lørdag 31. august 2019

Why Poland’s Solidarity Movement Should Be a Warning to Hong Kong

As tensions continue to escalate in Hong Kong, especially after the police arrested two protest leaders on Friday in an attempt to discourage new mass rallies planned for this weekend, the greatest fear is that mainland China will intervene directly with overwhelming force. In that case, Hong Kong could become the scene of another crackdown on the scale of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989—or possibly even worse, given the widespread expectation that the Hong Kong protesters would fight back.

But this worst-case scenario may be less likely than another outcome based on a completely different analogy: Poland in 1981. In that fateful year, Poland’s Solidarity labor movement challenged the country’s—and the Kremlin’s—communist rulers as never before. What played out in the Gdansk shipyard and in factories and streets all across the country ended in a show of force by the Polish government. To Moscow’s relief, the power play temporarily protected Communist Party rule, thwarting the workers challenging the putative workers’ state. Ultimately, however, it only postponed the demise of a government that lost any remaining shred of legitimacy after the widely decried clampdown.