From Polish revolution to Polish hospitality: Some reflections on the biography of Karol Modzelewski
Article is of more personal character. Being a close friend ever since the early nineteen–sixties, at times, closest collaborator, Michnik relies chiefly on his own personal recollections. He demonstrates that when Karol Modzelewski and Jacek Kuroń started their political activity defying the system in communist Poland, there existed no behavioural models of an oppositionist. In the course of their struggles, but also during court trials and subsequent prison terms, Modzelewski and Kuroń created standards of what is, and what is not permissible, later on followed by other dissidents. Another political novelty, which should be ascribed to Modzelewski, was putting democratic postulates into wording understandable by the communists, a language which acknowledged the interests of the opponents. This new type of bargain–communication is visible in the 1976 letter to Edward Gierek. In 1980, the same language was taken up by the “Solidarity” movement in the negotiations with the communist regime.
Michnik also points to the graduate change in Modzelewski’s stance: from an advocate of attitude of a careful activist who demonstrated to his younger colleagues potential consequences of their conflict with the authorities (around 1968), to the advocate of compromise negotiations (ever since the nineteen–seventies). In spite of this evolution Modzelewski remained acutely sensitive to social problems; hence his disagreement with the liberalisation of the economy introduced by the so called Balcerowicz Plan in 1989.