Daniel Singer, for many years The Nation's Paris-based Europe correspondent, was born on September 26, 1926, in Warsaw, was educated in France, Switzerland and England and died on December 2, 2000, in Paris.
He was a contributor to The Economist, The New Statesman and the Tribune and appeared as a commentator on NPR, "Monitor Radio" and the BBC, as well as Canadian and Australian broadcasting. (These credits are for his English-language work; he was also fluent in French, Polish, Russian and Italian.)
He was the author of Prelude to Revolution: France in May 1968 (Hill & Wang, 1970), The Road to Gdansk (Monthly Review Press, 1981), Is Socialism Doomed?: The Meaning of Mitterrand (Oxford, 1988) and Whose Millennium? Theirs or Ours? (Monthly Review Press, 1999).
A specialist on the Western European left as well as the former Communist nations, Singer ranged across the Continent in his dispatches to The Nation. Singer sharply critiqued Western-imposed economic "shock therapy" in the former Eastern Bloc and US support for Boris Yeltsin, sounded early warnings about the re-emergence of Fascist politics into the Italian mainstream, and, across the Mediterranean, reported on an Algeria sliding into civil war.
The Daniel Singer Millennium Prize Foundation was founded in 2000 to honor original essays that help further socialist ideas in the tradition of Daniel Singer.
The meeting around a green table between representatives of Poland's ruling party and of Solidarity, scheduled for February 6, is a historic occasion. It marks a serious new attempt to include the opposition as an integral part of the political system in Eastern Europe. The sweeping reforms introduced in Gorbachev's Soviet Union and various countries under its influence, although forced by social tensions, have all been initiated--at least so far--from above. Poland, ever since its workers uprising of 1970, has been an exception to this rule. There the pace of events has largely been dictated by the posture of the working class. The movement from below reached its climax in the summer of 1980 with the birth of Solidarity and was driven underground in the winter of the following year by Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski's military coup. Thus, it has taken more than seven years of political stalemate and economic stagnation for the two sides to resume a dialogue.
The decision to do so was not reached easily. The plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party last month was quite dramatic. At a secret session during the night of January 17, Jaruzelski had to resort to the threat of resignation (his own, his Prime Minister's and that of the two fellow generals in charge of defense and the police) to force the Central Committee to accept a resolution promising, among other things, "labor pluralism": the prompt legal recognition of Solidarity in the event of an agreement. Lech Walesa, so far, has met with less resistance to the idea of negotiations, but discontent among his followers is likely to grow should he pledge to keep what is suspected to be his part of the bargain--the preservation of "social peace" in the factories and the acceptance of some form of electoral alliance with the Communist Party within a "front of national reconciliation."
All these maneuvers are taking place against the background of rising economic discontent. An official report just published confirms that the per capita gross national product is still 13 percent lower than it was ten years ago and that inflation last year exceeded 60 percent, with worker incomes far outstripping the supply of consumer goods. The economic crisis at once renders the talks more difficult and makes them a necessity. The government needs popular support to give its reforms a chance. Solidarity fears a bloody explosion that it could not control. Even if both sides are thus driven toward a deal, the range of issues on which they must agree covers almost everything--the proposed cure for the crisis, the future shape of society and the political price to be paid by the government in exchange for economic concessions to the union. As they move closer to their "historic compromise," we are bound to see strains, breaks and even realignments on both sides.
At best, the round table is only the beginning of a long and complicated process. Nonetheless, the search for an understanding between ruling reformers and the movement from below is a momentous occasion for Eastern Europe.