Konstanty Gebert zu Gast bei Lorenz Gallmetzer. From Solidarność to the Orange Revolution: Poland and the Ukraine PDF

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Konstanty zu Gast bei Lorenz From Solidarność to the Orange Revolution: Poland and the Ukraine 15. Februar 2005 Konstanty, geboren 1953 in Warschau. Abschluss des Studiums der Psychologie, Universität

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Konstanty zu Gast bei Lorenz From Solidarność to the Orange Revolution: Poland and the Ukraine 15. Februar 2005 Konstanty, geboren 1953 in Warschau. Abschluss des Studiums der Psychologie, Universität Warschau (1976). Mitbegründer der Jüdischen Fliegenden Universität (1979) und des Polnischen Rates für Christen und Juden (1980). Mitbegründer einer Gewerkschaft, die bald darauf mit Solidarność fusionierte (1980). Während des Kriegszustandes in Polen publiziert er unter dem Namen Dawid Warszawski. Nach der politischen Wende im Jahr 1989 wird er Kolumnist bei der ersten unabhängigen Tageszeitung Polens, Gazeta Wyborcza, und gründete 1997 die jüdische Monatsschrift Midrasz, deren Herausgeber er bis heute ist. Lorenz, geboren 1952 in Bozen. Matura in Wien, Studium der Romanistik. Seit 1980 Journalist beim ORF, seit 2001 Reporter für die Sendung Weltjournal. Rudolf Scholten I would like to welcome all of you to our today s invitation under the title From Solidarność to the Orange Revolution: Poland and the Ukraine. With this evening we start a new series called Zu Gast bei, and following that order I would first like to welcome our host of the night, Lorenz. Before we start the discussion we see a short documentary which Lorenz did recently in the Ukraine. But before doing so I would like to welcome our guest of honor. He is founder of a union which became part of Solidarność, co-founder of the Jewish Flying University, co-founder of the Polish Council for Jews and Christians, and namely columnist, reporter I was told of Gazeta Wyborcza. Welcome Konstanty. He was already here in At that time he was guest of Andreas Stadler who is with us tonight. In 2003 he was cultural attaché in the embassy in Warsaw, and is now in the team of our President Heinz Fischer. I want to thank the Kultusgemeinde for the cooperation. We have a very close cooperation, and we are very glad about that. And I would like to welcome the Polish Ambassador in Vienna. Lorenz It is my first time here in the Kreisky Forum and I am very honored to have Mr. as my guest. Looking at the audience I feel somehow embarrassed because many, like Barbara Coudenhove-Kalergi for instance, were active witnesses, if not actors in the story we are trying to discuss. The reportage that we have chosen to show was done for the Weltjournal, a couple of days before the third term of the election in the Ukraine, trying to understand the feelings, the mood and the soul of the people, but also the role of the United States, some nongovernmental organisations and specially also the effect the previous revolutions in Serbia and in Georgia had on the Ukraine. This was right before the real victory of the orange revolution in the Ukraine. I think that before we go into details we tried to at least put the question in this reportage about the role of Western societies, the American Dollars, or also the tactics that have been more or less the same, very organised although it was spontaneous in Belgrad 2000, in Georgia and the in Ukraine. I think we could go back and ask how come that it was Poland, the first country and the first democratic movement which was successful. We have seen Budapest in 1956, we have seen Prague in 1968 and a lot of other minor movements. But why was it Poland, why was Solidarność successful? 1 Konstanty Well, there is an ocean of answers to that. We can argue about that till kingdom comes. But just to pick up one theme that was present in this documentary. Yes, it was also money. The money that the Polish communist regime owed to the West, and which limited its freedom of maneuvre, limited its capacity in the second half of the seventies when the opposition was just starting to engage in sharp repress of behavior. And this created the foothold we needed to convince people that they need not be afraid. This was the beginning. The second factor was a miracle. A Pole got elected Pope. I very vividly remember his first visit to Warsaw the summer of 1979 after he was elected Pope. Not only hundreds of thousands of people were there to greet him. We organised it all, the visit, the set-up, all that was organised by the church and volunteer service. And we suddenly discovered, we don t need them. We could cope with it ourselves. And also we discovered just how many we are, especially when watching the evening TV news which showed small groups of elderly peasant women as the main crowd that greeted the Pope. Well, half a million people were there and could see with their own eyes the difference between falsehood and reality. It was a combination of extremely propitious factors that did lead to an opening of the flood gates. Enough people were willing to stop being afraid. Enough people realised that yes, we are capable of selforganising. And the government had to be restrained enough because of its credit liability to the West. And then of course nobody remotely imagined what will happen, not even during the great August strike of 1980 which twice almost petered out. Twice they were on the verge of signing a deal, a local deal which would improve conditions either in the courtyard or in the city. It is only now in retrospect that we see a kind of historical logic in action. We were practical engineers trying to do things one step at a time. The role of the Polish Pope was maybe an emotional and even ideological symbol. But it was more than that. What was the creed and programmatic advantage that Solidarność for example could have from this? The Polish church in Poland itself, especially the international solidarity. Well, this is the second stage. This is when Solidarność actually set up, to its own surprise becomes ten million. We never expected that, we never planned for that. I actually was quite worried. I had this naive vision, okay we have won, the revolution is over, now what we need to do is learn democracy. And you don t learn democracy in a ten million organisation, so I tried to keep my union out of Solidarność, which had my friends explaining years later that I was not an agent provocateur, but a bloody idiot. But once Solidarność got its speed, yes, the international support we got. And the fact that it was so ecumenical from the Vatican to socialist trade unions, from Berlinguer to Ronald Reagan. It was very difficult to pin us down. They are getting this particular political support because they are in their political interest. Yes, we were in the political interest of Berlinguer and Reagan and the socialist trade unions and the Vatican. There is not much those four parties could agree on, but they could agree on that freedom is better than tyranny. And this was essentially about as sophisticated as we ourselves were. We weren t much different from the people you saw on that screen. We knew what we do not want, and we had precious little idea about what it actually is that we want or indeed can do. I feel almost instant recognition when I watch the orange revolution, well this is barely a quarter century ago. 2 How can you explain the difference to previous movements? How come that after this compromise with the regime, and the first so-called free election, a spontaneous but organised and sustained movement could come to the point to end up as a bloodless revolution. First of all, the fundamental change towards non-violence took place immediately after the coup in the early weeks of post-december 13. Actually the military were expecting armed resistance. In the port city of Gdansk they prepared 1500 hospital beds for the wounded. They were expecting armed resistance, logically so. This is what Poles have been doing over centuries, right. We had cavallery charges against tanks. So this time we would be charging tanks in basked ball shoes, right. And had we done that I would not be here today. I don t know if I would be alive, but very probably I would still be a citizen of a communist Poland, possibly one in which the civil war is entering into its third decade. Mercifully we got smart. I think that historically one of the reasons was the experience of the second world war and especially the ultimately doomed Warsaw uprising of 1944 in which people were killed in 63 days. So frankly, no, we did not believe that it is better to die standing than to live on your knees. We actually believed that it is better to live on your knees because then one day you will have the opportunity to live standing. There is no profit in dying standing. This was a surprise for the military. They went through us like a fist goes through a junk of butter, right through. So what next? The butter is still there. There is only so much you can do with a fist which is covered with butter. They had a problem. My first serious job in the underground was to track down three young workers that had stolen some dynamite from a factory, and they contacted us asking for orders whom are they to use the dynamite against, which tank, which ministry, which what. And I had to track them down, convince them not to use the dynamite and then the most difficult thing smuggle the dynamite back into the factory. Because you see, workers were not checked leaving the factory. But the contrary, the regime expected them to steal. Apart from everything else, a thief does not make a good resistance fighter. But they were checked on the way in because they might be smuggling leaflets. I was just thinking, forget communist Poland, if I would be caught trying to enter the factory with those sticks of dynamite no judge on the face of the planet would ever believe that I was simply restituting stolen factory property. This was the scariest thing I did in the underground. But that was a strategic decision. It was part history, part church teaching, and part the fact that we had actually discovered ways of doing things that made sense and still did not involve running around forests with a rifle, like producing underground newspapers, like organising self-education groups, like teaching workers to stand up for their rights. All this worked. Now fast forward to Why was the compromise possible? Because both sides were loosing control. It is as simple as that. The great strikes of summer of 1988 not only caught the government by surprise, they caught us by surprise. This was a new generation of workers. And interestingly enough, since the underground movement relied so heavily on personal trust this meant that if you were young you could not really fit in, nobody could vouch for you. So the young guys essentially said, okay forget those Solidarność guys, let s do something ourselves. We jumped on the bandwagon at the very last moment and said hello, we are the guys who are running the strike. But this was more or less the last moment when we could try to control a social movement. Similarly on the other side the entire structure of power was crumbling. On the one hand the secret police very candidly said okay, all this can yet be stopped, with violence yes, with killings yes, but it can be stopped. The minister of interior and the guy who was running the secret policy, asked the politburo, if we use violence are you willing to support us? And the politburo said yes and no and maybe, and that is when they started their contacts with Walesa. Both power structures were loosing control of their base, loosing influence. If something could be salvaged, that was the moment. And why a compromise? Because it is very easy today to project what we know now on then and say, as 3 say the oppononents of the round table, and there are many of them in Poland, the round table is a sellout. Instead of negotiating with the communists you should have waited a year and the power would be out on the streets for the picking. Well, I was not that smart then. I have not heard many people that smart then. But more to the point, we voted in our semi-free elections on Tian An Men day. That was the alternative. And yes, it is possible that had we waited, power would be just picked up from the streets. So maybe we would have had a Havel as the Czechs had or maybe we would be shooting the Ceaucescus. It was not preordained. So by all estimation and respect to the spontaneous or very organised democratic movement how decisive was the fact that in Moscow changes were taking place since 1984/85, with Gorbatchow, Glasnost, Perestrojka, first steps of reform and maybe also weakness, not so much implosion, but weakness of the Soviet system. Maybe this was decisive compared to 1968 or 1956? It was both decisive and secondary. Decisive in the sense that without the change of power, had the Soviets resurrected another Tchernenko, the Polish communists would not be willing to negotiate. This was the crucial turning point. When Jaruzelski and his closest collaborators convinced the central committee to start the round table negotiations, what they did is they decided to have consultations among the local party organisations to have a feel for what the base wants. And they returned from the consultations, the members of the central committee said, hello we are not going to negotiate with the revolution. In plain speaking, our asses in the sling, we don t want to take that risk. To which Jaruzelski told them that Gorbatchow had told him that this time the red army is not going to save their asses, they are in it on their own. This forced the party to negotiate. And ultimately of course this made the entire break down of the system possible. The Soviets could have stopped it. It would not have been effective, but it would have been bloody. But secondary in the sense that had there not been Solidarność and not only as yet another uprising but an underground that cannot be crushed, they would have no incentive to rethink their foreign policy. Why should they give up something they still control? So it had to be a combination of both. There had to be a factor outside the Soviet Union which made them loose control, and there had to be a leadership intelligent enough to realise that they cannot pay the price for reimposing control. We have seen the similarities. You said you feel like this is twentyfive years ago. What is the lesson? Are these more or less peaceful revolutions- rose, orange or whatever -, going to be supported by the European Union and the Americans especially in Ukraine? Is this interference right? Or is it an interference in internal affairs like Putin says? How long to the orange revolution in Moscow? There has certainly been Western interference in the Ukraine by governmental support for non-governmental organisations there, by training of leaders, transfer of funds, political support. Frankly, unless and until this involves supporting criminal organisations I see no major problem in organisations in one country being supported by another country. And it is only fair to say that contrary to what the lady was telling us, Russia had invested much more money and direct political pressure into the Ukraine than the collective pressure of the West was able to mobilise. So there was interference on both sides. Of course, I would prefer a clean election with nobody interfering. But had that been possible in the Ukraine there would be no reason to interfere. The idea that the West has too many Euros and too many Dollars, so 4 that they don t know what to do with them, so just dump them on the Ukraine, doesn t strike me as terribly convincing. Also my movement was financed by the West in a much more direct way and with much more violation of international norms. We were an underground movement which was considered criminal by the government, and we were getting funds not only from Western NGOs or social movements but from governments, including the CIA. I did not know at that time that the money that was passing through my hands was CIA, but had I known I would have still accepted every Dollar. I needed that money. I had absolutely no moral qualms at having accepted it. I am very greatful, and I just hope I have the opportunity to repay the debt by passing on money into Kasakhstan or whatever. This interference, both in terms of money and in terms of political support, is important and can be vital, but it is a very new thing. One of the tragedies of Serbia was that during the war the democratic opposition could not get any support from the West - nd I mean any support - ince there was an embargo on Serbia. The independent radio B92 in Belgrade could not get a sat phone they wanted to equip a correspondent with to send him to Sarajevo so that each evening he could broadcast from Sarajevo to Belgrade about what is happening in that city. B92 was denied the possibility to get a sat phone because there was an embargo to Serbia. More suicidal than that you are already dead. It was in our fundamental interest to have the people of Belgrade realise what is happening in Sarajevo. So we learned the lesson. We are still learning it. There was more involvement in Georgia. It was essentially George Sorosz. There was not much governmental involvement there. My feel is that contrary to what some commentators would have said, Washington was much more worried by the perspective of destabilising the Caucasus than by the hope of replacing the aging dictator with that promising young figure. And time will tell whether he was such a great improvement. Ukraine, yes, there was substantial state involvement which countered even more substantial Russian state involvement. Eventually I think that the principle of non-interference in other people s affairs remains binding as long as they are other people s affairs. For me as a citizen of Poland it is certainly my affair whether our big neighbor to the East will be governed by a criminal with a prison record and with strings going all the way to Moscow or by a candidate who at least does not have those defects. It is my affair. And I am willing to interfere in my affair to make sure that the bad guys don t win. The fact that somebody is an undesirable choice does not make the alternative a miracle. I assume all of us have had the experience during elections of holding our nose and voting for the least bad candidate. The second question was when is the orange revolution in Moscow? Not anytime soon. First of all, Russia is probably the one country in the world where you really can t interfere from the outside, it is much too big. The physical size of the country, the sheer scope of the ressources that would be necessary to make a change is daunting, even if you are willing to disconsider that you are meddling in the internal affairs of the world s largest nuclear arsenal. I wouldn t. I very much want to see regime change in Moscow. I don t like provoking bears with nuclear weapons. But second, precisely because it is so huge the structural imbalance between the central authorities and those who could challenge them is so great that I do not see an orange revolution getting the momentum, getting the power necessary to force a regime change. In 1991 during the Yazov coup more people were shopping at the GUM than defending the White House. And that was Moscow. And now think about the provinces. But Putin is not taking any chances. The first consequence of the orange revolution is a vicious crackdown on media that you have not been hearing about because it is now a crackdown in the provinces. The media in the big cities are already at the government or mafia control, or it does not make any difference which one it is. Now it is 5 going down to the provinces with the secret police visiting newspapers that have had contacts with the West, and Poland is West, so say newspapers I have been working with.by the way you know that this Polish visitor is an American spy. He is not taking any chances. The crackdown is continuing. I don t expect anything terribly dramatic, Putin is not an idiot. But our hopes for a more democratic and liberal Russia are dashed for the time being. Not for always, of course.
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