Poland: Who’s Right? Who’s Left?

A RECENT SOLIDARITY DEMONSTRATION that grew out of an 18-day strike at the Ursus tractor factory turned Warsaw 1995 into a faint reflection of Poznan 1956 and Gdansk 1970. Yet this time, pitched street battles between workers and police failed to catalyze public opinion against a “communist” state. Instead, the demonstration fueled the ongoing discussion about what it means to be “right” or “left” in Poland today. As one television satirist said, Poland seems to be a country where the left consists of rich people representing the workers (a reference to the post-communist bourgeoisie) and the right consists of poor people representing capitalists. But Solidarity, a “pro-reform,” right-wing, trade-union political party, marched to demand more subsidies for state enterprises from a fiscally conservative, leftist government. Perhaps the greatest irony was that after Ursus Solidarity members staged dramatic and violent scenes in the center of Warsaw, splattering the Council of Ministers building with red paint, its members went back to work, their demands unmet. This raised the additional question of what it means to be a trade union in Poland.