Observing groundbreaking changes brought about in former-communist Poland, and the effects felt around the planet, EuroNews asks Nobel laureate Lech Walesa, of Solidarnosc independent trade union fame, for his personal insights.
EuroNews: Mr Walesa, welcome to EuroNews. After 25 years, how do you think the values of Solidarnosc could deal with the new globalized world?
Lech Walesa: It is not globalised yet. On the other hand, the potential of globalisation has grown since the fall of the communist system. All the processes involved have accelerated. If communism hadn’t gone, Germany would not have reunified; there would have been insurmountable barriers.
EuroNews: What do you think of the new Russia? It seems to have a growing problem with democracy, and growing problems, I wouldn’t say conflicts, but anyway tensions with the western world.
Lech Walesa: It is not a conflict yet. On the other hand, you have to know how to understand Russia. Russia was a superpower. The problems with reforms in that country are proportional to its immense size. The bigger a country, the greater its problems. Russia has the biggest possible problems, terrible problems, so it tries to export its frustrations.
EuroNews: Many former socialist countries, after their accession to the European Union, don’t seem to share the same opinion about the social model of Europe. How do you think the European Union could deal with this contrast inside the family?
Lech Walesa: All the structures we have today, and the programmes, are not compatible with the time we are living in. It is not compatible with globalisation, with ‘continentalisation’, with the Union, with security in general. That’s why there is a grand discussion: some propose solutions from the left, others obviously solutions more from the right.
Lech Walesa: It’s no good, in my opinion. The example for me is the European Constitution, which is particularly of the left, which talks only about freedoms, the freedom of the individual, freedom to organise, economic freedom, no subsidy; it’s the free market which is the most important, and reference to God remains a private affair.
EuroNews: There is even a difference of perceptions about the role of the United States of America among the newcomers of the European Union and some older members. How would you deal with this difference of opinion?
Lech Walesa: In some areas, this perception is justified. The Americans are a bit greedy, arrogant — they tend to provoke reactions like this. But after all: there is no doubt it is they who are dominant in the world, economically. Most certainly they have military supremacy. That brings certain doubts and dissatisfaction to the fore.
Lech Walesa: 4’40 L.W.: Healthy competition is useful, it is a source of progress, it allows us to live better and more intensely. Obviously, rivalry bent on defeating or eliminating someone else… that is unhealthy, and there should be no place for it in the 21st century. We are in a new era and must learn the new rivalry: constructive rivalry, not destructive. That is the goal of globalisation.
EuroNews: What do you think of some former communists that all around Europe, and especially in Poland, are trying to use the experience of Solidarnosc in order to boost their own electoral campaigns?
Lech Walesa: You know, as a teacher and revolutionary myself, I take great satisfaction from having successfully convinced the communists to such an extent that they have converted to my faith, that they have followed my programmes, my direction. I can only rejoice over that.
Lech Walesa: You know, if they did take power, if they were active and if they wanted to engineer a reversal, back to communism, it wouldn’t work. But if they say they will continue to follow my programmes and if they say they’ll even do better than I have, if on top of that they show degrees proving they have studied in the west, in the United States — and I myself haven’t studied in the U.S. — well then their arguments are unimpeachable.
Lech Walesa: Today’s world has learned to see conquering an adversary as a victory, taking his place, and we, we have won a double victory: we beat the other side and then he went and followed our party and programmes, and he says he’ll do it better. So: we came out on top twice, not just once.
Lech Walesa: Obviously, if we reason in terms of historic justice and morality, that could not stand, but if we reason in terms of democracy, it is acceptable, it’s okay.
Lech Walesa: We have copied, we have observed, we have built democracy somewhat in the image of the United States. Think of Clinton: he committed every sin possible and he is at the height of popularity.