People work on scaffoldings on May 7, 2019 in Paris during construction work to secure Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral that was badly damaged by a huge fire last April 15. / AFP / Ludovic MARIN
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I was reminded of this episode recently when speaking to a French friend after the fire at Notre Dame.Given that France is a far wealthier country than Poland, one might think that it should be the other way around.Consider the reactions in Poland. The stark difference between French and Polish reactions speaks to each country's history. In Poland, the dominant political culture is one in which economic fears are sublimated as culture-war issues.A dissident who spent almost nine years in prison, Modzelewski coined the name "Solidarity" for the trade-union movement that led the struggle against communism in Poland. Solidarity was founded in the country's factories, where workers risked life and limb to participate in strikes that eventually broke the will of the communist rulers.Nonetheless, when the transition from state to private ownership began, Modzelewski was alone in calling for the factories to be preserved for the workers. He was ignored, and Poland experienced the historical irony of having neoliberal shock therapy imposed not by foreign investors or crony capitalists, but by the leaders of the country's biggest trade union.
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