A New Stage
A conversation with Jacek Czaputowicz
Not long ago Urban presented some proposals about introducing alternative military service. Is there something happening in this matter?
There’s nothing officially happening besides Urban’s declarations. Probably the authorities are working on this, but nothing is known about it. On the other hand, the fact of the presentation of the offer is itself of huge significance. Not long ago, the belief that the duty of military service was superior to the duty of work still ruled in the army hierarchy–it was said that this could not be changed. But now, Urban’s remarks demonstrate that this dogma has been overcome. Therefore, we have to expect the realization of our demands and the end of this particular stage of the movement. By no means would I underestimate that offer.
What you say sounds very optimistic, but let’s look at it from the other side. There are still several people in prison for refusal of military service, and in the meanwhile, Freedom and Peace (WiP) is less visible, at least in comparison to the previous period.
Don’t exaggerate. It’s less visible, but new vigorous initiatives have be en emerging. WiP, itself, is active. For example, recently there was an ecological seminar in Gliwice, in January there were demonstrations for Afghanistan, and there was a protest in Bydogoszcz in support of Dutkiewicz. Another reason why WiP is less visible is because the government is using different tactics. WiP participants in Bełchatow who have refused their summons to military service found out in the draft commission that their cases have be en postponed until September because the army is waiting for the official decision regarding alternative service. In a normal situation they would be arrested. Of course, there are still people in prison, and we cannot forget about that.
WPWA, No. 12, March 1988.
How would you describe the current situation in the movement? What is WiP right now?
WiP finds itself at a turning point. We have to realize that a certain era is already behind us. This doesn’t mean that all the demands of WiP have been realized, but the situation has changed significantly. Let’s remember that in the movement’s declaration three years ago, next to the whole set of demands concerning military service, the military oath, and freedom for those imprisoned, there also were ecological demands. Ecology is the field in which there are the newest concrete results. The ecological situation cannot be improved with one legislative act. But even here we’ve had certain successes: the Siechnice steelworks, Miedzyrzecz. I still remember the authorities’ attacks on the figure of Otto Schimek. In the last year they’ve stopped arresting those who visit Schimek’s grave in Machowa, and so have accepted that symbol to a certain extent.
Another activity of WiP, two years ago, was the commemoration of the victims of the Kielce pogrom–WiP participants wrote on the walls of the building where the pogrom began: „We remember.” For this the they were arrested and charged fines. But a year later, the pogrom began to be presented in another light.
It’ s been similar with the issues of the Ukrainian and Byelorussian minorities; these topics are being discussed openly now. By no means would I claim that this is because of WiP, but changes are taking place. Another demand of ours concerned the abolition of the death penalty. In spite of the tact that the independent society against the death penalty was not allowed to register, there have be en no new death sentences and there is more and more talk about the desire to abolish it. Our postulates concerning international affairs are no less important, but in the last three years there have been fundamental changes in the question of Afghanistan and in the disarmament issue.
So what conclusions should be drawn from this? Could you present a broader picture of the future of the movement?
I see two possibilities, and I can’t say which is better. The situation will not change fundamentally, with WiP remaining the base for various initiatives; or, WiP will broaden its program by adding certain issues, and it will cease to be identified exclusively with refusal of military service, as it is now. The structure and organization ot WiP would have to change as well. So tar, it has been a movement practically without any structure, or any authority. There we re pluses and minuses to this. Pluses–WiP has developed spontaneously. Minuses–it has be en hard to represent WiP, to formulate the goals of the movement, and to maintain contacts with other organizations.
In the Fall I proposed that we name five spokespersons from each of the chief centers of WiP, as does Charter 77. There was a discussion in which the majority concluded that would formalize things too much. Evidence that there are w needs, that the framework of WiP is too constricting, can be seen in the activity of WiP participants in other organizations. Some have been co-founders of the Polish socialist Party, others have returned to the Confederation for an Independent Poland, others have created the Radical Party or the Orange Alternative. Recently, members of WiP have entered Solidarity’s Regional Executive commission in Wroclaw, are in Solidarity Intervention and Lawfulness Commission in Krakow, and have joined the Society of Friends of the Magazine Restraint and Work. I view this process positively. It shows the need to organize on a different level; it’s the beginning of a new stage. And f ter all, that change of needs and possibilities has taken place, in good part, thanks to WiP.
Let’s return to the previous variant. What would you consider a broadening of the platform?
A challenge for my generation is the aim of uniting Europe or liquidating the Yalta division of Europe. It appears to me that this goal can be achieved within the lifetime of my generation. The road to this lies through the disarmament process. The intermediate stages are the withdrawal of foreign armies into their own territories, the dissolution : the military blocs, and the integration of Europe.
It may be that social and economic matters connected to ecological issues should also appear on that program. One cannot talk about closing factories without considering the future of the factory workers. It will be good to broaden the base of the movement. For example, we know from experience that without specialists in the environment, it difficult to seriously take up ecological issues; it isn’t an activity for dilettantes. But I am not convinced at this variant is better, that these problems should be realized in WiP itself, its participants will decide about this …