Communists into Liberals: The Transformation and Demise of the Left as Precursor to the Illiberal Turn in Poland
This research project seeks a historically grounded explanation to the recent ‘illiberal turn’ in Poland by pursuing a new line of inquiry into the country’s transition from state socialism to a European liberal democracy. Rather than focusing on relatively short-term political and economic structural contingencies, the project aims to bring both historical process and agency of key protagonists to the fore as a factor precipitating the developments of the past years. In doing so, three historical processes spanning from 1968 to the mid-2000s are placed in correlation to each other: the demise of communism and transition to liberal democracy in Poland, exchanges of ideas that transcended the Cold War divide of Europe, and the political trajectory of the Polish and European Left. The research re-examines the dynamics of reform communism prior to 1989 as well as its impact on the transition afterwards highlighting two issues: the ‘social-democratisation’ of communism and the ‘neoliberalisation’ of social democracy. Within this framework, the goal is to study the agency of a particular group of politicians and activists from the Polish Left and investigate how their ideas and policies set the stage for the recent so-called ‘illiberal turn’ fueled by populism of the Right.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 846018