WARSAW — Edward Lipinski, the venerated founder of what once was Poland's most active dissident group, died Sunday at a government hospital, friends said. He was 97.
Lipinski, an economist who founded the Committee for Social Self-Defense during the workers riots of 1976, had been hospitalized in Warsaw for the past month because of failing health, according to Jacek Kuron and Jan Jozef Lipski, two associates and opposition activists.
"This is a man who for his whole life fought for social justice," Kuron said in a telephone interview. "He was always very young and ready to start everything from the beginning."
A lifelong socialist, Lipinski had taken part in everything from street protests against the Russian occupation of Poland in 1904 to Solidarity's continuing campaign to free political prisoners.
Lipinski, born in Warsaw, held key government and academic posts in the economic field during the early years of Communist rule.
He was president of the National Economic Bank from 1946-49, director of the National Economic Institute from 1945-49 and dean of the Warsaw University economics department from 1950-58. He received numerous state awards for his scholarship.
A year after his 1975 break with the Communist Party, Lipinski, Kuron and about 30 other dissidents founded the now-disbanded workers' rights group that became known by its Polish initials, KOR.
The group, created to defend workers imprisoned after uprisings in Ursus and Radom near Warsaw, gained increasing support by the late 1970s. It was credited with helping unite workers and intellectuals into a cohesive opposition that led to the formation of the Solidarity free trade union federation during nationwide strikes in 1980.
In 1984, Lipinski helped found a human rights watchdog group in Warsaw after the killing of a pro-Solidarity priest, Jerzy Popieluszko, by secret police.
In a speech before academics last year, Lipinski sharply criticized proposed changes to the education law that called for greater party control over university life.
"Science ends . . . when a political muzzle is put on mouths and thoughts," he said.
Parliament adopted the changes two months later.
Despite his break with the party and his association with KOR, which the government once charged with plotting to overthrow the communist system, Lipinski remained one of Poland's most respected economists.
In an interview published in 1984 in the state-run Warsaw newspaper, Zycie Warszawy, Lipinski urged greater freedom for state-owned factories within the centrally planned economy--a concept that was in line with the policy of Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, the Polish leader.
"Through the decades, I have been rather lonely in advocating the idea that an individual enterprise should be the decisive cell in a socialist economy," Lipinski was quoted as saying.
On Lipinski's 90th birthday, the government economic newspaper, Zycie Gospodarcze, printed a biography of the economist, saying he had published more than 300 papers and performed pioneering work on economic thought in Polish history.
He also was responsible for the first postwar translation of Marx's Das Kapital into Polish, the newspaper said.
His works have been published in France and Germany.
The professor was still remarkably fit and alert during an interview with the Reuters news agency last January, when he expressed pessimism about Poland's future.
"In general, I see things darkly," he said. "I see no future, no change in the Polish situation and no possibility of change."
Opposition leaders said Lipinski's hospitalization in a state-run clinic indicated the respect he retained among the authorities.