Exactly 25 years ago, on 31 August 1980, Walesa, an electrician at the Lenin Shipyards in Gdansk, forced the Communist regime in Poland to recognise the independent trade union Solidarity. In December 1981 the Communists announced a state of emergency, disbanded Solidarity and imprisoned Walesa. The regime, however, could not stop the demand for freedom and democracy. Before the decade was over every Communist dictatorship in Europe had fallen. In 1990 Walesa became Poland’s President. Five years later, however, he lost the elections to the former Communist Aleksander Kwasniewski.
Walesa was interviewed today in the Flemish newspaper De Tijd. He is angry with Western workers who, he says, are abusing the European Union to exploit and cheat their brothers in the East.
“The West has treated us unjustly. The West’s demeanour is dishonest. In the past the West made money out of Communism. Now it is trying to make money out of the EU.”Walesa is indignant about the attitude of the Left in the West who are trying to stop Poles from finding jobs in Western Europe. “The Polish worker who symbolised the struggle for freedom 25 years ago is now seen by many West Europeans as posing a threat to their social priviliges,” says Walesa.
“The Western worker is an unfair leech. He gained additional outlets for his products thanks to our struggle. He wants too much and gives too little. Everyone was happy when the Warsaw Pact was disbanded. But it was also the end of our markets in the East. The West does not need to spend so much on arms because Communism has gone. So this money has to be somewhere. We turned to the West. I said: there has to be a Marshall Plan. But the West did not listen. They have killed many of our enterprises and are selling their products here in large quantities.”
“How often have I told the West that we have too many nurses, while Germany, Scandinavia and the U.S. have too few,” an exasperated Walesa says. He is convinced that the West is responsible for the feelings of embitterment in Poland today.
“The truth is that we have been treated badly in the European Union. We got second class membership, with lower subsidies for our farmers and the containment of our markets. But we can count and we see this injustice.”
Moreover, Walesa stresses, “economically not much depends on Polish politicians but all the more depends on Brussels and Western politicians now.” However, he says, “we can choose between cooperating sensibly or under coercion, calling each other names like ‘plumber.’ And who is the one who is not ready for this development? We, or the West that sees us as a threat?”
No doubt Walesa is right in blaming the West for not opening its labour markets to hardworking East Europeans such as the Polish plumbers, electricians and nurses. This is typical for the Socialist mentality in the West, as he correctly perceives in his criticism of leftist parties and workers. However, Walesa’s demand for more money and subsidies from the EU shows that he, too, has been infected by the Socialist mentality. There are countries in Eastern Europe, such as Estland and Slovakia, that are thriving even though they are experiencing the same constraints as Poland.