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Colin Barker & Kara Weber

From Gdansk to Military Repression


In the aftermath of the military coup in Poland, two voices have been heard loudly in the West.

The first has been the voice of hypocrisy. Ronald Reagan. Margaret Thatcher and a host of others have trumpeted their support for democracy and free trade unions in Poland. Their protestations are best measured against their continuing support for the official butchery of the people of El Salvador, or Reagan’s hope – expressed within weeks of the Polish military action – for improved relations with the brutal military regime in Turkey. Reagan and Thatcher have consistently been hostile to trade unionism in their own countries. Their ‘support’ for Polish workers is mere opportunism, motivated by Cold War interests rather than concern for the Polish people.

The second, more pervasive and insidious voice has been that of ‘moderation’. The problem, it is said, is that Solidarity ‘went too far’, thereby provoking the coup. Chancellor Kreisky of Austria has even suggested that the Polish Catholic Church (!) was the key agent of political ‘extremism’.

We have nothing in common with these views. For us, the Polish regime deserves the hatred and opposition of workers everywhere tor the same reasons, at root, that Reagan’s or Thatcher’s or any other ruling-class regime deserves hatred and opposition. We see no difference in principle between Solidarity members jailed by Jaruzelski and air traffic controllers jailed by Reagan. We support Polish workers for the same reasons that we support unofficial strikers in Britain, or those who continue resistance against dictatorship in El Salvador or Turkey.

Nor can we have any truck with those who accuse Solidarity of going too far”. Theirs is an argument for perpetual subordination and obedience by the exploited and oppressed of the world.

The two essays which follow were written hastily in the weeks following Jaruzelski’s coup. Their argument may be summed up as follows: first, the Polish workers were defeated because they did not – for reasons we try to explain – ‘go far enough’; second, there is no difference in principle between the Polish regime they opposed so inspiringly and the variety of exploiting regimes across the globe, both East and West, against which we must all, in our billions, continue to struggle.


Colin Barker, Kara Weber [1]
January 1982


1. The first draft of this article was written in great haste in the three weeks following Jaruzelski’s coup of 13 December 1981. It then passed into the critical hands of Peter Binns, Alex Callinicos, Peter Goodwin and Chris Harman, who set about it with abandon. After their additions, deletions, reorganisations, amendments arguments, taking of liberties and general mayhem, we then did our own reconstructions. We hope that the end product will give them some pleasure and not too much pain. Our special thanks to them, anyway, for their various contributions.

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