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Lessons from history




Insider and outsider paths to independence

Partitioned between Russia, Austria and Prussia in the late eighteenth-century, Poland fought a long campaign for independence, achieved finally on the conclusion of World War I.


The Polish struggle for independence represents a case study of two political strategies, known in Polish historiography as the Romantic and Positivist streams to the nationalist movement. Romantic and Positivist strategies find their respective correlates in ‘outsider’ and ‘insider’ tendencies in campaigning. This example emphasizes the mutual dependence of the two approaches. The time-frame involved reiterates the importance of taking a long view in forming judgements about social and political change. Read more...

A model social movement

Solidarity was "the largest and most sustained popular 'push' in the history of communist Eastern Europe", its impact on the events of 1989 not confined to Poland.


Its strengths lay in its ability to unite workers and intellectuals and to re-create a civil society separate from Party structures: to make people think of themselves again as citizens, not comrades.


Solidarity showed great tactical astuteness and strategic nous in exploiting the gaps that opened up as the moribund communist regime withered away as Soviet backing was withdrawn. Read more...

Symbols, Ideas, Acts

The anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa formed itself, by necessity as much as design, around three strands, each with different strengths and sources of legitimacy, each representing a different approach to how to bring about change. In this balance berween symbols, ideas and acts lay the strength of the movement and the lessons for other campaigns.

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