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Newspaper In Exile Editor Of Voice Of Solidarnosc Speaks On U-m Campus

Newspaper In Exile Editor Of Voice Of Solidarnosc Speaks On U-m Campus image Newspaper In Exile Editor Of Voice Of Solidarnosc Speaks On U-m Campus image
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ANN ARBOR--On May 19, Marek Garztecki, editor of the London based Voice of Solidarnosc. the joumal of Solidarity in exile, spoke to a small gathering at the University of Michigan on the status of and prospecte for Solidarity, the Polish labor unión. The event was sponsored by the Industrial Workers of the World. Solidarity grew out of strikes in Gdansk in August of 1980. The Polish government was forced to give the union legal recognition from September 1, 1980 until December 13, 1981, 16 months which Garztecki described as a "festival of freedom." Garztecki was a sociologist and journalist in Gdansk when striking workers began the negotiations which ultimately led to the legal recognition of Solidarity. He was among a group of intellectuals who offered their expertise to Solidarity in determining wnat the Polish government could actually afford to give the workers. He described Solidarity as a movement toward a worker self-managed economy, a concept which in Poland far predates the establishment of Solidarity. Polish woikers had a taste of selfmanagemcnt following World War II, when the Germán owners of Polish industry fled. Workers' committees set up distribution networks and ran the faetones for two years until the Soviets Consolidated their power ' (see SOLIDARITY, page 17) SOLIDARITY (continued firom page one) He said the Solidarity model for self management was striving for a decentralized economy to counteract the wastefulness of centralized planning. He described the current inefficiënt bureaucratie structure, in which people were rewarded management positions in faetones without regard for their skills, rather based on their support of the Party. He commented that any worker could run a factory better than aParty appointee, simply by virtue of their experience in the plant, (which the appointees rarely had). Under Solidarity, management candidates were tested for their skills by selfmanagement committees in the plants and were elected by all workers in the factory, including Party members. The faetones were viewed as being "leased" from the State, rather than owned by the workers. Worker ownership was considered for the future; but the experiment ended before that could be achieved. In contrast to Solidarity, Garztecki described the govemment sponsored Polish Unions as "company" or "yellow" unions. They do not provide 6 workers with contracts, health and safety inspections, or any of the protections which could normally be expected of unions. Major strikes by workers are not new to poland either. They have occurred in Posnan in 1956, on the Polish coast in 1970, and in 1976 and 1980 with no support from the govemment unions. He said workers only go to the govemment unions to obtain the few perks they can provide, such as vacations in govemment built holiday houses. On December 14, 1981, martial law was declared by the head of the Polish govemment, General Jaruzelski, in the face of Solidarity's growing demands for increased freedom for workers. The government's rationale for declaring martial law was to stave of a possible invasión by the Soviet Union as had occured in Czechoslovakia in 1958. At the time of the declaration of martial law, Garztecki was in London on a speaking engagement. He received word that his name was on a list of Solidarity members "wanted" by the Polish govemment. He has been unable to return to Poland or see his daughter since. In the days following the declaration of martial law, 11,000 Solidarity activists were imprisoned. Only 300 of the Union's leaders escaped. Garztecki described the period of martial law as "quite brutal." Workers in numerous factories responded with strikes. The strikes were broken by military assaults on the suikers. Beyond the killings and beatings that occurred, Garztecki spoke of the even more insidious psychological shock experienced by the populous in the face of a curfew and the elimination of all phone and telex communication. Months passed before people were able to find out what had happened to friends on the other side of the country. Garztecki described Jaruzelski's martial law as a "benevolent dictatorship," not nearly as brutal as the situation in Hungary in 1956 when thousands died. Initially, rumors of mass killings were widespread. Garztecki suspects this is a tactic employed by Communist governments, as during the recent nuclear melt-down at Chemobyl in the Ukraine. By preparing people for the worst with rumors about thousands of deaths, the government can then créate a sense of relief, instead of outrage, among the people, when it is discovered that the government is responsible for the deaths of relatively few. At its peak, Solidarity had 10 million members. Garztecki estimates its present active membership to be about 1 million. In April of 1982 a Solidarity congress established the structure for Solidarity underground. Five or six leaders were elected to coordínate activities in each of several regions of Poland. Solidarity's subgroupings are territorial rather than being structured around branches or professions. The structure is federal and decentralized. Solidarity has now been underground for 4 12 years, the longest any underground movement has survived in any Soviet Bloc country since the Bolshevik revolution. Garztecki's estímate of the current size of the Union is based on the amount of activity being carried out in Poland. He gave numerous examples. One leader in Gdansk has managed to remain out of prison, work, and even organize press conferences which appeared on both French and British televisión. Garztecki said the Union has underground representatives in virtually every major Polish factory. The London office of Solidarity has copies of 600 issues of underground newspapers printed and distributed in Poland. A typical issue will focus on repons of health and safety violations in a factory. The papers are distributed by Solidarity activists. Distribution of 50 copies is considered the maximum for maintaining the safety of the individual. So a great number of people are involved in the production and distribution of any given issue. Union dues are still being collected. The money is used mainly to provide assistance for political prisoners and their families. Garztecki described what he referred to as Soildarity's "underground radio," which amounts to cassette recorders with timing devices and messages urging resistance. The recorders are placed at the tops of tall buildings, and broadcast until their location is discovered by the pólice. There have even been instances of Solidarity activists tapping into the national TV network and broadcasting brief messages, such as "Solidarity is alive." All of this continuing activity in the face of hundreds of secret pólice, means that there are still hundreds of political prisoners. A worker can get a 1 to 5 year sentence for an activity as simple as exposing health and safety violations in a factory. Garztecki said that arrests are normally accompanied by beatings, in which broken teeth and bones are commonplace. Western media interest rises occasionally to cover an event, such as the murder two years ago of the Polish priest, Father Kozpiusco by the Polish secret pólice. But Solidarity can site 50 similar cases that the media has not covcrcd, in which well adjusted activists have been found hanging in the woods with suicide notes attached to their bodies, or drowned in rivers and ditches. The Polish death squads are not as active as those in Centra America, Garztecki concedes, but they do exisL He says they don't go after visible leaders, rather those whose deaths wil genérate less publicity. The Polish government is leaming effective methods of stifling public dissen without generating publicity in the West Thousands were arrested in the first Mayday demonstrations following the imposition oi martial law. Now, rather than making immediate arrests, pólice simply film demonstrators. Later the demonstrators are arrested for the non-political charge of hooliganism and fined two to six months wages, which they must pay or go to prison. Garztecki pointed out that a political prisoner can at least expect support and publicity from groups like Amnesty International. "Hooligans" get no such support. Plus, the fines have the effect of depriving the activist's family of food. The Polish government thus engages in subtle tenor. Garztecki feels that workers revolution in Poland is prevented by such state and pólice brutality. He commentcc that "there is no terrorism (among the populous) in Communist countries because they are the countries where the terrorists have taken over." What can be expected of Solidanty in the future? Garztecki states: "We always fought for basic dignity, justice, human rights, and freedom. We will continue to fight until these rights are realized." Garztecki believes it will take a rising from some organization similar to Solidarity in another Soviet country to bring Solidarity back to the forefront of Poland. The first Solidarity Congress sent messages of solidarity to workers in other Soviet Bloc countries. The union received indications that it had sympathetic supporters in other Soviet countries but no allies similarly fighting for their rights. He cites as examples the Russian Jews who are fighting only to leave, not to change the Soviet Union, small pockets of résisters in the Ukraine and Lithuania, the Czech Charter 77 movement that has only about 50 members, an unstructured single issue anti-war movement in East Germany, and Hungary with only three underground papers. Until a similar ally develops in another Soviet dominated country, Garztecki feels Solidarity can only wait and preserve itself. "It will happen again when people feel a need for it. People didn't need to be persuaded to join Solidarity. They only need to be convinced that things can change, that change is needed, and that they have the power. You can't créate it. People need to feel iL All we can do is cooperate when something happens and until then provide informaüon and moral support" Fred Chase is President of the Southearstem Michigan Branch of the IWW. For more information about the union and how you can give aid to Solidarnosc, see the IWW listing in the Community Resource Directory.