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Memoirs of a (Highly) Political Economist

Jan Winiecki

These memoirs portray an individual coping with the adversities and surrealistic qualities of life and work under communism. The author recollects his adolescence, next, how he tried to avoid head-on conflicts, dissented, and how he finally became a known critic of the system. As such, he belonged to a group of advisers to the underground «Solidarity» leadership. His memoirs help to understand the collapse of the communist system and the stormy period of systemic change from a personal perspective. The author participated in these changes as an already well known Sovietologist, as well as through his own on- and off involvements in post-communist transition politics, participating in various advisory bodies (including that advising President Walesa).
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Chapter 9: A Collision of Emotions, Ideology and Economics

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I stressed, primarily in Chapter 7, that stabilization had been the most contentious part of the “Holy Trinity” of transition from early to late 1990s. Battles were, however, mainly intellectual and policy-oriented. An average citizen of a transition country was not directly involved and arguments used were way above his or her level of economic competence (extremely low, given the economic illiteracy reigning under communism!).

About the only moment his or her concerns touched the stabilization was when wages were negotiated between a given trade union and state enterprise management (that is in the absence of a real owner!). So, in Poland they protested, for example, against the introduced tax on excessive wages (a part of the stabilization program for a few years). But the foregoing were, in fact, trivial pursuits. Much more depended on the stabilization part; I reminisced at length on the issues involved – and battles about them – in Chapter 7 above.

In parallel with my specific involvement in the stabilization issues (see in particular the work on the “Beksiak Report”), I have always been deeply interested in – and concerned about – the privatization part of the “Holy Trinity” of transition. It pre-dated the start of transition, please note the seminars I co-organized in Kazimierz Dolny on the new private sector and privatization of state enterprises in 1987–88, the years directly preceding the “game over” verdict on communism by history.

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