In This Review

The Defeat of Solidarity: Anger and Politics in Postcommunist Europe
The Defeat of Solidarity: Anger and Politics in Postcommunist Europe
By David Ost
Cornell University Press, 2005, 256 pp
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Ost goes against the grain, insisting that class is still a useful, indeed vital, sociopolitical category and that the working class, although usually among the losers in the transition from socialism to capitalism, remains a necessary impetus, not an obstacle, to democracy. When laborers are abandoned, as they were by the Solidarity leadership, labor, rather than religion or ethnicity, becomes the channel for the politics of anger -- not the murderous kind, but the kind derived from the frustration of those excluded from the benefits of liberal democracy, which to have meaning and stability must be inclusive. Labor is open to the appeals of those, usually on the right, who would urge anger against people (Jews, women, minorities) rather than situations (economic inequities). Something of this sort, he says, happened in Poland after 1989, turning class conflict -- a natural feature of capitalism -- from a fight over interests into a fight over identity, "thus promoting an illiberal political culture that has haunted Poland's democratization process ever since."