By August Grabski
Click here for a French translation of this article.
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 1987 he was a co-founder of the Revolutionary Left Current (RLC), an illegal group which was also in political solidarity with Trotskyists organised in the Fourth International. He was active in this organisation until his death.
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.
In October 2004 he was one of the speakers representing the Polish anti-capitalist left at the European Social Forum in London.
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.
For the same reasons he was a sympathiser of a pluralist alliance of the radical left in Western Europe like: the Red-Green Alliance in Denmark, the Left Block in Portugal and — despite his critical attitude towards anti-democratic SWP politics — Respect in England.
Although Stefan was personally a convinced orthodox Trotskyist, he was open to collaborate with other anti-Stalinist leftists and tolerate 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.