Elite Perceptions of Workers, Conflict and Socialism: The Case of Poland, 1956-1989

Science and Society 59 (4):470 - 497 (1995)
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It is difficult, if not impossible, to give a comprehensive explanation of East European real socialism's demise without an adequate knowledge of the evolution of opinion of its elites. However, until now, almost all questions about this subject have remained unexplored. In the present article, the dynamics of Polish elites' notions about workers, conflict and socialism are studied. It is found that, as Gramsci (following Marx) claimed, social groups take cognizance of economic interests in the arena of political and ideological strife. Socio-political crises in Poland forced upon elites successive reinterpretations of real socialism's raison d'être. In doing so, they allowed the elites to "discover" their contradictions with workers, "learn" to criticize and fight them openly and, in this process, find that they had their own specific interests. But this was obtained at the cost of their internal coherence and, ultimately, of the legitimacy of the system vis-à-vis its own administrators.



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