Jacek Kuroń

Jacek Kuroń

Infobox Officeholder
name = Jacek Kuroń


imagesize =
small

caption =
order = Member of Sejm
term_start = 4 June 1989
term_end = 18 October 2001
vicepresident =
viceprimeminister =
deputy =
president =
primeminister =
predecessor =
successor =
order2 = Minister of Labour and Social Policy of the Republic of Poland|Minister of Labour and Social Policy
term_start2 = 12 September 1989
term_end2 = 12 December 1990
vicepresident2 =
viceprimeminister2 =
deputy2 =
president2 = Wojciech Jaruzelski
primeminister2 = Tadeusz Mazowiecki
predecessor2 = Michał Czarski
successor2 = Michał Boni
order3 = Minister of Labour and Social Policyof the Republic of Poland|Minister of Labour and Social Policy
term_start3 = 11 July 1992
term_end3 = 26 October 1993
vicepresident3 =
viceprimeminister3 =
deputy3 =
president3 = Lech Wałęsa
primeminister3 = Hanna Suchocka
predecessor3 = Jerzy Kropiwnicki
successor3 = Leszek Miller
birth_date = 3 march 1934
birth_place = Lvov, Second Polish Republic
death_date = death date and age|2004|6|17|1934|3|3|mf=y
death_place = Warsaw, Poland
constituency =
party =
spouse =
profession =
religion = Atheist


footnotes =

Jacek Jan Kuroń (pronounced|ˈjatsɛk ˈjan ˈkurɔɲ, born 3 March 1934 in Lvov, died 17 January 2004 in Warsaw) was one of the democratic leaders of opposition in the People's Republic of Poland. Kuroń was a Polish prominent social and political figure; educator and historian; an activist of the Polish Scouting Association; co-founder of the Workers' Defence Committee; twice a Minister of Labour and Social Policy. Privately, Kuroń was a father of Polish famous chef, Maciej Kuroń.

Biography

Kuroń was born in 1934 in a family that advocated the Polish Socialist Party (PPS). In 1949, he became a member of the Association of the Polish Youth (ZMP). Since 1952, he had been working 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 Worker’s 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 in June 26, 2004. He was buried in the Avenue of the Meritious in the Powązki Army Cemetery in Warsaw. The ceremony was attended by close friends, supporters, Polish youth and children. Although Kuroń was an atheist, representatives of all religious communities came to display their great respect for the real freeman.

Early social and political activities

In 1955 a Discussion Club Krzywe Koło (KK - Crooked Circle) was established. Jacek Kuroń and Karol Modzelewski were among the most prominent members of the club. In 1957 Kuroń graduated from the Faculty of History at the University of Warsaw. In 1964, together with Karol Modzelewski, he wrote "The Open Letter to the Party". In this letter he criticized a new ruling and bureaucratic class. He suggested replacing the existing system with worker’s democracy, including organizing a referendum according to which major decisions concerning a distribution of national income would be made. The immediate aim was to have a consent of all workers to make decisions on economic plans. Kuroń’s critique was closely related to the ideas of Marxism and Trotskyism. In 1965, he was sentenced to three years in prison for "The Open Letter to the Party". Released in 1967, he was arrested again. In 1968 Kuroń was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for organizing student strikes during March Events. In 1975, he helped to organize a protest against the passage of amendments to the Constitution of the People's Republic of Poland.

In July and August 1980, Kuroń was organizing an information network for the striking laborers. In September 1980, he became an advisor for the Founding Committee of the Solidarity Movement. On 13 December 1981 the Martial Law was introduced in Poland. Therefore, his activities were intervened. 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 a few nicknames – Maciej Gajka, Elżbieta Grażyna Borucka, 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 February 6 to April 4, 1989. The government initiated the discussion with the banned trade union Solidarność and other opposition groups in an attempt to defuse growing social unrest. Following the factory strikes of the early 1980s and the subsequent formation of the (then still underground) Solidarity movement under the leadership of Lech Wałęsa the political situation in Poland started relaxing somewhat. Despite an attempt by the government to crack down on the anti-Communist sentiments the times were changing and it became impossible to hold off change anymore. In addition there was fear of a social explosion due to economic malaise and runaway inflation that had depressed Polish living standards and deepened public anger and frustration.

The round table talks were held open to the public in a town called Magdalenka, located to the south of Warsaw. The opposition representatives, among Jacek Kuron, were Lech Walesa, Jaroslaw i Lech Kaczynscy, Jan Olszewski, Janusz Onyszkiewicz, Jan Rokita, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Andrzej Stelmachowsk and others. The communist coalition was represented by Aleksander Olechowski, Leszek Miller, Andrzej Olechowski, Czeslaw Kiszczak, Stanislaw Ciosek and others.

An agreement ("Round Table Agreement") was signed on April 4, 1989. The most important postulates were: Legalisation of independent trade unions; The introduction of the office of President (thereby annulling the power of the Communist party general secretary) who would be elected to 6-year terms; The formation of a Senate. As a result, real political power was vested in a newly created bicameral legislature and in a president who would be the chief executive. As a result, real political power was vested in a newly created bicameral legislature and in a president who would be the chief executive. Solidarność became a legitimate and legal political party. Free election to 35% of the seats in Sejm and an entirely free election to the Senate was assured.

The election of 4 June 1989 brought a landslide victory to Solidarność: 99% of all the seats in the Senate and 35% of all possible seats in Sejm. General Wojciech Jaruzelski, whose name was the only one the Communist Party allowed on the ballot for the presidency, won by just one vote in the National Assembly. The 65-35 division was soon abolished as well, after the first truly free Sejm elections.

The Round Table sessions were of momentous importance to the future political developments in Poland. They paved the way to a free and democratic Poland as well as the final abolition of communism in Poland. Poland has now truly entered a new chapter in its history. The changes were so large that allowed the formation of the Third Polish Republic.

In 1989-1990 and 1992 -1993 Kuroń was a Minister of Labor and Social Policy. From 1989 to 2001 he was a member of 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 run for the office of the president of the Republic of Poland. With support of 9.2 %, Kuroń won a third of votes.

Awards

Kuroń was recognized not only by the government of Poland but also by a number of other European countries. In 1998 he was awarded a Polish Order of the White Eagle, French Legion of Honour, German Cross of Merit, Ukrainian Order of Jaroslaw the Wise, Lithuanian Order of the Great Prince Gediminas of Lithuania. On the 4th of 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. He was nominated to by children associated in the Association of the Ill Children “SERCE” (eng. Heart). The same award was given to 14th Dalai Lama – also a close friend of Jacek Kuroń.

ocial 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 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 worth paying attention: “Action” and “Republic for my Grandchildren.” In the latter, Kuroń highly criticized neoliberalism, which deepens social divisions and alienation of the political class. Kuroń opted for social movements and education. His last public speech from 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. Many people speculated about its content. Some claimed it was Whisky Kuroń kept there. They reached this conclusion because Kuroń, unlike other politicians used to be very straightforward and sincere. Moreover, his opponents claimed that he was “corrupted by the communists” Having many dollars in his bank account, he could have afforded buying whisky in the Pewex chain of hard currency stores. 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 which Kuroń was addicted to, was not an alcoholic beverage but an extremely strong tea. The yellow thermos accompanied Kuroń on his last journey.

Bibliography

* [http://www.pracdem0.republika.pl/strony/listotwarty_kur_modz.html] Text of an Open Letter to Party (Text in Polish)
* [http://www.recykling.uni.wroc.pl/index.php?section=3&article=182] Recycling of Ideas, 27.06.2006 (Article in Polish)
* [http://serwisy.gazeta.pl/kraj/1,75687,3626057.html] Anna Bikont, Joanna Szczęsna. "Jacek Kuroń, 1934-2004". 18 września 2006. [accessed 25 września 2006] .

External links

* [http://www.kuron.pl/ Official homepage] in Polish


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