Poland is the only country in which popular protest and mass opposition, epitomized by the Solidarity movement, played a significant role in bringing down the communist regime. This book, the first comprehensive study of the politics of protest in postcommunist Central Europe, shows that organized protests not only continued under the new regime but also had a powerful impact on Poland's democratic consolidation.
Following the collapse of communism in 1989, the countries of Eastern Europe embarked on the gargantuan project of restructuring their social, political, economic, and cultural institutions. The social cost of these transformations was high, and citizens expressed their discontent in various ways. Protest actions became common events, particularly in Poland. In order to explain why protest in Poland was so intense and so particularized, Grzegorz Ekiert and Jan Kubik place the situation within a broad political, economic, and social context and test it against major theories of protest politics. They conclude that in transitional polities where conventional political institutions such as parties or interest groups are underdeveloped, organized collective protest becomes a legitimate and moderately effective strategy for conducting state-society dialogue. The authors offer an original and rich description of protest movements in Poland after the fall of communism as a basis for developing and testing their ideas. They highlight the organized and moderate character of the protests and argue that the protests were not intended to reverse the change of 1989 but to protest specific policies of the government.
This book contributes to the literature on democratic consolidation, on the institutionalization of state-society relationship, and on protest and social movements. It will be of interest to political scientists, sociologists, historians, and policy advisors.
Grzegorz Ekiert is Professor of Government, Harvard University. Jan Kubik is Associate Professor of Political Science, Rutgers University.