Post-communist Challenges and Emancipated Discourses
By Mariusz Czepczyński and Małgorzata Tarasiewicz. "Broad spectrum of post-socialist social and political transformations includes deep changes of gender politics and practices. Despite of formal and legal communist equal rights rule, the everyday practice before 1989 proved profound gender discrimination and stratifications. Since the beginning of 1990s women have started the long lasted political and social emancipation process, especially difficult in traditional, rural, conservative and male-dominated society of Poland."
State Communism, in some aspects, included gender, had created certain, almost ‘open-air museum-like’ situation, where practices and approaches had often been copied form the 1930s societies. The process of post-totalitarian gender emancipation has been facilitated by numerous discourses, including employment policy, abortion, gay and lesbian rights, women political activity, family planning, birth-giving, sexual harassment, gender organisations and many others.
Political and social transformations after socialism
The concept of socialism refers to a broad array of ideologies and movements which aim to improve society through collective and egalitarian action; and to a socio-economic system in which property and the distribution of wealth are subject to control by the community (Szarota 2001, Brzeziński 1960). Socialism can be seen as a kind of extreme humanism. While the main, declared goals of socialism: human development, equal rights (including gender) and equal distribution of resources seldom raise many disputes, the implementation of the most humanistic of the projects is always realised by faulty humans, and brings the bright ideas into the manoeuvres of the real, hard word. There is an important difference in understanding the phenomena of socialism, one can speak about two ‘socialist projects’: one deeply humanistic, referring to all the positive and positivistic aspects of social tradition, as it is mainly seen in the West, and the other one, connected with its practical implementation, was always based on terror, limitation of basic civil rights, and oppression. One of the expression of socialism can be called ‘admirative’, seen as a radical humanism, while the other side of it was aggressive and totalitarian, focused on elimination of class enemies, controlled civic existence in the smallest possible details and transform human individuals into a ‘parts of the collective’ (Nawratek 2005, Czepczyński 2008). The majority of the Central European societies entered state communism in feudal or post-feudal social order. Communism brought certain aspects of equality and human rights, including gender, but at the same time extremely oppressive state overtook all the whole civic system and limited personal and organisational freedoms. In the end, the positive aspects of socialism have been overshadowed by the tyrannical practices of everyday life (Czepczyński 2008).
The conversion of powers in Central Europe had been very fast and in some way unexpected. Even Solidarity leaders did not expect to gain all the power within few months. The changes had been happening on many different levels. Transformation of post-socialist countries after 1989 can be classified in three main types:
- Political, as a shift from authoritarian dictatorship towards parliamentarian democracy, based on coherent legal system, where society is an active participant of the governing processes and procedures. Political instability and frequent transformation of political parties left the electorate somehow lost in multiple choices. Regional policies forced de-centralization of power and recreation of local municipalities.
- Economic, where centrally planned state economy was replaced by private and market oriented, based on free competition of entrepreneurships and liberalization of market rules. Privatization, collapse of old socialist industries and foreign investments changed local economic rules, while unemployment rose as one of the main economic and social problems in most countries of the region.
- Social, was started by contestation of forced interpretation of the communists’ social ideas. Egalitarian imperative parity was replaced by differentiations and pluralism. Civic and gender rights together with freedom of thoughts boosted the rising aspirations. Freedom of movements caused vast migrations, especially after joining EU, reshaping many local and regional labour markets and societies (see Sorin and Tismaneanu 2000).