Hi everyone and welcome to my blog. My name is Vincent Post and I’m in the last year of my PhD in political science at McGill University. In an attempt to share some of my work as well as miscellaneous views on more mundane topics, I’ve created this blog. Essentially, I’ll post things here that my friends on facebook don’t want to hear about but that I still find interesting. Most of that is going to be about my research, which deals with communist spies.
My dissertation is entitled Putting Out the Fire, or Fanning the Flames? How Regulating Secret Service Files and Personnel Affects the Politicization of the Communist Past. It looks at the laws that post-communist societies in East and Central Europe put in place to address the legacy of communist secret services – KGB, Stasi, Securitate, StB. These secret police services recruited thousands of citizens to spy on thousands of others. After the wall came down, the presence of those collaborators and the files they collected had a strong potential to cause scandals in the new political order, and divide societies further. Do the ‘transitional justice’ policies that countries put in place help to resolve this situation, or do they keep the communist past salient?
My research is based on over seventy interviews that I conducted in the Czech and Slovak Republics while I was in the field there (January-May 2013) as well as on an analysis of newspaper coverage and countless other documents. I’m finishing up in 2015 and you can already check out two draft chapters here and here. I can’t stress enough that these chapters are still in draft status, so don’t quote them without asking me if that’s really what I want to say! The tentative point that I am making is that the way these laws that address the secret service legacy are set up, they are more likely to prolong contestation over the communist past.
The reason that they have that effect is that they are written not by bureaucrats or political hacks, but by activists – political actors that I refer to as policy entrepreneurs. A policy entrepreneur is not an entrepreneur who went into politics, but rather someone who dedicates their political career not to attaining high office or party success, but to promoting a certain policy agenda. In this case, that agenda is the agenda of remembering the communist past in a certain way. The point I’m making is that the politics of memory is not a game played between political parties, but rather between these policy entrepreneurs – and that is why the laws look the way they do, and have the effects that they do.
I started this blog a little over two years ago, and I’ve written about 40 short posts. Mostly they deal with Czech and to a somewhat lesser extent Slovak politics – not just things that affect my research, but politics more generally. Some of my posts have been picked up by The Monkey Cage, the political science blog of the Washington Post. They published a story I wrote about high-level prosecution arrests in The Czech Republic in June 2013: When the Incumbent is the Target.
After the early elections caused by those arrests, I wrote another post for them about the remarkable role of president Zeman in the government formation talks. They titled it: Is Zeman Ze Man?
In April 2014, they published a third post, this one about lustration in Ukraine, a post I wrote together with Maria Popova. This one appeared under the title ‘What is lustration and is it a good idea for Ukraine to adopt it?’.
I enjoy writing for the blog and it’s a good way for me to just document some thoughts I have about random stuff before it flits away. I hope you enjoy my posts, maybe I’ll even write about football some day :)