Solidarity and the Politics of Anti-Politics

Opposition and Reform in Poland since 1968

David Ost
Book Cover

PB: $35.95
EAN: 978-0-87722-900-1
Publication: Aug 91

HC: $39.95
EAN: 978-0-87722-655-0
Publication: Mar 90

Ebook: $35.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-0351-3
Publication: Mar 90

272 pages

An analysis of Solidarity from it origins in the Polish "new left" to the union's resurgence in 1988-89


Based on extensive use of primary sources, this book provides an analysis of Solidarity, from its ideological origins in the Polish "new left," through the dramatic revolutionary months of 1980-81, and up to the union’s remarkable resurgence in 1988-89, when it sat down with the government to negotiate Poland’s future. David Ost focuses on what Solidarity is trying to accomplish and why it is likely that the movement will succeed.

He traces the conflict between the ruling Communist Party and the opposition, Solidarity’s response to it, and the resulting reforms. Noting that Poland is the one country in the world where "radicals of ‘68" came to be in a position to negotiate with a government about the nature of the political system, Ost asks what Poland tells us about the possibility for realizing a "new left" theory of democracy in the modern world.

As a Fulbright Fellow at Warsaw University and Polish correspondent for the weekly newspaper In These Times during the Solidarity uprising and a frequent visitor to Poland since then, David Ost has had access to a great deal of unpublished material on the labor movement. Without dwelling on the familiar history of August 1980, he offers some of the unfamiliar subtleties—such as the significance of the Szczecin as opposed to the Gdansk Accord—and shows how they shaped the budding union’s understanding of the conflicts ahead. Unique in its attention to the critical, formative period following August 1980, this study is the most current and comprehensive analysis of a movement that continues to transform the nature of East European society.


"For both academic analysts and political activists, this book offers useful lessons from the Polish experience with anti-politics and neocorporatism."
Political Science Quarterly

"In his superb book, ...political scientist David Ost chronicles the trajectory of the Polish post-war opposition from its roots in the fascist resistance up to the actions of Solidarity in 19.... (He) astutely bridges academic disciplines, interweaving social theory with intellectual and political history to explain Solidarity's raison d'etre.... In an age when definitions of left and right have become obscured, Solidarity and the Politics of Anti-Politics stands out at a creative example of left thought."
In These Times

"Ost contributes not only an explication of Polish political life, but he also presents a vision of democracy applicable to the Western world as a whole."
Jewish Currents

"An invaluable contribution."

Table of Contents


1. The Style of Solidarity
Right and Left • A Postmodern Politics

2. Civil Society and the "Third Road"
Capitalism and Civil Society • State Socialism and Civil Society • The "Third Road"

3. The Genesis of Political Opposition in Poland: 1944-1970
Opposition in the Era of "People's Democracy" • Stalinism and Post-Stalinism • The Demise of Revisionism: 1968-1970

4. Opposition and Civil Society: 1970-1980
Late Post-Stalinism and the Turn to Civil Society • Politics and the Reconstruction of Social Ties • Anticipatory Democracy • Politics and the Problem of the State

5. Politics, Anti-Politics, and the Beginnings of Solidarity
Independent Unions: Government Resistance • (Buying off strikers with wage increases • Offering a reorganization of the old unions instead of the creation of new ones • Trying to limit new unions to certain regions • Repackaging old unions as new ones) • Signs of Hope • The Structure of Solidarity • The Significance of Solidarity's First Period

6. Solidarity, Democracy, and Neocorporatism
Neocorporatism and Democracy • The Turn to Politics • The August Turning Point • Last Attempts at a Political Solution • A Neocorporatist Proposal • The Final Weeks

7. The Poverty of Martial Law: Limping Toward Reform
Organizing an Underground • Church and State • Amnesty and Disarray • The Right-Wing Critique of Solidarity • Referendum and Reorganization • The Party Moves Toward Reform • Toward an Anti-Crisis Pact

8. The Viability of an Accord
The Basis of Soviet Acceptance • Poland and the "Spanish Road"

Epilog: The New Solidarity

About the Author(s)

David Ost is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and the translator of The Church and the Left: A Dialog by Adam Michnik.

In the Series

  • Labor and Social Change edited by Paula Rayman and Carmen Sirianni

    Labor and Social Change, edited by Paula Rayman and Carmen Sirianni, includes books on workplace issues like worker participation, quality of work life, shorter hours, technological change, and productivity, as well as union and community organizing and ethnographies of particular occupations.