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Colin Barker & Kara Weber

From Gdansk to Military Repression

Part I: Sixteen months of Solidarity

6. Reformism in Poland

In our tracing of the sixteen months of Solidarity we have tried to show how the set of ideas which dominated its leaders almost to the end proved increasingly inadequate for the advance of the movement, and were, in the final analysis, its undoing. We will now look more closely at these ideas.

They were, in their main outline, the product of ‘reform’ circles both within and outside the Party.

We have already referred to the damning indictment of Gierek’s Poland produced by the ‘Experience and Future Discussion Group’ (DiP). This discussion group, was drawn from the liberal wings of the PUWP and the Church, and involved professional economists, media personnel, sociologists and other intellectuals. They had, at first, unofficial sponsorship from leading members of the Party, including Olszowski – later a ‘hardliner’. Its first two reports, published in the year before the birth of Solidarity were sufficiently radical for state sponsorship to be withdrawn, but they reconvened and produced a third report in the spring of 1981.

Alongside their impressive description of the state of Polish society the DiP reports presented a virtual programme for renewal, whose general framework was widely accepted. In particular it provided the set of ideas within which the leadership of Solidarity tried to frame the union and its activities.

But what the DiP group represented – despite the fact that the regime, in fact, repudiated it – was a kind of ‘loyal opposition’ within the regime. They proposed a set of measures which would, on the one hand, reform the workings of Polish politics, economy and society, while not, on the other hand, directly challenging the ruling class’s monopoly of state power. They defined certain unassailable limits for any movement for change. The place of Poland in the Warsaw Pact was one. Another was the ‘leading role of the Party’. Any challenge to either of these assumptions could only bring the weight of the Russian army crashing down on Polish heads. A ‘middle way’ must therefore be found between the threat of immediate and growing stagnation and corruption in Polish life, and the danger of violent disturbances. And, fundamentally, that ‘middle way’ depended on somehow persuading the bureaucracy to give up part of its power and control over society. The effect of such a concession, it was assumed, would be to gain the regime additional, and real, support from the rest of society. Reforms must be instituted, to make the state more acceptable: ‘an independent civic and public opinion must undertake to provide and nurture conditions in which a partnership consensus can be instituted between the powers-that-be and society, in which, moreover, it would be possible to restore trust in the authorities.’ [95]

What was wrong with Poland, the DiP argued, was ‘the lack of acceptable compromises’. A new ‘historic compromise’ was needed, whereby corruption would be eliminated, inequalities lessened, economic reform instituted, managerial positions made more open to talent, much greater freedom of discussion permitted, and so forth. The difficulty was the ‘false style of government’ which was ‘the source and the cause of the present crisis’. [96] The bureaucracy had to be persuaded, fundamentally, to change its ‘style’. Discussing its proposals for reform, the DiP group wrote; ‘The proposed principles are meant to ground a philosophy of wielding power in Poland on something that might be called a “package of safeguards” for the system. In other words, the authorities are guaranteed a certain basic security (majorities in the central and local legislative bodies, a controlling influence over appointments to leading posts in the government, to top-level positions in the economy, and to the higher courts, influence over planning and supervisory agencies, and its own press). On the other hand, these proposals aim at satisfying the most urgently felt social needs, which might be described as “the craving for respect” (the craving for partnership), “the craving for the rule of law”, “the craving for democracy”, and “the craving for guarantees” ...’ [97]

Thus, if the DiP’s diagnosis of the ills of Polish society was quite radical, in terms of what it described, its proposals were – as the first report noted – ‘modest’. [98]

The reports themselves failed in one crucial respect: they never developed any adequate account of how the situation they described in Poland came about. Referring to the tendency to put all the weight of investment into heavy industry, they attributed this to ‘a dogma whose anachronism has been proved and even acknowledged many times over’. [99] A seemingly radical reference to conflict being due to ‘the fundamental opposition of interests between members of the establishment and other social groups’ ended with a reference merely to the bureaucracy’s ‘inefficiency’. [100] Neither the high rate of accumulation, the over-development of heavy industry nor the underdevelopment of production for social and individual consumption was ever explained. The causes of the ‘fundamental opposition of interests’ between the coyly labelled ‘social groups’ were never explored. In short, the DiP never reached behind the issues of freedom of expression and organisation, of ‘style of government’ and the rest, to consider the social relations of production in a scientific fashion. For, to do so would, in logic, be to throw into doubt the basic political programme of the DiP – it would suggest that the whole project of appealing to the authorities to reform society was utopian, and that the central problem of Polish society was not simply that it was ‘irrational’ but that it was divided into opposed classes, whose equal co-existence and ‘compromise’ was an impossibility. To recognise that would be to recognise the impossibility of reform-from-above, and indeed, of ‘reform’ at all.

When Solidarity emerged, the DiP’s orientation did not alter in any fundamental way. The third report welcomed the rise of Solidarity, and the role played by the Catholic Church, as two forces which could play a role in the same fundamental game – compromise: ‘A realistic chance of the Polish “historic compromise” is emerging in outline, a compromise based on the comprehension of the historical and social realities by both sides ... In all societies conflicting aims and interests exist. The point is not to eliminate all conflicts from social life, but to find forms for their peaceful resolution, or at least to minimise the damage resulting from the clash of groups with conflicting interests, in particular conflicts between the community and the government.’ [101]

No other method of resolving social conflicts was possible. ‘In our geographic location all other roads carry the risk of mass suicide.’ As ever, the DiP addressed itself to the bureaucracy: ‘Both the authorities and the people must learn political culture, but we expect more of the former.’ The state had ‘a learned habit’ of mistrust towards autonomous organisations like Solidarity, and it would take a long time – in effect – to re-educate those in power, thereby ‘socialising the government.’ And so on.

And so on. In essence, this style of thinking was characteristic of the great Majority of ‘educated Polish society’. [102] If, as the more acute among them half-recognised, the whole position was flawed, still there was no other way out, as a Polish sociology professor explained to us, than’ hope’ ...

The circles within which this reformist analysis was developed were those of the Polish liberal intelligentsia. They played, in the events of Poland, a role not unlike that played, in the revolutions of 1848, by the representatives of ‘democracy’ that Marx and Engels excoriated. Like the ‘petty bourgeoisie’ of 19th century France and Germany, the liberal intelligentsia of Poland stand between the major protagonists: the central political bureaucracy on the one hand and the workers and peasants on the other. Their standpoint is also that of those sections of the middle bureaucracy who are not hopelessly corrupted. Looking both up at the exploiters and down at the exploited, they dream of reconciliation and ‘historic compromises.’ In normal, everyday life, they supervise the lives of the Polish masses, as minor apparatchiks, as media personnel, as economists and sociologists. [103] They are, generally, little disposed to see in the working class the subject of history, though the extraordinary role of the workers in Poland itself makes them partly aware of their creative role there. If they look outside Poland, their eyes are not fixed on the possibilities of international working-class action, but on maintaining the stability of nation-state alliances.

It is difficult to see how such a stratum could develop any other kind of reform proposals than those emanating from the DiP group: an attempt to find a point of reconciliation between irreconcilable forces.

The importance of this social layer – which in practice extended to the Catholic liberal intelligentsia, as a result of an earlier ‘historic compromise’ between Church and state – is that they defined a political agenda for Solidarity, from the start. Jadwiga Staniszkis, a Warsaw sociologist, was one of the ‘experts’ recruited by Walesa to help the Gdansk MKZ in its negotiations with Jagielski in August 1980. Much of the detailed negotiation of the ‘21 points’ was done, behind the scenes, by the union’s and the regime’s ‘experts’. She describes the tone of the negotiations between the two groups of ‘experts’:

During the first meeting of the working group a peculiar half-relaxed atmosphere and gentle, ironic tones predominated. One of the reasons was that the experts on both sides ... were more or less members of the same Warsaw society: the government experts as somewhat critical but still loyal professionals, we as perhaps more openly critical, but still accepted in Gierek’s “window dressing” liberalisation pattern. In a way we could very easily have changed places (if only our political attitudes were taken into account). This atmosphere made the negotiations easier: elements of trust existed already ...’ [104]

This same group played a key role in getting the workers’ negotiating committee to accept the phrase about ‘the leading role of the Party’ in the final agreement, effectively – Staniszkis suggests – by misleading the workers as to its significance: ‘the majority of the experts tried to convince members of the praesidium that such a political formula “did not mean anything”, so “let us use their double-talk”. Laziness, fatigue, articulation problems and – last but not least – some workers’ trust in the experts and others’ fear of the consequences of their own principled attitudes were decisive.’ [105]

The ‘experts’ knew very well how significant the ‘formula’ was. It was, indeed, a key formula of their whole politics: while reform was desirable, it must not threaten the basics of the state.

The position of ‘the experts’, those ‘members of the same Warsaw society’, did not change. Their advice to Solidarity remained the same: be moderate, do not threaten the bureaucracy too much, or the result will be ‘a tragedy for the nation’. The voice of moderation was far from being simply that of the Catholic hierarchy (which had a tendency to be so ‘moderate’ that it shocked and angered sections of the workers – as in its attack on KOR); it was a unified voice of ‘educated opinion’.

The voice of caution was always a strong one. It appears in extreme form in the DiP second report, in one respondent’s ‘doubt concerning the advisability of society’s exerting any pressure on the authorities’: ‘I am not at all sure that it is true that the greater and broader the mobilisation of the public for direct involvement in political matters, the easier it will be to escape the present situation. Granted, the authorities should be subject to some pressure and control by society if they are to govern effectively; they cannot, however, govern effectively if they are backed up to the wall by a politically exasperated society.’ [106]

The dilemma voiced here was to plague the ‘experts’ and those in Solidarity who agreed with them: how far should the bureaucracy be pushed, and at what point should the pushing stop? For the existence of the ruling class itself, and the need to avoid pushing it too far, were unquestioned assumptions for the whole reformist tendency.


People who might have challenged these ideas were among the small group who formed the Committee for the Defence of Workers (KOR) after the 1976 strikes – Jacek Kuron, author (with Karol Modzelewski) of the revolutionary Open Letter to the Party of the 1960s, former radical student activists of the 1960s such as Jan Litynski and Adam Michnik, radicals of an older generation, and left Catholics. KOR played an important role in Polish working-class politics, which requires critical examination.

KOR performed a vital service for the workers’ movement in the years leading up to the 1980 strikes. The group publicly challenged the regime over its treatment of workers arrested in Radom and elsewhere, and produced open publicity in their defence. Despite being perpetually hounded by the authorities [107], they continued with their work. KOR insisted on doing all its activities openly, and won significant gains from the authorities. The bravery of the individual KOR members was considerable.

It was around KOR, too, that the small groups of workers first gathered to publish the Robotnik (Worker) newspapers, and to formulate the demand for free trade unions. Many of those who were to emerge in the leadership of Solidarity in 1980 had gained their political ideas and experience within these groups.

KOR demonstrated what a small but dedicated and convinced group of people – intellectuals and workers – could do in preparing the way for a mass movement that would confront the entire basis of the regime. It is doubtful whether, without the four years’ difficult and dangerous work of laying the seeds of workers’ organisation in the main industrial centres, the movement of July and August 1980 would have developed as fast and as confidently as it did. That background, too, contributed to the speed with which the workers’ movement took up the demand for free trade unions and – even more significantly – insisted on the release of the KOR members as the final condition for a settlement.

KOR’s contribution to the development of the workers’ movement in Poland was thus immensely positive. Up to, that is, August 1980. Thereafter, KOR became an impediment to further advance. For the ideas of KOR were, in essence, the same ideas that we find in the DiP reports. The KOR members represented the radical wing of that same milieu. Although marked off from the rest by their courage, and by their willingness and eagerness to make contacts with militant workers in the shipyards, mines and factories, KOR shared the belief that the workers’ movement must limit itself to the pursuit of reform, and that the basic framework of the state and the party’s leading role must be treated as sacrosanct.

The KOR group developed its ideas in the period before 1980. Polish society, they argued, required radical alteration, and alteration from below. As their Appeal to Society of 1978 explained, in 1970 and 1976 concessions won through ‘social pressure’ by the workers had been short-lived: ‘In no time at all, the authorities took back from the disintegrated community what it had obtained. Only steady, broad and organised pressure can counteract this.’ [108]

So, KOR looked to the emergence of organised, permanent countervailing forces within society, and especially within the working class, as a solution to Poland’s ills. Yet, at the same time, the ‘social movements’ they hoped to see springing up in Poland would need to limit themselves. For, as Kuron once remarked, in Poland’s position it is better to stop one step short than to go one step too far ... The reason why the movement must limit its aspirations was – as for the DiP group – the threat from Russia. The experience of Hungary in 1956, and of Czechoslovakia in 1968, showed that the workers’ movement must not directly challenge for state power, and that the party’s structure and power should not be undermined. [109] Adam Michnik explained the position in 1978:

We don’t want to overthrow the system ... We realise that in Poland today the Communist Party must rule, and that Poland must stay in the Soviet bloc ... we just want them to rule more justly. We want a dialogue with the Party, not a clash. [110]

In November 1980, giving a ‘Flying University’ lecture in Warsaw, Michnik argued that the same position still obtained, despite the emergence of Solidarity:

The only representatives and the only partners that the Soviet Union takes seriously are the Communists. Today our movement must control and constrain this power to make concessions to democratic liberties. But we must not seek to eliminate this power. These remarks will not earn me much popularity, but it is my moral duty to express them. [111]

Just as, in a sense, the Church had won itself a kind of compromise relationship with the state after 1956, so too the workers might win the same position for Solidarity. This would make a major contribution to opening up Polish society into a ‘Poland of social movements’, a society whose originally monolithic politics would now become ‘pluralist’. The workers’ movement must, however, never directly threaten the state or the party, for the consequences would be dire.

Hence, in one phrase that became quite popular, the Solidarity movement represented – and must represent – a ‘self-limiting revolution’. Ideally, Poland’s international aspiration should be to become like Finland: a semi-independent state on the borders of Russia, relatively free internally, but careful never to overstep the limits imposed by its ‘geopolitical situation’ by offending the Kremlin.

Through its members’ close relations with leading members within Solidarity, KOR became an intellectual bridge across which, in practice, the ideas of the ‘Warsaw society’ were transmitted into the leadership of the workers’ movement. (It was not the only such bridge, of course: the Church also provided its own intellectual links, independently of, and in partial hostility to KOR. But KOR’s voice was the radical voice, while the Church’s never was.) In this way, KOR played an important role, almost to the end, in restraining Solidarity. It did this, above all, by defining the limits beyond which the workers’ movement ought not to go.

The ideas of KOR, and indeed of the entire liberal opposition in Poland, bore a strong resemblance to those of a definite current within the western labour movement – ‘Eurocommunism’. It was Enrico Berlinguer, leader of the Italian Communist Party, who had devised the formula of a ‘historic compromise’ between the workers’ movement and the bourgeoisie; a similar strategy was pursued, and elaborately defended in the book, ‘Eurocommunism’ and the State, by Santiago Carrillo of the Spanish Communist Party. [112] Both these parties, and to a much lesser extent their French and British counterparts were prepared openly to criticize repression in the Eastern bloc.

This combination of timid reformism and tepid anti-Stalinism recommended itself in the late 1970s to many dissident Eastern European intellectuals, disillusioned by the failure of the bureaucracy to reform itself yet sceptical of the working class’s capacity to transform society – a perspective developed at length from a quasi-Marxist perspective by Rudolf Bahro in his book, The Alternative, which made much of Eurocommunism. The Italian and Spanish Communists’ strategy, and their willingness to support Eastern European dissidents, seem to have had some impact on KOR. Adam Michnik paid specific tribute to the Eurocommunists’ intervention after the 1976 strikes, when they had ‘helped to free many Polish workers from prison’, and had reinforced the hope that ‘it is possible to create “socialism with a human face” in Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe’. [113]

Eurocommunist influence no doubt encouraged KOR in their belief that the interests of the bureaucracy and of the working class could somehow be reconciled. But much more important in shaping the ideology of reform was their own experience. Intellectuals such as Kuron, Modzelewski and some of those involved in the student movement who had developed a revolutionary socialist perspective in the 1960s had by 1976 experienced a succession of defeats. The Gdansk riots had been bloodily crushed, the Szczezin workers hoodwinked and their leaders picked off; elsewhere in Eastern Europe there was the bleak end of the Prague spring, strangled by Brezhnev; in the USSR itself the dissident movement was being slowly destroyed, and the strike wave of the 1960s had trailed off. There was also the memory of other defeats – the workers’ revolts of Berlin in 1953, and Hungary in 1956 crushed by Russian tanks. Kuron and his co-thinkers concluded that the road to revolution was therefore closed by the Kremlin’s military might. Pursuit of a ‘historic compromise’ using workers’ economic muscle to squeeze political reforms from the bureaucracy, might succeed. After all, the Church’s ideological power had gained it a certain independence of the regime, and even some influence over its decisions.

The evolution of Kuron and other KOR leaders resembled that of many western leftists, who believed after 1968 that revolution was just around the corner. When they discovered that it wasn’t, that overthrowing capitalism would be a long and difficult process, they rejected the objective of revolution completely. One short cut having failed them, they took another – reformism. [114] Similarly, in somewhat different circumstances, KOR adopted the panacea of compromise with the bureaucracy, a strategy which could only end, as it did, in disaster.

Reformism and Solidarity

Reformism, in practice, was a deadly trap for the Polish workers. The idea that some kind of ‘historic compromise’ might have been possible in Poland rests upon a fundamental theoretical failure on the part of the Polish left. They never explained, or came to terms with, the basis of the ‘fundamental opposition of interests between social groups’ to which the DiP report referred. The opposition between the bureaucracy and the majority of Poland’s citizens, the workers and peasants, is a class opposition, founded on the exploitation of the working class through the state. Kuron and Modzelewski, in the 1960s, had come to an almost totally correct account of this. [115] But they seem then to have ‘forgotten’ their own analysis.

To recognise the existence of class opposition in Poland, and its systematic basis, is to recognise that there is no room for ‘compromise’ between the regime and a movement like Solidarity. If the regime accommodated with Solidarity for a period, it was because it was itself temporarily immobilised by its internal disarray. There was, however, no basis for its acceptance of any long-term ‘compromise’ on the basis proposed by the DiP group, the party reformers, the Church or KOR. That hope of compromise was a miasma. The real situation in Poland was an unstable equilibrium of forces that could only be resolved by an armed confrontation. The issue, from the beginning, was simple: either the workers must destroy the existing state and replace it with their own state, or they must be conquered. [116]

If Solidarity and its intellectual advisors did not recognise this, those at the centre of the state always did. Andrzej Zabinski, for example, a member of the Politbureau and first Party secretary in Katowice, gave a secret speech to members of the police and state security forces, in which he spelled out a strategy for undermining Solidarity. It included proposals for getting Party members to hold dual membership of Solidarity and the CRZZ (the old state ‘unions’); isolating Solidarity from KOR; attacking the regional basis of Solidarity organization, and substituting industrial organisation; using the law against Solidarity; complicating everything to the point of confusion; and using perks to corrupt the movement’s leaders. [117]

Of course, it is possible – in circumstances different from those of Poland – that a ‘compromise’ might have been achieved, short of the use of armed force by, or against the state. After all, this was the outcome in Portugal after the revolution of 1974–5. Could such a ‘compromise’ have been achieved in Poland, however, the price would have been the bureaucratisation of Solidarity, and the incorporation of its leadership into the structures of the state, in itself a major defeat for the workers which would have left the state-capitalist relations of exploitation intact.

In any case, such an outcome was never very likely. For one thing, in the state-capitalist countries, ‘politics’ and ‘economics’ are institutionally bound closely together, lacking the ‘separation of spheres’ which enables the trade-union bureaucracy to pursue and sometimes to win reforms without threatening capitalist relations of production in ‘liberal’ western regimes. More important, however, are two other considerations. The first is that the scale of the economic crisis was such that no point of equilibrium could be found that would even minimally satisfy both sides – and some degree of satisfaction for each side is a necessary element in any compromise. And, secondly, a connected feature: the workers’ movement was anyway too insurgent in spirit to be so easily disciplined and contained by processes of internal bureaucratization. There did not exist in Poland the equivalent of the Portuguese Communist Party, a mass reformist organization which had earned the disciplined loyalty of the strongest sections of the class over years of struggle, and could therefore deliver a compromise which left capitalism intact.

For a period of over a year, therefore, the stand-off between the two classes continued. The bureaucracy was in crisis, its authority over society crumbling into ruins – although the armed forces, the ultimate defence of its power, survived. The ruling class could not accept a compromise, because independent workers’ organizations would prevent a solution of the crisis at the working class’s expense. Because of the crisis, the workers could not accept the framework of compromise either. Their needs were too urgent, and too radically distinct from anything that the ruling class could offer. And the workers had a sense of their own immense strength.

In this unstable situation, the two forces – the bureaucracy and Solidarity – stood opposed to each other; each blocked the other’s aims and activity. Those who argued for ‘compromise’ and ‘pluralism’ merely obfuscated the situation. To the degree that they had influence on either side, they weakened it. The Party was weakened by its own internal reform movement, as the state’s civil government apparatus was weakened by the spread of Solidarity ideas and membership among its middle ranks. Its ideological control system was similarly weakened by the phenomenal spread of sympathy with Solidarity. [118] In the same way, Solidarity was weakened constantly by the predominant influence in its leadership of these ideas of reform and compromise. In such a situation, one side or other would have to clear its decks of ‘reformism’ and proceed to smash the other.

In the meantime, the crisis was felt within Solidarity. As we have seen over and over again, the leadership would act in line with the predominant conception of its own role and tasks urged on it by the ‘experts’. It would rush around, trying to cool things down so that ‘negotiation’ and ‘discussion’ with the state might proceed. The rank-and-file membership, less ideologically constrained, would then erupt into angry action over some particular grievance, generating in the process new demands – or expanding old ones – in ways that would again shove Solidarity into action, and push its relationship with the state to the point of crisis. Instinctively, sections of the leadership would then collide with the more ‘moderate’ sections, rowing over ‘union democracy’, ‘Walesa’s dictatorship’, the composition of the ‘expert’ teams, etc. The issues of democracy and personnel were of course important, but there was more at stake than only these questions. The reality that Borusewicz and Kuron reported (see above) – and which many workers’ representatives also noted – was that the rank and file membership was more ready, eager even, to go further in the battle with the Polish state than were their advisers. [119]


95. DiP Report, op. cit., p. 9.

96. Ibid., p. 158.

97. Ibid., p. 117.

98. Ibid., p. 119.

99. Ibid., p. 42.

100. Ibid., p. 66.

101. Kultura (Paris) May 1981.

102. See. for further examples, the various articles contributed to the special Polish issue of Telos, no. 47, spring 1981, by Nauman, Michnik, Pomian, Mazowiecki, Kuron, Wojcicki and Swidlicki. Similar viewpoints are also expressed, for Hungary, by Hegedus and Engelmann, and for both Hungary and Czechoslovakia in interview collections. The whole issue of this journal provides useful insights into this intellectual world.

103. Marek Tarniewski offers a nice image of this layer: ‘A porcupine turned upside down may serve as a model of the psychology of apparatchiki: it is soft on top, and prickly from below.’ The New Regime, Survey, Spring 1981.

104. Jadwiga Staniszkis, The evolution of forms of working-class protest in Poland: sociological reflections on the Gdansk-Szczecin case, August 1980, Soviet Studies XXXIII, 2 April 1981, pp. 213–4.

105. Ibid., p. 216.

106. DiP Report, op. cit., p. 213.

107. As well as the continual arrest and harassment of its members, a student sympathiser of KOR, Stanislaw Lyjas, was almost certainly murdered by the security organs in 1977.

108. Cited in Problems of Communism, January–February 1980, p. 12.

109. Hence the worry expressed by Litynski and Kuron at the prospect of the Party reform movement – see above.

110. Sunday Times, 9 April 1978. Kuron had expressed similar ideas in his 1976 essay, Thoughts on the programme of action in Ruch Oporu (Paris), 1977

111. Telos 47, Spring 1981, p. 69.

112. For two clear statements of ‘right’ and ‘left’ and Eurocommunism respectively see S. Carrillo, ‘Eurocommunism’ and the State (London 1977), and N. Poulantzas, State, Power, Socialism (London 1978). For critiques of these works, see C. Harman, Eurocommunism, the State and Revolution, IS 101, September 1977, and C. Barker, A New Reformism?, IS 2 : 4, Spring 1979.

113. Interview with L’Espresso (Rome), 5 December 1976, cited in Problems of Communism, March–April 1978, p. 49.

114. See C. Harman, The Crisis of the European Revolutionary Left, IS 2 : 4, Spring 1979, for an analysis of this process.

115. There is a slight ambiguity in their Open Letter to the Party, in that they only hint at the state’s motive for exploitation and accumulation, in a single reference to the bureaucracy’s ‘international position (very important for a class organised as a group identifying itself with the state)’ (p. 17). The issue is discussed further in Colin Barker, Theories of Russia, mimeo, 1981.

116. In their Open Letter ..., Kuron and Modzelewski described how the new Gomulka regime had to win popular confidence before they could ensure the power apparatus its repressive strength and control over society. The ‘October Left’, of that period, failed miserably:

‘The only chance of expanding the revolution was to propose working class program and to organise a movement around it opposed to the rule of the liberal bureaucracy. At this decisive moment, the Left not only failed to put forward such a programme and organise itself into a party, but it lent support to the liberal bureaucracy, the chief anti-revolutionary force. All the great authority which the activists of the Left enjoyed in their arenas was passed on to the new leadership. In this way, the Left contributed to maintaining the power of the bureaucracy, and by the same token, it prepared its own political death and the defeat of the revolution.’ (p. 46)

Alas, with only small modifications these words could stand for a political epitaph on KOR.

117. The text of the secretly taped talk was published in Der Spiegel, 6 April 1981, and is summarised in the editors’ footnote in Telos 47, Spring 1981, p. 98.

118. One example. One of the autumn 1980 issues of Polityka ran a feature article by a hospital doctor on her experiences at the time of the August strikes. Her working-class patients had suddenly become well, and discharged themselves from hospital to join in the workers’ movement. Shortly after, the wards filled up again, this time with ‘sick’ apparatchiks. She described her ethical dilemma: should she try to make the party apparatchiks well again?! This, remember, in a Party newspaper.

119. In the 1st August issue of Robotnik, Zbigniew Bujak, chairman of Warsaw Solidarity, recounted how he had reported to his members on the ‘self-management’ discussions. Their reaction was apathetic, until he told them that the self-management movement could lead to their taking power, a which point only did they express interest.

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