Lech Walesa Staggers Canadian Socialists

April 1 st 1990

During last autumn's meeting of Canadian trade unionists with Lech Walesa, Jeff Rose, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, asked Walesa about the future of Polish public and social services. The following are excerpts of Mr. Rose's report on this exchange, as published in the March 19, 1990 issue of Canadian Tribune:

For all their faults, the command economy and the command society provided universal access to certain social and public services (at least on paper). The people didn't have to pay cash for education or for health care, for example.

What happens now, I asked, as Poland moves toward a pluralistic model politically, and an uncertain model economically, to the public and social services that people have come to rely upon?

His answer was, "we intend to bring prosperity so that the people can have cash to make choices. That's what we're aiming at. We have no set idea about how public services will be provided. But the key point for us is that the system will not be monopolistic. Once people have money in their pockets they can decide what goods they want to buy and what services they want to buy. Anyway, universal access under the old regime was a myth."

I think the unionists around the table were staggered by that answer, as I was. Essentially, what he meant was that if the Humana corporation is willing to go into Poland and run all the hospitals, great.

It's amazing that Canadian socialists persist in trying to redeem an obviously corrupt system, while they depict their own society in the worst possible light. Perhaps people like Jeff Rose should spend some time in countries where their idealized "command economy and command society" has been put into practice. They might then no longer be "staggered" by people like Walesa who do not have the luxury of fantasizing about what exists "at least on paper."

 

Harry Antonides came to Canada in 1948, initially working as a farm hand and railway labourer. After over a decade working in a chemical plant in Sarnia, Ontario, Harry joined the newly forming Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) in 1962 as a field representative. By 1970 Harry became director of research and education. In 1974, he was a founding member of the Work Research Foundation (now Cardus) and publisher of their sole publication, Comment magazine. A prolific writer and dynamic speaker, Harry delivered lectures all over North America and published numerous articles, reviews, and essays. He is author of several books on Christianity, labour, and economics, including Multinationals and the Peacable Kingdom (1978) and Stones for Bread: The Social Gospel and its Contemporary Legacy (1985). Harry is retired and lives with his wife Janet in Willowdale, Ontario.

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