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UE: POL 110-HA: Democracy in Troubled Times: Mass Movements Abroad

Practical Instruction in Civic Discourse

The Takeaway

Gandhi and Civil Disobedience

Indians Rally in Bombay to Protest Gandhi's Arrest

Indians Rally in Bombay to Protest Gandhi's Arrest for the Quit India Movement, 1930

Gandhi's March to the Sea - Birth of Non-Violent Civil Disobedience

On March 12, 1930, Indian independence leader Mohandas Gandhi begins a defiant march to the sea in protest of the British monopoly on salt, his boldest act of civil disobedience yet against British rule in India.

Britain's Salt Acts prohibited Indians from collecting or selling salt, a staple in the Indian diet. Citizens were forced to buy the vital mineral from the British, who, in addition to exercising a monopoly over the manufacture and sale of salt, also exerted a heavy salt tax. Although India's poor suffered most under the tax, Indians required salt. Defying the Salt Acts, Gandhi reasoned, would be an ingeniously simple way for many Indians to break a British law nonviolently. He declared resistance to British salt policies to be the unifying theme for his new campaign of satyagraha, or mass civil disobedience.

On March 12, Gandhi set out from Sabarmati with 78 followers on a 241-mile march to the coastal town of Dandi on the Arabian Sea. There, Gandhi and his supporters were to defy British policy by making salt from seawater. All along the way, Gandhi addressed large crowds, and with each passing day an increasing number of people joined the salt satyagraha. By the time they reached Dandi on April 5, Gandhi was at the head of a crowd of tens of thousands. Gandhi spoke and led prayers and early the next morning walked down to the sea to make salt.

He had planned to work the salt flats on the beach, encrusted with crystallized sea salt at every high tide, but the police had forestalled him by crushing the salt deposits into the mud. Nevertheless, Gandhi reached down and picked up a small lump of natural salt out of the mud--and British law had been defied. At Dandi, thousands more followed his lead, and in the coastal cities of Bombay and Karachi, Indian nationalists led crowds of citizens in making salt. Civil disobedience broke out all across India, soon involving millions of Indians, and British authorities arrested more than 60,000 people. Gandhi himself was arrested on May 5, but the satyagraha continued without him.

On May 21, the poet Sarojini Naidu led 2,500 marchers on the Dharasana Salt Works, some 150 miles north of Bombay. Several hundred British-led Indian policemen met them and viciously beat the peaceful demonstrators. The incident, recorded by American journalist Webb Miller, prompted an international outcry against British policy in India.

In January 1931, Gandhi was released from prison. He later met with Lord Irwin, the viceroy of India, and agreed to call off the satyagraha in exchange for an equal negotiating role at a London conference on India's future. In August, Gandhi traveled to the conference as the sole representative of the nationalist Indian National Congress. The meeting was a disappointment, but British leaders had acknowledged him as a force they could not suppress or ignore.

India's independence was finally granted in August 1947. Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu extremist less than six months later.

The History Channel
<> (10/01/13)

Gandhi On Civil Disobedience

When we do not like certain laws, we do not break the heads of the law-givers, but we suffer and do not submit to the laws. That we should obey laws whether good or bad is a new-fangled notion. There was no such thing in former days. The people disregarded those laws they did not like and suffered the penalties for their breach. It is contrary to our manhood if we obey laws repugnant to our conscience.

If our rulers are doing what in their opinion is wrong, and we feel it is our duty to let them hear our advice even though it may be considered sedition, I urge you to speak sedition - but at your peril; you must be prepared to suffer the consequences. And, when you are ready to suffer the consequences and not hit below the belt, then I think you will have made good your right to have your advice heard even by the Government.

Those only can take up civil disobedience who believe in willing obedience even to irksome laws imposed by the state so long as they do not hurt their conscience or religion, and are prepared equally willingly to suffer the penalty of civil disobedience

Complete civil disobedience is rebellion without the element of violence in it. An out-and-out civil resister simply ignores the authority of the State. He never uses force and never resists force when it is used against him. In fact, he invites imprisonment and other uses of force against himself..  Submission to the state law is the price a citizen pays for his personal liberty. Submission, therefore, to a state law wholly or largely unjust is an immoral barter for liberty. A citizen who thus realizes the evil nature of a state is not satisfied to live on its sufferance, and therefore appears to others who do not share his belief to be a nuisance to society whilst he is endeavoring to compel the state, without committing a moral breach to arrest him. A body of civil resisters is like an army subject to all the discipline of a soldier's life. One perfect civil resister is enough to win the battle of right against wrong.

Mahatma Gandhi - Audio Book Biográfico AUDIO: Hear Gandhi explain his religious beliefs.

VIDEO: Martin Luther King explains the influence of Gandhi's teaching upon his own thought ?  

Who is to blame for the partitioning of India?

<The Muslims are to blame> The partition of India was the most significant event in the history of India. Its chief reason was the antic thinking of the Muslims and their communalism. But the circumstances under which it occurred made it one of the saddest events of the history of India. No doubt, the Hindus and the Muslims were living together since long but they failed to inculcate the feeling of harmony and unity among themselves.

The fanatic leaders played a prominent role in stoking the fires of rabid communalism. As a result, the partition of India and formation of Pakistan took place. The following factors contributed to it.

1. Activities of the Muslim League:

The English Govt played a significant role in the formation of Muslim League. The English wanted to create dissensions among the people India in order to consolidate their own position.

The chief aim of the Muslim League was so spread the poison of communalism and the Muslim leaders had their own axe to grind through the medium of this organisation.

In the beginning the Muslim League did not prove to be an influential organisation due to its narrow and negative approach. M. A. Jinnah's two nation theory was actually a slogan for the formation of a separate nation for the Indian Muslims.

2. Congress's policy of Appeasement:

No doubt, in the partition of India and making of Pakistan, the policies of the English Govt, and the Muslim League were responsible to a great extent but the policy of appealement of the Muslims, adopted by the congress also proved helpful in this field.

Unfortunately congress did not try to understand the isolationist and aggressive policy of the Muslim and it continued to sustain the false, hope that there might be some miracle by which the communal problem could be averted forever.

The leaders of congress failed to under stand the Muslim character and they continued to commit blunders. In 1916 A.D. of the Lucknow Pact, they accepted the principle of separate franchise for the Muslims and the next blunder was committed by them at the time of accepting the communal electorate system in 1932 A.D.

3. Communal Reaction:

As a result of Muslim communalism, Hindu communalism also came into being. The staunch Hindus formed an organisation. Hindu Maha Sabha and other organisation.

The system of Shuddic which was adopted by the Arya Sainaj created doubt in the minds of the Muslims. Hindu Maha Sabha not only raised a slogan for the establishment of this nation but also blamed the congress for being anti- Hindu organisation. As a result of the Hindu communalism, the Muslim communalism grew all the more powerful and they raised the slogan of a separate nation.

4. Congress policy of strengthening India:

The Congress felt that there was one alternative to get ride of this problem and that was the partition of India

5. Formation of weak Pakistan:

Various leaders of India opined that from political, economic, geographical and military points of view, Pakistan would prove to be a weak nation instead of being a stable one and owing to its own shortcomings; Pakistan could again be incorporated into India. In fact, the unwanted optimism of the Indian leaders also contributed to the making of Pakistan.

6. Development Transfer of power:

The British Prime Minister Attlee declared on 20th Feb. 1947 A.D. that in every condition the English would leave India by June 1948 A.D.

This declaration created a fear in the hearts of the Indian leaders incases, India was not divided by that date, a civil war would breakout and the country divided into various parts. So, the members of the congress accepted the partition proposal because they did not want to annoy Mountbatten nor did they wish to offend the British Government in that any valid reason.

After acceptance of the partition of India by the Muslim League riots broke out in different parts of country. On 20th Feb. 1947 A.D. the British Prime Minister declared that by June 1948 A.D. they would leave Indian by all mean and in the meant time the British drew up the Indian Independence Act of 1947 A.D.


<The British are to blame> The greatest culprit was British rulers as they also wanted India divided so that they could easily establish intelligence and military base in Pakistan to stem the tide of revolution which by then had become a certainty in China. Nehru Government would have never allowed such bases in United India. Lord Mount Batten got Nehru, through his wife Advina to endorse the partition plan.

Thus it would be seen that apart from Jinnah, the British and Nehru were also responsible for partition of the country. In my opinion the greatest responsibility of partition lay on the British shoulder. They cleverly maneuvered the complex situation in a way to make partition a reality. Partition, as Maulana Azad also pointed out, was neither in the interest of India nor in the interest of Muslims themselves.

The ultimate result of partition is that Muslims of Indian sub-continent stand divided into three units and Kashmir problem is also result of this tragedy. And both the countries are spending billions of rupees on their armies and now such powerful interests have developed in keeping conflict between the two countries alive that all efforts for talks fail. 

by Asghar Ali 
<> (09/29/13)

Nehru's Secular State

    There is a difference between Gandhi's concept of secularism and that of Nehru. In Gandhi’s view, secularism stands for equal respects for all religions. At his prayer meetings, holy texts were recited from Gita, Quran, Zend Avesta, Granth Sahib and Bible, According to him, all religions are equally true and each scripture is worthy of respect. Nehru's idea of secularism was equal indifference to all religion and bothering about none of them.

It is no secret that Jawaharlal Nehru saw religion as a force that checked the “tendency to change and progress”. But he did not let his personal convictions colour his conception of the secular state. He wrote, “A secular state does not mean an irreligious state: it only means that we respect and honour all religions, giving them freedom to function.” On another occasion, Nehru defined a secular state as one where there is “free play for all religions, subject only to their not interfering with each other or with the basic conceptions of our state”. This conception of a secular state is what political scientist Rajeev Bhargava describes as “principled distance”. In this interpretation, a secular state neither mindlessly excludes all religions nor is merely neutral towards them.

by Ronojoy Sen 
<> (09/29/13) ?  

Nehru represented the Western form of secularism very well. While Gandhi stressed on the equality of all religions and religious pluralism, Nehru was more inclined towards the modernity of the Enlightenment. In fact, Kazi Anwarul Masud considers him to be the first in India to have accepted Western secularism. He writes: ‘While Mahatma Gandhi and Maulana Azad spoke of secularism from the perspective of religion, Pandit Nehru was the first in the sub-continent to accept the western concept of secularism.’ 

When he became the Prime Minister of Independent India, Nehru confessed that it had been extremely difficult for him as a Prime Minister to build a secular State out of a religion-dominated nation. It was the able leadership of a secular visionary such as Nehru that held India together through out the early turbulent years of the country. In a country where the population in majority was Hindu (one reason behind the Muslim League’s skepticism regarding the possibility of true secularism in India), it was the secular vision of Nehru that helped him maintain the ‘rule of law’ in a democracy which was continually in danger of falling into the ‘rule of people.’ India, therefore, owes a lot to Nehru for the development of a form of secularism in India that was Constitutional and not majoritarianist. To the chagrin of the Hindutvavadis, it is this form of secularism that makes possible for people of all religions to live together under legal protection and keeps any community in majority from violating the rights of the minority. Nehru’s agnosticism and rationalism had no place for religious dictates in political matters. Therefore, he was able to see religion with a scientific eye and keep religious fundamentalism from sabotaging Indian politics.


© Domenic Marbaniang
Indian Secularism (2005)

Separation of Church and State in the Indian Constitution

The French writer André Malraux once asked Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister, what his greatest challenge had been since independence. "Creating a just state by just means," he replied. Then, after a pause, he added: "Perhaps, too, creating a secular state in a religious country."

India has always been a deeply religious ­nation. Four of the world's major faiths - Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism - emerged there. Today, it has the third-largest Muslim population on earth, at roughly 150 million, and there are also about 30 million Christians. Though four out of five Indians are Hindus, each of the other major faiths constitutes a majority in one or more of the country's provinces: for example, the Sikhs in Punjab, the Christians in Nagaland and the Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir.

But more than six decades on from independence, India remains an avowedly secular nation state. The preamble to its constitution says: "We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign, socialist, secular democratic republic . . .'' The word "secular" was inserted in a 1976 constitutional amendment, in order to make the position explicit.

by Medhi Hassan
<> (09/29/13)

India's Constitution prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste etc. Articles 25 to 28 confer certain rights relating to freedom of religion on ail persons in India. These rights are not confined merely to citizens. The religious freedom guaranteed by these cons­titutional provisions extends not only to individuals but even to reli­gious groups. India being a secular state, there is no state or preferred religion as such and all religions enjoy the same constitutional pro­tection without any favor or discrimination. Article 25(i) guarantees to every person, subject to public order, healthy, morality and other provisions relating to the Fundamental Rights, the freedom of conscience and right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.

The state is not, however, prevented from making any law regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular acti­vity which may be associated, with religious practices. The state is empowered to regulate secular activities associated with religious practices. Art, 26 lays down that subject to public order, morality and health, every religious denomination or a section of it has the right —(a) to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes; (b) to manage its own affairs in matters of religion; (c) to own and acquire movable and immovable property, and (d) to administer such property in accordance with law.

To maintain the secular character of the Indian polity, not only does the constitution guarantee freedom of religion to indi­viduals and to groups, but it is also against the general policy of the constitution that any money be paid out of the public funds for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination. Accordingly Art. 27 lays down that no person "shall be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifi­cally appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion on religious denomination.

According to Act. 28 (i) no religious education is to be provided in any educational institution which is wholly maintained out of state funds. Under Art, 28 (ii) this restriction would not apply to an educational institution which, though administered by the State, has been established under an 'endowment of trust' requiring the reli­gious instruction should be imparted in such as institution, in state recognized educational institutions, religious education can be imparted, on a voluntary basis. According to Art, 28 (iii) no person attending an educational institution recognized by the State or receiving aid from the Stale funds, can be required to participate in any religious infraction imported in the institution or to attend any religions worship conducted in the institution or any premises attacked thereto. Unless he consents to do voluntarily or-, if a minor, his guardian gives his consent for the same.

<> (09/29/13)

The Collapse of Communism in Poland

Solidarity and the Fall of Communism in Poland

The Year of 1989: The End of Communism in Poland

By Dudek Antoni, Aug 1, 2011

The wave of strikes in the summer of 1980 and its consequence, the birth of NSZZ Solidarity started the deepest phase of the crisis of the communist state in Poland. The economic crisis, growing since 1976, had led to a destabilization of the political system based on hegemonic position of the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR) in 1980. The creation of NSZZ Solidarity and its over year long period of legal functioning significantly altered the social awareness, a change which could no longer be reversed by the so-called politics of normalization, which began after the introducing of martial law in Poland in December 1981. The banning of Solidarity and the pacification of civil protests, which peaked on the 31st of August 1982 when demonstrations of supporters of the union took place in 66 cities, had not stopped the economic, social and political changes which put the People's Republic of Poland (PRL) in a state of chronic crisis and, after a change of the international situation, led to its downfall. Below I will try to enumerate the most important factors which, in my opinion, made the crisis grow and, in consequence, led to the breakdown of the system in 1989.

1. Changes in the USSR. This factor appeared last, only after the proclamation of the politics of perestroika by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986 but has to be mentioned first as it played a crucial role in inclining the team of general Wojciech Jaruzelski to begin changes in the political system, which, eventually, led to its complete breakdown. In July 1986, during a meeting of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev said, that the countries of Middle and Eastern Europe “can no longer be carried on our back. The main reason – the economy”. This meant that in the Kremlin opinion was prevalent, that the model of cooperation within the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, which was based on the transferable ruble, needed to be changed. The supply of petroleum and natural gas – the main export articles of the USSR – to the Comecon countries at set prices had no longer been profitable for the Soviet economy. It also was not a coincidence that one of Moscow's most important postulates after the government of Tadeusz Mazowiecki had been formed was the transition to USD as currency in mutual trade.

Although the knowledge remains limited regarding the plans of the Soviet leadership in the second half of the 1980s, Andrzej Paczkowski was probably right to say that “Gorbachev did something like an amputation on the Brezhnev >Doctrine<, which lost its ideological sense and became more of a geopolitical rule. The former pressure Moscow put on Warsaw subsided no later than 1987-1988 and was replaced by extensive conformity of intentions and actions”. General Wojciech Jaruzelski's team's hands were bound at that time as far as system reforms go, but that did not prevent it from using the Soviet deterrent in contacts with the West, the opposition and the Church until the end of its regime. French researcher Jacques Levesque even claims, that Jaruzelski for a long time was not using the freedom which Gorbachev had given him.

2. The state of the economy. Although in 1983 economic growth was recorded for the first time in five years, it had not been the result of real changes in the economic system, but of the return of the economy to the old ruts, from which it had been removed first by Gierek's team's mistakes, later by the strikes of 1980-81 and finally by the militarisation of many companies and the economic sanctions undertaken by the Western countries against Poland. Already in 1985 economic growth slowed down because, according to one of the party's analyses, “the material-resource barrier, […] resulting from insufficient national reserves and low import possibilities, became very apparent”.

Repeated by Jaruzelski's team after the introduction of martial law, declarations that the continuation of economic reforms, which officially began in 1981, is needed, quickly proved to be propaganda fiction. As general Jaruzelski correctly observed in 1982: “A paradoxical phenomenon accompanies the reform: on the one hand the liberalisation of the rules governing the economy and on the other the rigor of martial law”. The rigor of martial law had not been the main reason why the introduction of a real reform of the inefficient economic system of PRL was a failure, however. In fact the system could not be reformed, what was made clear by the unrelenting resistance of the people governing the economy. The situation is well illustrated by the example of closing down 106 unions of state-owned companies in 1982 in a reform which brought in their place 103 unions, different only in name. “Essentially there is no institutionalised force, which would comprehensibly introduce the reform into economic practice, there is no approach to the reform as a political-economic complex” - it was said in a lengthy analysis of the socio-political situation made in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ordered by general Czesław Kiszczak in May 1984.

According to Władysław Baka, the government's representative for the reform, during the meetings of the Council of Ministers in July 1983 and June 1984 plans aiming to openly “thwart the reform” were forced. One of their main supporters was supposedly Deputy Prime Minister Zbigniew Messner, who argued that “brought to completion, the model of socio-economic reform outlined by minister Władysław Baka means in essence the change of socio-political system” i.e. the fall of socialism. The continuation of the reform was defended, according to Baka, by Jaruzelski, but he changed his mind a year later on a National Council in Poznań and supported Messner's limited option instead. After a couple of months, in November 1985, the latter became Prime Minister and the office of government's representative for the reform was removed. Real reforms had not begun until 1988-89 when Mieczysław Rakowski's cabinet introduced regulations guaranteeing freedom of economic activity and liberalising the rules of sales with foreign countries. If the political system had not followed, Rakowski's reforms could have lead to the realisation of the so-called Chinese model of transformation, that is the introduction of market economy with the maintaining of authoritarian political system.

3. Instances of state privatisation. Compared to the general economic decay of the 1980s, the rise of the private sector in the economy was a curious occurrence. In the years 1981-1985 it had increased its production level by nearly 14% while the production of the national sector decreased by 0,2%. Private enterprise was still highly limited, however, and many key members of the PZPR criticised the instances of “certain groups getting richer without grounds”. However, gradually, especially in mid-level state apparatus, belief was getting stronger that without development of the private sector the deficit on the market of consumer goods could not be satisfied.

The so-called Polonia (Polish diaspora) companies had a special position within the private sector. Foreigners of Polish descent were taking part in their establishment on the basis of the law from July 1982. “Polonia companies steal highly qualified cadre from the national sector. Some of the employees leave from foreign trade offices, they possess information which is a business and national secret. […] Cases of informal contacts with the employees of departments in charge of the Polonia companies are also frequent” - was the alert in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in May 1984.

The Polonia companies became a sort of a testing ground for the authorities and especially for the secret service (both the SB and military). The behaviour of entities functioning within market mechanisms was tested and used in operational activities. What followed was a gradual acquaintance of part of the government elite with the thought of a need for radical breaking off with the economic system based on national property, originating in the 1940s. In such a way a climate appropriate for the reforms of the Rakowski government was beginning to appear, with the side-effect of the process of so-called nomenclature enfranchisement.

4. Deregulation of the political system. Its main symptom became the weakening of the position of the PZPR, hitherto playing a hegemonic role in the political system of PRL. The crisis of the years 1980-1981 and the martial law left the PZPR with about 1 million members less. Only in the middle of the decade had the party stopped shrinking and the number of members stabilised at 2.1 million. The process of aging of the party had not been stopped however, and the proportion of people under 29 years of age decreased from the level of 15% in 1981 to only 6.9% in 1986, while the average age of a PZPR member raised to 46 years of age. A similar process began to threaten also the ranks of the party apparatus, over 12 thousand functionaries strong. Personnel review of the members of Central Committee of the Polish United Workers' Party from 1984 showed that in the years 1985-1986 as many as 23% of its employees would reach retirement age. At the same time only 6% of over six hundred political employees of the Central Committee were younger than 35 years of age.

The communist party was becoming old and was losing its influence, becoming less of a core of the political system and more of a tool of various pressure groups operating within the government apparatus. The most important of these groups was a part of the officers' corps of the Armed Forces. In the first year of martial law 32 officers were delegated to high positions in the party apparatus, and 88 more to national administration. Among them were 11 Ministers and Deputy Ministers, 13 voivodes and vice-voivodes and 9 secretaries of the Executive Committee of the Polish United Workers' Party. Furthermore 108 “lawyers in uniforms” were delegated to work in the prosecution service and civil judiciary.

Besides the military men the role of higher functionaries of the Security Service (SB) and other people working in the economy apparatus also increased in the 1980s. All of them were obviously members of the PZPR but in reality often opposed many decisions and solutions forced by the functionaries of the PZPR apparatus. The leaders of the All-Poland Alliance of Trade Unions (OPZZ) were also members of the communist party. The Alliance was supposed to replace Solidarity in public consciousness. For this to happen, the leaders of the PZPR had decided, that leaders of the OPZZ had to receive a much wider autonomy than all the other socio-political organisations were given before, including the allied parties United People's Party and the Democratic Party. “We must include different opposing elements from the party itself […] controlling us from our system positions, constantly stinging us in our bottoms” - said general Jaruzelski about OPZZ in December 1986. Still, OPZZ with nearly 7 million members, in time became a force, which, especially in the late 1980s, contributed significantly to the limiting of the level of control of the PZPR over state apparatus and especially over the part, which governed the economy.

5. Evolution of social moods. After the introducing of martial law, the social moods became relatively stable. In 1983 nearly 40% of pollees believed that the economic situation would become better, 8% that it would become worse and the rest, over 50%, thought that it would remain the same or did not have an opinion. This state of a kind of waiting began to change in the middle of the decade in a direction very unfavourable for the authorities. While in December 1985 46% of the pollees described the economic situation as bad, in the following months the figure grew quite consistently: 55% in April, 58.5% in December 1986 and as much as 69.1% in April 1987. In the following months it was becoming even worse and that significantly affected the consciousness of the elite of the authorities. A team of three general Jaruzelski's advisors, the Secretary of the Central Committee of the PZPR Stanisław Ciosek, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Władysław Pożoga and the government spokesperson Jerzy Urban wrote in a memorial in January 1988 this about the matter: “The moods are below the red line, which means the critical point of explosion has been passed. There is no explosion because the tendencies are suppressed in the society by various stabilisers (historic experience, mainly of the 13th of December 1981, the role of the Church, lower influence of the opposition, apathy)”. The assessment was that such a state affected the authorities in a bad way and part of the apparatus “as usual in decadent times, begins to question the leadership, plot intrigues, plan future personal configurations. In time it will begin to plot”. It was therefore proposed to “make a drastic turn, in which there would be few words, many actions”. Ultimately such a turn of action, in the form of the Round Table Talks, happened a year later.

According to Mirosława Marody “three types of experiences of the broadest social reach” were making the mood worse. The first was increasing inflation devaluing “life's work of individuals and their families”. The second was the “feeling of disproportion between the effort put into achieving and keeping a decent standard of living and its effects”. Its main source were the persistent problems with supplies (especially manufactured goods) and that created a stark contrast with not only the situation in the Western countries but also with often visited Soviet Bloc countries. The third experience generating social frustration according to Marody was “the belief that methods of action offered to the individuals by the system lead to nowhere”. This affected mainly the young and the broadly understood intelligentsia, most severely affected by the apathy increasing during the 1980s.

6. Church and political opposition activity. In the 1980s, in front of the eyes of the PRL's authorities, the Catholic Church turned from their main opponent into an important factor stabilising social mood. That is why, not abandoning various behind-the-stage actions aimed against the clergy, of which the kidnapping and killing of the priest Jerzy Popiełuszko by SB functionaries became a symbol, the leadership of the PZPR in practice accepted the unprecedented rise of the Church's potential which took place in the 1980s. It was apparent both in record-breaking number of new priests and temples built (according to government data in 1986 over three thousand churches were being built) as well as in quick development of Catholic press and publishing houses. In the middle of the decade there were 89 Catholic periodicals, with circulation of 1.5 million. Politics of the authorities regarding the founding of new churches and Clubs of Catholic Intellectuals had also been liberalised. Additionally, Church structures played a dominant role in the distribution of charity aid from the West, while its substantial amount constantly worried the authorities.

The authorities expected that the liberal course would bring gradual increased acceptance of the system by the clergy. But the double dealing of the Church hierarchy, calculated for parallel dialogue with the authorities and discreet support of the moderate part of the opposition, disoriented Jaruzelski's team. They knew that the support of the Church would be necessary to introduce the system reform plans maturing since the middle of the decade but they could not determine to what extent the bishops would be willing to endorse them, nor how far they identified themselves with the aims of the opposition.

Meanwhile, the opposition, despite its weakness apparent in the middle of the decade, became a constant factor generating resistance against the system. In late 1985 the Ministry of the Interior assessed that there were over 350 different opposition structures in Poland, over half of them active in the area of just 5 of the 49 then existing voivodeships: Warsaw, Wrocław, Gdańsk, Kraków and Łódź. According to the SB its hard core was 1.5 thousand people while over 10 thousand worked as distributors of newspapers, messengers and printers. The number of “active sympathisers” was estimated to be 22 thousand people, what would give in total “about 34 thousand people directly involved, to a larger or lesser extent, in illegal activity”. This opposition was divided into different groups opposing each other, but generally fitted into one of two categories, differing in their attitude to the PRL authorities. While the radical category, in which Fighting Solidarity created in 1982 by Kornel Morawiecki had the most potential, wanted to organise a general strike and overthrow the regime in a revolution, the moderate category, gathered around Lech Wałęsa and Temporary Coordinating Commission of Independent Self-governing Trade Union Solidarity assumed that the deteriorating economic situation and pressure from the West would finally force Jaruzelski's team to begin talks with the opposition. From the point of view of the authorities it was important for the moderate group to be stronger than the radical one and when, in 1988, the leadership of the PZPR finally decided to talk with Wałęsa and his collaborators, the opposition radicals turned out to be too weak to stop the Round Table Talks and later to boycott the contractual parliamentary elections in June 1989.

Created on Tuesday, 23 August 2011 08:03

Written by: Dudek Antoni

Prof. Antoni Dudek (born 1966) – political scientist, deals mainly with recent Polish political history. Member of the Council of the Institute of National Remembrance.

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Lech Walesa - Champion of Democracy?

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Lech Walesa: Under Fire from the Right

Polish democracy is resilient, in part because of Solidarity’s tradition of protest and self-organization.

By Adrian Karatnycky,  Feb 29, 2016

Documents hidden in the home of Poland’s last communist-era interior minister seem to indicate that in the 1970s, before he became the beguiling and charismatic leader of a mass movement that would eventually topple communism in his country, Lech Walesa was an informant for the communist security services. While assertions concerning Walesa’s alleged collaboration with the secret police have circulated in Poland for years, a note found among the documents strongly suggests their authenticity—in it, the late police generalwrites that he was hiding evidence in order to protect the reputation of the Polish democracy icon. Walesa, however, continues to vociferously insist the papers are forgeries.

Walesa’s fall from grace, though preceded by his largely ineffective 1990s-era presidency, has sent shockwaves through Poland and grabbed front-page headlines. Outside Poland, the news has done damage to the country’s international image as one that emerged from the ruins of authoritarianism thanks to a noble group of authentic heroes, Walesa among them. And along with the ascendance of a new, right-wing government, it has exposed Polish politics for what, in truth, it has been since the fall of communism: less a black-and-white contest between communist immorality and heroic virtue, and more a typical democratic system led by flawed individuals rendered in shades of gray.

Let it be said that there is nothing in the evidence to suggest Walesa was acting as an agent of the communist state during the period in which he gained his heroic reputation. The documents include a note allegedly signed by Walesa in which he promises not to divulge his cooperation with the secret police. But they purport only to confirm that, at what was presumably a moment of weakness, Walesa succumbed to police threats and blackmail, and from 1970 to 1976, informed on worker activists in Poland’s then-underground democratic opposition movement.

But it wasn’t until August 1980, after an outbreak of strikes against food-price hikes, that Walesa took his famous leap over the wall surrounding the Gdansk shipbuilding plant to lead a strike of the workers inside. After that, and with great skill, he led a labor union that became something more: the symbol of the national will that united 10 million Poles and was a voice for Poland’s aspirations for cultural, economic, and political freedom. In short, Walesa became the pivotal figure in the events that shook the entire Soviet bloc.

In those days, Walesa exhibited leadership, wit, and the capacity to work with a diverse team of advisors—characteristics that would decay as his arrogance grew during his five years as president, from 1990 to 1995, when he fell out with most of his former union colleagues.Without Walesa, Solidarity might not have developed from a trade union into a mass phenomenon.

But in 1980 and 1981, his shrewd instinct and willingness to enlist Poland’s best minds in the cause of freedom served the country well. Without Walesa as a unifying leader, Poland’s Solidarity might not have developed from a trade union into the mass phenomenon that could foster nearly a decade of fierce resistance and lead to the collapse of Poland’s one-party communist state. The Solidarity revolution was led largely by educated and skilled workers in alliance with intellectuals. But its bedrock was the lathe workers, the stevedores, the miners, and the railwaymen who could shut down the self-declared workers’ state. And it was Walesa, an electrician with a common touch, who could communicate with them in plainspoken Polish. It was Walesa who could give them focus. It was Walesa who commanded their loyalty and confidence. For these reasons, his historic role cannot be challenged.

I observed his skills and his occasional flights of unique thinking at close range as assistant to the president of the AFL-CIO trade union confederation, which provided crucial support to the Solidarity union. In 1981, I attended Solidarity’s first national conferences and tracked the movement’s growth. Then I watched its near-destruction when the communist government cracked down on the movement in December of that year, arresting many of its leaders, including Walesa, and ultimately banning Solidarity entirely. After that, I worked with a handful of Polish union leaders who were outside the country when martial law was declared—and thereby became unwilling temporary exiles—to build a network of assistance for the burgeoning underground movement.

After a decade of persistent mass protests and industrial strikes; a dramatic visit to his homeland by the first Polish pope, John Paul II; and because of the effect of Western sanctions on the communist government, Solidarity had by 1989 broken the back of the very Polish security state that Walesa had briefly and secretly served. In November of 1989, I had the privilege of arranging his triumphant U.S. visit and witnessing his stirring speech to a joint session of Congress. In D.C. and Chicago, to the pique of the Bush I White House, Walesa spent most of his time in the company of members of the U.S. labor movement, which had seen in him the hope of organized labor: a worker committed to democracy. A blue-collar hero.

This is why it is painful to witness his fall, to see him stand naked before the court of harsh judgment, diminished as much by his unconvincing denials as by his actual, fundamentally modest, betrayals.

Still, Walesa’s struggle is a less a personal tragedy than an important cultural event: a reminder that Poland has been blessed by nearly three decades of what looked like good news. Now the country’s image is slowly regressing to the mean. A heroic people are revealing themselves as an ordinary, flawed nation, in thrall to material pursuits, fearful of a wave of immigrants, anxious about their place in the economic firmament.

In truth, Poland’s fall from grace came early. Walesa’s presidency saw him alienate many of his best advisors and replace them with his card-playing, incompetent sidekicks. The economic difficulties inherent in the transition from a statist economy contributed to a loss of faith in the worker-leader, shattering the solidarity (lower-case) of the unified democratic opposition, and allowing the representatives of the old communist order to come back into power in 1993.

It was this expulsion from Eden by Poland’s voters in the aftermath of radical economic changes that led Adam Michnik, the Polish journalist and intellectual turned reluctant media mogul, to argue that “Gray is Beautiful,” that moral ambiguity and moral compromise are part of the give and take of democracy. At the time, his article was an apologia for the comeback of the ex-communists, a result that few could foresee in 1989 when Poland’s democratic forces swept to power in democratic elections. Still Michnik was fundamentally right. The country had unwittingly entered the gray world, with an ex-communist president, Aleksandr Kwasniewski, upholding democratic values and guiding Poland into NATO.

Michnik’s celebration of gray applies, as well, to the current Walesa scandal as to contemporary Polish politics. It makes clear that the glare of a free and often skeptical, if not cynical, media, and the emergence of unfiltered truth that is a characteristic of democracy, is often unkind to politicians, who, like all of us, are sinners.

Still, it has been hard for Poland and the democratic world to rid themselves of the myth of the Polish nation’s pure resistance to communism and of a pure politics rooted in the values of that movement. After all, Poland’s Solidarity “was against violence. It was anti-utopian when it came to political ends. And it was geopolitically realistic, aware of where Poland is on the map,” as Michnik told a group of analysts in 2010. Truly Poles had, with pure intentions, created a noble movement that used nonviolent means to defeat a monstrous regime, and they had constructed a dynamic and free society. They entered mature European institutions, showed restraint in politics, and experienced impressive economic growth. There was heft to the myth.

But Poland has experienced numerous blows in recent years, with a ruling liberal elite that represented sweeping modernization and Europeanization becoming caught up in scandal and corruption before being ejected from government by the right-wing Law and Justice Party in November 2015. Poland’s new government moved quickly to replace liberal news anchors and talk-show hosts on state media with conservative voices. At the same time, the new leadership also replaced five justices on the Constitutional Court, who they argued had been illegally appointed by the previous parliament in its waning days in office.

It is important to remember, however, that the lesson in gray applies not only in the case of Walesa, but also to the overheated reaction that has accompanied these changes, which have been painted in black as fundamental assaults on freedom and democracy. CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, for example, warned that “events in Poland have taken a very ugly turn,” and asserted that the country’s new leadership “appears to be bringing back Soviet-style censorship.” The Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl has sounded similar alarms, devoting a column to “Poland’s disturbing tilt to the right” in which he warned: “Watch Warsaw.”

The reality is that the changes in Poland introduced by the current ruling party are part of the same gray palette that has colored the Polish scene for decades. While in Warsaw recently, I got a less harsh read of events when I participated in an off-the-record colloquy of around a dozen leaders of Poland’s most respected think tanks. The message was clear: The actions of the Law and Justice government in the realm of state media are not fundamentally different from that of past liberal governments to staff TV and radio with their adherents and allies. The recent tumult in Poland’s Constitutional Court, too, must been seen as much as a reaction to the last government’s attempt to pack the court as any effort to erode judicial powers. Above all, the message from the vast majority of the think tankers to EU bureaucrats and U.S. diplomats was this: “This is Poland’s internal discourse. We Poles have the means to handle it ourselves.” It was a reminder that Polish democracy is resilient, in part because of Solidarity’s tradition of protest and self-organization.

Poland, then, is gray not only because it is diminished, if only slightly, by Lech Walesa’s partial downfall. It is gray because no movement in a democracy can claim a monopoly on virtue or the truth. It is gray because of the back and forth of democratic discourse, which is not the black and white of repression versus freedom. And this, in the end, is a healthy gray.

Let Poles, then, think in gray, and let outsiders not look for avatars of perfection in its politicians. Those viewing Poland from the outside should remember that even when these avatars have fallen, what remains in their place is a remarkable set of men and women across the political spectrum, who were once part of a vast movement that changed the world and made it possible for us to think in shades of ambiguity and ambivalence.

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Poland Takes a Turn to the Right


The Problem with Poland

  by Jan-Werner Müller              February 11, 2016

In 2011, Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice Party (known as PiS), announced he wanted to create “Budapest in Warsaw.” Since his party’s resounding election victory in October, the conservative politician has kept his promise. Led by Kaczyński protégé Beata Szydło, the new Law and Justice government has done everything it can to emulate the authoritarian course of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán: already, it has attacked the constitutional court, undermined Poland’s independent civil service, and set out to bring the public media under government control. Unlike in the case of Hungary, the European Union has reacted quickly. Leading EU figures declared that fundamental democratic values were threatened by Warsaw. And on January 13, the European Commission was sufficiently concerned to open a “probe” into the workings of the rule of law in Poland, a step that is unprecedented in EU history.

Central Europe’s authoritarian turn has come as a surprise to many Western observers. Why, they ask, has it happened in countries that after 1989 were at the vanguard of the movement to transform Communist dictatorships into liberal European democracies? Why Poland, which is the only major European economy that came through the Great Recession of 2008 with continuous economic growth and which has been the largest beneficiary of subsidies from the EU? What outsiders have often missed is that the broad consensus in Poland and Hungary about joining the EU obscured deep economic and cultural divisions—and a corresponding winner-take-all mentality among the two countries’ political elites. Few noticed the seeming paradox that the more state socialism receded in time, the more intense the anti-Communist crusades of leaders like Orbán and Kaczyński became.

Both men have impeccable credentials as dissidents: Kaczyński was a member, though not a very prominent one, of Central Europe’s largest anti-Communist movement, the trade union Solidarity. His formative years were the mid-1980s, when Solidarity had to go underground and it seemed that any fellow dissident might be a traitor. Orbán started out as a liberal, who in 1989 was sent to study law at Oxford on a George Soros scholarship (today, he denounces Soros for encouraging the influx of refugees with the aim of destroying traditional nation-states).

Both men have also benefited from the peculiar shape of the post-Communist Party systems in their countries. In Hungary as well as Poland it was the successors of the Communist Party who ended up implementing pro-market reforms. These nominally left-wing parties reinvented themselves as technocrats who could best smooth the path into the European Union. In Hungary in particular, self-proclaimed socialists hoped to modernize the country by choosing the “Third Way” pioneered by Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, but in the process came to look like promoters of crony capitalism. So the left gradually lost much of its credibility: anti-Communists suspected that the privatizations were mostly benefitting the nomenklatura; while workers felt abandoned by their supposed representatives.

On top of that, a number of corruption scandals thoroughly discredited both the Hungarian and the Polish left-wing parties; the latter did not win any seats at all in the Sejmthe Polish parliament, last year. And while liberal parties promoting tolerance and minority rights have emerged in both countries over the past twenty-five years, they have tended to come and go, leaving little impact on what remain, socially, deeply conservative societies.

The outcome of these developments is a political situation that has no equivalent in Western Europe: in both Poland and Hungary the largest parties are on the right, and many losers of the transition to capitalism, who would have been a natural constituency for a proper social democratic party, have ended up supporting the more extreme version of the right on offer: the racist Jobbik party in Hungary and PiS in Poland. Both promise more protections from the market and both have strong support in the rural and eastern parts of their respective countries. Still, what has happened in Poland and Hungary is not completely symmetrical. Orbán has emulated the far right; whereas in Poland Kaczyński’s PiS has faced vigorous opposition from the Christian Democratic Civic Platform party (Platforma), which led Poland’s previous government. Platforma has always tried to present itself as a clear, rational alternative to PiS, hoping to reach socially conservative voters, but also promising technocratic government and pro-EU policies: it supports severe restrictions on abortion, but its representatives would never attack the very idea of an “open society” as Orbán does (“there is no homeland any more, only an investment site”), or agree with Kaczyński that the only option other than Catholicism is nihilism. But with the triumph of PiS in Warsaw, both Poland and Hungary now offer a toxic ideological brew that is reminiscent of interwar Europe: anti-communism and anti-capitalism can be combined and justified in the name of a highly intolerant nationalism based on Christian values that conclusively define who is a true Hungarian or true Pole.        

This explains why the European Union is not seen as a neutral arbiter of domestic conflicts. Platforma, in power since 2007, had sought to make Poland a model European pupil, as opposed to what the party derided as a “quarrel[some], messy, Eastern European ‘democracy.’” Its Oxford-educated foreign minister Radosław Sikorski famously claimed in a speech in Berlin in 2011 that he feared German power less than German inaction, effectively begging Merkel to assume full leadership of the EU. Platforma stood by her during the Eurocrisis. Merkel in turn delivered sanctions against Russia after the annexation of Crimea, despite considerable resistance by German business. Poland then promised to take in 7,000 refugees last fall, breaking ranks with Orbán and other Eastern leaders. Kaczyński made the promise of accepting absolutely no refugees central to the PiS campaign, warning that refugees might carry parasites and “diseases that are highly dangerous and have not been seen in Europe for a long time.”

It is hard to avoid the feeling that Central Europe is living 1989 in reverse. In that year, peaceful revolutions in the name of liberal democracy spread from one Communist country to another. Today we witness the emergence of a new Authoritarian International in the region, with Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and possibly Croatia as potential future members alongside Hungary and Poland. It is a comforting illusion that liberal democracies do lots of things wrong, but ultimately always self-correct, while authoritarian regimes cannot admit mistakes and are eventually brought down by the stubborn pursuit of misguided policies. Both Orbán and Kaczyński drew lessons from their first periods in office (1998-2002 and 2005-2007 respectively), during which they deeply alienated parts of society and found independent institutions such as constitutional courts an obstacle to the implementation of their programs. Observers had hoped that, given a second chance at governing, both politicians would prove less polarizing and more statesmanlike. Instead, they learned a very different lesson: proto-authoritarians should not be content with waging culture wars. They must also capture institutions, such as the judiciary and the media. The faster one acts on institutional re-engineering, the better also for wrong-footing criticism from outside the country. The EU puts a premium on following correct—that is to say—lengthy, procedure. It will always try to find consensus or at least compromise. Talking the right talk with Brussels—or performing what Orbán once called “the peacock dance” he had to do in front of Western audiences—provides crucial time to solidify what Orbán now openly advertises as an “illiberal state” at home. These, one imagines, were the “lessons learned” that Orbán imparted to Kaczyński in a private meeting in southern Poland at the beginning of this year.  

Neither Orbán nor Kaczyński have any compunction about outright deception: Orbán never mentioned that he wanted to write a new constitution during the election campaign that returned him to power in 2010. But he then proceeded to promulgate one that only his own party supported. During last fall’s Polish election campaign, PiS talked about “dialogue” and ran on a mainly economic platform of lowering the retirement age and providing more benefits for families. The party put forward as candidate for prime minister Beata Szydło, a much less divisive figure than Kaczyński. In practice, though, both Szydło and the current president, PiS politician Andrzej Duda, follow orders from Kaczyński, who remains just an ordinary Member of Parliament. He is the most powerful man in Poland, yet utterly unaccountable for the actions of “his” government. This situation is oddly reminiscent of Communist times, when often the decisive political figure was the “mere” general secretary of the Communist Party, as opposed to the official head of government.

When the EU started to worry about Polish democracy, Kaczyński followed Orbán’s playbook. Like Orbán, he pretended the conflict was about values, as opposed to basic democratic institutions. He branded internal critics as enemies of the nation—“Poles of the worst sort” who are genetically predisposed to treason. His foreign minister railed against the vision of “a new mixing of cultures and races, a world made up of bicyclists and vegetarians, who … fight all forms of religion.” Nota bene that, according to PiS, this had been the world promoted by its rival, Platforma, on all accounts a center-rightparty.

Yet there is one important difference between Kaczyński’s strategy and Orbán’s peacock dance around the EU. Until the refugee crisis, Orbán never criticized Germany directly. He knew all too well that Merkel’s Christian Democrats are the main force in the supranational conservative European People’s Party (EPP), which effectively shielded Budapest from EU criticism. PiS, however, is not part of the EPP; it is allied with David Cameron’s Tories and other Euroskeptic parties. Warsaw has tried to portray criticism from Brussels as being dictated by Berlin, cynically exploiting memories of World War II and invoking images of Poland as an eternal martyr. PiS’s justice minister has tried to start a game of tit-for-tat, claiming that in fact the German media are not free, because they were instructed by politicians not to report properly on the violence against women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve. So far, Germany is refusing to play the game, leaving all disputes over democracy to the EU. On a recent visit to Warsaw, German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier made a point of quoting liberal Polish philosopher Leszek Kołakowski, who said that “not everyone likes broccoli, but it’s not yet the reason to break a friendship.”

The Polish government has meanwhile accused the EU, in investigating Poland for possible violations of EU principles, of disrespecting Polish sovereignty. The real problem, however, is not that Brussels lacks a mandate to protect democracy in EU member states; it’s that it sorely lacks the means. The outcome of the confrontation is likely to be yet another instance in which the EU comes across as imperialist in aspiration and impotent in practice, as has been the case with the Eurocrisis and the unfolding refugee crisis.

Brussels is not well-equipped to confront culture warriors. But it is supposed to protect the values on which the Union rests. It was in the late 1990s, during the long run-up to the enlargement eastwards in 2004, that Austria and Italy pushed for a mechanism to sanction countries in breach of such values. Ironically, the first country that seemed to qualify turned out to be Austria. At the beginning of 2000, the Austrian Christian Democrats formed a coalition with Jörg Haider’s far-right Freedom Party. Since the government had not done anything yet that could be construed as a violation of basic values, the then fourteen other EU members enacted bilateral, largely symbolic sanctions against Vienna, such as refusing to support Austrian candidates for offices in international organizations. Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel shrewdly stoked the impression that overbearing French and, especially, German politicians were ganging up on the alpine republic. Eventually, a committee of wise men hastily appointed by Brussels concluded that there was nothing really wrong in Vienna. The bilateral sanctions were lifted.

Brussels tried to learn from what was widely perceived as a PR disaster. It introduced a warning stage, before an offending Member State’s rights in the EU could be suspended. Yet that preliminary alarm was never triggered when Orbán in 2010 began to build what, with appropriately Orwellian language, he called a “System of National Cooperation.” The problem turned out to be that four-fifths of EU Member States have to agree that there is a “risk” of a breach of fundamental values to move a country to the worrying stage; for actual sanctions, all governments have to be on board. Many national leaders will feel that such naming, shaming, and punishing is just too much for Europe to handle right now: Brussels is already in the business of telling countries in the Eurozone what kind of national budgets they can have, and trying to instruct some about how many Muslims they have to take in. And now Brussels will be seen as lecturing member countries about democracy. Orbán has already gone on record that he will veto sanctions against Warsaw.

But Poland is not yet lost. In Hungary, Orbán’s party had enough seats in parliament to create a constitution to his liking, thereby shielding himself from charges that the new “illiberal state” was illegal. Kaczyński’s PiS, by contrast, does not have a sufficient majority to change Poland’s constitution and has to keep violating the existing one. As a result, Polish opposition supporters are rallying around the pluralist, inclusive constitution that in its widely praised preamble found a place both for Catholicism and humanist, i.e. non-religious, values. Poles are confident, perhaps too confident, that their civil society, with its long tradition of resistance to authoritarianism, is superior to Hungary’s, which the Polish commentator Adam Krzemiński has called “immature” by comparison. Tens of thousands have come out on the streets to protest in recent weeks, often singing the national anthem, and sometimes wearing t-shirts emblazoned “Poles of the worst sort.” They have been coordinated by KOD, the Committee for the Defense of Democracy, an acronym reminiscent of KOR, a legendary dissidents’ organization in the 1970s. Poland has a very lively scene of intellectuals in their twenties and thirties, with successful left-of-center journals and networks—in fact, groups like Kultura Liberalna and Krytyka Polityczna have become well-known in Europe as a whole. The other side, though, has Catholic radio stations and parts of the Church hierarchy coming out openly in support of PiS.

The EU can hope that the situation will eventually correct itself, the way that Italy under Berlusconi did. Or it can play its ultimate trump card: Brussels can start to take another look at the funds that over the years have contributed so much to the Polish economic miracle (they amount to more than the entire Marshall Plan for postwar Europe in today’s dollars). In Hungary, EU subsidies—no less than 6 percent of GDP—are effectively functioning like oil for Arab autocracies: they help keep people content by providing jobs in infrastructure projects in particular; even more important, they can be distributed to cronies to cement power. The EU’s anti-fraud office has just charged Hungary with stealing 8.3 million dollars that had been provided for, as it happens, anti-fraud measures.

One has to see what the PiS government will do with European money, but in any event the case for cutting EU funds does not have to be based on evidence of outright theft. The Union is founded on principles of mutual trust and, as its treaties put it, “the duty of loyal cooperation.” Informal negotiations about the next big budget for the Union have already begun. Why pay people who undermine the Union to keep themselves in power? Why buy broccoli for those who say they don’t like it anyway?

The Arab Spring - 2011

The "Arab Spring"

The term “Arab Spring” was popularized by the Western media in early 2011, when the successful uprising in Tunisia against former leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali emboldened similar anti-government protests in most Arab countries.

The term was a reference to the turmoil in Eastern Europe in 1989, when seemingly impregnable Communist regimes began falling down under pressure from mass popular protests in a domino effect. In a short period of time, most countries in the former Communist bloc adopted democratic political systems with a market economy.

But the events in the Middle East went in a less straightforward direction. Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen entered an uncertain transition period, Syria and Libya were drawn into a civil conflict, while the wealthy monarchies in the Persian Gulf remained largely unshaken by the events. The use of the term the “Arab Spring” has since been criticized for being inaccurate and simplistic.

<> (10/18/13)

Is the Arab Spring a Failure?

Roughly  two-and-a-half years after the revolutions in the Arab world, not a single country is yet plainly on course to become a stable, peaceful democracy. The countries that were more hopeful--Tunisia, Libya and Yemen--have been struggling. A chaotic experiment with democracy in Egypt, the most populous of them, has landed an elected president behind bars. Syria is awash with the blood of civil war.

No wonder some have come to think the Arab spring is doomed. The Middle East, they argue, is not ready to change. One reason is that it does not have democratic institutions, so people power will decay into anarchy or provoke the reimposition of dictatorship. The other is that the region's one cohesive force is Islam, which--it is argued--cannot accommodate democracy. The Middle East, they conclude, would be better off if the Arab spring had never happened at all.

That view is at best premature, at worst wrong. Democratic transitions are often violent and lengthy. The worst consequences of the Arab spring--in Libya initially, in Syria now--are dreadful. Yet as our special report argues, most Arabs do not want to turn the clock back.

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Women's Suffrage in England

The Suffragettes

The move for women to have the vote had really started in 1897 when Millicent Fawcett founded the National Union of Women's Suffrage. "Suffrage" means the right to vote and that is what women wanted - hence its inclusion in Fawcett's title.

Millicent Fawcett believed in peaceful protest. She felt that any violence or trouble would persuade men that women could not be trusted to have the right to vote. Her game plan was patience and logical arguments. Fawcett argued that women could hold responsible posts in society such as sitting on school boards - but could not be trusted to vote; she argued that if parliament made laws and if women had to obey those laws, then women should be part of the process of making those laws; she argued that as women had to pay taxes as men, they should have the same rights as men and one of her most powerful arguments was that wealthy mistresses of large manors and estates employed gardeners, workmen and labourers who could vote...but the women could not regardless of their wealth.....

However, Fawcett's progress was very slow. She converted some of the members of the Labour Representation Committee (soon to be the Labour Party) but most men in Parliament believed that women simply would not understand how Parliament worked and therefore should not take part in the electoral process. This left many women angry and in 1903 the Women's Social and Political Union was founded by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia. They wanted women to have the right to vote and they were not prepared to wait. The Union became better known as the Suffragettes. Members of the Suffragettes were prepared to use violence to get what they wanted.


Emmeline Pankhurst


Christabel Pankhurst


In fact, the Suffragettes started off relatively peacefully.  It was only in 1905 that the organisation created a stir when Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney interrupted a political meeting in Manchester to ask two Liberal politicians (Winston Churchill and Sir Edward Grey) if they believed women should have the right to vote. Neither man replied. As a result, the two women got out a banner which had on it "Votes for Women" and shouted at the two politicians to answer their questions. Such actions were all but unheard of then when public speakers were usually heard in silence and listened to courteously even if you did not agree with them. Pankhurst and Kenney were thrown out of the meeting and arrested for causing an obstruction and a technical assault on a police officer.

Both women refused to pay a fine preferring to go to prison to highlight the injustice of the system as it was then. Emmeline Pankhurst later wrote in her autobiography that:


"this was the beginning of a campaign the like of which was never known in England, or for that matter in any other country...we interrupted a great many meetings...and we were violently thrown out and insulted. Often we were painfully bruised and hurt."


The Suffragettes refused to bow to violence. They burned down churches as the Church of England was against what they wanted; they vandalised Oxford Street, apparently breaking all the windows in this famous street; they chained themselves to Buckingham Palace as the Royal Family were seen to be against women having the right to vote; they hired out boats, sailed up the Thames and shouted abuse through loud hailers at Parliament as it sat; others refused to pay their tax. Politicians were attacked as they went to work. Their homes were fire bombed. Golf courses were vandalised. The first decade of Britain in the C20th was proving to be violent in the extreme.

Suffragettes were quite happy to go to prison. Here they refused to eat and went on a hunger strike. The government was very concerned that they might die in prison thus giving the movement martyrs. Prison governors were ordered to force feed Suffragettes but this caused a public outcry as forced feeding was traditionally used to feed lunatics as opposed to what were mostly educated women.

The government of Asquith responded with the Cat and Mouse Act. When a Suffragette was sent to prison, it was assumed that she would go on hunger strike as this caused the authorities maximum discomfort. The Cat and Mouse Act allowed the Suffragettes to go on a hunger strike and let them get weaker and weaker. Force feeding was not used. When the Suffragettes were very weak....they were released from prison. If they died out of prison, this was of no embarrassment to the government. However, they did not die but those who were released were so weak that they could take no part in violent Suffragette struggles. When those who had been arrested and released had regained their strength, they were re-arrested for the most trivial of reason and the whole process started again. This, from the government's point of view, was a very simple but effective weapon against the Suffragettes.

As a result, the Suffragettes became more extreme. The most famous act associated with the Suffragettes was at the June 1913 Derby when Emily Wilding Davison threw herself under the King's horse, Anmer,  as it rounded Tattenham Corner. She was killed and the Suffragettes had their first martyr. However, her actions probably did more harm than good to the cause as she was a highly educated woman. Many men asked the simple question - if this is what an educated woman does, what might a lesser educated woman do? How can they possibly be given the right to vote?

It is possible that the Suffragettes would have become more violent. They had, after all, in February 1913 blown up part of David Lloyd George's house - he was probably Britain's most famous politician at this time and he was thought to be a supporter of the right for women to have the vote!

However, Britain and Europe was plunged into World War One in August 1914. In a display of patriotism,Emmeline Pankhurst instructed the Suffragettes to stop their campaign of violence and support in every way the government and its war effort. The work done by women in the First World War  was to be vital for Britain's war effort. In 1918, the Representation of the People Act was passed by Parliament.


Landmark Years for Women's Rights


Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) founded


Liberal Party win landslide general election victory. Suffragettes expected much from the party.


Women admitted to all aspects of local government employment.

First WSPU newspaper founded

Women’s Freedom League founded - a breakaway group from the WSPU founded by Charlotte Despard.


Herbert Asquith takes over from Campbell-Bannerman as Prime Minister. Asquith was known to be hostile to female suffrage.

First instances of window smashing and hunger strikes following arrests.


Militant Suffragettes announced a truce regarding violent action to allow the Liberal Party time to announce some sort of acceptable policy regarding female suffrage.

A Conciliation Bill which would have given women with property the right to vote was lost. This led to ‘Black Friday’.

Women were allowed to take exams to be chartered accountants.


A second Conciliation Bill was shelved.

Sylvia Pankhurst, who had not supported her sister Christabel’s approach, founded the East London Federation of Suffragettes. Sylvia wanted a movement to be more inclusive of women from a working class background.


A third Conciliation Bill was shelved in Parliament. Christabel Pankhurst fled to France.


A Prisoner’s Temporary Discharge Act was passed. This took the sting out of the potentially embarrassing hunger strikes by arrested militant Suffragettes.

The June Derby took place where Emily Wilding Davison threw herself under the King’s horse, Anmer, and was killed.


World War One began (August). Suffragettes suspend all actions to support the war effort. Emmeline Pankhurst put patriotism to Britain before what the Suffragettes wanted.


The war ended and after highly important work in munitions, farms etc. women expected something in return from the government. The 1918 Representation of the People Act gave propertied women over 30 years of age the right to vote. Millicent Fawcett called it the happiest day of her life when the act was passed.


The legal profession was opened to women.


The first female barrister was appointed.


Women over 21 were given the right to vote - giving women the same voting status as men


History Learning Site <> (09/24/13)

VIDEO RESOURCES - Mass Movements Abroad / Suffrage in England