Prominent dissident” is a combination of words that appears very often in both scholarly and popular literature mentioning East European oppositionists. Havel remarked sarcastically about the way East European “dissidents” were treated like tourist attractions by Western guests. From time to time I have a chance to speak with Western intellectuals who visit our country and decide to include a visit to a dissident in their itinerary – some out of genuine interest, or a willingness to understand and to express solidarity, others simply out of curiosity. Beside the Gothic and Baroque monuments, dissidents are apparently the only thing of interest to a tourist in this uniformly dreary environment. (Havel 1991, 261)


Domestic renown, resulting from actual oppositional activity which was conducted openly and both slandered in official papers and reported in samizdat media and foreign radios, was of a different quality than this peculiar international celebrity which put Havel’s flat and Prague’s Charles Bridge in the same category of “attractions.” In his genealogy of celebrity, the cultural historian Fred Inglis makes a distinction between two aspects of fame. A more traditional concept is renown, which by now has largely been replaced by celebrity. Renown, Inglis suggests “was once assigned to the men of high accomplishment in a handful of prominent and clearly defined roles” (Inglis 2010, 4). What is important is that renown is related to an office or social function, whereas celebrity became a feature of the individualization of fame (Marshall 2006). While there is almost no way of actually measuring the degree of dissidents’ renown across the decades,3 we have already seen evidence of the broadness of the dissidents “fame.” The renown of the “prominent dissidents” became part of the figure of the dissident and thus was generalizable onto wider opposition circles whose individual characteristics were obscured by the label itself. It can therefore be said that, in the process of the evolution of the dissident figure, the move was the opposite— from individual fame to recognition linked with role. But domestic and international recognition is worth a closer look, because of the effects they had during the climax of dissident activity, leading up to the sudden changes of 1989. In the remainder of this chapter, I will first show how the international fame of “prominent dissidents,” once generalized, enabled new groups of actors to benefit from the empowerment of the dissident label. This helped build new transnational political coalitions. But it also influenced the path that led toward the 1989 “refolutions” and impacted on the lineup of the initial post-dissident governments. For while the fame of dissidents was not accidental—it was also rather selective. Civil courage and self-sacrifice were not always enough to become an opposition celebrity. As another section will illustrate, apart from Solzhenitsyn, there are very few examples of non-liberal “prominent dissidents.” But the mere fact of being known does not in itself translate into legitimacy and any sort of political power. Where does legitimation come from in the case of the opposition—and the dissident figure? Marshall (2006) points to Max Weber’s concept of the charismatic authority to



search for a possible theoretical anchoring. In Weber’s classic conceptualization, charisma is “a certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and is treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman or at least specifically exceptional powers and qualities” (Weber 1964, 358). The legitimization or authority of the charismatic person rests on the “heroism or exemplary character of an individual” (Weber 1964, 328). This “supernatural” trait is not just a reference to traditional societies. As Inglis notes, there exists a “powerful contradiction at the heart of [fame]. It combines knowability with distance. [The] Political leader and cinema star are intensely familiar … but physically and in terms of how we all need to feel the directness of experience, they have the remoteness of the supernatural” (Inglis 2010, 11). Havel noticed that surprising characteristic as early as 1978: “a number of people have been chosen and turned into a special social category … This can lead to the impression that ‘dissidents’ are some prominent figures, an exclusive group, a protected species” (Havel 1985, 59). As we have seen in the previous chapter, Havel resisted this trait of the dissident figure and tried to regain control over the reflected image of himself and his fellow oppositionists. This was, however, very difficult, because that image was already living a life of its own. James Monaco reflects on this type of celebrity personage, which he calls a quasar, one where the individual had virtually no control over his or her image (Monaco 1978). “It is not what they are or what they do, but what we think they are that fascinates us”—he claims and uses the example of the iconic image of Ché Guevara, although one could argue that in 1989, the Solidarity icon and Nobel Prize laureate Lech Wałęsa would serve the purpose just as well. However, if charisma in the Weberian sense is intrinsically linked to the qualities of a particular individual, how can it become generalized? This shift can be expressed through charisma’s twin concept of charism, used mostly in Christian theology—which not for the first time appears to be a source of concepts for studying dissent. Charism is a special gift, as is charisma. However, it is linked to an institution, function, or vocation (in theology) to a group (in social psychology). Therefore, we can speak of the charism of a priest—gaining authority not from his or her individual charisma, but the function and role. The same can be said of acting under the label “dissident.”


Dissidents and Politicians: The Political Power of the Label The generalization of the dissident figure—its broader usage as a label that described various forms of opposition, dissent, and human rights activism, allowed numerous individuals indirectly benefited from a reflection of the charisma of the prominent opposition personas. In the scene recounted earlier, the policemen queue for Kuroń’s autograph, but also take them from his companion Jan Rulewski, who can be said to benefit from the glow of Kuroń’s charisma and the fact that they are both “public enemies”—both categorized as dissidents (Szulecki 2015b). The dissident status opened many doors. Mirosław Chojecki recalls how the American “Solidarity with Solidarity” group could use him— trapped in the USA after the declaration of the Martial Law in Poland. “I was a monkey – but a very useful monkey … I was in prison not long before that, so people could still remember me from the Solidarity campaigns, and the fact that I was a prisoner of conscience and a dissident gave me recognizability and an aura of some authority.”4 That allowed not the famous, in fact also the quite unknown, representatives of the now vast opposition to perform similar functions as the prominent dissident intellectuals previously had. Between 1985 and 1986, the underground Solidarity together with the network of its Western supporters and émigrés managed to organize a dissident tour similar to that of Adam Michnik almost a decade earlier. A trade union leader from the Łódź region, Andrzej Słowik, was “smuggled” out of Poland on a Yugoslav passport (Domagalski 2011).5 He traveled across Western Europe and to the USA and held a series of meetings, mostly with labor union leadership. The goal of all that was to prove that four years after the Martial Law trampled Solidarity, Poland’s Free Trade Unions were still a considerable social power—a fact that many Western experts and exiles by then already doubted. Of course, this time no wide press coverage could be achieved because Słowik’s tour was illegal and clandestine. However, the union leaders were convinced by both his argumentation and the mere fact that a Polish dissident could travel into the West illegally and then be smuggled back to his country (a grand logistical achievement). Thanks largely to the impression that Słowik had made, Solidarity became a member of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, which was a significant boost of transnational empowerment in its struggles with the regime. Słowik



returned to Poland in March 1986 as if he never left and returned to day-to-day underground union tasks. He later became a taxi driver, then returned to driving city buses, and after a short episode as deputy minister of labor, he retired from politics and became a chauffeur in a Polish embassy. The mid-1980s clandestine tour was the height of his political career. Already at the turn of the decade, East European dissidentism ceased to be only a matter for radicals and declared anti-communists. It moved from non-governmental activity into the openly political sphere. Already in early 1977, the foreign minister of the Netherlands Max van Der Stoel met with Jan Patočka as with a dissident. This practice of open support was becoming more visible in the 1970s and 1980s and is clearly linked to the window in state sovereignty opened by the Helsinki Final Act and its Basket III. A telling example can be found in the proceedings of the British Parliament from January 1979: Lord CHELWOOD asked Her Majesty’s Government: What reply has been sent to the appeal to the Prime Minister from 52 Czechoslovaks, some of them Members of Charter 77, urging that the trial of Dr. Jaroslav Sabata, detained since 1st October, be held in public and attended by foreign observers and lawyers and asking where he is in custody, with what he is charged and when and where he is to be tried. §The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Goronwy-Roberts) Mr. Jaroslav Sabata was brought to trial on 11th January, 1979 in Trutnov on charges of threatening and slandering a public official. He was found guilty and sentenced the same day to nine months’ imprisonment. The Prime Minister’s Office wrote on 5th January in reply to the appeal made about Mr. Sabata’s case reaffirming the Prime Minister’s concern at actions taken by the Czechoslovak authorities against defenders of human rights, and confirming that it was the policy of Her Majesty’s Government to take every suitable opportunity … to draw the attention of the Czechoslovak authorities to public concern in this country at aspects of their policies which are not consistent with the provisions of the CSCE Final Act. (House of Lords 1979)

In the 1980s, the Charter would be supported by the Austrian chancellor Bruno Kreisky and the West German chancellor Willy Brandt and finally in 1988 be invited for breakfast at the French Embassy with President François Mitterrand (Kopeček 2007, 31). The Polish opposition would also be cherished by top rank politicians,


including Thatcher, George Bush, and Senator Edward Kennedy, who met with representatives of different dissident currents already in 1987. In their support for the opposition, Western leaders were quite selective. As Gregory F. Domber shows, the American political elites consciously empowered the most moderate currents in the underground Solidarity after 1981, including some of the most prominent dissident intellectuals (Domber 2014), but contributed to the divergent b ­ alance of power and legitimacy within the opposition internationally and at home. Growing support from mainstream politicians, often right-wing and conservative, once again turned the Western left and radical movements to be skeptical of East European opposition (Szulecki 2013, 2015a): The ideology of the dissident is characterized by anti-Sovietism and unquestioned support for American nuclear weapons as well as bringing “freedom” to their lands, which for President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher simply means capitalism of the Western type … [The radicals] take the official image of the dissidents as more or less true and that is why they are afraid to collaborate with the dissidents. (Bloom 1988)

Dissident Label’s Empowerment and Its Limits The constitutive power of the dissident figure, implying that the use of the label “dissident” becomes a speech act which changes the social reality by empowering the person named a “dissident,” is well illustrated by a famous letter exchange from the early 1980s. The exchange occurred between Edward P. Thompson, British socialist intellectual and a guru of the disarmament movement, and Václav Racek: supposedly a dissident writing from Czechoslovakia. Racek’s real name was Miloslav Bednář. He was a philosopher and was never part of the Charter movement (Racek 1984; Thompson 1984; Szulecki 2013). The fact that Thompson chose to engage in public dialogue with Racek (the two letters and Thompson’s two replies were published in English in the New Statesman) illustrates both his determination to persuade Eastern independents about the goals of the peace movement and the constitutive quality of the label “dissident,” from which Racek benefited. The dissident figure provided a key that opened many doors—in this case, allowed a little known (and under his pseudonym, entirely anonymous) intellectual to publicly converse and even outright bash one of the



stars of the Western left-wing political pantheon. Perhaps Thompson would have ignored the letter had it come from a philosopher based in Nottingham or Bologna? Perhaps he suspected that it was one of the “celebrities”—like Havel or Benda—hiding behind the pseudonym? This is just speculation. What is important is that within the transnational dialogue over peace, which took place throughout the 1980s, many new voices from Eastern Europe were seriously considered by Western intellectuals and audiences, up to the point in the second half of the decade when very young and relatively unknown oppositionists were being invited to comment on both domestic and international affairs in major Western newspapers or to meet key Western politicians upon their visits to Central Europe. But the abrupt end of the exchange also shows the limits of that constitutive power of the dissident figure. Racek’s theses were fairly radical, and his tone was patronizing to the Western Left and the peace movement. At that point, Racek pushed too far, and the expectations related to one’s position as a dissident, and the actual content of his message, diverged too far. Thompson replied: “I no longer know who you are nor from what position you speak” (Hauner 2008). And that was the end of it. We have seen similar problems with Solzhenitsyn—definitely one of the original designates of the dissident symbol, who nevertheless was notoriously straining his position as a dissident through very conservative, anti-modernist, and Western-skeptical statements (Czapski 1974). An editor of the tamizdat Aneks signaled the divergence between the reception of Solzhenitsyn as an individual and his constructed image as a dissident figure already in 1975, when the Russian writer arrived in Western Europe and became a real person, not just a faraway legend (Anonymous 1975). The political scientist Alain Besançon critically pointed out that “the anti-Lenin”—that is Solzhenitsyn—needs to “mind his ideas and words” because the “effectiveness of the dissident’s actions depends entirely on the quality of his contact with reality.” If Communism is set on the illusion of total and unquestioned knowledge, and the answer is truth, then only “an accurate idea, tightly adhering to reality, can counterbalance ideas lacking any reality” (Besançon 1980). Eva Cermanova claims that Václav Benda did not receive deserved credit and recognition for his work outside Central Europe due to his “radical Catholicism” which too did not fit the dissident figure (Cermanova 2011).


This leads to the important observation that whereas human rights were a common platform of communication and were inclusive in terms of the different political options they could accommodate, they were nevertheless pushing certain ideologies outside the margins of mainstream discourse—and thus, past the accepted and expected content of the dissident figure. That is why strongly nationalist, religious, or other anti-modernist opposition currents were not caught by this supposedly “catch all” label. Struggles expressed in the idiom of human rights were able to attract universal attention, irrespective of the ideological leanings of the audiences. Many commentators in Central Europe were complaining that Westerners failed to see the ideological differences between the different “dissident” groups (Szczypiorski 1978). That was true—human rights and the figure of the dissident distilled only the more universal messages, toning down the singularities that did not fit with the prescribed frame.

New Actors and Freeriding on the Dissident Figure Nevertheless, if one knew how to speak that language, understood the mechanisms behind the dissident figure—especially those linking open action and transnational recognition (from which came also domestic fame), the label dissident was a very attractive opportunity. This tactic was mastered by some new opposition movements that emerged in the second half of the 1980s. The latter half of the 1980s saw increased transnational exchanges, and a very different political climate, which was primarily due to the perestroika and glasnost policies introduced by the relatively young new general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, who took over in 1985. Gorbachev was not only a generation younger than his predecessors, he was also educated among, and arguably influenced by, people who later came to be known as dissidents (Snyder 2012). His former classmate was Zdeněk Mlynář, an exiled Charter 77 signatory and former Czech reform communist. In an article for Listy, Mlynář expressed mild optimism about the new ruler of the Kremlin (Mlynář 1985), even though many Russian exiles seemed rather pessimistic. As Gorbachev began to introduce his policy of domestic transparency, the émigré dissident Andrei Sinyavskii noted that the very term glasnost was borrowed “evidently from the dissidents” and was glad that “General Dissident Gorbachev” had transposed some of Sakharov’s ideas into the party idiom (Horvath 2005, 5).



The Polish Martial Law increased the scale of repressions and for some time limited the three factors necessary for dissidentism to develop—domestic and transnational communication channels were cut or limited, and imprisoned oppositionists could hardly act, the same as those in hiding. With the prominent Chartists in prison as well, the dissidents in Central Europe were for a while outnumbered by a different transnational figure—the prisoner of conscience (Kenney 2017). In the second half of the 1980s, a new generation of oppositionists emerged. They contested the regime, but they also opposed the underground non-action of the older opposition. For many of them, revisionism was an archaic bedtime story and classic dissidence—too intellectual. They opted for aboveground, visible dissident practice. They wanted to act— and so they came back to original dissident tactics of open and public activity (Kenney 2002). There were instances where the performance of dissidentism seemed to boil down just to the media theater. When a message reached the foreign media, it was then re-transmitted back home, causing trouble for the regime and attracting attention of the population. That was all that mattered. In the accounts of some protests by the young Freedom and Peace (Wolność i Pokój—WiP) movement in Poland, we find traces of the perfect awareness of the way the mechanism functions. One of the movement’s leaders, Leszek Budrewicz, who was a KOR affiliate since its beginning and then became a student union activist, recalls a telling scene from a widely publicized ecological demonstration in Wroclaw: It turned out that there were only twenty-five of us that showed up, and one girl, we are walking with banners, someone shouts: Wider! Spread out! – the point was that when we reach the square and come out of the narrow alleyway, when someone takes a picture and sends it to the West it needs to look like something, and not that we have twenty people. (Kenney 2007, 124)

A fundamental thing was the constant contact with Western media and societal groups. That was mastered by the WiP movement’s Warsaw leader and international public relations master-mind Jacek Czaputowicz. Some of his colleagues would joke that he was trying to imitate Jacek Kuroń’s information practices, and so he had two phones installed on his desk and asked his wife to make him cups of extremely strong tea— Kuroń’s trademark acquired through long prison experiences (Kalukin


2010). Czaputowicz would call up press conferences in his Warsaw apartment to inform the correspondents on the activities of the movement and publicize important topics like the currently imprisoned affiliates (Ruch WiP 1986). By the end of the decade, popular Western media like Newsweek would interview Czaputowicz as the representative of a new generation of dissidents.6 A rank-and-file member of the group also pointed to that game between the often-weak opposition and the Western and exilic media that gave it empowerment and a sense of action: In those days one of the methods – effective, but severe for us – was walking around with ‘sandwiches’: a placard on the front, a placard on the back, with slogans or information, like the name of the imprisoned person on it. After a longer public parade in the commercial center came the ‘frowning blokes’ [secret police – KS]. They chased us around a bit, but the goal was to finally get caught, make a photographic documentation and send the information off to Radio Free Europe. And a news piece was ready, one that would get to millions of Poles on the radio.7

The young activists were in a way “free-riding” on the dissident figure. They used the label for their own purposes, especially for catching the attention of Western media and social movements, and for increasing their own security (publicizing their agendas, but also the repressions against them). They were able to enter into a dialogue with Western intellectuals, public opinion, and social movements, a dialogue in which, thanks to the dissident figure, they were treated as equal partners (Szulecki 2013). The younger movements seemed to be quite annoyed with the domestic empowerment that the older dissidents received, due to their fame and recognition. This is an important point. There were visible tendencies to mock the intellectual dissidents in their “discussion clubs.” “I only dissidentize (disiduju) between 9 AM and 11 AM, because after that I’m hungry, and after lunch I just don’t feel like it anymore”—reads a joking text in the Slovak samizdat (Bumby 1981). Christian Joppke suggests that these younger oppositionists were “blocked ascendants,” whose experience of Communism as well as dissent was very different from that of their older colleagues (Joppke 1995, 201). This new wave of “nameless intellectuals” whose main generational experience was no longer 1968, and later not even 1980—was the base for new dissident groups and most importantly the peace and environmental movements (Joppke 1995, 200; Kenney 2002; Borewicz et al. 2019).



Central European societies, disillusioned and angry with the Communist regimes, looked to their renowned contesters as possible alternative political leaders. Many young oppositionists, however, believed that the level of authority of some older leaders was inexplicably high, compared to their recent merit (measured in terms of concrete action). Hence in a mocking samizdat article, the young anarchists linked with the WiP movement, stood outside Wałęsa’s apartment in Gdansk one night, singing the nursery rhyme “the old bear is fast asleep” while others referred to the “old Solidarity” figures as “relics” of “prehistory.”

Fame: Dissidents’ Climax and Decline By the mid-1980s, the Communists finally realized that their black propaganda campaigns were bringing results contrary to what they expected. The Jaruzelski military government in Poland came up with a new strategy, developed by the cunning government spokesman Jerzy Urban. Like the dissidents, he also held regular press conferences for the Western correspondents, countering every move of the independent initiatives. Responding to the ever-growing fame and reputation of the prominent oppositionists, especially Wałęsa, Urban tried to ignore and diminish their importance. When asked about an open letter issued by Wałęsa and sixty others in 1987, he replied: The political milieu whose representatives dominate among the signatories specializes in signing different documents … it is for them a form of existence. To publish a text one does not need societal support, influence. What you need is some paper, a pencil and Western correspondents, who turn every new text into a significant political event. (Urban, June 2, 1987)

The official state policy toward Wałęsa was to treat him as a “private individual”—ignoring both his former role in the banned Solidarity and the transnational fame. Mocking that Orwellian “politics of forgetting,” a satirical cartoonist drew a sketch portrait of Wałęsa signed “Unknown man with a moustache – 2nd half of the 20th century.” The image was reproduced by underground printers in thousands of copies and sold as a fundraiser for political prisoners. It could be hypothesized, though, that the new media policy of the regime—more careful not to create (in)famous “stars” of the opposition—is one factor that accounts for the non-emergence of new famous opposition figures in the younger


generation. On the other hand, the 1980s, especially in Poland, saw the expansion of a real alternative public opinion. Hundreds if not thousands of samizdat periodicals were appearing regularly, some reaching a circulation comparable to the official press. Hundreds of books were translated and published in the “second circulation.” The opposition was even counterbalancing the state in photo-journalism, with the emergence of agencies such as the most famous one, bearing the telling name Independent Photographic Agency “Dementi.” Despite the growing criticism from within the opposition, by the end of the 1980s the prominent dissidents gained a near-celebrity status, by virtue of their “infamy” and fame combined. During the “carnival of Solidarity” in 1981, an angry mob was ready to lynch two policemen in the town of Otwock near Warsaw. Adam Michnik, who was there as a Solidarity representative, jumped onto a van and called for the crowd to stop—to no reaction. Only when he shouted “I’m Adam Michnik, the antisocialist element!” did he manage to tame the crowd and calm the situation down (Garton Ash 1989; Szulecki 2015b). At about the same time, main figures of Charter 77 were also widely recognized. Havel recalled that when he and his peers were in prison after the VONS trials, the other prisoners “treated us like we were the future president and government” (Petrov 2010). It is difficult to judge if this was not merely an ex-post projection, but indeed, as known dissidents and political prisoners they had a certain special status. “I know of course who Václav Havel was, I just didn’t know what he looked like”—says the prison warden (Petrov 2010); in a different account, it was mentioned that although the prisoners were allowed to take a shower only once a week and there were six showers for 100 convicts, Havel would always be allowed to jump the queue without objection (Buzkova 2009). The end of the decade was marked by a triumph of the dissidents. In 1988, the Soviet newspaper Literaturnaya Gazeta requested an interview with Lech Wałęsa, wishing to ask him “as representing a wide circle of public opinion” about the situation in Poland and the role of the opposition (Kemp-Welch, October 21, 2010). A wave of strikes in Poland forced the government to take up negotiations with the representatives of the opposition. The leadership strongly opposed the participation of the “extremists”—especially Kuroń and Michnik. In the end, they were forced to give in. Michnik would famously quip to General Czesław Kiszczak, the head of the security apparatus: “Greetings, General. So far we have known each other only from postal exchange.”8 It is sometimes



noted that the high leadership perceived the dissidents mostly through the lens of the police reports as well as the black propaganda which the Communists themselves forged (Spałek 2003). In late 1988, Havel made his “first public appearance in more than nineteen years, at a music festival in Lipnice. There he was greeted like a celebrity; he signed autographs and clasped hands.” Shortly afterward, he attended a festival in Bratislava, where Joan Baez sang and “uttered words of praise for Charter 77 and Havel … there was a standing ovation” (Rocamora 2005, 269). Havel wrote of mass political demonstrations in 1988 and early 1989: When I heard huge crowds shouting ‘Long live the Charter!’ or ‘The Charter will win!’, and when later, after my return from four months in prison, I saw a video of throngs of young people shouting ‘Release Havel!’, I felt the most extraordinary mixture of emotions: as well as being moved and astonished, I also felt a kind of satisfaction. I suddenly realized that the years of onerous efforts by the ‘suicidal maniacs’ in question, efforts which had cost them many dozens of years in prison, were at last beginning to pay off. (Havel 1991, 374)

He understood very well, perhaps better than the other dissidents, that it was not solely “a sign of respect for the Charter’s years of efforts.” It was an expression of “an ever-deeper yearning for freedom that uses the Charter as a symbol that makes a good slogan, one that leaves no one in any doubt about the attachment to freedom of those who shout it” (Havel 1991, 374).9 That was true—Charter 77 and Solidarity became symbols of anti-systemic struggle, the easiest available reference point. That was how the years of negative propaganda and slander had paid off. The villains were rapidly being transformed to heroes, and new attacks along similar line, such as a new piece “Who is Václav Havel?” that appeared in the main Party daily Rudé právo, could not change it.10 At the same time, the Communist authorities underestimated the charisma, legitimacy, and political potential of the opposition and its leading figures. In the Polish semi-free elections, which were held in June 1989 following the Round Table negotiations earlier that same year, the PZPR was so convinced of its own inevitable victory that the apparatchiks were wondering how to give at least some mandates to the Solidarity so as not to make the results look forged. In Czechoslovakia, the Communists wanted a direct popular election of the president, assuming that if the


Civic Forum (Občanské forum, growing out of the Charter 77 milieu) fielded Havel, he would lose as he was “largely unknown” (Bolton 2012, 33). Actually, the Civic Forum was of the same opinion and pushed for a vote in the parliament where they thought Havel had a better chance. Opinion polls were suggesting that if a direct election was held, it would be neither Havel nor the Communist candidate Ladislav Adamec, but Alexander Dubček—reemerging from two decades of political nonexistence—seen as the hero of the Prague Spring (Krapfl 2013, 21). However, student protesters in Prague and other cities opted for Havel and began a campaign to support his presidency with the famous slogan “Havel to the Castle.” Across the region, the turn toward opposition leaders seemed to result from accelerated change in which the public was desperately looking for an alternative to the delegitimized Communist leadership. It was easiest to look for that alternative among the regimes long-standing and established enemies. Fame of course had different forms and degrees. For example, the once internationally renowned dissident, Karol Modzelewski, twenty years since his second trial in 1968 was no longer a universally recognized opposition “celebrity.” The label “Solidarity” and the televised fame of the then better-known figures would be used to empower the entire opposition in its political struggle. And so, during the June 1989 semi-democratic parliamentary elections, all of the candidates running from the Solidarity-backed electoral Civic Committee (Komitet Obywatelski) would have their poster pictures taken with Lech Wałęsa—to “bask in reflected glory” or at least reflected fame. What then happened in 1989? Referring back to the theorization of fame and authority presented in the earlier chapter, we find a clue in Max Weber’s classic writing on charisma: “It is characteristic of the democracy which makes room for leadership that there should in general be a highly emotional type of devotion to and trust in the leader. This accounts for the tendency to favor the type of individual who is most spectacular” (Weber 1964, 389). During the “velvet revolutions,” that sort of democratic sentiment exploded in Central Europe. As P. David Marshal notes, in contemporary culture there is a convergence in the source of power between the political leader and other forms of celebrity. Both forms of subjectivity that are sanctioned by the culture enter the symbolic realm of providing meaning and significance for the culture. The categorical distinction of forms of power is dissolving in favor of a unified system of celebrity



status, in which the sanctioning of power is based on similar emotive and irrational, yet culturally deeply embedded, sentiments … Leadership, a concept that is often used to provide a definitional distance from the vulgarity of celebrity status, provides the last discursive location for understanding the public individual. (Marshall 2006, 19)

For a certain moment at the end of the 1980s, fame and charisma were equated with political legitimization. This is not a normal situation. “In societies without lively participation or keen political debate, television serves up the official conversation of the culture, and those who speak or act on it are the dominant figures in the collective imagination” (Inglis 2010, 218). The fame of dissidents, their special status embodied the “empowerment of the people to shape the public sphere symbolically” (Marshall 2006, 7). In a specific moment of social upheaval, that quality blended fame and political legitimization, although normally the two function according to very different logics. “It is important to note just how rigid is the barrier between political power and mere celebrity. This goes deep in social structure. Only in times of social breakdown does the division fail, and rock or film or even academic stars climb on the podium and wield their fame to rouse the people” (Inglis 2010, 219). That is precisely what happened in 1989. However, from today’s perspective, it is not clear just how unlikely this was. After Wałęsa’s and Havel’s rise to the presidency, we became somewhat accustomed to the fact that an opposition union leader and a banished public intellectual could be turned into politicians. In regular circumstances, however, critical or dissident intellectuals are contrasted with intellectuals of statecraft, as the former are supposedly not interested in direct political power (Ó Tuathail 1998). When one of the younger oppositionists was interrogated by the secret police in 1988 and the policeman remarked: “you will be the minister of the environment one day,” this was meant as sarcasm.11 The fact that he actually became deputy minister of the environment was an aberration. The exilic publisher and dissident interpreter Jan Kavan recalled the reaction of some Western journalists to a photograph of a Czechoslovak-Polish dissident meeting that he managed to smuggle into Britain the day after it was taken: “This does not matter, these people will never have any real power in their countries,” they sniffed.12 The picture shows people who one year later would become parliamentarians, ministers, and presidents.


According to Weber, charismatic authority possesses an inherent revolutionary or subversive trait. It is against the established order, built on other forms of authority. The legitimacy of Communist regimes in Eastern Europe can be ascribed to Weber’s concept of bureaucratic authority, which the charismatic opposition dissidents confronted. However, charismatic authority is also “specifically unstable” as the holder may quickly lose his or her charisma. It is because “pure charisma does not know any ‘legitimacy’ other than that flowing from personal strength, that is, one which is constantly being proved” (Weber 1991, 248). Marshall detects a fluidity in celebrity, which “exists above the real world, in the realm of symbols that gain and lose value like commodities on the stock market” (Marshall 2006, 21). Although a driving force of revolutionary change, charisma is therefore inherently precarious. This instability and fragility of charismatic authority can account for the rapid decline of the dissidents as leaders and role models after the fall of Communism. Not able to continue proving the qualities expected from them in the new sociopolitical circumstances, the dissidents also suffered from the discrepancy between unquestioned international fame and a critical domestic attitude. Their charisma was therefore quickly questioned, as was the foundation of their quasi-celebrity status. Inglis rightfully points out that people constantly “both worship and vilify the famous” (Inglis 2010, 12), and, as a character in one of Havel’s plays says: “people secretly hate the dissidents. They’ve become their bad conscience, their living reproach! That’s how they see the dissidents … This is why they never miss an opportunity to smear the dissidents” (Havel 1993, 262).


1. B. Wildstein, personal communication with the author, 14 May 2010, Prague. 2. Compare: Pavel Tigrid, “Jak pomagać dysydentom?” Kultura, 1979, a translation of the French text published 19 December 1979 in Le Monde. 3. The single serious sociological study that can shed some light on the level of public awareness of opposition activity was conducted by Ireneusz Krzemiński and his associates during the period of liberalization related to the Solidarity (Krzemiński 1983). 4. Interview with M. Chojecki, Warsaw, 4 August 2010. 5. Details based on: Interview with M. Chojecki, Warsaw, 4 August 2010.



6. “The Wave of the Future?” Newsweek, 15 August 1988, p. 8. 7. D. Dobrowolski, e-mail to the author, 4 May 2011. 8. Michnik wrote a famous open letter to Kiszczak from prison in 1983, where he indirectly called the interior minister “a pig” for asking him to emigrate. 9. What the Chartists would be less eager to acknowledge is that Charles University students—even in their thousands—were still an extended elite stratum within Czechoslovakia’s urban population, hardly representative for “the Society.” 10. “Kdo je Václav Havel?” Rudé právo, 23 February 1989, p. 4. 11. D. Dobrowolski, e-mail to the author, May 4, 2011. 12. Interview with J. Kavan, Prague, 20 April 2010.

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Conclusion: Can Dissidentism Explain Post-Dissident Politics?

Dissidentism as an Analytical Category: The “Dissident Triangle” In Chapter 2, we have seen the different understandings of the word “dissident.” Although the figure of the dissident carries the semantic traces of all these, one broad understanding of the “dissident” as a person involved in nonviolent, open dissent, facing persecution for this, and his or her struggle being noticed by the authorities at home as well as some audience abroad, stands out, and informs the expectations that the figure of the dissident evokes. How and when this understanding emerged was one of the questions this book set out to tackle. Chapters 3–9 provided a history of East European dissidence, focusing particularly on Central European democratic opposition movements, which, I argue, were pivotal for the modern general meaning of “dissident” to appear. In this chapter, I abstract from the empirical material discussed earlier to propose an ideal typical model of dissidentism—which provided the conditions for the modern understanding of the “dissident” to emerge (Jackson 2011, 145; Bruun and Whimster 2012). Along with it, emerged the figure of the dissident, which influenced those opposition activists who were classified as dissidents. I identify three elements which were needed for dissidentism to come to be—what I call the “dissident triangle” (Fig. 10.1). This ideal type, though derived from the analysis of the history of dissidence in Eastern Europe, was able to “travel” to © The Author(s) 2019 K. Szulecki, Dissidents in Communist Central Europe, Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-22613-8_10



Fig. 10.1  The “Dissident Triangle”: Factors enabling Dissidentism

other, also non-European contexts where dissidentism appears. In this section, I trace each of the three elements before merging them in the “dissident triangle.” Dissidence: Open, Legal, Non-violent Dissent Facing Repression What separates dissent from resistance is purposefulness and openness. What dissidence adds is the theory of nonviolent action and an emphasis on legality. Dissidence is set in the gray zone between legality and illegality. It makes claims in the legal sphere, although its goals are subversive. It questions the existing order but tries to maintain the impression that it does not breach its rules. The opposition activists in the Soviet bloc were well aware that this was, to some extent, a masquerade. Contrary to other types of opposition, in the persecution by the government they found not a sign of injustice, but rather the confirmation of the illegitimacy of the entire system. Thus, Eugeniusz Smolar explains, almost no one from the opposition community who was imprisoned before 1989 ever asked for a revision of their prison sentence after the fall of Communism. “We all believed these sentences to be fully justified, that



is – we wanted something, that the Communists could not tolerate, and they put us in prison, well, that’s how it goes.”1 Emphasis on legality and openness was coupled with non-violent action. This makes dissidentism distinct from all sorts of armed rebellion, resistance, and political terrorism—even if these are embroidered with sophisticated intellectual justifications. The openness of dissent, on the other hand, contrasts with clandestine, underground opposition. Central Europe’s history saw both armed resistance against Communism, open violent riots, and attempts at home-grown political terrorism (such as the planned bombing of the Lenin Museum at Poronin in Poland or the actual bombing of a police academy auditorium). Much more popular was clandestine opposition and resistance. Very often “going underground” was a survival strategy in the face of harsh repression. But at other times, it was a conscious strategy. Poland’s opposition community in the 1980s was divided between the konspira—the underground opposition structures, and those who were looking for opportunities for open actions (Kenney 2002).2 For dissidentism only the latter mattered, as only open and public activity can be a foundation for domestic and international recognition. On a more pragmatic level, open activity reduces the risks of “black propaganda”; if somebody’s activity is transparent and publicized, it is difficult to ridicule or criminalize. But open dissent could only emerge after the repressions and surveillance culture of the Stalinist era eased, and once some margins for divergence from the Party line appeared in the second half of the 1950s. It should come as no surprise that it was the left-wing intellectuals who became the first dissenters, in Marxist revisionism. The reason was not that they were braver than those who never converted to the Marxist faith, but that they had an ideological platform which allowed for open challenges of the regime, not easy to push beyond the border of legality. Poland’s Catholic opposition circles, including the parliamentary club “Znak,” show that other foundations of dissent were also possible. But dissidence emerged from the combination of these acts of dissent and the repressions that followed, showing that the regime was not willing to accept any open challenge. Domestic Infamy and Fame The other two “tips” of the triangle are linked to the reception of the dissidents—domestically and internationally. This is largely beyond their


own control, but again there are certain conditions that need to be in place if we are to speak of dissidentism. While Communism refused to tolerate any challenge of dissent, it needed the threat of that challenge to function and build its legitimacy. Totalitarianism needs an enemy, argued Hannah Arendt distinguishing between two types: “objective enemies” of the totalitarian state who are hostile toward it and “potential enemies” selected on an ideological basis. These secretive hypothetical enemies provide the rationale for a secret police, which in turn becomes the key institution of a totalitarian society (Arendt 1962, 419–36). Though Eastern European Communism ceased to meet the criteria of a totalitarian regime following de-Stalinization or even earlier, it inherited that logic and a robust security apparatus. Apart from potential and anonymous enemies, who were only identified shortly before they perished, the regime needed enemies with real names and faces—personalized opposition. The enemy was a threat, but order was also constructed on the threat made against all enemies— objective or potential. As the longtime prime minister of the Polish People’s Republic, Józef Cyrankiewicz, famously exclaimed in the face of worker’s rebellion in Poznan, 1956: Any provocateur or madman that dares raise his hand against the people’s government may be sure that the government will chop that hand right off. For the sake of the working class; for the sake of the working peasantry and the intelligentsia; for the sake of the struggle for raising the living standard of the society; for the sake of a further democratization of our life; for the sake of our Fatherland.3

Here is a conspicuous and unambiguous warning and assurance of the use of force in the name of socialist order, but then, that warning is justified in a much broader sense. Order is thus not merely defined in negative terms, as lack of disorder caused by “provocateurs and madmen,” but also in positive terms, as a new, classless society, higher living standards, and “democracy.” The threat carries a promise of social stability and order, a promise potentially quite appealing to a society healing after a long and devastating war. The post-totalitarian system that followed Cyrankiewicz’s totalitarianism did not require the ritual physical elimination of enemies. But it too needed villains—a menace. This role is ascribed to the “dissident,”



although the word itself is hardly used in Communist regimes’ communication. The “dissident” is a troublemaker, a defect in the system which becomes a reference point for its normal functioning. The “dissident” is given as an example of how not to behave, and thus at the same time showing the norm of orderly practice (Szulecki 2015b, 111–12). Scapegoating and name-calling were supposed to slander and generate repulsion. But first of all, it created public awareness of the existence of dissident movements, their general goals and activities. Open action was a pre-condition for domestic fame, which in authoritarian regimes are often the flip side of notoriety. As we have seen particularly in Chapter 4 and later in reaction to the emergence of new dissident groups in Chapter 6, it was actually the Communist authorities who ensured the opposition’s domestic recognition. Stigmatization as “public enemies,” or “anti-socialist elements,” informed the public of their general anti-systemic goal. For the emergence of the dissident figure, individual fame was also necessary—and Communist propaganda took care of that as well. That was perhaps one of the major policy failures of the Communist propaganda machine, resulting from the purposeful lack of good measures of societal support and legitimation. The Communists were assuming societal support, which was a key theme of their own propaganda, but they were very weary of sociological studies of actual societal attitudes, afraid that these would reveal a reality quite remote from the propaganda image, and then the data would be leaked to strengthen opposition groups and sentiments. But domestic slander campaigns would not have that flip effect, and perhaps would not have been so energetic, without alternative sources of information. Before samizdat press became an institution in the late 1970s and reached significant circulation in the 1980s, the only important channel was foreign radio, particularly the broadcasters oriented toward different East European countries. Without this counter-propaganda, filling the very crude frame of domestic recognition with actual content—what are the opposition groups, who are the people protesting, what do their open letters and proclamations actually say—the possibilities of creating any kind of a positive legend around dissidence would have been much bleaker. The 1960s saw the first moments where these two elements necessary for dissidentism first occurred, but they intensified only in the second half of the 1970s. What was still largely missing in the 1970s was international attention beyond political divisions. While the Kuroń–Modzelewski letter gained resonance among the Western


European (radical) Left, and some circles interested in East European politics, its reformist language was still not broadly acceptable, as was Prague Spring’s appeal for a “socialism with a human face.” The first signal of a new framework emerging was the trials of Soviet dissenters, employing the language of rights (Nathans 2011), and receiving significant Western media coverage across the political spectrum (Metger 2013). Western Attention, Transnational Ties, Empowerment from Outside Finally, there are transnational contacts and international recognition. Not all authoritarian societies leave the space for this vital factor. In Central Europe, transnational contacts of the opposition started roughly in the 1960s, but universal international recognition was only achieved once ideological divisions were transcended through the common idiom of human rights. In practical terms, international recognition amplified domestic recognition, but more importantly it empowered domestic dissidence and allowed it to use much greater leverage against their domestic regimes, in what Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink famously called “the boomerang model” (Keck and Sikkink 1998). In Chapters 5–6, I traced the way human rights language was adopted as a lingua franca for expressing the goals of dissidence and for monitoring the repressions against oppositionists. Having that universalist benchmark allowed the dissenters to take the moral high ground, delegitimizing repression and undermining the legitimacy of the Communist states. Chapters 6 and 7 discussed the way in which the word “dissident” came to be used in this context, the fashion for dissidents and the demise of the revolutionary privilege which was still discernible in the 1970s. By 1977, all three elements of the “dissident triangle” were in place, and it was Central European opposition that connected these most dynamically for the first time, thus allowing for a new transnational actor to materialize—the dissident. Dissidentism is then a specific form of transnationally nested societal opposition. It should be clear that dissidentism cannot take root in fully totalitarian systems. Brutal repression, overarching surveillance, full control of the media, and closed borders preclude the emergence of dissidentism (take North Korea as a contemporary example). It is always the fruit of some degree of liberalization, which historically seems to be a



necessity for highly repressive regimes. Dissidentism is also not a feature of liberal democratic societies. The deeply moral (not only legalistic) narratives of “prominent dissidents” constituted them as global authorities until 1989 and far beyond. Paradoxically, becoming global authorities not only did not improve the reception of the dissidents at home, but on the contrary—made it worse. Havel’s words turned out prophetical: “People secretly hate the dissidents. They’ve become their bad conscience, their living reproach! That’s how they see the dissidents … This is why they never miss an opportunity to smear the dissidents” (Havel 1993, 262).

Central Europe in a Post-Dissident Era If we only understand the dissident legacy as the direct influence of post-dissident political formations, rooted in the brief moment of change (1988–1990), such as the Czechoslovak Civic Forum and Public Against Violence, Polish Civic Committee, or the Hungarian Democratic Forum and the Alliance of Free Democrats, we can agree with Jacques Rupnik’s recent judgment that “the ‘dissident movement’ … did not last” and that “within a couple of years” Central Europe witnessed the “rapid marginalization of former dissidents and their eclipse from political life” (Rupnik 2013, 318). However, such a perspective is based on a rather elitist and naïve view on politics and excludes the pluralism, multiplicity, and fluidity of post-dissident biographies. In fact, post-dissident politics is still maintaining a firm grip of Central Eastern European political debates, although probably in ways which are not so easy to capture. First of all, the biographic trajectories of former oppositionists and dissidents are quite varied. We could risk a very crude typology and suggest that there were four main paths that these people could follow in the aftermath of the collapse of Communism. The first was openly political and involved taking up positions of power or at least joining/ forming political parties. If we look at the biographies of many current mainstream politicians in Central Europe, we will quickly notice that even only this path is taken as an illustration of dissent’s political legacy, Rupnik is wrong in suggesting that there was an eclipse of post-dissident politics in the 1990s. In Poland, the current prime minister, the leader of the largest political party, many ministers, and key parliamentary opposition figures all share a “dissident” experience as a common biographical


stem, and the same is true for Hungary’s prime minister, as well as several key figures in, for instance, Czech Republic. What Rupnik’s thesis exemplifies is perhaps the collapse of a post1989 dream of triumphant dissident liberalism, nested in the idea of “Central Europe” which many dissident intellectuals were strategically constructing throughout the 1980s (Szulecki 2015a), and the narrative of a “return to Europe” which emerged during the transition. This collapse was visible across the region, with the gradual demise of post-dissident liberalism in Hungary (Laczó 2013), Czech Republic (Kopeček 2011) as well as Poland (Kuisz and Wigura 2014). The same can be said of the dissident “heretical geopolitics”—a program for revising the European order which was abandoned already in the early 1990s (Szulecki 2015a, 2016). The second path was that of “public intellectuals,” which seemingly fits the dissident figure best, and is most clearly exemplified by Adam Michnik in Poland or János Kis in Hungary, as well as a plethora of less internationally renowned, but equally domestically resonant intellectuals. The third path involves contestation of both the political and socioeconomic choices made by each of the Central European states after 1989 and is therefore a path of anti-systemic “new dissidentism,” touching on radical left and even more often—radical right. Finally, the last path involves resigning from any sort of public engagement and instead looking for a career, e.g., in the business sector or the academia without “public” pretense. What this typology should not obscure is that the choice of either of these paths was not necessarily final and binding, and many postdissident biographies visibly indicate that over the last thirty years, one person could very well go through two or three “roles,” often starting in politics, then reiterating to “private” life or contestation, and re-emerging in yet another role. The biographical research on the former oppositionists is still a large historical lacuna to be filled, and this is related to the broader need to treat the 1990s and even the early 2000s as a historical period rooted in and overlapping with the Communist experience and the transformation (Szulecki 2019). The paths of the former dissidents after the fall of Communism were quite varied. Václav Havel and Lech Wałęsa became presidents. Whereas the Czech intellectual remained in the presidential seat for thirteen years, the Polish labor legend did not manage to get re-elected even once. The post-Solidarity political elites lost their authority rapidly and by 1993



Poland saw the return of the former Communist apparatchiks (now dressed up as social-democracy) and in 1995 reinforced by a postCommunist president. There was much of Solidarity’s own fault in that spectacular decline. But there was also something else, an involuntary component which, I argue, can be blamed on the implicit characteristics of the dissident figure. Adam Michnik became (and as of 2019 still is) the editor-in-chief of Central Europe’s largest left-liberal daily, Gazeta Wyborcza. He chose the path of a public intellectual in a prominent position of (indirect) power, instead of a political career (although he served one term in parliament after the 1989 elections). Unarguably, he became one of the most influential personas in the country—and one of the most criticized ones. Because of that “the Polish language does not know an insult that was not thrown to Michnik’s face, neither does it know any words of praise that he has not received” (Tischner 2009). Jacek Kuroń was the minister of labor and later social policy in the post-Solidarity governments. He would later see the early 1990s as the gravest mistake of his entire life—being persuaded with the “there is no alternative” neoliberal arguments and for almost a decade betraying his leftist ideals. Only shortly before his death in 2004 did he return to his roots and voice clear support for the new incarnation of the values that were closest to his heart— the alter-globalist movement. Karol Modzelewski on the other hand was one of the few prominent dissidents who stood by his ideals firmly during the transition, holding on to what he called a “life-giving impulse of hooliganism” (Modzelewski 2003). In any case, the initial shift in ideological positions—closer to the Western mainstream—caused a wide disappointment and criticism from the dissidents’ former allies among the Western independents,4 but also among many activists at home. Modzelewski famously quipped, with a touch of bitterness regarding his former friends’ choices, that he “didn’t sit eight and a half years in jail to build capitalism” (Ost 2019).

Expelled from the Fairytale: Post-Dissident Realities Clearly, by the end of the 1990s the critique of the former dissidents was outweighing their domestic popularity. Havel, whose story really resembled a fairytale, in which poor Vaněk, a declassed prince, struggles against evil, goes through prison and in the end becomes King, before


the end of his presidency spoke of the “long fall from a fairy-tale world onto the hard earth” (Havel 2002). Havel was not exaggerating. That process took place all over Central Europe, a backlash against the dissidents. The attacks were coming from very different sides—but the spectacular rise to celebrity, power, and glory was followed by an equally spectacular fall. Arguably it was Michnik who received the hardest blows. His supposedly “manipulative” political nature was (in)famously disclosed in several books and pamphlets of which one entitled Michnikness (Michnikowszczyzna), authored by the ultra-conservative publicist Rafał Ziemkiewicz, a representative of the “new anticommunists,” was probably the most outspoken (Ziemkiewicz 2006). But equally strong attacks came from former friends, “second rank” opposition figures, apparently disclosing the truth about the Communist-dissident treacherous pact. The political-fiction novel Valley of Nothingness by Bronisław Wildstein, now a leading rightwing journalist, in which Michnik is depicted as a demonic figure, is representative of this trend (Wildstein 2008). In the face of massed critique, Michnik interestingly began to turn to the dissident label as a positive self-description, although the word rarely appeared in his writings under Communism (Michnik 2003). It was as if he wanted to call upon the transnational resonance of that representation and the moral as well as political empowerment it bore. The canonization of former dissidents, as well as their own self-descriptions, historiographies and myth making, had an important impact on these trajectories and the reactions of different other social groups and parts of the elite—those who were excluded from the dissident club due either to earlier political choices (e.g. post-Communists, more radical often nationalist activists), life stories (opposition vs the society), or age (people too young to catch the “dissident” train). An important process which ran parallel to dissident canonization and was often used to challenge the esteem and authority of former oppositionists was lustration (Domaradzki 2018; Janebova 2018; Vit 2018), providing the tools for internal wars within the post-dissident political camp, which in many cases proved much more brutal than the post-dissident/post-communist cleavage. Nevertheless, former “dissidents,” particularly those who reached considerable international celebrity already in the 1980s and in the 1990s—Vaclav Havel, György Konrád, etc.—were involved in a peculiar



transnational setup which brought them international authority and recognition, but with time contributed to domestic controversies. Apart from inevitable political differences between the predominantly social democratic and liberal “prominent dissidents” and their conservative critics, the critique of former dissidents can be divided into three main themes. The first line of criticism challenged the uniqueness of open dissidence as a privileged and legitimate form of societal opposition and stretched the meaning of opposition to all forms of resistance. The other line targeted the dissidents’ transnational empowerment as detachment from domestic realities. Finally, the main gist of critique was at their domestic status and followed anti-elitist and anti-intellectual tropes. We Were All Victims, We Were All Oppositionists Dissidence, I argued earlier, emerges from open dissent met with the threat of repression or actual persecution. Members of the different Central European opposition movements had direct experience of secret police surveillance, sometimes violence, harassment, and more often than not knew what a prison looked like on the inside. Though in dissident historical narratives of Communism those are all important themes, it was not that difficult for an average citizen of a Central European state born after World War II to see all these as exotic. As Jonathan Bolton aptly observed, the dissidents’ own experience of Communism “was, by any measure, unusual” (Bolton 2012, 33). And yet the dominant post1989 narrative of the Communist era became the dissident one—resting on the foundation of one term that the dissidents instrumentally hijacked for their purposes already in the 1970s: totalitarianism. Robert Brier and Piotr Wciślik reconstruct the way totalitarianism came to be used as a morally charged though visibly inaccurate description of Communist realities, used for the purpose of mobilizing support for the opposition (Brier 2011; Wciślik 2015). After 1989, that abuse of the term backfired, suddenly creating an image of Communism which was detached from average experiences and real social history, but in turn easily adapted to anti-communist rhetoric. Shortly after the revolution … and regaining freedom a peculiar kind of anti-communist frenzy spread. As if some people, who were silent for years … suddenly felt the need to relieve their past humiliation or their feeling of failure through some powerful gesture. That is why they targeted those

218  K. SZULECKI who were the last to point it out—that is the dissidents. All the time they were seeing them as remorse, as an example that if someone did not want to they did not have to fully subordinate. It is interesting that in those days when the dissident seemed to be a group of crazy Don Quixotes, aversion for them was not as visible as it became when history had proven them right. That was too much, that was unforgivable! And the more it became evident that the dissidents do not reproach anyone and do not accuse anyone … the more the anger rose. In the end, some new anti-communist was madder with them than he was with the representatives of the old regime. (Havel quoted in Michnik 2011, 25–26)

The abuse of the term “totalitarianism” began to be coupled with relativizing the dissident experience. The logic of this is as follows: If the regime was totalitarian, everyone was its victim. If it was held up only by police terror and surveillance, then it never was legitimate. If it was illegitimate and everyone knew it, the entire society resented it and resisted it in one way or another throughout their lives. There is no major qualitative difference between even the smallest forms of individual resistance and dissidence. As the Polish poet Edward Stachura said: “everything is poetry, everyone is a poet.” The same seems true for dissent, viewed ex-post. If anything, dissidence was possible only for those who were protected by some special umbrella, either the international spotlight or their curiously close relationship with the Communist regime. This has an additionally powerful form in Poland, which because of the Solidarity trade union does have a history of at least 10 million people who actively and openly joined an opposition organization in the 1980s, and many more who were too young to do it but joined youth opposition or counter-cultural initiatives in the second half of that decade. Unsurprisingly, talking to many Poles who were adults by 1989, you are likely to hear the phrase “we were fighting the Commies” at least once. Questioning the legitimacy former oppositionists derive from their experience of dissidence can challenge its uniqueness, as well as intentions—undermining a major foundation of dissent, which is acting in the common good. The resulting counter-narrative is that of “a small, privileged micro-society or professional grumblers … caught up in their moral superiority” (Bolton 2012, 23). To be sure, many former “prominent dissidents” are eager to romanticize their militant biographies and depict them as unique, often to mute dissenting voices from other and younger groups with different life stories. This has led even intellectuals



holding the legacy of dissidence in high esteem to call for annulling the post-dissident privilege as a bargain card in contemporary political discussions, e.g., Jarosław Kuisz calling for an “end of generations of subordination” (Kuisz 2018). Finally, the post-dissident tendency to exaggerate and misuse big words like totalitarianism has recently backfired in the harsh conflicts within the former opposition political camp, especially in Poland. The liberal resistance to illiberal backsliding and the populist government of the “Law and Justice” (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość— PiS) party5 launched by the Democracy Defense Committee (Komitet Obrony Demokracji—KOD) has purposefully used references to the Martial Law and depicted PiS rule as a “dictatorship.” This helped to stir up some domestic and international support, but the archaic and exaggerating language imported from Solidarity has largely alienated younger supporters, who perceive KOD as baby-boomers’ last stand. As such, even though it has used the legacy of dissidence as a positive reference, it has largely contributed to its exhaustion as a trademark of a “subordination mindset.” Imported Power: A Clash of Representations The graver sin of the “dissident elite” was apparently its international empowerment. This too had more than one dimension, according to their critics. One was alienation, detachment from domestic realities. The other was the selective nature of international empowerment, which fueled many conspiracy theories. The first accusation—of alienation—can be illustrated symbolically by two literary examples from former dissidents’ oeuvre. Milan Kundera, the main advocate of the Central European cultural “cause,” acknowledged and digested the defeat many other former “dissidents” failed to grasp. In his novel Ignorance one of the main characters—Irena—returns from forced exile in Paris to her native Czech Republic (Kundera 2003). She throws a party and wishes to please her guests with French red wine. It turns out, however, to be a clash of the idealized image of her nation with reality, symbolized by the simple drinking rituals. The Czech women refuse to drink Irena’s sophisticated French wine, ostentatiously pouring beer into themselves with big, profane mouthfuls. In Kundera’s depiction the dichotomy is stark: on the one hand—somewhat artificial European sophistication; on the other—tradition, simple, down-to-earth. Irena has been naïve to act against this natural way things are. Beer-swallowing


is like all the other characteristics of local popular identities which have been naively overlooked by the Westward-looking wine-sippers (Szulecki 2011). The attempt to make Czech working-class women sip French wine was, according to Kundera, doomed to fail. Was imposing liberal, intellectual ideals on entire Central European societies equally hopeless? This fictive scene illustrates the side-effects of the mechanisms that dissidentism and the dissident figure caused, namely—the mismatch between wide transnational acclaim and actual domestic impact. Bolton asks about the real nature of the dissidents’ public—who was their true audience? He argues that dissident writing straddled two spaces—“the space of a universal public, open to all interested parties, and that of a bounded public, theoretically open but also defined by particular customs, values, and goals” (Bolton 2012, 16). The Central European intellectuals, or spoken into being “prominent dissidents,” let themselves be tricked by the transnational fame they received, giving them a certain form of power they could use against their regimes. With this fame and this power, they could see themselves as “spokespersons of the society” (Havel 2011) and become leaders and advisors in the newborn democracies. They could not however succeed with their project in the long run. When anti-politics turned political again, former dissidents discovered that there are not that many people standing behind them for support. In fact, they were becoming quite lonely. Central Europe was politically incorporated into the West, but no “moral rebirth” of the nations occurred. It seems that the localization of liberal values that the dissidents struggled for did not reach as deep as they assumed. Ethnic hatred, nationalism, and xenophobia were not defeated by the myth of a multicultural Central Europe, which as Kundera claimed, wanted maximum diversity in minimum space. Historical wounds have not been healed here, although search for dialogue among Czechs, Germans, Poles, Ukrainians, Jews, Hungarians, Slovaks, Russians, and others was one of the dissidents main postulates. This coincided with a crisis of human rights as the universal moral language, first launched by Asian autocracies in the late 1990s, and later from within the West, as a reaction to human rights rhetoric of neoconservative politicians and a justification for warmongering (Jetschke and Liese 2013; Moyn 2014). It was also a painful experience to finally discover that the “dissidents” were in fact a synecdoche if not of an empty set, then simply of a minority. During the 1968, 1980 and 1989 risings that was difficult to foresee.



But along with political freedom came disillusionments and sad reflections. Looking for elements of its own Self within the East European Other, fueled by their “dreams and desires” (Bolton 2012, 3), the Western intellectuals and experts were thus also constructing a political reality that they wished for—downplaying the role of opposition groups which did not fit the dissident figure smoothly. That transnational mechanism was, in the 1990s, disclosed on the local, domestic level. More and more critics started asking: “but why are they so famous and acclaimed?” The fall of the dissidents was a result of a clash of representations. With time, the mechanics of transnational empowerment became more discernible, and this led to both challenges from those parts of the civil society which were excluded—mostly conservative, not fitting a liberal mold—and from states with authoritarian and illiberal ambitions. The former resulted from or at least coincided with the growing realization that the West supported the dissidence not only—or not even primarily—because that helped in “winning the Cold War” but rather due to cultural affinities (Brier 2016). Already in the 1960s, we saw contacts between radical Left youth in Central and Western Europe, in the 1970s the newly formed human rights movements found allies in human rights activists across the Iron Curtain, and in the 1980s new opposition groups aligned and befriended independent activists and greens (Szulecki 2013). Very often that was a spontaneous reaction to likeminded people sharing an activist mindset and generational experiences. At other times, it was purely instrumental, as for some members of the Polish Freedom and Peace movement in taking on nuclear energy so that “those Western peaceniks will love it” (Borewicz et al. 2019, 46). The realization that there is a human factor in international politics was surprisingly late in coming. When the “Law and Justice” party came to power for the first time in 2005, the international shaming campaign against it had significant impact on domestic politics. It was still possible to argue that “Western public opinion” is criticizing the Polish government for that or other policy. That shaming, combined with unseen domestic mobilization and a miscalculation on the part of the PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński resulted in snap elections in 2007 which the party lost. However, when PiS won a parliamentary majority again in 2015, the awareness of transnational media campaigns was much greater. Zbigniew Romaszewski’s daughter, Agnieszka, heading Poland’s twentieth-century version of Radio Free Europe—Belsat TV broadcasting to Belarus—was quite outspoken about personal ties of former


oppositionists and certain Western media outlets, which were used for partisan purposes. PiS appointed minister of culture, sociologist, and former environmental movement activist Piotr Gliński on the other hand would criticize the liberal model of civil society support which empowered some forms of activism and groups as Western donors saw fit, while excluded other activists. Understanding the importance of transnational networks informed anti-NGO illiberal policies of several governments in the region. Vladimir Putin’s Russia was first to declare foreign-financed NGOs as enemies of the state and thus illegal. In 2017, Viktor Orbán’s Hungarian Civic Alliance (Fidesz) government in Hungary introduced a law which required all non-governmental organizations receiving financial support from abroad to register as “foreign-supported organization,” threatening them with closure in case of noncompliance (BBC 2017). Anti-elite Backlash In Chapter 9, I already pointed to some examples of the apparent resistance of different milieus to the dissident fame and the resulting empowerment. This is closely linked to the existence of the historical grand narratives of the fall of Communism in which the intellectual dissidents play a very significant role. These are, however, questioned by groups and categories of oppositionists who are excluded from them. What marks the anti-dissident narratives is a clear element of anti-elitism and anti-intellectualism. The controversies in Poland focus on the role of the dissident elites in the emergence of Solidarity (which is diminished) and in the transition negotiated with the Communists at the Round Table (which in turn is exaggerated). In Hungary and the Czech Republic too, the impact of the intellectual opposition is questioned. As we have seen, the opposition’s experience of Communism is unusual, different from the societal average. The intensity of contacts with the Party elite, resulting from dissent, but also other factors—i.e., having similar social backgrounds—and the secret police, has been fueling conspiracy theories already in the 1980s, but these gained momentum when the critique of dissenters outweighed their admiration. In those theories, the regime shifts of 1989 are all staged by some kind of broader hidden machinations. And so, the Polish and Hungarian negotiations are seen as an arrangement between the Communists and the left-wing intellectuals, designed to divide power and influence, with the security service steering



from the back seat. An important PiS-linked intellectual, Andrzej Zybertowicz, a sociologist known for giving conspiratorial thinking academic credentials, has quoted a Solidarity unionist’s view on the Round Table talks as a moment in which “the Communists shared power with their own agents” (Gazeta Prawna 2019). Similarly, the Czechoslovak Velvet Revolution is portrayed as the result of a plot. “The Charter 77 was no opposition, merely a discussion club”—claimed Czech film director Petr Zelenka—“those people were not capable of taking power … A revolution has to be organized and in my view this one was organized, but by someone else than it is usually assumed”—“By whom?”—“By the Russians. One hundred percent sure” (quoted in Kaczorowski 2006, 50–51). Alternatively, Havel’s surprisingly quick ascent to power can be explained by secret service machinations, putting the “largely unknown” playwright in place where the Prague Spring hero Dubček should have been (see Chapter 9). The anti-elitism of these historical counter-narratives has deeper roots, going back to the emergence of dissidence in the 1970s. Let us look at another literary illustration. In his famous play Audience, Havel confronts his literary alter-ego Vaněk with the ambiguous persona of the Brewer—the representative of “the people,” the working class. Sitting in the Brewer’s office, Vaněk is invited to drink a morning beer with the host. “Why are you not drinking?”—asks the Brewer. “I’m not used to beer”—replies the declassed playwright. “Why? You prefer wine more, eh? … Well, you will get used to beer here. We all drink beer here, that’s kinda tradition” (Havel 2009, 15). Beer and wine confronted again. This time, beer grows to the role of a symbol of “simple” values and life, while wine stands for a certain elitism. But combined with the context of the play—they stand for more than that. The scene becomes the clash of the intelligentsia and the working class—a topic prominent in the dissident self-reflection as well as the communist anti-dissident propaganda (Witoszek 2019). The dissident figure, in its transnational character, gives that issue an additional component. An attempted revival of different roots and alternative heroes of the Solidarity movement by the journalist Zbigniew Branach is symptomatic here. Branach targets what he calls the “myth of the founding fathers”— that is the thesis that the KOR intellectual opposition had a key influence on the politicization of the 1980 strikes and the resulting creation of the Independent Self-Governing Trade Union “Solidarity” (Branach 2005). While his arguments are well grounded and the story is therefore


quite plausible, what strikes the reader is the strength of the anti-intellectual resentment. Branach writes of the “regulars of exclusive salons and trendy cafés of the capital city” as well as the “holders of foreign universities’ scholarships and students of closed academic seminars” who— naturally—“knew the people of physical labor only second-hand” (Branach 2005, 253). Who exactly is meant by those insinuations is unclear, because the depiction does not match any of the KOR activists. But the counter-myth holds. The idea of an elite “salon” is a recurring trope in the works of Wildstein and Ziemkiewicz—no less prominent public intellectuals and to an equal extent regulars of “salons,” albeit different ones. Only an external observer, though one closely linked to the Polish context, was able to dissect the “defeat of Solidarity” and of the dissidents in less mythical and more analytical terms. David Ost importantly notes that Solidarity was not so much a working-class movement, as a rebellion of the “working intelligentsia” (engineers, lower rank technocrats, and qualified workers) (Ost 2005). In this light, the war between the “salons” seems to be an internal struggle of the intelligentsia (in the broad sense) and not, as the anti-dissident camp would have it, a struggle for objective truth and historical justice. Symptomatically too, Branach calls the dissidents “prominent characters … used to playing leading roles,” whose opposition legend was coined with the help of Radio Free Europe and the likes of Timothy Garton Ash (Branach 2005, 259–60). This is surely not to be lightly dismissed, as his argument carries more than a grain of truth. As other scholars have noted, the dominant historiography of Central European dissent is very selective, focusing on particular dates (Szulecki 2013, 199), movements (Kenney 2002), and people (Bolton 2012, 23). Although Branach acknowledges the grassroots work of KOR, their link to the working classes was “unsuccessful” which “frustrated the activists of this organization” (Branach 2005, 280). Do all those arguments not sound familiar? The very interesting fact is that the critics of the dissidents follow the lines of the Communist propaganda of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Bearing in mind that, as my analysis has shown, dissidentism was inherently linked to transnational channels of communication and international recognition as well as domestic black propaganda, the emergence of such counter-narratives is not surprising. In that sense, the historical decline of the dissidents was inherently contained in the dissident figure that provided the political empowerment of the opposition.



No matter what the roots and nature of domestic critique are, the dissident label as well as the figure of the dissident has become a global phenomenon on the intersection of culture and politics. Wherever the Western public opinion encounters an authoritarian regime, it looks for dissidents. Despite the apparent crisis of the human rights currency which began in the 1990s, we continuously hear of dissidents in China, Iran, Cuba, Belarus, or Russia. The use of the dissident figure with its semantic baggage is at times inconsistent. For example, those who argue for the recognition of non-Western value systems, which are at odds with individualistic human rights, are nevertheless willing to search for and support “prominent dissidents.” While the historical argument of this book is that East European opposition, and certain Central European oppositionists in particular, served as the original designate of the dissident figure, and thus provided it with a particular content, a plausible hypothesis is that the mechanism of dissidents’ creation and thus—the positive and negative influence of the label, are the same in other cultural contexts. And so—the dissident remains a global figure and denotes a wide category of transnational actors.

Notes 1. Interview with E. Smolar, Warsaw, 30 March 2010. 2. The best known of all konspira groups was perhaps the radical “Fighting Solidarity” (Solidarność Walcząca—SW)—which was so deeply undercover that, according to an anecdote, it was not able to report on its own structure when asked by Zbigniew Brzezinski who offered financial help. The “anecdote” comes from secret police archival material gathered in Kamiński et al. (2007, 390). 3. Radio speech by J. Cyrankiewicz on 29 June 1956, available at: https:// www.polskieradio.pl/121/2083?xID=15. 4. Interview with J. Landy, New York, 8 November 2011. 5.  In terms of membership, PiS has been building on second-rank former oppositionists as well as former Communist functionaries, but also some prominent opposition figures like Zbigniew Romaszewski, Antoni Macierewicz, Piotr Naimski, Lech Kaczyński, or, among the younger activists, Jacek Czaputowicz.


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A Adamec, Ladislav, 200 Albania, 22 Albrecht, Małgorzata, 158 Alexeyeva, Lyudmila, 32 Alliance of Free Democrats, 213 Amarlik, Andrei, 123 Amnesty International, 21, 69, 70, 146, 159, 178 Anders, Władysław, 79 Aneks, 91, 94, 96, 127, 193 Anti-Charter, 128 Anti-communism, 1, 40, 41, 65, 76, 79, 89, 216, 217 Anti-Communist, 42, 44, 59 Anti-intellectualism, 217, 224 Anti-politics, 183, 220 Anti-Semitism, 67, 83, 90, 100 Arab Spring, 96 Arendt, Hannah, 210 Aron, Raymon, 123, 138 Audience, 32, 152, 158, 164, 179, 193, 194 Aung Sang Suu Kyi, 147 Austria, 74, 88, 110, 191

Authoritarianism, 104 B Baader-Meinhof, 146, 159 Badowski, Kazimierz, 70 Baez, Joan, 199 Bahro, Rudolf, 136 Barańczak, Stanisław, 21, 165 Bartošek, Karel, 95 Bartoszewski, Władysław, 139, 140 Bauman, Zygmunt, 49, 58, 60 BBC, 76, 79, 91, 95, 135, 174 Beckett, Samuel, 75 Bednář, Miloslav, 192 Belarus, 221, 225 Belgrade, 75, 133 Bělohradský, Václav, 91 Belsat TV, 221 Bem, Józef, 48 Benda, Václav, 126, 151, 193 Beneš, Jaroslav, 169 Berlin, 34, 41, 46, 73–75, 88 Berlinguer, Enrico, 122 Berlin Wall, 1, 137

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2019 K. Szulecki, Dissidents in Communist Central Europe, Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-22613-8


232  Index Besançon, Alain, 193 Beszélő, 93 Bierut, Bolesław, 49 Biuletyn Informacyjny (KOR), 127, 135, 156 Blumsztajn, Seweryn, 25, 54, 66, 69, 71, 72, 111, 131, 134, 171, 186 Böll, Heinrich, 130, 139, 140 Bolton, Jonathan, viii, 153 Bondy, Egon, 105 Bonn, 132 Bonner, Elena, 134 Boomerang effect, 93, 131 Boomerang model. See Boomerang effect Bourdieu, Pierre, 186 Branach, Zbigniew, 223, 224 Brandt, Willy, 94, 148, 191 Brazil, 186 Brezhnev, Leonid, 138, 139 Brier, Robert, ix, 5, 30 British Parliament, 191 Brno, 8 Brod, Petr, 91 Brzezinski, Zbigniew, 72, 225 Budapest, 47, 48, 79, 170, 179 Budejovice, 174 Budrewicz, Leszek, 195 Bujak, Zbigniew, 184 Bukovsky, Vladimir, 25, 138 Bulgaria, 7, 8 Bund der Vertriebenen, 133 Bundestag, 90 Bush, George, 192 C Camus, Albert, 44 Čapek, Karel, 75 A-Cappella, 158 Captive Mind, The, 11, 44, 46, 150

Carter, Jimmy, 90, 104, 148 Catholic Church, 49, 145, 186 Catholicism, 49, 51, 87, 120, 123, 126, 178, 193 Celan, Paul, 27 Celebrity, 188, 189, 198–202, 216 Censorship, 28, 50, 53, 56 Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 91 Černý, Václav, 126 Charism, 14, 187, 189 Charisma, 14, 184, 187, 189, 190, 199–202 Charles University, 98, 203 Charter 77, 13, 22, 78, 89, 94, 103, 110, 124–129, 135, 136, 139, 145, 146, 166, 168, 169, 172, 175, 184, 191, 194, 198–200, 223 Chile, 174 China, 225 Chinese, vii Chojecki, Mirosław, 96, 97, 146, 170, 179, 186, 190 Chomsky, Noam, 104 Christian democracy, 186 Christianity, 12, 101, 103, 120, 136, 186, 189 Church and The Left, The, 59 CIA, 94 Circulation, 92 Civic Committee, 200, 213 Civic Forum, 200, 213 Civil society, 2 Clementis, Vladimír, 43 Cohn-Bendit, Daniel, 70, 84, 124 Cold War, 5, 14, 32, 102, 104, 134, 148, 149, 153, 221 Cologne, 139 Columbia University, 91 Commandos (Komandosi), 54, 57, 66, 67, 72, 73, 81, 83, 88, 90, 91, 100, 127, 132


Committee for Social Self-defense KOR. See Komitet Obrony Robotników (KOR) Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Prosecuted. See Výbor na obranu nespravedlivě stíhaných (VONS) Committee for the Protection of Unjustly Prosecuted. See Výbor na obranu nespravedlivě stíhaných (VONS) Communication transnational, 6, 12, 26 Communist Party, 70, 74 Communist Party of the Soviet Union, 194 Conspiracy theories, 219, 222 Constance, 98 Constitution, 81, 109, 110 Consumerism, 48, 50, 98 Contradiction Seekers’ Club, 71, 100 Copenhagen, 124 Courage, 11, 167, 188 CSCE, 109 CSCE Final Act. See Helsinki Accords Cuba, 225 Cyrankiewicz, Józef, 210 Cywiński, Bohdan, 101 Czaputowicz, Jacek, 195, 225 Czechoslovak Congress of Writers, 75 Czechoslovak Writers’ Congress, 50, 55 D Dąbrowska, Maria, 43 Dajczgewand, Józef, 66 Dalai Lama, 185 Daniel, Yuli, 70, 80, 81 Dejmal, Ivan, 74 Democracy Defense Committee, 219 Democratic Forum, 213


Denunciation, 40 Derrida, Jacques, 170 Der Spiegel, 110, 124, 151 Der Tagesspiegel, 131 de-Stalinization, 46, 50, 55, 210 Détente, 12, 102, 148 Deutscher, Isaac, 70 Deutsche Welle, 107 Dienstbier, Jiří, 126 Die Zeit, 108, 124, 132 Dignity, 32 Dissent personalization of, 53 Dissident agent of the West, 155 figure, viii, ix, 3, 6, 8–10, 33, 34, 41, 44, 52, 68, 79, 80, 89, 125, 147, 148, 150, 152, 163, 165, 166, 168, 170, 178, 185, 188–190, 192–194, 207, 211, 214, 215, 220, 221, 223–225 heuristic, ix, 34, 164 interpreters, 89, 90, 92, 96, 168 label, 3, 4, 14, 22, 33, 164, 183, 185–190, 192, 194–196, 201 meaning, 21, 22, 26, 28, 82 triangle, 3, 14, 107, 109, 207–209, 212 Djilas, Milovan, 52, 80, 82, 136, 183 Dodziuk, Anna, 156 Dubček, Alexander, 59, 65, 73, 76, 77, 84, 98, 200 Dürrenmatt, Friedrich, 130, 139, 140 Dutschke, Rudi, 26, 73, 88, 124, 159 Dva tisíce slov, 94 E Eastern Bloc, 1, 2, 4, 5, 11, 30, 48, 55, 81, 82, 89, 92, 95, 100, 102, 104, 105, 134, 138, 145, 149, 170, 184, 185

234  Index East European Reporter, 92, 95, 151 East-West contacts, 5, 12 East-West dialogue, 44, 83, 92, 125, 134, 139, 196 East-West relations, 102, 170 Edice Expedice, 156 Elite, 9, 11, 31, 46, 47, 51, 121, 165, 166, 171, 176, 187, 192, 213, 214, 216, 219, 222, 224 anti-elitism, 217, 222 Emigration, 12 empowerment, 164, 178 England, 45, 70 Esprit, 123 Estado de Sao Paulo, 186 Eurocommunism, 122 Euro-Kontakt, 97 European Nuclear Disarmament, 14 Evolutionism, 49, 101 Experts, 13, 82, 148–150, 165, 190, 221 F Falk, Barbara, 2, 4, 5, 9, 28–30 Fame, 3, 12, 13, 67–69, 76, 77, 80, 146, 150, 158, 166, 171, 176, 185–189, 194, 196–198, 200–202, 209, 211, 220, 222 Feminism, 158 Fighting Solidarity, 225 Fischer, Joschka, 124 Foreign Press Association, 149 Forman, Miloš, 55, 76 Foucault, Michel, 137, 138, 186 France, 43, 44, 74, 96, 123, 124, 138, 147, 148, 191 Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 81, 130 Freedom and Peace, 158, 195, 221 Free Trade Unions, 184, 185 Freudenberger, Nell, vii

Fukuyama, Francis, 32 Furet, Francois, 123, 138 G Gandhi, Mahatma, 26 Garton Ash, Timothy, 152, 153, 155, 224 Gazeta Wyborcza, 215 Gdansk, 96, 97, 151, 185, 197 Genoa, 91 Gerő, Ernő, 47 Giedroyć, Jerzy, 57, 72, 94, 95, 134 Gierek, Edward, 99, 101 Giscard d’Estaing, Valéry, 138, 148 Glasnost, 194 Gliński, Piotr, 222 Glocalization, 104, 164 Glucksmann, André, 123, 138, 150 Golden Nightingale, 77 Goldfarb, Jeffrey, 3, 154 Gomułka, Władysław, 49, 65, 70, 71 Gorbachev, Mikhail, 110, 185, 194 Gorbanevskaya, Natasha, 140 Gottwald, Klement, 43, 55 “Goulash communism”, 49 Gramsci, Antonio, 69 Grass, Günter, 130 Great Britain, 70, 91, 96, 152, 153, 201 Green Party, 121 Greens (Germany), 90 Grosfeld-Smolar, Irena, 91 Gross, Jan Tomasz, 54, 91 Grudzińska-Gros, Irena, 54, 91 Gruntorád, Jiří, 33, 93 Guardian, The, 33 Guevara, Ernesto “Che”, 26, 189 Gulag, 70, 83 Gulag Archipelago, 107, 122, 138 Gwiazda, Joanna, 157


H Habermas, Jürgen, 170 Hacking, Ian, 147 Hájek, Jiří, 100, 126 Hamburg, 175 Hass, Ludwik, 70, 84 Havel, Ivan, 156 Havel, Václav, 3, 9, 11, 13, 23, 26–30, 32–34, 41, 55–57, 65, 74–76, 80, 81, 84, 99, 104, 106, 108–110, 121, 124, 126–130, 146, 151, 153, 156, 157, 163, 165–169, 172, 176, 178, 179, 183–185, 187–189, 193, 198–202, 213–216, 220, 223 Haveman, Robert, 136 Havlová, Olga, 75, 97, 156, 157, 173 Hejdánek, Ladislav, 170 Heller, Ágnes, 100 Helsinki Accords, 12, 90, 102, 105, 109, 110, 122, 125, 129, 136, 145, 155, 191 Helsinki Effect, 13, 109, 137 Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe. See Helsinki Accords Helsinki Watch, 178 Heretical geopolitics, 7, 184, 214 Herling-Grudziński, Gustaw, 57 Holland, Agnieszka, 29, 61 Holland, Henryk, 61 Home Army, 100, 111, 171 Horáček, Milan, 90, 95, 124 Horvath, Robert, 3 Hrabal, Bohumil, 55 Humanism, 42 Hungarian Civic Alliance, 222 Husák, Gustáv, 13, 76, 98, 108, 110, 127 Hus, Jan, 98


I Ideology, viii, 1, 39, 40, 42, 44, 50, 59 Imaginary, 165 Imperial Cancer Research Fund, 91 Independent Photographic Agency “Dementi”, 198 Individualization, 67, 68 Informace o Charte 77, 126 International attention. See Recognition International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, 190 International Herald Tribune, 110 Ionesco, Eugene, 75, 123 Iran, 123, 225 Iron Curtain, 4, 102, 107, 124, 135, 153, 221 Italian Communist Party, 70, 122 Italian Socialist Party, 124 Italy, 90 J Jahanbeglou, Ramin, 123 Janas, Zbigniew, 184 Jankowski, Henryk, 96 Jaroslav, Šabata, 126 Jarry, Alfred, 75 Jaruzelski, Wojciech, 185, 197 Jazz Section, 178 Jeziorański, Jan Nowak, 69, 72 Jirous, Martin, 33, 174 K Kaczyński, Jarosław, 221 Kaczyński, Lech, 225 Kádár, János, 48, 49, 99 Katznelson, Ira, 170 Kavan, Jan, 91, 92, 151, 201

236  Index Kende, Pierre, 95, 123, 124 Kennan, George, 150 Kennedy, Edward, 192 Kenney, Padraic, 5, 6 Khrushchev, Nikita, 41, 46, 48, 49, 56, 61 King, Martin Luther, 26, 76 Kis, János, 93, 170, 214 Kiszczak, Czesław, 198, 203 Kliszko, Zenon, 66 Kłoczowski, Piotr, 150 Kohout, Pavel, 56, 74–76, 84, 108, 126 Kołakowski, Leszek, 44, 49, 54, 58, 66, 91, 100, 133, 139, 140, 149, 183 Komitet Obrony Robotników (KOR), 8, 13, 119–123, 125, 126, 128– 131, 133–138, 141, 145–147, 149, 151, 154, 156, 157, 164, 168–172, 174, 176, 179, 183–185, 195, 223, 224 Konrád, György, 123, 124, 153, 216 Kontinent, 95 Kopeček, Michal, ix Kossakowski, Marek, 121 Kouchner, Bernard, 186 Kowalska, Anka, 156, 174 Krakow, 50, 130, 131, 175 Kreisky, Bruno, 191 Kriegel, František, 126 Kristeva, Julia, 27, 147 Krytyka, 135 Krzywe Koło Club, 51 Kubišová, Marta, 77, 78, 126, 128, 169 Kuisz, Jarosław, 219 Kultura, 57, 69, 72, 95, 106, 123, 124, 127, 132 Kundera, Milan, 46, 55, 56, 74, 80, 90, 101, 170, 219, 220 Kuroń, Gaja, 156, 157, 173

Kuroń, Grażyna, 174 Kuroń, Henryk, 54 Kuroń, Jacek, 12, 25, 51–54, 58, 60, 65–72, 74, 80–82, 93, 96, 100–102, 106–109, 111, 120–123, 125–127, 131, 134, 146, 151, 156, 157, 167–170, 172–177, 184, 187, 190, 195, 198, 211, 215 Kusý, Miroslav, 126 L Labedz, Leopold, 152 L’Alternative, 95 Landovský, Pavel, 175 La Nouvelle Alternative, 95 Lasota, Irena, 66, 91 Law and Justice, 219, 221 League for the Defense of Human and Civil Rights, 120 League of Hungarian Students, 48 Leftwich Curry, Jane, 2 Legality, 32, 55, 78, 79, 104, 109, 119–121, 208, 209 Legitimacy, 4, 11, 39, 40, 53, 188, 192, 199, 201, 202, 210–212, 217, 218 Le Monde, 57, 61, 68, 124, 130, 150, 166, 179, 202 Le Nouvel Observateur, 124 Le Soir, 110 Letter of 34, 53, 54 Letter of 59, 109 Lettre internationale, 95 Libera, Antoni, 121 Liberalism, 88, 213–215, 217, 219–222 Liberation, 186 Lidova demokracie, 127 Liehm, Antonín, 90, 95, 123, 124 Life is Elsewhere, 46, 101


Lipiński, Edward, 120, 133 Lipnice, 199 Lipski, Jan Józef, 126 Lis, Ladislav, 126 Listy, 90, 94, 95, 110, 194 Literární listy, 75, 77 Literaturnaya Gazeta, 198 Lityński, Jan, 55, 66, 134, 169 Localization, 105, 164, 220 Łódź, 190 London, 76, 91, 96, 124, 127, 130, 149 Looping effect, 9, 13, 34, 148 Łuczywo, Helena, 156 Lula da Silva, Luiz, 186 Luxemburg, Rosa, 80 M Macierewicz, Antoni, 119, 126, 146, 169, 225 Madrid, 140 Magyar Füzetek, 95 Malý, Václav, 126 Mandela, Nelson, 185 Mao Zedong, 73 March 1968, 58, 66–68, 73, 83, 87, 90, 91, 97, 100, 132 Margueritte, Bernard, 57 Martial Law, 96, 124, 147, 175, 177, 178, 185–187, 190, 195, 219 Marxism, 23, 39, 41, 42, 44, 46, 49, 50, 52, 53, 66, 80, 87, 100, 101, 103, 209 Marx, Karl, 51 Maspero, Francois, 95 Maximov, Vladimir, 95, 123 May 1968, 70, 75 Medvedev, Zhores, 183 Menzel, Jiří, 55, 77 Metger, Julia, 57


Michnik, Adam, 9, 13, 23, 25, 27, 33, 49, 54, 57–59, 61, 65–67, 69, 71, 72, 75, 87, 91, 96, 100, 101, 106, 109, 119–128, 131–134, 136, 138–140, 146, 149, 151, 153–155, 157, 168–170, 172, 175, 177, 183, 190, 198, 203, 214–216 assasination attempt, 175 Mickiewicz, Adam, 100 Mihajlov, Mihajlo, 183 Miłosz, Czesław, 11, 12, 42–46, 59, 60, 90, 124, 150 Mitterrand, François, 148, 191 Mlynář, Zdeněk, 43, 65, 100, 110, 126, 139, 183, 194 Modzelewski, Karol, 12, 51–54, 66–72, 74, 80–82, 93, 96, 108, 109, 122, 137, 200, 211, 215 Moralizing, 166, 167 Moscow, 22, 40, 41, 43, 47, 77, 81, 135, 137 Movement for the Defense of Human and Civil Rights. See Ruch Obrony Praw Człowieka i Obywatela (ROPCiO) Munich, 69, 72 Munich Agreement, 42 N Nagy, Imre, 47, 48, 79 Naimska, Małgorzata, 156 Naimski, Piotr, 225 Nationalism, 42, 83, 220 Nazism, 11, 42, 54, 171 Neckář, Václav, 77 Neoconservatism, 104 Neo-positivism, 49 Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 110 New Evolutionism, 101, 124, 136 New Faith. See Ideology

238  Index New Statesman, 192 Newsweek, 196 New York, 75 New York Review, 153 New York Times, 52, 57, 81, 186 Nobel Prize, 108, 126, 134, 138, 185 Noirot, Paul, 95 Normalization, 48, 97, 98, 107, 108, 111 Norway, 170 Novotný, Antonín, 55, 59 O Observer, 70 October 1956, 100 Oldies, 120, 132 Oldies (Starsi państwo), 120, 171 Olszewski, Jan, 109, 111, 156 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, 56 Open Letter to the Party, 12, 52–54, 59, 68, 69, 74, 80, 82, 93, 137, 211 Operation Danube, 79 Orbán, Viktor, 222 Order, 208, 210, 214 Orientalism, 149 Originální Videojournal, 97 Orlov, Yuri, 80, 138 Orwell, George, 11, 40, 152, 197 Osadczuk, Bohdan, 110 Oslo, 134 Ostrava, 8 Otwock, 198 Oxford, 44 Oxford University, 91 P Palach, Jan, 92, 98 Palous, Martin, 134

Paradowska, Janina, 156–158 Paris, 25, 46, 57, 69, 70, 72–75, 91, 95, 124, 127, 134, 138 Parrhesia, 23, 31 Patočka, Jan, 23, 126, 175, 191 Peace and Human Rights, 137 Pelikán, Jiří, 58, 90, 94, 95, 97, 123, 124 assasination attempt, 95 Personalism, 103 Personalization, 132, 210 Petřivý, Tomáš, 169 Pieńkowska, Alina, 157 Pithart, Petr, 126 Plastic People of the Universe, The, 33, 125 trial, 125 Plato, 167 Plogstedt, Sibylle, 74 Polish PEN Club, 140 Polish Socialist Party, 42, 120, 140 Polish United Workers Party, 51 Polish Writers Trade Union, 50 Polityka, 132 Pomian, Krzysztof, 47, 49, 54, 91 Popiełuszko, Jerzy, 177, 178 Po Prostu, 50 Pospíchal, Petr, 169 Power of the Powerless, 3, 29, 32, 41, 106, 166, 168, 176, 183, 184 Poznan, 41 Prague, 8, 46, 50, 55, 57, 58, 73, 74, 76, 98, 156, 170, 184, 188, 200 Prague Spring, 55, 58, 59, 65, 68, 74–77, 79, 80, 82, 87–90, 92, 97, 98, 100, 102, 110, 122, 126, 184, 200, 212, 223 Prenzlauer Berg group, 27 prisoner of conscience, 146, 154 Propaganda, 13, 25, 39, 45, 46, 50, 52, 54, 67, 68, 71, 72, 74, 82, 83, 94, 95, 100, 109, 128,


130–133, 165, 168, 197, 199, 209, 211, 223, 224 Przemyk, Grzegorz, 176, 177 Przeworski, Adam, 51, 52, 60 Public Against Violence, 213 Putin, Vladimir, 222 Pyjas, Stanisław, 130, 131, 141, 175, 186 PZPR, 49, 51, 65, 83 R Racek, Václav. See Bednář, Miloslav Radio Free Europe, 12, 69, 72, 79, 91, 93, 95, 97, 127, 174, 196, 221, 224 Radio Liberty, 12, 79, 95 Rafto, Thorolf, 170 Rajk, László, 47, 93, 170, 171, 179 Rákosi, Mátyás, 47 Reagan, Ronald, 186, 192 Recognition, 33 Red Army Faction. See Baader-Meinhof Renown, 188 Representation, ix, 2, 9, 10, 130, 148, 149, 153, 155, 219, 221 Repression(s), 31, 87, 93, 96–98, 165, 167, 168, 171, 173, 174, 208, 209, 212, 217 Revisionism, 12, 22, 23, 27, 40, 46, 49, 52–55, 65, 66, 79–82, 195, 209 Revolutionary Youth Movement, 74 Ricœur, Paul, 170 Rights, 26, 81, 109, 120–123, 125, 133, 134, 136, 139, 165 civil, 81 human, 12, 13, 24–26, 32, 81, 83, 102–106, 108, 109, 126, 133–135, 137, 139, 140, 145, 146, 148, 158, 165, 186, 190, 191, 194, 212, 220, 221, 225


Robotnik, 156 Rokossowski, Konstanty, 49 Romania, 7, 8, 33 Romaszewska, Agnieszka, 221 Romaszewska, Zofia, 156 Romaszewski, Zbigniew, 135, 156, 169, 221, 225 Rome, 70, 72, 75, 123, 124 Rorty, Richard, 170 Round Table, 199, 222, 223 Ruch, 109 Ruch Obrony Praw Człowieka i Obywatela (ROPCiO), 146 Rudé právo, 78, 127, 199 Rule-of-law, 104, 105 Rupnik, Jacques, 153, 213, 214 Russell, Bertrand, 70 Russia, 25, 47, 150, 222, 225. See also Soviet Union Russian, vii S Šabata, Jan, 91, 98, 107 Šabata, Jaroslav, 100, 107, 110, 136, 169, 184, 191 Šabatová, Anna, 89, 107, 126, 156, 169, 170, 172 Sadowska, Barbara, 176 Sakharov, Andrei, 107, 134, 135, 138, 183, 185, 194 Samizdat, 4, 7, 12, 26, 33, 34, 80, 92–94, 96, 97, 107, 120, 126, 127, 134, 136, 141, 146, 149, 150, 156, 188, 196–198 Sartre, Jean-Paul, 44, 123 Saudi Arabia Saudi, vii Schmidt, Helmut, 148 Schöpflin, George, 92 Secret police. See Security service

240  Index Security service, 39, 40, 59, 60, 70, 84, 95, 158, 169, 173, 210, 217, 222, 225 SED, 137 Seifert, Jaroslav, 50, 126 Sexism, 157 Shcharansky, Anatoly, 138 Signoret, Simone, 186 Šimečka, Milan, 126 Sinyavsky, Andrei, 80, 81, 194 Skilling, H. Gordon, 2, 153 Škvorecký, Josef, 90 Slánský, Rudolf, 43 Slánský Trial, 91 Slovak Communist Party, 59 Słowik, Andrzej, 190 Służba Bezpieczeństwa - SB, 66, 122. See also Security service Group D, 177 Śmiech, Romuald, 70 Smolar, Aleksander, 66, 70, 82, 91, 96, 122, 127, 152 Smolar, Eugeniusz, 33, 90–93, 124, 133, 147, 152, 168, 174, 208 Smolar, Nina, 90, 91 Sněžka/Śnieżka, 168 Socialist Student Association, 51 Solidarity, 2, 8, 96, 97, 101, 138, 140, 141, 147, 150, 151, 154, 156, 157, 165, 176–178, 184–186, 189, 190, 192, 197–200, 202, 214, 215, 218, 219, 222–224 Solidarność Press Agency, 156 Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr, 3, 13, 27, 56, 80, 83, 107, 122, 138, 139, 150, 188, 193 Solzhenitsyn Effect, 3, 13 Sorbonne, 73 Soviet dissidents, 2, 3, 25, 81, 121, 135, 137, 139 Sovietology, viii, 13, 70, 148–150, 152, 155

Soviet Union, 12, 22, 27, 30, 39–41, 44, 46–49, 55, 56, 80, 81, 137, 138 Spectator, 153 Stalinism, 11, 12, 39–41, 43, 44, 46– 52, 55, 60, 68, 73, 74, 76–79, 99, 101, 171, 172, 209 Stalin, Joseph, 22, 39, 41, 44, 46–49, 51, 55, 61 Starczewska, Krystyna, 174 Stárek, František, 136 Stasi. See Security service Státní bezpečnost - StB. See Security service Steinsbergowa, Aniela, 120, 156, 171, 174 Stockholm, 124 Strahov, 58 Suk, Jaroslav, 22 Surveillance, 78, 209, 212, 217, 218 Šustrová, Petruška, 74, 103, 126 Svědectví, 57, 95 Svobodne slovo, 127 Sweden, 90, 91, 96 Switzerland, 150 Szczecin, 159 Szczęsna, Joanna, 156 Szczypiorski, Andrzej, 164 Szeged, 48 Szlajfer, Henryk, 57, 58, 66, 91 Szułczyński, Michał, 110 T Tamizdat, 7, 12, 34, 79, 92, 93 Tatarka, Dominik, 126 Tatu, Michel, 68 Taylor, Charles, 170 Technology, 95 Tel Quel, 3, 27, 147 Templin, Wolfgang, 25, 137 Ten Points Manifesto, 76


Terror, 39–41, 44–46, 48, 51, 78, 218 Terrorism, 209 Thatcher, Margaret, 152, 186, 192 Thaw, 22, 41, 47, 50, 51, 54, 55, 60 Theater on the Balustrade, 75 Théâtre Récamier, 138, 139 Third World, 73, 79 Thompson, E.P., 170, 192, 193 Tigrid, Pavel, 57, 75, 95, 123, 128, 139 Times Literary Supplement, 153 Times, The, 70, 81, 84, 130, 149, 175 Tomin, Julius, 170 Toruńczyk, Barbara, 66, 69, 70, 82, 96, 132, 134, 140, 186 Totalitarian, 1, 3, 11, 27, 31, 33 Totalitarianism, 41, 45, 46, 49, 53, 55, 172, 210, 217–219 post-totalitarian, 98, 99, 106, 210 post-totalitarianism, 68, 79 Transnational empowerment, 14, 212, 216, 217, 219, 221, 222, 224 Transnational recognition, 53 Tribune, 70 Trotsky, Leon, 51, 80 Trotskyism, 70, 73, 82, 123 Truth, 23, 28, 32, 67, 69, 71, 78, 165–167, 184, 193 Trybuna Ludu, 66, 131 Tvář, 128 Two Thousand Words, 77 U Uhl, Petr, 73, 74, 126, 169, 170, 172 Underground, 26, 33, 99, 105, 111 Unger, Leopold, 110 UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 105 United States, 96, 150, 154, 190, 192 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 102


Uppsala, 91 Urban, Jerzy, 197 Urjevitch, Charles, 74 Ursus, 184 USSR. See Soviet Union V Vaculík, Ludvík, 55, 57, 76, 94, 108, 126, 167 Vajda, Mihály, 100 van Der Stoel, Max, 191 Velvet Revolution, 223 Venice, 140 Video-Kontakt, 96 Videomagazín, 96 Video Studio Gdańsk, 97 Vienna, 43, 72 Visegrad triangle, 153 Voice of America, 79, 95, 130, 135 Vondráčková, Helena, 77 Výbor na obranu nespravedlivě stíhaných (VONS), 133, 136, 145, 146, 198 W Wajda, Andrzej, 97 Walc, Jan, 164, 167 Walentynowicz, Anna, 157 Wałęsa, Lech, 147, 151, 169, 178, 185, 186, 189, 197, 198, 200, 201, 214 Warsaw, 48, 51, 54, 57, 61, 119, 121, 125, 130, 131, 170, 174, 177, 179, 185, 186, 195, 198 Warsaw Pact, 48, 59, 73, 77, 79, 81 Warsaw University, 51, 54, 65, 66, 69, 91, 96, 186 Washington, 90 Ważyk, Adam, 50 Weber, Max, 188, 189, 200, 202

242  Index Western correspondents, 26, 57, 61, 150, 151, 156, 197 Western European Left, 69, 73, 74, 83, 122, 192, 193, 212 Western journalists, 33, 147, 150. See also Western correspondents Western media, 22, 33, 68, 81, 88, 91, 96, 130, 131, 133, 140, 148, 152, 154, 156, 158, 169, 187, 193, 195, 196 Western public, 70, 80, 90, 92, 107, 110, 147, 148, 165, 168, 187, 221, 225 Western reception, 154 West Germany, 68, 74, 82, 88, 90, 107, 124, 128, 131–133, 141, 148, 151, 191 Wildstein, Bronisław, 186, 216, 224 Wilson, Paul, 29 Winawer-Blumasztajn, Zofia, 156 Witoszek, Nina, 156 Wojtyła Karol, 145 Wonka, Pavel, 178

Workers’ Defense Committee, 13, 119, 145. See also Komitet Obrony Robotników (KOR) World War II, 1, 11, 217 Wroclaw, 122, 158, 195 Wujec, Henryk, 175 Y Yale University, 91 Yalta, 82 Yugoslavia, 22, 48, 52, 88 Z Zelenka, Petr, 223 Zieja, Jan, 120 Ziemkiewicz, Rafał, 216, 224 Zionism, 68, 70, 94 Zionists, 68 Znak, 87, 209 Zybertowicz, Andrzej, 223 Życie Gospodarcze, 72 Życie Warszawy, 127