Disillusionment with capitalism in Poland

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Sun Nov 7 06:09:40 MST 1999



A couple of miles from the Gdansk shipyard lives Anna Walentynowicz, a
small woman with gray hair tugged back off a broad face. Her apartment is
cluttered with images of the Virgin Mary and Pope John Paul II; she moves
about it with a muscular agility suggestive of her long career at what was
previously known as the Lenin Shipyard. She started in 1950 as a welder.
Because of her size, she was regularly assigned to the airless corners of
hulls. Later, she moved up — quite literally — to become a crane operator,
the job she held when she ignited the movement that brought down Communism
in Europe.

The spark flared on Aug. 7, 1980: Walentynowicz was fired for criticism of
directors and for making candles to commemorate the 44 workers killed
during a strike a decade earlier. But she was popular, and her dismissal
came just over a year after the Polish pope had emboldened his countrymen
through his extraordinary first visit. Within days, workers in the Gdansk
shipyard put down their tools. Their demands were Walentynovicz's
reinstatement and a pay raise. The strike that would lead to the
extraordinary grass-roots movement called Solidarity had begun.

"We wanted better money, improved work safety, a free trade union and my
job back," Walentynowicz, now 70, recalls. "Nobody wanted a revolution. And
when I see what the so-called revolution has brought — mass poverty,
homelessness, self-styled capitalists selling off our plants and pocketing
the money — I think we were right."

Call Walentynowicz the embittered other face of the European transformation
that propelled Michnik to prosperity and power. There are millions like
her. Pensioners eking out a living on $200 a month; the unemployed; those
nostalgic for the predictable security, closer communities and free
day-care centers of old; the disillusioned who believed capitalism was
actually good in some moral sense and now recoil at the egotism of what
many former East Germans call "the elbow society."

>From 11/7 NY Times, The Accommodations of Adam Michnik
By ROGER COHEN
Full story at:
http://www.nytimes.com/library/magazine/home/19991107mag-europe-michnik.html


Louis Proyect
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