Published April 1981 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Communist Contradictions The uprising of 10 million industrial workers in Poland poses a threat to the fundamental principle underlying communist doctrine, and creates a dilemma for the Soviet Union. The workers, in an attempt to improve their quality of life, have banded together to form the Solidarity union to win a greater voice in controlling the.ir own destinies. The industrial workers, the proletariat, theoretically are the foundation upon which a truly communist state is built. Communist ideology, as set forth by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the Communist Manifesto, was to lead to a dictatorship of the proletariat, culminating in a classless society. That has not been the case, however, in Poland or in any of the communist bloc nations. Political and military loyalists to the Communist Party line in these countries have become a communist elite-enjoying a standard of living far beyond the reach of the workers in their countries. But the workers, the backbone of any country, have found life wanting. Polish workers must spend numerous hours in food lines to obtain the barest of necessities. Few consumer goods are within their financial reach. By contrast, the workers in the West have' evolved into a major political and economic force in the system of private enterprise. Through the trade-union movement, Western laborers have increased their purchasing power and, with it, access to a higher standard of living and a wide variety of consumer goods. The banding together of workers in Poland to challenge the communist system, where the decisions are placed in the hands of the state, puts the Soviet Union in an awkward spot. In the past, the Soviet Union has not hesitated to resort to military force to quell any uprisings. In 1956, the Soviets invaded Hungary to suppress a revolt of intellectuals and students. In 1968, Soviet tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia to crush the liberalization of the "Prague spring." But the Polish challenge is unique. It is one thing to turn guns on students and intellectuals. It is another to turn guns on the worker, the foundation of the communist state. It is hoped that this time, no tanks will roll and no military troops will march, but that the Soviets will allow a political 'Solution to evolve. It would be in the best interests of the Polish people and of the future of world peace, as well.