Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Ralph Beitel, Line of March

Poland and the struggle for power

First Published: In the “Opinion and Analysis” column of the Guardian, February 24, 1982.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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In the next several weeks, the Guardian will publish a number of differing perspectives on the declaration of martial law in Poland. The following opinion in support of the Polish government is by Ralph Beitel, a contributing editor of Line of March, a Marxist-Leninist journal.

* * *

It is remarkable that the Guardian viewpoint (Dec. 16) opposing martial law in Poland failed to provide even so much as a hint about what’s at stake in the current crisis.

In fact, the fundamental issue before the Polish working class is whether socialism will be re-consolidated in Poland or whether the existing socialist base will be further eroded in the direction of restoring capitalism throughout the economy. This issue has been posed, not in the abstract, but in the most concrete possible form: the political struggle for state power. The forces in contention–the Polish United Workers Party (PUWP) and Solidarity–have fundamental differences on virtually every important question in Polish life.


An analysis of the crisis in Poland, including the imposition of martial law, which fails to recognize that these differences bear directly upon the fundamental issue of the class nature of Poland cannot hope to provide much understanding, much less serve as a guide to action.

For Marxist-Leninists, one’s stand must be based first of all on a Marxist analysis of the political lines and forces that are contending for stale power in Poland. The key issue is: compared to the PUWP, would the political and economic program advanced by Solidarity lead toward the consolidation of socialism in Poland, or would Solidarity’s policies, once implemented, open up new prospects for the restoration of capitalism? Our approach to this issue focuses on the three sources that threaten to restore capitalism in Poland–the ousted bourgeoisie, petty commodity production, and international capital.


How has the PUWP fared in the struggle against these threatening sources? First of all, negative concessions have historically been made to the Catholic Church–the main force representing the ousted bourgeoisie–which have reinforced its ideological and political role in Polish society. In the realm of petty commodity production, unprincipled concessions were made after 1956 to private, farmers, effectively undermining most of the program for the collectivization of agriculture, forcing the workers to subsidize the enrichment of petty bourgeois farmers, and allowing those farmers to hold the socialist economy hostage to their will. With respect to international capital, Polish industrial development has been tied to massive borrowing from Western banks. As a result the Polish economy is tied to the vicissitudes of the international capitalist market, contributing in turn to the crisis in Poland. Thus, operating under a revisionist general line since 1956, the PUWP has made negative concessions in each of these areas which have led to the present crisis.

At the same lime under the leadership of the PUWP, Poland has indeed been transformed into a socialist country. Completely devastated bv World War 2, socialist Poland has risen to 10th in the world as a producer of industrial goods and has provided the working class with a rapidly rising standard of living and extensive social services.

Compared to the record of the PUWP, how would the program of Solidarity fare if it was implemented? First of all, it would lead to additional concessions to the Catholic Church. From the beginning, Solidarity has linked its demands for democracy to the unrestricted right for the Church to promote its ideological and political views. This is a thoroughly bourgeois conception of democracy which is tantamount to a demand for the right to propagate anti-socialist views. At the same time Solidarity supports the demand of its student counterpart to end the teaching of Marxism-Leninism in the basic curricula.


On the question of petty commodity production, Solidarity embraces the program of Rural Solidarity which proposes to strengthen capitalism in the countryside by further restricting and eventually eliminating collectivized agriculture. Finally, with respect to negative concessions to international capital, Solidarity would make a maximum offer. While couched in ambiguous concepts (“decentralization,” “workers’ control,” etc.), Solidarity’s program for industry is little more than a proposal to insure that market forces rather than stale plans regulate the economy. This not only involves a deepening dependence on imperialism: it would also lead to typical capitalist anarchy of production, cyclical crises, unemployment, etc.–in other words 10 the restoration of capitalism.

A more generous possibility could hardly be conceived by the representatives of international capital, who in appreciation have become Solidarity’s major cheerleaders.

From this analysis it is clear that although Solidarity emerged “objectively” in opposition 10 a revisionist party, ii is not an anti-revisionist political alternative to the PUWP. With or without the conscious understanding or approval of its mass base. Solidarity’s national program and leadership would reverse every gain of socialism (in the name of “workers’ rights”). While the PUWP is a revisionist communist party which has seriously erred in the struggle to build and protect socialism, Solidarity’s program is consciously anti-socialist and pro-capitalist. While the PUWP has led Poland into the world socialist camp and anti-imperialist front. Solidarity would ally with imperialism.

Despite its proletarian base, Solidarity can no more represent the long-range interests of the Polish working class than, say, the Democratic Party can represent these interests for the working class in the U.S. Solidarity’s popularity in Poland is principally an expression of the backwardness of the Polish working class. Undoubtedly this backwardness is a result of the PUWP’s irresponsible policies and practice–however, Solidarity clearly intends to deepen and institutionalize that backwardness, not combat it.

Still, it must be acknowledged that martial law in a socialist country is unprecedented, and that the principal responsibility for the crisis that led to this extraordinary situation must be placed on the PUWP. Have the Polish communists overreacted, or was this step a necessary move?


In the months preceding the declaration of marital law, Solidarity had achieved the status of a second center of state power in Poland. However, such situations of “dual power are inherently unstable, and must be resolved. Attempts to end the stalemate through negotiations failed because the two forces were fundamentally at odds. Solidarity demanded that the PUWP share power with Solidarity and the Catholic Church, thus qualitatively eroding the dictatorship of the proletariat in Poland. The Polish party and government, meanwhile, were prepared to recognize Solidarity but, only on the basis that Solidarity accept communist leadership and socialism in Poland.

Given the internal logic of this situation of dual power, it was almost inevitable that Solidarity would eventually mount a challenge for state power, a fact that the conscious elements on both sides were aware of from the outset. The so-called “moderate” Lech Walesa admitted that Solidarity’s public posture that “we love socialism and the party and, of course, the Soviet Union” was only a ruse until “all social groups were with us. . . and then we would “overthrow those parliaments and councils and so on.” While Walesa originally wanted to “reach the confrontation in a natural way” he now admitted that “I have miscalculated so we are choosing the way of making a lightning maneuver.”

Clearly then, the declaration of martial law was a forceful step by the Polish government and military authorities to end dual power by restricting the political power of Solidarity. Given the objectively anti-socialist program and leadership of Solidarity, this was an absolutely necessary step in the class struggle to defend Polish socialism. Consequently, it is necessary, to support these extraordinary measures.

The Guardian, throughout its coverage of the Polish crisis, has failed to confront these realities squarely. Rather, the Guardian abdicates responsibility to make a frank political analysis of the actual class forces in motion today and the consequences of a victory for Solidarity. Content to tread in safe waters, the Guardian (correctly) identities the PUWP as chiefly responsible for the crisis in Poland, and on that basis alone demands an immediate end to martial law, presumably in favor of the political and economic chaos that existed prior to December 13.

The Guardian is forced to admit that. Solidarity’s recent actions were provocative, that it has contributed to the deterioration of the economy, that antisocialist elements have come to the fore in its national leadership, and that this movement has the backing of U.S. imperialism. However, it conveniently drops these crucial factors out of its conclusions in favor of the wishful thinking that any movement of workers in a country led by a revisionist party must be progressive by definition.


To buttress this shallow reasoning, the Guardian relies on that old saw of anti-Sovietism, a political and ideological stance which retains significant influence on the U.S. left in general and the “anti-revisionist” movement in particular. However, this legacy of “Maoism” is thoroughly negative. Despite the revisionist line of the Soviet Communist Party and the flaws and contradictions within Soviet society, the Soviet Union exists objectively as a socialist country and an anti-imperialist force–and in particular, as a major force defending socialism in Eastern Europe. To raise the specter of the “Soviet superpower” in the context of the crisis in Poland, a crisis in which the survival of the socialist system in Poland is at stake, is a completely backward concession to the bourgeoisie’s counterrevolutionary propaganda and its dangerous cold-war policy, a concession which is not mitigated one bit by terming it “anti-revisionism”.

Hopefully, the emergency measures now in force in Poland can be replaced in the shortest possible time by a program to end the political and economic crisis, and by a genuine campaign to end corruption and favoritism within the Polish government and the PUWP at all levels. The determined assault on reactionary, anti-socialist forces and the arrest of hundreds of former party officials are a necessary first step in that direction. But the PUWP obviously has some major obstacles yet to confront–i.e. the imperialist debt and private agriculture–if it is to rectify its revisionist line and step-by-step reestablish its links to the Polish working class.

Given the historical weakness and serious errors of the PUWP, this will undoubtedly be no easy task. However, the continued hegemony of forces who are prepared to defend socialism in Poland, even revisionists, is far preferable, from a class point of view, to the surrender of power to the anti-socialist, imperialist-supported leaders of Solidarity or the Polish Catholic Church.