In this Labor Day edition of “The Learning Curve,” Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Timothy Garton Ash, Professor of European Studies at the University of Oxford, Isaiah Berlin Professorial Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford, and the author of The Polish Revolution: Solidarity. Professor Garton Ash shares insights on what both the public and students should know about Poland’s Solidarity movement, the first independent trade union (with 10 million members) behind the Iron Curtain, and its charismatic co-founder, Lech Walesa. They discuss the wide range of support for it, from U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, to peace campaigners and socialists, and how it helped topple Soviet communism. He explains Poland’s role during World War II as ground zero of the Holocaust, how Allied decisions at Yalta set the stage for the Cold War, and lessons that we should remember in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The interview concludes with a reading from his book.
Stories of the Week: Loan forgiveness programs and other issues surrounding higher education are already political – but could politicos push the envelope by imposing tuition caps or outcome-based funding, interfere with autonomy in hiring, or target affirmative action programs? A new initiative is tackling big, structural problems in K-12 education, developing tools that can help parents with more flexible learning options, greater equity, and access to postsecondary college and career opportunities.
Timothy Garton Ash is Professor of European Studies in the University of Oxford, Isaiah Berlin Professorial Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. At St Antony’s, he also directs the Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom. He is the author of ten books of political writing or ‘history of the present’ including The Magic Lantern: The Revolution of ‘89 Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin, & Prague; The File: A Personal History; In Europe’s Name; Facts are Subversive; and Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World. His newest book, Homelands: A Personal History of Europe in Our Time, is scheduled for release in early 2023. He writes a column on international affairs in the Guardian, which is widely syndicated, and is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books, amongst other journals. Awards he has received for his writing include the Somerset Maugham Award, Prix Européen de l’Essai, and George Orwell Prize. In May 2017, he was awarded the International Charlemagne Prize of the city of Aachen.
The next episode will air on Weds., September 14th, with Dr. Bill Evers and Ze’ev Wurman, of the Independent Institute.
Tweet of the Week:
Even as demand goes up for Black students in STEM fields, the supply of Black scientists, engineers and mathematicians is flat or falling. https://t.co/B8O5jL4Rem
— The Hechinger Report (@hechingerreport) July 25, 2022
Higher Education Is About to Get Even More Political
A New Initiative to Tackle Education’s Big Problems – For all the rhetoric around ‘reimagining’ and ‘reinventing’ schooling, there’s precious little to show for it.
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Read a Transcript of This Episode
Please excuse typos.
[00:00:00] Cara: Learning Curve listeners, this is Cara Candal here with my Intrepid Co-host the wonderful, the great, the amazing Gerard Robinson, my friend, who is an encyclopedia of all things. History, Gerard, here we are recording coming up on Labor Day weekend. Not gonna lie to a listeners we’re recording before labor day because what is labor day?
[00:00:44] If not an opportunity for three day weekend, Gerard.
[00:00:47] GR: Absolutely. And by the way, always good to be with. Always
[00:00:50] Cara: good to be with you. And so I was thinking about labor day yesterday. Interestingly, my eight year old son we were having dinner and he brought up the question that I think a lot of [00:01:00] kids think about because he doesn’t like mommy there, you know, as he watches me work all day long and I put him off until a certain time of day, who’s saying, you know, mommy, Maybe we wouldn’t all have to work so much if we all just shared things.
[00:01:13] And he was basically giving me, you know, a really great argument for communism. And I was trying to, I was trying to explain to him that folks have tried that, and it hasn’t gone so well in the past, but in his eight year old brain, it was, you know, a good burden and exchange system was in order. But it got me thinking that labor day.
[00:01:30] Isn’t just really a long weekend where I eat. My second hot dog of the year is at Gerard it’s really, about labor and it’s a holiday that’s been with us for well over a hundred years, I think, going on like 120, 130 years now, Gerard. it’s recognized by. Labor activists and is, a day when we’re supposed to think about workers.
[00:01:55] Think about what we all do to contribute to the health and prosperity of this [00:02:00] country. I know that you probably have just encyclopedic knowledge of labor day. Is there any knowledge you’d like to drop to our.
[00:02:08] GR: Actually no think what you’ve shared is, good. I know some things about it, but not as much as I do other areas.
[00:02:13] So this is one where I am not only not in encyclopedia, I’m not even sure I have more than a thumbnail. Worth of information about labor day, which is sad, cuz I should know more
[00:02:25] Cara: well that’s cuz you don’t have the Google page pulled up like I do, but at any anyway, at any rate before we get to the story of the week too there have been a couple headlines today about Nate results.
[00:02:36] None of them surprising. I think the biggest headline we have so far. Is that the pandemic really affected the kids who already had the least the most. Does that make sense? The pandemic really affected the kids who already had the least, the most meaning kids who were already struggling to meet what we would call proficiency standards in school were the ones who showed the biggest [00:03:00] drops in proficiency.
[00:03:01] So. Not shocking, but really scary. Uh, I think the New York times headline said something like it’s. Us back decades in terms of gains that were made in some places in reading and math achievement. But I will say Gerard that as state by state results come out, one of the things I’m gonna be looking for are those states.
[00:03:23] I’m gonna go back to Mississippi who have made really serious concerted efforts at curriculum reform, especially in reading and math over the past decade or so. Let’s, see if they. Manage to hang in there. In comparison to states who haven’t made such across the board reforms, I’m gonna be really curious to see have you paid any attention to this today, Gerard?
[00:03:44] GR: No, I’ve actually been on back to back. Board meetings also had an opportunity to listen to The Virginia Lieutenant governor Winston Sears. I talk about education. So I’ve been back to back zoom meetings. So I’ve got some reading to do, but when I hear that, you know, we’re gonna be set back a [00:04:00] decade, 20 years ago, I would’ve taken that as, wow.
[00:04:03] I mean, this is gonna be a challenge when I hear things like that now. I see it more through the lens of politics. It means that we now need more money that we’re gonna come up with excuses rather than rationales for why some of those students can’t learn. It means we’re not gonna hold school systems as accountable as they should be given the amount of money that we give.
[00:04:20] And that it’s also gonna become a political tool for those to use over. Just over power by philanthropy and everything else. So, I’m gonna look into that. You said New York times I’ll read that, but I will read some more, but I’m already on the record of talking about Nate scores and the symbolic ritualism that we put into it every year.
[00:04:39] I think it’s important. I like it. We need it, but let’s put it in perspective.
[00:04:43] Cara: yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I mean, amen. We need it, but like I said, too, I think. for me, one of the great tools of Nate, especially these state by state comparisons, that there’re very, there are a lot of reasons. Our great producer, Jamie gas, and I argue about this sometimes, right?
[00:04:58] There are a lot of reasons that some states are on [00:05:00] top and some of that has to do with reforms that those states have made. And some of it has to do with wealth, it’s hard to suss it all out, but that’s why I think it’s really cool to be able to identify. That have said, you know, we’re gonna commit and Massachusetts did some years ago, right.
[00:05:16] Commit to a certain brand of education reform that we think is based in evidence. And to watch those states actually bring levels up for students. I think that to me is one of the great values of NA. And hopefully that shouldn’t be a political thing, but I take your point. It often becomes a political thing.
[00:05:32] And speaking of politics. So my story of today, The title is higher ed is about to get more political. This is written by right. Hey segue, Tyler Cohen of, of Bloomberg it’s, it’s an opinion piece. And this one was thought provoking for me. I don’t know about you, my friend, but that’s student loan debt.
[00:05:53] I am one of the gajillions of Americans out there and my undergraduate education and my doctoral work [00:06:00] was basically free. But my parents were not in a position. After I got a pretty great amount of scholarship money to attend Indiana university. I was a huger after high school. And then I, I also got some scholarship money, both at the university of Chicago and my doctoral work was paid for at Boston university, but I didn’t have money to live on.
[00:06:22] And my parents didn’t have the kind of funding that Hope someday I can be able to give my own children to basically support me through college. So I worked many, many jobs and I took out student loans that I probably couldn’t afford. And luckily I am employed in a manner that allows me to pay those loans back over time.
[00:06:39] And they’re. It’s gonna take me a while, but the Biden loan forgiveness plan, it’s getting a lot of attention, right? Because I’m sure people who are able to get some of that money forgiven are feeling a great amount of relief, but there’s also a large portion of the population. That just doesn’t like this idea and [00:07:00] that’s this article is really about the potential backlash, right?
[00:07:03] So I think that there’s a feeling out there, certainly, probably among those who are able to see some of that relief that, wow. how could this not be. A popular thing, but it’s no secret that there are many, especially on the political right. Who don’t like it. And there are other citizens on the political left who don’t think it’s fair.
[00:07:20] And what this opinion piece does is it talks about the many ways in which Republicans if, and when they regain power, because remember this is an executive order, can, sort of. Against this and how it could make them more popular. So one of the things it discusses is that they could retaliate against institutions of higher education themselves institutions of higher education.
[00:07:44] Political certainly some really don’t like them because they see them as leaning way too far to the left. And most of us, even if we are on the left, probably don’t like them because they are ridiculously expensive. And so there’s talk [00:08:00] that. They could drain higher education of revenue by limiting tuition hikes, which are already in place in some places, but they could make them much more draconian.
[00:08:07] And I find it hard to believe that this wouldn’t be popular among anybody. No matter what your political affiliation, especially if you are saving to send your children to college they could also. Give, especially for example, state universities, less autonomy in hiring, could they, could the Republicans come up with ways to say limit positions in universities that talk about diversity, equity and inclusion, or some of the things that have been really hot button issues?
[00:08:33] In the culture at wars, especially as of late. And here’s an interesting one, one, I gotta say, I’m really intrigued by could they say to universities, your funding is gonna be dependent upon outcomes. So yes, outcomes based funding. We see this in some states like with their college and career programs in saying that we’re only gonna reward you workforce training programs, community colleges, institution of higher ed.
[00:08:57] If your graduates go on to [00:09:00] actually earn a living. To like complete their degrees and get the things that you told them they were gonna get. I think that’s a really interesting one outcomes based funding for higher ed. And then of course there’s the possibility with the perennial affirmative action cases before the Supreme court, which we.
[00:09:16] We get, at least once every decade at least I would say in this court, one can imagine it’s not been an uncontroversial court to use a double negative, could weigh in and say like, affirmative action is now completely out the window whatever’s left of it. I found this piece pretty provocative.
[00:09:35] And I take the point because I think that some of the reforms pointed out here, especially this idea that we could put a cap on tuition and stop universities from charging us 50, $60,000 a year for tuition could be popular across the board. And I’m gonna be Very interested to see how this all pans out and in luck to those who have received forgiveness for [00:10:00] some of those loans and navigating the paperwork, because it sounds like that that in and of itself is going to be a really interesting hurdle.
[00:10:06] Gerard, I know you have lots of thoughts on this. Not only as a father of, one person, I think who’s already through college and then two who um, I’m sure you’re thinking about college. What are you thinking about this one?
[00:10:16] GR: How much money when what’s the cap? Is it up to 20,000? or is it 10? No, I
[00:10:23] Cara: think it’s up to 20,000.
[00:10:24] It depends on what you take.
[00:10:26] GR: Okay. Got it. Right. You had
[00:10:28] Cara: to make fun of threshold, even
[00:10:30] GR: qualify higher. Ed is political. It’s been political since the beginning. We’re still having debates over who’s the oldest public university in the country is at Georgia is at UNC. Because even how you decide that says a lot about tenacity.
[00:10:47] First of all, he made this a campaign promise. And so if you voted for Biden, you could check the box that he kept this promise to his constituents. Number two, as someone who has loans, [00:11:00] Hey, if someone wants to forgive them, I get it. Number three, it took a long time to get to this point. , why didn’t he do that during the first a hundred days?
[00:11:10] I think that could have sent a strong signal that it was truly about helping relieve debt doing it right now, you know, months before the November election, given the point that he has with his low approval ratings. It seems much more like a political point, but guess what Republicans do the same thing when they’re in office fourth.
[00:11:28] Democrats also see this as a challenge. I mean, when you take someone who is a longtime democratic uh, supporter, let’s look at the Paul tagalo who works for Clinton. He called this a terrible policy and he said, I want to help folks. I’m a progressive I’m in the work. He thinks it’s a bad policy in terms of politic.
[00:11:48] That’s one, but he also thinks it’s a bad policy just in how the government should work and move forward with some of these things. So, I don’t have any really much more to say about that [00:12:00] because it’s politics. But one thing Paul did say, which was interesting, he said for the amount of money that we’re gonna spend, he said you could have fund free pre-K education for every three and four year old.
[00:12:14] For 10 years, his thing was, there are other things we could have done. I think your article is getting to the same area, but you know what? I applaud president Biden. Yeah. For keeping a campaign promise. student debt is a challenge over 1.7 trillion. Some of it is driven by the incentives that we give to higher education institutions to raise money.
[00:12:34] And there we are.
[00:12:37] GR: And
[00:12:37] Cara: there we are. what are you thinking about this week?
[00:12:40] GR: So mine
[00:12:41] GR: is about politics, but not high level politics is really about K12. And this is from the 74 and it’s written by Andrew Rotherham, who is a partner and co-founder of Bellwether. He’s also now a new Virginia board of education, state member appointed by youngin within the last month.
[00:12:58] He’s been on the board [00:13:00] before and he’s left of center and he’s a reformer. And so he shows. The kind of, intellectual and policy, we’d like to see . So his article is about beta at bellwether and in the 74, the title is, it’s not enough just to reimagine ed the education sector it’s time to rebuild it.
[00:13:21] And so Andy says, listen, for all the talk about re imagin. Reinventing schooling. He said, there’s very little evidence to actually show for it. So rather than talk about it, he decided to bring together really bellwether a group of experts, because he said so many of them work in silos and that reform is fragmented.
[00:13:40] The pandemic of course did not help. And then when we have governmental response is often reactionary and dysfunctional. So by launching beta by bell, It’s a new initiative. That’s bringing together viewpoint and background diversity experts, bringing ’em together to tackle really big problems and develop blueprints.
[00:13:57] And so when they’re thinking about [00:14:00] strategies that they want to put together, of course you gotta identify problems. So there at least three that he mentioned that it’s worth mentioning. So number one, he says, as our school year gets under. And results from spring testing are finally made available. And then we can of course add a caveat of what we see for Nate.
[00:14:17] It’s clear that both parents and educators want better opportunities for learning. That was true before the pandemic polling by organizations, such as five Delta cap organizations, such as choice Gallup and others. Have shown Democrats, Republicans, urban, rural. They really want better learning opportunities for their children.
[00:14:40] A lot of them can exist and do exist in the public sector, some outside, but with the pandemic, it really expanded the conversation about better opportunities. So. They’re gonna bring together a group of people to see what that’s gonna look like. So let me go to Andy’s second issue. And this is also about parents right now.
[00:14:58] Parents spend more [00:15:00] than 200 billion annually on supplemental educational opportunities for their children. Now let’s put that in context. 750 billion and more spent annually on public education. Right now that’s local state and federal. We know that the federal investments, probably 10%, the additional nineties coming from, or the remaining nineties coming from state and local government.
[00:15:24] That’s a lot of money, but that only tells part of the problem. I’m actually one of the 200 billion spent on supplemental education by having our two younger daughters involved in a number of academic, athletic, social activities outside of school to supplement learning, but also to supplement their intellectual, social, emotional growth.
[00:15:45] So you have someone Brookings scholar named Dr. Isabelle Sahi. She wrote in the book as well as a paper called the parenting gap. That one of the ways that we’ve gotta get real about trying to close the achievement gap is [00:16:00] understanding that some parents are able to supplement their children’s education outside of school.
[00:16:04] So even if we put more money into the public school system, into the traditional, let’s say eight to five, eight to two school day, their. For doing something else like ours, like you as well, like many of our listeners, I don’t want anybody to feel guilty or entitled or whatever term we want to use for taking care of your children and having the means.
[00:16:22] I’m not gonna apologize for using the education. I receive the money that I make and the social networks that I’ve built. To help my child, you and I are both involved in reforms. We’re trying to open that up to many more children through the type of policy and fiscal reforms that we support at the same time.
[00:16:39] That’s a gap that we may not be able to do a lot about from a governmental perspective. And so. Andy and his team in fact may totally prove me wrong. There may be government I’m sure. Pretty sure there are governmental ways to make that happen. But we’ll see how that’ll happen, but that was pretty interesting to me.
[00:16:56] And he also noted that, although there are an array of [00:17:00] services. That schools are spending, the amount families are spending has skyrocketed. So that’s going to continue along the way. Third, he says there’s enormous promise in assembling a more customized approach to schooling. And some of that of course will look at school finance.
[00:17:16] And so in particular, he talked about Arizona where it’s land. Finance reform has made tremendous ramifications on a more assembled education. So I look forward to reading more about beta by bellwether. I look forward to reading what they write. They always have really good stuff. And we’ll see where it goes from there.
[00:17:37] What are your thoughts?
[00:17:38] Timothy Garton Ash: My
[00:17:38] Cara: thoughts is that I have one, one thought micro grants, right? Mm. If there, if there is one. Innovation to come out of the money that states spent during the pandemic. my money is on micro grants. now did all of them go well, we had micro grants and I believe five. did they all go?
[00:17:59] Well, [00:18:00] no, because they got up in a sloppy manner, but some of them went incredibly well. I’m gonna point you to Texas. I think they’ve got what I like to call the sleeper hit of micrograms in Texas. I mean, here’s Texas. Not the most like choice parent centered, friendly state. Right. They’ve got some great charter schools and that’s about as far as they’re willing to go, but they have a micro grant administered by the department of education for supplemental educational services.
[00:18:28] It’s for children with very specific disabilities. They’ve expanded it at my last look and I’m sure the number’s much larger. Now they had 20,000 families on a waiting list for that micro grant. And what does it do? It provides, I think at the time it was only $2,500. It might be a little bit more now $2,500 to families of students with very specific needs to use on things like educational therapies after school tutoring, whatever it is, and families loved it so much.
[00:18:58] they actually took what [00:19:00] was a pandemic era, federally funded with relief money program. And they made law. Now, as you know, Texas is one of those states where it’s legislature only meets every other year. So we’ll be looking to see what Texas does to put more money toward their program and open up to more families.
[00:19:16] But here’s the catch. And I wonder if bellwether would agree with me, when we think about micro grant, It’s not enough to say to families. I mean, I, Gerard I ventured a guess that you and I probably spend the same amount of money on supplemental programming for our children. May, maybe I’ve got an edge on you only because I live in a pretty darn expensive city, but , it’s no small feat, right?
[00:19:40] It can be an enormous chunk of change, whether you’re talking KU mom. Or music lessons, like all of the things, these are very large expenses for many, many families. And so to say to a family uh, here’s 500 bucks for a year. Let me tell you something. It doesn’t go that far. So we need to think about.
[00:19:58] Making these [00:20:00] meaningful, what’s the right number. So I encourage states. Don’t just say here, everybody gets a little bit of the piece of the pie and everybody gets their 500 bucks. No, choose the families that really otherwise wouldn’t be able to do this, give them a substantial amount of money to do this.
[00:20:14] And here’s the other thing I love about this is that when you and I talk about choice programs in parent centered for forms and parent centered funding, it’s always a threat to the public school system. we can talk about that forever. this is not this should in fact, take some of the burden off public schools to be all things to all kids.
[00:20:33] And we leverage high quality private providers, just like you. And I do out of pocket expenses and many parents do to give more kids the access that they need. So I’m watching this too, and I love it. And I just took up way too much air time, Gerard, because it is time for us to bring in today’s guest who is waiting for us in the.
[00:20:54] Because in just a moment, we are gonna be speaking with professor Timothy garden, Ash of Oxford [00:21:00] university. So Gerard, I always love this conversation. We’re gonna have even more coming up right after this.
[00:21:28] Learning curve listeners. We’re really pleased to have with us today. Timothy Garton Ash. He is professor of European studies in the university of Oxford, Isaiah Berlin, professorial fellow at St. Anton’s college. And a senior fellow at the Hoover institution at Stanford university at St. Anton’s. He also directs the Darren Endorf program for the study of freedom.
[00:21:48] He is the author of 10 books of political writing or history of the present, including the magic lantern, the revolution of 89 witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin, and Prague, [00:22:00] the file, a personal history in Europe’s. Facts are subversive and free speech, 10 principles for a connected world. He writes on a column on international affairs in the guardian, which is widely syndicated and is a regular contributor to the New York review of books among other journals awards he has received for his writing include the Somerset mom award, the pre-European data say, I’m sure I said that incorrectly.
[00:22:25] And the George Orwell prize in May, 2017. He was awarded the international Charlaine prize of the city of Ochen. And we should note that professor garden Ash’s new book homelands, a personal history of Europe will be published by Yale university press next spring, professor Timothy Garton Ash.
[00:22:45] Welcome to The Learning Curve. Great
[00:22:48] Timothy Garton Ash: pleasure to be with you.
[00:22:49] Cara: Oh, well, we’re so happy to have you here. And I have to say as a young person years ago, I spent my very first job was teaching in the Czech Republic and that [00:23:00] was it. Would’ve been 1997. So very, not, too long after things opened up over there.
[00:23:05] So I’m, I’m very interested in this conversation today. Just given my own personal experience. So let’s jump right in in your 1983 book, the Polish revolution solidarity, you wrote that the range of support for solidarity was unique. It was backed by President Reagan famously of course, Pope John Paul II, Prime Minister Thatcher, peace campaigners. conservatives, liberal socialist.
[00:23:29] And as we mark this Labor Day, could you share with us with the public and students should know about Poland’s Solidarity movement and how a free labor union helped topple communism in that country.
[00:23:44] Timothy Garton Ash: everybody knows about the fall of the Berlin wall on the 9th of November, 1989.
[00:23:51] But the polls, like to say with some reason that this great opposition movement called Sono [00:24:00] solidarity actually punched the first hole in the Berlin wall. It was born of a strike movement in August, 1980, in which the workers, particularly in these huge communist state enterprises linked up together.
[00:24:19] Big coordinated action strength in unity and compelled a communist regime. Something that had not happened since 1917, since the Russian revolution compelled a communist regime to recognize an independent trades union, this and what followed, which was a, 16 months of a peaceful revolution was I would say the closest thing we’ve come.
[00:24:48] In history ever to a genuine worker’s Revolution. The Russian revolution, wasn’t a genuine worker’s revolution. It was led by intellectuals like linen by a pioneer party. [00:25:00] This was a, a revolution led by workers like the famous figure of Lea who won the Nobel peace prize in 1983. And because it was an anti communist movement, it got support from the right as well as the left.
[00:25:15] It got support from the church as well as from socialists. So it. A most amazing historical event, a genuine worker’s revolution against a so-called worker state. And when Miha goov came to power in 19 80, 85 solidarity, which had been suppressed by martial law by tanks in the streets, came back and actually made the first negotiated revolution of 1989, which prefigured.
[00:25:49] The fall of the Berlin wall and opened the door to the completely different Europe we have today.
[00:25:55] Cara: Absolutely a completely different Europe than we have today. [00:26:00] It’s very interesting that you know, that this was a workers’ revolution against a so-called workers’ state. It’s fascinating. How this all began.
[00:26:09] Could you tell us a little bit more, you say in your book that Yalta is where the story of solidarity really begins. So talk to us about Poland, especially as ground zero for the hol. And how the decisions that the allies made at Yalta set the stage for the cold war, which ultimately led to the solidarity
[00:26:29] Timothy Garton Ash: movement.
[00:26:30] the second world war began actually, Today, the 1st of September is when we’re speaking 1939 with the German attack on Poland. Poland was the first major state victim of the second world war and paid an extraordinary price because it was then invaded on. Two weeks later, 17th of September from the east by Stalin Soviet [00:27:00] union.
[00:27:00] And in the course of the second world war close to 6 million pre-war Polish citizens died roughly half of them being Jewish. So that many of the worst extermination counts were on Polish soil because that’s where so many of the Jews. Of Europe were. So here you have this convicted of the second world war of both fascist and Soviet communist aggression and the poll, many of whom fought heroically against both oppressors Soviet communist stand out to German, hoped that at the end of it, they would be a free country.
[00:27:43] They actually rose up in 1944 to liberate the capital Warsaw in the hope of it becoming the capital of a free country, instead of which all the territory was occupied by the red army. The country was taken over by a puppet regime, [00:28:00] loyal to Moscow and became a communist state, the polls. And when I first went there, I kept hearing people saying this word, I didn’t understand jota jota, jota.
[00:28:15] And I wondered, what on earth does this strange word mean? Is it like O dear or dam or blast? It actually meant Y. It was a polished pronunciation of Yelta pose, blame it on a deal made between the west, between Franklin D Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Jovi Stalin at an international conference. INTA.
[00:28:38] Interestingly in the crimee now Russian occupied in February, 1945. This is a half proof. The grid army was already there. Stalin was gonna do what Stalin was gonna do, but. What we in the west did and what, by the way, we have to avoid at all costs doing again, in respect of [00:29:00] Putin’s war of recolonization against Ukraine is to give an ambiguous legitimacy to the Soviet takeover that begins a story of solidarity because ultimately solidarity was also a national liberation movement.
[00:29:15] And what this was all about. Was ultimately being a free country by which they mean an independent country and a country of free citizens. And that’s what Poland became after 1989. And alas is now in danger of losing again.
[00:29:34] Cara: yeah. absolutely. It’s amazing that we’re here already. For those of us who are old enough to remember, and I think many of our listeners probably are, I know I am the fall of the Berlin wall.
[00:29:46] this monumental moment, I think for people who probably didn’t even understand where Berlin was at the time, many of us, especially the young, but it’s been said by, and you’ll forgive me, my pronunciation here. I know you can correct me by Poland’s lake [00:30:00] Les. The great solidarity movement leader and dissident and statesmen it’s been said that the fall of the Berlin wall makes for nice pictures.
[00:30:09] But it all started in the shipyards. So what should young people know about Lesa as a labor leader, as well as the other 10 million members of the solidarity movement, many of whom were just average striking workers working in the shipyard.
[00:30:26] Timothy Garton Ash: to say that the fall of the Berlin wall was just nice pictures, but the real business was done in Poland is a touch of Polish megalomania. I have to say um, it was a great event, the fall of the Berlin wall. And a lot of people put a lot of work and courage into making it happen. the figure left of our answer gets slightly hidden behind.
[00:30:53] The fall of the wall and what has happened since in great figures, like mic goov. He was a true, [00:31:00] popular Tribune, a genuine worker. He came from a peasant farmer’s family. He was an electrician who worked in the, what was in called the lending shipyard in dens, on the Baltic coast. He was sacked for his political activity and then came back to lead the.
[00:31:17] Occupation strike in August, 1980 and then to lead solidarity. And he was an amazing figure cuz he was an ordinary guy, but like many great labor leaders and were thinking about labor day. He had the gift of the gap. He was a great speaker. He was a great joker. He could carry people with him and he also had a extraordinary political instinct and that one individual was key to.
[00:31:48] Keeping people on board, keeping the movement going and eventually leading the way to the negotiated revolution of 1989. It has to be said that after that [00:32:00] he became a much more problematic figure the authoritarian president of the country. And there’s a lesson in that. Which is that people who can be true heroes in one period or one situation and left forSo was a true hero in the 1980s will not necessarily behave so well in another period, but he’s undoubtedly one of the great figures of recent European history.
[00:32:28] GR: So I remember in 1978, being at a Catholic high school act like Catholic school at that time in Los Angeles, when. Pope John Paul was elected Pope in 78. It was called a miracle. You said that in your book Poland’s perhaps the most captive country in the world. So in looking at that, what would you say to, you know, our listeners about how this Polish pop, whose deep faith and love classical learning his gift for the dramatic, you’ve talked about his communication [00:33:00] directly.
[00:33:00] How was he able to use all of that to communicate. People in Poland, as well as solidarity workers who later changed history.
[00:33:08] Timothy Garton Ash: So if we said that the fall of the Berlin wall began with. So with solidarity, in a way, the story of solidarity begins with the election of the Polish Pope, Carol VO tour, former Archbishop of crack of already a charismatic figure and his first visit to his native land in 1979, summer 1979.
[00:33:34] More than a week. It was as if the communist state no longer existed wherever he went. Hundreds of thousands, millions, even of people , came out and responded to him, prayed with him, sang with him. And he had this extraordinary theatrical gift. He was a great actor. He could persuade a million people that he was talking to.
[00:33:56] Each of them individually. I’ve seen him do it in 1983. [00:34:00] And although many people regard him as a conservative figure, which he was for example, on the teaching, on birth control and on some social issues, the Catholic church under John Paul, second preached universal human. Right. And that made a common platform where people who were believers and were not believers could join together in the fight for universal human rights.
[00:34:28] So it was both the personality of the Pope. It was the strength of the church in an overwhelmingly Catholic country, but it was also this message of universal. Human rights, one or two of your listeners may remember that Joseph Stalin once famously said or said to have said, haha, how many divisions has the Pope?
[00:34:54] Well, Pope John Paul II proved that he got quite a lot of divisions and [00:35:00] one of the biggest divisions was this great Polish national liberation movement called solidarity.
[00:35:06] GR: Lady Thatcher in 1988, visited Poland and that included meeting with the solidarity leader. And she said it was one of the most triumphant and emotional episodes of her career. Could you discuss the enthusiastic reception that iron lady received from the Polish shipyard workers as well as parishioners at St.
[00:35:26] Bridges Catholic church and how that was crucial to cold world dynamics?
[00:35:30] Timothy Garton Ash: I was actually that. In Goodine for her visit and it was unforgettable the enthusiasm, the excitement. I, I remember one graffiti, which said Mrs. Satcher, please buy Poland. and a friend of mine actually interpreted between Margaret Satcher and Lea.
[00:35:50] Since both of them spoke 16, Dozen and didn’t listen much. It must have been quite a task to interpret between these two great figures, but you know, many people would say, [00:36:00] Hey, this is weird. Margaret Satcher, , the neoliberal along with Ronald Reagan, the woman who was the great enemy of the trade unions in Britain being a hero for a trade union in Poland.
[00:36:14] But you understand that when you understand. That the enemy of solidarity was a communist state. And of course she was a great anti communist. It was a movement for freedom and independence. And secondly, because they had a command economy under the communist regime, a central planned economy, they really wanted more.
[00:36:35] Free market economics of the kind that she represented and, then got them after 1989. So I think that all does it son and their very strange bedfellows on the face of it. It actually makes sense that Margaret Satcher was, such a hero to them. The iron lady and by the way, she was also.
[00:36:57] A great fan of Michelle [00:37:00] goov and she had a lot of political wisdom in urging them to understand that they had to go very carefully that Gober Charles’s position was not unthreatened in the Soviet union, that they had to move towards a negotiated revolution. So I do think that Margaret Thatcher.
[00:37:19] By no means in the same class as John Paul II, but nonetheless made a certain contribution to the success of solidarity in the end of communism , in Poland.
[00:37:30] GR: Well, right now the world is watching, what’s taking place in Ukraine with the Russian invasion you’ve talked about in your work, the politics of memory and understanding the past to inform civic educat.
[00:37:43] What are some of the larger lessons we can learn from Poland between 1979 and 89. And some of the issues you’ve shared with us as it relates to how we should think about the context of Ukraine and Russia today.
[00:37:55] Timothy Garton Ash: this is a great theme of, my new book homelands personal history of [00:38:00] Europe, which is about the importance of historical memory.
[00:38:03] If we have no. Historical memory were lost because going through life is rather like rowing. All you know, is what’s behind you the past, and you steer, you orient yourself as in rowing, by looking backwards and, fixing on some lessons from the past. And I think there are a couple of them. One of the great lessons of, of that I’m trying to write in the book is.
[00:38:29] after the end of the cold war P probably people of the generation who are listening to this podcast tended to think that Europe in particular had put war behind it. Okay. There was a war in former Yugoslavia, but that was a one off, but, but Europe was now gonna be a continent of peace. And one of the lessons of history is.
[00:38:51] Europe is always capable and vulnerable to falling back into its bad ways into the ways of [00:39:00] dictatorship, war and genocide. And, and that of course is what we’ve seen with Putin’s Russia and its invasion of Ukraine and the war of terror that it’s conducted in Ukraine. So I think that’s , one lesson.
[00:39:14] I think there’s another lesson. Which is about hope and hopelessness. , many people when I first went to Poland in 1979, said our position is completely hopeless. The only thing to do is to get blind drunk, which by the way, a lot of people did quite early in the morning, you saw drunks wandering around the streets.
[00:39:35] But what the, dissidents, the opposition leaders, people like NCES saw is that there’s a strategy for hope, even in conditions that seem hopeless. And while the position of Ukraine does not seem anything like hopeless, thanks to the support we’ve given them, which has been by the way. [00:40:00] Much more than the support we gave to Poland after 1939 for people in Russia.
[00:40:07] And I literally 20 minutes ago was just talking to one of the Russian politicians, opposition, close politicians, close to the heroic Russian opposition leader. Let’s say Naval now in prison. And this lady is, in exile in Estonia. Even in situations that appear hopeless. If you keep the faith, keep the hope and have a strategy.
[00:40:33] As solidarity had a strategy of organizing society, that was the key to solidarity success, the self-organization of organization of society. And keep going. Then when the opportunity comes, you will be ready to seize the chance. And I am absolutely persuaded that whenever Vladimir Putin goes and however, Vladimir Putin goes [00:41:00] after what’s gonna be a brief and very difficult transition, there is a real chance for a much better, more democratic Russia.
[00:41:10] Which find its place back in the larger community of nations. And so just as people were quite wrong to give up on Poland after Marshall law was declared in December, 1981 and think it’s finished and they’ll be behind the iron curtain for the next 30 years. So we have to be very, very clear in not giving up on the possibility of a democratic Russia and always having in mind.
[00:41:37] That there’s a Russian people and not just Vladimir Putin and our messages have to go to the Russian people who have hopes of a better future and not just to the dictator and the crem.
[00:41:50] GR: That’s one of the most hopeful assessments of the situation in Ukraine that I’ve heard in many weeks. So thank you for that.
[00:41:57] And thank you also for putting into [00:42:00] context, cold war politics for a generation of listeners who were not only born, not in, 1978 or 88, but who, because of a number of things simply did not study cold war politics. So thank you for that. What I’d like you to do is to read from your book uh, passage of your choosing.
[00:42:18] Timothy Garton Ash: So this passage comes from my account of the great occupation strike in the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk, Poland in August, 1980, that gave birth to solidarity. I got there within a few days of the opening of the strike, and this is how. I begin my chapter about it. What I remember most vividly from the Lenin shipyard is not the leaders Lech Walesa, but the figure of one ordinary striker.
[00:42:54] He was in his mid twenties, live with short cropped hair and piercing eyes. [00:43:00] There was something about him, which reminded me irresistibly of the young home army soldier played by Viki in Andre. Vida’s great film, Ashes and Diamonds, about the Polish resistance in the second world war. Perhaps it was a bravado with which he liked to clamber up on the shipyard gates.
[00:43:20] You can see him in some of the photos from the. Perhaps it was a girl he brought in to share the excitement. Anyway, I nicknamed him CKI with hindsight, I can see the rightness of this memory. Folk was young men like CKI who would come into their own in solidarity and give the moment it’s extraordinary youthful energy and fearlessness.
[00:43:48] GR: Thank you for reading that passage. Thank you so much for joining us. Keep up the good work and again, thank you for your voice. It’s needed in a time like this.
[00:43:59] Timothy Garton Ash: It’s a [00:44:00] great pleasure to talk to you.
[00:44:01] Cara: Gerard as we head into this long weekend, I would like to leave you with the depressing. Tweet this one from the hatching report. And it says, even as demand goes up for black students in stem fields, the supply of black scientists, engineers, and mathematicians is flat or falling. And this is a link to a report, which explains that even as university’s pledge that they’re going to get more students into these fields the [00:45:00] profession isn’t, it’s not actually changing.
[00:45:02] Uh, It’s hard for me to imagine that this doesn’t go back to what for too many kids, is it failing? K to 12 education system that actually isn’t even preparing them to go on to college to have careers in stem fields. So we need to work on that. And I think we talked about this last show about what do we do to get more excellent teachers into our K to 12 institutions focused on high needs areas like stem, Jared.
[00:45:25] Next week’s guests are probably gonna have some thoughts on just this. Just what I was talking about. We’re gonna be speaking with Dr. Bill Evers and Zev Warman, both of the independent. Institute. So my friend, I hope that you have a lovely restful long weekend, hopefully with your family. And think about how we all labor think about.
[00:45:45] Well, I think you and I are both very lucky. At least I derive great joy from my work and feel grateful that this is the kind of thing I get to get up and do every morning. And at least once a week with.
[00:45:56] GR: Ditto take care,
[00:45:58] Cara: take care.[00:46:00]