“Striking Polish workers have no class consciousness,” declared Lukaszewicz, propaganda minister under Gierek, on August 25, 1980.
“And you, there, in France, do you realize that a revolution is underway in Poland? A revolution that will not stop as in Portugal after the flowers but which will go further, go to the end, until we have complete democracy.” This is a statement by a Polish worker following the Bielsko-Biala strike on February 6, 1981.
Where, given these two evaluations of the workers’ actions, should the autonomous Polish movement be located? There are a few first-hand reports on the July and August 1980 spontaneous strike eruptions. At the Ursus tractor plant in early July and in Gdansk in mid-August, in a matter of hours, the actions of a few were transformed into a powerful irreversible movement which organized itself as it proceeded. But it was the earlier struggles, those of 1970-71, of 1976, and all the daily confrontations since 1970 which shaped the forms of the workers’ actions. A reporter for the (London) Financial Times summarized;
"This shows a working class which is learning the rules of industrial disputes fast. They are younger and more ambitious than before. Surveys carried out a few years ago show that they are well aware of the lack of democracy at their work place and the failing of the official trade unions in defending their interests. There is also an acute awareness of inequalities in society."
In fact, there was much more than this. Here was an entire class with years of experience in outwitting the authorities inside and outside the factory on a daily basis, seeking escapes wherever it could since conditions for a frontal attack were lacking. These everyday practices should not be judged in terms of bourgeois morality or of "revolutionary" ethics but in terms of what they represented within the capitalist production apparatus to those who undertook them. The act of stealing has opposite meanings for an owner and a worker: for one, it is an increase in his share of the surplus value extorted from the workers, for the other, it is a decrease.
Finally the conditions were there and everything was coming apart but, in spite of appearances, there was no discontinuity in what the workers had been earlier; they simply understood that they could now assert their refusal differently and could win something that would allow them to change their former life. It was their life of misery and cunning which had shaped their present class consciousness in which yesterday’s negative aspects now appeared as positive. The early confrontations were provoked by the increase in meat prices but they already indicated the direction the entire movement would follow. The original goal may have been to "make the authorities back down," but this goal was no longer acceptable, as it had been in the past. Now there was concern about guarantees that concessions won would not be immediately neutralized; there was concern about maintaining the organizations of struggle – in Lublin, by electing delegates who would meet in case of emergency; or at the Ursus plant, by retaining the strike committee after conclusion of the strike. There was concern to guard against repression: negotiating delegates were never the same (One of the repressive acts in Gdansk was for government negotiators to get the police files on worker delegates in order to manipulate the workers more effectively by knowing their weaknesses and something of their psychological make-up). One worker stated on August 28, 1980:
"We’ve learnt some important lessons from 1970. Then the workers staged a public demonstration in the streets which gave the authorities an excuse for using force. This time we’re better organized, we’ve stayed in the factories and there are more of us."
Another worker, on August 31, summarized this development in worker mentality:
"We’ve been promised reforms in the past-and were later disappointed, as they were first granted and then taken away. This time we’re not so stupid as we once were. We’re willing to give the government time to clear the mess up. But we also want our own interests to be permanently represented. . .It’s we who have changed most. We know this, because we are strong and we have regained our self-respect. The Russians? It’s not we who are afraid of them, but they who are afraid of us. The worker is not what he used to be 35 years ago. We are better educated now, more aware of what is going on around us."
Looking at the many struggles which took place almost uninterruptedly after July 1980, we find that the objectives underwent noticeable development, but the autonomous organizing remained constant. At first sight the specific demands seem to have been a fundamental part of the struggle since they provoked direct confrontations with the political power. They often served the function of "making the authorities back down" on very concrete and limited issues. The most significant change in the evolution of goals, even if they remained within specific and often local programs, was their transition from a defensive program (for example, repeal of measures just adopted) to an offensive program (for example, demanding the recall of a high official or allocation of a police hospital to community use). On the other hand, the strike organization itself, which seemed to be only a means for achieving a limited objective, became, for the periods of time ranging from a few days to several weeks, the actual organizer of social life at the enterprise, city, regional or extended regional level, and totally circumvented the structures of domination. From Lublin to Gdansk to Bielsko-Biala, the same pattern was followed every time. In the period before the Gdansk accords, the strike organization tended to become a union organization which demanded to be recognized. Conflicts between the rank-and-file movement and the union, which established itself in the course of the struggles (and was already carrying out its capitalist function), are not generally known (except for the one in Gdansk, and this one concerned only the negotiating and the signing of the accords which put an end to the strike). Very little is known about the self-organization of the strike itself, how the essential services were kept functioning, or how liaisons, security and defenses against covert repression were maintained. This self-organization had a wide scope due largely to spontaneous initiatives, but in the official discussions, this crucial aspect of the struggle was ignored. The extent of its activities is nevertheless indicated by the workers’ appropriation of the means of communication (installed to ensure control at every level) in order to use them for a special liaison network and to permit rank-and-file control over the union administration. Using the Gdansk shipyards’ network of loudspeakers to broadcast "live" the MKS committee debates is a well-known example (which nevertheless did not prevent bureaucratic maneuvers since the experts’ meetings were not broadcast). Less well known is the use made of the telephone network to let people at a greater distance follow the debates, or the use of computer terminals which Gierek had set up to transmit his orders from Warsaw and which had been used for horizontal liaison by the Party. On August 21, 1981, when Walesa tried to persuade the miners to work on Saturdays (in doing this, he was paving the way for Jaruzelski), workers at the Debienko mine responded by saying that they had organized themselves and that they could make their production quotas without working Saturdays. At the August 9 Warsaw demonstration organized by Solidarity to protest shortages, the union advocated giving flowers and fruits to the cops; the people gave them to striking workers. When the "responsible" demonstration was blocked by the cops, it quickly turned into a sort of "happening," a spontaneous street celebration.
Other examples show that in August 1980 the rankand-file movement was very erratic. Jadwiga Staniszkis reported that "in many enterprises no one was authorized to leave the occupied factory, and there often was a shortage of food, lack of news about what was going on elsewhere, boredom and uncertainty. At the same time there was great determination, no preaching and, sometimes, the feeling of taking part in something important.”
But after the Gdansk accords, when the union was set up and began asserting its authority in its officially recognized and government protected function, the rupture between the union and the autonomous movement became apparent. We have seen that when the Solidarity leadership was making great . efforts to arrange summit meetings to discuss general problems, the rank-and-file movement put forward very specific demands and undertook practical actions. When the union Solidarity was established as an organ of control from above and, as such, was accepted by the Party – everything was reversed. By way of the locals which furnished the union’s administrative staff, the rank-and-file pushed for its own objectives and actions, thus relegating the union to being an intermediary whose recommendations were not always followed. Bernard Guetta wrote in the February 10, 1981 Le Monde that this provided conditions for "tremendous political radicalization." An apt summary of this situation can be found in the response of a striking Olsztyn printer to Solidarity leaders Jacek Kuron and Bogdan Lis who had "come down" to urge workers to go back to work:
"These con-men who just arrived aren’t going to make the laws. . . For a long time, we’ve been lied to. I don’t know what’s true and then you and the others arrived. And then, shit! something became clear in my head. Shitty motherfucker, I understood that we have to resist and here you come to tell me to give in."
This political radicalization affected workers’ attitudes more than it affected their demands or the organization of their autonomous actions. It evolved out of the struggle, out of the clash with earlier beliefs, among people carried to the forefront of the struggle by circumstances and by structures set up because of the struggle’s requirements. The same people who, one day, supported the union, demonstrated behind the Polish flag and piously took communion in front of factories during a strike, were shamelessly robbing the state and were constantly scheming against the system of exploitation on an earlier day, and will abandon the union, will burn flags and churches, in the fight for their own interests, on the day when they find the organized force of union, army or church in their way; and they will probably still believe in them while they do it. The Gdansk workers let the KOR and other "experts" insert themselves in their strike. The observation that Jan Litynski, KOR militant and expert working with the new union at the Wazbrzych mines, made on September 9, 1980, undoubtedly corresponds to what was going on everywhere in Poland at that time:
"People have no idea what self-management is. And very often they approach the founding committee of the new union as they would a new authority from which they expect orders and protection."
But he immediately went on to say:
"We don’t know what will become of this movement but one thing is certain, it’s impossible to stop it."
What the expert did not understand was that people knew very well what they did not want; they were looking for instruments to change things and if the ones they found resembled what they did not want, they would reject them as soon as they realized it. A Frankfurter Zeitung reporter wrote about this on August 30, 1980:
"The workers do not do what their leaders say. They are good Catholics, but they reject Wyszynski’s appeals for calm and continue their fight. In talking with them, it is obvious that they do not trust anyone but themselves? Another reporter, from Die Welt, wrote, on the same day: "As always in a revolutionary situation, and in Poland this is what we have, things start to develop independently of anyone."
A reporter for the (London) Sunday Times also summarized this on August 31, 1980:
"The most significant change was that the workers themselves were daily becoming more politically conscious.”
This is what prompted Balcerek, one of the reformers, in a speech to the University of Warsaw’s Sigma Club, to assert that:
"This was not a liberation movement of the working class. By insisting that they wanted to have control over management, the workers thus accepted its existence as well as the Stalinist and bureaucratic formulas of the social system. They were not revolutionaries, they did not want to abolish the division of labor. They accepted their own role as workers and hoped only to make their work easier."
This may be true if one focuses on the formal and superficial aspects of the events, but this analysis assumes revolutionary workers of the bourgeois type – Jacobin, Leninist, or Maoist – who believe that the first step in achieving communism is seizing the state. Balcerek completely misses the point of what is revolutionary. To do, and not just think about, something that makes one’s work and life easier, is acting in one’s class interest and undermining the foundations of the capitalist system.
The strike which broke out in the Machow (Tarnobrzeg) sulphur mines in mid-September 1980 received little attention. No outside expert served on its strike committee, the workers adopted the twenty-one points from Gdansk but added twenty-seven of their own which affected their own situation. The strike "leader," a Party member, stated,
"But now the volcano has erupted as the workers here see they are exploited. This strike has nothing to do with being a member of the Party or not..., we all have roughly the same sized stomachs. It is not important who governs but how we are governed. It all depends on whether the new union will get money or not."
These few simple sentences expressed the determination to carry the struggle beyond its present achievements and they also expressed a sharp sense of what a Gdansk worker summarized on August 26, after Gierek’s speech:
"Today I have confidence in no one but ourselves, in our own power."
On August 19, 1980, a Frankfurter Rundschau reporter observed:
"The strikers do not want to abolish socialism, they want to finally achieve it."
Thus, already in August 1980, the breach became apparent – the breach between the workers’ own movement and those who, in varying degrees, because they were “organized”, were immediately concerned about managing society’s – really capital’s – institutions with all the complications of Poland’s situation. In mid-August 1980, Kuron, leader of the organized opposition, expressed this:
“The unfolding of events in Poland is beyond the control of the organized opposition. The extreme wage increases demanded by the strikers and granted by factory managers are not very sensible from an economic point of view. More and more it seems to me that the central leadership of the strike in Gdansk is under pressure from a militant rank-and-file.”
A correspondent for Tageszeitung wrote on August 6, 1980, “The higher one goes in opposition circles, the more one finds willingness to compromise.” On
November 21, 1980, a sociologist stated in the (London) Financial Times,
“Yet the very fact that the country found itself on the brink of a serious conflict with the authorities ready to use force against a virtual general strike so suddenly and over so slight an issue shows how near the dangers are … The next time it could be over the fact that a train derailed or anything … The forces that were aiming at a confrontation are still there and they could try again.”
In fact, after October 1980, extensive movements encompassing several regions spontaneously grew out of seemingly minor rank-and-file concerns: the arrest of two men who stole state secrets, the dismissal of two local directors, the transfer of a police hospital to the community, the firing of four union delegates, the appropriation of a former union’s possessions, etc. From these examples which are know because they had wide repercussions, one can infer that there were innumerable conflicts which never broke through the media curtain but which were definitely a part of Polish reality at the enterprise level for more than a year. Here we can see the boundary between classes: although they did not express it openly, the workers showed by their actions that they had no confidence in any of the leaders, that the accords and debates were useless if they required “waiting”, and that for matters considered important and urgent, matters concerning the everyday situation, only workers; direct action counted. Let others do the sorting out, let them find an acceptable solution (what the expert quoted above saw as “expecting orders and protection”). Everyone in Poland was talking about democracy, but the democracy of those who gravitate around state power is bourgeois democracy (and is already incorporated in the Polish capitalist state according to class divisions): for the workers, it is something completely different: the right to intervene directly in any decisions made over their heads.
Self-organization of the struggle grew out of this direct action of the workers and was responsible for the effectiveness of the movements which developed after July1980. The spread of the strike to encompass all of Poland was not due to a handful of opposition militants. Jan Litynski, one of the founders of KOR, himself declared: "During the strike, their role (that of KOR and independent union militants) was minimal." The rank-and-file was responsible for the continuation of the movements after October 1980, and probably made use of the new local union structures, but not at all in the way anticipated by the new union bureaucracy. In so many of the rank-and-file initiatives, the workers used what was available to them but diverted it from its original purpose to serve their own specific interests. And the new union was no more privileged than the state or the Party. Workers proceeded to use the union apparatus, the premises of the former union, factory organizations, telephones, telex and computer networks, systems of transportation and food distribution. Little by little, depending on requirements of the struggle, society began functioning quite naturally on a new basis, following the initiative of the people who were used to doing the work.
In these situations, what had appeared to be a common language shared by the organizations and the workers disintegrated, and the breach between the rank-and-file and the organizations was revealed. At this point, the union and the Party quickly came to an agreement to put out the fire, since union demands were less dangerous than the forms which the struggle was beginning to take. One good example of what was happening took place in Gdansk where the dockers one fine day decided that the potatoes they were loading for export should not be shipped since there were no potatoes in the local stores. Another example took place in Silesia where miners who were already accustomed to having their Saturdays free (having taken Saturdays off before they were officially granted), refused well-paid overtime work, even though coal was the only export which the capitalist state could use to fulfil its obligations and obtain the necessary foreign currency for development. This was when the Solidarity leadership demanded and was finally allowed to "participate" in making economic decisions at all levels. The workers did not participate; they took action when they considered it to be in their own interest to do so, and this brought much greater results than all the discussions with the authorities. A striker in Bielsko-Biala who was active in the fight to transfer the police hospital to the local population, gave this answer to the question as to whether the strike was “political”: “If the authorities consider an honest demand like this one to be political, then, sure, this is a political strike.”
It should be noted that while carrying out these actions, the workers did not have the slightest notion of constructing a new society (and this is sometimes used to prove that the workers lacked "consciousness"). In fact, they left it to the authorities to grant what they were asking for, and once they obtained it, they abandoned the unique forms of their struggle which were simply means for achieving the immediate goal. It was the authorities who understood that these means represented a potential, if not immediate, threat to their power. In fact, while maintaining its position and (presumably) preserving intact its repressive apparatus, capital had essentially lost all real power. Even the new union Solidarity, model for a new apparatus of domination over the workers and grudgingly accepted by the capitalist class only under threat of a general strike, was already, even before functioning as an apparatus, reduced to the same role as the pre-July1980 institutions. The workers’ attitude can be seen as a continuation of the day-to-day struggles of the past; the economic and repressive apparatus did not manage to achieve even minimal efficiency because of the unceasing class struggle, which had been intensified during the large-scale revolts of 1970 and 1976 when the authorities had brutally tried to keep the power relations within acceptable bounds. In 1980, the same practical responses to the oppressive authority were causing a shift away from individual struggles for survival toward collective efforts. In whatever affected him directly, the worker put forward his own conception of how society functions in practice. This was not an ethical question but simply one of keeping track of what was done with his labor – and this was actually much more revolutionary.
Jadwiga Staniszkis reported that in 1980 "the workers did not want to take part in decision-making at the enterprise level." They undoubtedly were well aware of the accuracy of Walesa’s statement in favor of self-management: "a truly selfmanaged enterprise will not go on strike because it would harm its own interests at the same time." Staniszkis also observed that "angry rank-and-file workers are the most radical, the most opposed to the authorities and the least inclined to make concessions."
The Polish workers’ real gains were neither the renovated institutions, nor the reformed system, nor the self-managed enterprises more or less freed from the centralized authority only to fall directly under the imperatives of capital. Even if they once believed in these things, and continued to believe in them to some degree, they could see that, in practice, these reforms did not at all correspond to their interests. Their real gains could not be expressed in organizational terms even if the conditions created by their struggle came to be recognized, legalized and regulated. Their gains lay in the enormous leap forward in their own consciousness of their reality as workers and of their power in society. This consciousness, which they shared with all those who were equally exploited, gave them the straightforward, confident and steady force to directly and fearlessly confront all situations, even if the outcome was unpredictable. For them, this consciousness was the best guarantee that the material benefits they had won could not easily be taken away. They now knew that what mattered was what they themselves took and not what was given or promised them. In this, they were true to themselves. Their fight could still take other forms and move in new directions. The summer of 1981 brought new developments: disruption of the economy, decline of both the Party and the union Solidarity. The rank-and-file struggles continued unabated. The shortage of basic necessities brought about by the economic chaos and by the maneuvers of the Party and of Russia gave rise to the conviction that something had to be done. But the response differed according to social class. Later we will discuss the attempts at self-management; they were undoubtedly initiated by intermediate level personnel in the enterprises, by people who were concerned about economic efficiency. But it is also likely that these informal and flexible structures were responses to a potentially much more radical rank-and-file movement. Shortages, whether real or contrived, pushed workers to organize themselves at the places of production as well as in the places of consumption. When the most elementary needs were no longer satisfied by the established social order, people tried to satisfy them in their own way. We can get some idea of what was happening in August 1981, both in the enterprises and in distribution. Spontaneous "ad-hoc committees" took charge of restoring some order in the public distribution of consumer goods. Not much information is available about them but we know that they tried to verify whether merchandise delivered to stores was actually sold and they delegated individuals to monitor people’s place in line. Similarly, dockers and railway workers kept track of and sometimes stopped foodstuffs being exported. It is difficult to say how these two autonomous organizational currents developed. We do know that structures of a new society always grow out of such needs. Could the least known events from the last half of 1981 have brought the movement to a new stage? This stage would necessarily have involved coordination of local initiatives and it would have meant a far greater threat to the capitalist system.
The following description of plans and concerns for the Lodz region gives an idea of the situation in this period. It is reported by Zbigniew Kowalewski, a regional militant of Solidarity, who escaped the repression because he happened to be travelling in France at the time.
For the regional branch of Solidarity, the most urgent problem was the struggle to supply the population with food. For several months, the city of Lodz, comprising a large industrial complex, was threatened with starvation. Since July, when the union had organized the well-publicized hunger march of thirty thousand women, the rationing system for basic necessities had broken down about every two months. We were not satisfied with just protest activities. After studying how the rationing system operated, we became convinced that it was in absolutely scandalous disorder. The provincial administration was not able to determine the exact number of people who should receive rationing cards. Cards had been secretly distributed to people belonging to a group which was connected to the government apparatus. The disposal of used rationing cards was not supervised, and some of them returned to circulation. The result was that to obtain something in exchange for these cards, people had to stand in line for an entire day, sometimes even two or three days. For workers, in particular, the situation was tragic.
In October, the Lodz local of Solidarity demanded that the printing of rationing cards for our region be decentralized. Social tensions in the city and the likelihood of strikes were such that the city administration got the central authorities to authorize this. Our region is the only one in the country where rationing cards, from that time on, were printed by Solidarity according to a system which we set up and which was supervised by a joint commission made up of representatives from the union and City Hall. The number of cards printed finally corresponded to the number needed, which had been determined precisely. We also controlled the distribution of the cards and this made it possible to put an end to the privileges. And we succeeded in another way. The central authorities had denied Solidarity’s right to monitor the distribution of basic foodstuffs, arguing that this was interference in government prerogatives. (As deputy Prime Minister Rakowski said to Lech Walesa, "In this country, whoever gains control over food distribution, holds the power.”)
Now, in our region, we had gained this control! The Lodz mayor had authorized it. Special teams of union members supervised the situation at rural collection depots, in slaughterhouses, in warehouses and in wholesale and retail stores. The union had not been authorized to supervise warehouses containing government-owned goods. But this did not prevent us from knowing exactly the quantities and type of goods stored there. In this way, we were able to report information to the mayor which he said that even he didn’t know. Solidarity’s presence was everywhere and the authorities found it increasingly difficult to prevent us from gathering information on the state of the economic situation. As a result of our activity, there was improvement in food distribution and shorter lines. We were already preparing a plan for supervising industrial production in the region.
Kowalewski then described how his union pressured enterprises to respond to needs of the peasantry, and he also discussed a plan for energy distribution. He added:
The Solidarity union in Lodz was the first one in Poland to energetically support the idea of worker self-management, starting in January 1981, and to advocate workers’ power in the enterprises. We supported the creation of regional committees to coordinate workers’ councils – they already existed in twenty-six regions-as well as the activities of the National Federation of Self-Management Bodies which was founded last October.
Kowalewski described the government’s postponement of plans for economic reform at the end of 1981:
The government’s decision caused agitation and extreme dissatisfaction in the factories: "We will have to institute the economic reforms ourselves, without the authorities and in spite of them, if necessary." This was the view more and more widely expressed by Lodz workers at enterprise meetings and by militants at regional discussions of the movement for self-management.
This project ran into violent opposition from the government as well as hostility from a section of Solidarity’s National Committee.
On December 9th, six central committee members from the regional Lodz leadership met with workers from the city’s twelve principal enterprises at a mass meeting. They held discussions about the active strike, formation of a workers’ security guard and measures to combat sabotage of production. The great majority of workers declared themselves in favor of these forms of activity.
That same evening, we met with Solidarity representatives from neighboring regions at a location outside the regional headquarters because we feared that our discussions would be bugged. We informed them that our region would probably begin an active strike on a very large scale on December 21st and we asked them to support our action, especially by guaranteeing that food supplies reached the Lodz population. It was only as a last resort, when faced with threats from the government and lacking any other form of struggle, that Solidarity’s national leadership considered the active strike.
This text clearly shows the interaction between the rank-and-file movement and local Solidarity officials in responding to concrete situations. In the Polish context, taking over the economy would have been a revolutionary undertaking because the workers would have made it their own project even if certain leaders viewed it as an exercise of union authority. But on this point, neither Solidarity’s national leadership nor the rest of the capitalist system were deceived.
There were undoubtedly great differences between regions in Poland but if the productive apparatus in one region had been taken over along the lines sketched above for the Lodz region, takeovers would have spread like wildfire. Here again, the union apparatus was lagging far behind the real movement and it served only belatedly as a tactical instrument; it was not at the forefront of the fight because its interests were completely different from the immediate material needs that the workers wanted to satisfy by themselves, without concerning themselves with power relations.
The principal function of the military units which Jaruzelski stationed throughout the country at the end of the summer of 1981 was to thwart the development of selforganization of social life, both in production and in consumption. It is obvious that such a situation would be intolerable for capital as a whole. The repressive action was designed to break up a whole series of activities that no capitalist state could permit. It is significant that prior to direct repression, efforts were made to totally disrupt all means of communication precisely in order to prevent coordination of rankand-file groups. We do not yet know what forms the workers’ autonomous actions took during the struggles – at first open, later, underground-against the repressive apparatus after the military coup d’etat. But the new forms of struggle undoubtedly gave rise to new forms of organization which were adapted to the new reorganization of capital in Poland.
Capital and its repressive apparatus involuntarily demonstrated that a union apparatus is nothing and autonomous movement is all. Just about everyone belonging to the bureaucratic apparatus, from the highest to the lowest level, was in prison and nevertheless the Polish workers without hesitation directly confronted army and police for fifteen days. The unity of the struggle had no need of telephones. On the defensive, shut inside the fortresses of their enterprises, the workers once again knew how to confront the class enemy by using means provided them by their position in the productive apparatus. We have already mentioned the reported episodes; there were undoubtedly many others and the self-organization of the struggle no doubt determined the extent of the resistance. In this long battle which is the class struggle, after an episode which some call a defeat, the existence of this self-organization assures continuity of the struggle in other forms, since the repression now prevents using direct methods. Some accounts suggest that everything had returned to the situation prior to December 1970. This is only in appearance. Just as the rebellion of July-August 1980 grew out of previous struggles and from the experience of daily resistance, the frontal attack by capital’s mercenaries gives a new dimension to this forced return to other forms of struggle. Any illusions remaining after the months of governmental excuses and delays vanished with the direct confrontation; the reformist road opened by the June 1976 uprisings has been closed to the workers too, and this is what counts. It is not so much the will or experience of the workers which makes them take another path, but the level of economic development and the forms of repression, which are also modified on the basis of past experience.
There is no need to dwell on the workers’ hostility toward the new power which robbed them of some of their gains by resorting to blood and violence against those who opposed it. Any or all of them could have made the scathing response given in Gdansk by a Lenin Shipyard worker to Rakowski, Jaruzelski’s right-hand man, who spoke to a few thousand workers on August 25, 1983. The representative of capital started off with the old hackneyed formula: "We are here among ourselves, like a family," when the brutal and unequivocal response came from an anonymous worker; "Except for you." The authorities know this even if they always profess the opposite. And even the hand-picked moderates express this whenever officials try to renew contacts with or make advances to the rank-and-file.
"We are a state where the working class is in power and this class lives in the worst conditions. It is time for a change," a Lodz textile worker declared on April 2, 1983. A Polish worker quoted by Newsweek was more explicit; "I would be willing to sacrifice if I felt there was something to look forward to. But I don’t see any prospects for the future in Poland." In response, the authorities have had to acknowledge their inadequacy in dealing with this: "The Polish government is facing an agonizing problem: the need to create work incentives when there are no material rewards to distribute." Or, in a more precise formulation, "Problems of controlling Poland’s working class would be greatly eased if people’s everyday needs could be satisfied and shortages reduced."
The response of workers to this situation was; "In spite of the wage increases in our foundry, our families live worse and worse" (a Katowice machine operator). "The increase in the cost of living, uncertainty about the future, failure to consult workers about important decisions, all have an effect on attitudes and on the atmosphere at work" (a Rzeszow worker).
What place did organizations have in the variegated movement over which repression as well as corruption hovered? On July 18, 1982, a Financial Times reporter wrote that, "it is not difficult to get a crowd of several thousand out in the streets demonstrating, particularly among the young who are almost uniformly hostile to the system," but that "soundings in factories have shown that rank-and-file workers are not ready to confront the Government openly." "Are not ready" is incorrect and does not correspond to what agents of the state were saying at the same time. What workers were not ready to do was to follow appeals issued by the underground Solidarity leadership. Enormous rank-and-file activity in the enterprises was shown by the daily attitudes mentioned above, as well as by the 2,000 underground leaflets and bulletins which were put out in factories under the title of Solidarity. But at the same time, in April 1982, an underground leader had to leave a Warsaw textile plant after a serious run-in with activists in the plant who were irritated by the totally unrealistic strike proposals. A woman shouted, "Why should we listen to anything you say when it is clear you leaders don’t know what you are doing'?" The rank-and-file movement was following its own course.
Le Monde reported on September 18, 1982, during the unrest in Lower Silesia: "One can observe a growing obstinacy over which the underground Solidarity leaders seem to have less and less control, since they have asked their followers to avoid all demonstrations except those they themselves call."