Thursday, August 31, 2006

Whatever happened to the solidarity in Solidarność?

Underneath the celebrations this week to mark the 26th anniversary of the August strikes which led to the formation of the first free trade union in the communist bloc, lurks bitterness and incrimination.

The news that Lech Walesa was leaving Solidarity, and did not want to share a platform at the celebrations with his old prison mate from martial law Solidarity days, President Lech Kaczynski, seemed to surprise many outside Poland. But few were surprised here.

Walesa says many things, but this time he appears to be serious.
“They (Solidarity) have backed the Kaczynskis too much," Walesa told PAP news agency. "I don't want to be involved with that. It is no longer my Solidarity, Something is wrong with it."

Walesa has been a lonely figure politically for a longtime in Poland. At one time or another he seems to have wound up most of his old friends.

The bitter spat with the Kaczynski brothers goes back at least to the early nineties when Lech was in the middle of what his critics say was a dictatorial presidency. Relations between Walesa and many of the more right wing, and much of the time more Catholic, members of Solidarity were never good. This reached a peak during the chaos of the Olszewski government of 1992, with both sides accusing the other of planning a coup d\tat.

In fact, he tried to run the Solidarity movement the same way he tried to run the presidency. Walesa has always seen himself as a pragmatist. Principles come second to realities. And that often pit him up against the Solidarnosc fundamentalists for whom the purity and democracy of the revolution was everything.

Two of these fundamentalists have been in the news this week. Anna Walentynowicz, whose sacking from the Gdansk shipyard was the initial spark which set off the Solidarity strike in ‘Lenin’ shipyard, and Andrzej Gwiazda, one of the main negotiators during the strike.

Being fundamentalists they see the Solidarity revolution as being only half done. They think the ex-communists still have too much influence and too many have got rich. So when deputy defense minister Antoni Macierewicz claimed that many of Poland’s post 1989 foreign ministers were Soviet spies, Walentynowicz and Gwiazda leapt to his defense.

And then we get the news of National Institute of Remembrance (Poland’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee, but without the reconciliation) releasing evidence that Jacek Kuron, one of the leading Solidarity intellectuals, had had talks with the communist secret services in the late 1980s.

Kuron, it is said, wanted to exclude some groups within Solidarity from the Round Table talks of 1989.

Walesa has said that he had authorized Kuron and twenty other members of the union to talk and negotiate with the security forces. Continuity after the end of communism was vital, he said.

Not so say the fundamentalists.

Kuron was always held in suspicion by many in Solidarity. He was secular, a son of a Communist. Educated. Reformed Nomenclature.

But the main cleavage between the various parts that made up Solidarnosc are represented today by the various parties we have both in government and outside. Law and Justice, League of Polish Families are in government and come from the conservative/fundamentalist wing of Solidarity. The more secular, pragmatic free market orientated Civic Platform and perhaps the Democratic Party and individuals from the old Freedom Union are in opposition. The gap between the different Solidarity factions has never been wider.

And then we have Lech Walesa, all by himself, as usual.

Walesa snubbed on Solidarity celebration UPI, Sept 1
The Polish politics of personal destruction leave few untouched Polish Outlook,


michael farris said...

I have some other thoughts, but first I'll offer two observations from my years of living in Poland, ymmv.

I'm often amazed at how often Polish people I think would dislike each other (or who do actively dislike each other) can establish cordial and/or functional working relationships.

I'm even more amazed at how often Polish people who mostly agree and should be able to work together absolutely cannot and/or become bitter enemies after trying to do so (see PiS-PO post election debacle).

I've got some half-baked theories why this might be so, but nothing I want to commit myself in public to at present.

Anonymous said...

What are Walentynowicz and Gwiazda specifically saying about Kuron? Are they suggesting they he somehow sold them out or cut a deal for himself? Are they really claiming that this group of 20 was not authorized by Walesa, even though he says they were? Are Gwiazda and Walentynowicz being critical of Kuron at all? Have they called Walesa a liar in response to his claims? Were Gwiazda or Walentynowicz on this committee? Who were the others on the committee? And what group did Kuron want to exclude -- the Lepper forerunners? What party do Gwiazda and Walentynowicz support today? How close are they to each other politically? Are they still involved in Solidarnosc? Pardon my ignorance, BR, but a little more detail would be greatly appreciated -- as is the link you provided to the Anna Proletariat movie.

michael farris said...

"National Institute of Remembrance (Poland’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee, but without the reconciliation)"

and not much Truth either...

beatroot said...

Walentynowicz and Gwiazda never entered politics. They were trade unionist. Both of them though that Walesa compromised himself with the communists right from when he signed those August agreements with the big pen with the face of JP II on it.

They are not the ones criticizing Kuron – that is coming from the historians in the Institute. There beef is more with Walesa. They are also supporting Macierewicz (another one of the old Solidartity ‘fundamentalists’ on his accusation that foeeign ministers were spies. He kind of apologized after this remark and many in the government - for instance Sikorski – have distanced themsselves from it.

There are several different but related matters here. All I was trying to do was bring them all together. At a time when Solidarity should be celebrating it bitching and whining and eating itself.

Anonymous said...

One of the articles you linked referenced Gwiazda as having been a leader in the "world order movement" after 1989. Know anything about that?

Are Gwiazda and Walentynowicz actually supportive of Macierewicz or is it the Institute people who support what he's done/doing?

Who are the historians in the Institute who are leading the charge? Who appointed them to their positions? Who runs the Institute?

Dzieki for responding.

beatroot said...

Ignacy - you can see the list of historians and a bit about what they are specialist in here

The Walentynowicz/Gwiazda thing should be seen seperatly from the Kuron thing - Kuron did talk to secret services. What he said and why is being siputed. But the Walentynowicz thing is coming from a different place by different people.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link to the Institute's website, BR. It notes that the Institute was established by Parliament (the Sejm?) and it's President and 11 member Council are elected -- but doesn't mention by whom. By the Sejm? Anybody have any idea? Has there been any criticism made of those chosen by, say, Michnik, or the folks at Tygodnik Powszechny? I just read somewhere, too, that the Church has called for the priests who collaborated with the Communist regime to resign.

beatroot said...

Most of the historians had been nominated by the government of Solidarity Election Action - a right wing government with many of the people in the the present government.

Anonymous said...

Now I'm completely lost. What is "the government of Solidarity Election Action"? And even if the historians were nominated by this "government," who voted them into the Institute? No wonder Poles don't vote. This is like being sucked into quicksand.

beatroot said...

Try here

Anonymous said...

More quicksand. Waaay too many parties.

Anonymous said...

I hope it may be helpful:

A letter from Andrzej Gwiazda to The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation Chairman.

This website is probably the best about present activity of Gwiazda and other solidarity "fundamentalists".
Unfortunatelly mostly in polish

beatroot said...


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