Lech Walesa says the United States should inspire a new civilization, a system in which the rules are based on morality.
The former president of Poland added Tuesday that communism is dead. The "post-communists" who have taken power in some countries - former communists who managed to win office after the fall of the system - are like radishes, "only red on the outside."Walesa got no fewer than three standing ovations when he spoke in the University of Utah Union Building on Tuesday. His address was sponsored by the U.'s Hinckley Institute of Politics and the Utah-based World Affairs Forum.
An electrician in a shipyard in Gdansk, Poland, Walesa was a founder of the Solidarity movement that eventually freed Poland from the grip of totalitarian rule. He risked his life and was imprisoned by communist authorities before Solidarity forced elections.
Besides the Polish people who struggled in that revolution, Walesa credited both the efforts of Pope John Paul II, who is a Pole, and the United States.
After the fall of communism, Walesa won the Nobel Peace Prize and was elected president of Poland in the country's first free election. He served from 1990 to 1995, but he lost in a bid for re-election to a former communist.
Walesa is a stocky man with graying hair and a white mustache, a vigorous speaker who uses jokes, similes and folksy sayings to make his points. During his speech and the question-and-answer session that followed, his words were translated first from his Polish into English, then into sign language.
Don't worry about "post-communists" who have taken office since the fall of communism, he said - and these include Aleksander Kwasniewski, the ex-communist who defeated Walesa in the 1995 presidential election.
Most post-communists have a great stake in the capitalist economy, according to Walesa. They have made a lot of money in the new system, and they are able to use whatever system is in place for their own purposes. Now they would defend capitalism much better than they did communism, he added.
"Communism was based on censorship. Can you imagine censorship in today's world?"
Police would have to listen in on every cell phone. "Can you imagine the number of policemen who would watch the Internet, . . . guard satellite dishes?" he said.
"So communism is not possible, is invalid in today's world. It is totally invalid."
Communism took power by trumpeting injustice and suffering, waving banners that promised to correct the evils of the day, he said. Today, injustice and suffering still exist, "and new banners can be brought up. But they are not to be communist banners. Communism is over."
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States is left as the only superpower, Walesa added. He called for America to help lead the world into the new millennium, where rules are based on moral principles.
Part of making the necessary change to a new world situation is to make sure that politics implement good values, he said. The values must be based on law, but law without spirit is not much.
"Let's develop a civilization of human conscience," Walesa said. It would be based on "human morals."
He would like to see courses at universities specializing in the human conscience, "super-truths and super-morals."
The United States should not have to spend money to solve the world's problems. "But we expect the United states to provide solutions," he said.
"Those solutions for the future would not come from the streets (in violent overthrows). They should come from the universities and high schools."
Asked how he would implement the moral standards he called for and how he would overcome the fear that people would have about such a system, Walesa replied, "If I knew the answers to your questions, I will receive another Nobel Prize."
Making his point - with plenty of humor
Lech Walesa's talk at the University of Utah Tuesday was peppered with pointed and funny comparisons:
- At the end, Soviet communism was like a rickety truck that couldn't go uphill any farther, while Poland was under it loosening the bolts.
- Poland pulled out the teeth of the Russian bear and broke its legs.
- Workers should behave "like decent bacteria" and not kill off the companies they feed on.
- America wants to use Cuba as "a museum of communism."
- The Mayan civilization must have collapsed because somebody introduced machines that displaced the workers.
- Walesa has been awarded so many medals he has more than the late Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. If Walesa put them all on, a crane would have to lift him onto the speaker's dais.