Reflection on 1968 generation – Poland

Year 1956 brought hope and more freedom for polish society and also more liberal rule in Poland, although the country was still part of communist block. But this, to some degree liberal, policy began to crumble in 60s and became a reason for polish society, especially students, to protest and fight for their rights. This was the most important cause. The moods were also, like in western Europe, connected to anti-war attitudes, but in Poland in different case. In 1967 Soviet Union criticized Israel, for their war with Arabs (Israel was viewed as a U.S. ally). In many communist countries government took anti-Israel and often anti-Jewish measures (in Poland it was also related to the war between politics inside communist party): they had been thrown out from their work and discriminated . In the end a lot of Jewish people or rather people with Jewish origins, from those small remains after the second war, left Poland in 1968. This also was one of the reasons for polish student movement.

The direct cause of the protest was censorship of play “Dziady” (in opinion of government it was anti-Russian) in Polish National Theater. After the last play, last because of the government decision, many students who came to see it, went to the statue of Adam Mickiewicz (he died in Istanbul and even has a small museum there), polish famous poet and dramatist, also author of “Dziady” , to leave some flowers. After the event they were attacked by police and 35 of them were arrested. What’s more two of the students were thrown out of the University.

Because of this events students movement rose even more. Students began to collect money for to pay fines for students and make petition to government, they also make an alliance with Polish Writer’s Union. They planned a very big protest in defense for those two students, but before the event, the leaders were arrested. The protest still began but at the end of it more than two thousand policeman attacked them. This began students protests in almost all polish university’s . The goal was to show their support. In almost all of the cases students were attacked by police.

The party that ruled the country began counteroffensive . They started propaganda against the students, especially within workers, to show that students are bored youths who are making a fuss in society. There were slogan like „Banana Youths” or „Student’s to study, Writers to writing and Jewish to Zion”. The last part came from mixing anti-Jewish moves of government with students, since some of the leaders had Jewish origins and it was a good excuse.

Of course students still fought for change, they protested, but the other side was too strong. Many professors were thrown out of University and even Departments were closed (for example Philosophy Department in Warsaw University) by communist party. After government dealt with the students they thrown eoght thousand people with Jewish origins from the party.

The communication between students was of course not as easy as today, but students had been closer with each other so sending a message from person to person, making larger meeting or giving news during classes (in those years students were coming to them) was not so hard. Leaflets had been used in a really big scale in 1968. Some even named it „ leaflets war”. Polish students of course were aware of protests in western countries but the their consciousness was quite different. In Poland the aim was to reform, to make a regime more liberal (social too, but this is a little different case), and this movement did not want as much as those in western Europe since the starting point was different. But as Daniel Cohn Bandid said to Adam Michnik, one of the leaders of student movement in Poland, their aim was still similar -students wanted a change, change that would make world more for them.

The communist party won the battle but that does not mean that this student movement did not have any positive outcome. Of course for some years changes seemed impossible, especially after the events in Prague in 1968, but the movement had an impact on people who were part of it. Some of the professors that could not teach went to other countries and became and made quite a career and what is much more important this movement had impact on the students. Many of them were a very important figures for changes in Poland 1980s and especially in the round table’s talks , at the end of communism in Poland and in early 1990s. Today one of the student who was thrown out of University is the owner of the second biggest News Paper in Poland. Many other also became quite influential.


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