What’s to Learn in Cuba from Poland’s Example

By Pedro Pablo Morejon

Bread line in Poland in the 1980s. Photo: historycollection.com

HAVANA TIMES – It’s something I see pretty much every day. Crowds of people in different places, waiting to get food or other basic essentials.

It’s something that’s always existed, to a lesser extent in the past, but ever since mid-2019, it’s got a whole lot worse. It’s so obvious that you don’t need to be a good observer to see it. People transpire stress, uneasiness and frustration in the face of situations that are out of their control.

The year 2021 has kicked off with a rough start. The so-called Tarea Ordenamiento (economic reforms) has done nothing but make Cubans even more uneasy. Wages have gone up, but so have the prices of electricity, medicine, transport, food, and a long list of etcs., which expose the awful reality of our failed economy.

We are living in a vicious cycle, with no way out it seems. The only hope Cubans have left is that the COVID-19 pandemic will end and that there will be a change in US-Cuba policy, after the upcoming administration takes office in the US. A false hope that doesn’t guarantee our future.

The 1980s were extremely hard years in Poland

I recently watched a documentary about the decline of socialism in Poland. The 1980s were hell for this country. The interesting thing is that pictures from that time are very similar to what we see today in 21st century Cuba.

They were experiencing a great socio-economic crisis, like we are now. I could see the familiar image of poverty and huge lines to get food, which confirms that we aren’t experiencing anything new. That this is a constant in every country where a Leftist totalitarian regime has enjoyed power.

The only difference is that they reached a point where Communist leaders sat down to negotiate with the Polish people. They put their Homeland first, thereby initiating a transition process to democracy, accompanied by a package of reforms that has converted this country into one of Europe’s strongest, economically-speaking. They didn’t even suffer a recession during the 2008 financial crisis, and its GDP continues to grow even amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic.

However, what’s sad for us is that our hardline ruling class isn’t willing to give up its privileges. So, they try to perpetuate “continuity”, more of the same old, a proven cancer for our country. To do this, they have turned to the same resources they always have: propaganda and repression. Recent events linked to the San Isidro Movement are proof of this.

On the other hand, there was a movement in Poland that was widely supported by the population. Workers’ strikes and people’s protests became a daily occurrence. Although it’s true that totalitarianism there didn’t hold the same iron-fist control the Cuban version has.

Opposition unity is key

All in all, the lack of unity between Cuban democrats is crystal clear. Suspicions and internal divisions have meant that the so-called “opposition” hasn’t been able to articulate a movement like Poland’s old Solidarity movement, forcing the regime to modify its conservative politics at the very least.

However, in spite of all this, if there’s one thing Poland teaches us, it’s that we can attain a democracy, no matter how hard it might seem.

Let’s take a look at some statements from Solidarity’s leader Lech Walesa.

 “It wasn’t until 1980 that we managed to unite the shipyard strikes to every social movement in Poland, and we even received displays of solidarity from abroad. We were able to tell the Communists: You always lied to us, we are the majority, we don’t want you here anymore! After that blow, they couldn’t do anything else.


“It was worth it. If I could choose, I’d do it all again. In the past, I never thought that Poland would be a free country and that I would be alive to see it, that we were going to recover what previous generations had lost, and that we were going to free ourselves from the yoke of slavery and Soviet power.”

If only we are able to become the Poland of the Americas, in the short or medium-term, with a peaceful transition to democracy, without trauma and hate.

The good people of Cuba deserve this.

Read more from Pedro Pablo Morejon’s diary here.

20 thoughts on “What’s to Learn in Cuba from Poland’s Example

  • Nick, you are sounding like a broken record. And you also fail to realize the main points of Pedro’s post refer to the Polish rebellion against communist rule and the similarity to the impoverished and repressive state of their country in the 1980s and Cuba today. They were able to establish a democratic country after a tremendous struggle. Where that has swung today, to the far right, isn’t my cup of tea either, but can be changed by the voters in the future. Under communist, or other forms of dictatorial rule, there is no possibility of changing direction or booting out the corrupt leaders at the ballot box. Get the difference?

  • After living in so many places in the world no maters what I always think in my freedom. It took me two years after left in Cuba. B to realize I was free me in my children eat Tuna melted every other day but freedom it’s hard to explain to those who who born in freedom. No one, even the beggars in Latino America would choose to live in that hell than is Cuba.

  • Brad makes the same comment over and over again.
    But he will never find an answer to the question ‘why are there so many failed capitalist states?’
    Why is there so much grinding poverty and suffering in capitalist countries at the bottom of the capitalist ladder?
    Brad never produces an answer to this question because he has no answer.

  • Cuba another disastrous communist failure.
    End the madness a free market, free media, free election is the only decent way to go.

  • Poland is propped up by EU funding.
    It is a matter of 100% fact that Poland is the biggest financial beneficiary of any EU country. These facts are easily verifiable.
    The EU is generally speaking shocked at the overt right wing nationalism of the Polish regime. This right wing regime is right on the very fringes of being acceptable in modern European terms. It is more frighteningly right wing than at any time since the end of WW2. If this were to result in EU funds to Poland being stopped, then Poland would crash.
    It would become a failed state. Its infrastructure cannot survive without EU hand outs.
    Some people in Poland think that the whole issue is caused not by the overt right wing regime, but by a big old Jewish banking plot.
    Some things never change.

  • I’m Polish. I was working in Gdansk during 1980 and was participating in support of Solidarity. All movement was supported by working people and money from US,so thats mean Luxemburg. People of Poland had enough of Russias dictatorship. During that changes of power, I emigrated to Canada. I never believed that going be any better. What happened all got changed, yes ,but now we under influence of EU. We paying to Brussels lobbiests foreeever . And now cost of living is so high ,government is Brussels poppet, you have all country on strikes. By the way ,Poland had chance to get money from EU , ONLY because our country is a buffer between Russia and West . Thats the only reason. Now Poland is working for Rothschild Bank. How is that changed?

  • As stated, Poland is on the fringes of the EU in terms of acceptability.
    It has an overtly right wing, xenophobic, Christian fundamentalist, trumpesque regime.
    Some people will think that it would be a good idea for Cuba to emulate places such as Poland. That’s because they think overtly right wing, xenophobic, Christian fundamentalist, trumpesque regimes are a good idea.
    Such overtly right wing regimes have their overtly right wing apologists and supporters. Hopefully now that the narcissistic man child trump is yesterday’s news and the enemy of the rainforest, bolsonaro, appears to be on borrowed time the world can perhaps move on from this unfortunate phase.
    Cuba should aim to go much higher than it currently is.
    It would be a shame if it went lower.

  • “If only we are able to become the Poland of the Americas, in the short or medium-term, with a peaceful transition to democracy, without trauma and hate.

    The good people of Cuba deserve this.”

    Well said.

  • Does anyone actually trust Cuba’s reporting of Covid stats? Or reporting of anything else?

  • Olgasintamales,
    Cuba has it’s bad points.
    It also definitely has it’s good points.

    Covid-19 death rates per 100,000 of population:
    USA – 122.79
    Poland – 88.73
    Cuba – 1.54

    These differences are dramatic.

    Being alive is definitely a good point isn’t it??

  • Olgasintamales,
    Today must be a sad day for you as trump-the-loser leaves Washington.
    You claim to support democracy but support a man who tries to overturn democracy. There is no consistency.
    I hope President Biden will restore a rational policy regarding Cuba as soon as possible.
    It may not be immediate because they have a long list of damage to repair.

  • I Wouk like to see those good pint in Cuba according to Nick. In a country that nothing absolutely nothing works. Only police repression

  • Pedro,
    I like to see the good points in all places where I live or visit.
    This would include both Poland and Cuba.
    Unfortunately Poland has become a very right wing country. Xenophobia and strict religious orthodoxy are on the rise.
    I note that on the Social Progress Index Poland (31) is above Cuba (72). I wonder which issues relating to ‘freedom’ are included and which are not. For example in Cuba a woman’s has the ‘‘freedom’ to choose to proceed with a pregnancy or to have an abortion. The right wing Polish regime is trying to take that particular freedom away. Already there are distressing cases where young women are having to flee Poland in order to undergo this procedure in countries where this freedom is not at risk.
    In Cuba there is also a disturbing rise in Christian Orthodoxy. This was largely or partly to blame for the freedom of gay people to marry not being achieved.
    I know gay Cubans who are pissed off about this.
    There will be changes in Cuba. I hope that the influence of over zealous religionists is kept within some kind of reason.
    I hope that Cuba never experiences the the type of sub-trumpesqe regime currently in place in Poland.
    There is a certain school of thought in Cuba which goes along the lines of ‘anything is better than this’.
    But I tell you – be careful what you wish for.
    And yes. This Polish regime most definitely has its apologists. It has its supporters. That’s because some people are supporters of right wing regimes and some people support Christian Fundamentalism.

    Pedro, you just need to look 90 miles to your north to see such facts.

  • Thanks Edwuar. I am very happy to know that through my writings you have learned about the reality of my country

  • Well Nick, although I have never really been to Poland, you yourself agree that it is a very good country in many respects. Tell me that the political climate is the most unpleasant since the 1930s-1940s I frankly don’t believe it. I don’t want to imagine then what it would be like to be worse than under the Nazis or the Soviets. A curious fact I give you, before writing the article I consulted the Social Progress Index, which measures more than 50 parameters among which are individual freedoms, communications, democracy, public health, environment. etc. etc, from 2016 to here Poland is among the top 27 countries in the world.

  • The way I interpret Pedro’s article regarding Poland is that he is using Poland as an example of how Cuba and Cubans can transition to a potentially peaceful democratic state. To me the article is not advocating a Polish style of government for Cuba.

    Pedro outlines the tremendous hardships Cubans must go through to obtain basic necessities like waiting in unbearable line ups much like the Poles had to do in Communist Poland in the 1980s. The failed Cuban economy with its newly instituted price increases exceeding the increase in wages leading to inflationary pressures causing misery through out the economy. Very much like Poland in the mid 1980s.

    Pedro rightly shows and knows: “That this is a constant in every country where a Leftist totalitarian regime has enjoyed power.” Whether it is Cuba or Poland wherever a Communist totalitarian regime is in power there is nothing but extreme hardship for the citizens even though the few people in power using their propaganda machine hoodwink the public into believing if the citizenry only tighten their belts, work a little harder, persevere more, things will improve. And, they never do without dramatic action initiated by the citizenry.

    In Poland in the 1980s, Polish citizens, much like Cubans today, became fed (pun unintentional) up with the dire economic situation and began taking to the streets in protests led by workers at ship yards the life blood to the Polish economy at the time. Shut down the ports and strangle the Polish economy and cut off vital monetary existence to the few Communist comrades in Krakow was what Solidarity’s leader Lech Walesa’s wise wielded strategy he unleashed which proved, in retrospect, successful.

    Lech Walesa received acclaim from abroad even made the front cover of Time magazine. Western powers were in full support and even the Catholic church working behind the scenes supported the citizen protests demanding the shackles of imprisonment from Communist rule be unlocked and that democracy and human freedom be implemented immediately.

    Pedro is describing what is possible when the citizenry become so economically deprived, when the suffering becomes insurmountable, when the powers that be do not listen nor do not care, change can be achieved.

    I do not believe Pedro is advocating the type or style of government presently existing in Poland today. Like most democratic states some governments tend to swing widely too far to the extreme like right wing populous governments ( Trump/USA ) and perhaps Poland. At other times state governments swing too far to the Left and that style is also harmful to the citizenry.

    What I believe Pedro’s article is about is change in government much like what Poland demonstrated with mass peaceful protests so much so that the outside world takes notice and perhaps helps to suede that Communist leaders it is in their interests to provide more freedom to the “imprisoned” population.

    “If only we are able to become the Poland of the Americas, in the short or medium-term, with a peaceful transition to democracy, without trauma and hate.” writes Pedro, hopefully. To become the “Poland of the Americas” refers to the potential freedom and human dignity provided to the Poles after their peaceful transition to democracy, not autocratic right wing government.

  • My Respects Pedro,

    I have read all your articles and learned a lot about cuban everyday life. My experiences from Valle de Vinales, Habana, Playas del Este and travelling on my own confirmed what I learned from you and some others from Havana News. Your La Isla Bonita deserves better.
    Good luck Pedro!
    You are a good and trustworthy leader.


  • This is one of the strangest articles I have ever read in Havana Times.
    It would appear that the author knows pretty much nothing about modern day Poland.
    I’ve been to Poland. It’s a fine country in many respects.
    But it is governed by one of the most unpleasant right wing regimes in the entirety of Europe. There is a creeping clampdown by this regime on anything and anyone that differs from the oppressive, nationalistic, xenophobic, Christian Fundamentalist trash perpetuated by this regime. The political climate of Poland is now more disturbingly right wing than at any point since the 1930s/40s when it was under fascist rule.

    Along with the equally despicable Right Wing Hungarian regime Poland has been one of trumpism’s main two allies in Europe. This causes shame and embarrassment for the rest of the EU.
    In fact there is an increasing possibility that the EU will issue the current Polish regime with an ultimatum:
    Either you get in line with normal European standards of basic 21st century morality and decency or you risk being sanctioned.

    I look forward to positive changes in Cuba.
    But please don’t ever copy Poland.
    The good people of Cuba deserve way better.

  • Lech Walesa was a known paid Communist secret police agent. Much of the Solidarity leadership was, too. What the Communists did was to reach an agreement with Western Big Business. WBB was gifted oligopolistic markets in a low tax, low wage, no social security environment. The Communists were promised wealth and immunity from prosecution for their crimes. Property stolen from the citizens was not returned. The judiciary, legal profession, prosecutors, police and state officials were all loyal Communists before 1989 and became post-Communists after 1989. Poland became a mafia state and a cash cow for WBB. Tax receipts have risen 50% since the post-Communists were voted out in 2015. The post-Communists and their German masters shared ownership/control of all 3 major TV stations, all main daily newspapers and most magazines. Need I go on?

  • Pedro,
    You are right Cuba deserves it!
    A year ago, I spent six weeks in Havana walking the streets of Habana Vieja, Malecon.
    It painfully reminded me of Poland in 1980- ties. Way to freedom is paved with determination and sacrifice. I managed to escape from Poland in 1977. My never ending dream was to see Poland free from oppressive regime. When Solidarity won in 1989 and Berlin Wall was taken apart- brick by brick in November, my dream was fulfilled. Viva Cuba Libre!!!



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