What the Polish revolution has accomplished

Maneli, Mieczyslaw

A CHALLENGE TO BOTH EAST & WEST What the Polish revolution has accomplished MIECZYSLAW MANELI IN AUGUST and September of 1980, the workers of Poland shattered the bureaucratic system and dogmatic...

...Under social pressure, the government was obliged to MIECZYSLAW MANELI, formerly professor of law, Warsaw University, is chairman of the Center for the Study of Ethics and Public Policy at Queens College, CUNY...
...Pluralism means the simultaneous undermining of two ideological monopolies: the party's, and the church's...
...There have been irreversible changes in the psychology, perceptions, and attitudes of all Poles...
...The Communist government legalized new freely organized trade unions which began to embrace nearly all of the working population in the country...
...This fact was manifested during the famous recent consultations by the party-government, primate, Solidarity triumvirate...
...Traditional revolutionaries, especially socialists, always believed that once the situation was ripe to attack the old regime and establish new institutions, the passive masses would awaken and join the vanguard party...
...The experience and theory behind these councils, however, did not vanish...
...The church, for its part, was also satisfied that criticism of its traditional dogmas was now restricted to less respectable and feeble minded neo-dogmatists...
...The new revolutionary upheaval of 1980 started with the revival of the form which had arisen in 1956: independent councils of employees in the most important industrial plants...
...The pope declares that these demands should be fulfilled by any system of property ownership...
...A CHALLENGE TO BOTH EAST & WEST What the Polish revolution has accomplished MIECZYSLAW MANELI IN AUGUST and September of 1980, the workers of Poland shattered the bureaucratic system and dogmatic ideology that had prevailed in their country for thirty-five years...
...The government had to amend its censorship law in order to assure freedom for trade-union journals...
...They know they are capable of running their factories without party and union hacks...
...Even in 1956, their organizers and new theorists regarded the councils as a new germ of true socialist democracy...
...ONE OF THE consequences of ideological totalitarianism in Communist Poland was truly paradoxical: the government outlawed all political theories and ideologies with the sole exception of Catholic social teaching...
...A lay observer, not trained in official dialectics, might have presumed that socialist, liberal, humanist philosophies would be regarded as kin by the Communists and therefore more or less friendly...
...The Marxian prediction that an obsolete social system trains its own gravediggers came true under bureaucratic Communism...
...Many have earned university degrees and most of them have had a secondary education...
...The courts began to be used both by the trade unions and the government to interpret the constitution and the laws to apply them in a more equitable fashion...
...that political despotism is the principal cause of economic inefficiency...
...For the first time in the history of a Communist state, a real, not a bureaucratic, political alliance arose between the townspeople and the peasants...
...show that only a small minority wishes restoration of private capital...
...The Polish people have embarked on this road, and their church hierarchy supports them...
...They have not yet decided how this should be accomplished...
...Poland has become a new type of democracy with its own limited but authentic system of the rule of law...
...This symbiotic relationship between the party and the church hierarchies was complicated by the emergence of the new trade unions and the resurgence of Poland's independent, liberal, and secular intellectuals...
...They wanted the freedom in the books and speeches to become freedom for them...
...This is the deepest meaning of the Polish challenge to the Eastern and Western economic and social systems: the Poles have started to construct an alternative to bureaucratic despotism without returning to capitalism, and they may show that there is an alternative to the Western economic institutions that accompany political democracy and tolerance, an alternative that can be based upon communal ownership of the means of production...
...They emerged as spontaneously as the Russian workers' councils (Soviets) did during the revolution of 1905...
...Among the Polish trade unionists and intellectuals, no call has been heard to return public property to private hands...
...But history once more confirmed another truth: the new leaders could only get their education in the old schools in order to apply it creatively in the new circumstances against their own teachers...
...After Wladyslaw Gomulka's seizure of power, he and his neo-Stalinist entourage immediately began to restrict them, eventually emasculating the workers' councils to such an extent that they ceased to exist...
...Even more, in line with the old socialist principles, these leaders found that the workers who were concentrated in large industries were their most effective agents...
...Poland is becoming more and more a pluralistic society, a reality that even the members of the Central Committee freely admit...
...Thanks to this law, socialism, too, has entered a more civilized era...
...Thus the impossibility of returning to the previous state of affairs-except by military force from outside...
...The historical significance of the Polish experiments cannot be overstated.sh experiments cannot be overstated...
...Dogmatism thereby became the philosophical basis for antagonism as well as cooperation between party and church...
...THE VICTORY of Polish political neo-rationalism presents a challenge not only to dogmatic Communism, but also to the ideological stagnation which has become so characteristic not only of the Eastern but of Western countries during recent decades...
...The Western press, especially the American newspapers, often present the solution in Poland as if it were the result of the providential leadership of the Polish masses by the Catholic hierarchy...
...change existing labor laws and promise new ones more appropriate to the new political balance...
...These new councils reflect a new social development in Poland...
...The Polish Communists defeated their "heretics" but were unable to overcome their "pagans," the Catholic church...
...Furthermore, it had to agree to assure freedom, albeit limited, to the mass media to publicize the views of the trade unions, the Catholic church, and other non-conformists...
...The future grave would be deeper, the potential gravediggers multiplied...
...This type of Communism really proved to be a "prison of the productive forces" (a phrase from The Communist Manifesto) but before it was challenged by the 1980 strikes, it had already new cadres in its own schools, universities, factories, and laboratories...
...A cultural and educational revolution really did take place during the thirty-five years of Communist rule...
...Therefore the Russian, East German, and Czechoslovak bureaucrats concentrated their criticism of the "Polish road to socialism" on the workers' councils, although in 1956 they still were in their infancy...
...Apathy, skepticism, spinelessness, and lack of vision gradually disappeared and were replaced by new energy and vision...
...HISTORY HAS NOT known such an outburst of political creativity since the period of the English, American, French, and Russian revolutions...
...Now both church and party must compete with a new, powerful partner: common sense and a mass movement...
...they also instantly learned how to wheel and deal behind the scenes...
...Even if the movement toward democratization that they launched were suddenly to be arrested by outside intervention, the significance of the Polish example would still be enormous for the world...
...Indeed, as long as the bureaucracy is the sole agent of the legal property-owner ("the state''), the workers under socialism are as expropriated and alienated as under capitalism...
...The pope stresses that production should be organized in a way that recognizes the human creative nature of the workers, giving them outlets for their initiative...
...It pushed aside its own bureaucratic trade unions, but did not dissolve them...
...Such changes cannot be called anti-socialist because the people do not want to change the basic principles on which their socialist system operates...
...Recently Polish workers received powerful support: the Encyclical of John Paul II, Laborem Exercens...
...Already in 1956 some Polish thinkers started to propound the idea that "nationalization" or "socialization" of the means of production should not be identified with the "ver-staatlichung," i.e., with primitive forms of governmental ownership ."The Soviet ideologues and their vassals denounced those concepts as anarcho-syndicalist heresy...
...The overwhelming majority wants only to find some new way of management...
...In this way, he challenges both Communism and capitalism...
...The Communist government had to admit officially that the working masses in a socialist country needed an organization to protect their own interests against their socialist employers...
...Polls taken in Poland and published in Poland and in the U.S...
...In 1980-81, the Poles accomplished what twice they had unsuccessfully tried to do in 1956 and 1970...
...And finally, the bureaucrats used to argue that socialism is a higher type of humanism and freedom, and that in a socialist society no discrepancy should exist between theory and practice...
...The position of the Catholic church was strengthened by two additional factors: the internally weak Polish Communist regime needed the church to support its rule without Soviet tanks, while the church, on the other hand, needed the Polish Communists lest the country be subjected to the bloody terror imposed in the Baltic countries, Belorussia, and the Ukraine...
...The government legalized the right to strike, a right which had initiated a new era in Western capitalism...
...Perhaps the most important changes were in the attitudes of the people...
...The Poles pushed history ahead, and history is-as Hegel wrote-always a history of the development of the idea of freedom...
...The Catholic hierarchy's contribution was undeniable, but it is nevertheless a matter of fact that they have felt uneasy over the spontaneous upheaval which could not be controlled by any of the anointed leaders...
...The visible results of the strikes, and the agreements signed between the governments and the various committees of strikers, may be summed up as follows: For the first time in the history of Communist regimes, the government negotiated and compromised with groups of its own population represented by spontaneously and freely elected delegates...
...Six months later (April-May, 1981) the Communist regime had to legalize "Rural Solidarity," a body representing private landowners and farmers...
...Even the dogmatic leaders of the party have started to use language and express ideas for which they would have been jailed by Poland's eastern and western neighbors...
...Nothing is more intoxicating than freedom...
...In this way at least one of Stalin's ominous philosophical and political premises was realized: those who are closest to us are the most dangerous and should be eliminated first...
...Polish workers today are highly skilled with a good general and professional education...
...Workers' councils had first been organized in modern Poland in 1956-1957...
...The courts even intervened to supervise administrative procedures...
...Totalitarian despotism caused the entire opposition to concentrate around and within the Roman Catholic church...
...In the course of the struggle for freedom, everyone changed...
...The triumph of the Polish movement is the triumph of freedom...
...This is an especially important, although little noted, element of the Polish challenge to the West...
...New leaders suddenly appeared as if to confirm the old Hegelian observation that whenever history creates a new opportunity, it will also produce the appropriate personalities...
...They believe that public property should truly benefit the public...
...This is precisely what they achieved...
...All forms of liberal, secular humanistic, personalist, existentialist philosophies were prohibited...
...The average intellectual level of the delegates is higher than that of the party and administrative bosses...
...but they know that the fundamental faults of bureaucracy cannot be cured by more bureaucracy...
...Lech Walesa and his friends were taught a thousand times that a revolution can win only if it is based upon an alliance of the workers, peasants, and the intellectuals...
...His most recent book is Juridical Positivism and Human Rights (Hippocrene...
...To the extent that the workers wield real influence, bureaucratic privileges will be undermined...
...History repeated itself and once more at a "higher level...
...Those workers possess and represent greater power because of their sheer number, concentration, and their direct influence over the economic nerves of a modern state...
...What has happened in Poland proves that it really is possible to deprive a Communist regime of its most vicious traits and to propel it toward a more humane polity and economy...
...That is not so according to classic Stalinism, which revived, let us add, certain premises of the Inquisition...
...Such a military resolution is always possible, but it would be a terrible admission of political and moral defeat...
...the only legal redoubt for creative intellectuals...
...These cadres are better equipped to run a modern industrial society than the ossified "politruks," the faceless bureaucrats without initiative...
...From their inception the Polish workers' councils in 1956, and afterwards in 1980, were independent of the Party...
...They discovered that religious dogmatism is less dangerous than non-dogmatic pluralism and rationalism...
...The results, however, were not anticipated by the party bosses...
...The church became a vociferous and "official" spokesman for all the oppressed, deprived and persecuted...
...What were at first sporadic acts of resistance became an avalanche that overwhelmed the government...
...But the government's grip failed to subordinate the Catholic religion and its social philosophies...
...The new leaders of Urban and Rural Solidarity were unknown workers and peasants who suddenly turned into astute politicians, gifted strategists, persuasive speakers...
...and that democracy, freedom, and tolerance will not only be powerful politically but also economically...
...This is precisely what happened in Poland...
...The discrepancy between slogan and reality actually had been increasing and the people decided to put an end to that...
...Such experiments may be subversive to the "Soviet empire and to Western warlords, but refreshing for the rest of the world...
...In a very short time, they found that there were many advantages in having only one center of dissension...

Vol. 108 • December 1981 • No. 22


 
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