Scholar Interviews

How do you help your students interpret the passage you read about an independent, self-governing union?


Try to connect it to the political events that were to happen. Immediately after that, I say what happened in 1976 in Poland? You had a huge wave of strikes. For the first time, okay, we’ll go a little bit here as I do with my students, a little bit into chronology. ’68. you have a major uprising among students in Poland; one of the leaders, Adam Michnik. They are arrested, and before they’re being arrested the police violates the campus’ autonomy at the University of Warsaw. The students are beaten. They are arrested. It’s in March 1968. Before being all jailed, some of them tried to mobilize the workers. The workers didn’t do anything. Actually, they applauded the government actions against the students.

December 1970, worker strikes in the coast, Baltic Sea coast, whatever, shipyards. Over 100 workers are shot dead by the government army. There are no students and intellectuals to protest. They are in jail, or they are intimidated. A lesson has to be drawn from that. You have to bring together students, intellectuals, and workers. Okay? This happens after the worker strikes, in 1976 something extremely important, which was engineered by people like Michnik and Kuron that I mentioned before and a few others including Tadeusz Mazowiecki who would be the first prime minister after the end of communism or during the end of communism. Okay, they created KOR which means in translation the Committee for Workers’ Defense. This was the key element that allowed the development of a new wave of strikes, starts in July, August 1980. Now there are people to help the workers to speak “with” not “for” the workers, because the workers can speak for themselves. But to speak with the workers, help the workers articulate their spontaneous needs and bring together in a way, the intellectual organization and the workers’ activism and create a truly Promethean and daunting alternative to the party state.

How to Cite

Vladimir Tismaneanu, interview, "How do you help your students interpret the passage you read about an independent, self-governing union?" Making the History of 1989, Item #617, (accessed July 20 2017, 10:54 pm).