Listen to Lech

WashPost: Of the giants who brought down the Iron Curtain — among them Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, John Paul II, Vaclav Havel — only Walesa is still with us. At 79, he still looks as vigorous as the young electrician who led a workers’ uprising against the “dictatorship of the proletariat”; forced Poland’s Marxist regime to recognize the first independent trade union in the communist world; was imprisoned under martial law only to later force his former jailers at the negotiating table to allow free elections; and who, as the first president of the newly free Poland, anchored his former Warsaw Pact country in the institutions of the West.

Sitting in his office at the European Solidarity Center, the museum built on the grounds of the old Lenin Shipyard where Solidarity was born, I asked about polls showing that half of young Americans have a positive view of socialism. What is his message for young people who have no living memory of communism? “Many young people are actually fooled to accept communism as an idea,” he said, speaking through an interpreter. “There are beautiful sentences talking about equality, about justice. … But as soon as you start putting that system into practice, all sorts of serious disasters come about. But young people quite often don’t know it. We have experience [with socialism], so we really know something about it. So, I strongly recommend rejecting it.”


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