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Why I wasn't accepted into the Party straight away

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How could I remain a communist?
Jacek Kuroń Social activist
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I w sumie powinienem odpowiedzieć na trzy pytania. Dlaczego przyszedłem do komunizmu, czyli jak można było do komunizmu przyjść? Dlaczego w nim tkwiłem, czyli jak można było w nim tkwić? I o tym jak od niego odchodziłem? I otóż na pytanie dlaczego przyszedłem, jak przyszedłem – myślę, że jak na ramy tego, co tu mogę powiedzieć, to powiedziałem. I od razu zacząłem mówić jak odchodziłem, bo ten proces odchodzenia trwał bardzo długo i długo o nim będę jeszcze opowiadał. I jakby zupełnie pominąłem problem, jak można było w nim tkwić? I to zrozumiałe, że pominąłem, dlatego bo to, że się w nim tkwiło było zupełnie oczywiste. To, co nas odrzucało od komunizmu, zaskakiwało, bolało, było trudne do zrozumienia. Natomiast sam fakt uczestnictwa był absolutnie oczywisty. Po pierwsze dlatego, że taki jest w ogóle mechanizm społeczny. Przynależy się, walczy się o coś i im trudniej jest o to walczyć, tym ważniejsze jest to, o co się walczy i to, że tak właśnie jest słusznie – to jest jakby oczywiste. Co więcej, w tym, w tej szczególnej wizji jaką jest komunizm, my i oni, my całe dobro, my sens świata, my mamy przynieść ludziom absolutnie wyzwolenie od wszelkiego zła. To oczywiście w ten sposób już wszystkie środki stają się jakby usprawiedliwione, a przeciwnik jest samym złem i wszystko, co mówi, jest niesłuszne. To jest taka hermetyczna na inne racje wizja świata. No, ale zarazem jakby ta oczywistość tego, że tkwimy tu oto w tym ruchu narzucała się niesłychanie. Wszyscy moi koledzy z aparatu, działacze ZMP-owscy, z którymi współpracowałem, warszawska biedota albo chłopskie dzieci, żyli w strasznych warunkach materialnych. Te płace aparatu były niesłychanie niskie, pracowało się po 24 godziny, prawie bez przesady. No tak, a te warunki mieszkaniowe były bardzo złe, ale to znaczy budowało się i to budowało się, ja pamiętam świetnie ile domów zbudowano za mego życia we Lwowie. Jeden widziałem, jak go się powoli buduje. A tu na moich oczach stawał dom za domem. Mówiono na świecie o warszawskim tempie. Żyli w niesłychanej nędzy, ale oni wiedzieli doskonale, że i tak jest znacznie lepiej niż przed wojną. I dla mnie ta ich racja była racją oczywistą. Ja sam świetnie pamiętam nędzę przedwojenną, bo mnie ją ojciec pokazywał. Mieszkałem obok baraku dla bezrobotnych i takiej nędzy ja już po wojnie nie widziałem. Takiej nędzy jaką widziałem na podhalańskiej wsi, w której mieszkała moja ciotka i w której spędziłem wojnę, ja już po wojnie nie widziałem. Bo nagle książki, mnóstwo książek tanich, dla każdego. I to przecież wychodziła klasyka literatury za grosze, za absolutne grosze. Tu olbrzymią rolę gra izolacja od Zachodu. Myśmy sobie nie zdawali sprawy, że ten kapitalizm współczesny jest zupełnie inny niż ten, który myśmy pamiętali. No ale tak było i to była ta oczywistość tego, że jesteśmy tutaj, a nie gdzie indziej. Choć jak mówię, życie było bardzo trudne i było coraz gorzej, a nie coraz lepiej. Brakowało mięsa, masła, wróciły kartki. Myśmy chodzili w kolejki i pisali raporty, co mówią ludzie. I pisaliśmy prawdę, ludzie mówili straszne rzeczy. I ci moi koledzy wszyscy, znacznie ode mnie starsi, i zdawali sobie sprawę, że taka jest prawda o życiu. I to strasznie męczyło, strasznie męczyło. W tym aparacie narastała złość, dzika złość. Taka agresja... agresja na karierowiczów, agresja na spekulantów, agresja na prywaciarzy, agresja na wszystkich bogatych. To samo zjawisko, które, myślę, istotny element grało u bikiniarzy, tu przyjmowało taką barwę. My się poświęcamy, my tyramy, my pracujemy, myślę, że gdzieś tu zaczyna się... tutaj właśnie jest zarodek tego strasznego aparatu, który potem dochetał się do dóbr różnych, trzymany w nędzy i w takim poczuciu, że cały ciężar na nas. Równocześnie no nawet ta organizacja, tak nawet jak myśmy ją znali, to już nie była ta, bo ten ruch umierał. Na początku to był ruch niewątpliwie, a potem karłowaciał, biurokratyczniał i to się czuło, to się wiedziało.

At this point, I ought to address three questions. Why did I get into communism or in other words, how was it possible to get into it? Why did I remain a communist, or in other words, how was it possible to remain one? And how did I go about leaving it? Well, in answer to the question why I got into communism, how I got there - I think I've already said as much as I need to say about that here. I began talking about how I left, because the whole procedure of leaving went on for a long time, and I'm going to be talking about it for a long time still. I completely missed out the whole issue of how I was able to remain a communist. It's understandable that I missed this out because it was perfectly obvious that I would remain a communist. The thing that repelled us from communism, shocked and hurt us was hard to understand, but the fact that we were involved in it was completely obvious. Firstly, because this is a social mechanism. You belong to something, you fight for it and the harder you have to fight, the more important the thing you're fighting for becomes, and it's obvious that this is how it is. What's more, in the specific vision of the world presented by communism of us and them, we are the good, we are the meaning of the world, we are going to bring complete freedom to people from all the things that evil. Obviously, in this way, no holds are barred and the enemy is evil personified and everything he says is wrong. This is a vision of the world that is hermetically sealed against any other rationale. Nevertheless, the obvious fact that we were here in this movement imposed itself hugely. All of my friends from the Party, the ZMP activists with whom I co-operated, the poor living in Warsaw or children from peasant families, all lived in conditions of terrible poverty. The wages paid by the Party were incredibly low, and people worked virtually 24 hours. The housing situation was very bad, although accommodation was being built all the time; I can remember how many houses were built in Lwów in my lifetime. I saw one as it was being built slowly. Yet here, before my eyes, one house after the other was being put up. People talked of the Warsaw tempo. They lived in dire poverty but they knew very well that things were still a lot better than they had been before the war. To me this point of view was very clear. I could myself recall the poverty from before the war because my father used to point it out to me. I used to live next to a hut for the unemployed, and I never saw that kind of poverty after the war. The kind of poverty I witnessed in the village in the mountains where my aunt lived and where I spent the war years, I never saw again after the war. Because suddenly, there were books, loads of cheap books for everyone. Literary classics were being published for a few pennies, literally for a few pennies. Our isolation from the West played an important role here. We didn't realise that contemporary capitalism was completely different from the one we remembered. But that's how it was, and this was the reality that we were here and not somewhere else. Like I said, life was very difficult and things were getting worse not better. We lacked meat, butter, food rationing was re-introduced. We used to join the queues and write reports on what people were saying. We would write the truth, people were saying terrible things. My colleagues, all of whom were a lot older than I was, realised that this was the truth about life. It was very painful, very painful. In this set-up, anger was rising, wild anger. The aggression was directed at careerists, speculators, private entrepreneurs, everyone who was rich; I think it was the same phenomenon that I suspect played an important role for the beatniks, being expressed here in this way. We were making sacrifices, we were working hard, and I think that this was, here was the place where this terrible system had its beginnings, a system which later got its hands on all kinds of material goods keeping us in poverty and with a sense that the whole burden rested on us. At the same time, even this organisation, even the way we knew it, was no longer what it had been because that movement was dying. Initially, it had undoubtedly been a movement but then it began to shrink, overwhelmed by administration, and we could feel this and we knew it was so.

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: Marcel Łoziński Jacek Petrycki

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.

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.

Tags: Party, ZMP, Warsaw, Lwów, Warsaw tempo

Duration: 5 minutes, 37 seconds

Date story recorded: 1987

Date story went live: 12 June 2008