Shock Waves: Eastern Europe after the Revolutions

By John Feffer | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
Poland. . .
A shortcut to modernity

One might say that the free market is the latest Central European utopia. 1

—Timothy Garton Ash

The ugly, box-like building, at the corner of one of Warsaw's busiest intersections, was once the headquarters of the Polish United Workers Party: a symbol of the communist status quo. Today, in post- communist Poland, this unaesthetic structure which Poles refer to as the White House now represents the new order. The Party building has become a business and banking center; on its fifth floor, where apparatchiks once roamed, stock brokers and investment analysts scrutinize prices on Poland's new stock market, the second exchange in the region after Budapest's. 2

Capitalism is in, communism out. On a superficial level, little has changed. The red suspenders of brokers have replaced the red ties of the communist officials. Bankers now address topics that were once the exclusive domain of communist officials: planning and investments, credits and margins, stability and maintenance. Indeed, the two groups of well-dressed professionals had already been growing more alike in the last decade as communists became more interested in capitalism and vice versa. International bankers frequently visited the East European governments, checking on loans and Western investments. When communist officials visited the United States, they didn't detour to meet with the chair of the US Communist Party. Even if they had been interested, the schedules of the communist dignitaries from the East were too filled with appointments with economic experts and financial wizards.

Notwithstanding these continuities with the communists of old, the new capitalists occupying Warsaw's White House are the true revolutionaries. More than the new wave of politicians, these capitalists have changed the face of Poland. Where shortages and queues once plagued

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