Creating alternative visions : the role of national and transnational social movements in the demise of Polish state socialism
The accompaniment of the collapse of Eastern European state socialism by a visible manifestation of "people power" has raised questions concerning "system collapse ... and the role of social movements in this" (Manning 1993, 1319). Some Western peace activists have already offered an answer to this question, claiming that Eastern social movements, supported by Western counterparts, were instrumental in the collapse of state socialism. This thesis addresses these questions and investigates this claim, by analysing the origins, philosophy and ultimate impact of national and transnational social movements in the disintegration of Polish state socialism. Although state socialist Poland provided an inhospitable context, it will be argued that problems of system disintegration besetting the Polish state opened up the political opportunity structure enabling social movements to originate. Moreover these movements were not simply exploiters of political opportunity but were inspired by a moral vision of creating a civil society. Sources and interviews drawn from Polish movements will be used to demonstrate these arguments. At the International level it will be suggested that Superpower detente opened the political opportunity structure for transnational interaction between social movements across the Cold War divide. Furthermore, these movements were inspired by a moral vision of how the international system should be. An empirical enquiry into the relationship between a British peace movement and Polish movements will investigate the efficacy of this interaction but will simultaneously demonstrate the difficulties caused by these movements' possession of conflicting moral visions. Having analysed the origins and activities of these movements - their interaction with each other, the socialist state and the international system - conclusions will be drawn both about the specific role of social movements in democratic transition at the Round Table and from a more general perspective, the significance of the practical and moral challenge offered by social movements to the socialist state.