Walesa puts on show of Solidarity

FROM ADRIAN BRIDGE

Central Europe Correspondent

President Lech Walesa of Poland has offered his services as mediator in the increasingly bitter confrontation between the government and the Solidarity trade union, which he led in the struggle against Communism.

He made his offer over the weekend after a clash between police and Solidarity protesters in Warsaw left more than 30 people injured. At the same time he urged Jozef Oleksy, the Prime Minister, to resign if he could not resolve the crisis quickly. Friday's clash was the most violent since the overthrow of Communist rule in 1989.

Now Solidarity is demanding protection from mass unemployment. Police said the trouble started after 10,000 activists began throwing stones, bolts and bags filled with paint at a government building. According to the union, which bused in many of the demonstrators from the depressed region of Silesia, the police started the trouble.

In the immediate heat of battle, some were tempted to draw parallels with the struggles involving the Walesa-led Solidarity of the early 1980s. Then as now, the protesters were united in their hatred of Communism (or the reformed variety as represented by the government of Mr Oleksy). Then as now, the police resorted to heavy-handed tactics: truncheons, tear- gas and water cannon.

But as the dust began to settle, observers pointed out that there was no question of history being about to repeat itself.

"Back in 1980, when people took to the streets, their actions were approved by the whole of society. Today they are not. And those that participate in these protests behave much more aggressively," said Piotr Pacewicz, political editor of the Gazeta Wyborcza.

At its peak, Solidarity boasted a membership of 10 million, and, in addition to economic demands, pressed for a range of political freedoms. Today the union's membership is less than two million and its political role is greatly diminished.

There is also a fundamental inconsistency in its position. While much of its rhetoric remains virulently anti-Communist, the union devotes all its energy to fighting for long-discredited socialist economic policies: job guarantees, higher wages and social-welfare benefits for all.

Such inconsistencies, however, are unlikely to deter Mr Walesa. Having fallen out with the union for refusing to support his candidates in the 1993 parliamentary elections, the former shipyard electrician is now assiduously courting it in the run-up to presidential elections due later this year.

If he is able to act as a mediator in the current conflict, Mr Walesa may be rewarded with the backing of his old union allies, giving him the power-base from which he hopes to launch his bid for a second term. If Mr Oleksy, as he has so far indicated, decides to try to resolve the dispute alone, the President will seek to increase tension between the two sides as much as possible. He will then retire to the presidential palace to reap the political reward.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?