ZBIGNIEW ZYCHOWICZ Academy of Agriculture in Szczecin, Poland
Editors' note: The shift from authoritarian Communist regimes to more decentralized forms of democratic governance is highly instructive, as local parties will be critically important in conveying political information and socializing the population into the new framework of democratic values, norms, and institutions. This case and the case of Russia show the daunting challenges ahead. In these societies, the very term "party" (usually applied to competing political groups) was stretched to cover monopolistic institutions and provided the entire political system with basic forms of legitimacy and ideological orientations. This has surely been the case in Socialist Poland, where the party created the Parliament, government, and all other authorities. Consequently, the dissolution of such monopoly parties was sufficient to cause the decay of the whole governmental system erected on them. No "bottom-up" parties were readily available to restore the legitimacy of a national regime. In addition, the erosion of the national party leads to the political decay of all intranational party organizations (like local sections), because all these subunits have never been conceived to function without centralized guidance and support. Because communities in Poland never got the opportunity to develop endogenous parties, they have quickly become "colonized" by the newly founded national parties, which are eager to establish local mobilization agencies in order to gain a maximum number of voters. Thus, the relevance of local parties for political legitimization is actually illustrated by post-Socialist countries, where the breakdown of the national regime left many (particularly smaller) communities without organized groupings able to control the processes of political recruitment (see also Schneider,Chapter 5).
The question of the participation of parties in many aspects of communal life is, first of all, the question of the functioning of the commune itself, or