Solidarity--Lest We Forget
Cracks in the Ice
The establishment of a military dictatorship in Poland, dashing tremendous hopes, gave the right-wing propagandists a golden opportunity to revive the image of "communism" as the evil incarnate and as permanent hell. However horrible the regime in El Salvador, they argue, it is preferable to one from which there is no return. If you don't like the system prevailing at home, you must resign yourself to accepting it as a lesser evil. It would be absurd to reply by denying differences and lumping together, say, Britain and the Greece of the colonels on the ground that the governments of both were forms of "bourgeois dictatorship." On the other hand, the argument drawn from Rosa Luxemburg explains why we are fighting on all fronts at the same time.
It must be added that Poland provokes strange postures on the left as well. Whether bewildered by the curious mixture of class struggle and Catholicism, repelled by memories of Polish anti-Semitism or unable to abandon the fiction of a "socialist" Russia, a substantial section of the Western left has been trying to treat the saga of Solidarity as a thing of the past. If in the right-wing version nothing can change in the Soviet bloc because communism is unredeemable, in this "leftish" version change can only come from above. The trouble with both these theories is that they ignore the facts. The strikes and skirmishes of May are only a reminder. Even before they occurred it was obvious that the Polish labor movement did not begin in August 1980 and that it did not end on December 13, 1981, with Jaruzelskl's crackdown. Solidarity was the pioneer in a vast, complex process of reawakening the working people of the Soviet bloc.
What shape this movement will take, how rapidly it will spread and how much the cost in blood will be no one can forecast with precision. One thing is clear, though: we on the democratic left can play a part in influencing the outcome. As outsiders with much more room to maneuver, we must tell Polish resisters that all the enemies of Brezhnev are not automatically their allies, just as we must tell Sandinists they are wrong in refusing to greet a Solidarity delegation. Indeed, it is our duty to repeat stubbornly to the fighters whose vision is often confined to their own terrain that their battles, however distant, are common, that they are part of our joint fight for survival in this nuclear age, a survival that can only be achieved by our struggle all over the globe for mastery over our fate.
There are many possible ways to the Poland station. Efforts are being made to turn this provisional tragedy into a source of confusion, despair and deep division, reviving the Manichean alignments of the cold war. But the Polish crisis may also mark the formation of quite different coalitions. The superpowers in their complicated, conflicting coexistence have certainly one thing in common, a profound hostility to movements from below--and rightly so. If the downtrodden and the exploited, the oppressed and all.those who try to understand the world in order to change it, rise above the artificial barriers that divide them, they will start to give some historical meaning, on a planetary scale, to the slogan scrawled on the walls in Poland: "The snows of winter will start melting to their horror and the first shoots of spring will begin to blossom for our delight."