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The Polish Crisis: Three Statements

The following statement is from the Strike Committee of the Szczecin port and shipyard in Szczecin, Poland.

December 14, 1981

To all nations and people of good will who value the cause of democracy, freedom, and workers’ rights:

At the risk of their lives and personal freedom, despite the Draconian orders of martial law, despite the attempt to fetter us with fear, hundreds of thousands of Polish workers and patriots went on strike, voicing the following demands:

—that the declaration of a state of war be revoked;

—that all those arrested be freed;

—that all democratic and union rights won by the nation in August be restored.

We appeal to you:

Support us in our struggle with mass protests. Support us with moral aid. Do not stand idly by while democracy in the heart of Europe is in danger of being stifled at birth. Be with us in these difficult moments. Solidarity with Solidarity. Poland has not yet perished.

* * *

To the Editors:

At midnight on December 13, 1981, the Polish army and police raided the offices of the independent trade union “Solidarity”; thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of people were arrested in their homes. The prime minister, minister of defense, and first secretary of the Polish Communist Party in one person, General Jaruzelski, declared martial law.

Polish society, in whose overwhelming support Solidarity has its strength, has exercised tremendous restraint in the face of countless acts of provocation on the part of the government. In the course of its sixteen months of existence, Solidarity has committed no illegal acts; it has rigorously respected the Polish constitution and all the forms of political life accepted in civilized societies. Each and every voice from Solidarity, even if termed “radical” by the communist party or the Western media, has been no more than the exercise of that right to free and open discussion of national affairs which is guaranteed by the constitution. The party and the government, on the other hand, have violated almost every agreement they have signed; they have also violated the basic right of all citizens to freedom of expression.

The present events are not the “internal affairs of Poland.” The Soviet Union has been intervening in Polish internal affairs since 1944. The junta of General Jaruzelski, by linking the arrests of Solidarity members to those of former party officials, is clearly attempting to blame Solidarity for the thirty-six years of indolent and devastating communist rule which have brought Poland to economic collapse. The strikes called by Solidarity have resulted in the loss of one day’s work in sixteen months; the losses due to mismanagement and lack of supplies have resulted in the loss of over twenty days of work.

We appeal to every democratic government, and to all those who believe in the Polish people’s right to basic freedoms, immediately to halt all transactions, economic and other, with Poland, until every member of Solidarity is freed.

Stanislaw Baranczak, Joseph Brodsky,
Leszek Kolakowski, Czeslaw Milosz,
Susan Sontag, Tomas Venclova,
Adam Ulam
Committee in Support of Solidarity
Polish Workers Task Force
275 Seventh Avenue
New York, New York 10001

To the Editors:

On the night of December 12th, the Polish authorities decided to declare Solidarity illegal—this means they decided to declare society illegal.

When we signed the Gdansk Accords at the end of September 1980, it was in the hope that from this moment the method of governing in Poland would change, that the process of economic collapse would be stopped, and that society would regain its voice. Our hopes were misguided. In the course of sixteen months, out of twenty-one points of accord, only two have been realized. During this time negotiations took place concerning both minor matters, e.g., economic reform. None of these accords were realized. For sixteen months the government was on strike. The Polish authorities took no action whatsoever toward strengthening the economy; instead they blamed Solidarity for thirty-six years of indolent and incompetent economic management.

For thirteen months we waited for the enactment of the law on censorship; for twelve months we waited for the law on self-management. A year was needed for negotiations concerning the law on higher education and economic reform. And for the law on trade unions we have now been waiting sixteen months.

In the course of the past month the government has been trying to undermine the fundamental right won by working people in August 1981—the right to strike. “Solidarity” has no access to the media, which are controlled by the communist regime. In an atmosphere of endless attacks and insults from the authorities, the strike, the political strike, was the sole remaining weapon. (In 1981, strikes took up little more than one working day.)

It is hardly surprising that Polish society has no confidence in the government. Since none of our accords, hopes or expectations have been realized, we have with increasing frequency had to demand structural changes in the system of government. At the end of last week these demands led to a call for a national referendum on the degree of confidence on the part of the people in the existing government.

It must be stressed that neither Solidarity nor any of the dissident organizations in Poland have ever issued any statements concerning the Warsaw Pact or the Council for Mutual Economic Aid.

The authorities have involved us in countless provocations. Some examples: the October 1980 crisis provoked by the refusal to register Solidarity as a trade union; the March 1981 assault on Solidarity representatives during their visit to the national council in Bydgoszcz, where they had been invited for talks; the November 1981 incident in Silesia, where so-called “unknown agents” scattered containers of poisonous gas—seventy workers were subsequently hospitalized. There is no lack of examples. The current attack is yet another attempt to stifle Solidarity and deprive Polish society of the limited freedom which it fought for and won in August 1980.

I appeal to you, do not allow Poland to be crushed by totalitarian Soviet imperialism. Send letters and telegrams to the White House demanding that the American government exert economic and political pressure on the Soviet Union. Demand that the UN call on a committee of observers to investigate violations of human rights in Poland. Since the Polish government has ratified human rights pacts that General Jaruzelski’s military junta has now repudiated, the crisis is not an “internal affair” of Poland. Miroslaw Chojecki
(Founder of Nova, the leading independent Polish publishing house and head of publications for Solidarity)

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