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Jacek Kuroń

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Jacek Kuroń

Jacek Kuroń
May 1, 1989 demonstration day with the participation of the opposition and Jacek Kuroń
Member of Sejm
In office
4 June 1989 – 18 October 2001
Minister of Labour and Social Policy of the Republic of Poland
In office
12 September 1989 – 12 December 1990
President Wojciech Jaruzelski
Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki
Preceded by Michał Czarski
Succeeded by Michał Boni
Minister of Labour and Social Policy of the Republic of Poland
In office
11 July 1992 – 26 October 1993
President Lech Wałęsa
Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka
Preceded by Jerzy Kropiwnicki
Succeeded by Leszek Miller
Personal details
Born Jacek Jan Kuroń
3 March 1934
Lviv
Died 17 June 2004(2004-06-17) (aged 70)
Warsaw, Poland

Jacek Jan Kuroń (Polish: ; 3 March 1934 – 17 June 2004) was one of the democratic leaders of opposition in the Solidarity in August 1980. After the changes in independent Poland, he ran for president supported by the likes of Jan Karski and served twice as Minister of Labour and Social Policy. Privately, Kuroń was the father of chef Maciej Kuroń.

Contents

  • Biography 1
  • Early social and political activities 2
  • Transformation and politics in the 1990s 3
  • Awards 4
  • Social engagement 5
  • Anecdotes 6
  • Bibliography 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Biography

Kuroń was born in 1934, in Lwów (now Lviv), into a family that supported the Polish Socialist Party (PPS). In 1949, he became a member of the Communist Association of the Polish Youth (ZMP). From 1952, he worked as a full-time employee in the capital scout section affiliated with the Association of the Polish Youth. The same year, he joined the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR). Then, he engaged in social movements making attempts to introduce more rights for the workers. After the political transformation and introduction of democracy to Poland, Kuroń became a Minister of Labor and Social Policy. After a long illness, Kuroń died in 2004. His funeral was held on 26 June 2004. He was buried in the Avenue of the Meritious in the Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw. The ceremony was attended by close friends, supporters, Polish youth and children. Although Kuroń was an atheist, representatives of all major religious communities came to display their respect to the renowned humanitarian.

Early social and political activities

In 1955 a Discussion Club Krzywe Koło (KK - Crooked Circle) was established. Jacek Kuroń and Solidarność (Polish: Solidarity). The Coastal Free Trade Union WZZ, the cradle of Solidarity, was established on April 29, 1978 after Krzysztof Wyszkowski convinced Kuron that workers needed their own voice.[2]

During the strikes of July and August 1980, Kuroń organized an information network for workers across the country. Soon after the Gdansk shipyard occupation began in August 1980, Kuron was imprisoned again, but released with other dissidents, including Martial Law was introduced in Poland, and his activities were curtailed. In 1982, accused of attempts to destroy the political system, Kuroń was arrested. Two years later he was pardoned and released from prison.

As a member of the opposition Kuroń used pseudonyms – Maciej Gajka and Elżbieta Grażyna Borucka, or EGB.

Transformation and politics in the 1990s

By 1988 the authorities began serious talks with the opposition. Polish Round Table Talks took place in Warsaw, Poland from 6 February to 4 April 1989. The opposition representation included Jacek Kuroń. The election of 4 June 1989 brought a landslide victory to Solidarność: 99% of the seats in the Senate and allowable maximum number of seats in Sejm (35% of the total). The 65-35 division was soon abolished as well, which allowed the first truly free Sejm elections.

In 1989-1990 and 1992-1993 Kuroń was a Minister of Labor and Social Policy. From 1989 to 2001 he was a member of the Polish Parliament. He belonged to the following parties: Citizen Parliamentary Club (OKP), Union of Democracy (UD), Union of Freedom (UW). In the 1995 elections Kuroń ran for the office of president of the Republic of Poland. With support of 9.2%, Kuroń came third.

Awards

Kuroń's work was recognized not only in Poland but also in a number of other European countries. In 1998 he was awarded a Polish Order of the White Eagle, French Legion of Honour, German Federal Cross of Merit, Ukrainian Order of Yaroslav the Wise, Lithuanian Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas. On the 4 April 2001 Kuroń became the 645th Knight of the Order of Smile. This award is given to honorable adults who made a considerable contribution to children's happiness and wellbeing. The same award was given to the 14th Dalai Lama, a friend of Jacek Kuroń.

Social engagement

In 2000 Kuroń and his wife Danuta founded the Jan Józef Lipski Common University in Teremiski. He subsequently became the first dean of the informal university.

In the last years of his life Kuroń became very critical about the social and economical results of the 1989 transformation. Among other books and press articles, two of his papers are worthy of attention: “Action” and “Republic for my Grandchildren.” In the latter, Kuroń highly criticized neoliberalism, which deepens social divisions and alienation of the political Class (philosophy). Kuroń opted for social movements and education. His last public speech in April 2004 was addressed to alterglobalists, who were protesting against the World Economic Forum held in Warsaw. He said “It is you, my Dear Friends, who have to perform the actions which contemporary political elites cannot perform: who have to create new concepts of social cooperation, implement ideals of freedom, equality, and social justice.”

Anecdotes

The Polish unemployment benefit is colloquially referred to by Poles as the kuroniówka (literally "Kuroń's soup") in tribute to Jacek Kuroń's legacy as Minister for Social Policy.

Jacek Kuroń was a proud owner of a yellow thermos bottle. Many people speculated about its content. Some claimed it contained whisky. They reached this conclusion, because Kuroń, unlike other politicians, used to be very straightforward and sincere. The riddle of the yellow thermos was uncovered in the book “Urban Legends” by Mark Barber and Wojciech Orliński. Orliński happened to have an opportunity to taste the content of the thermos. To his great surprise, the liquid to which Kuroń was addicted was not an alcoholic beverage, but an extremely strong tea. The yellow thermos accompanied Kuroń on his last journey.

Bibliography

  • An Open Letter to the Party - A Revolutionary Socialist Manifesto (with Karol Modzelewski), London: Pluto Press, 1969 (English Translation)
  • How to Get Out of a Dead-End Situation Telos 51 (Spring 1982). New York: Telos Press.
  • (Polish) Text of an "List Otwarty Do Partii" ("Open Letter to Party")
  • (Polish) Recycling of Ideas, 2006-06-27.
  • (Polish) Anna Bikont, Joanna Szczęsna. "Jacek Kuroń, 1934-2004", 2006-09-18 (accessed 2006-09-25).
  • Soviet communism and the socialist vision, Julius Jacobson (ed.) Transaction Publishers, 1972; p. 242-282. (American translation of “An Open Letter to the Party” pp. 242–282)
  • Solidarność, the missing link: a new edition of Poland's classic revolutionary socialist manifesto: Kuron and Modzelewski's open letter to the Party. London: Bookmarks, 1982. (British translation with useful introduction by Colin Barker.)

References

  1. ^ Szporer, Michael. Solidarity: The Great Workers Strike of 1980. Lexington Books.  
  2. ^ Szporer, Michael (2012). The Great Workers Strike of 1980. Lexington Books.  

External links

  • (Polish) Official website
  • Jacek Kuroń tells his life story at Web of Stories (video)
  • “Obituary: Jacek Kuron.” Andy Zebrowski, Socialist Review, July 2004.
  • “Jacek Kuron, of Solidarity, Dies at 70.” Michael T. Kaufman, New York Times, June 18, 2004.
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