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EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

Call for Research on long-term Consequences of Formal Communist Regimes

25.11.2019, by Tina Keil in opinion

by Cătălin Mamali, Ph.D.

Cătălin Mamali
Cătălin Mamali

Dear Colleagues,

It is now 30 years and a bit from the fall down of the formal communist regimes across Europe. While social psychology research (European and not only) has since achieved a well-documented and highly significant progress, at the same time our discipline faces a tremendous unfinished job with profound epistemic, moral, political and practical ramifications. This unfinished job regards the systematic study of the human disaster generated by the communist ideology and politics over a long period of time.

I am more than aware that our field of inquiry is extremely rich and growing at a fast pace. My attempt to add a topic of relatively wide interest is therefore a daring job that might look unrealistic, even considered as romantic.

However, very few social psychologists, sociologists, social historians and political scientists have been interested in the wide range of human problems disclosed by the fall of the communist regimes in 1989 in Europe, and by the inertia of the communist habits, mentality, network and ideology. These problems may include moral issues, structural violence and terror, character issues (such as resilience to repressive structures and practices), solitary confinement, consequences of the long-term mistreatment of people in psychiatric hospitals, genocides, the inertial power of the communist ideology, of the networks, mentalities and the authoritarian practices, among many other questions. Such issues have been and are of significant interest despite the fact that their place within the main stream research is rarely visible.

On the other hand, there is, in a strongly justified interest supported by a relatively wide large scientific space (publications, conferences, etc.) to the inquiry in the roots, trajectories, causes and consequences of extreme right political orientations. It is a much-needed research based on recent history and care for the future. These research efforts might have a lot to win and learn if the systematic scientific research on the extreme left political orientations (their historical roots, consequences, and the dangers they pose fort the future of humankind) would receive the needed epistemic and institutional support.

We know that anniversaries and commemorations are essential for underscoring the shared epistemic, moral and political values of communities, be those of scientists, of common people that belong to various self-defined categories, and even of human kind allowing us to better approach and answer to question, “Who are WE?”

Being an immigrant from a former communist country who has been granted political asylum in the USA in 1997 (the year as such of the political asylum gives an idea about the slow pace of democratic changes in Romania) I noticed not once, but too many times that most of the tragedies generated by the communist criminal regimes have been avoided as specific targets of scientific inquiry in our field, or failed to become a major theme of special scientific events (conferences, seminars, conventions, international meetings), at least to the best of my knowledge.

I think that it would be a good historical moment for attempting a joint exploration of the psychological, social-psychological, clinical and moral consequences of the inhuman practices of the communist regimes, of their long-term-consequences and the so-called transition period from a chrono-space without basic human rights to a chrono-space within which basic human rights can be openly claimed and even practiced in some degrees.

What do I have in mind? A few things:

  1. To share this open letter with members of our organization(s) some of whom have firsthand experience of the communist terror
  2. To explore if there could be a place for a forum dedicated to such issues and research projects within the economy of the coming event (round table, interest groups…)
  3. To invite some researchers from other research areas (social history, political science, sociology) who studied communism, some within the wider contexts of totalitarianism, to share their view with us. For instance, such invitations could take into account well-known such as: Anne Applebaum, Daniel Chirot, Stéphane Courtois, Ivan Chvatík, George Kateb, Thierry Wolton and many others (this is a very short list that is also limited by my own knowledge)
  4. To explore if researchers might have carried out specific research projects focused on the consequences of the communist long-term brutal repression of human rights such as the freedom of thinking and expressions

Regarding the last point I submit to your attention four different studies focused on such issues:

  1. “Majority of one” – based on Thoreauvian approach to the question of minorities (his original approach is largely neglected by mainstream social-psychological research) and to that of non-violent resistance to unjust social practices.
  2. Ideological tyrannies – a study of the sources and consequences of ideological tyrannies in opposition to personal dictatorships.
  3. Opposing worldviews. The identification and analysis of a quasi-experimental historical situation generated by synchronic public delivery of two opposite action oriented texts in 1848: one as a brochure (Manifesto of the Communist Party by K. Marx and F. Engels in February 1848) and the other delivered a few weeks earlier as a public lecture on 26th of January 1848 (published later under the title Civil Disobedience, by H. D. Thoreau). The study looks to their political genealogies: one recklessly bloody and the other consistently non-violent.
  4. The survival of the interrogative potential of researchers with high intrinsic motivation within the context of a communist society.

All four projects are exemplified by one or more studies that are available from the author. I hope that you will consider my open letter and will communicate your answer when this will be convenient to you.

Sincerely yours,
Cătălin (