For the past eight years, the Solidarity-led opposition in Poland has carefully charted a course toward democracy and self-determination. But in recent months history, as the Marxists say, or the God of history, as most Poles would have it, has torn up all of the rational blueprints for Poland's future.
Instead, political events in that nation have taken on the surreal character of a dream. Activists who were imprisoned little more than a year ago are now leaders of the Parliament, and Tadeusz Mazoweicki, a Catholic intellectual and ex-con himself, heads a government in which Solidarity occupies half of the cabinet posts.
The installation of a Solidarity-led government in Poland is like a dream, but it's a dream come true for generations of Poles who have struggled for more freedom and independence -- and especially for those who, with such high hopes, launched the Solidarity trade union in August 1980. It is also a dream come true for all of us around the world who may entertain the notion that it is possible to resolve long-standing conflicts, rectify oppression, and even change the world a little, without recourse to bloodshed.
The road to Poland's surprising future began last year when Solidarity re-emerged to lead a new wave of strikes in the nation's mines and factories. The atmosphere for Solidarity's re-emergence was eased by the advent of Gorbachev and the rhetoric of glasnost and perestroika, which seemed uniquely applicable to Poland. But the process of change has been most accelerated by the urgency of Poland's horrific economic crisis, as deadly stagnation and hyperinflation have brought the nation's daily business to the brink of collapse.