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Skeletons in the Closet
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Book description

This book tackles three puzzles of pacted transitions to democracy. First, why do autocrats ever step down from power peacefully if they know that they may be held accountable for their involvement in the ancien régime? Second, when does the opposition indeed refrain from meting out punishment to the former autocrats once the transition is complete? Third, why, in some countries, does transitional justice get adopted when successors of former communists hold parliamentary majorities? Monika Nalepa argues that infiltration of the opposition with collaborators of the authoritarian regime can serve as insurance against transitional justice, making their commitments to amnesty credible. This explanation also accounts for the timing of transitional justice across East Central Europe. Nalepa supports her theory using a combination of elite interviews, archival evidence, and statistical analysis of survey experiments in Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.

Reviews

'Monika Nalepa has written a terrific book that explores a central question of democratization: why do autocrats give up power when they can reasonably expect their rivals to punish them if they do? In a range of cases from Eastern Europe, she finds that the threat of revealing the ‘skeletons in the closet’ of anti-communist politicians helped ex-communist parties transfer power without violence. Her simple formal models shed light on other puzzles such as why lustration laws were often championed by ex-communist parties and why these laws were passed so late in the transition. Nalepa’s research is first-rate and the book brims with surprising insights about the politics of transferring power. This compelling book should be a high priority for anyone interested in comparative politics, democratization, or Eastern Europe.'

Timothy Frye - Columbia University

'Monika Nalepa's provocative and compelling analysis answers critical questions: why would authoritarian leaders peacefully leave office, knowing they face punishment for their violations of human rights and basic freedoms? And why would their opponents ever refrain from punishment? Her answers are subtle and sophisticated, recasting transitional justice in terms of elite complicity.'

Anna Grzymala-Busse - University of Michigan

'Skillfully blending careful theorizing, original data analysis, and an important collection of personal interviews, Nalepa’s book will likely redefine the received wisdom on the question of lustration for years to come. Her argument that the advent of lustration was not merely a reaction to the demands of voters in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of communism, but instead is a function of the degree to which relevant opposition actors in transition countries are stuck with ‘skeletons in their closet’ from communist infiltration and collaboration is powerful, provocative, and ultimately convincing. The book is a must read both for those interested in the subject of transitional justice writ large as well as for scholars of post-communist transitions. Indeed, at the end of the day, the book’s thesis is not simply a story about lustration: it is a story of the transitions themselves.'

Joshua A. Tucker - New York University

'Monika Nalepa's Skeletons in the Closet offers a ground-breaking analysis of transitional justice and its role in the consolidation of new democracies. Combining rigorous theoretical analysis with an impressive array of qualitative and quantitative evidence – including interviews with elites on both sides of transitions from communist rule in Eastern Europe as well as original surveys of citizens – this book makes a compelling case for its argument: policies that pursue transitional justice are typically not driven by the demands of voters and citizens. Instead, they must be understood as strategic choices by political elites acting in the fog of an authoritarian legacy, characterized by great uncertainty about past collaboration of resistance leaders with the former regime. This approach allows Nalepa to offer convincing explanations of puzzling aspects of the timing and the scope of transitional justice policies that have largely gone unexplained to date. This book will force scholars to re-think common conceptions about transitional justice, and it should be read not only by those who study post-communist Eastern Europe, but by anyone with an interest in transitions from authoritarianism to democracy.'

Georg Vanberg - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

'Why weren't former communist elites immediately punished after communism fell? In this excellent book Monica Nalepa explains why justice was delayed, and, paradoxically, why in the end it was the former communists that purged themselves. Through an impressive combination of formal theory, statistical analysis, and primary research in Eastern Europe, Nalepa finds that fears of collaboration within the ranks of non-communist parties drove the timing of punishment. Where such fears were high, these parties were inhibited from enacting such legislation; where they were low the former communists pre-empted the passage of harsh measures with milder ones of their own. No one who reads this carefully argued and provocative book will think about transitional justice in quite the same way again.'

Jason Wittenberg - University of California at Berkeley

'The issues raised or discussed in these studies should challenge scholars and generate discussion for years to come. Perhaps the dialogue that emerges can contribute to resolving impasses creatively and advancing transitional justice in societies struggling to recover from decades of repression.'

Nanci Adler Source: International Journal of Transitional Justice

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Contents

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Zemke, Janusz. 1998. Pierwsze czytanie (1) przedstawionego przez prezydenta Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej projektu ustawy o zmianie ustawy o ujawnieniu pracy lub służby w organach bezpieczeństwa państwa lub współpracy z nimi w latach 1944–1990 osób pełniących funkcje publiczne (druk nr 29) (First reading of the presidential proposal for a law revealing work and collaboration with the secret political police in 1944–1990). Parliamentary speech available online at www.sejm.gov.pl.
Zielinski, Jakub. 1999. “Transitions from Authoritarian Rule and the Problem of Violence.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 43(2): 213–28.
Zybertowicz, A., and Los, M.. 2000. Privatizing the Police State: The Case of Poland. London: Macmillan.
Archival Materials from Secret Police Files and Samizdat Collections (Accessed in Archiwum Osrodka Fundacji KARTA in Warsaw)
Anonymous. After 1981. Mały Konspirator, Ciąg Dalszy Nastąpi (a Samizdat Publication) (manual for conspiring members of the underground Solidarity network; contains instructions regarding how to behave in case of searches, arrests, etc.).
Anonymous. 1993. Taka Służba. Wspomnienia oficera SB. cz 1., cz 2. Nowe Podkarpackie. (That kind of service. Memoirs of a secret police officer.)
Beim, J. 1981a. Do kierownictwa sztabu komendy wojewodzkiej MO (Memo to the regional chiefs of communist police).
Beim, J.. 1981b. Informacja na temat odbioru “przesyłek specjanych” (Memo on technique for intersecting packages with Samizdat Publications).
Bielecki, Z. 1981. Plan dot. przeprowadzenia rozmów profilaktycznych z niektórymi figurantami wydz. II “A” KSMO. (Guidelines concerning conducting preemptive interviews with candidates for informers. Candidates for informers referred to persons “whose antisocialist activity had recently weakened, who had not been chosen to the leadership of Solidarity, although previously they had distinguished themselves as particularly aggressive in their antisocialist activity, and who were known for their antiregime attitudes, but usually activate in ‘favorable’ circumstances.” The guidelines anticipated that those interviewed would sign declarations of loyalty [lojalki] at the end of the interview. All interviews were to be conducted either at police headquarters or in private apartments rented out for this purpose. The last pages of this file contain a plan for arresting Zbigniew Janas, Solidarity leader at large [as of 1985].)
Borodziej, W., and Kochanowski, J.. 1995. PRL w oczach Stasi, Fakt. (Polish People's Republic in the eyes of Stasi.)
Jakimczyk, J. 1997. Piłsudczycy, kiedyś w SB. Życie. Warszawa: 5. (Pilsudzki supporters, once in the secret police.)
Gabinski, Z. 1980. Informacja w sprawie realizacji wytycznych Komendanta Glownego MO “Lad i Porzadek.” Warszawa, Komenda Glowna MO. (Information about the implementation of operation “Law and Order.”) (The report concerned the repeated conscription of retired police officers. It also contained information about the capture of one hundred anticommunist propaganda leaflets from twenty-four distributors.)
Jaruzelski, W. 1981. Wystąpienia na telekonferencji. Warszawa, Urzad Rady Ministrów. (Jaruzelski' teleconference with members of the cabinet; in which he advised participants of the teleconference to maintain positions [assumed during the implementation of martial law], because they are at a “point of no return.” He advised them to prevent power being squandered, and said, “We are patient, but the government must remain the government.” He also added that contrary to conventional wisdom, sternness does not aim at confrontation. “We would risk confrontation if we began to withdraw.”)
Jaruzelski, W.. 1982. wypowiedź na posiedzeniu Wojskowej Rady Ocalenia Narodowego. (Speech of Jaruzelski given during a meeting of the Military Council for National Salvation.) Jaruzelski said, among other things: “We believe that martial law is our obligation to our homeland. We must use our own resources to untie this knot.” He continued to talk about forces in the United States that have vested interests in the events in Poland leading to a shift in the balance of power in the world, the balance that gave Poles secure borders. “We have done everything in our power to strengthen the state. Just look at what has been happening in Chile, El Salvador, Turkey, and Ireland.”)
Katowice, K. 1981. Informacja o przebiegu działan w KWK “Wujek”w dniu 16.12.1981 r. Warszawa, Archiwum Osrodka Fundacji KARTA. (Information about the pacification of the Wujek coalmine.)
Milewski. 1980. Telekonferencja z Kierownikami Sztabów Wojewodzkich “Lato 80” oraz komendantami Wojewodzkimi MO pozostalych jednostek KWMO na terenie kraju. Warszawa, Osrodek Fundacji “KARTA” (teleconference with regional chiefs of operation Summer '80 and regional chiefs of the People's Militia).
Ministerstwo Spraw Wewnętrznych. Sztab operacji “Lato '80.” (Ministry of Internal Affairs, Headquarters of Operation Summer '80. The file describes the preparation of a list of 7,249 persons who were to receive training and permission for firearms for self-protection. The list included members of the prosecutors office, the judiciary, and social organizations whose health and livelihood may be threatened [if the confrontation with Solidarity were to escalate].)
MON. 1982. Zasadnicze Kierunki Działania oraz Zadania Realizowane przez WRON /Siły Zbrojne, MSW / w okresie stanu wojennego. Warszawa, Archiwum Osrodka Fundacji KARTA. (General Directives for the Realization Tasks by the Military Council of Nationa Salvation [WRON]).
MSW. 1981. Meldunek nr w zakresie internowania osób i w zakresie przeprowadzania rozmów profilaktycznych. (Report recruitment activity among interned Solidarity leaders; an estimated 56.9 percent were successfully prepared for being recruited by December 16, 1981.)
MSW. 1982. Informacja dot. działan Ministerstwa Spraw Wewnetrznych i Ministerstwa Obrony Narodowej w okresie stanu wojennego. (Information about completion of operations Jodła [the internment of Solidarity leaders) and Klon (the media takeover); reports on the successful recruitment of 1,597 persons for collaboration.)
Okraj, J. 1981. Plan działan Wydziału III AKSMO w przypadku akcji krypt. ‘KLON.’ Warszawa, Archiwum Fundacji Osrodek “KARTA.” (Plan of action for regional PeopleS' Militia units in the event that operation “KLON” is initiated.)
“S.” 1981. Tezy w sprawie przygotowania resortu spraw wewnetrznych do wprowadzenia stanu “W” na posiedzenie Komendantów Okręgu Katowickiego (Theses on preparing the Department of Internal Affairs to Introducing State “W” [martial law]), Warsaw, 1981.
Stachura, B. 1980. Telekonferencja z Kierownikami Sztabow Wojewodzkich “Lato 80”oraz komendantami Wojewodzkimi MO pozostałych jednostek KWMO na terenie kraju. (Teleconference with regional police chiefs regarding Operation Summer '80 and with commanders of police headquarters throughout Poland. The participants learned that around 1 million people were striking in 750 plants. They expressed concern about the engagement of students in the strike activity once the academic year started. They also estimated that the Catholic Church would not support the strikes.)
Stachura, B.. 1981. Szyfrogram w sprawie sporządzenia listy osob, którym ma być wydana broń palna (do obrony wlasnej). (Coded instruction to prepare a list of secret police officers who were to receive firearms for personal protection.)
Tomaszewski, A. 1982. Scenariusz Działan Operacyjnych w przypadku zastosowania akcji “KLON”i “WRZOS” w obiektach CIECH, pp “METALEXPORT i POLIMEX-CEKOP. (Scenario for infiltrating Solidarity cells in foreign trade cooperatives: METALEXPORT and POLIMEX-CEKOP according to operations Klon and Wrzos. The plan anticipated helping someone “friendly” to the secret police become one of the Solidarity leaders. The “friendly” person would be known to be sympathetic to the secret police's cause either by coming from abroad or from the internment of current leaders of Solidarity. Recruitment for collaboration with the secret police would frequently follow a target assuming a leadership position in Solidarity. In case a target refused cooperation, follow-up conversations were sometimes scheduled. In the case of the POLIMEX cooperative, the Solidarity leader had already been elected. The secret police planned to interview him, intimidate him with questions about what he had been doing in the United States, and why he returned to Poland, and eventually pressure him to resign his position. The secret police had already selected a cooperative candidate to assume the leadership position. The plan outlined the creating of a coalition of workers, affiliated with the communist party, who would support the election of the new leader. Furthermore, the plan outlined the recruitment of members of the foreign service who had family in the West for collaboration. The secret police would contact the target by telephone first and outline the tasks of collaboration abroad in conjunction with working abroad. If this was not effective, the target would be summoned to appear at police headquarters. There he would be induced to collaboration by a combination of bribes, but where necessary, threats – explaining, for instance, that by virtue of having family in the United States he was not qualified to go on business trips to the United States unless he cooperated with the secret police [these threats were usually effective, because the target was anxious about losing his passport]. An attachment contained names of persons who had been selected as candidates for recruitment.)
Wb, J. 1997. Raport z Drugiej Strony: historia: tajne raporty SB z okresu stanu wojennego. (Report from the other side: Secret reports of SB from martial law.) Gazeta w Lublinie. (Lublin), nr 290: 4–8.
Zaczkowski, Jacek. 1981. Telekonferencja gen. Żaczkowskiego. Warszawa, Ministerstwo Spraw Wewnetrznych Sztab operacji “Lato '80.” (Teleconference transcript from meeting with General Zaczkowski, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Headquarters of Operation Summer '80. Participants admitted that the situation had considerably worsened and called for “a demonstration of force, more focused activity and maneuvers.” Finally, participants were advised not to call Solidarity activists for military conscription, but they agreed not to create written lists of Solidarity activists, but just go by word of mouth.)
Zielinski, Z. 1981. Protokół z posiedzenia Wojskowej Rady Ocalenia Narodowego. (Report from a meeting of WRON in which the participants admitted that martial law preempted the confrontation of “internal and external forces that would have resulted in the internationalization of the Polish case.” The report also postulated helping soldiers who had distinguished themselves by going to college and finding jobs. Finally, the report anticipated selecting thirty laborers for a meeting with the WRON during which they would be informed that martial law had been implemented as the government's strategy of last resort. The selected laborers would be cautioned about the “sabotage and diversion activities conducted by the western secret service.”)
Zielinski, Z.. 1982. Protokół z posiedzenia Wojskowej Rady Ocalenia Narodowego. (Report from a meeting of WRON with Bishop Glemp, during which the latter was supposed to have said that “Solidarity had become increasingly confrontational since the events in Radom” [the decision to organize a general strike in response to a new price hike]. The report also stated that Glemp had tried to come up with excuses for the Catholic Church's declaration toward Sejm [the lower house of parliament] and students. The file also contained a request issued to the chief of the Polish army to “prevent the creation of the myth of Solidarity.”)

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