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Did the Round Table achieve anything?

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The Round Table made for strange bedfellows
Jan Józef Lipski Social activist
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The people who sat around the Round Table were all very different. I'm ignoring the representatives of the government and the party. As far as the opposition goes, apart from the old activists who often were following legalistic methods by entering into arrangements with the authorities – people like Stomma, for example– there were people there whose relationship with the authorities mainly consisted of the fact that they'd been locked up in prison – people like Kuroń and Michnik. At the same time, alongside activists from Solidarity from '80 and '81, and the later underground struggle for Solidarity like Frasyniuk, Bujak, there were also leaders of last year's strike – Pietrzyk played a significant role in the talks – in short, it was a newly-formed, newly-defined, very young political elite in this union in this group. They were unusually... you could see they were unusually diverse, politically very diverse. Next to people whose tendencies were Christian Democrats, there were Social Democrats, others who were very keen to talk as well as those who had to be dragged in by the scruff of their necks to make them sit down at the Round Table. I have to say that from conversations with people, I might be wrong because I have a very limited range of observation, but from the conversations I had with people, I noticed one thing – that people who watched what was happening on TV said that the activists from Solidarity and from the broader opposition came across as being very relevant and convincing. They weren't just churning out the party line but were talking about concrete and real issues. In this circle of people with whom I had the opportunity to meet, and who were so diverse, this was the greatest success of the Round Table. There was the certainty that we were dealing with people who knew what they were talking about, wanted what was best, and knew how to present their case seriously. In my opinion, the bar was placed too low during the Round Table talks. It should have been raised, not to any ridiculous level but it should have been higher.

Przy Okrągłym Stole zasiedli ludzie bardzo różni. Pomijam stronę rządowo-partyjną. To jeżeli chodzi o opozycję, to obok starych działaczy, którzy działali metodami legalistycznymi, niejednokrotnie już wchodząc w układy z tą władzą, jak Stomma na przykład, znaleźli się ludzie, których układy z władzą polegały głównie na tym, że byli zamykani w więzieniach, prawda, jak Kuroń i Michnik. Jednocześnie ludzie, obok działaczy „Solidarności” z lat ‘80 i ‘81 i po tym z walki podziemnej o „Solidarność” – no właśnie Frasyniuk, Bujak – znaleźli się... przywódcy strajków z zeszłego roku – Pietrzyk odgrywał sporą rolę w rozmowach – czyli, krótko mówiąc, nowo powstająca... nowo kształtujące się bardzo młode jakieś elity polityczne w tym... w tym związku, w tym społeczeństwie. Towarzystwo niezwykle… towarzystwo, jak widać, bardzo zróżnicowane, zresztą politycznie bardzo zróżnicowane. Obok ludzi orientacji chadeckiej, ludzi orientacji socjaldemokratycznej, obok ludzi bardzo chętnych do tych rozmów, również i tacy, których za uszy trzeba było ciągnąć, żeby przy Okrągłym Stole usiedli. Muszę powiedzieć, że z rozmów z ludźmi – ja mogę się mylić, bo mam ograniczony krąg obserwacji – ale z rozmów z ludźmi, które miałem, to zauważyłem jedną rzecz, że ludzie patrzący w telewizji na to, co się działo, mówili w ten sposób, iż działacze „Solidarności” i opozycji, szerzej opozycji, wypadali rzeczowo i przekonywująco. Że byli ludzie nie od plecenia jakiegoś demagogicznego, tylko od konkretnego... mówienia o sprawach realnych. I w tym kręgu ludzi z którymi ja miałem okazję się stykać, bardzo zróżnicowanym w sumie, to był największy sukces Okrągłego Stołu. Że... to przeświadczenie, że mamy do czynienia z ludźmi, którzy znają się na rzeczy, chcą dobrze i umieją swoje racje przedstawiać poważnie. No, a moim zdaniem poprzeczki, które postawiono w czasie rozmów Okrągłego Stołu, były za nisko postawione. Trzeba było ustawiać wyżej, oczywiście bez wariactw, bez przesady. Ale powinny być wyżej stawiane.

Jan Józef Lipski (1926-1991) was one of Poland's best known political activists. He was also a writer and a literary critic. As a soldier in the Home Army (Armia Krajowa), he fought in the Warsaw Uprising. In 1976, following worker protests, he co-founded the Workers' Defence Committee (KOR). His active opposition to Poland's communist authorities led to his arrest and imprisonment on several occasions. In 1987, he re-established and headed the Polish Socialist Party. Two years later, he was elected to the Polish Senate. He died in 1991 while still in office. For his significant work, Lipski was honoured with the Cross of the Valorous (Krzyż Walecznych), posthumously with the Grand Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta (1991) and with the highest Polish decoration, the Order of the White Eagle (2006).

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: Round Table, Ludwig Stomma, Jacek Kuroń, Adam Michnik, Władysław Frasyniuk, Zbigniew Bujak, Edward Pietrzyk

Duration: 3 minutes, 35 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1989

Date story went live: 14 March 2011