Critically Examine The Argument That Nowa Huta Reflects With Amazing Clarity The Contemporary Contradictions In Poland

1496 words - 6 pages

There are few examples in the world where the symbolic juxtaposition of a nation's past and future are as striking as they are in Poland. Throughout the country there are endless images representing an uneasy coexistence of a communist past in combination with a rapid move to the market economy. Yet perhaps the starkest change in terms of symbolism is most apparent in the purpose built socialist town of Nowa Huta. Nowa Huta was constructed from scratch, funded by the Soviet Union to represent the proletarian opponent to the 'intellectual and Catholic' Kraków. Together with Magnitogorsk in Russia Nowa Huta was one of only two purpose built socialist cities in the world and was also arguably the greatest symbol of socialist ideological failure. Nowa Huta is indeed loaded with astounding contradictions but such contradictions are much more than symbolic and to a great extent embody the far reaching political, economic, and social paradoxes found throughout Poland.Along with the shipyards in Gdansk Nowa Huta was one of the most important Solidarity strongholds and by 1983 it had been the site of some of the most violent protests in support of Solidarity. The importance of this free trade union to the eventual demise of communism in Poland can not be overplayed. Throughout the communist era there was always a widespread opposition to the imposed socialist regime but after years of fragmentation it was undeniably the consolidation of various social groups, such as the intelligentsia and students but most importantly the working class which was to prove the turning point of opposition. In the summer of 1980 Polish protests shifted in gear, "within the country of thirty-five million citizens, an independent union of ten million working people was formed" (Korab-Karpowicz). It was known as the Independent Self-Governing Trade Union Solidarity. An incredibly powerful political force which throughout the eighties made extensive social and economic reforms, when in 1989 Poland held its first free elections Solidarity won all but one of the seats enjoying a public approval rating of over 90%.The irony is that the labor union which helped to bring about the fall of the communist government found itself opposing the forces which it helped to unleash.(Aleksandrowicz 1998) Moreover it is the workers, the most powerful voice within the movement, are now bearing the brunt of Poland's economic down resulting from "shock therapy" Currently Poland's main economic problem is unemployment, which has remained at 18% for the last two years, unemployment at present amounts to about 20%.(Cave 2001)This poses a particular problem for the Polish government because the continuous rise in productivity due to rationalization particularly in the industrial sector will put yet more people out of work.Post-communist transformation has seen the industrial sectors shrink in relation to GDP; at the same time, the service sector has grown rapidly. These shifts are evident in all...

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