Bringing Down the Iron Curtain
WARSAW—On June 14, Poland celebrated the 25th anniversary of the founding of Fighting Solidarity, the only freedom-seeking Polish organisation of the 1980s whose stated goal was the elimination of communism and freedom for all nations under the iron curtain.
Widely considered the most militant or radical splinter of the Solidarity trade union, the group’s main tactics revolved around an underground press, known as “bibula,” and underground radio broadcasts.
“We should remember that independence and democracy were not given to us as a gift; we had to fight to attain them,” said Bogdan Borusewicz, Speaker of the Polish Senate, in an opening speech at the Sejm, the Lower House of Poland’s Parliament.
Borusewicz thanked Fighting Solidarity members for risking their safety and their careers while undertaking actions that resulted in freedom for contemporary Poland.
Those gathered greeted former Polish Premier Jan Olszewski, Fighting Solidarity founder Kornel Morawiecki, and Anna Walentynowicz—whose firing in 1980 started the famed Gdansk shipyard strikes—with a standing ovation. Walentynowicz was welcomed as the “mother of Solidarity.”
The Speaker of the Sejm, Ludwik Dorn, noted that Fighting Solidarity activists dedicated themselves to achieving the greatest possible change in society, and that they “spoke loudly about what everyone was thinking about.”
“What Fighting Solidarity made its mission was what actually ended up happening. We have independence, the Soviet Union fell apart, and communism in Poland collapsed. That is why they deserve specific thanks,” said Dorn.
The meeting in the Sejm opened a series of anniversary events that will last four days, and will be held in Warsaw and in Wroclaw in south-western Poland.
“The goal of Fighting Solidarity was not to take power by armed conflict, but rather to return Poland to being an independent Poland,” said Roman Wieczorek, an engineer and Fighting Solidarity activist from Wroclaw, who began acting against the Polish communist regime as early as 1972.
“The main approach was to have true independence without looking to any Round Table,” he said, referring to Round Table meetings held in 1989 between Solidarity leaders and the Polish communist regime, which established partial elections and a government that included people from both organizations.
Activities surrounding the anniversary include an international conference for scholars; a meeting with Polish President Lech Kaczyński, under whose patronage the anniversary is being held; various exhibitions; and a show depicting some of the events that took place in Poland under communism.
“Free and In Solidarity”
Part of the anniversary events, the Free and In Solidarity international conference, began on June 15 in Warsaw. The first panel discussion of the morning, titled The Future of Anti-communism, brought noted anti-communist activists from Belarus, Russia, and the Czech Republic together with their Polish counterparts.
Belarusian opposition presidential candidate and Sakharov Prize winner Alexander Milinkevich lamented authoritarian communist practices in his own country. The presence of the internet in the country is awakening the Belarusian people to new possibilities, he said, noting that per-capita use of the internet in Belarus is greater than that of Italy.
“[The] internet has given Belarus a window into the world,” facilitating a “revolution of the mind,” he said.
Twice Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs and celebrated underground activist Dr. Wladyslaw Bartoszewski spoke extensively about building a future without communism. There is no quick fix, he said, adding that eliciting lasting change requires having educators raised outside of the communist system teaching the country’s youth.
Bartoszewski, who is also an honorary citizen of Israel for his role in saving Jews during World War II, believes that the threat of communism no longer lies in its ideology. The current threat, he said, comes from totalitarian “mafia-like structures” established in communist states, such as those that exist in parts of Asia and South America.
De-communization, said Bartoszewski, needs to happen if Poland is to truly move on from its communist past. Vetting, a process by which public figures are made to identify any past involvement with the Polish secret police, is an appropriate way to do this, but it must be done intelligently, he said. Sections of the Polish vetting law were recently found unconstitutional by the Polish Constitutional Tribunal, leaving the future of the process in question.
Fighting Solidarity: A Brief History
Fighting Solidarity became an organization distinct from the Solidarity Trade Union in May/June 1982. It was formed as a radical, independence-oriented underground organization, moving past traditional Union functioning, demanding that the communists have no right to hold power.
Fighting Solidarity was founded by Kornel Morawiecki, then editor of the Lower Silesia Bulletin and delegate to the National Solidarity Congress. He was known for his sceptical approach to the communist leadership.
The organisation was focused largely on creating and maintaining underground media, both print and radio. It also organized a series of protests and demonstrations in the years leading up to the fall of communism in Europe.
The Polish communist political police (the SB) quickly began quelling the new organization—arresting and holding people, and conducting trials. Both leaders and members of Fighting Solidarity were directly affected. Some of the leaders who didn’t go underground were under constant surveillance.
Fighting Solidarity had a membership of about 2,000 people, ten divisions around the country, and tens of thousand more supporters. After communism fall in Poland in 1989, the organization became less active, and officially ended its activities in 1992. Its activists tried to continue their political activities under the auspices of the Polish Freedom Party.