From owner-labor-l@YORKU.CA Wed Jun 12 20:30:07 2002
Date: Wed, 12 Jun 2002 20:10:09 -0400
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
From: grok <grok@SPRINT.CA>
Subject: [Fwd: Free Market—Enslaved People]


As Poland Endures Hard Times, Capitalism Comes Under Attack

By Ian Fisher, New York Times, 12 June 2002

SZCZECIN, Poland—In Communist times, no one was louder than Poland's famously feisty shipyard workers about the state's inability to provide a decent standard of living. So now it seems a cruel joke that, as the sparkle fades from the market economy, it is private enterprise that has failed them.

Since March, the Szczecin shipyard has been closed, and 6,000 workers have not been paid. When violence loomed, the government stepped in, announcing a plan in May that would, for the first time, renationalize a Polish company.

“It is certainly very abnormal,” said Bogoslaw Rydzenski, 48, a worker. “No one could have predicted this.”

These are hard times in Poland, which grew for nearly 10 straight years into a country of stocked shelves, giant malls and impressive self-confidence—a 40-million-strong symbol of Central Europe's post-Communist hopes.

Now, the will to continue privatization and other reforms, and even the desire to join the European Union, have flagged. The story is much the same around the region, as the transformation from gangly state economies has brought material comfort, but also insecurity and a new set of inequalities. In Poland, indeed, the very notion that Western-style capitalism will work in the eastern nation that embraced it perhaps most heartily is under attack.

“There is an apropos graffiti,” Krzysztof Bledowski, an economist, said as he sat in a cafe in downtown Warsaw. He pointed across the street to a car parts shop, where someone had scrawled on a wall: “Free market, enslaved people.”