Essay
Zbigniew Stawrowski
Solidarity Means a Bond, AD 2021

Reflections on solidarity – understood both as a universal experience and as the Polish social movement

Exactly ten years have passed from the first printing of my book, Solidarity Means a Bond. Józef Tischner’s warning, which I cited in the Introductory Word to that edition, that ‘the moment we forget how important solidarity is, would be the moment of our community’s suicide’ sounds today like the prophecy of a Cassandra. One may doubt whether in today’s divided and conflicted Polish society there remain any traces of some elementary ‘us,’ a sense of the bond, which gives rise to an ability to thinking and acting in solidarity. As Cyprian Kamil Norwid wrote 150 years ago, ‘the Fatherland is a moral unity, without which no party can even exist – without which parties are like bands or the polemic camps of nomads, the fire of which is discord, and the reality the smoke of words.’ Has the existence of a community united by basic values, the existence of which we were firmly convinced not too long ago, not become in these latter years an ethical desert, given over as prey to those warring ‘bands’ and ‘polemical camps’ – the incarnations of (in the very worse sense of the term) political passions?

In the fever of the current problems, disputes and quarrels with which Poles are antagonised, it is worthwhile to inspect them from a proper distance. The 40th anniversary of the birth of Solidarity encourages us to consider our history in a wider perspective, and to seek its deeper sense, especially as in AD 2020 we are also celebrating the anniversaries of other events essential to our community: the centenary of the Battle of Warsaw, a time at which, despite the deep divisions among them, Poles were able to unite with one another and restrain the Bolshevik tide, and the centenary of the birth of the greatest of our countrymen, Karol Wojtyła. John Paul II was a man burdened with an extraordinary mission, and an extraordinary fardel of duty, without whom it would be difficult to imagine the shape of today’s Poland and that of our contemporary world. But he is no longer physically among us, for 15 years now, just like Fr Józef Tischner, the 20th anniversary of whose death also falls this year. It is to Tischner’s Etyka solidarności [The Ethics of Solidarity] that we owe our ability to speak of our community in a manner much wiser and deeper than the game of interests and the struggle for power would allow.

The decade that stretches between the two printings of this book seems an entire epoch. A new generation has grown to adulthood, for whom the ‘first Solidarity,’  the fall of Communism, and the beginnings of the Third Polish Republic exist only as episodes from long-past history, known only from schoolbooks, which means more or less as much as the regaining of Poland’s independence in 1918 or the Warsaw Uprising did for my own. Can the memory of the heritage of Solidarity still function as a foundational myth of our community for young Poles, since the dispute about what that heritage is really based on, and to whom it really belongs, constitutes a constant source of division and conflict, and a weapon used in the same?

These two intellectual and spiritual patrons of Polish Solidarity have also been marked by the passage of time. Their figures grow continually blurry in our memory. What is worse, invoked instrumentally as they are in various narratives, they sometimes take on characteristics that are truly like caricatures.

The person of Fr Józef Tischner is becoming more and more anonymous for many. If he rouses anyone, or is associated by anyone with anything, this usually has to do with politics – for good or evil, depending on the political preferences of the person in question. Who among us, who gladly confess to belonging to a supragenerational ‘generation of JPII’ and know well what great good fortune we had to have commerce with a saint, could even conceive, a few short years ago, that ideas of ‘dewojtylisation’ or ‘decanonisation’ in his regard would surface in the public forum, and be seriously considered? New narratives, created by ever new epigones of the ‘masters of suspicion’ are busy at work in an attempt to seize hold of our reason and wipe clean our authentic memory. For this reason it is important that reliable relations concerning what is most essential for our community be written down and recorded by the witnesses of those events, and transmitted to future generations of Poles.

Excerpt translated by Charles S. Kraszewski

Essay
Zbigniew Stawrowski
Solidarity Means a Bond, AD 2021

Reflections on solidarity – understood both as a universal experience and as the Polish social movement

Publisher: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, e.szwagrzyk@piw.pl
Translation rights: Instytut Myśli J. Tischnera, PIW, Warszawa 2021

Zbigniew Stawrowski’s Solidarity Means a Bond, AD 2021 is a collection of philosophical essays as well as a few conversations with the author. They come from the 1990s, that is, during the period when Poland and all of Central Europe was emerging from Communism. The inspiration, as well as the subject of reflections presented here, are the writings and statements of Pope John Paul II and the Polish philosopher Fr Józef Tischner, two intellectuals and patrons of meditations on freedom wider than the Polish tradition alone. For the author, the first of these is a master of faith, while the second – a master of thought. However, the gratitude he has for these authorities should not be confused with a position of uncritical, prostrate humility before them. Rather, it expresses itself in a creative – sometimes indeed polemical – engagement with problems and themes important to them.

Among these may be found: the relationship between the right to freedom and the obligation of searching for the truth, the sense of an attitude of mercy variously understood in relation to justice, the tension between individualism and community, the nation, the fatherland and patriotism, the philosophy of the state, and politics. The author courageously takes up contested issues – essential not only from the perspective of Polish destiny, but that of any national community – which sometimes confront the necessity of a difficult reckoning with harmful injustices, and even treason, committed by members of the same.

The theme that binds all of these meditations together is the phenomenon of solidarity – understood both as a universal experience of communities in general, and also in the sense of the Polish social movement ‘Solidarność’. A testament to the fervour of the analyses presented in the book that touch upon the unique character of Polish ‘Solidarity’, as well as the exceptional interpersonal bonds from which the movement emerged (described here in philosophical terms) is the author’s allusion to categories of the miraculous: ‘Solidarity’ as a sui generis miracle.

Zbigniew Stawrowski’s book allows the reader to perceive the trunk and branches of the tree of thought of these two important 20th-century thinkers. This is valuable, as frequently, only individual branches of said tree (J. Tischner’s metaphor) are revealed to our eyes.

Tomasz Garbol

Translated by Charles S. Kraszewski

Selected samples

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Aleksandra Lipczak
Jacek Dukaj
Wit Szostak
Bartosz Biedrzycki
Zyta Rudzka
Maciej Płaza
Wojciech Chmielewski
Paweł Huelle
Angelika Kuźniak
Wojciech Kudyba
Michał Protasiuk
Stanisław Rembek
Rembek
Krzysztof Karasek
Elżbieta Isakiewicz
Artur Daniel Liskowacki
Jarosław Jakubowski
Zbigniew Stawrowski
Szczepan Twardoch
Wojciech Chmielarz
Robert Małecki
Zygmunt Miłoszewski
Anna Piwkowska
Dominika Słowik
Wojciech Chmielewski
Barbara Banaś
Rafał Mikołajczyk
Jerzy Szymik
Waldemar Bawołek
Julia Fiedorczuk
Jakub Szamałek
Witold Szabłowski
Jacek Dukaj
Grzegorz Górny, Janusz Rosikoń
Paweł Piechnik
Andrzej Strumiłło

69

Marta Kwaśnicka
Piotr Mitzner
Paweł Sołtys
Wacław Holewiński
Anna Potyra
Wiesław Helak
Urszula Zajączkowska
Marek Stokowski
Stokowski
Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki
HKD
Jakub Małecki
Malecki_Horyzont
Łukasz Orbitowski
Orbitowski
Małgorzata Rejmer
Rejmer
Rafał Wojasiński
Olanda
Wojciech Kudyba
Kudyba
Włodzimierz Bolecki
Bolecki
Jerzy Liebert
Liebert
Wojciech Zembaty
Zembaty
Wojciech Chmielarz
Chmielarz
Bogdan Musiał
Musiał
Joanna Siedlecka
Siedlecka
Krzysztof Tyszka-Drozdowski
Drozdowski
Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz
Marek Bieńczyk
Bienczyk
Leszek Elektorowicz
Elektorowicz
Adrian Sinkowski
Sinkowski
Szymon Babuchowski
Babuchowski
Lech Majewski
Majewski
Weronika Murek
Murek
Agnieszka Świętek
Swietek
Stanisław Szukalski
Barbara Klicka
Klicka
Anna Kamińska

She climbed her first peaks in a headscarf at a time when women in the mountains were treated by climbers as an additional backpack. It was with her that female alpinism began! She gained recognition in a spectacular way. The path was considered a crossing for madmen. Especially since the tragic accident in 1929, preserved … Continue reading “Halina”

Wojciech Chmielarz

First, Marysia, a student of an exclusive private school in Warsaw’s Mokotów district, dies under the wheels of a train. Her teacher, Elżbieta, tries to find out what really happened. She starts a private investigation only soon to perish herself. But her body disappears, and the only people who have seen anything are Gniewomir, a … Continue reading “Wound”

Anna Kańtoch

A young girl, Regina Wieczorek, was found dead on the beach. She was nineteen years old and had no enemies. Fortunately, the culprit was quickly found. At least, that’s what the militia think. Meanwhile, one day in November, Jan Kowalski appears at the police station. He claims to have killed not only Regina but also … Continue reading “Penance”

Marek Krajewski

The year is 1922. A dangerous time of breakthrough. In the Eastern Borderlands of the Republic of Poland, Bolshevik gangs sow terror, leaving behind the corpses of men and disgraced women. A ruthless secret intelligence race takes place between the Lviv-Warsaw-Free City of Gdańsk line. Lviv investigator Edward Popielski, called Łysy (“Hairless”), receives an offer … Continue reading “A Girl with Four Fingers”

Ks. Tomasz Stępień

This question is closely related to the next one, namely: if any goal exists, does life lead us to that goal in an orderly manner? In other words, is everything that happens to us just a set of chaotic events that, combined together, do not form a whole? To understand how the concept of providence … Continue reading “Order and Love”

Jakub Małecki
Szczepan Twardoch
Wiesław Helak
Maria Wilczek-Krupa
Anna Kańtoch
Rafał Kosik
Paweł Sołtys
Dorota Masłowska
Wiesław Myśliwski
Martyna Bunda
Olga Tokarczuk
Various authors
Mariola Kruszewska
Waldemar Bawołek
Marek Oleksicki, Tobiasz Piątkowski
Wojciech Tomczyk
Urszula Zajączkowska
Marzanna Bogumiła Kielar
Ks. Robert Skrzypczak
Bronisław Wildstein
Anna Bikont
Magdalena Grzebałkowska
Wojciech Orliński
Klementyna Suchanow
Andrzej Franaszek
Natalia Budzyńska
Marian Sworzeń
Aleksandra Wójcik, Maciej Zdziarski
Józef Łobodowski

The work of Józef Łobodowski (1909-1988) – a remarkable poet, prose writer, and translator, who spent most of his life in exile – is slowly being revived in Poland. Łobodowski’s brilliant three- volume novel, composed on an epic scale, concerns the fate of families and orphans unmoored by the Bolshevik Revolution and civil war and … Continue reading “Ukrainian Trilogy: Thickets, The Settlement, The Way Back”

Piotr Zaremba
Wacław Holewiński
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