Translator’s Note: On the morning of September 23 in Gdansk, the ninety-year-old Nestor of Polish sciences, Professor Edward Lipinski, addressed Solidarity’s first national congress. A small, white-haired figure with the bearing of a man several decades younger, Professor Lipinski spoke in a strong, clear voice and with great moral passion. He came to announce the dissolution of KOR—the Committee for the Defense of Workers—of which Professor Lipinski, a distinguished economist, was one of the founders. This small group of intellectuals came together in 1976 to aid several hundred Polish workers then being persecuted for protesting increases in food prices. Over the next four years the alliance of intellectuals and workers in KOR helped to prepare the way for the formation of Solidarity in 1980.
A socialist for seventy-five years—he joined the Polish Socialist Party in 1906—Professor Lipinski speaks on Polish socialism with a moral and intellectual authority that no other contemporary can match. His speech was wildly applauded throughout. It was also recorded and reproduced on cassettes by Radio Solidarity and has already begun to circulate widely in Poland as a classic statement of the current situation and its dangers.
My heavens! I must say, I’ve given many a speech in my life, but never have I been as nervous before an address as I am today. Perhaps it’s the circumstances under which I am to speak.
Where should I begin?
The year 1976. The threat to the nation is ever stronger. Polish society—the nation—is threatened from all sides: culturally, politically, morally, socially, economically.
The events of 1976: workers’ protests: the police, the secret police, beat people, torture them. A mass of people are thrown out of work in Random and Ursus.
The thought arises that it is necessary to protect and to care for those who have been wronged. And that is how KOR appeared: the Committee for the Defense of Workers.
The times have changed since 1976. A huge and powerful social force has arisen—Solidarity. Thus today’s gathering is a phenomenon entirely unique in the history of the last decades.
Conditions as well have changed for KOR’s work. As a result, the moment arrived in which KOR recognized that it must conclude, as it were, its own activities, because new conditions and new forces have arrived that are working more effectively than KOR could. Therefore, allow me to read a declaration from KOR which is, in a way, also a testament of a certain kind.
[At this point Professor Lipinski read the text of KOR’s declaration and the list of its signers. The declaration concludes, in part:]
We believe that everyone who once held dear the goals of the Workers’ Self-Defense Committee and then of the KOR Committee for Social Self-Defense should assist Solidarity today—as far as they are able to do so—joining its ranks or supporting it. We believe that today society is ready to bring about transformation in our country, which has been devastated by totalitarianism, corruption, and the lawlessness of the authorities. We believe…
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