Solidarnosc: A Man’s World
[First Printed in Spartacist Britain #37, November 1981]
A CGT woman worker asks Lech Walesa in Paris why he tells women to stay at home and not struggle for their rights. Wales a replies that he has been misinterpreted — he was only speaking for Polish women!
Heaven help the Polish women Walesa speaks for. Since the time of the utopian socialist Fourier, socialists have accepted as an axiom that the status of women in society is a determining measure of how progressive that society is. And the attitude to women of the reactionary Catholic-nationalists who run Solidarnosc provides a good measure of what sort of ‘democracy’ they have in mind. A recent article in the Times (21 October) by Rachel Cullen — who expresses general sympathy with the counterrevolutionary Solidarnosc — is quite revealing on that count.
Entitled ‘Solidarity: what a pity it does not include the women of Poland’, the article points out that the top leadership of Solidarnosc consists of one president, two deputy presidents, a presidium of ten and a council of 100 — and not one woman is to be found among them. Anna Walentynowicz, the Gdansk welder whose sacking sparked the August 1980 strike was once a leading member of the council. Then a union-convened court accused her of being ‘too radical’. Walentynowicz was certainly a rabidly anticommunist Catholic nationalist, but that hardly distinguished her from the rest of the Solidarnosc leadership. What did distinguish her was that she was a woman. ‘She was still ,to be found working for the union’, writes Cullen, ‘though now in the kitchens …. The story is the same in other sections of the union: women who had been active in the underground movements began with a voice in the new union but almost all have now lost their positions of power.’ The only woman in a position of power in Solidarnosc is the Black Virgin of Czestochowa!
Even at the base sexual chauvinism is endemic. In one Roclaw factory which is three quarters women, only six out of 66 candidates for Solidarnosc’s plant delegation were women.
Abortion on medical and social grounds was legalised in Poland in 1947. The Family Rights Act of 1949 gave women the right for the first time to divorce and to take a job without their husbands’ consent. Inevitably the Catholic Church bitterly attacked these gains and the Stalinist bureaucracy undermined them by capitulating to reaction with the old crap about ‘the socialist family’, a vital prop of ‘socialism in one country’. But these gains still exist and must be defended against Solidarnosc’s programme of ‘kinder, kuche, kirche’. Only socialised property relations can lay the basis for women’s liberation and a proletarian political revolution would stand foursquare on defending and extending those gains into the full social and political liberation of women that Stalinism prevents. Solidarnosc, behind the banners of the Black Virgin of Czestochowa, the crowned eagle of Pilsudski and with the blessing of the pope, has set its face on reversing them.