Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Acting of Solidarity

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the beginning of a then-incomprehensible 17-day strike, now considered the birth of Solidarity, the Gdansk, Poland shipyard trade union that confronted the Marxist lie that denied the authentic human person and, in doing so, pierced one of the last century's great evils and changed the course of human events. Thus today marks the anniversary a of quintessintial example that culture, not economics as Marxism asserted and many Western academics implicitly accepted, is the engine of history. As Acton's Samuel Gregg notes:

The Solidarity movement... did not base its claims upon pragmatism or the usual ideological rationalizations common to all Marxist practitioners. Instead, Solidarity based its claims upon the truth: the full truth about the human person, the truth that is the only foundation for any coherent theory of human rights and duties.

Here, they were clearly inspired by the late Pope John Paul the Great, whose 1979 visit to Poland galvanized thousands to stop living the lie that propped up all Marxist regimes. During one of his 1979 homilies in Poland, he proclaimed: “Remember this: Christ will never agree to man being viewed only as a means of production, or agree to man viewing himself as such. He will not agree that man should be valued, measured, or evaluated only on this basis. Christ will never agree to that!”

It is difficult to imagine a more direct swipe at the philosophical materialism that lay at the heart of Communist systems and which remains so virulent in much of the West. Human beings were, as Solidarity insisted, more than just objects. They were also “subjects”; that is, creative beings endowed with the power of right reason and thus the unique ability to make truly free choices. To treat people solely as objects—as Marxism cannot help but do—is therefore to deny their essence as human beings, to de-humanize them.
The motivation of Gdansk's workers to take this bold position was their own freedom, that of their posterity, and that of their neighbors. Here the movement's name is apt and presents witness to all who love freedom, and in Pope Benedict's words, the new spirit that this movement brought to the events of contemporary Europe.

Despite that today Poland is experiencing some of the highest unemployment and lowest wages of any EU country, this week's events rightly celebrate the freeing of the individuals of half a continent to act for excellence in the name of the whole person.

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