Specialized Themes

Personal Communisms: Individual Subjectivity and Agency within the Party-State Structures of the Post-war East and Central Europe
Session code
Date Time
Wednesday, August 24th / 09.00-12.30
Łukasz Bertram
Collegium Minus, Sala Senatu

This session is to offer new perspectives on the history of communist states of Central and Eastern Europe by focusing on the agency and subjectivity of the individuals involved in the communist movements and power structures. Our focus is more on the male and female communists than on the communist regime. Our main aim is therefore to understand their political experiences by addressing such issues as their individual and collective mindsets, attitudes, emotions, and the socialization processes.
Among our general questions are: what were the limits of the individual agency in the communist party-state organizations? To what extent were the individuals determined by the structures they belonged to, and how could they shape them through their own choices and practices? What were their personal values and strategies, their ways to internalize or adjust to the official norms, and what did their ‘personal communisms’ look like?
Our session offer varied perspectives on the East and Central European experiences with communism: in Hungary, Poland and Soviet Union, and in both early and late post-war sub-periods. Some of the papers focus on the biographies and actions of the political activists: strategies of their autobiographical narratives (Sándor Horváth), blurred lines between ideological avant-gardism and everyday consumerism (György Péteri), and the experience of the unprivileged social strata that advanced to the position of power (Łukasz Bertram). Others put the emphasis on the problems such as the dynamics of ethnical identity and self-identification (Katarzyna Kwiatkowska-Moskalewicz), the categories used by the intellectuals to interpret their Stalinist past (Jan Olaszek), and the mechanisms of involvement in the public political rituals (Svetlana Stephenson).