Page 3, 9th November 1984

9th November 1984
Page 3
Page 3, 9th November 1984 — Fr Jerzy's brotherhood call

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Locations: Warsaw


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Fr Jerzy's brotherhood call

FR JERZY POPIELUSZKO, the parish priest of St Stanislaw Kostka's church in Warsaw and now the Solidarity martyr, was kidnapped on October 19. On the night of October 30 the Polish authorities announced that they had found Fr Popieluszko's body.

Four days later, Cardinal Jozef Glemp, Primate of Poland, several bishops, Lech Walesa and other Solidarity leaders as well as Western diptomats and State representatives 1— not all of them for the same reasons took part in the funeral which was attended by a quarter of a million people.

The funeral turned out to be the largest pro-Solidarity demonstration since the declaration of martial law on December 13 1981.

It appears that for Poles, these two weeks of shock, tension and indignation, resulting in a mass demonstration c courage and commitment to the ideas of August 1980, amount to an experience that has finally transformed the group consciousness of the "survivors" of martial law, and, perhaps, marked the end of the phase of disillusionment and passivity which has prevailed in Poland since, the declaration of martial law.

In this context it is worth remembering that attitudes towards events in Poland are related to one's perspective.

For the Western observer basic attitudes centre around the question: "What should I think about it?" Alternatively, his attitude may be one of indifference:,after all he is bombarded by news every day and Poland can hardly be expected to occupy more of his attention than say Ethiopia, India, South

Africa, the Middle East or Nicaragua.

For a Pole, on the other hand, basic questions centre around the problem: "What should I do about it?" In order to survive, he can hardly afford indifference. His country occupies the centre of his consciousness and so calls more loudly for action than probems elsewhere in the world.

To remain indifferent to the murder of some relatively unknown priest from a distant country and with an unpronounceable name is, for the Western observer, a more or less natural reaction.

To remain indifferent to the murder of Fr Popieluszko is, for the Pole, a suicidal reaction.

The area where the irreconcilability of these two diverse outlooks is visible most clearly is the different attitudes towards the communist state or, as Milovan Djilas puts it, towards "the new class".

Western analysts and "Sovietologists" tend to concentrate on individualfThey are preoccupied with the question: "who is who?" in the government, politbureau, party, army, police etc.

For a Pole the ruling elite is faceless and nameless. There is only them and us and hardly anything in between.

Such a dichotomy was certainly a constant factor in post-war Poland but there was still room for in-between grey or "pinky" zones too.

But after December 13 1981 the dichotomy was made perfect and it became impossible to talk in any other colours than white and red.

In such a situation, a Pole perceives questions of the who-is-who•type as basically irrelevant or even as dangerously distorting the clarity of the picture. He feels that the

source of his oppression is neither the government, nor the party, nor the police, (still less individuals or factions within those bodies) but the system. They are the incarnation and the functionaries of the system; we, its victims.

For the West, Poland is a matter of politics and diplomacy. All elements in the structure of her ruling elite must be carefully analysed before engaging in any sort of negotiations: you want to know who the partner is with whom you are going to sit down at the table.

For the Poles, it became clear after December 13, 1981, that unless the nature of the system is changed, they will never enter into a dialogue, and so to think about any real negotiations with them is pointless.

For the West, the murder of Fr Popietuszko signifies only one of the elements in the internal struggle for power among the ruling elite — almost a secondary aspect of that struggle.

After the arrival of Malcolm Rifldnd, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, in Poland, and just before the expected application of the Jaruzelski government to the IMF (during the final stage of the discussion between the Government and the Church on the Agricultural Foundation) the main concern of the Western mass-media was the question: who and on behalf of whom killed Fr Popieluszko and what does it mean in the context of the internal struggle for power in the Polish Government?

For the Poles, the murder of Fr Popieluszko meant aggression from their side. The people retaliated by demonstrating full support for Solidarity at the funeral.

The question of the internal struggle for power was, from the Poles' point of view, totally irrelevant in this sombre context. For the first time since the declaration of martial law, the leaders of Solidarity with Lech Walesa and Andrzej Gwiazda issued a public statement in which they said: "If we remain silent on this horrible crime, and if we cope with it without protest, a great fear will paralyse our thoughts, words and acts. We have to stop passivity as a method of struggle against evil".

Now it is only a matter of time before the end product of this new phase of political activity in Poland comes to light.

However, a few points are already clear. The Jaruzelski faction will use this opportunity to crush their internal opposition in the Government; the church will find it hard to continue "the Primate line" of compromise and dialogue with the Government; Solidarity leaders and intellectuals will try to create a countrywide chain of official human rights monitoring groups and can. hope for open support among the workers.

Martyr blood has spilled onto fertile soil. It can produce either a passionate nationalism which will bring about a catastrophe, or a firm and conscious integrity which, sooner or later, will change the nature of the system.

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