These days, every other Eastern European intellectual is hailed as a hero of sorts, and a handful of politicians get hosanna-ed on a regular basis. Havel’s a hero, and Milosz was a hero; the late Pope was a hero, and Yuschenko’s a hero, and so on. Well, heroism is normally associated with standing up to extreme adversity, which is why the people who above all qualify for the laurels in my book are the leaders of the only major liberation movement in Eastern Europe: the Polish Solidarity. The list starts, and for most of us ignorants ends with Lech Walesa (or, to be pedantical, Wałęsa).
What amazes me about the Polish resistance is exactly what would get it branded as reactionary were it to reemerge today in opposition, say, to the Brussels dictatorship. The only reason why the NYT and the WaPo lended their prime space to Walesa must have been the Cold War. These days, I guess, he would be relegated to the margins accorded to José Bové, Le Pen, the Vlaams Block, and Tony Martin.
That’s because Solidarnosc, among other things:
— was a national, and essentially nationalistic, movement;
— not just had support from the Church — the Church was part of the movement’s core;
and the most importantly,
— was not a movement for abstract Freedom against generic Communism but a fight for Polish freedom against Russian domination, and as such had strong roots far and deep in national history and, perhaps, in the national subconscious.
All in all, the strong conservative-restorationist current that set Solidarnosc on its course would be unacceptable both to Euro-enthusiasts and their overseas sympathizers. There would be cries like “anti-Semitism,” “xenophobia,” “isolationism” and so on.