Death of Solidarity

Spotlight on Poland
Spotlight on Poland

Nobody could have envisaged that the thirtieth anniversary of the birth of Solidarność (in August 1980) would turn into a farce and sound the death knell for Poland’s first trade union. It is fair to say that the anniversary celebrations symbolically, yet unintentionally, brought about the end of the heroic Solidarność of August 1980. The Janusz Śniadek-led politically-distorted Solidarity of 2010 has absolutely nothing in common with the Solidarity of 1980 that brought together people of varying views, opinions and political allegiances. Lech Wałęsa’s refusal to attend the celebrations was a clear cutting of the umbilical cord and demonstration of the fact that the legacy of Solidarity 1980 is to be found elsewhere, not in Solidarity 2010.

Tusk Called For Solidarity But Was Booed
Tusk Called For Solidarity But Was Booed

What was shocking about the celebrations was the reception that Prime Minister Donald Tusk got from the trade union members. Tusk, a former Solidarity member and activist, was hissed and jeered at when he asked the audience what had happened to the old Solidarity which brought together religious people, atheists, opposition activists and communists alike all for the good of the country. There was no room for hate. To this the hall erupted in a chorus of whistles and boos. Likewise, President Komorowski was greeted with hostility. It was only when PiS head Jarosław Kaczyński took the stage that the hecklers finally settled down giving him rapturous round of applause.

Kaczyński Giving Tusk 'The Evils'
Kaczyński Giving Tusk ‘The Evils’

Why was Jarosław Kaczyński giving a speech in the first place? He neither espouses to the ideals of tolerance and solidarity nor was he an integral member of the original movement. His place at the anniversary celebrations was misplaced, misconceived and misguided. He had neither the authority not the right to stand up and talk about ‘solidarity’ with the views he holds. In his speech he talked about manipulation and lies whilst looking straight at PM Tusk. Unsurprisingly, he talked about his patriotic brother Lech Kaczyński who, he alleged, had struggled with Tadeusz Mazowiecki (Poland’s first non-communist post-war Prime Minister) and Bronisław Geremek (Minister of Foreign Affairs) who were ready to give up the fight.

Henryka Krzywonos Strikes Back
Henryka Krzywonos Strikes Back

A hurt and shell-shocked Mazowiecki confronted Kaczyński afterwards telling him that what he had said was a complete pack of lies to which Kaczyński replied that he had a different view of what had happened. Mazowiecki retorted: “This has nothing to do with anyone’s views. It is about the facts and what happened. Gemerek’s no longer with us. How could you?! The facts are completely different”. However, what really rocked the celebrations was Henryka Krzywonos’ impromptu speech.

Henryka Krzywonos Saves The Day
Henryka Krzywonos Saves The Day

The former Solidarity heroine and tram driver hit the headlines when she brought traffic to a standstill and initiated a Solidarity-led strike in August 1980 when she stopped her tram. After hearing Kaczyński and the jeers at Tusk, she ploughed into the audience and Jarosław Kaczyński claiming that the members of Solidarity had worked for the good of everyone and to boo at PM Tusk was simply out of order. As for Kaczyński, she said she did not know what had happened to him but he should stop stirring things up and let people get on with their lives. “It is you,” she said to Jarosław Kaczyński, “who is destroying Lech’s [Kaczyński] dignity”.

Solidarność began life as a movement fighting for the rights of workers. Sadly, this non-violent and tolerant institution, open for all, became embroiled in politics and has since become the lapdog of Kaczyński’s Law and Justice (PiS). As Henryka Krzywonos, one of the original signatories of the Solidarity Gdańsk Agreement (pol. Porozumienie Sierpniowe) said, “The name ‘Solidarity’ binds and obligates us”. It certainly does; solidarity obligates us to work together, in tolerance and openness with one another.

16 thoughts on “Death of Solidarity

  1. Bad times. Polarisation. Palin, Beck and their like in the USA; the increasingly hardline ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel and elsewhere; the new/old government in Hungary; and now this. How comforting it is to retreat into the comfort of black and white.

    When I first came to Poland, I used to joke that the Polish political right was divided into former members of Solidarity who could read, and those who couldn’t. Perhaps it should be different now; those who remember, and those who don’t.

    Can we construct a centre-left in this country, please? Quickly?

    1. Yes, it seems everywhere we turn division is rife.:-(
      As for a centre-left, only last week Palikot said he will be setting up a centre-left party. Interesting? Interested?

      1. Palikot is part of the problem, not the solution. It would be amusing to shave his head completely bald, to see how he and the media react…

  2. A very apropos title Raf. While too young to be involved I remember the original Solidarity movement and had family members deeply involved in it. And it was not about politics, but about political freedom. Sadly whenever heroes of the struggle for freedom come to power win and turn into politicians they become polarizing. Of course, it is up to them just how polarizing they become as some had the chance to go the Mandela route. Yet it seems none chose it. I constantly moan in my blogs about the polarization of America, but the issue is as big in Poland. And now it had gotten to a point when even a celebration can not be had without political strife. Ms. Henryka Krzywonos should be commended, white the others are just twats. She still holds the ideals of Solidarity high while they all forgot them and could not even put aside their political disagreements for one day to remember their comrades and what they accomplished.

  3. Interesting reactions on the web. I know on the internet there are just a lot of wums and trolls, but some show genuine reactions. On a facebook page (in polish) supporting what ms. Krzywonos did there were more arguments. Seriously? People actually had things to say against her little rant? Absolutely pathetic. One just stated that it was nothing but a publicity stung for her book. Whether it was or not (even I am not that cynical to think she would do it solely for a promotion), that was not the point. But many simply dismissed her arguments because she was (rightly IMO) defending the other side. How pathetic. The politicians are just a reflection of our polarized society. They reflect the believers in their camps. All the political parties in Poland and elsewhere have their zealots. No matter what they say or do it will be believed and excused and justified. What happened to looking at issues first than making up your mind. With all the information available at our fingertips we should not be beholden to politicians telling us what to think. But we are, as much as ever. Reason, it appears has left politics. Now all we need is some nice uniforms, and a bonfire for all the books we don’t like.

  4. Oh I do not doubt that for a minute, same as the right in the US, its their way or the highway. However the other parties are not saints here. Though they do allow for a bit more self-reflection. The trouble is that when they do the nutters win because those who do not deal in absolutes all the time are made to look weak and in today’s no-debate politics weakness does not fly. So they too dig in their heels and become what they despised. We don’t have political debates anymore, we have shouting matches. Whatever the issue people seem to have their minds made up long before they learn anything about it because god forbid the other side had a good idea.

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