GB No. 3, winter 1990/91


The Congress was held in the village of D±brówka outside Lublin, in an area where hippies and alternativ people from all over Poland have bee settling for several years, livin mostly from farming and producing of African drums (!) D±brówka currently is being transformed to an ecological village and a center for alternative culture.

Conditions at the Congress were frugal: a lot of tents around a cent ral place, food (cooked on home-mad brick stoves) consisted of bread, tea, sour milk and cereal with vegetable sauce. The host family, one of the leading forces of the Green Federa tion, purchased food from nearby farms, and people paid whatever amount they could afford. The Federation has to live from the generosity of its participants.

Some 50-60 people were present, which constitutes a big increase compared to last year's congress. Altogether there are said to be a few hundred active participants in some 15 local groups. Exact numbers are hard to give since there is no formal membership. Whoever feels close to the ideas of the Green Federation is a member. Local autonomy, direct democracy and consensus decisions are the principles of the organization.

In accordance with this, th Congress had no fixed agenda. Whoever wanted to discuss a particular topi had to write down a place and time on the Agenda Board. The result of a discussion could be the forming of stable working group a proposition for a Resolution of the Congress. I have been promised to receive copies of all resolutions passed, but I have not received anything so far.

I did not have the time to stay for all the Congress but I shall give a summary of some interesting facts on different topics:

1. Waste management.

Burning of waste is being introduced in Poland, and the consciousness of the problems with this is very low. In the city of Bydgoszcz, the Government wants to built a waste burning plant as part of a World Bank investment programme for environmental projects. It is generally regarded as a eature of progress to see more and ore goods in disposable packages, or tax reduction for waste recycling firms. A concrete project is to try to make the glass works near D±brówka interested in collecting and melting non-recyclable bottles and glass.

2. Alternative Energy.

The lack of information in this field is enormous. One Polish firm produces wind-mills, but they are usually defective. Problem: how to convince the Sejm (Parliament) to pass an Alternative Energy programme?

3. Nuclear Power.

A visitor at the Congress, Doctor Andrzej Wierusz, is head of a government commission which recently released a very critical report on th ¬arnowiec Nuclear Power Plant project. Wierusz is a representative of the strong scientific opposition against Żarnowiec. This is an important support for the public opinion, which is also very strong - in a referendum in May, 86% of the inhabitants of the County of Gdańsk voted against the completion of the building of Żarno- wiec. Campaigning against Żarnowiec has been intense for at last a year.

Two months after the Congress, in September, the Polish Government officially announced that the Żarnowiec NPP project is abolished. It seems the economical problems were the main reason, because the abolition was announced only after all efforts to make foreign electricity companies invest in the project had failed. Ecologists suspect secret negotiations are still carried out with Western firms. The energy plan introduced in September foresees no nuclear power before the year 2000 but also no investments in renewable energy sources. Plans are to expand and modernize the fissile fuel combustion plants.

4. The Pesticide Scandal.

This affair was revealed by Greenpeace and a visitor at the Congress, Jolanta Pawlak from the Social Ecological Institute in Warsaw, has been investigating it further. Recently burglars broke into her office and stole all papers on the scandal (all papers in English - aż) Police could do nothing since no valuables were stolen. This inclines some very influential people are involved on the Polish side.

The scandal is about Western companies selling pesticides banned in the USA and the EC to Poland. Money, $ 60 million, comes from an EC help programme. The Foundation for Development of Polish Agriculture, founded by the Rockefeller foundation and sponsored by e.g. the Monsanto chemical company (USA) has been very influential, together with the US- based Sabre Foundation. They are both guiding Poland toward chemical - intensive, high-input agriculture.

In Poland, pesticides are usually sprayed over the fields by the peasants themselves, without professional aid and with a very low consciousness of safety regulations. Often they wear no protective clothing and use too much of substance and at non appropriate times of the year. Only six kinds of pesticides are banned in Poland (among them DDT and mercury - based substances) while 22 out of the 100 pesticides given to Poland are banned or seriously restricted in many other countries. There are no regulations for control of contamination of foods by pesticides. Poland today is the smallest user of pesticides in Europe and thus an enormous potential market for the agrochemical industry.

5. AIDS.

There is superstitious fear of AIDS among the broad masses of people. AIDS is something equivalent to plaque or even the evil eye, and people have no idea how the disease is really spread. Local communities sometimes protest violently against plans to build health centers for HIV carriers. In Warsaw many HIV carriers have to beg in the streets. In June, the Sejm decided to grant 800 million zloties ($ 90 000) for the care of people sick in AIDS, and discrimination of HIV carriers was declared illegal.

A pessimistic view was raised by one participant: - This country is not moving toward a greater tolerance, rather in the direction of medieval darkness. Conservative nationalist Catholicism is gaining ground and is seeing its fir success in the moves to ban abortion and make divorces more complicated.

6. General political discussion.

The discussion took place around the campfire on the evening of my arrival. Present were Radosław Gawlik, Solidarity MP and a former activist of the "Freedom & Peace" Movement, and several of the leading figures in the Green Federation.

Wojciech Kłosowski (from our host family in D±brówka) told about the State Council of Environment, of which he is a member. It is an assembly of old men, mostly professors, who hold long speeches but nothing concrete. A few persons from the ecological movement have been appointed to the Council in the last year, but this does not change its character of a facade institution created by the old rwgime.

The Ministry of Environment has accomplished very little. Apart from the fact that its staff is the same as in the days of the old system it has a very weak position in the Government, where economic policy and market liberalism are top priorities. The president of the Sejm commission on Ecological Affairs habitually criticizes the Ministry on commission meetings. When the Minister himself was threatened with a vote of No Confidence, he agreed to present a package of new en- vironmental legislation in September.

What are the possibilities to pursue ecological policies in Parliament, where only a dozen or so MPs have connections with the ecological movement?

Gawlik says the Parliament as a decision - making body is less important that the personal prestige of being an MP, which facilitates access to all kinds o information from State administration and industry.

Gawlik has been trying to put question of nuclear power on Agenda of the Sejm. But since there is a split within Solidarity in the matter he had no success so far. Question: - It helps up the prestige of action to have an MP participating. So can we count on you for civil disobedience actions, for example against Żarno- wiec?

Gawlik has troubles with this question. After a long explanation he ends up with, "Well, yes, perhaps, but I'd prefer not to." Some people look disappointed to hear such an answer from a former peace activist.

Discussion about the "Round Table" postulates: In negotiations between Solidarity and the Communist government in the Spring of 1989, one working group for environmental affairs came to an agreement on some 40 concrete points, including, for example increased possibilities to take polluters to court, and subsidize imports of milk without radioactive contamination for babies. Most of the points to be carried out in one year, but very few of them have been realized. This is one reason for the mistrust in the Solidarity government felt by the ecological movement.

Visions of the future: Grzegorz Peszko from Kraków says that government, parliament and the national state are obsolete structures. The natural unit for human cooperation is the bio-regions, for example, the Baltic region and the Alp region. A first step to cut down State power might be to close down the entire Ministry of Environment and use the money to found an independent ecological institute run by social movements. Radek Gawlik protests - The idea is completely unrealistic. It is better to strengthen the Ministry of Environ ment, in the long run making it a Super Ministry setting the framework for all Government decisions. "In that case" - says Peszko - "why don't you introduce a green dictatorship with ecological secret police? That would be even more effective!"

Should the Green Federation run for parliament in the free elections scheduled for next year?

The majority opinion seems to be "no". The basic problems can not be solved in parliament. One speaker says it can be useful to have a few ecologist MPs, like Gawlik, to keep ecology on the parliamentary agenda, but the extra-parliamentarian movement is by far the most important. The Green Federation decided from its beginning (in December 1988) it would never run for seats in National Parliament, only in local councils.

In the end I ask a question; what are the possibilities to unite the Green movement in Poland? There are three fractions of the Polish Green Party, there is the Green Federation and other organizations, like the Polish Ecological Club and the "Freedom & Peace" Movement, who, although they are not parties set up candidates for local elections. And there are the green Solidarity MPs.

The answer seems pessimistic. It is difficult to cooperate with the Green Party, because if you work with one fraction, the two others will automatically become your enemy. Besides, people from the Green Federation decided not to join the Green party because of different opinions on democracy and decentralization. All ecolo- gical groups have their identity. It is better to cooperate closely on concrete topics, like for example the newly formed Coalition for Alternative Energy, than to press a unification of organizations.

Tomas Hakanson
the Green Party of Sweden

GB No. 3, winter 1990/91 | Contents