Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Revolutionary Communist League of Britain

Editorial: Solidarity Takes Power


First Published: Class Struggle, September 1989
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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Twenty one years after Soviet tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia to put an end to “liberal reforms” there, the first ’non-communist’ government since the Second World War, was officially inaugurated when Tadeusz Milzowiecki was elected Prime Minister of Poland in August.

Only eight years ago, marital law was imposed in Poland, to crack down on Solidarity, which was only founded nine years ago in the shipyards of Gdansk.

Tadcusz Mazowiecki has been adviser to Lech Walesa since the early days of Solidarity and editor of its paper. Under martial law, he was imprisoned for one year. But he has been active in Catholic circles since the fifties.

FAST-MOVING

Events have moved fast. Adam Michnik, leading member of Solidarity, wrote in July [1989]

... Solidarity faces decisions which at the beginning of June did not cross anybody’s mind. And no-one knows what is still to come.

The so-called ’Communist Party’ – the Polish United Workers Party (PUWP) – that has ruled Poland for forty years planned to incorporate Solidarity into the government after the June elections, with the aim of giving the government a popular face, but without giving Solidarity real power. However, its plans went adrift as a result of its overwhelming defeat at the polls, and more recently because of the defection to Solidarity of its traditional allies of the United Peasant Party and Democratic Party. It is also clear that important consultations have taken place with both the Soviet Union and Catholic Church. The Soviet Union has indicated that, within certain limits, it will not interfere in events in Poland. The unpopular PUWP has been left high and dry.

The dramatic new political alliances and possibilities opening up in Poland are happening against a backdrop of a deepening economic crisis.

ECONOMIC CRISIS

The last act of the Rakowski (PUWP) government was to scrap food subsidies, leading to a three- or four-fold increase in prices in August [1989]. One Western journalist calculated that a rough comparison relating earnings and prices would mean that a worker here would be paying 20 for a pound of pork chops and 40 for a pound of steak.

Inflation was already running at over 100per cent and Solidarity economists have predicted that it may rise as high as 400 per cent next year.

Rising prices had led to numerous strikes throughout the country this summer, demanding a Solidarity-led government.

The price of food is only one, though important, sign of Poland’s economic crisis. One of the major questions to be tackled will be Poland’s massive foreign debt of $39 billion.

A change of government will do little change these harsh economic realities overnight. In addition, the powers of the new government are circumscribed by Solidarity’s commitment not to challenge the status quo as far as the Warsaw Pact is concerned and to leave the ministries of defence and of the interior in the hands of the PUWP.

What are Marxist-Leninists to make of these events, which are clearly inter-related with a complex pattern of change both in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union itself? What are we to make of Solidarity itself, for which there is no neat definition in a Marxist textbook?

Adam Michnik described the complex nature of Solidarity as:

Solidarity is a movement of struggle for national identity, but also for the emancipation of the working world...Solidarity is an attempt to provide a Polish answer to the challenge of the last decade of our century. It is a trade union but also a citizens’ movement which will be the lever of democratic change...Solidarity is neither right-wing nor left-wing. Perhaps it is on both the right and the left. For Solidarity is new.

It is difficult to predict how Solidarity in power will carry on the traditions of Solidarity in opposition, or even whether it will remain one organisation.

But it is clear that we should not mourn the passing of the old revisionist order as the end of socialism in Poland. What has ended was a repressive regime that operated under the banner of socialism. The new order in Poland may not be socialist either. But it opens the way for change in a situation where bourgeois democracy represents progress, compared with the long-discredited reign of the PUWP.