Legal Culture under Stalinism in Poland
The Legal Culture project presents a unique approach towards interdisciplinary, analytical research of law, literature and film in the context of Central-Eastern Europe and its undemocratic, semi-totalitarian regimes of 1945-1989. Special focus is on the question of narratives around law and justice pertaining to the very foundations of the communist system, which in the period of 1945-1989 strongly reflected the communist ideology. One of the project’s main objectives is thus to use the existing research on Stalinist legal culture and combine it with law and the humanities to reflect upon a range of topics that have not yet been subject to scholarly research.
The project contributes to the general popularisation of interdisciplinary studies exploring the interactions between law and culture throughout Central-Eastern Europe. For the past years Professor Marek Wąsowicz and I have co-edited academic works containing a wide selection of essays elaborating on the connections between law and literature, published under the patronage of the Faculty of Law and Administration of University of Warsaw and by courtesy of Scholar Publishing House. As a continuation of the previous publications, we are currently preparing the third volume, which elaborates on the subject of multidisciplinary relations between law and humanities and contains a selection of essays by prominent scholars.
Three new scientific articles have been written by Jaroslaw Kuisz (Ph.D.) within the framework of the MCS project:
1) Perverting Legal Education? Audiovisual Legal Propaganda in Early Communist Poland (1944-1947)
- Submitted to the Law and Humanities journal (accepted by Prof. Gary Watt).
The establishment of the communist legal order was one of the most significant experiences of the European legal culture in the twentieth century. All changes to the law were subordinated to the ambitious project of constructing ‘a new society’ and ‘a new man’. To carry on the declared social and political revolution it was not enough just to prepare new acts of law. It was necessary also to take care of the loyal staff of lawyers, to eliminate political opponents and, last but not least, to win the favor of workers and peasants. The transition of law during the communist conquest of Eastern Europe after World War II was introduced in a ‘top-down’ approach. Not surprisingly, legal propaganda played a fundamental role in this process. Thousands of leaflets on the subject of new laws and regulations were printed, suitable communist propaganda radio broadcasts were aired, and new ‘justice’ was shown on the silver screen.
The most spectacular examples of the overt imposition of a new order in the Polish People’s Republic were show trials, however, historians should not neglect the meaning of the fictitious acts of law. In this article, I would like to draw attention to the legal propaganda in the communist Polish newsreels from 1944 to 1947.
For propagandists, cinema was seen as one of the best tools. The main challenge was quite universal - to transform legal norms into audio-visual materials, which should have a dramatic scheme, engaging viewers intellectually and emotionally. Cinematography was therefore used for legal propaganda purposes and strategically selected audiovisual materials became a part of the perverse legal education of the audience. Some scholars even argue that these legal propaganda campaigns could partly be considered as effective in the past and therefore meaningful for present times. In this article, I set out to examine how communist ‘law in film’ contributed to the development of sophisticated methods of communication to the mass audience.
2) How To Propagandise A Fictional Constitution. On the film propaganda of law in the Polish People’s Republic (1952)
- Submitted to the Journal of Contemporary History.
Propaganda of the new state and law was fundamental in the establishment of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe after the Second World War. This article presents a case study of the propaganda campaign for the constitution of 1952 in the Polish People’s Republic, by which the process of Stalinisation in the satellite state of the Soviet Union was meant to be complete. Scholars of legal history regard the 1952 constitution, as well as the public debate prior to its adoption, as totally fictitious. Nevertheless, from a perspective on the relationship between law and film, the article finds it an interesting object of study. The Communists unleashed a massive propaganda campaign to popularize the new basic law in mass media, with film newsreels playing a crucial part. Historical source material from the Polish Film Chronicle unveils techniques of translating law into film. Despite the distorting mirror of totalitarian propaganda, Communist cinema worked out techniques to close up with citizen’s intellectual and emotional engagement with law, such as legal education, jurisdiction or law making. Nowadays, similar issues are discussed under the term ‘popular legal culture’.
(1) Introduction (2) The modern context of scientific research: (1.a) The “iconic turn”, (1.b) Law and film studies (3) Communist propaganda of law. The case of the Polish People’s Republic (1944-1951) (3.a) Historical and legal background (3.b) “The propaganda of law” (3.c) The film propaganda of law. The Polish Film Chronicle (1944-1951) (4) Case study: The PRL constitution (1952) (4.a) Work on the constitution: the background (4.b) The beginning of the nation-wide “debate” about the draft (5) The film propaganda of law for the draft 1952 constitution (5.a) Early PKF material (5.b) Subsequent PKF episodes dedicated to the draft constitution (5.c) 22 July 1952 on film (5.d) The propaganda of law after 22 July 1952 (6) Conclusions
3) Playing the law. The Attitude of Polish Dissidents Towards Post-Stalinist and International Law in the late 1970s
- Submitted and accepted by the research group lead by Mateusz Fałkowski (Ph. D., Polish Academy of Science) for the special issue of the East European Politics and Societies,
- As a part of the collection of articles the article was submitted to the East European Politics and Societies (the EEPS journal accepted the idea of the collection beforehand).
This article shows how dissidents in the latter half of the 1970s ‘played the law’ in the Polish People’s Republic. Laws established by an undemocratic government, and thus theoretically lacking democratic legitimacy, were used by the opposition to delegitimize the government. The author describes the goals of the opposition and the lines of argument it employed, and how the Communist party—the other player in this peculiar game—made reciprocal efforts to exploit the law in order to weaken the opposition. The article discusses the specific international and Polish legal documents referenced by both sides of this game—the opposition and the government. The law was an important resource for both sides. This analysis nuances and demythologizes popular claims about the ‘Helsinki effect’ by illustrating the role and legal context of the Helsinki Accords against the backdrop of local laws and the strategies undertaken by both actors. Furthermore, it describes the important institutional setting that influenced the types of actions undertaken by the protest movement in communist Poland.
1. Introduction. 2. Law and politics in the Polish People’s Republic. 3. The law in force. The international backdrop: a) The Helsinki Accords – the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe; b) Human Rights Covenants; c) Conventions of the International Labour Organization. 4. The law in force. The national backdrop. 5. ‘Playing the law’, namely problems of legality of political activities: a) The breakthrough of 1976. A strategic choice; b) KOR and the ‘Charter of Workers' Rights’; c) Movement for Defence of Human and Civic Rights – ROPCiO; d) ... and the authorities also ‘play’. 6) Conclusion.
- Jarosław Kuisz, Remarks on the Future of Law and Literature Movement [O przyszłości ruchu prawo i literatura – zarys problematyki], (in:), Law and Literature. Second Volume of Essays [Prawo i literatura. Szkice drugie], editors: Jarosław Kuisz, Marek Wąsowicz, Scholar Publishing House, Warsaw 2017, pp. 24-31.
- Jarosław Kuisz, From the Law and Literature Movement to the Law and Film Movement. General remarks [Od prawa i literatury do prawa i filmu – zarys problematyki], (w:) Prawo i literatura. Antologia, editors: Jarosław Kuisz, Marek Wąsowicz, Scholar Publishing House, Warsaw 2018 [in print].
- Jarosław Kuisz, On the conference „Law and Humanities” at the University of Warsaw, Poland [Sprawozdanie z konferencji „Law and Humanities”], „Czasopismo-Prawno-Historyczne” 2018, vol. I (LXX), pp. 391-393.
- Kinder der Revolution. Debatte Populismus in Polen, “Die Tageszeitung” 29. 4. 2018
- Im Labor des Populismus. Essay Politische Kultur in Polen, “Die Tageszeitung” 24. 9. 2017
- Zu viele Emotionen. Die Stimme aus dem Ausland, “Die Tageszeitung” 8. 9. 2017
[articles available on line : https://www.taz.de/!s=kuisz/ ]
- Jarosław Kuisz, The End of Western Myths [Koniec mitu Zachodu], „Kultura Liberalna” (Nr 375) 15.03.2016.
- Jarosław Kuisz, Monthly Anniversaries: only dissidents in the streets [Miesięcznice: Na ulicach ci sami dysydenci], “Rzeczpospolita” 07.2017.
- Jarosław Kuisz, 1st Polish Republic (PR), 2nd PR and 3rd PR… A short history lesson in how to destroy your own country and its legal foundations [I RP, II RP, III RP… Krótka historia niszczenia własnego państwa i prawa], „Kultura Liberalna” (Nr 446) 25 lipca 2017.
Co-edited books (2016-2018)
- Law and Literature. Second Volume of Essays [Prawo i literatura. Szkice drugie], editors: Jarosław Kuisz, Marek Wąsowicz, Scholar Publishing House, Warsaw 2017, pp. 24-31.
- Law and Literature 3. Anthology [Prawo i literatura 3. Antologia], editors: Jarosław Kuisz, Marek Wąsowicz, Scholar Publishing House, Warsaw 2018 [in print].
- Dealing with the difficult past, vol. 1-2 [Trudne rozliczenia z przeszłością. Tom 1-2], editors: Jarosław Kuisz, Karolina Wigura, Wojciech Sadurski, Scholar Publishing House, Warsaw 2018 [vol. 1 – printed, vol. 2 - in print].
International cooperation and continuous research group projects at UCPH
- 2016-2018: The Past's Future project at the UCph funded by the Velux Foundation: meetings, seminars & workshops in the period of 2016-2018, incl.: workshop at the Nationalmuseet - National Museum of Denmark (May 5, 2017).
- 2017-2018: CEMES (Centre for Modern European Studies) research group at the UCph: meetings, seminars & workshops in the period of 2017-2018, incl.: conference (November 15 2017, UCph); conference title: „Migration discourse in Scandinavia and East-Central Europe: oppositions or continua? Immigration, media dynamics, and populism in Scandinavia and Poland”. Paper presented: “The new Iron Curtain? The Visegrad group and the refugee crisis as seen from the Polish perspective”.
- UCph & Cinemateket in Copenhagen: participation in the course on law and film studies by Russell Dees & Ditlev Tamm in the period of 2016-2018, incl. introduction and presentation of the Polish movie “The Debt” (1999, dir. K. Krauze) [Cinemateket, Feb. 22, 2017].
Selected international conferences and seminars
Association for Slavic, East European, & Eurasian Studies Annual Convention “Global Conversations” (November 17-20, 2016, Washington, DC, USA). Panel: “Human Rights: Global Conversations, Socialist Positions”. Chair: Joachim von Puttkamer, U of Jena (Germany). Papers: Michal Kopecek, Institute for Contemporary History, ASCR (Czech Republic); “Socialist Conception of Human Rights: the Trajectories of the Marxist Developmental Model”; Jarosław Kuisz (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen): “Fictional Human Rights and Real Human Rights? The Polish Authorities’ and Dissidents’ Attitude towards Law in the 1970s”; Ned Richardson-Little, U of Exeter (UK), “The Ideological Crisis of the 1980s and the Failed Socialist Declaration of Human Rights”. Disc.: Joachim von Puttkamer, U of Jena (Germany).
- Public presentations of the development of my MCS project on the Communist Legal Propaganda. Speaker: Jaroslaw Kuisz (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen). Chair: Prof. Helle Porsdam (University of Copenhagen). Incl. dates: November 25, 2016; June 13, 2017; Sept. 19, 2017. Venue UCopenhagen, Law School.
- Research stay at the St Antony`s College, UOxford (2017 January – March). Conferences, seminars, paper presentations, incl.:
- Seminar “Legal propaganda in Communist Poland” (February 7, 2017). Venue: European Studies Centre, Oxford. Speaker: Jaroslaw Kuisz (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen). Chair: Lamprini Rori (A.G. Leventis Fellow, St Antony’s College).
- Seminar “Poland in the European Union” (March 7, 2017), Venue: European Studies Centre, St Antony’s College, Oxford. Speakers: Andrzej Zybertowicz (Nicolaus Copernicus University, Torun. Adviser to the President of Poland Andrzej Duda), Kalypso Nicolaidis (St Antony’s College), Jarosław Kuisz (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen).
- Screening of the 'Generations' film at the UCL, London. The film was introduced by Dr. Ula Chowaniec. Followed by discussion and commentaries from Prof. Jan Kubik (SSEES), Dr. Katarzyna Zechenter (SSEES), Jarosław Kuisz (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen). (date: 20th March 2017). Venue: UCL Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre,
- Conference „History of Law and other humanities: views of the legal world across the time”, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, Dipartimento di Giurisprudenza (30 May – 1 June 2017). Paper: „How to promote a fictitious constitution? Legal propaganda in Films as presented to the wide audience in Stalinist Poland”, panel: “Law and Cinema”.
- Conference „History of Law and other humanities: views of the legal world across the time” (30 May – 1 June 2017), Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, Dipartimento di Giurisprudenza. Chair of the panel “Constitutionalism, Politics and State-Building”; participants: Ludovico Maremonti (U di Roma), Piotr Michalik (Jagiellonian U), Marcin Łysko (U Białystok), Lu Da (U of Szeged)
- Organization of the international Danish-Polish academic conference “The Rule of Law and the Humanities”, which presented the idea of the rule of law from the perspective of interdisciplinary studies on law and culture, ie. “Law and Literature” and “Law and Film Studies” [13th October 2017]. Venue: Law Faculty Building – Collegium Iuridicum I, UWarsaw. Incl.: Law and Literature. Student Panel and papers by: prof. Daniela Carpi (University of Verona), prof. Ditlev Tamm (University of Copenhagen), prof. Marek Wąsowicz (University of Warsaw), prof. Gary Watt (University of Warwick), Prof. Christian Delage (CNRS, Paris), dr Jarosław Kuisz (University of Warsaw), prof. Stefan Machura (Bangor University), prof. Helle Porsdam (University of Copenhagen).
- Conference “Dealing with a Difficult Past: Poland’s Transitional Justice in a Comparative Perspective”. Polish Academy of Science, Warsaw. Workshop: „Alternatywne języki sprawiedliwości okresu przejściowego” [19th October 2017]. Discussant: Jarosław Kuisz.
- CEMES (Centre for Modern European Studies) conference „Migration discourse in Scandinavia and East-Central Europe: oppositions or continua? Immigration, media dynamics, and populism in Scandinavia and Poland”. Paper presented: “The new Iron Curtain? The Visegrad group and the refugee crisis as seen from the Polish perspective” (November 15 2017, UCph).
- Seminar “Zygmunt Bauman as a Polish and Global Thinker: How Solid is "Liquid Modernity’?” (February 9th., 2018). Speakers: Richard Sennett (LSE, New York University), Katarzyna Kasia (Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw), and Jaroslaw Kuisz (University of Copenhagen, St Antony’s College). The chair : Michael Biggs (St Cross College).
- Conference Poland: From Paradigm to Pariah Polish Constitutional Crisis: Facts and Interpretations (March 8- 9, 2018, Wolfson College, Oxford. Incl.: paper presentation: “Post-Communist Phantom Pains. On the Socio-Legal Background to the Controversial Reforms in Poland”.
- Seminar on the current political developments in Poland for the Danish Foreign Policy Society [His Royal Highness the Danish Crown Prince Frederik is the Patron of the Society] (the Danish Foreign Policy Society , April 10, 2018).
- Conference “Europeanism And Nationalism: Post-1989 Poland In Comparative Perspective” (Oxford, 11-12 May). Panel 3: The Post-1989 Legal Revolution in New EU Member States: Too Fast and Too Shallow? Fryderyk Zoll (UJagiellonian) Grażyna Skąpska (UJagiellonian) Kriszta Kovács (WZB, Berlin) Chair: Jarosław Kuisz (University of Warsaw).
- Seminar at the Institut d'Histoire du Temps Présent, CNRS, Paris. Paper presentation: “Stalinist Audiovisual Legal Propaganda”. Chair: Prof. Christian Delage (IHTP, CNRS) [June 19, 2018].
The Legal Culture project is an EU project and has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 659148.
The Rule of Law, the Humanities and History Conference took place 3 October 2017, at the University of Warsaw, Faculty of Law and Administration.
The conference was devoted to interdisciplinary links between law and the humanities, examined in the context of the legal culture in Poland under communism.