Punk against Communism: The Jarocin Rock Festival and Revolting Youth in 1980s Poland

  • Grzegorz Piotrowski
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements book series (PSHSM)


One of the greatest turning points in Poland’s modern history were the 1980s. The decade started with the emergence of the Solidarność trade union and the 16-month ‘carnival of Solidarność’, ending in martial law in December 1981. From this perspective, the 1980s ended with the semi-free elections of 1989 that marked the beginning of democratic change. The people involved in these movements and developments were a very heterogeneous group that cannot be reduced to the well-known democratic dissidents. By showing the significance of the lesser-known Polish groups in the process of overthrowing of communism — in particular youth groups and grassroots mobilizations connected to the punk rock subculture — this chapter addresses the question of whether punk rock helped to overthrow Poland’s communist regime. My claim is that these youth groups, their subcultures (and punk rock in particular) have played an important role in mobilizing different cohorts of society and introducing previously unmentioned issues into public debate. Moreover, the groups that emerged in the mid-1980s have laid the foundations for future grassroots mobilizations. Therefore the analysis of the rise and the development of youth subcultures should not only be carried out from a cultural perspective, but should also take into account the democratizing potential of subcultures. In order to do so, I first describe the background of the events, after which I move on to an analysis of the emerging youth subcultures, with particular focus on punk rock and the Jarocin rock festival. Subsequently, I assess the significance of this festival — and the youth subcultures associated with it — for the democratic struggles and transitions at the end of the 1980s.


Social Movement Youth Group Rock Music Secret Police Music Festival 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    G. Piotrowski (2011) ‘Jarocin: A Free Enclave behind the Iron Curtain’ East Central Europe, vol. 38, no. 2–3, 291–306;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. G. Piotrowski (2012) Grassroots Groups and Civil Society Actors in Pro-democratic Transitions in Poland (Department of political and social sciences, European University Institute).Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    P. Kenney (2002) A Carnival of Revolution: Central Europe 1989 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press), p. 9.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    M. Osa (2008) ‘Sieci opozycji w PRL’, in K. Gorlach and PH. Mooney (eds) Dynamika iycia społecznego: współczesne koncepcje ruchów społecznych (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Scholar), p. 223.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    P. Ackermann and J. DuVall (eds) (2001) A Force More Powerful (New York: Palgrave Macmillan), Chapter 3.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    K. Sipowicz (2008) Hipisi w PRL-u (Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Baobab).Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    A. Ostolski (2008) ‘Między wschodem a zachodem’, in P. Sadura (ed.) Polskie odcienie zieleni (e-book published by Boell Stiftung).Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    J. Wertenstein-Żuławski (1991) ‘Karnawał szarych ludzi: Jarocin 1980–1986’, in J. Wertenstein-Żuławski and M. Pęczak (eds) Spontaniczna Kultura Młodzieżowa (Wrocław: Wiedza o Kulturze).Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    K. Lesiakowski, P. Perzyna and T. Toborek (2004) Jarocin w obiektywie bezpieki (Warsaw: IPN), pp. 144–47.Google Scholar
  10. 15.
    H. Bey (2009) Tymczasowa Strefa Autonomiczna (Krakow: korporacja ha!art).Google Scholar
  11. 21.
    S.P. Ramet (1995) Social Currents in Eastern Europe: The Sources and Consequences of the Great Transformation (London: Duke University Press), p. 241.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Grzegorz Piotrowski 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Grzegorz Piotrowski

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations