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Poland’s post-communist development is defined by economic and political progress, marred by divisive and unstable politics. An acrimonious political discourse, low levels of public participation, and chaotic politics appear in sharp contrast to a unified, engaged society of pre-1989. The reasons for the path lie in the nature of Poland’s challenge to communism, the ethos of the opposition, and the expression of politics in normative value terms. Since 1989, attempts to appropriate the values of Solidarity as political capital have led to deep political divisions, first expressed in a post-communist divide between the former regime and the opposition, then in a post-Solidarity divide among heirs of the movement. The conflict over the legacy of Solidarity through the appropriation of its normative ethos for partisan politics distorts the values of collective will and social solidarity. The latest discourse pits the vision of “liberal Poland” dedicated to pluralist principles, individual rights and tolerance of differences to the vision of a “solidaristic Poland” dedicated to traditional, Christian and nationalist values. In these agendas, the symbolism of Solidarity serves as political capital to advance distinctive political futures.

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