Death of a Polish Socialist – An Obituary
14 April 2006
It was with great sadness that I learnt of the recent death the the Polish socialist Stefan Piekarczyk. I had learnt of his passing when I read a copy of the ‘Celtic View,’ the magazine of Glasgow Celtic Football Club, the team that both Steph and I supported and which had recorded his setting up of a Warsaw Celtic Supporters Club. This may seem an inconguous medium of discovery but in one way it was sadly appropriate.
It brought me back again to the first time I met Steph when I came into contact and joined the International Marxist Group (IMG) in Glasgow in 1975. Steph was already a member and was one of a number of comrades who greatly impressed me with their knowledge and commitment. From him and a handful of other comrades in the IMG I learnt about socialist and Marxist politics in a way that has stayed with me ever since.
I recall one incident when we had hitched separately from Glasgow to Manchester to catch a bus that was carrying anti-fascists to confront the National Front at Lewisham in London. We were trying to find the picking up point when we bumped into a couple of people on a similar mission. They told us that we should join them and that the bus was just round the corner. We followed them only to find that they were leading us to the NF bus that was picking up local fascists, also going to London. Our guides then threw a couple of bricks at the bus and scarpered leaving Steph and myself to leg it as fast as we could. Being very young that was no problem for me but Steph was carrying a large case and had great difficulty keeping up. I think we only got away because the Nfers thought we were trying to lead them into a trap.
When we eventually stopped running I got an earful from Steph about how stupid that was and how the documents on Poland and the underground literature that was to be smuggled into that country were a damned sight more important than a few bleeding fascists. One among many lessons I learnt and am still learning. My regret now is that had I thought as hard about politics at the time as he did I could have learnt so much more.
Steph left Glasgow to return to his native Poland in 1978, the same year I returned to Ireland. I had spoken to one of his comrades at the most recent World Congress of the Fourth International a couple of years ago and I had always hoped and expected we would be able to meet again. Now that will not be possible.
The following obituary was sent to me by his comrades in Poland and also appears on the Alliance for Workers Liberty website. It records briefly a life that deserves to be remembered. We can most fittingly mark his passing by rededicating oureleves to the same noble cause that he struggled for throughout his tragically too short life.
By August Grabski
On 16 February 2006 Stefan Piekarczyk died of cancer in Warsaw. Stefan was a socialist, a Trotskyist, a translator and an economist.
He was born in 1955 and grew up in a Polish family in Glasgow and there he joined a British section of the Fourth International (FI) — the International Marxist Group.
At the end of 1970s Stefan came to Poland
to study. He was one of the most important people (along with Ludwik Hass)
in rebuilding Trotskyism as a political current on the Polish left. He
was active as a left journalist in the Solidarity trade union in 1980-1981,
then under martial law he was a publisher of left underground magazines,
risking a prison sentence or expulsion from Poland.
In 1991 Stefan participated in publishing in Polish Revolution Betrayed by Leon Trotsky. Also in 1991 he launched a socialist magazine Dalej! (Forward!) (where he wrote using the pen name Jan Sylwestrowicz). To date 41 issues of Dalej! have been published.
The 1990s were a difficult time for people with anti-capitalist outlooks. On the one hand they had to come to terms with the legacy of the past, and on the other the betrayal of the working class programme by Solidarity’s leaders. It made the Trotskyists isolated from the broader social milieus. The survival of the anti-capitalist left in Poland, until a new tide of activism from the “alterglobalist” movement, to a great extent was facilitated by the publication of Dalej! magazine led (especially at the beginning of 1990s) by Stefan.
Stefan also inspired the first academic book on the Trotskyist movement, free of Stalinist distortions and disinformation (2003).
In April 2004 he was among the main organisers
of the Warsaw Anti-Summit Conference: “For a Social Europe”, at the time
when the European Economic Forum was being held in Warsaw.
Stefan Piekarczyk always considered himself as a Fourth International militant. But the leadership of the Fourth International disappointed the Revolutionary Left Current.
When in 1999 the RLC expelled one of members for strongly anti-democratic behaviour, this person was able to use his personal contacts with the Fourth International’s experts on Eastern Europe affairs to deprive the RLC the status of a Fourth International section. Over 20 comrades were sold out by these experts to save one personal friend.
The democratic procedures inside of the Fourth International turned out to be a fiction and the so called experts have still not built any Fourth International group in Poland or any other East European countries since 1989.
As a political activist Stefan was always
against the collaboration with the “post-communists” which he saw as a
main gravedigger of real socialism and the avant guard of capitalist restoration
in Poland. He was always for the unity of the radical left in Poland, and
for this reason he supported the activity of the RLC as a part of the Polish
Socialist Party Democratic Revolution (PPS RD) at the end of 1980s, and
as a part of the New Left from the Autumn 2005.
Although Stefan was personally a convinced orthodox Trotskyist, he was open to collaborate with other anti-Stalinist leftists and tolerated political differences in one anti-capitalist organisation. So he accepted the turn in 2004 of part of the RLC members to collaborate with the Alliance for Workers’ Libery. For him the most important thing was a common political action against capitalism and for workers’ rights.
He was a modest person with no personal ambitions in politics; he always subordinated his own wishes to the political cause of the socialist vision. He was a good and noble man. One night (he was working as a translator by nights) he quarreled by telephone with a female comrade from the organisation. So about 2 am he bought a bunch of flowers and brought it across half of the city to knock at her door and apologise to her.
The RLC has lost not only a leading comrade but also a true friend, someone on whom we could always rely.
A photograph of Stefan Piekarczyk can be
Articles in English on Poland from RLC can be found at www.republika.pl/socjalizm/englishsection.htm