The (not always sweet) uses of opportunism: post-communist political parties in Poland
AbstractThe author argues that political opportunism, an attitude common among communist party members before 1989, turned into both the blessing and the curse for post-communist parties in Poland. Once hopeful of secure careers in the authoritarian structures of the old regime, after the regime breakdown communists found themselves in a situation where the only chance for such a career could be associated with the party reinventing itself as a player in the field of pluralist democracy. Opportunistic attitudes of communist apparatchiks and nomenklatura members were instrumental in transforming them, individually and collectively, into effective actors in market economy and competitive politics. Yet the same attitudes doomed the post-communists once the opportunities associated with access to political power opened up widely. The same people who in the 1990s were so apt in turning the rules of democratic game into their collective advantage, in the 2000s acted with a sense of impunity and lack of any consideration for political accountability that in democracies arrives at the end of any election cycle. Plagued by corruption scandals, they lost their popular base: the economically disadvantaged groups to nationalistic populists, the urbane libertarians to liberal democrats. [Krzysztof Jasiewicz is professor of Sociology at Washington and Lee University.]
Krzysztof Jasiewicz is the Wm. P. Ames, Jr. Prof. in Sociology and Anthropology at Washington and Lee University.
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