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The first account of Solidarity written entirely after the movement's suppression--and useful though wordy. Ash, a reporter for the London Times and Der Spiegel, is among those who see Poland's communist regime as an unnatural grafting, destined for trouble. Yalta is a bad word in Poland, he points out, fostering myths of prewar Polish bliss. Nonetheless, there was a gradual accommodation between the citizenry and the regime. Solidarity was different, Ash avers, on a number of scores. Unlike the 1956 and 1971 disruptions, Solidarity represented an attempt by Polish society to organize itself as a separate and self-governing entity outside the state. This was the basis of its famous ""self-limiting"" character, reflecting an awareness that the Soviets would not tolerate a threat to the state itself. It almost worked, in Ash's view; but the obstacles were formidable. Foremost was Poland's economic crisis--brought on partly by extraordinary mismanagement, but also by heavy Western borrowing for consumer goods to buy off the rebellious workers. Ash thinks that Western governments could have aided Solidarity by extending emergency credits in 1980-81, and otherwise propping up the economy. Instead, as the crisis worsened, Solidarity was made a scapegoat and party hacks stiffened their opposition to reform. One myth that collapsed in the crunch was the army's supposed allegiance to Poland first: in fact, the army had its own connections to Moscow, much firmer than those of the party. Solidarity's leadership is not faulted. Ash does think that Walesa overstepped himself when he signed an agreement, in March 1981, averting a general strike. In the ensuing turmoil, some have seen Walesa losing control of Solidarity; rather, ""Solidarity temporarily lost control of Lech Walesa."" Identifying Walesa with the moderates, Ash reminds readers that Solidarity was a huge, remarkably democratic movement, an ""open conspiracy""--so factions and turmoil were inevitable. In general, the base was utopian, while the leaders were the realists who dispelled illusions of what was possible. The story is not over, Ash thinks; the revolution in consciousness cannot be rolled back. For other valuable approaches to this complex reality, see Staniszkis and Weschler (both below).

Pub Date: April 23rd, 1984
ISBN: 0300095686
Publisher: Scribners