Saturday, February 26, 2011

They Forgot Poland

You know, despite conservatives' claim that Ronald Reagan singlehandedly destroyed the Berlin wall with the tweak of his mighty pinkie, those of us who actually remember the 1980s remember the Polish trade union which got the democracy ball rolling. You kids who were still in your nappies back in 1981 might want to read up on Solidarity and how it took down Soviet domination in Poland, the first chink in a movement which steamrolled across the Baltic region and ultimately destroyed the iron curtain. I was a sophomore in college then and well remember the Polish uprisings. By 1982 I was living in Copenhagen and several friends traveled "behind the iron curtain" to Poland to see what was happening for themselves.

I went on an organized student trip to the Soviet Union instead -- all trips by Westerners to the USSR were closely monitored, rigidly organized affairs back then (though that didn't stop us from having some adventures). We had a Q&A session with some low-level Party official, can't remember his function now, where we asked tough questions about oppression of gays in the USSR ("We have no homosexuals in the Soviet Union," the guy actually told us. "This is a Western issue.") And we asked about Solidarity. He told us it was an example of how much freedom the people of Poland have, that they can protest and strike (never mentioning martial law and other attempts to oppress the movement). It was all a ruse, not too different from what we see from conservatives today, where they talk publicly about the freedom to assemble and all that and then privately talk about sneaking in troublemakers to discredit those protesting.

Today Poland's Solidarity leaders have sent Wisconsin workers their support:
On behalf of the 700,000 members of the Polish Trade Union NSZZ
“Solidarnosc” (Solidarity) I wish to express our solidarity and support for your struggle against the recent assault on trade unions and trade union rights unleashed by Governor Scott Walker.

We are witnessing yet another attempt of transferring the costs of the economic crisis and of the failed financial policies to working people and their families. As much as some adjustments are necessary, we can not and must not agree that the austerity measures are synonymous with union-busting practices, the elimination of bargaining rights and the reduction of social benefits and wages.

Dear friends, please rest assured that our thoughts are with you during your protest, as we truly do hope that your just fight for decent working and living conditions, for the workers’ rights will be successful.

Your victory is our victory as well.

In Solidarity,

Piotr Duda

You know, conservatives have long tried to connect labor unions with communism. Yet it was a labor union which destroyed communism in a key Soviet Bloc country.

I guess they forgot Poland.