Grandizo Munis

Comments On Poland

From The Alarm (Bulletin of FOCUS— Fomento Obrero Revolucionario Organizing Committee in the U.S.), Number 5, Nov.-Dec. 1980.

From The Alarm (Bulletin of FOCUS— Fomento Obrero Revolucionario Organizing Committee in the U.S.), Number 5, Nov.-Dec. 1980.
Translated by Stephen Schwartz.
Transcribed by Kevin for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The recent strike on the Baltic Coast of Poland and the situation that followed have created expectation and sympathy on a worldwide scale, to the taste of every consumer. Governments, political parties, Eurostalinists included, trade unions, churches, the right as well as “the left,” speak in praise of the “political maturity,” the “realism,” the “wisdom,” etc. of the strikers, and of the party that monopolizes power. There’ s something for everyone…all and sundry congratulate themselves on the “daring” outcome. An exception are the men of the Kremlin and their subsidiaries, who can in no way take advantage of the events in their Polish domain.

As revolutionaries, for our part, we go beyond sympathy or vacuous elegies, to a plain-spoken criticism of this movement. With reference to its demands, it has, been, from the beginning, harmless. In some of its demonstrative aspects— ostentatious display of the pope’ s picture, crucifixes, and virgins, street confessions and masses, bishops reviewing the strikers like generals with their troops, singing of the national anthem, all this in addition to pro-clerical demands— the strike is not only antipathetic but takes on reactionary forms; this comment having nothing in common with the accusations of the Muscovite idiots. Probably this flowed out of a keen desire to test the rulers, supposed atheists, in a manner involving the least possible risk to the strikers, and as inoffensive as possible for the former. In effect, the Party-State governs with the more or less grumbling acquiescence of the church, and behind the scenes, with its complicity. This is undeniably visible in every important conflict and is admitted by the hierarchies of both sides. The cardinal attempted, luckily without success, to end the strike as soon as the first concessions were granted. This said, the workers know, through long experience, that the government will not risk alienating the church, even less attack it, and the same may be said of the church and its relation to the government. An opportunist calculation on the part of the leaders of the strikes as well as their intellectual counselors, much in harmony with the demands put forward and the supposed apoliticism of the strike…supported by both sides. In this respect we unequivocally proclaim something very important today, and universally suppressed: if the ecclesiastical institution, so filled with reactionary content and practices, finds occasion to appear liberal, this can only be due to the political power in place, whatever it calls itself, being even more reactionary than the church.

The clerical influence and (through its mediation) the Party-State, appear even in the economic demands formulated by the Interfactory Strike Committee (MKS). Many conflicts between capital and the exploited masses in the west go much further, encountering identical counter arguments, and, furthermore, less police harassment (lies, slander, falsification, censorship, blocking telephone communications, threatening interrogations and detentions). And this with regard to strikes among the many that help the unions consolidate their institutional position within capitalism, selling out the workers’ labor power for the nth time. Facing the argument that “the national economy, saddled with debt and battered, must be saved,” the MKS administered a patriotic cut in the wage demands. Nor did it occur to the MKS or its blessed advisers to answer that this economy, being state capitalist and not socialist, squanders on the military, the police, and the parasitic occupations and ostentatious living and corruption of its functionaries, much more than what the workers demanded…without mentioning, of course, Moscow’ s enormous bite out of Poland’ s continuously-created surplus value, extorted from these same workers. But one doesn’ t ask for pears from an elm tree. The church works for itself, not for the working class. What’ s more, its maneuvering, that is, as much as was revealed by the major media, was not successful in concealing the turbulent sea. The assembly of strike delegates at Gdansk, to whom the candid (or sly?) Walesa gave an account of the signed agreement, protested, hissed, and furthermore insulted the workers who signed.

The demands, as well as the final agreement negotiated by the MKS reveal complete blindness to the essential needs of the exploited. One may say that, on the contrary, everything seemed studied so as not to attack the structures of the economical-political system, to calm its beneficiaries in their own house…in a word, to paper over the wrath of the exploited. The government felt itself threatened. Even before the first strikes the government’ s orders to the provincial satraps instructed them to anticipate possible worker actions, making, with the very first symptoms, economic concessions. Its principal, obsessive preoccupation consisted and continues to consist, in assuring that the proletariat not comprehend that its material situation cannot fundamentally change without breaking down the capital/labor relation upon which the political power rests. It should be briefly noted, for clarity’ s sake, that the passage from private to state property, or the inverse, if such should happen, represents, in the economy, the same principle as, in biological organisms, the adaptation of the species to the environment, the eco-system. In both cases structural change presupposes revolutionary change. Knowing this, the Party-State recognizes the necessity of now accepting, like Franco a few years ago, economic strikes, alternate trade unions, etc., the better to condemn and repress a political strike. Thus it has succeeded, with the help of the MKS, and above all the latter’ s Christian advisers, in tilting this potent movement in the most negative political direction, if not the most reactionary possible.

This is in no way an exaggeration. Never has the proletariat, in the middle of maximum activity, agreed to sign guarantees for the existing authority’ s monopoly on power. This is exactly what the Baltic MKS and others by imitation have done, by signing the recent agreements with the Party-State owner of capital. As a bonus, they promise future political abstention. The effective value of this compromise may prove to be null, perhaps soon, but it throws into relief the enormous contradiction between the power and spirit of the movement and the strike leadership.

During a period of several weeks, the government retreated hour by hour, walking on hot coals and not knowing what step to take next, with no other goal than to get the strikers to go back to work, to bridle the movement and then turn on it. At that moment, exceptionally favorable for proclaiming the sovereign right of the working class to exercise all political power, to direct the economy, expelling its present rulers, the MKS surrenders to these rulers, certifying their monopoly on power, and calls an end to the strike. And it believes itself victorious with the right to strike and to form “independent” unions, which will be, at best, new and heavy chains for the exploited. This, precisely, was the history of the “workers’ commissions” that some non-clerical dissidents exalt as an example. In Poland, as in Spain under Franco, the existing power has granted “independent” unions with the object of obtaining an acceptance of discipline in the production of surplus value, something the official unions are no longer in a position to impose. In Poland they will reveal themselves as no less accomplices of the government than the Stalino-catholic “workers’ commissions” in Spain. Ultimately all unions without exception presuppose the existence of an exploited class, and are simultaneously a requirement of and a demonstration of the existence of capital. In the final analysis all “wage gains” are false, since they are negated by the much greater gains of capital, which has at its disposal all the tools necessary to annul them. For the working class on a world scale, one single economic demand is urgent— and is of transcendent importance in those countries hypocritically called socialist. This decisive demand is for the expropriation and management of production and distribution by the collectivity of workers, something not realizable without the conquest of power. In this matter the proletariat will find itself in a position not of negotiating the how and when of its exploitation, not of demanding, but of deciding, based on its own needs. In our epoch no other social need exists.

A step taken in this direction, or even a raising of consciousness of its necessity in everyone’ s mind, would have meant, of course, a glorious victory for the Polish strikers, as well as for the international proletariat. Probably the majority of the Polish workers understand this, if only nebulously. The fact is that the MKS and its intellectual lackeys don’ t know and don’ t wish to know it.

In this there have been lies as well as secret meanings. But we must not search for an explanation in the ideological confusion of the proletariat or even in the Russian tanks always ready in ambush. The principal cause lies with the church’ s interests, physically represented by Walesa and other Polish Gapons. [1] The church has embraced the raison d’ etat of the Polish Stalinist state, a mere echo of the raison d’ etat arrived at in the Kremlin. Official personages stated and repeated this throughout the month of August. A major symbol of the barriers surrounding the Polish workers is the newest hierarch premier-dictator Kania, [2] organizer of the Papal visit, who merited his promotion by dint of satisfactory administration of police, military security, and ecclesiastical affairs.

That in itself is an invasion, the front line. The second line is composed of two Russian divisions and an aerial detachment permanently quartered in Poland. Moscow needs nothing more, except of course, if its subject satraps totter. On the maintenance of these rests everything— its entire dominion, troops included. As for passage into the arms of the west, with its fake socialism on its back, Warsaw cannot even dream of it, lacking Yugoslavia’ s territorial conditions and China’ s demographic advantage. The MKS, the church, and the intellectuals could think of nothing but to sing the national anthem and bow their heads, delivering to Moscow and its lackeys the right to free falsification and action. Nobody fails to recognize that Moscow shakes in its shoes over the possibility of further proletarian outbreaks like this in Poland; not only in its subject countries but within Russia itself and, especially, among its soldiers. But so long as this does not take place it will be easy for it to repress or empty of content any workers’ movement. Its criminal military activities cannot be impeded, much less prevented, without the joint internationalist action of the proletariat of many countries, chiefly Russia. But the Poles have yet to appeal for solidarity and active support from the workers of east and west themselves. A prudent tactic in the face of threats, perhaps; but dictated by real fear of a gigantic revolutionary wave that would overthrow every regime of capital from Moscow to Lisbon to London.

Despite all this, something nobody expected is buzzing in the air, for millions and millions of workers in the east and not only in Poland are thinking about it, while in the west the workers become ever more aware of it. The Polish strikes greatly surpass their demands and their unctuous presentation. They have forced many who were blind to see clearly, and have, particularly, created a state of mind (within limits) making future proletarian actions possible, over the heads of nations and military blocs. Perhaps no other working class than the Russian so admires the Polish strikes— and desires to surpass them still.

What humanity carries in its heart as the historic necessity of our time, the proletarian revolution, will again rise to the surface, despite threats of death and paralysis— from tanks and from crucifixes.

September 1980

[1] Russian priest who led a demonstration demanding aid to the suffering poor from the “little father,” the tsar. The imperial guards carried out a massacre. The even led to a general strike, beginning in Lodz (Poland), and the 1905 revolution.

[2] Stanislaw Kania was made first secretary of the Polish United Workers Party in September of 1980. He resigned in October of 1981 after massive unrest and was replaced by General Jaruzelski. [Transcriber’ s note]


Last updated on 11 March 2011