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Our lives were not improving
Jacek Kuroń Social activist
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I could say that throughout the whole of autumn '80 and spring '81, Solidarność tried to put its affairs in order to create conditions in which it could function, and in which people could live. But the dominant feature in all of this was waiting for a reform on the part of the authorities. This reform was essential for the country to be able to start functioning again, for the economy to function. I am absolutely convinced that despite what is said about productivity at that time, it was increasing in individual factories. Wherever it depended on people, that's where it increased. For example, I know that was the case at the glassworks... the directors were horrified by the amount that was being produced, no one had ever made so much before. This was all put together on the hoof, under those circumstances there was no time to - it should have all been collected but there was no time for that. I think I mentioned several times that it needs to be collected but it was like talking to a brick wall. Everything was going to waste because the whole system was fucked. It was a system that, just like a timetable, depended on all the individual elements coming together and only then would the product be produced centrally but because it was produced centrally, it never appeared. The market, therefore, collapsed and life was getting harder, queues were growing. We introduced documents, there was a shortage of paper to make ration cards. It was clear, we clearly had to come forward with some sort of initiative. But we didn't want to do that nor could we very well. This kind of initiative had to be economic, organisational and legislative and it had to come from the authorities. If we'd moved in that direction, it would have meant that we were taking over control, and that wasn't something we wanted. It was the kind of revolution that tolerated the old order and didn't establish a new one. Solidarność was not becoming an authority. I said then that this was a great advantage because until now, the masses in the revolutions had become defenceless because their organisations became authorities, and then the masses were left defenceless in front of the revolutionary authorities and much weaker than they had been in relation to the pre-revolutionary authorities. But this could only work properly if the economy was functioning - as I said, people created Solidarność so that their lives could improve whereas their lives were getting worse. And all that success we had with the freedom that spread throughout the land, freedom from censorship, creative freedom, union freedom, all of this was nothing in view of the fact that the people didn't have any food.

Można powiedzieć tak, że przez całą jesień '80, zimę i wiosnę '81 "Solidarność" starała się uporządkować swoje sprawy, uporządkować sprawy zakładowe, osiągnąć warunki do działania. No i oczywiście warunki do życia ludziom. Ale przed... zasadnicze co tu dominuje to czekanie na reformę ze strony władzy. Reformę, która jest niezbędna, aby kraj mógł zacząć funkcjonować, aby gospodarka mogła zacząć funkcjonować. Ja jestem absolutnie przekonany, że wbrew temu co się mówi, wydajność pracy w tym czasie w poszczególnych zakładach wzrastała. Wszędzie tam, gdzie to zależało od ludzi, ona wzrastała. Ja to wiem na przykład z hut szkła, że to... Dyrektorzy byli przerażeni ilością, którą oni produkują, nigdy tyle nie produkowali. Tak przypadkiem się złożyło, no nie było czasu w tych warunkach żeby to, to należało zebrać, ale no nie było czasu. Ja chyba parokrotnie mówiłem, żeby zebrać, no ale takie mówienie do słupa – puste gadanie. A to się wszystko przecież marnowało, bo rozpierniczał się cały system. System, który oparty był dokładnie jak rozkład jazdy na tym, że te wszystkie śrubki musiały się złożyć i dopiero centralnie wychodził produkt i ten produkt, który wychodził centralnie, po prostu nie wychodził. I walił się rynek i było coraz gorzej żyć, coraz więcej kolejek. Wprowadziliśmy papiery, kartki na... kartki zaczynało brakować. I no jasne było, jasne było, że my musimy wyjść z jakąś inicjatywą. A nie chcieliśmy z nią wyjść. I nie bardzo mogliśmy z nią wyjść. Bo inicjatywa, to jest inicjatywa gospodarcza i inicjatywa organizatorska, inicjatywa ustawodawcza musi wychodzić od władzy. Tak ruch w tę stronę byłby ruchem w stronę przejęcia władzy, czegośmy nie chcieli. Była to taka rewolucja, która znosiła stary porządek i nie ustanawiała nowego. Bo "Solidarność" nie stawała się władzą. Ja wtedy mówiłem, że to jest i wielka korzyść, dlatego bo dotąd zawsze masy w rewolucji stawały się bezbronne. Bo ich organizacje stawały się organizacjami władzy. I masy zostawały bezbronne wobec władzy rewolucyjnej, znacznie słabsze niż były wobec władzy przedrewolucyjnej. No, ale to dobrze mogło dopiero zafunkcjonować, gdyby zafunkcjonowała gospodarka. Mówiłem "Solidarność" ludzie powołali po to, żeby lepiej żyć, a żyją coraz gorzej. I te nasze sukcesy z wolnością, która zapanowała w kraju, z cenzurą, z swobodami twórczymi, swobodami związkowymi, to wszystko jest nic wobec faktu, że ludzie nie mają co jeść.

The late Polish activist, Jacek Kuroń (1934-2004), had an influential but turbulent political career, helping transform the political landscape of Poland. He was expelled from the communist party, arrested and incarcerated. He was also instrumental in setting up the Workers' Defence Committee (KOR) and later became a Minister of Labour and Social Policy.

Listeners: Jacek Petrycki Marcel Łoziński

Cinematographer Jacek Petrycki was born in Poznań, Poland in 1948. He has worked extensively in Poland and throughout the world. His credits include, for Agniezka Holland, Provincial Actors (1979), Europe, Europe (1990), Shot in the Heart (2001) and Julie Walking Home (2002), for Krysztof Kieslowski numerous short films including Camera Buff (1980) and No End (1985). Other credits include Journey to the Sun (1998), directed by Jesim Ustaoglu, which won the Golden Camera 300 award at the International Film Camera Festival, Shooters (2000) and The Valley (1999), both directed by Dan Reed, Unforgiving (1993) and Betrayed (1995) by Clive Gordon both of which won the BAFTA for best factual photography. Jacek Petrycki is also a teacher and a filmmaker.

Film director Marcel Łoziński was born in Paris in 1940. He graduated from the Film Directing Department of the National School of Film, Television and Theatre in Łódź in 1971. In 1994, he was nominated for an American Academy Award and a European Film Academy Award for the documentary, 89 mm from Europe. Since 1995, he has been a member of the American Academy of Motion Picture Art and Science awarding Oscars. He lectured at the FEMIS film school and the School of Polish Culture of Warsaw University. He ran documentary film workshops in Marseilles. Marcel Łoziński currently lectures at Andrzej Wajda’s Master School for Film Directors. He also runs the Dragon Forum, a European documentary film workshop.

Tags: Party, Solidarność

Duration: 2 minutes, 55 seconds

Date story recorded: 1987

Date story went live: 12 June 2008