'Workers '80' -- Poland's unofficial movie of the week

It is a very Polish solution. The movie is still officially banned, but for a week it has been showing anyway -- with its title simply omitted in newspaper film listings.

It is the movie "workers '80," a documentary of last summer's shipyard strike and negotiations in Gdansk that led to the dramatic acceptance of free trade unions in Poland. After being banned for several months it has been playing for a week to packed houses of factory workers in Warsaw and elsewhere. There are a few cuts, but it is being viewed.

There is no action. The film is all "talking heads." Yet to these audiences of workers the impact is so powerful that they applaud points before there is applause in the film, they whistle down a party hard-liner at one point -- and they leave the theater wiping tears off their cheeks.

"There's nothing I can say," the printer's welder sitting next to me said in a tight voice at the end -- and placed his hand demonstratively over his heart.

The film opens by asking various workers why they are on strike. "Now we have to say who, why, and what is responsible" for our present crisis, one hard-hat begins. "They [officials] became too fat, and now we have to shake them up. . . . We learned that Anna Walentynowicz was fired. She worked 16 years as a welder, 30 years in the shipyard. We were affected by this information. If workers like her can be fired, what will happen to us? So we started to strike."

The movie then swings into the Gdansk negotiatiions, with Lech Walesa and his strike committee on one side of the table and First Deputy Premier Mieczyslaw Jagielski and his government-party team on the other. My audience of workers, who got their tickets through their local Solidarity chapters, hangs on every word.

"Now the situation is getting more complicated, but not because of us," says Walesa."I know we can have big achievements and can even go ahead of Japan in efficiency of work [if workers are treated decently].

"Because everything will be checked by the workers, every little screw, because the worker will say, 'Look, that's my money.'

". . . Before, our unions were good, but now a group has come to power that has built itself nice houses [and doesn't pay attention to us. We want] unions in which we can have some power and decide what to do ourselves, to man them ourselves and not just have the government give us orders. We want to do it ourselves and not be put down by the government."

Walesa moves to the issue of censorship. "TV isn't showing what is happening in Gdansk. I think we are all Poles, and the whole nation should know what is happening." The government gives a conciliatory but vague reply, and there are some snorts in the audience.

Discussion shifts to freedom of religion. Jagielski waves a copy of the Constitution and says the two sides can reach consensus on the basis of Article 182, granting religious rights to everyone.(Murmurs in the audience.) A writer on the strike delegation retorts that the Constitution is only a declaration of good intentions; if it is not implemented in specific laws then it's just a scrap of paper. (Applause in the audience precedes the applause by workers in the film.) Jagielski defends himself by saying, "hundreds of thousands of people go to church freely -- party people, too, and even those who have some party posts!" (Laughter in the audience.)

Then the issue of arrests for political views and the key question of guarantees that the shipyard strikers will not themselves be arrested, accused by "false witnesses," and called a "band of criminals."

"That's the decisive point," one worker says, "as to whether our system will be called a police system or a democratic system." (Murmurs of approval from the audience.)

Jagielski: "That's going too far. . . ."

Worker: "Maybe it's too far, but I would like to know what real guarantees there will be in the future that such things won't happen. So far our whole law and order is very nice, but our practice is far from it."

Jagielski (agitated): "I think you are pushing too far. . . . You used words that hurt me. . . I am talking with you sincerely. How is it possible someone could call you a band of criminals?" (Derisive laughter from the audience.)

At this point in the movie an interviewer asks the fired worker Walentynowicz about her past arrests for trying to organize workers to demand rights. (And here, informed sources say, one part is cut in which she describes police brutality. Another cut is reported to involve a confrontation between a worker and a Communist Party hard-liner in which the worker asks a question. The party official doesn't reply, and the worker responds that the official must be either deaf or stupid.)

Later in the talks Walesa apologizes for not having some paper ready because of the shortage of typewriters at hand. Jagielski jovially offers to let the workers use the government's machines, and Walesa declines with a line that stirs appreciative chuckles in the audience: "You see, it's better that we have our own."

At last agreement is reached. Walesa is propelled onto a podium to announce the results to the thousands of waiting workers.

"We finally have independent free trade unions," he shouts. (Cheers from the film audience.)

"We have the right to strike." (More cheers from the film audience.)

"And the rest of our rights we will decide very soon." (Applause in the film audience.) Many quiet tears in my audience.)

One worker in the shipyard is interviewed in front of the camera. "It became a little bit of a Polish day," he says in an unsteady voice. "After so many years what else can I say? We have a little more freedom. Maybe now someone will take care of us, because so far the old trade union didn't take care of us. Maybe there will be justice."

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