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'Banana youth': rise of propaganda

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Reaction of workers to student rallies
Jan Józef Lipski Social activist
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Środowiska robotnicze patrzyły na to zupełnie obojętnie. I co więcej na ogół nie były nawet poinformowane, co się dzieje. Wiem o tym, chociażby z tego powodu, że jeden z moich kolegów z powstania, który w jednej z dużych fabryk warszawskich jako robotnik, jako ślusarz pracował, opowiadał mi, że kiedy w pewnym momencie przerwano pracę i ich zwołano i na dziedziniec przyjechały samochody ciężarowe wyładowane pałkami, i kiedy okazało się, że tych ORMO-wców w zakładzie jest właściwie w gruncie rzeczy niewielu, wezwano do brania pałek z tego. Dlaczego? Bo tłumy chuliganów szaleją w tej chwili w Warszawie. A ten mój kolega powiada, że on w gruncie rzeczy nie wiedział, co się dzieje, chuligani – nie chuligani. Kto? Co? Co się dzieje? Nie miał w ogóle zielonego pojęcia, że coś się dzieje. Jednym słowem ta komunikacja społeczna była wtedy prawie zerowa, jak z tego widać. To nie żaden był głupiec ten mój kolega. Jest to naprawdę inteligentny, sensowny człowiek, a jednak o niczym nie wiedział. No, tutaj w tym wypadku akurat stało się tak, że kiedy ludzie już nawet się ruszyli, żeby te pały brać z tego, to on akurat powiedział – żadne konsekwencje go zresztą za to nie spotkały – że „ja nie wiem o co chodzi, ja pały do ręki nie wezmę, a nie wydaje mi się, żebym ja miał się tutaj uganiać po ulicy zamiast tu pracować przy warsztacie”. I wtedy inni chętni do wzięcia już tych pał się cofnęli, kiedy jeden się odezwał, że nie. Ale on mówi, że on się nie odezwał dlatego, że był przeciw, on odezwał się dlatego, że miał takie poczucie, że jeżeli nie wiem, to nie ma się gdzie pchać. I tutaj po prostu niewiedza, brak orientacji był bardzo często przyczyną tej... również tej obojętności, a nawet udziału w tym takich robotników, którzy gdyby wiedzieli, to nie wiem czy by... nie wiem, czy by wzięli w tym udział. Po prostu zupełna dezinformacja. No były to rzeczywiście wydarzenia, które każdy, kto je widział to zapamięta – no te uganianie się po ulicach Warszawy tłumów ORMO-wców za tłumami młodzieży, no przeważnie uciekającej, bo w nic nie uzbrojonej przecież; seria wieców na uniwersytecie, uchwał na uniwersytecie, coraz szersze aresztowania, wyłapywanie ludzi z komitetów strajkowych. Bo jest interesujące, że uniwersytet był przygotowany do tego, właśnie tam koła naukowe od dawna były opanowane przez młodych ludzi, którzy byli zwolennikami Kuronia i Modzelewskiego. I uniwersytet jeżeli wystąpił i jeżeli po tym podtrzymywał tutaj te demonstracje, to nie było w tym nic dziwnego. Ale już na przykład ci sami organizatorzy powiadali: „Jak trafić na politechnikę? Czy politechnika nas poprze?”. Tymczasem na politechnice wyglądało to dużo bardziej spektakularnie niż na Uniwersytecie Warszawskim w rezultacie, mimo że tam nie było żadnej takiej grupy ludzi, która mogłaby tym pokierować, która była już w jakiś sposób psychicznie przynajmniej przygotowana. Świadczyło to o tym, że te nastroje buntu wśród ówczesnej młodzieży no, musiały być bardzo szerokie, rozpowszechnione, nawet kiedy na pierwszy rzut oka były niewidoczne.

The workers regarded all of this with complete indifference. What's more, in general, they knew nothing about what was going on. I know this if only because one of my friends from the Uprising was working in one of those vast factories in Warsaw as a metalworker. He told me that all of a sudden, their work was interrupted and they were summoned, while some trucks full of truncheons drove into the yard. When it turned out that there weren't that many members of ORMO [Ochotnicza Rezerwa Milicji Obywatelskiej (Voluntary Reserve Citizens Militia)] among the workforce, everyone was told to take up a truncheon. Why? Because crowds of hooligans were running riot in the streets of Warsaw. My friend said that he didn't really know what was going on – hooligans? Who? What? What was happening? He didn't have the faintest idea of what this was all about. You could see from this that social communication was zero. My friend isn't a fool. He's a very intelligent, sensible person, but he didn't know about any of this. What happened in this case was that when people went forward to pick up the truncheons, he said – there were no repercussions for this – ‘I don't know what this is all about, I'm not picking up any truncheon, and I don't think I ought to be chasing crowds through the streets instead of doing my work here’. Then, others who'd been ready to take up the truncheons pulled back when they heard one person refuse. But he didn't speak up by way of refusal but because he had a sense that if he doesn't know what's going on, then what's the point of getting involved. Here, the not knowing, the disorientation was often the reason for the indifference and even the participation of those workers who, had they known, perhaps would not have taken part in this. There was a complete lack of information. These events were indeed unforgettable. There were crowds of ORMO chasing crowds of youths through the streets of Warsaw, and the youths were generally running away because they, of course, were unarmed. There was a series of rallies at the university, a resolution, a growing number of arrests, the capture of people who were members of strike committees. It's interesting that the university was prepared for this, where the academic circles had for a long time been dominated by young people who were supporters of Kuroń and Modzelewski. If the university took a stand and then maintained these demonstrations there was nothing strange in that. Yet the organisers themselves were saying, how can we get to the polytechnic? Will the polytechnic support us? Meanwhile things at the polytechnic were far more spectacular than they were at Warsaw University even though there was no group of people who could have directed everything and who were psychologically prepared. This showed that the rebellious attitudes of those young people were very widespread even though, at first glance, they weren't apparent.

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: 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: ORMO, Voluntary Reserve Citizens Militia, Warsaw University, Jacek Kuroń, Karol Modzelewski

Duration: 4 minutes

Date story recorded: October 1989

Date story went live: 11 March 2011