NEW REALITY, NEW HUMAN
It was at least twice that Nowa Huta had to re-invent itself, adapting to changing socio-economic conditioning: first when it was built, and then after the year 1989. It thus provides a picture of complexly woven urban fabric through the transformations of the previous century. A twenty-minute-ride away from the historical centre of Kraków, it is far more distant from it in social, cultural, and symbolic terms.
It was originally intended as an alternative to “reactive Kraków” and, as Monika Golonka-Czajkowska points out “there is no doubt that the location of the «Grand Construction of Socialism» was determined at the political level.”i The newspaper Gazeta Krakowska announced in 1949 that “A wind of new times is going to blow over Kraków which is bound to dispel the remains of the stifling aura, and leave a socialist mark on the city.”ii Naturally, a very different propagandic message was contained in the paper delivered by Józef Cyrankiewicz at the First Voivodeship Conference of the Polish United Workers’ Party (PZPR), which took place in Kraków:
By decision of the government, the main investment of the six-year-plan, the largest factory for manufacturing steel in Poland (…), a new steelworks is going to be constructed in the poorly industrialised Voivodeship of Kraków. This means that a new vast cement factory and numerous other plants, as well as a railway, will also be built. This means several thousand workers, this means teams of engineers and technologists, this means a new image for the Kraków Voivodeship, and so for old Kraków as well, where everything that is valuable in our tradition will acquire new meaning and become part of the new forms of People’s Poland.iii
As a new creation, Nowa Huta ‘destroyed’ the urban, social and cultural structure of Kraków, the city it was incorporated into.
Employing all kinds of ‘tools’, the new authorities attempted to create a ‘new human’, but, as Jacek Wasilewski stresses, “they produced an image rather than reality. But the image was crucial. It was part of the utopian harmony of the future. All social divisions were to become obsolete, «discrepancies» characteristic of the old culture were to disappear. The «worker-peasant alliance» was propagated.”iv One of those tools was architecture. At the time, urban projects were more than simply intervention in space, they reconfigured it symbolically and generated new social subjects. In compliance with the ideas of Soviet constructivists in the 1920s, Nowa Huta architecture as a “social condenser” served to carve radically new types of human communities: shared accommodation, coproduction, intellectual labour; but also affection, beauty, empathy, and passion. The intention behind the “social condenser” was to influence designs for public spaces, and in this way to do away with social hierarchies and to create socially equitable spaces. According to Catherine Cooke and Katerina Clark, this idea is situated at the border between mundane daily matters (or existence), and what is extraordinary, utopian, out of this world («new culture», «new society»).v Social condensers were meant to be “crystallised” material forms of the new society and culture,
new organisms that would not only crystallise new industrial and existential relations, new socialist existence, but would also make the process of crystallisation as easy as possible, the progress towards the new existence, and would make old architectural forms and social coexistence outdate.vi
It was believed that better living conditions would support interventional schemes against exclusion and poverty, and could also impose discipline upon people’s lives and prefabricate new humans.
Constructors and politicians came up with an idea of the city, but it is amongst people, or in the midst of interpersonal relations that the urban shell turned into a living body. This perspective is close to the definition of the city provided by Marek Krajewski: “it constitutes a specific mechanism of socialisation, and namely one whose subject matter, place, point of reference is found mainly in urbanised spaces, but also all that is in these spaces.”vii For the sociologist, the process of socialisation involves a mechanism allowing individuals, but also flora and fauna as well as all man-made things (technologies, objects, institutions, and organisations) to be incorporated in human communities.
As a result of this process, individuals acquire various types of competence which enable them to adapt to man-made environment. (…) And most importantly: a consequence of the socialisation process is making individuals capable of taking independent action. The process gives us the competence to influence the course of the process of inclusion into social life that shapes us, correcting it and contributing to its specificity, giving it the right form for the ones who come after us as well as our predecessors to be included in the collectivity.viii
Thus understood, the process is analogous to the social practice described by anthropologist Michał Buchowski as “self-agency of ordinary people, acting subjects, who perform daily acts adapting to the system, fitting into an imposed framework, but transforming the system by what they do at the same time.”ix
In the context of early stories Nowa Huta appears as an agonistic space, which – as Chantal Mouffe claims – reveals multiple activities and experiences which constitute the social fabric, and the conflicts they create.x “Two worlds. Some went to Labour Day Parades, others celebrated People’s Festivals holding flags in church.”xi Monika Golonka-Czajkowska writes that
residents of other districts in Kraków believed that Nowa Huta was a hotbed of evil, demoralisation, inebriation, and all kinds of pathology that communism was thought to have caused. People who came to live here were primitive and wild, “uncultured,” immoral, ill-suited to city life.xii
Moving from the countryside to the city denoted social advancement, and socialist authorities saw the transformation of peasant into labourer as part of the modernising vision for the country. However, for urban intelligentsia their own alter ago was always ascribed to the created Others, comers from the countryside even if they were already residents of Nowa Huta. A new, internal colonisation is thus developed, orientalisation of villages and peripheries – “orientalism à la polonaise,” as Michał Buchowski wrote.xiii It should be stressed, however, as Tomasz Rakowski points out, that the ensuing situation is one in which “these very subjects, rural communities, begin to subjugate their voices to central discourses, bashfully mute their languages and experiences, and eventually perform an internal self-colonisation of sorts.”xiv In Nowa Huta the figure of the “Other” – “Stranger” tended to be identified with SP junaks; inhabitants of what had once been nearby villages referred to them as “the Colorado beetle,” stories were related about them being dirty, bearish, and often accompanied by a prostitute from Nowa Huta. Golonka-Czajkowska believes that the foundation myth of this version of the “black legend” was provided by Adam Ważyk’s Poem for Adults which, when it was first published in 1955, caused a storm that surprised even its author.xv It is worth emphasizing that it is usually social elites, authors of publications, films, and initiators of social debates that tend to be culturally dominant, and construct images of a given community. According to Rakowski, what happens then is that the norms of our culture “begin to give an account of a totally different social environment, a completely strange and impenetrable culture,” which is “[…] nothing but the reverse of «our» culture,” the loss of it, the “lack” of it, a picture of unpatterned social existence.”xvi We are entering the area of encounter, conflict, and ongoing transformation determining the forms of social existence of various environments at the time being. On the one hand, the Nowa Huta environments which are mute or use a very specific language, and on the other, urban environments which carry out symbolical subjugation and orientalisation for their own constructive need.
i M. Golonka-Czajkowska, p. 301.
ii Gazeta Krakowska, no. 155, 22 July 1949 – quoted after M. Golonka-Czajkowska, p. 301.
iii After: T. Zieja, “Ziemia zrabowana”, in A. Gryczyński (ed.), Czas zatrzymany, Kraków, Nowohuckie Centrum Kultury, 2008, p.123.
v After: M. Murawski, “Introduction: crystallising the social condenser”, The Journal of Architecture, Vol 22 (3), 2017, p. 379.
vi M. Murawski, “Introduction”, p. 379.
vii M. Krajewski, “Miasto. Na tropach tego, co niewidzialne”, Przegląd Socjologiczny, 2-3/60, 2011, p.112.
viii M. Krajewski, “Miasto”, p. 112.
ix M. Buchowski, Czyściec. Antropologia neoliberalnego postsocjalizmu, Poznań, Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicz, 2017, p. 229.
x Chantal Mouffe, Agonistyczne przestrzenie publiczne i polityka demokratyczna, http://recyklingidei.pl/mouffe-agonistyczne-przestrzenie-publiczne-polityka-demokratyczna, Recycling idei, 19.05.2005, (accessed 5 May 2018).
xi T. Zieja, “Ziemia zrabowana”, p.124.
xii M. Golonka-Czajkowska, Nowa Huta, p. 309.
xiii M. Buchowski, The Specter of Orientalism in Europe: From Exotic Other to Stigmatized Brother, 2008, p. 10.
xiv T. Rakowski, “Sztuka w przestrzeniach wiejskich i eksperymenty etnograficzne. Pożegnanie kultury zawstydzenia: jednoczasowość, zwrot ku sobie, proto-socjologia”, Teksty Drugie, no. 4, 2016.
xv M. Golonka-Czajkowska.
xvi T. Rakowski, Łowcy, zbieracze, praktyce niemocy. Etnografia człowieka zdegradowanego, Gdańsk, słowo / obraz terytoria, 2009, pp.10-11.