Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.
“May your dreams come true” is purportedly an ancient Chinese curse. Although it is probably apocryphal – just as the Chinese never say “may you live in interesting times” — the phrase does contain an element of truth. It is often the longing and anticipation that we crave, not the realization of our hopes. Nothing can possibly compare to the fulfillment we imagine.
Many Poles dreamed of the day when the Communist regime would fall. But even after the semi-free elections of June 4, 1989, in which Solidarity-affiliated candidates won nearly all the contested seats, few anticipated that their dreams would come true so quickly.
Jan Litynski was a longtime opposition activist. He was arrested in the 1960s for his involvement in the organizing at the University of Warsaw. He played a critical role in founding the Workers Defense Committee (KOR) in the 1970s. He was a major Solidarity activist, was arrested again under Martial Law, and then escaped to join the underground.
I first met him in early 1989, when the future of Solidarity remained in the balance. In 2013, I visited him at the office of the Polish president, where he served as an advisor to Bronislaw Komorowski. He confirmed that the rapidity of change in 1989 was a surprise to everyone.
“We did not expect the changes to happen that fast,” he told me. “Most of the people did not realize that the economy was in such bad condition. That was still the period of Gorbachev, when glasnost and perestroika had already been introduced. After we won the election in 1989, we planned to call our party the Solidarity Opposition Club. But then, after just two weeks, instead of being an opposition we gained power. Therefore when we constituted the majority in parliament, we called ourselves the Civil Parliamentary Club. Even Tadeusz Mazowiecki could not believe it. Two weeks before he became prime minister he published an article stating that the Solidarity movement should not take power.”
It’s one thing to dream about taking the state out of the hands of the Communist Party. It was quite another thing to discover that part of the deal involved taking over a seriously ailing economy. The new Solidarity government cast around for different plans to save the Polish economy.
“Balcerowicz’s plan was a part of the rescue plan,” Litynski explained. “Jeffrey Sachs came to Poland and explained that it was the only possible option at that moment. This point of view was not entirely accepted at that time, but it was taken into consideration. After Tadeusz Mazowiecki became prime minister he was looking for a minister of the ministry of finance or the ministry of economy among more moderate, social-centered candidates. Most of them refused. The Balcerowicz Plan was the ultimate resort. I believe that it was the only possible program that could rescue the Polish economy at that moment.”
At a number of different levels, the plan worked. It “released an immeasurable energy. People started opening shops and engaging in trade, and thus the market began to fill out,” Litynski remembered. But there were also drawbacks. “Balcerowicz was very optimistic when he estimated that at the end of 1990 the unemployment rate would reach 300-400,000 unemployed. Actually, it was between 800,000 and one million unemployed. He hoped that enterprises would automatically behave in a free-market way, but that did not happen that fast.”
Although he supported the plan, Litynski believed that “our fascination with neoliberal economy lasted for too long. Not enough steps were made toward defusing the economic situation. Jacek Kuroń was a minister of labor and social policy in the first phase of the transformation. During his term the unemployment benefits were too high. Nevertheless countries that did not go through this kind of changes incurred costs as well. We have to remember that the Polish economy was in a state of decay, with broken economic ties and inflation going up several percent every month.”
The political party that Litynski joined in the aftermath of 1989, which also included Mazowiecki, Kuron, and Adam Michnik, did not do very well at the polls, in part because of the economic consequences of the Balcerowicz reforms.
“The Democratic Union, my post-Solidarity political party, lost the elections,” he concluded. “But we won the state. It is the best moment in our history. Of course we complain a lot, but it is definitely the best moment in our history. Therefore, although my party lost I believe that I am politically fulfilled. Nevertheless it is as it is. We are always disappointed when our dreams come true.”
How did you become opposition activist in Poland?
It was not an opposition movement yet. At the beginning of the 1960s, when I was at university, we established an unofficial discussion group. Later in 1964, Jacek Kuroń and Karol Modzelewski wrote their Manifesto. In March 1965, when they were arrested and sentenced to prison, our group’s discussions revolved around their political program. We became popular just because we were participating in the meetings of the Polish Socialist Youth Union and tried to take an active part in the discussion. After Kuroń and Modzelewski were released, our political activity gained momentum. Although most of us were very critical toward their political program, they automatically became our leaders. What distinguished us was that we were mostly focusing on the issue of democracy while the core of their program was the problems of the working class. In 1968 when the government banned the theatre play Dziady at the National Theatre, we organized a demonstration in favor of the play. Later we organized the signature campaign calling for the release of imprisoned political activists. This all led to the organization of a rally at the University of Warsaw, after which I was imprisoned. I spent one-and-half years in prison.
What did you think is going to happen in your country? A reform similar to the one in Hungary?
That was before the Hungarian reforms. The Hungarian reforms were introduced in 1969 or even a little bit later. We were all Marxists at that time, and it is difficult to tell whether we had any particular program. Nevertheless we already knew that we were not in favor of the program of Kuroń and Modzelewski since we were focused mostly on the spreading of democracy. Taking into consideration the Warsaw Pact aggression in Czechoslovakia, the chances of introducing reforms were very low, and that is why we did not have any particular vision.
After the strike in Gdańsk in December 1970, the liberties were widened, and we gained some freedom. Part of our group emigrated after the anti-Semitic campaign in March 1968, and the position of our group weakened. Jacek Kuroń was sure that there would soon be another strike action, and we had to be prepared for that occasion. He had in mind a kind of psychological preparation for the strike of workers in 1976, which was a response to the significant increase in prices announced by government in March the same year. When the strikes in Ursus and Radom broke out, we were ready to help people.
The first trial of workers began in July or August 1976. We were not allowed to enter the court during their trial but we had at least a chance to get in touch with workers’ families. That was the beginning of the relief action. We started searching for attorneys and collecting money. Unfortunately, it turned out that the information we gathered regarding sentenced workers, repressions, tortures, and beatings were not confirmed by anyone. We needed someone who would confirm this information. For this reason the Workers Defense Committee (KOR) was formed. This group of several people was responsible for checking if the information that had been gathered was true and whether the money we collected was being well spent. Those were the main goals of the Workers Defense Committee.
A couple of years later the Solidarity movement was formed. What was your role in the movement?
The first strike broke out in Ursus on July 2,1980. It was organized by people with whom we had been cooperating for several months – Zbyszek Bujak and Zbyszek Janas. Strikes were breaking out during the entire summer of 1980. Earlier, in 1977 we started publishing a biweekly for the working class,Worker, which became quite popular in 1979. Thanks to its popularity we had an entire network of distributors who were also gathering information about most of the strike activities. The information was passed over the phone to the activists living in Western countries and then passed back to Poland. That’s how the information was spreading. It all stopped after the strike in Gdańsk, which was characterized by the existence of the strong trade unions led by Lech Wałęsa, Anna Walentynowicz, and Bogdan Borusewicz. During the strike I got arrested. I was released only on September 1 or 2. Immediately after being released from prison I went to Wałbrzych where I stayed for one-and-a-half years helping to establish the local trade unions.
Then came martial law. This was obviously a difficult time in Poland. Did you think that Solidarity would continue to play a vital role, or did you think it would simply disappear?
At that time I was arrested and imprisoned. Then I ran away while on prison leave and stayed underground in Solidarity Mazowsze. There were different opinions about the future of the Solidarity movement. Some people claimed that the Solidarity movement was over. We, on the other hand, were convinced that the Solidarity movement had to be rebuilt with strong trade unions similar to those that existed during the happenings in August 1980. We did not support the idea of revolt but rather the idea of negotiations that would eventually lead to the government stepping back. This strategy, which was also supported by the part of Solidarity movement led by Lech Wałęsa, turned out to be effective. Although there were different opinions within the organization, by the end the Wałęsa strategy gained the support of a majority of activists.
At that time Solidarity was seemingly weak. Only in 1988 when the minor strikes were spontaneously breaking out, activists from Szczecin (in the north of Poland) attempted to establish a legal Solidarity at the workplace. Unfortunately the district court stopped the attempt at registration. Yet, the underground movement was very strong, especially as a publisher – it produced several thousand different underground publications. This underground movement could be called an underground democracy. But these activities were not centralized and the only common denominator was Lech Wałęsa and the Provisional Coordination Committee. Although there were other sub-organizations, Lech Wałęsa played the major role.
In 1988, spontaneous strikes broke out first in Nowa Huta then in Gdańsk, Szczecin, Jastrzębie, and Stalowa Wola. I took part in the strike of miners in Jastrzebie. It seemed at that time that both sides were aware of each other’s weaknesses. The mainstream of the Communists as well as the opposition knew well that there was no other option but to start negotiations. Therefore when Wałęsa expressed his willingness to start the negotiations (or maybe it was Kiszczak) the talks began. Of course there were also other solutions suggested, but talks were the most rational solution and, as it turned out, the most effective one.
There are two interpretations of the Round Table negotiations in 1989. One is that it was a unique gradual process that set an example for the entire world. On the other hand there is a negative interpretation that the Round Table was an agreement of elites. This interpretation emphasizes the role of the secret talks in Magdalenka. What is your opinion about it now, 24 years later?
Was it the agreement of elites? We can always talk about an agreement of elites when an agreement has been concluded. Nevertheless it was Lech Wałęsa who had a mandate of the National Committee, the only one who was chosen in the democratic elections in 1981 to represent the Solidarity trade union. I know nothing about the secret talks conducted in Magdalenka, and as far as I am concerned, there is no one who can confirm that any secret talks took place. I wasn’t at Magdalenka, but as far as I know these were only negotiations to break a deadlock that appeared during the plenary of the Round Table (during the proceedings of the Round Table committee). The Round Table consisted of “tables” and “small tables.” In the case of deadlock, talks were moved to Magdalenka.
The interests of both sides of the Round Table talks varied significantly. The Communists hoped that if they shared power with the Solidarity movement — they used to call it “to share the seats on a bench” — they would be able to stay in power, while we hoped that the talks would begin the genuine democratization process. It was believed at that time that the parliamentary elections were an act of appeasement toward the Communist government. Nevertheless the real success of the talks was the reactivation of Solidarity movement. History has shown that the most important moment was the free parliamentary elections: “the power of the voting card.” Even if it was an agreement of elites, it was confirmed during the election in June 1989. The voters voted for the Solidarity movement. “The power of the voting card” appeared to be so strong that even though the Communist Party constituted the majority in the parliament it was not able to form a government. That was the turning point.
Of course there were people who said that we should have waited for the system to fall apart. That’s not reasonable, though. Try telling that to the oppositionists in Cuba, that they should wait until the system falls apart by itself. If you know when that’s supposed to happen, you should inform them. In Poland no one was able to predict when it was going to happen. Any further waiting would have meant the disintegration of the entire country’s economy. Therefore I would say that although it was a risky decision it was also a reasonable one.
Yet we did not expect the changes to happen that fast. Most of the people did not realize that the economy was in such bad condition. That was still the period of Gorbachev, when glasnost and perestroika had already been introduced. After we won the election in 1989, we planned to call our party the Solidarity Opposition Club. But then, after just two weeks, instead of being an opposition we gained power. Therefore when we constituted the majority in parliament, we called ourselves the Civil Parliamentary Club. Even Tadeusz Mazowiecki could not believe it. Two weeks before he became prime minister he published an article stating that the Solidarity movement should not take power.
What about the economy? According to what you have just said, the economic situation of the state was bad. The Balcerowicz Plan was proposed. What do you think about it now, 24 years later?
Balcerowicz’s plan was a part of the rescue plan. Jeffrey Sachs came to Poland and explained that it was the only possible option at that moment. This point of view was not entirely accepted at that time, but it was taken into consideration. After Tadeusz Mazowiecki became prime minister he was looking for a minister of the ministry of finance or the ministry of economy among more moderate, social-centered candidates. Most of them refused. The Balcerowicz Plan was the ultimate resort. I believe that it was the only possible program that could rescue the Polish economy at that moment. It was of course very expensive. Nevertheless taking into consideration the situation in Ukraine or Russia at that time, the abandonment of the plan would have cost much more.
On the other hand, Balcerowicz was very optimistic when he estimated that at the end of 1990 the unemployment rate would reach 300-400,000 unemployed. Actually, it was between 800,000 and one million unemployed. He hoped that enterprises would automatically behave in a free-market way, but that did not happen that fast. Nevertheless, the Balcerowicz Plan released an immeasurable energy. People started opening shops and engaging in trade, and thus the market began to fill out. At the same time the core of Balcerowicz Plan was to reduce inflation, a goal that was achieved (although more slowly than expected). This required salary cuts in the public sector, which was the main sector at that moment. In spite of these significant salary cuts, the plan started to work, the empty shelves filled up with products. So in my opinion if we are to talk about mistakes we won’t find them in this period, but rather later on.
I believe that our fascination with neoliberal economy lasted for too long. Not enough steps were made toward defusing the economic situation. Jacek Kuroń was a minister of labor and social policy in the first phase of the transformation. During his term the unemployment benefits were too high. Nevertheless countries that did not go through this kind of changes incurred costs as well. We have to remember that the Polish economy was in a state of decay, with broken economic ties and inflation going up several percent every month. Therefore it has to be said that the Polish case differed much from Czechoslovakia and Hungary cases where the economic situation was stable and the economy did not need to be transformed so fast. Moreover I believe that the Czech program was not any better then the Polish one.
There is an argument between the economists about which case scenario is more effective: a slower or a faster process. On one hand there is the Balcerowicz Plan, which was a very fast process. On the other hand in Slovenia changes were introduced more slowly than in Poland especially in terms of privatization or foreign investment.
We have to look at the specific situation in which Poland was at that time. Enormous expectations, constant strikes, demands for salary increases, inflation – there was no place for slow transformation. As I said there is a large difference between Poland and Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia had a stable economic situation without an organized society advancing its claims. We have to keep in mind this difference. What we did next was an entirely different matter.
The privatization process was not that fast in Poland. Moreover I believe that the Polish privatization was carried out more efficiently than in Czechoslovakia. The “voucher system” was a simple fraud. We had our own unsuccessful “voucher system” called the Privatization Fund that was introduced by Minister Lewandowski and then in 1993 by the Social Democratic Party (SLD). Fortunately it was only a small part of the entire privatization process. Privatization was inevitable. During the privatization process a lot of mistakes were made, like the facilitation of property sales. The largest mistake of this process was that the money from privatization was simply added to the current budget surplus. Therefore, the public budget (like an addict) got used to this money coming from privatization. But profits from privatization got smaller over time, and this should have been taken into account. And this money should have instead been added to the Retirement fund. In 1997 a bill was introduced to direct money from the privatization of large enterprises into budget revenues, not budget surplus. Unfortunately this bill did not enter into force. In spite of the mistakes made during the privatization process I would argue that it had its successes as well.
What about the role of Solidarity movement and trade unions? I talked with Krzysztof Hagemajer and he said that during the transition Solidarity should have taken part in talks with the government. Because it did not, Solidarity did not have a chance to represent the interest of the working class.What is your opinion?
I do not agree. First of all the negotiations took place. Solidarity did not have any particular vision of changes. During the time when Wałęsa was not a presidential candidate yet but was head of Solidarity, the rights of workers were protected. Later Solidarity started to organize strikes. There were rallies in the transport company, the railways, the shipyard, and in Ursus, but it did not change the fact that neither Solidarity nor OPZZ had a particular political and economic program. Nevertheless, negotiations took place and the government agreed to concessions that weakened the transformation process but did not change it.
I cannot agree, though, that Solidarity could have played a different role in this process. First of all, it is difficult to define what the workers’ interest means since workers employed in the large, successful enterprises had interests different from those workers employed in companies heading into bankruptcy. Solidarity along with OPZZ made a mistake by insisting on introducing the ”pact of enterprises,” which held that 15% of the shares of a privatized company belong to its employees. The employees of large, prosperous enterprises (e.g. banks) received a significant amount of money whereas public sector employees such as teachers were left without any protection (not to mention the unemployed). This was definitely a major shortcoming of the “pact of enterprises.” I would call it an attempt to bribe the workers in the large, prosperous companies.
I also do not believe that the trade unions could have played a vital role in the transformation process at that time. Nevertheless the year 1990 was a very important moment for Polish education. In 1990, the teachers’ salaries were very significantly raised and then later reduced. That was another mistake. The government did not undertake any long-term solutions in the educational sector. Most of the teachers were not trained well. The government should have invested in education, but there was no money for that in the public budget. The economy started growing in 1993, and that was the same year that Solidarity lost the election and the SLD took power. Although during the four-year term of SLD the unemployment rate dropped significantly, the additional budget surplus was underused. The SLD did not introduce any reforms except for the important but minor pension reform, which was only a partial success. Between 1993 and 1997, the SLD was using the achievements of the previous government without introducing necessary changes.
What do you think of the condition of trade unions right now? In September this year there will be a strike organized by Solidarity and OPZZ. Still the situation of trade unions in Poland as well as the situation of workers seems to be very bad. What do you think?
I believe that Solidarity does not have any real solution to the current difficult situation. There are a couple issues that Solidarity has a solution for, such as junk contracts or the protection of labor rights. The problem is that Solidarity is also using junk contracts with its own staff. There are no serious talks with the trade unions. When Solidarity stood against raising the retirement age, it brought up some important points, for instance that a retirement age of 67 for women doing physical work is definitely too high. Yet, instead of emphasizing these most important questions and negotiating a revised bill, Solidarity stood against the entire reform. But this reform seemed inevitable given the aging of our society. Nowadays both men and women are fully capable of working past the age of 60, which means that keeping the previous retirement age is preposterous. Neither Solidarity nor OPZZ offered any partial solution, such protecting a certain group of workers. The assumption that a 65-year-old office worker or a 60-year-old woman doctor is not capable of performing his or her job is ridiculous. However both unions rejected the reform entirely.
In my opinion, the trade unions became bureaucratized in most (though not all) companies. It was very typical that during the first Solidarity Congress a two-term limit on union positions was introduced. This regulation was lifted during the second Congress. Hence trade unions became bureaucratized institutions where there is a constant fight over positions.
There was a civil society during the Solidarity years. What do we have now?
I think this is and always has been a major Polish problem. The research of youth attitudes commenced by Prof. Stefana Nowaka in 1957 showed that Polish society is characterized by strong family ties and national identity (a willingness to sacrifice in the name of important matters). On the other hand the research showed that we have very weak social ties. This gap has been confirmed many times by the research. Polish civil society is the weakest in Europe. We have the lower participation in political parties and in self-government. The attempt to build strong civil society is one of the most important issues in Poland right now. Poles are characterized by a lack of mutual trust.
That is very interesting because in 1970 and 1980 self-government was an important part of political and economic life. The matter of mutual trust looks differently after 24 years. How did it happen that the sense of self-government disappeared?
The transformation of local government is a huge success in our country. Both of the local government reforms, especially the first one, changed our country. Poland became decentralized with large, well-developed local government. Where there is well-governed local government, both the city and the community develop. Unfortunately, the emergence of a strong local government did not make the civil society stronger. Although they exist, non-governmental organizations are not sufficiently well developed. Moreover when there is a particular budget for organizations the organizations related to local government take over those funds. This is a kind of local government nepotism. Local governments, instead of handing over the money to NGOs, give it to their own organizations. Nonetheless it is enough to look even at the less developed regions to see that during the past 15 years (especially after we entered EU) Poland changed a lot. Not long time ago we could see demolished buildings, broken fences, and dirty yards. Now our countryside is neat. Huge changes were made, and they are visible everywhere.
Nowadays Poland has two large parties: PiS and PO. There is no leftist party though. Obviously there is SLD but it is very weak.
SLD is a conservative, right-wing party that only sometimes seems to be leftist, but that’s not of great significance.
Yes, that is true. Do you think there is a chance that Poland will have a real left-wing party?
We have a Palikot party that was supposed to be left wing, but it failed because the leader Janusz Palikot did not know himself whether he represents a right-wing or left-wing movement. The Palikot party does not have any long-term program but only short-run initiatives.
It’s true that the Left as a social movement disappeared. There are a couple of reasons why. First of all, the left-wing movement was destroyed by the Communist heritage. Then the SLD as a left-wing party took power and implemented a right-wing economic program. Second, Solidarity might have easily been regarded as a left-wing party, but it was too conservative and backward-looking. Finally I believe (although I am not an expert) that Poland faced a difficult situation in our history for which a left wing movement did not have a solution. In the current economic situation there could be a left-wing program, but it has not yet appeared. This is not only the Polish case, though. There are no left wing parties in Ireland. They have only a Social Democratic party (which managed to get its leader, a woman, elected president).
What about the phenomenon of Krytyka Polityczna. It is not a political party but rather a social movement. What do you think about them?
They are quite interesting but too anachronistic. They do not have an answer to the current situation. They think according to 19th-century categories. Although I am not in favor of their program I think they are very interesting. They never tried to form a political party, and I think there is no place for them on our political scene. I do not want to exaggerate much but when you talk to them the only thing they ask about is why the state agricultural farms were closed. It is not a serious issue for discussion.
The main problem is social inequality, which is especially significant considering European standards. For instance, when people see the CEO of the large gas company Orlen fired after 2 weeks in his position now claiming 8 million zlotys in compensation, it destroys society. When we hear about the director of the national stadium construction receiving half a million zlotys in compensation for being fired – it causes an outburst of social anger. There is significant social inequality, and it should be minimalized. Without any justification, the government tried to introduce a flat tax. But a progressive tax system is more reasonable.
I read the article in the recent Polityka that talked about income differences between, for instance, carpenters and CEO of large companies. The differences are huge.
As long as it refers to large prosperous private enterprises, the differences can be justified. But when those differences appear in the public sector it cannot be justified anymore. Some people think that people have to earn well in order to govern well, but this point of view is difficult to accept. We should take action because this inequality is not acceptable. The SLD proposed a 50% tax, and I think that would be a right decision. On the other hand it is not easy to trust the leader of the SLD, Leszek Miller, who only couple of years ago tried to introduce a fixed tax system.
When I met with a representative of Krytyka Polityczna, we talked also about the Polish Church. He thought the Polish Church is too influential when it comes to politics and such issues as the abortion law. He regards the agreement between the Polish Church and the Solidarity movement as the reason why the Church has so much power nowadays.
From the historical point of view, the relationship between the Church and Solidarity was totally natural. When crosses appeared in the local offices of Solidarity it was regarded as a sign of liberty. The problem is that the Polish Church, even taking into consideration that churches around the world are very conservative and let say primitive, 60% to 70% of the Polish episcopacy is conservative and does not understand current reality. The symbol of the Polish episcopacy is Radio Maryja – insular, anti-European, resistant to change, and believing that Catholicism is an inherited part of the national identity. The Polish Church is not a typical post-ecumenical church.
During the Communist period, the Polish Church was basically the only independent and strong institution. Therefore it became frozen in the previous period. It was later strengthened by the election of John Paul II. The Polish Church regarded this as a special honor and thought that there was no need to try to adjust to the current political situation in the country. Solidarity only strengthened this attitude.
In 1989, the Polish Church was a winning party and regained both property and influence. I don’t think the concordat was a mistake. The mistake was the regression of the Church. Nevertheless, the Church has not succeeded at political involvement. In 1993, when the Church was involved in an anti-SLD campaign, the left-wing party won over 40%. The Church is not strong politically. The Polish Church is very conservative, and every time its privileged position is endangered it calls for the defense against persecution and laicization. There were moments when the Church tried to moderate its views, but now it is definitely conservative. More open-minded persons like Bishop Rzyciński were criticized by the Church establishment.
What are your main duties as a presidential advisor?
Tadeusz Mazowieski, Henryk Wujec, and I are not specializing in any particular issues. We mostly give advice on political matters. Henryk Wujec and I are responsible for NGOs and civil socjety. I am also thinking about matters of state structure. One of the most important issues we have not solved is the administration of justice. As I mentioned before, the local government reform, with all its advantages and flaws, is our huge success. On the other hand our biggest failure is the reform of the administration of justice, especially the judiciary. This is what needs to be changed. Additionally we are taking care of emergency situations (when there are no other advisors that could help in those cases).
The question of decentralization seems to be very important. I visited the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Hungary. The capital cities of those countries are the primary centers of economic development. This does not apply in the Polish case. You have other development centers like Gdańsk, Poznań, Wrocław. I believe this is very important for the country’s development.
Creating 10-12 development centers was the major concept of the local government reform in 1999 and in 2000. It was not entirely successful. Instead of 10 regions we have 16, which turned out to be too many in order to encourage development. Nevertheless this reform was very important because thanks to it Warsaw is not the only development center. What is very characteristic is the fact that mayors of the cities (except for Warsaw) are vibrant and have a very strong position. It can be argued though that their position is too strong. Nevertheless the fact that Poland is decentralized is a huge success.
How has your point of view changed after 24 years?
There is one major difference. In 1989 when we took over power, thanks to our experience of both the totalitarian regime and of the Solidarity movement, we were able to build a new, post-Solidarity society. These experiences made us unique, and we thought we could influence other nations. But it did not work that way. It turned out that Poland, with all its uniqueness, is a country like any other. We are not exceptional. We go through the same up-and-down processes as other countries. The experience of the Solidarity movement, the sense of community, vanished quickly. There was also a huge technological change. This all destroyed the sense of continuity. The new generation did not have a sense of connection with the pre-1989 generation. It was our fault that in the name of development we did not cultivate “Solidarity roots.” Already at the beginning of 1990s there was a visible conflict within the Solidarity movement. We have lost an ethos that could have strengthened community. Hence the emergence of extreme movements and nationalist movements, and not only in Poland. What predominates in discussions on line are insults. There is no mutual respect. Perhaps it was inevitable…
Obviously a lot has changed in Poland along with the generation change. I am especially interested in your political and economic view. Has your own worldview changed or not changed during that time?
The Democratic Union, my post-Solidarity political party, lost the elections. But we won the state. It is the best moment in our history. Of course we complain a lot, but it is definitely the best moment in our history. Therefore, although my party lost I believe that I am politically fulfilled. Nevertheless it is as it is. We are always disappointed when our dreams come true.
Warsaw, August 26, 2013
Translater: Anna Maria Napieralska