California Close-Up; Solidarity: The Fight for Free Trade Unions
This is California Public Radio. Hello, I'm Jim Kwei. This week, California close up takes you far from the Golden State to Poland, where the achievements of the trade union solidarity have attracted the world's attention for over a year now. Solidarity recently held its first National Congress and began to chart not only its own future, but that of Poland. Producers Jane Rosenthal and Richard Spielman were there, and they brought back this report on Solidarity's past and its future aspirations. What we wanted to do is, well, but we achieved more or less that this we wanted to start free trade unions in Poland. She had to join me. Not so much less said. We were sure that if the workers did not get organized. If the Polish societies such did not get organized, it would
never achieve anything. And, and the whole country would be would be run in such a way as it was. I mean, based on lies, inefficiency and oppression. You know, I should love you, baby. We worked for free trade unions, but we never we never had expected such a success. It's incredible. You're not so much incredible. Changes have occurred in Poland since the strike broke out in the Lenin shipyards in Gdansk over a year ago and culminated in Solidarity's first national Congress held in that same city early in October. Solidarity can now count 10 million members, almost every working person in Poland, including one third of the Polish Communist Party.
It is an organization second in popularity only to the Polish Catholic Church. When solidarity activist Halina Voce Ivoe joined the opposition in 1976 to protest the government's repressive actions against factory workers in Suzanne Rodham. Such a strike and such a Congress seemed like a remote dream. But Poles are now experiencing more political and personal freedom than ever before. For the past year in Poland, this cultural change has been called the renewal. But by the time Solidarity held its Congress this term, a change to the revolution. According to achieve all the success achieved by solidarity in Poland was possible because of historical and economic factors not present in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, countries whose revolts prompted Soviet intervention. At first, I think the tradition of the Polish people, the tradition of fighting for national independence, and due to this tradition, we kept our church, for example, we kept our private agriculture private peasantry way while the cold causes did not
succeed in Poland. So first tradition and the role of church, which which has stayed the independent force in Poland and which has always defended its opposition movements. The second factor, I think, "ehh" was the special features of the Polish economy under get sick. That is the inefficiency of this economy played for the opposition because it increased the unrest of people. And the third thing is, I think, well, get a policy towards it, towards the opposition. His his fear to persecute us "uh" because he because of the relations with the West. And that is that I think made me the tradition, the tradition of workers of workers revolts. A workers uprising in Poland directly preceded the Hungarian revolt in 1956, and a radical student movement in 1968 erupted in widespread demonstrations for civil
liberties. Solidarity Press spokesman pianos Onishi Gave, which was a student at Warsaw University in 1968 when strikes broke out again in 1970. He and many other members of the political opposition realized that workers and intellectuals would have to unite if any changes were to come about in Poland. For a long time, we were desperately seeking some contacts with the workers and we realized that even in 1968 we desperately tried to break through to the to the factories. But people we were sending they were immediately arrested and because we couldn't really manage to make any contacts with the workers, which we saw hopelessly lost. In 1970, the workers organized the so-called food riots in Gdansk in along the coastline. But then intellectuals were completely defeated. So nothing could be done. All of these outbreaks were met with severe repression.
But it was the strike in 1970 in which hundreds of workers and innocent bystanders were killed by government guns and tanks, which remained a bitter memory to Polish workers striking in the days, ten years later. Woo woo woo woo hoo! Woo hoo! But on your body. Yeah. Yes. Well, it was not until six years later that links could be created between workers and radical intellectuals. In 1976, during strikes in factory towns near Warsaw, a workers defense committee known as Core and an underground press were formed a network which was to sustain the strike in the Lenin shipyard, four years later. In 1976, we finally saw the chance because the workers were on the move, obviously, and intellectuals were united
more or less. So that was the well, the time was simply ripe to make this this connection and this contacts. And we did it and grasped it. The first mention of free trade unions in Poland occurred in a newspaper Halina Voce VO edited called Robotnik or The Worker. This newspaper, widely circulated in Gdansk, was instrumental in uniting workers with members of the political opposition. The success of Solidarity's 1980 strike is due to this coalition publishing the newspaper was risky and voce. VA was subject to petty harassment, repression and censorship. Well, it was not the Soviet Union, unfortunately. So we were not sent to camps, and it was impossible for the government even to imprison us for a long time, because when they tried the counter action in form of leaflets campaign in front of the churches, protest was too strong. So the persecution was constant searches of flats. I mean, we had over 25, I think, "uh" plus dismissals from jobs.
I was I was dismissed from my job and so was my husband. And they even tried to throw my daughter out of kindergarten. Perhaps from outside, it looks very romantic, but I wouldn't say that it was that heroic. I think most people treated it's in a natural way. I mean, I think to a certain extent it may sound paradoxical, but the people in the opposition were in a better situation than those who had to hide their feelings and who who had to lie to keep their jobs and who lived in this kind of schizophrenia all the time, saying different things at home and different things at work. So I think our situation was, from a certain point of view, even luxurious, because we could say what's what, what what we wanted were kind of ugly on the other side. Throughout the strike, Voce Chico's newspaper counseled the workers "Don't Burn Party" headquarters, she wrote, form strike committees.
The workers followed robotics advice and the strike committees formed the nucleus of the new Industrial Trade Union, Solidarity. Hard one experience from the failures in 1970 and 1976 enabled the workers to act in a disciplined and organized fashion in 1980. But as John Hewson Miscavige explains, there was another reason why the 1980 action was different. I think that the workers now are entirely different than 56 or even 1970. There is a new generation of workers which are skilled, which which have usually their secondary education. Even some of them are, you know, students who, for one reason or another failed so that the the gap intellectual gap is much smaller. There is also another that is also a generation element. Well, you see in Poland, every generation had a go at one stage or another. This generation simply didn't have and didn't try, yet they were not, "uh" they didn't have the bitter experience from the war. They were not tired.
They were not worn out as old generation. They simply realized that the concept of human rights and civil liberties was not totally alien to them. That's why it was possible to make the link. It was possible for the workers to realize that certain living standards are obviously linked with the with the way the country is run is being governed. And that's why there was a success in 1980 in the August. Wilson business. You know, just last year we were near Gdansk. And when we knew about it, I was extremely excited of what was going on. And we didn't realize how it was going to end and whether they were going to win or not.
POVICH Yeah, run them over. Well, before we talk about reverse, it is yours is it is a horrible mess. Yours is about over. Thank you. Doesn't that show? Going to Solidarity did win. The government was forced to sign the Gdansk accord, granting the right to form free and independent trade unions. The implications were clear to all Poles. Suddenly, it seemed possible that the party's hold on all aspects of economic, political
and cultural life might be loosening. Christina Trump Cheska is a young housewife from Warsaw. I had this feeling of that it started. Something is happening. Something is going on that people are not afraid to say what they what they think and what they have to say about their complaints. And they want to they want to achieve something. When we were going home to war, so it was on the 18th of August and we were passing on the train "uhh" in front of the shipyards. And we saw the workers sitting on the walls. We saw all the flags and we were very excited about that. I remember that I called my daughter from the compartment and say, now we look well. You must remember this was the end of your life just to look and and and to remember it. That they are really doing something and something will have to come out of it.
Yeah, well, she's your badge then. Stop. The party continued a campaign to intimidate the new union. And in March 1981, the solidarity activist Keone Milewski was badly beaten at a town hall meeting in Big goche. A tape of the beating made by police was copied by solidarity. And within 24 hours, the tape was played on P.A. systems in every factory in Poland. Shocked workers heard the sounds of Milewski and others beaten by police as they sang the Polish national anthem. In order to avert general strike, the party was forced to grant major concessions to solidarity. Among them, the recognition of rural solidarity and the right to publish an opposition newspaper with minimal censorship. Solidarity suddenly became a stronger force in society than the party. One observer said later, " there are screams with shattered glass. Yan Milewski screams shattered, "A power structure". Teemu leukocytes.
You must remember how it happened and rather in what situation it happened. We declared war less that we are not going to to arrange major strikes unless we are threatened. Janusz Honest. Davidge But in the same time "eh" we we were flooded by informations that our activists in the countryside are harassed. They are arrested by the police. Some of them were beaten, but activists on sort of a very local local level "uh" in factories. So there was certain certain tension already. People were were asking us, why don't you do something about it? They are going to destroy you gradually by by intimidating people. And suddenly, you know, this beating in bidgood beating of the leading figures in our movement happened.
So we simply thought and we had we had every right to do so, that that's that's sort of her apex of of the whole campaign. And if we don't react to it next day, the whole action will will intensify and finally will be simply beaten. The Meaning of Freedom for for policies is really high. Christoph Shavit, professor of sociology at the Polish Academy of Science. So the biggest case, it was perceived by not only by by the the nation, the people outside the party, but by the members of the party as a action against the freedom. They were against this action because it is against the Polish political tradition, so that ou know that violence. It's something which cannot be use never can be used by Paul against another party. Gosh proved that Communist Party hardliners no longer had the automatic support of rank and file party members. Shavit believes their power is broken forever.
The country will never again tolerate the old hardline practices, he claims. No matter how bad economic conditions become, but extreme shortages of food and even basic consumer goods like soap and toothpaste have made standing in line in front of shops a way of life more than ever before. Housewife and mother Christina. Francesca, I stand up in the queue. If there are no queues, I don't even go in because it means that there is nothing in the shop and that is not worth entering it. And it is very often that I don't know what they are selling. I just stand in the queue in the line and anything there is, I buy. So I send in one queue for some time. Then in the second queue. In the third queue. And in this way I make my shopping, which usually takes four hours. My child was 2 years and a half, has to stand together with me. I take her to my arms and I you know, I go out from the shop and it is not,. it's not only me, it's all other women.
The shop is full of children running around, fighting, crying, eating. This is this is the biggest problem. This upsets me the most because the children are really brought up in shops now. In the past, the government has tried to convince Poles that the shortages they are facing are caused by solidarity. But how Lenovo Chivo doubts that Poles are buying the government's arguments. They must remember that strikes "uhh" account only for eight hours of non-working time. The last year, while stoppages are mainly caused by the shortage of raw materials and so on so far. Sorry. Dhanush, of course, is to a certain extent responsible because so Dhanush makes this system impossible to work anymore. I mean, there is no system now. I mean, there is no the authoritarian system has ceased to exist and no orders work anymore and no new system has been created. And this is what Sir Dhanush is responsible for.
And that's why we are working to create the new system. Now Sir Dhanush can only kind of check the government. "uhh" While new forces are necessary, which will create something new here, because there is the political void. In a climate of increasing political and economic chaos, observers question whether Solidarity can control its 10 million members. The union now faces the difficult task of compromising with an unpopular government on such sensitive issues as agreeing to let food prices increase and to suspend strikes. Janusz Honest Davidge, Solidarity's is is a fighting movement, but he always fight somebody or some organization. We were obviously fighting the authorities. We were fighting the state as it was, but it was from the very beginning quite clear to us that, you know, our fight is a fight with limited goals. We wanted to achieve certain situation, but we didn't want to take over. We didn't want to destroy the state or the ruling party. So now we are in a situation when we already built a formidable
really fighting machine. And that's quite clear, we can block almost any move of the government. But unfortunately, we are not able yet to force the government to do the things which we think are right. If sometime if we even do that, then the problem is how to convince people that what the government is actually doing is if not correct, then it is not that bad that it could be a base for some discussion and after some amendments can could be accepted. In other terms, the gulf of, of the credibility is so big between society and the government that we are even afraid that if the time comes, then we will have to sit through to somehow support the government in certain loops. This support will be considered by other members as almost a treason. So that's a problem and obviously we are approaching this important point. The economic reform that Poland needs must be the
overall reform. So it's necessary that the Polish parliament becomes a Polish parliament, not something which does not represent any one. Solidarity, which gained prominence and popular support by opposing the government must now play a role within the government. Olina Voce ever believes this points to something like a parliamentary democracy. The party has had to accept a lot of things that its seemed impossible for it to accept. So I think it will also have to accept this. So there is stand on self-government in a much broader sense. That is self management, not only on the level of factories, but also in the state itself. So I think that further changes will be necessary. And even if the party does not want to accept it, I think it will have to. Richie vose optimism that solidarity can play an important role in governing Poland is due in part to the tremendous cultural changes of the last year.
A democracy requires citizens able and willing to govern. Whichever thinks that kind of citizenry now exists in Poland because of several important changes in the Poles themselves. I think that the most important thing was just the fact that people got guts trades. I would say that they didn't have to lie anymore, that they regained their dignity due to this. And I think it is the most important change because the economic situation has changed for the worse. And the second important change, I think, is that there is some hope now while the end that people feel that they can influence what's going on. That they have that they that they can do something. That they have become decision makers, a lot of them. Why before they were just deprived of any powers to to take and to make decisions. But it's a very sturdy, of course. Keith Helene and Michael Weisskopf is one of the leading Polish actresses.
Like many dissidents, she was blacklisted in the last decade for her activity in the opposition. This year, she attended Solidarity's first national Congress as a delegate from Warsaw. She says that though she cannot proceed to changes ahead for Poland. They will be profound use every step of Russia. I think that as the economy becomes decentralized, spiritual life will also become more and more decentralized and that people will no longer be afraid to think freely. Because Diana. I mean, it is true for selling your book, make rubbish, go anywhere. Our mass media presents us in a very bad light. It says we are lazy, not reliable, and that we lack self-discipline. But can you imagine any other society that could work normally under such dreadful conditions of everyday life? People stand in line for hours, day and night, and then they go to work. In my opinion, this is proof that we are strong and resistant. You mean what is good? We just started selling media. I that's dumb.
But we can endure all this because for the first time we feel free to say what we think. We have hope that we can hope, and now we can express those hopes. All this is so precious to us that we are willing to pay for it with the high price of patience, because now for the first time, we have too much to lose steam. Political populists, though, that are being do it. Of course, it is a close connection between the action of workers in the August 1980 and the character and all the structure built up by the authorities. Southern. This applies to the publishing. And this applies also to the universities. You should know that for the first time after many, many years when you have something noticed, namely. If universities elect is truly elected and not nominated by the authorities. Shares love me.what when the 1980 Nobel Prize for Literature. Here's an exiled poet living in the United States.
His poetry, long banned in Poland, is now no longer censored. Earlier this year, he made an emotional return visit to his native country, where he witnessed firsthand Solidarity's effect on the Polish people. He spoke with me from Harvard University, where he is a visiting scholar. My my feeling is that this independent movement of trade unions, which counts around 10 million people, is such a force that any government is put on the fence to take it into consideration and that we we are on our way towards finding a new formula of social life. Though Milosh may live in the United States, his popularity and influence in Poland have been enormous. Olina Michael Weisskopf supported herself while officially blacklisted and unable to work by reciting the forbidden poems of Cieslak me wash two-disc. She was Jewish to a couple of stoga Schmidt, whom she was only behind, don't know that of AFCO.
She'd be a man. Snapper needs to that his logo. I know how to start it. She has been intimidated for a long time by telephones from the security police and from her threatening her for her activities. But she is. She just went on and equal rights. I was one of those who used to go around and recite my thoughts on the steps outside of Olivia Stadium, where Solidarity's first national Congress was in session. I asked Michael Weisskopf she would recite one of my quashes poems. By the time she finished, two dozen delegates were listening quietly. As you see, she was cheating slutting month. It's a lot to me, medallion. And that's why you'll take us at our DEA, genea than you. Yeah, but you, Rasputin. This is a this is a form of mine.
The fragments of which are on the monument to the memory of people killed in 1970. Well, you see, people were shot at from tanks and people quietly going to work. Also, they were victims and they were there for the fair. So that was a sort of deep injustice and a feeling of naked oppression. Put up I mean, Moses goes out. That I just love it. Spee certainly happened to me. He does your rowbottom as a simple man laughing at his misfortune. Do not feel secure airport. Remember, you can carry him and you one will be born to let you have the shit.
Love him. Know you go. But choose items and you put it on the first ballot. The revolution has been completed. Now, that is the abandonment of the old system. And we are in the middle of the revolution. And what we must do now is to create a new one to what we hope for this kind of parliamentary democracy modeled on the Western democracies more or less, and class the status of Finland's geopolitically, that is military and foreign political dependance on the Soviet Union, plus a large range of internal independence, both. This report on Polan was produced by Jane Rosenthal and Richard Spielman for
California close up. I'm Jim Kwei. California Close Up is produced by California Public Radio for the Association of California Public Radio Stations. Funds come from the California Public Broadcasting Commission and the California Council for the Humanities. This is California Public Radio.
- California Close-Up
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- KUSC (Radio station : Los Angeles, Calif.)
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- The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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- "This documentary entitled Solidarity: The Fight for Free Trade Unions tells the story of the rise of the industrial trade union Solidarity as seen through the eyes of those who helped create it. Featured in this tape are former members of KOR and the Solidarity press spokesman and member of the Warsaw presidium, Janusz Onyskiewicz, as well as Polish citizens who witnessed the dramatic events of August 1980. The Nobel Prize winning poet Cszelaw Miloz, an important Polish cultural figure, is also interviewed. "Historic sound material is used in this documentary. This includes a tape of the food riots in Gdansk in 1970, Walesa's announcement of the signing of the Gdansk Accord and the Bydgoscz Tape. The music used was recorded at a Solidarity music festival in Gdansk in the summer of 1981. "It was the intention of this documentary to describe the social and political factors which led to the formation of Solidarity and to describe, as well, the cultural change Poland has undergone during the tumultuous year which culminated in Solidarity's First National Congress. This program aired again after the imposition of martial law with a new introduction."--1981 Peabody Awards entry form.
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Producing Organization: KUSC (Radio station : Los Angeles, Calif.)
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- Chicago: “California Close-Up; Solidarity: The Fight for Free Trade Unions,” 1981-11-21, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 10, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-526-v97zk56t31.
- MLA: “California Close-Up; Solidarity: The Fight for Free Trade Unions.” 1981-11-21. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 10, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-526-v97zk56t31>.
- APA: California Close-Up; Solidarity: The Fight for Free Trade Unions. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-526-v97zk56t31