Polish Scholar Visits Harvard

Janusz Lewandowski

Barred from teaching in his native Poland six years ago, Janusz Lewandowski has come to Harvard to learn more of the ideas that first got him censored.

Well before the radical changes in the political landscape of Eastern Europe last year, Lewandowski was one of a handful of Polish economists openly advocating privatization of his country's economy.

Now a visiting scholar in Harvard's Program on Central and Eastern Europe, which also plans to send two other European scholars here this semester, the Polish economist is quickly learning to adapt to his new role as one of the key planners of his country's future.

Lewandowski lives in Gdansk, where the Solidarity movement was born during widespread strikes a decade ago. An early activist in the movement, Lewandowski describes himself as a top advisor on economic policy to Polish Solidarity leader Lech Walesa until he began his own political party, a splinter party of the Solidarity movement which will support Walesa in the November elections.

Lewandowski, who will stay at Harvard for four weeks, said yesterday he believes the Polish economy can rebuild itself through the strength of its labor force, despite the shadow of more than four decades of Soviet domination which hangs over the country.

"The legacy of communism will be more durable and hindering than we thought before," Lewandowski said in an interview with The Crimson. "There is a generic memory of industrial culture from before the war. Our generation is anxious to rebuild it."

Though a necessary hardship, the abrupt "shock therapy" approach towards revamping the Polish economy, which the government began in January, is causing increasing unrest, Lewandowski said.

These measures, advised by Stone Professor of International Trade Jeffrey D. Sachs, have included the termination of government subsidies and resulting runaway inflation. According to Lewandowski, the next round of restructuring includes the allocation of capital and labor away from the needs of the Soviet military.

"We have done the monetary shock without the institutional changes." Lewandowski said, adding that improvements from the policies are slow in coming and straining the patience of the Polish people.

However, Sachs' personal appearances on television have bolstered public morale, he said.

Sachs is the "personification of the American economy" for Poles, said Lewandowski.

The Polish professor also criticized the American media for unfairly portraying Walesa.

"He is seen as a populist, as a man of ambitions," but his actions show otherwise, Lewandowski said. "A populist would appease the people...He's trying a market solution, which is not an appeasement. It's a painful solution."

It is Walesa's keen political sense that has propelled him to the leadership of the Solidarity movement, the visiting scholar said.

"He is a man of deep instinct, not of intellectual power," Lewandowski said. "He can hear the street."