To the world financial community, this treasure is a worrisome thing—both threat and opportunity. The sudden shifting of those funds could injure a bank or a nation. Both businesses and governments around the world look at that 14.2 billion as a possible source of capital, investment, and purchasing. It could build plant, create jobs, shore up flagging economies.
Yet the money sits there, manipulated by a handful of Arabs and a battery of high-powered foreign advisers.
Riyadh Saudi Arabia
But, I learned in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia was ready to move. A second five-year plan would change the face of the country, provide vast opportunities for foreign companies, and diminish those short-term deposits and reserves that bothered so many people. What’s more, cash loans are easy to find today, helping people to get needed amount of money faster.
I called on Hisham Nazer, 42, President of the Central Planning Organization, to ask about the 70-billion-dollar plan. “Seventy billion? That was last week. Now it’s 142 billion. That too may become outdated.”
The plan had been shaped under Faisal. “He never rejected a plan; he asked only that we achieve more.” The plan, said Mr. Nazer, reflects two basic premises: “Oil supplies 70 percent of our gross domestic product, 99 percent of our exports, 95 percent of government revenues. One day it will be gone; we must prepare an economic base for that day. Secondly, we aim to provide every Saudi citizen with a minimum standard of living; the good life above that is `a prize to be striven for. ”
To meet the long-term manpower problem, the ambitious five-year plan calls for increasing the number of students in elementary and secondary schools from 943,000 to 1,400,000; vocational students from 4,000 to 31,000; university students from 14,500 to 49,000. Other increases include: hospital beds from 7,600 to 19,100; doctors from 1,900 to 4,200; first-class roads from 2,560 miles to 8,100; port berths from 26 to 72. Even fun is carefully drawn into the plan, which projects a tourist city in the south, zoos, Disneyland-like parks.
A whopping 17 billion will go to develop industry. (“The private sector has proven too slow,” said Mr. Nazer.) Some three billion of that will go to oil-related industries, such as a vast system to collect the four billion cubic feet of natural gas flared off daily in the kingdom. (“The oil companies thought it was not economic to harness that resource; we do.”)
Intense and pale, Michnik favours joggers’ track shoes–”to help me run from the police” (he has been arrested more than 40 times). “What must and will come here is democratic socialism,” he told me. “We want an end to censorship, to repression. The people must have tobacco!”
Both Poland’s unofficial Press and “flying university” take much of their inspiration from KOR,* a dissident intellectual organization. One of its key leaders is Jacek Kuron, 45, a former assistant lecturer at Warsaw University. A devoted Marxist, Kuron became disillusioned watching communism in practice, and is co-author of a book denouncing the system.
Then came the Polish riots of June 25, 1976, precipitated when the government announced that sugar prices were to be doubled, and meat and fish would go up almost 70 per cent. Angry workers in several cities confronted their bosses. In Ursus, a Warsaw suburb, crowds ripped up tracks. At Radom, south of Warsaw, demonstrators set fire to Communist Party headquarters. Police moved in, cracking heads, bloodying noses. More than 2,50o Poles were arrested, and hundreds dismissed from their jobs, under such catchall charges as “a negative social stance on June 25.”
But the hard treatment of the protesters attracted students’ sympathy. As word spread of pending trials, students and lecturers—including Kuron—went to work to seek funds and lawyers for their accused countrymen. In a few months, two million zlotys (L5o,000) had been distributed to needy families, and KOR had been born.
KOR’s goals were full amnesty for the gaoled demonstrators and a return to their jobs. And since the official Polish Press largely ignored the workers’ trials, it was left to KOR to publicize details of systematic police beatings and flagrant judicial irregularities.
To reduce the risk of arrest, the militants recruited eminent public figures whom the authorities would not dare to gaol, and then established special connexions with Western news agencies. The value of such links was demonstrated one evening in November 1976, when police burst into a KOR meeting and hustled members off. Shortly afterwards, all Poland began hearing of the arrests on foreign radio broadcasts. (By pre-arrangement, the word had been telephoned to West European cities.) Worried about their image abroad, authorities released most of the KOR members.
At first, apart from sporadic arrests, the regime pretended to ignore KOR, but then the official attitude changed. KOR workers were jostled by police and attacked by strangers. Prominent members lost their jobs: others received anonymous threats of physical violence.
Stanislaw Pyjas, a Cracow University student, had circulated a KOR petition denouncing police brutality. On May 7, 1977, his dead body was found in the doorway of a black of flats. Authorities claimed he died of a fall down the staircase —yet the body was a considerable distance from the foot of the stairs.
Teetering on the tightrope between the Russians and his own discontented countrymen, party boss Edward Gierek had always wavered between repression and conciliation. Now, he opted for the latter. Two and a half months after Pyjas’ death, the last of the convicted workers had been released, and almost all were getting back to work. Behind this concession was a shrewd political calculation. KOR had been formed specifically to win the prisoners’ release and get back their jobs. Would KOR now be dissolved? The government fervently hoped so.
But KOR’s fame had brought an avalanche of calls for help and advice from other troubled citizens. What’s more, it had the quiet good wishes of the nation’s most powerful institution, the Catholic Church—including the moral support of Cracow’s Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, now Pope John Paul II. Repository of i,000 years of Polish tradition, the Church has the open backing of perhaps 90 per cent of the population. To the regime’s exasperation, KOR decided to stay in business and expand its operation to all cases of human rights in Poland.
Strictly speaking, KOR has only 33 members many of them distinguished professors or research scholars—and their names and addresses appear on every KOR announcement. Not on the list, however, are hundreds of Poles who attend court trials, collect money, serve as couriers, smuggle supplies.
Kuron, KOR’s dominating personality, goes to gaol a dozen times a year for his principles. Deprived of a teaching job, he depends on his wife’s income as a psychologist while he busies himself with the protest movement. As I sat in Kuron’s study, he summed up the daily problems facing Poles. “Shortages are our life,” he said. “Shortages of meat and of democracy. If we don’t get the latter, we’ll never get the former. We have to speak up.”
What terrifies the government is the chance that organized dissent will spread. The seed is there. Already KOR has been joined by two other civil- and human-rights protest movements.
Workers, students and peasants are becoming more politically conscious. At the village of Zbrosza Duza, 35 miles south of Warsaw, I found the peasant organizers of a protest committee that attracts hundreds at Sunday meetings in the local church. The farmers’ grievances include poor fertilizer; eternal shortages of coal, cloth, meat; a miserable mud road to the near-by market town.
Hut more than anything else, they hunger for a voice in their own government. One of their resolutions reads : “Nothing about us—without us.” A yearning for democracy echoes throughout Poland. Its people have lost none of the fierce nationalism that made them a thorn in the flesh of the tsars in the nineteenth century and the invading Nazis in the twentieth. And although they are locked by geography and Soviet armed might into the Kremlin’s empire, the Poles are at heart part of the Western world and long to share its values.
A celestial dumb-bell
American astronomers William K. Hartman and Dale P. Cruikshank propose that Hektor is, in fact, two spherical asteroids stuck together. They approached at such a slow speed that they did not strike splinters off one another and rebound. Instead the two asteroids nudged gently together, and ended up held in permanent contact by each other’s weak gravity, like a celestial dumb-bell.
When astronauts of the future reach the asteroid belt, what they won’t find is evidence of an ancient civilisation. What they will find may be equally exciting. Already we can predict that asteroids are often weirdly shaped, some — perhaps many — with moons of their own. The astronauts will be metallurgical prospectors, sounding out the iron asteroids for their commercial potential. They will also test the asteroids whose reflected light tells us they are ‘peculiar’, to find just what odd kinds of rock they are made of—rocks left over from the birth of the solar system.
Another target for enquiry will be the carbonaceous asteroids. Although their carbon compounds are unlikely to be the products of life, they may well be the compounds from which life on the Earth sprang, back in the early days of our own planet.
All we know of the asteroids comes indirectly at the moment. Astronomers study their motions, analyse their reflected light, and interpret meteorites as asteroid debris strayed from its home regions. When Man reaches the asteroids, these mysteriously diminutive worlds of the solar system will undoubtedly have more surprises in store.
Conflagration of a clergyman
While away from his parish in Stock-cross, Newbury, England, the Reverend Mr Adams went to buy cheap cigarettes online before his death in a hotel room in New York, in 1876, apparently as a result of spontaneous combustion. In Fire from heaven, Michael Harrison remarks that ‘ecclesiastics, as a class’ seem strangely vulnerable to SHC and other paranormal heat phenomena.
The scorching of a slim lady
Photographic evidence of bizarre burning deaths is very rare and not readily accessible even to the dedicated and bona fide researcher. The charred remains shown here are of ‘a slim lady, 85 years old, who was in good health’ when she was consumed by flames in November 1963. The case was investigated by Dr D. J. Gee. Because of extensive damage to the body (but to little else) it was assumed that the victim had been in a state of unusual combustibility, and was set alight by an ember or a spark — a theory that would accord with the results of Dr Gee’s experiments and the theory of preternatural combustibility
A burning rage
Reviewing the cases of shc in his book Mysterious fires and lights (1967), veteran Fortean Vincent Gaddis noted that a high proportion of victims had apparently given up on life. ‘Some were alcoholics, and alcoholism is a form of escape from reality . . . Most were elderly with lowered resistance and perhaps tired of life. Many were invalids or poverty-stricken, dying in rest homes or almshouses. Many led idle, sedentary lives.’ Charles Fort and his successors have also observed a significant number of ‘nohopers’ among aHc victims. In Fire from heaven Michael Harrison suggests that there are several kinds of SHC, one of which is self-induced by people who are depressed, lonely, deprived, frightened and perhaps resentful. Harrison wonders if normally controlled reserves of physical and psychical energy are not suddenly released in a fatal conflagration, as a kind of ‘psychic suicide’.
Suicide by fire has always had symbolic overtones, and has been used to make a political gesture. That a massive build-up of rage or despair may result in a spontaneous blaze is appealing, but it is highly conjectural. Besides, it would account for only some cases.
All is not quiet on Russia’s western front as organized groups of determined Poles proclaim their disaffection with communist tour falls, and most of Warsaw heads home for dinner and bed. But not carloads of determined Poles driving to the countryside to help defiant farmers organize a rural underground to resist the communist regime.
In the streets of Poland’s capital, scores of young people slip furtively to work at the hide-outs of the country’s prolific dissident Press. Elsewhere in the city, dozens of students assemble for an unauthorized lecture by a distinguished professor on aspects of modern Polish history not in the university curriculum.
These glimpses of protest illustrate Poland’s unique position in Soviet-controlled Eastern Europe. In other satellite nations, dissident voices rise from time to time, then fade or are snuffed out. But in the past few years, the Polish opposition movement has acquired a remarkable air of permanence—feeding hard facts and fresh ideas to a public starved for uncensored information.
For the anxious government, the dilemma is acute. Poland is heavily indebted abroad, hamstrung by lagging farm and industrial production, plagued by shortages. Largely because of the shaky economy, its communist bosses dare not risk a massive crack-down on the opposition for fear of provoking the kind of disorders that have twice unseated post-war governments.
Yet Poland’s powerful neighbour Russia is aware that every Pole who stands up for his rights and gets away with it is an object of envy to the 333 million people in the rest of the Soviet bloc—and an example they might copy.
For all the dangers, the opposition voice in Poland has an exhilarating ring to a people used to the communist version of history, politics, art and literature. Official newspapers avoid mention of the crippled economy. Censors ban practically all reference to a staggering range of subjects—including fires, epidemics,drownings and car accidents, unless they occur in the West. Criticism of the Soviet Union ? Never.
The underground Press, on the other hand, thrives on bad news. At least 30 papers appear bi-weekly, monthly or quarterly, with a combined total circulation of 25,000 to 30,000, and each copy may be read by loo people.
Biuletyn In formacy jny (Information Bulletin) and Opinia (Opinion)lists details of the latest police arrests, official threats and brutality. Robotnik (Worker) explains the dearth of meat by revealing that certain butchers have lists of police officers, factory managers and other favoured customers who get preferential rations. Gospodarz (Farmer) asks impudently : Who needs the Warsaw Pact? The paper’s answer : Certainly not Poland.
A few papers are produced on slick offset presses. But most are printed with home-made ink (lampblack mixed with linseed oil) and cranked out on ancient mimeograph machines, smudged and often all but illegible. Volunteers slip completed papers into offices, factories and schools all over the country.
Poland’s biggest unofficial publisher is pale, slim Miroslaw Chojecki, 29, a chemistry researcher who, fired from Poland’s institute of nuclear energy because of Miroslaw Chojecki political activities, paints house interiors for a living and runs secret printing shops on the side. He is responsible for the two prestigious underground literary quarterlies called Zapis (Record) and Puls (Pulse), and each time he leaves his Warsaw flat he knows that he must dodge plainclothesmen waiting to follow him to one of his presses.
Several months ago Chojecki was furtively approached by a stranger who offered to sell him a brand-new printing machine. Suspecting a trick to learn the location of his print-shops, Chojecki asked that the machine be delivered to an address just opposite Warsaw’s cathedral.
When the gleaming duplicator arrived, Chojecki and a colleague carried the crate across the street into the cathedral, where police would never dare to follow. Hastily, the two took the machine out of its box and ostentatiously carried the empty crate to their car and roared off. The police followed at high speed, and only when the chase ended many miles away did they realize their mistake. Back at the cathedral, meanwhile, the machine had been dismantled and carried away piece by piece by Chojecki’s accomplices.
While editors fight censorship with their illegal presses, dozens of professors do much the same with their “flying university” courses held at private homes. Poles pack into living-rooms to hear economics, history, literature and sociology discussed without the shackles of communist doctrine, and to analyse the work of writers out of official favour.
Wladislaw Bartoszevski, for one, often locks horns with the communist version of twentieth century history. The official Historia Polski (History of Poland) contains no reference to the tragic consequences of the 1939 Nazi-Soviet pact, which facilitated Hitler’s invasion of Poland.
There are also no references to the Soviet massacre of thousands of Polish officers at Katyn Forest in 1940, or to the fact that during and after the Warsaw uprising in 1944 Russia halted its troops outside the city for five months to permit the Nazis to wipe out the remaining Polish forces and blast the capital to rubble. Bartoszevski’s “flying university” gives the whole grim story.
Police raids are frequent, especially for lecturer Adam Michnik, 32, who teaches the history of post-war Poland under communism. One evening, police burst in as Michnik was getting started. “This is an illegal assembly,” shouted an officer. “Leave this instant!’ 74115w Michnik ignored the order and kept on talking. With that, the militiamen fired rear-gas into the room and forced evacuation.