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 that today, when the first congress and the first democratic elections to the leadership bodies of Solidarity are taking place, we should entrust the struggle for the regeneration of the Polish People’s Republic to the strength and intentions of this organization.
On the fifth anniversary of the birth of the Workers’ Defense Committee we consider our activity to have come to a close.
[Before returning to his address, Lipinski asked for a moment of silence in honor of the memory of two deceased KOR members—Professor Adam Szczypiorski and Dr. Waclaw Zawadzki. The delegates rose.]
I do not want to give a long address. You have considerably more important matters to attend to. But let me still say a few words while I am at the podium.
KOR has recognized that its work has ended, and that other forces have arrived on a much more powerful scale. But the task of fighting for an independent Poland, for human and civil rights, is a fight that still must go on. Despite the agreements [with the government], despite the changes that have recently occurred, it is not possible to rid oneself of the impression, or the conviction, or the sense, that the battle is not yet over. There are still forces which seek a return to earlier conditions.
I myself was horrified this past week when, from the Party podium, I heard [Party Secretary] Kania spoke of threatening bloodshed. I was horrified when I heard from General Jaruzelski [the Prime Minister] that he is prepared to mobilize the army in the defense of socialism in Poland.
What was that supposed to mean? How can the army defend socialism in Poland? The army is supposed to defend socialism in Poland by shooting people! On television we have had two programs lately with interviews of soldiers. These soldiers declared passionately that they are ready to defend socialism and are prepared to obey orders.
What kind of order is it possible for the army authorities to issue in the defense of socialism? “Fire”? That was my impression.
The defense of socialism is a matter of principles; it is a matter of theory; a matter of political points of view! How can the situation arise that the highest representatives of state authority threaten us with military intervention in the defense of so-called “threatened socialism”?
In what way is socialism threatened in Poland? What does it mean to say that socialism is threatened? What are these antisocialist and counterrevolutionary forces?
Socialism, in the classical definition of the term, is supposed to be a better economic order than capitalism; it is supposed to be broader in its freedoms than capitalism; it is supposed to solve the question of work and the liberation of the working class; it is supposed to provide the conditions under which each person can fully develop his possibilities and have free and unconstrained access to the products of culture and civilization.
However, a socialist society was created with a bad economy, an incompetent economy, a wasteful economy. Indeed this socialist economic system has led to an economic catastrophe without parallel in the course of the last one hundred or two hundred years.
Perhaps in Cambodia there are similar conditions. There a socialist system led to the death of three and a half million people in the defense of socialism. This socialism of a squandered economy—this socialism of prisons, censorship, and police—this socialism has been destroying us for some thirty years just as it destroys other nations.
I have considered myself a socialist since 1906. But this has meant precisely the fight for a better economy; for a democratic economy; for the ownership of the means of production. Not for state ownership where the property owners are a group of new, private owners of the means of production, but for social ownership of the means of production; for the democratic control of factories; for political freedom. These are the goals of every genuine socialism; as well as the destruction of censorship and the possibility for the full development of the Polish nation.
There are indeed antisocialist and counterrevolutionary forces. But my conviction is that it is their socialism that is antisocialist and counterrevolutionary!
They threaten us with violence! Under the protection and sponsorship of the Party, publications appear, such as Reality and Screen, and some of the organs of the official, state-sponsored unions. Anti-Semitism is spreading. One may read “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”—an anti-state, anti-Jewish creation produced by the Tsar’s Okhrana even before the First World War—in the journal of what is considered to be the leading official union.
The leading publication of the Polish army, Soldier of Freedom, under the sponsorship of General Jaruzelski, is a communist-fascist paper. In one of its recent issues there was an article in which the bastards from Solidarity and KOR were attacked for still continuing to claim that Katyn was a crime of the Russians. “No,” they said, “the Germans caused Katyn.” They dare to spread this kind of lie in 1981. And this paper is the organ of the Polish army and is supposed to shape the mentality, the emotions, and the morals of Polish soldiers and officers.
Not everyone here is a socialist, as I am, but all of us are fighting for the same goal. In Poland there are no significant forces that want a reprivatization of the means of production—a reprivatization of the Warsaw Steelworks, or the Lenin Steelworks. There are no such forces. However, everyone understands that if it is a question of light industry and small businesses, of restaurants and crafts, then one should have private initiative, for only private initiative can guide such enterprises effectively. To socialize them means to bureaucratize them or to destroy the creative factor that can adapt to changing circumstances. In these cases private ownership is better. On the other hand, there are no counterrevolutionary forces, for only those forces would be counterrevolutionary that would seek to restore private ownership of heavy industry. There are no such forces in Poland.
There are today forces that desire freedom, that demand freedom, that demand normal conditions for the life of the Polish nation. But these forces are not antisocialist.
Translated by Richard Spielman from the spoken text as recorded and distributed by “Radio Solidarity.”